Shijo Kingo Yorimoto
Yorimoto (Shijo Kingo), who at age twenty-seven had heard the preaching of Nichiren Shonin on the street corners of Kamakura, entered the faith of Lotus Sutra about the first year of the Kogen era, or 1256, and thereafter repeatedly visited the Matsubagayatsu hermitage of Nichiren Shonin to receive the teaching.
In the fifth month of the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271) Yorimoto's wife requested an amulet for a safe birth from Nichiren Shonin and he was overjoyed:
"Both husband and wife are keepers of the Hokke (Lotus Sutra). A child like a jewel who inherits the seed of spreading the Lotus Sutra will be born. How auspicious I think it is!"
Subsequently on hearing the news of a safe birth he sent congratulations:
"What you desired has been [fulfilled] like the tide coming in, like flowers opening in the spring." (STN, v. 1, 485) and bestowed the name "Lady Tsukimaro". On the twelfth day of the seventh month of the same year Yorimoto sent by messenger a peck of white rice, a tube of oil, and a donation of one string of cash as offerings for the Obon Festival.
The Saint at once wrote a letter of thanks and explained the reason for the Obon or Urabon:
"Now 'Urabon' arose from the fact that when the woman called 'Lady Shodai', the mother of the Venerable Mokuren (Maudgalyayana), fell to the Way of the Hungry Ghosts for five hundred lives because of the karma of greed Mokuren rescued her."
With this opening line he was praising Yorimoto whose deep filial feeling:
"In particular the Holy Soul Myoho [commemorated] on the twelfth day of this month was a practicer of the Hokekyo, a lay donor to Nichiren. How could she fall to the Way of the Hungry Ghosts?
Certainly she will be be before Shakya, Taho, and the Buddhas of the Ten Directions: with one mind these very ones will be praising and rejoicing and stroking her head. And she will say to the Buddha Shakya 'Oh, what an excellent son I have!'" (STN, v. 1, 495)
Yorimoto receiving this heartfelt letter was overjoyed. Somewhat later, Nichiren Shonin praised the depth of Kingo's filial respect:
'"Concerning your filial nurture of your father and mother. Beyond your repeated letters, in your letter of today the tears did not stop either. Ah, your sadness when you lament, 'Are my father and mother in hell?'." (STN, v. 2, 1185)
"And concerning your lordship's late father and mother, I appeal to Heaven, 'The Saemonnojo laments too much.' Certainly the reasons are before the Buddha Shakya." (STN, v. 2, 1394)
On the twelfth day of the ninth month of the same year (1271) Nichiren Shonin was arrested and was to have his head cut off at Tatsunokuchi. Yorimoto and his brothers hearing the report at once came to accompanythe Saint. When at last they came to the execution ground at Tatsunokuchi Yorimoto wept in spite of himself: "Now we must part."
The Saint said, "Irresolute sirs! Smile at a joy such as this!"
Fortunately his head was not cut off but if he had been beheaded, Yorimoto had been resolved to be martyred and accompany him in death. Nichiren Shonin rejoiced at his faith and praised him:
"Now then, I cannot express how inconceivable it is that at the persecution on this twelfth day past the fact you came along as far as Tatsunokuchi and, not only that, you said you would disembowel yourself." (STN, v. 1, 504)
Thereafter any number of times he praised his determination to bemartyred at the time of the Tatsunokuchi incident. To mention one example, in a letter six years afterward in the third year of Kenji
(1277) he also says:
"What I truly do not forget now is that when I was about to have my head cut off, you came along, holding the horse's bit, weeping in sorrow: in what world could I ever forget that? Even if you enter hell because your sins are deep, even though the Buddha Shakya invites me, 'How about becoming a Buddha?', I would not take Him up on it. I would be in hell the same as [you]. If I, Nichiren, and you enter hell, would not the Buddha Shakya and the Hokekyo also be in hell?" (STN, v. 2, 1394)
If you fall to hell, Nichiren also will go with you. At that time both Lord Shakya and the Hokekyo will go into hell: could such a thing be? It could not. When the Saint was exiled to Sado, Yorimoto sent
messengers any number of times to inquire after him and deliver things for his daily needs as well as offerings of money. In the second monthof the ninth year of Bun'ei (1272) the Saint composed "On Opening the Eyes" (Kaimoku sho ). This work, written with the fervor that
"Nichiren has inconceivably survived" was entrusted to Yorimoto's messenger. He let his kindred spirit Yorimoto, who had accompanied him in life and death, be the very first to read this important letter. In the fourth month of the same year at last Yorimoto himself visited Sado and met with the Saint. Nichiren thanked his wife Nichigennyo for the feelings that brought her husband to Sado and taught her about the state of live of husband and wife:
"Woman is like the wisteria and man like a pine tree: They never stand upright if they are apart for a moment. Your generosity in sending this personage in such a disordered worid when you lack even a dependable servant is greater than the great earth and the Earth Deity would certainly know it." (STN, v. 1, 633)
"The character 'anna' we read 'kakaru' (hang upon). Even as the wisteria hangs upon the pine and woman upon man, now take the Saemonnojo as your teacher and let yourself be led to the Hokekyo ." (STN, v. 1, 857)
Already about this time Yorimoto was whole-heartedly urging faith in the Lotus Sutra to those around him. Nichiren Shonin encouraged him:
"You likewise follow Nichiren and speak as a practicer of the Hokekyo. How could this not be transmission? Hold fast to the mind of faith in the Hokekyo. If you strike flint halfheartedly, no fire results. Put forth the power of fervent great faith and be extolled, 'Shijo Kingo, Shijo Kingo of the Hokke Sect', in the mouths of the myriad people above and below in Kamakura and even of all the beings in the country of Japan. (STN, v. 1, 637)
Here Nichiren emphasizes the oneness of faith of husband and wife like "the sun and moon, two eyes, a pair of wings: instruct your lady carefully on this."
Even after the Saint entered Minobu Yorimoto made offerings of things
for the Daishonin's daily needs and money. In the ninth month of the eleventh year of Bun'ei (1274) Yorimoto remonstrated face to face with his lord Ema Mitsutoki to embrace the faith of Lotus Sutra. Because Mitsutoki was a devoted believer in the priest Ryokan, he would not listen and shunned Yorimoto. Associates jealous of Yorimoto and colleages who were not friendly towards him took advantage of this stroke of fortune to slander him to his lord. Hearing this report, Nichiren Shonin wrote a reply in which he said:
"It is a noble thing to bring this doctrine to your lord's hearing. Now he will not listen but you have avoided the sin of complicity (the sin of overlooking blasphemers against the Dharma). From now on please hold your longue, And Heaven also will certainly protect your lordship."
"Those who hate you will try to get you more and more. Completely stop your drinking parties at night. How could you be dissatisfied with just drinking with your lady? You should not be off guard regarding the others' daytime drinking parties. Apart from sake there could be no occasion to get you." (STN, v. 1, 834)
He lovingly counseled his kindred spirit Yorimoto like a beloved younger brother: 'Those who hate you are going after you. Please stop your drinking fests with acquaintances at night. Is there anything unsatisfactory with drinking with your wife? You must not be remiss at daytime drinking parties at others' houses." In the first month of the eleventh year of Bun'ei (1274) the Saint instructed Yorimoto's wife:
"The more all people hate you, as long as the Buddha Shakya, the Buddha Taho, the Buddhas of the Ten Directions and so on to the God Brahma, the Emperor Shakra, the Sun and the Moon and so on take pity on you, what is sorrowful? As long as one is praised by the Hokekyo
what sorrow would there be......
However, Lord Saemon among the laity
in Japan is a believer in the Hokekyo without parallel. You who are matched with this one are the foremost woman in Japan. Because of the Hokekyo the Buddha would think of you as the Dragon Girl herself." (STN, v. 1, 857) He encouraged her: though you are bad mouthed and maligned for believing and spreading the Hokekyo, would you not be pitied by the Buddha Shakya? Your husband is the unparallelled believer in the Lotus Sutra in Japan and you, his wife, are the foremost woman in Japan. Make your mind of faith firm.
It is amazing that I have propagated the teaching with all my strength and when a wife enters the faith her husband necessarily enters the faith. However, when a wife remains opposed even though the husband enters the faith, in many cases the faith is gradually weakened. The power of women is great. And because of that, the Saint
gave strict guidance to women.
In the third month of the same year he instructed her to be faithful for life:
"There are many who hear and receive this Sutra. Though great difficulties come as if they truly hear and receive, those who 'keep it mind and do not forget it'* are few. Receiving is easy; keeping is difficult. So attaining Buddhahood lies in keeping. The persons who shall keep this Sutra keep it with the understanding that they shall encounter difficulties. There is no doubt that they 'then will quickly obtain the Supreme Buddha Way.'**" (STN, v. 1, 894)
"Keep it mind and do not forget it' means that they take it to heart and do not forget: a phrase of the Sutra of Contemplating the Bodhisattva Fugen (T.390a). "Then he will quickly obtain the Supreme Buddha Way': from the "Chapter of Jewelled Stupa" 11 (T.9.34b: Kempon Hokke Seiten, p. 98)
Rev. Tetsujo Kubota