“Now for the past 28 years, since the 5th year of the Kencho era (1253), cyclical sign mizunoto-ushi, the 28th day of the 4th month, until the present, the 12th month of the 3rd year of the Koan era (1280), cyclical sign knoe-tatsu, I, Nichiren, have done nothing else, but have laboured solely to put the 5 or 7 characters of Myoho-rengekyo into the mouths of all the living beings of the country of Japan. In doing so, I have shown the kind of compassion that a mother does when she labours to put milk into the mouth of her infant child.”
Nichiren Daishonin wrote this work at Minobu in December 1280 and addressed it to the body of his followers.
Hachiman, the subject of this letter is a major god in Japan and had a special significance to the Kamakura shogunate as its patron deity.
One month before this writing in November, a fire destroyed the Hachiman shrine at Tsurugaoia in Kamakura. It was a critical time for the shogunate as the Mongol Empire was preparing for a second invasion of Japan. The burning of the shrine to the patron deity of the Kamakura regime was thus, a cause of widespread alarm.
In this writing, Nichiren Daishonin addressed the significance of events such as the burning of the Hachiman shrine and the Mongol invasion of Japan from the viewpoint of Buddhism, particularly the Lotus Sutra. The Daishonin reprimanded Hachiman for his negligence in failing to protect the Lotus Sutra and its votary, the Daishonin.
Hachiman was believed to have vowed before the Buddha to protect those who uphold and propagate the Lotus Sutra. But because he had failed to do so, the Daishonin asserted, major gods such as Brahma and Shakra had seen fit to punish Hackman by burning his shrine. The Daishonin strictly admonished Hachiman to lend protection to the votary of the Lotus Sutra.
This passage is where Nichiren Daishonin taught on propagation, a practice based on the spirit of compassion to realise the salvation of all people.
On 28 April 1253 (5th year of the Kencho era), Nichiren Daishonin proclaimed his teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the first time. The Daishonin was fully aware that great persecutions would certainly befall him by doing so but he was prepared to confront every oppression based on the vow to never regress in his endeavour to lead all people to enlightenment.
In actual fact, when the Daishonin started to propagate the teachings of the Mystic Law and refute the erroneous teachings, he encountered a succession of life-threatening persecutions one after another. However, the Daishonin did not retreat even a single step and continued to strive single-mindedly for the realisation of kosen-rufu. This is what the Dashonin was referring to when he said, “Now for the past 28 years,… I, Nichiren, have done nothing else…”
The Daishonin then described the spirit with which he had struggled to propagate the Mystic Law so that all living beings can attained enlightenment by using the example of the kind of profound compassion that a mother does when she labours to put milk into the mouth of her infant child.
A mother loves, protects and fosters the life of her infant child without seeking any rewards in return. Likewise, as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, we are carrying out the compassionate practice of propagation to realise the happiness for oneself and others by engaging ourselves in dialogues with friends regardless of whether they understand Buddhism or not.
SGI President Ikea said, “Nichiren Daishonin continued to wage a great struggle in the spirit of selfless dedication out of his singleminded wish to lead all people to happiness. All of us who have succeeded this noble mission from the Daishonin are all respectworthy Bodhisattvas of the Earth. All of us have been blessed with great good fortune from the past existences to be emissaries of the Buddha. Today, we see a stream of youthful and courageous Bodhisattvas of the Earth leaping forth one after another. Lets scale a news mountain of kosen-rufu as we continue to share and propagate the teachings of the Mystic Law with our friends around us.”