When a tree has been transplanted, though fierce winds may blow, it will not topple if it has a firm stake to hold it up. But even a tree that has grown up in place may fall over if its roots are weak. Even a feeble person will not stumble if those supporting him are strong, but a person of considerable strength, when alone, may fall down on an uneven path.WND-I p 598
This letter was written at Minobu in the first year of Kenji (1275) and sent to the lay priest Nishiyama, who lived in Nishiyama Village in Fuji District of Suruga Province. Nishiyama appears to have been the steward of that village and a sincere believer who often visited the Daishonin at Minobu, bringing offerings and provisions.
In the opening of this letter, Nichiren Daishonin explains the importance of “good friends” who assist or encourage one in one’s Buddhist practice. Stating that good friends are rare and “evil companions”—those who hinder one’s quest for enlightenment—are too numerous to count, he goes on to point out the distortions of the True Word school, to which Nishiyama had previously belonged. He then declares that, while documentary and doctrinal evidence is important in considering the efficacy of a Buddhist teaching, far more important is “the proof of actual fact,” that is, the power of a religion to positively affect the human condition.
Sensei in his lecture on this passage says- “In Buddhism, a “good friend” is someone who leads others in a positive direction and to the correct path of Buddhism. Nichiren says that even a freshly planted tree will remain standing in a powerful storm if it is firmly staked. Likewise, when traveling along a perilous, uneven road, one will not stumble and fall if one has a strong friend for support. In the same way, “good friends” in Buddhism support and assist us so that we can advance in our Buddhist practice and not fall into the evil paths of existence” (Living Buddhism, December 2013, p 23). He urges us to be good friends as understood in Buddhism to people around us. This sets a path for us and others to attain enlightenment.