The Lotus Sutra reads, “Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even when the Thus Come One is in the world, how much more will this be so after his passing?”1 The Thus Come One Shakyamuni suffered innumerable persecutions: For ninety days he was forced to eat horse fodder; a huge boulder was dropped on him, and though it missed him, his toe was injured and bled; a group of eight monks led by Sunakshatra, in their conduct appearing to be the Buddha’s disciples, but in spirit siding with the non-Buddhist teachers, watched every moment of the day and night for a chance to kill him; King Virūdhaka killed countless members of the Shākya clan; and King Ajātashatru had innumerable disciples of the Buddha trampled to death by mad elephants and subjected the Buddha to a series of severe trials. Such are the minor persecutions that correspond to the time “when the Thus Come One is in the world.”
Each of you should summon up the courage of a lion king and never succumb to threats from anyone. The lion king fears no other beast, nor do its cubs. Slanderers are like barking foxes, but Nichiren’s followers are like roaring lions. The lay priest of Saimyō-ji, now deceased, and the present ruler3 permitted my return from my exiles when they found that I was innocent of the accusations against me. The present ruler shall no longer take action on any charge without confirming its truth. You may rest assured that nothing, not even a person possessed by a powerful demon, can harm Nichiren, because Brahmā, Shakra, the gods of the sun and moon, the four heavenly kings, the Sun Goddess, and Hachiman are safeguarding him. Strengthen your faith day by day and month after month. Should you slacken in your resolve even a bit, devils will take advantage.
Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter at Minobu in 1279 to his followers in general. It reviews some of the outstanding incidents in his life.
Around 1275, the number of new believers increased, with that did official pressures. In Atsuhara, a village in Fuji District of Suruga Province, believers were subjected to a series of threats and harassments known collectively as the Atsuhara Persecution. Twenty believers, all farmers, were arrested on the 21st September 1279, on false charges, and three of them were later beheaded. In spite of these persecutions, not one of the twenty farmers abandoned their faith. Seeing that his followers were now ready to give their lives if necessary to protect the Law, the Daishonin realized that he had now fulfilled the purpose of his life. “Twenty-seven years” is the time since he had declared his teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in 1253, during which he had endeavored to spread that teaching while enduring severe persecutions. He had done so solely to save people from suffering and establish Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws as his ultimate teaching.
The phrase “Each of you should summon up the courage of a lion king” captures the essence of Nichiren Buddhism. “Each of you” refers to the fact that each person possesses within the courage of a lion king. Faith grounded in the spirit of oneness with our mentor is the basis for summoning forth this courage. The courage of a lion king is the spirit of the mentor who has fearlessly opened the way for kosen-rufu. When we share that spirit as our own, we cannot fail to bring forth the courage of a lion king in our lives. When we strive with the same spirit as our mentor, we will never be deadlocked. Asking ourselves what our mentor would do, mustering all our wisdom and strength to respond to our mentor’s hopes—that spirit is what awakens the state of a lion king within us and gives rise to the courage to triumph over every difficulty and challenge. The spirit of a lion king: unwavering commitment; invincible spirit; courageous; undefeated; sincerely persevering in Buddhist practice; fearless. President Ikeda explains faith is another name for the courage to always keep moving forward.Disciples who embrace the great aim of kosen-rufu and follow the example of a great mentor who is filled with compassion, courage and wisdom will never be defeated. The lion king is always victorious. The lion cubs must resolve to become lion kings, too. Now is the time for them to do so. Nichiren’s disciples should all encourage one another that the time to stand up resolutely as lion kings has arrived. This is the Daishonin’s message to his disciples.