“Only in the Lotus Sutra do we read that a woman who embraces this sutra not only excels all other women, but also surpasses all men.
Even though she may be slandered by everyone, for a woman, there is ultimately no greater happiness than to be loved by the man she holds dearest. Let others hate you if they will. What have you to complain of, if you are cherished by Shakyamuni Buddha, Many Treasures Buddha, and the Buddhas of the ten directions, as well as by Brahmā, Shakra, and the gods of the sun and moon? As long as you are praised by the Lotus Sutra, what cause have you for discontent?
You say that you have now reached the unlucky age of thirty-three5 and for that reason sent offerings. I have presented them before Shakyamuni Buddha, the Lotus Sutra, and the god of the sun, and reported your sincerity to them. A person’s body has a left and a right shoulder, on which there are two gods, one called Same Name and the other, Same Birth. These are two deities whom Brahmā, Shakra, and the gods of the sun and moon have assigned to protect each person. From the time we enter our mother’s womb until the end of our life, they accompany us like our shadow or like our eyes. If we commit an evil act or perform a good deed, they report everything to the heavenly gods without omitting even a detail as minute as a dewdrop or a speck of dust. This is related in the Flower Garland Sutra and is cited by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai in the eighth volume of his Great Concentration and Insight.
He states, however, that if a woman’s faith is weak, even though she embraces the Lotus Sutra, she will be forsaken.6 For example, if a commanding general is fainthearted, his soldiers will become cowards. If a bow is weak, the bowstring will be slack. If the wind is gentle, the waves will never rise high. This all accords with the principles of nature.
Now [your husband] Saemon7 is a believer in the Lotus Sutra, without peer among the Buddhist lay believers in Japan. Being married to such a man, you also are foremost among the women of Japan. Because you live for the sake of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha surely regards you as equal to the dragon king’s daughter. The character for woman implies “to depend.” The wisteria depends on the pine tree, and a woman depends on a man. Make Saemon your teacher and be guided in the faith of the Lotus Sutra.
The bad luck of your thirty-third year will turn into the happiness of your thirty-third year. That is what is meant by the passage, “The seven disasters will instantly vanish, and the seven blessings will instantly appear.”8 You will grow younger, and your good fortune will accumulate.”WND I: 54, p. 463
Nichigen-nyo, the wife of Shijō Kingo, informed Nichiren Daishonin that she had turned thirty-three, an age thought to be unlucky for women, and sent offerings. This letter is the Daishonin’s reply where in response to Nichigen-nyo’s apprehensions, he assures her that a woman who embraces the Lotus Sutra surpasses all other people, and that, if her faith is strong, she will certainly be protected by the Buddhas and Buddhist gods.
The Daishonin praises Shijō Kingo as foremost among all Buddhist lay believers; as his wife, Nichigen-nyo is also foremost among the women in Japan. “The wisteria depends on the pine tree, and a woman depends on a man” reflects the structure of Japanese society in the medieval period, when a woman’s fortunes were largely determined by her husband. What the Daishonin urges here, however, is that Nichigen-nyo follow her husband in faith. This shared faith of husband and wife is the “unity” referred to in this letter’s title and forms the ideal basis of marriage.