YOUR letter of the fourteenth day of this month arrived on the seventeenth day of the same month. And your letter of the fifteenth day of the intercalary seventh month arrived around the twentieth of the same month.
Though I have also received several other letters from you, due not only to ailments of aging but to a persistently poor appetite, I have not yet made a reply. I am deeply ashamed.
I am most concerned about what you have written in your letter of the intercalary seventh month. It reads, “Because a great wind blew in Chinzei and every inlet and isle was littered with wrecked and disabled ships,1 they attribute this to the Honorable Shien2 in Kyoto. Now could there be any truth to this?”
For my followers in particular, this matter is a serious one. Speaking more generally, for the country of Japan it is a disaster. Therefore I will bear up under my illness and try to explain something of this affair. I have long known that for the sole purpose of doing away with me, my opponents have been inventing falsehoods. The reason is that the major offenses of the people of the seven schools and of the eight schools of Japan,3 such as the True Word school, did not begin yesterday. I will present one incident, however, that will illuminate the whole.
During the Jōkyū era, wishing to do away with Yoshitoki, the Retired Emperor of Oki ordered the chief priest of the temple at Mount Hiei, and the priests of Tō-ji temple, Omuro, the seven major temples of Nara, and Onjō-ji temple to offer prayers to subdue the enemies of the court. And on the fifteenth day of the fifth month, in the third year of the same era, he had Iga Tarō Hōgan Mitsusue, the magistrate of the lord of Kamakura, killed at Rokuhara.4
Thus on the nineteenth and twentieth of the same month Kamakura was plunged into turmoil, but on the twenty-first 190,000 warriors were dispatched to Kyoto along the Tōsandō, Tōkaidō, and Hokuriku roads. At night on the thirteenth day of the sixth month between the hours of the dog and the boar [around 9:00 p.m.], the clear skies suddenly clouded over, thunder rumbled, and lightning flashed. Moreover, the thunder rang out over the heads of the warriors, and torrential rain drove down like stands of bamboo.
Those 190,000 warriors had marched up long roads. Supplies of rice had run out because of the war. The horses were exhausted. Residents of the 968surrounding areas had all hidden themselves away. Helmets had become as soft as cotton in the pelting rain.
When the warriors descended upon Uji and Seta,5 the river that was normally three or four chō wide had already swollen to a width of six, seven, ten chō. Moreover, immense boulders ten or twenty feet across bobbed like fallen leaves, and huge trees fifty or sixty feet in length repeatedly blocked the current.
It was nothing like that time long ago when Toshitsuna and Takatsuna6 made the crossing. When the warriors saw this, all of them seemed to feel a thrill of fear. They thought, however, that if they waited another day to make the crossing, the people would side with the enemy forces. So they fashioned floating rafts with their horses and tried to cross on these. They were eager to cross, and a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand warriors all shouted, “I’ll go, I’ll go.” But though they got as far as one chō, or two or three chō, not a single one reached the opposite shore. There were not only scarlet-laced and red-laced suits of armor, but bows and arrows, swords, and silver-star-studded helmets floating in the current, like the maple leaves that float in the Yoshino and Tatsuta rivers7 in the ninth and tenth months.
When the eminent priests at Mount Hiei, Tō-ji, the seven major temples of Nara, Onjō-ji, and other temples received this news they rejoiced, convinced that it was the result of the esoteric rituals and great ceremonies of the True Word teachings. At the Shishinden hall of the imperial court the chief priest of the temple at Mount Hiei and the priests of Tō-ji and Omuro continued to vigorously perform the ceremony of the five altars and the other fifteen ceremonies,8 and so the retired emperor’s joy knew no bounds. Placing his imperial insignia on the ground before him, he stroked the feet of the great priests with his hands. At this the ministers and noblemen ran down from their places to the ground and, prostrating themselves, paid reverence to these eminent priests.
Furthermore, the court nobles and officials arrayed for battle at Uji and Seta waved their helmets high above their heads and shouted out in loud voices.
“You barbarian followers of Yoshitoki! Listen carefully! Is there anyone from ancient times until now who has acted as the enemy of the sovereign’s authority and lived on afterwards in comfort and security? The dog who barked at a lion had its bowels torn open. When an asura shot his arrows at the sun and moon, the arrows flew back and pierced his eyes.
“But let us set aside these examples from far-off lands for the moment. Here in Japan, in the eighty and more reigns of human sovereigns since the founding of our country, twenty and more men, including Prince Ōyama and Ōishi no Omaru, have turned against the rule of the sovereign. But not a single one was able to accomplish his goals. All had their heads displayed on the prison gate and their bodies left to rot in the mountains and fields. The warriors of Kanto, who are members of the Minamoto and Taira clans or other eminent families, have abandoned their loyalties to the sovereigns whom their ancestors revered and now follow the orders of Yoshitoki, a subject of the province of Izu. And that is why a disaster like this happens.
“Those who turn against the authority of the sovereign and follow the orders of a subject are like a lion that, riding on a fox, races now east, now west, now south, now north. What are you going to do about this shame of a lifetime? Hurry, hurry! Remove your helmets, set down your bows and arrows, and give yourselves up, give yourselves up!”
969But what happened here! At the time between the hours of the monkey and the cock [around 5:00 p.m.], the Kanto warriors stormed across the river and attacked triumphantly. On their entry into Kyoto not a single one of the imperial forces was to be seen. All had fled and hid themselves away in the mountain forests. The Kanto victors exiled four sovereigns to four separate islands.9
Moreover, the eminent priests, teachers, and reverend priests were either run out of their temple-residences or met with various indignities. And it seems that even now, though sixty years have passed, the disgrace still lingers.
Nevertheless, now the disciples of the priests who performed those prayer ceremonies have again been ordered to offer prayers. In spite of the fact that the enemy ships were damaged in minor swells caused by the annual autumn winds, they are insisting that they are responsible for the great Mongol general being taken alive, and are proclaiming that their prayers have been answered.
Now if this is the case, you must ask in return whether the head of the great Mongol king has yet arrived. No matter what they may say about other things, make no reply. Because I thought it better that you should know, I have presented you with this general picture of things so that you may be aware of the situation. You also ought to bring this matter to the attention of the other members of our group.
And I understand about Shiiji Shirō.10
Since I am already sixty years old now, I feel that I would like to repay my debt of gratitude to the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai. So I have used your offering money for the repair and reconstruction of our shabby temple building.
When you go to the pure land of Eagle Peak you can say that your four thousand coins built the foremost Lotus hall in the entire land of Jambudvīpa.
With my deep respect,
The twenty-second day of the tenth month
Presented in reply to the lay priest Toki
1. On the first day of the intercalary seventh month in the fourth year of the Kōan era (1281), armed Mongol ships, which had come to attack Japan, were wrecked by a great wind.
2. Shien is also known as Eizon, a restorer of the Precepts school in Japan. On the occasions of the Mongol invasions of Japan in 1274 and 1281, he repeatedly conducted an esoteric prayer ritual to ward off disaster.
3. The seven schools are the Dharma Analysis Treasury, Establishment of Truth, Precepts, Dharma Characteristics, Three Treatises, Flower Garland, and True Word schools. “The eight schools” refers to these seven schools and the Tendai school.
4. Iga Tarō Hōgan Mitsusue was a military governor of Rokuhara in Kyoto, whose duties included supervision of the political, military, and judicial affairs of the southwestern half of Japan. During the Jōkyū Disturbance of 1221, he refused to join forces with the Retired Emperor Gotoba. “The lord of Kamakura” refers to Hōjō Yoshitoki, the regent of the Kamakura government.
5. “Uji and Seta” describes an area along the Uji River and Seta River. The Uji River is the middle reaches of the Seta River, which originates at the southern edge of Lake Biwa and flows through Kyoto Prefecture, eventually emptying into Osaka Bay. In ancient times, it marked the southeastern line of defense for Kyoto, the capital, and was the site of several famous battles. Because of its strategic importance, whether one succeeded in crossing the Uji River determined the victory or defeat of one’s troops. Seta, the area facing the site where this river emerges from the lake, was another strategic point of defense.
6. Toshitsuna, or Ashikaga no Toshitsuna, was a member of the Ashikaga warrior family in the twelfth century. In the revolt of Prince Mochihito and Minamoto no Yorimasa against the powerful Taira clan in 1180, Ashikaga no Toshitsuna and his son Tadatsuna defeated the forces of Minamoto no Yorimasa at the Uji River. Takatsuna (d. 1214), or Sasaki Takatsuna, was a warrior. When Minamoto no Yoritomo, later the founder of the Kamakura shogunate, launched a battle against the Taira family in 1180, Takatsuna joined Yoritomo and saved his life in the Battle of Ishibashiyama. In 1184, Takatsuna vied with Kajiwara Kagesue in their race across the Uji River to defeat the enemy.
7. The Yoshino River flows through Yoshino, a mountainous district in the southern part of Nara Prefecture. The area is famous for its cherry trees. The Tatsuta River flows in the northwestern part of Nara Prefecture, and this area is famous for maple trees.
8. The ceremony of the five altars was a ceremony of the esoteric teachings, dedicated to the five great wisdom kings, or the five deities: Immovable, Conqueror of the Threefold World, Kundalī, Great Awesome Virtue, and Diamond Yaksha. In this ceremony, images of the five great wisdom kings were enshrined in five altars and worshiped. The fifteen ceremonies were also ceremonies of esoteric teachings and were performed before altars enshrining bodhisattvas and deities.
9. “Four sovereigns” refers to the reigning emperor Chūkyō and the three retired emperors: Gotoba, Tsuchimikado, and Juntoku. Chūkyō was deposed; Gotoba was exiled to the island of Oki; Tsuchimikado, to Awa (a different Awa from the Daishonin’s birthplace); and Juntoku, to Sado Island.
10. A follower of Nichiren Daishonin who lived in Suruga Province. His dates are unknown. In 1261 he received a letter from the Daishonin now known as A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering (I, p. 33).