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It is Better to Live a Single Day with Honour than to Live to 120 and Die in Disgrace

It is Better to Live a Single Day with Honour than to Live to 120 and Die in Disgrace

September 28, 2008 Buddhism 0

This is powerful stuff from 1277 in Japan…

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A Samurai

Introduction

A 55-year old Japanese monk writes a letter to a proud, hot-headed Samurai warrior who has the absolute right to cut his head off with but a moment’s notice, (swish!), almost without reason.

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Nichiren

The Samurai know all about honour and don’t like to be lectured by anyone, especially those that are considered inferior, like fish gutters….

The monk writing the letter, Nichiren, came from a fish-gutting family.  A bit like a Cullercoats fishwife from my part of the North-East of England..

This is part of the letter that the fish gutter wrote to the Samurai…

It is rare to be born a human being. The number of those endowed with human life is as small as the amount of earth one can place on a fingernail. Life as a human being is hard to sustain- as hard as it is for the dew to remain on the grass. But it is better to live a single day with honour than to live to 120 and die in disgrace. Live so that all the people of Kamakura will say in your praise that Nakatsukasa Saburo Saemon-no-jo is diligent in the service of his lord, in the service of Buddhism, and in his concern for other people. More valuable than treasures in a storehouse are the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all. From the time you read this letter on, strive to accumulate the treasures of the heart!  – Nichiren Daishonin, The Three Kinds of Treasure (WND 1, p851).  Written to Shijo Kingo on September 11, 1277

nichiren.jpgFrom the time that Nichiren decided to speak out for common-sense and against injustice, Nichiren was persecuted almost until the end of his life.  During this time, he transcribed his thoughts and wrote letters to people, much of which survives to this day in his hand, or as copies by his immediate associates.  Much of his work he wrote in an informal “peoples” script, not the educated hand-writing of the ruling classes.  This was so that his message could be heard and used by the masses, not hidden away as a secret to be guarded by an elite.

Nichiren.  A man from, and for, the people.

 

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