“Letter to Horen” (“Horen-sho”)


Guideposts in Faith

Myokyo Magazine

February 2011 (pp. 8-9, 11-14)


In light of all this, we can say that each morning, [when he recites the Jigage,] the priest Horen is sending forth golden-hued characters from his mouth. These characters are 510 in number, and each character changes into a sun, and each sun changes into a Shakyamuni Buddha. They emit great beams of light that penetrate the earth and shine upon the three evil paths and the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering. They also shine toward the east, west, north and south, and upward, ascending to the realm where there is neither thought nor no thought. They visit the realm where your departed father is dwelling, wherever it may be, and there hold discourse with him.

“Who do you think we are?” they say. “We are the characters of the Jigage of the Lotus Sutra that your son Horen recites each morning. These characters will be your eyes, your ears, your feet, your hands!” Thus do they earnestly converse with him.

And at that time your departed father will say, “Horen is not my son. Rather he is a good friend to me.” And he will turn and pay respects in the direction of the saha world. For what you are doing is truly an act of filial devotion.

(Gosho, p. 819; MW-7, p. 113)


In this Gosho passage from “Letter to Horen” (“Horen-sho”), the Daishonin instructs how great the fortune is when one makes offerings to benefit the deceased and one’s deceased ancestors.

There is a well-known parable called “Wu-lung and I-lung” that appears in the eighth volume of The Lotus Sutra and its Traditions (Hokke denki). This is a work by Seng Chao (384-414), who was a Chinese Buddhist philosopher and was the first disciple of Kumarajiva. The Daishonin refers to this parable in “Letter to Horen” and other Gosho writings, such as “Reply to Lord Ueno.” Using the parable, he emphasizes how important it is to make offerings for one’s parents, based on the Lotus Sutra, in order for them to attain enlightenment. This is true, even if it goes against their wishes and is especially true if they did not practice during their lifetime. Some of you may be familiar with the story of Wu-lung and I-lung.

As a historical background to this parable, Buddhism was introduced into Japan from the kingdom of Kudara (Paekche). Prince Shotoku (574-622) and Soga Umako were instrumental in promoting the newly arrived Buddhist teachings. At the same time, there was a powerful clan led by Mononobe no Moriya, a devoted supporter of Japanese Shinto and a strong opponent of Buddhism. In a fierce battle, Soga Umako’s clan defeated the Mononobe clan. Thus, with the Soga clan’s ascendancy to power, the unsurpassed doctrines of Buddhism could be propagated without interruption.

Earlier, there had been a similar situation in China. In the First Century of the Common Era, two Indian Buddhist monks, Kashyapa Matanga and Chu-fa-lan, translated many Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. The Chinese people already had been thoroughly indoctrinated in the teachings of Confucianism and Taoism. A similar uprising occurred in China between those who supported the newly introduced Buddhist teachings and those who resisted them. The parable of Wu-lung and I-lung takes place in China.

Both father and son, Wu-lung and I-lung, who appear in this parable, were ardent believers of Taoism. They highly respected Lao Tzu. Wu-lung was a renowned master calligrapher in China. Upon Wu-lung’s impending death, he summoned his son I-lung and strictly expressed his last wishes saying, “You are my son. Not only have you inherited my skill but also you write with an even better hand than I. After my death, you must never transcribe any Buddhist scriptures, especially the Lotus Sutra. Just like there are not two suns in the heavens, in our house, you must revere Lao Tzu. I, your father, believe that Lao Tzu is a revered person. If you break this promise, I will return as a ghost and kill you.”

Wu-lung then died. Blood spurted like fountains from his five sense organs. His tongue split into eight pieces, and his body fell apart in ten directions. The reason for this was because Wu-lung’s last wish imparted to his son not to transcribe the Lotus Sutra was a sin of disbelief and slander. Based on these negative causes, Wu-lung showed this frightful appearance at death, which indicated that he would fall into the hell of incessant suffering. His son I-lung, not realizing the meaning of this omen, abided by his father’s wishes and did not read, recite, or transcribe any Buddhist sutras.

As time passed, I-lung became well known as a master calligrapher. One day, he was summoned by King Ssu-ma, who was a Buddhist believer and held the Lotus Sutra in high regard. The king desired to have a copy of the Lotus Sutra transcribed by I-lung. He refused, however, explaining to the king that his father’s will forbade him from transcribing any Buddhist sutras, especially the Lotus Sutra. I-lung beseeched the king three times to be excused. The king reluctantly called upon another calligrapher to transcribe the entire sutra. The result, however, was far from satisfactory.

The king again summoned I-lung and said to him, “Since you say your father’s will forbids you, I will not compel you to copy the entire sutra. I do insist, however, that you at least obey my command to write in calligraphy the titles of its eight volumes.” I-lung begged repeatedly to be excused. The king, now furious, said, “Your father was as much my subject as you are. If you refuse to write the titles for fear of being unfilial to him, I will charge you with disobedience of a royal decree and have you beheaded.” I-lung realized that he could no longer disobey the king, so he wrote the titles of the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra—a total of 64 Chinese characters. He then presented his work to the king.


(Note: This article can be read in its entirety in the September, 2011 edition of the Nichiren Shoshu Monthly magazine. For more information, please contact your local temple.)