January 21st 2015:

January 21st

I want you to establish a strong determination within yourself, make the wisdom and beauty of your heart to shine with humility.

Daisaku Ikeda.

January 21st

Restraining those who slander the Law and respecting the followers of the correct way will assure stability within the nation and peace in the world at large.

(On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land. WND pg 68)



Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter in 1264, while living in Kamakura, to the wife of Hiki Daigaku Saburō Yoshimoto. Yoshimoto had studied Confucianism in Kyoto where he had served under the Retired Emperor Juntoku. He later went to Kamakura where he was employed by the military government as a Confucian scholar. He is said to have become the Daishonin’s follower around 1260. Tradition has it that he resolved to embrace the Daishonin’s teaching upon reading a draft of On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land. Both Yoshimoto and his wife were strong believers.

The present letter was written in response to inquiries by Yoshimoto’s wife about the formalities to be observed in her daily practice of Buddhism and about the recitation of the sutra and the daimoku during her menstrual period. Thus this letter is also referred to by the title Letter on Menstruation.

Judging from this letter, it appears that the Daishonin had early on established the formula of reciting the “Expedient Means” and “Life Span” chapters of the Lotus Sutra as the daily practice supporting the chanting of the daimoku. Yoshimoto’s wife had at first been following the practice prevalent in her day, that is, continuously reading through the entire sutra, a chapter a day. She had then begun to read only the “Medicine King” chapter. The Daishonin praises her efforts and suggests reading the “Expedient Means” and “Life Span” chapters and reciting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo instead of Namu-ichijō-myōten.

Both the question in connection with menstruation and the Daishonin’s explanation are best understood in the historical context of Kamakura-era Japan. Shinto (literally, the way of the gods), the indigenous Japanese religion, strongly emphasized the observance of ritual purity and had established numerous avoidances, or taboos, to this end. Death, illness, wounds, childbirth, menstruation, and so forth were all regarded as sources of impurity, and a person who experienced any of these, directly or indirectly, was required to undergo ritual purification before engaging in any form of worship. Women were accordingly prohibited from taking part in religious ceremonies during their menstrual period. These taboos were deeply rooted in the popular consciousness and were observed long after the introduction of Buddhism, ultimately becoming mixed with Buddhist practices to the point that few people were aware of their non-Buddhist origin. For example, it was partly out of concern for avoiding such “impurity” that women were often prohibited from entering the grounds of Buddhist monasteries.

In response to the question from Yoshimoto’s wife, the Daishonin first states that no sutra mentions taboos concerning menstruation. Furthermore, he explains, from a Buddhist perspective no reason exists to consider the menses impure; it is simply a natural function of the body.

However, the Daishonin continues, the custom of observing such prohibitions and taboos has been firmly established in Japanese society, and one should not categorically reject social customs and observances simply because they are unrelated to Buddhism. In this connection, he refers to the Buddhist principle of respecting the customs of the region. According to this principle, even if one must depart in terms of minor details from the Buddhist teaching, one should avoid needlessly violating the rules of society. Such flexibility is characteristic of Buddhism, which concerns itself with enabling people to awaken to the fundamental truth of all things, not with governing the details of their lives. Thus, as it has spread, Buddhism has adapted its peripheral aspects to the time and the place, embracing local customs while maintaining its essential message intact.

Nevertheless, though minor details in the practice of Buddhism may be adapted to fit the society, basic principles should not be compromised. The Daishonin therefore advises Yoshimoto’s wife that honoring the social conventions—in this case, the observance of prohibitions concerning menstruation—does not mean that she should blindly obey them to the extent that they interfere with her daily Buddhist practice.

January 21st

YOU will never find happiness if you do not change yourself from within. Happiness is not something that someone else can give to you. You have to achieve it for yourself. And the only way to do so is by developing your own character and capacity as a human being; by fully maximizing your potential. If you sacrifice your own growth and talent for love, you will absolutely not find happiness. True happiness is obtained through fully realizing your own potential.

Daisaku Ikeda.


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