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Thursday, 14 January 2010
History of Nichiren Daishonin 日莲大圣人 (Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai Version)
(1222-1282 A.D.) The founder of what is now known as Nichiren Shoshu, which regards him as the original Buddha who appears in the Latter Day of the Law to open the way to Buddhahood for all people. He was born on February 16, 1222, in the small fishing village of Kominato in Tojo in Awa Province in what is presently Chiba Prefecture. His father was called Mikuni no Tayu, and his mother, Umegiku-nyo. His childhood name was Zennichi-maro. At the age of twelve he entered a nearby Tendai temple called Seicho-ji, where he studied both Buddhist and secular teachings under the chief priest, Dozen-bo. According to the "Seicho-ji Daishu Chu" (Letter to the Priests of Seicho-ji) written in 1276, Zennichi-maro prayed before a statue of Bodhisattva Kokuzo at Seicho-ji, asking to become the wisest man in Japan. Because of these prayers he obtained a "jewel of wisdom" which later enabled him to grasp the essence of all the sutras.
At the age of sixteen, he was formally ordained and took the name Zesho-bo Rencho. Soon after, he left for Kamakura to further his studies. Three years later, he returned briefly to Seicho-ji and then set out again for the major centers of Buddhist learning at Mt. Hiei, Mt. Koya, Mii-dera temple and other temples in the Kyoto and Nara areas. During these years he studied all the sutras and their commentaries and the teachings of the different sects. He became convinced that the highest of Shakyamuni's teachings is the Lotus Sutra (Dharma Flower Lotus Sutra - Saddharma Pundarika Sutra), and that the Great Pure Law which leads directly to enlightenment in the Latter Day of the Law is implicit in that sutra. He also grew convinced that his was the mission of Bodhisattva Jogyo, who, in the Lotus Sutra, was entrusted with the task of propagating the True Law in the Latter Day. He resolved to denounce the misconceptions of the prevailing sects openly in spite of the persecutions which the Lotus Sutra predicts its votary will experience.
At the age of thirty-two, he returned to Seicho-ji. At noon on April 28, 1253, he preached at the Jibutso-do Hall in a lodging temple called the Shobutsu-bo to an assembly of priests and villagers who had gathered at Seicho-ji to hear the results of his studies. In his first sermon he declared that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the only teaching in the Latter Day of the Law (Dharma-Ending Age) which enables all people to attain (realize) Buddhahood in this lifetime. On this occasion he renamed himself Nichiren (Sun Lotus). He also denounced the widespread doctrine of the Nembutsu as a teaching which drives people into the hell of incessant suffering. (The four dictums, with which he denounced the four leading sects of the time, Nembutsu, Zen, Shingon and Ritsu, are thought to have been formulated later.) Tojo Kagenobu, the steward of the area and a confirmed Nembutsu believer, became furious on hearing of this and ordered his warriors to arrest the Daishonin, who narrowly managed to escape with the help of two of his seniors, Joken-bo and Gijo-bo. After converting his parents and giving the Buddhist names Myonichi to his father and Myoren to his mother, he headed for Kamakura to launch his lifelong propagation activities.
In Kamakura he lived in a small dwelling at a place called Matsubagayatsu in Nagoe. He devoted the next several years primarily to converting individuals, eventually gathering a large number of converts. Among the first priests to become his disciples were Nissho and Nichiro. Lay converts included Toki Jonin, Shijo Kingo, Kudo Yoshitaka and the Ikegami brothers.Japan at that time was experiencing a succession of unusually severe storms, earthquakes, drought, famine, epidemics and other disasters. Corpses littered the streets. Government relief measures and prayers offered by shrines and temples all proved ineffective. An earthquake which struck Kamakura in August of 1257 destroyed a great many houses and almost all the temples and shrines in the city. The Daishonin, determined to provide documentary proof of the cause and solution of these calamities in terms of Buddhism, went to Jisso-ji temple in Suruga Province to do research in its sutra library. The person who was assigned to serve the Daishonin there was Nikko Shonin, then a boy of fifteen, who would later become his successor. On July 16, 1260, Nichiren Daishonin submitted a treatise entitled "Rissho Ankoku Ron" (On Securing the Peace of the Land through the Propagation of True Buddhism) to the retired regent, Hojo Tokiyori, the most influential man in the Kamakura shogunate. In it he attributed the disasters ravaging the country to slander of the True Law and belief in false teachings. In particular, he criticized the Jodo (Pure Land) sect. Of the three calamities and seven disasters described in the sutras, he predicted that the two disasters which had yet to occur - internal strife and foreign invasion - would visit the nation without fail if it persisted in its support of misleading sects, and urged that the one vehicle of the Lotus Sutra be embraced without delay. The submission of the "Rissho Ankoku Ron" is considered his first remonstration with the government.
There was no official response to this document, but a group of Nembutsu believers, though to have been incited by priests and government officials, attacked his dwelling on the night of August 27. The Daishonin escaped with a few disciples and stayed briefly with Toki Jonin in Shimosa Province. The next spring, however, he returned to Kamakura. This time the Nembutsu priests and government authorities contrived to have charges of defamation made against him, and he was sentenced without trial or further investigation to exile in Ito on the Izu Peninsula.
The boatmen charged with his transport did not take him to Ito but abandoned him on a beach called Kawana to the mercy of the local inhabitants, many of whom hated him and were in any case hostile to exiles. The Daishonin was sheltered for a time by a fisherman called Funamori Yasaburo and his wife. Later the Daishonin won the favor of Lord Ito, who converted to his teachings when the Daishonin successfully prayed for the lord's recovery from illness. The Daishonin was pardoned and returned to Kamakura in February 1263.
His father had already died in 1258. Knowing that his mother was critically ill, the Daishonin returned to his native Awa in the autumn of 1264. As a result of his prayers for her, she recovered quickly and lived four years longer. He stayed in Awa for a while, and conducted propagation activities. On November 11, while still in Awa, he set out with a group of believers to visit Kudo Yoshitaka, one of his followers, at his invitation. En route they were ambushed by Tojo Kagenobu and his men at a place called Komatsubara. The Daishonin's disciple Kyonin-bo, and Kudo Yoshitaka, who came rushing to his aid, were killed in the ensuing struggle. The Daishonin sustained a sword cut on his forehead and a broken hand. This incident is called the Komatsubara Persecution.
For the next three years or so, the Daishonin devoted himself to propagation efforts in Awa, Kazusa, Shimosa and Hitachi provinces, returning to Kamakura early in 1268. On January 18 of that year, a letter from Khubilai Khan of the Mongols arrived in Kamakura with a demand that Japan acknowledge fealty to the Mongol Empire and pay tribute or prepare to be invaded. The arrival of the Mongol's letters substantiated the Daishonin's earlier prophecy of foreign invasion. In April the Daishonin sent the "Ankoku Ron Gokan Yurai" (Rationale for Submitting the "Rissho Ankoku Ron") to Hokan-bo, a government official, pointing out that the prediction made in his "Rissho Ankoku Ron" was beginning to come true and urging the government to heed his advice. On October 11, he sent eleven letters to influential political and religious leaders, urging them to abandon their faith in erroneous teachings and demanding the opportunity to uphold his teaching in a public religious debate. There was no response.
In 1271 the country was troubled by persistent drought, and the government ordered Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji temple, and eminent priest of the Shingon-Ritsu sect, to pray for rain. Hearing of this, the Daishonin sent Ryokan a written challenge offering to become his disciple if Ryokan succeeded in bringing about rain; on the other hand, if Ryokan failed, he should become the Daishonin's disciple. Ryokan readily agreed, but in spite of his prayers and those of hundreds of attendant priests, no rain fell. Far from keeping his promise, he vindictively began to spread rumors about the Daishonin, using his influence among the wives and widows of government officials. He told them falsely that the Daishonin said their deceased husbands had fallen into the hell of incessant suffering. On September 10 the Daishonin was summoned to court and interrogated by Hei no Saemon, the deputy director of the Office of Military and Police Affairs. Nichiren Daishonin denied the charges of libel against the deceased officials but added that he had indeed been exposing the heresies they had followed when they were alive. He reemphasized the evil of misleading religions and repeated his prediction that the country would face ruin if it continued to deny the True Law. This encounter marked his second remonstration with the government.
On the afternoon of September 12, Hei no Saemon arrested the Daishonin, who was subsequently charged with treason and sentenced to exile on Sado Island. However, Hei no Saemon decided on his own to have the Daishonin beheaded, and took him late that night to the execution grounds at Tatsunokuchi. Just as the executioner was about to lower his sword, a brilliant object shot across the sky, terrifying Hei no Saemon's men and making it impossible to carry out the execution. This incident is called the Tatsunokuchi Persecution.
At this point, Nichiren Daishonin relinquished his transient status as Bodhisattva Jogyo who was entrusted by Shakyamuni Buddha in the Lotus Sutra with the propagation of the Law in the Latter Day, and revealed his true identity as the original Buddha. This is called hosshaku kempon. Only after that time did he begin to inscribe the object of worship, and commit to writing his important teachings, which identify him as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law and clarify the True Law which is to be propagated in the Latter Day.
On October 10, after almost a one-month stay in Echi, Sagami Province, Nichiren Daishonin left under escort for Sado Island, his designated place of exile, and arrived at Tsukahara on November 1. There, he was assigned a dilapidated hut in a graveyard as his dwelling, exposed to the wind and snow. On January 16 and 17 in the following year, he defeated hundreds of priests from Sado and the mainland who had come to confront him in religious debate. This encounter is called the Tsukahara Debate. In February of that year, the Daishonin's prediction of internal strife was fulfilled when Hojo Tokisuke, an elder half brother of Regent Hojo Tokimune, made an unsuccessful attempt to seize power. In April the Daishonin was transferred from Tsukahara to the residence of Ichinosawa Nyudo. On Sado he wrote many of his most important works including the "Kaimoku Sho" (The Opening of the Eyes), "Kanjin no Honzon Sho" (The True Object of Worship), "Shoji Ichidaiji Kechimyaku Sho" (Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life), "Shoho Jisso Sho" (The True Entity of Life), "Totaigi Sho" (The Entity of the Mystic Law), "Kembutsu Miraiki" (On the Buddha's Prophecy) and "Nyosetsu Shugyo Sho" (On Practicing the Buddha's Teachings).
In February 1274, the government issued a pardon for the Daishonin, and he returned to Kamakura on March 26. On April 8, Hei no Saemon requested an interview, and asked the Daishonin in a deferential manner his opinion of the impending Mongol invasion. The Daishonin said that it would occur within the year and reiterated that this calamity was the result of slandering the True Law. On this occasion the government offered to build him a temple and place his sect of Buddhism on an equal footing with all other sects, but the Daishonin refused. This was his third remonstration with the government.
The government continued its reliance on the Shingon sect and other Buddhist teachings. Convinced that he had done all he could to warn the nation's leaders, the Daishonin now turned his efforts toward ensuring the correct transmission of his teachings to posterity. In keeping with an old maxim that a sage who warns his sovereign three times and is not heeded should withdraw to a mountain forest, he left Kamakura and went to live in a small hermitage in the wilderness of Mt. Minobu. There he gave lectures on the Lotus Sutra and devoted himself to training his disciples. He also wrote several important documents including the "Hokke Shuyo Sho" (The Essentials of the Lotus Sutra), "Senji Sho" (The Selection of the Time) and "Hoon Sho" (Repaying Debts of Gratitude).
In October 1274, the Mongols launched a massive military attack against the southern islands of Iki and Tsushima and advanced to Kyushu. Japanese losses were staggering, but when the Mongol forces returned to their battleships at night, an unexpected storm arose and heavily damaged the Mongol fleet. The Mongols withdrew. In April of the next year, however, the Mongols sent an envoy threatening another invasion if the Japanese government did not acknowledge fealty to the Mongol Empire.
During this period, the Daishonin was busy at Minobu writing letters, training his disciples and giving lectures on the Lotus Sutra. Nikko Shonin assumed an active leadership in the propagation activities, and concentrated his efforts in Kai, Izu and Suruga provinces. His efforts were rewarded with a number of converts among both the priesthood and laity, and as the number of new believers increased, so did official pressures. Especially in Atsuhara Village of the Fuji area, believers were subjected to a series of threats and harassments known collectively as the Atsuhara Persecution. Twenty believers, all farmers, were arrested on September 21, 1279, on false charges, and three of them were beheaded on October 15. Not one of the twenty farmers had abandoned their faith in spite of these persecutions. Nichiren Daishonin, seeing that a number of his followers were now ready to give their lives if necessary to protect the Law, realized that the time had come to fulfill the final purpose of his life, and on October 12, 1279, he inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon as the object of worship for all people to attain Buddhahood.
Subsequently, his health began to fail. Sensing that his death was near, he designated Nikko Shonin as his successor in a transfer document dated September 1282. On September 8, he left Minobu at the urging of his disciples to visit the hot springs of Hitachi. When he reached the residence of Ikegami Munenaka at Ikegami in Musashi Province, he realized that his death was imminent. On October 8, he name six senior disciples and entrusted to them the responsibility of propagation after his death. Early on the morning of October 13, he appointed Nikko Shonin as the high priest of Kuon-ji temple in Minobu and urged all believers to follow Nikko Shonin. He passed away that morning, in the company of his disciples and lay believers.
* I highly recommend reader to read " Who is Nichiren? " after reading this topic so that you can have a clearer, better and a more complete picture of Nichiren Daishonin history. Thank you.
Due to this merits,
May I soon,
Attain the enlightened state of Guru Buddha,
That I may be able to librate all sentient beings from their suffering.
May the precious bodhi mind, Not yet been born in me, will arise and grow.
May the birth have no decline, and will increase forever more.
Namu Myo Ho Renge Kyo