Mokushi-e    November Oko 2008

 

I would like to thank you for attending todayŐs Oko ceremony despite your busy schedule. I have offered your sincere Gokuyo to the Gohonzon, and sincerely prayed to the Gohonzon for the further development in faith; eradication of your sins and negative karma from this and infinite past lifetimes; to enjoy a safe and long life; for peace and harmony to reign in your home; for all matters to proceed forth smoothly; and for the successful achievement of all your great objectives in this and future existences.

TodayŐs Oko ceremony is coincided with the Mokushi-e Ceremony. It is the ceremony where we observe the memorial of Third High Priest Nichimoku Shonin.

Nichimoku Shonin was born to Niida Shigetsuna in Izu Province in 1260. It was in that year Nichiren Daishonin submitted the ŇRissho Ankoku RonÓ to remonstrate the Kamakura Shogunate. His original name was Torao-maru and was the fifth of six sons.

In September 1272, when Torao-maru was twelve, he entered Enzo-bo Temple near his home on Mount Soto (also known as Mount Izu). In 1274, he witnessed a debate between Nikko Shonin, who was propagating Nichiren DaishoninŐs teachings in that area, and Shikibusozu, an influential priest of Enzo-bo Temple and master of the Shingon sect. As a result of the latterŐs sound defeat, Torao-maru converted to Nichiren DaishoninŐs teachings. Two years later, after studying under Nikko Shonin, Torao-maru was ordained at Mount Minobu. He was given the name Kunaikyo-no-Kimi, which was later, changed to Nichimoku.

 

Nichimoku Shonin sincerely served the Daishonin while learning the profundities of His teachings. Legend has it that in his devoted service to Nichiren Daishonin, he carried buckets of water on his head from a stream to the temple in Mount Minobu several times a day. As a result, a permanent impression marked the spot on his head where the buckets had rested. Incidentally, this indentation appears in his painted image as a testimony to his devoted service.

Nichimoku Shonin, the Third High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu, was a strong man and a skilled debater, and there is a famous story regarding his excellent ability.

During the time Nichiren Daishonin stayed at Ikegami MunenakaŐs home on the way to Hitachi, a student priest at Mount Hiei named Nikaido-Ise Hoin came to see Nichiren Daishonin. Disregarding Nichiren DaishoninŐs poor health, Hoin challenged the Daishonin to a debate. Hoin, the son of a Kamakura government official, and hiding behind his fatherŐs authority, showed complete disrespect to Nichiren Daishonin. All of the disciples were surprised at Nikaido-IseŐs lack of etiquette, but Nichiren Daishonin firmly replied, ŇIt is an easy task for Nichimoku. Let him do it.Ó

The debate lasted ten rounds and covered ten crucial points. In each round, Nichimoku Shonin reduced Hoin to submission on all points. Witnesses to the debate were astonished and deeply impressed. When Nichiren Daishonin heard the report, He smiled and said, ŇHe has done well. It has happened just as I told you.Ó

After Nichiren DaishoninŐs death, Nichimoku Shonin served Nikko Shonin as he had the Daishonin. In 1289, the Second High Priest left Mount Minobu because the major landowner of that area, Hagiri Sanenaga, had committed four slanderous acts against the DaishoninŐs teachings. Nichimoku Shonin accompanied Nikko Shonin to Mount Fuji, where the Head Temple Taisekiji now stands.

 

Nikko Shonin recognized the superiority of Nichimoku Shonin over the other priests, some of who were Nichimoku ShoninŐs seniors, and appointed him the first of his six main disciples. After the completion of the Head Temple, Nikko Shonin bestowed the Ozagawari Gohonzon upon him. This special Gohonzon indicated the transfer of Nichiren DaishoninŐs teachings from Nikko Shonin to Nichimoku Shonin.After it was presented, Nikko Shonin retired to the Omosu area and Nichimoku Shonin built Renzo-bo Temple at Taisekiji, which served as a place of worship as well as his residence. He protected the Head Temple until he officially became High Priest in 1332, at which time Nikko Shonin transferred to him all of the treasures of that office, including the Dai-Gohonzon.

Today, Nichimoku Shonin is remembered for his spirit to practice and propagate True Buddhism even at the risk of his own life. According to one account, Nichimoku Shonin remonstrated more than forty-two times with the Kamakura government and the Imperial court at Kyoto on behalf of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin. In the entire history of Nichiren Shoshu, he was the first to attempt to shakubuku the Imperial court.

In 1333, the Kamakura shogunate collapsed and imperial rule was restored. Nichimoku Shonin was seventy-four at the time and tried once again to accomplish the Kosen-rufu of Japan by exhorting the imperial court to take faith in True Buddhism, knowing that if it did, the entire country would follow suit.

Despite of his advanced age and the bad weather, he prepared to remonstrate with the imperial court. Then, in October, Nichimoku Shonin transferred all of Nichiren DaishoninŐs teachings to Nichido Shonin in case of his death.

He started for Kyoto in the mid-November snow. The journey and task proved too much for him and he fell seriously ill. He was taken through the icy cold and cutting wind to an inn at Tarui in Mino Province. Nichimoku Shonin died calmly, on November 15, 1333, while chanting Daimoku.

We observe Nichimoku ShoninŐs memorial to remind ourselves to wholeheartedly propagate Nichiren DaishoninŐs Buddhism with every word and deed.

Because it was thought that November 15 was a particularly auspicious day, it was selected as a celebration of childhood as well. The Shichi-go-san, or ChildrenŐs Ceremony, has been celebrated on November 15 in Japan since the seventeenth century. Originally, children aged three, five, and seven celebrated on their birthdays, but later this tradition was changed to November 15.

In Nichiren Shoshu, this childrenŐs ceremony has deep significance. Because children are the treasure of their parents and society, it is most important that they establish their connection to the Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws. The children of Nichiren Shoshu believers must continue the heritage of their parentsŐ faith in order to propagate the DaishoninŐs Buddhism worldwide. All children aged seven and under are invited to participate as attending parents join with the priest to pray for the prosperity and happiness of each child.

 

Once again, I want to continue with the ŇRissho Ankoku RonÓ and the continuation of the second response to the traveler from the host. Last month, I mentioned that there would be seven calamities that will occur from the Ninno Sutra. Here I will read the part that was cited from the Yakushi Sutra.

The Yakushi Sutra states: "If disasters and calamities should befall members of the ruling kshatriya class and anointed kings, such disasters will be as follows: the calamity of disease and pestilence among the populace; the calamity of invasion and plunder from foreign lands; the calamity of revolt within one's own domain; the calamity of irregularities and strange occurrences among the stars and constellations; the calamity of eclipses of the sun and moon; the calamity of unseasonable wind and rain; and the

calamity of rain that fails to fall even when the season for it has come and gone."

First of all, Ňthe kshatriva classÓ is the second of the four classes or castes in ancient India: the priestly class, the military and ruling class, the farmers and traders, and the serfs, or slave class. The anointed king mentioned here are rulers of major kingdoms. In ancient India, when the ruler of a powerful kingdom ascended the throne, the rulers of smaller kingdoms and their ministers poured water on his head.

 

Next, the Daishonin cites from the Ninno Sutra,

In the Ninno Sutra, the Buddha addresses [King Prasenajit] in these words: "Great King, the region where my teachings now hold sway consists of a hundred billion Sumeru worlds with a hundred billion suns and moons. Each of these Sumeru worlds comprises four great continents.  In the empire of the south, which is Jambudvipa, there are sixteen great nations, five hundred medium-sized nations, and ten thousand small nations. In these nations, there are seven types of fearful calamities that may occur. All the rulers of these nations agree that these are indeed calamities. What, then, are these calamities?

This portion of the Ninno Sutra comes from the same chapter from the previous quote that was mentioned last month, about the seven disasters certain to arise once the sages have departed.

 

After this, each of the seven calamities is explained in detail. First,

"When the sun and moon depart from their regular courses, when the seasons come in the wrong order, when a red sun or a black sun appears, when two, three, four or five suns appear at the same time, when the sun is eclipsed and loses its light, or when one, two, three, four or five coronas appear around the sun, this is the first calamity. When the twenty-eight constellations do not move in their regular courses, when the Metal Star, the Broom Star, the Wheel Star, the Demon Star, the Fire Star, the Water Star, the Wind Star, the Ladle Star, the Southern Dipper, the Northern Dipper, the great stars of the Five Garrisons, and the many stars that govern the ruler, the three high

ministers and the hundred other officials--when each of these stars manifests some peculiar behavior, this is the second calamity.

Here, the first calamity explains meteorological, or in a simple term, related to weather.

 

The second calamity explains astrological related calamities.

"When huge fires consume the nation and the people are all burned to death, or when there are outbreaks of demon fire, dragon fire, heavenly fire, mountain god fire, human fire, tree fire or bandit fire--when these prodigies

appear, this is the third calamity. When huge floods drown the population, when the seasons come out of order and there is rain in winter, snow in

summer, thunder and lightening in the winter season and ice, frost and hail in the sixth month, when red, black or green rain falls, when mountains of dirt and stones come raining down, or when it rains dust, sand or gravel, when the rivers and streams run backward, when mountains are afloat and boulders are washed away--when freakish happenings of this kind occur, this is the fourth calamity.

The third calamity explains fires. The fourth calamity explains water related disasters, such as floods, tidal waves, and flash floods.

 

"When huge winds blow the people to their death and the lands, the mountains and rivers and the trees and forests are all at one time wiped out, when great winds come out of season or when black winds, red winds, green winds, heavenly winds, earthly winds, fire winds and water winds blow--when prodigies of this kind occur, this is the fifth calamity. When heaven and earth and the whole country are stricken by terrible heat so that the air seems to be on fire, when the hundred plants wither and the five grains fail to ripen, when the earth is red and scorched and the inhabitants all perish--when prodigies of this kind occur, this is the sixth calamity.

The fifth calamity explains wind, typhoons, hurricanes, tornados, and cyclones. The sixth calamity explains dry spells that lead to famine. All these calamities are nature related and uncontrollable. But the final calamity that is mentioned is not.

"When enemies rise up on all four sides and invade the nation, when rebels appear both within the ruler's family and without, when there are fire bandits, water bandits, wind bandits and demon bandits and the population is subjected to devastation and disorder, and fighting and plundering break

out everywhere--when prodigies of this type occur, this is the seventh calamity."

 

Next, Nichiren Daishonin cites from the Daijuku Sutra with the following.

The Daijuku Sutra says: "Though the ruler of a state may have for countless existences in the past practiced the giving of alms, observed the precepts and abided by the principles of wisdom, if he sees that my Law, the Dharma of the

Buddha, is in danger of perishing and stands idly by without doing anything to protect it, then all the inestimable store of good causes that he has accumulated through the practices just mentioned will be entirely wiped out, and his country will become the scene of three inauspicious occurrences. The first is high grain prices, the second is warfare, and the third is pestilence. All the benevolent deities will abandon the country, and although the king may issue commands, the people will not obey them. The country will constantly be invaded and vexed by neighboring nations. Violent fires will rage out of control, evil winds and rains will abound, the waters will swell and overflow, and the inhabitants will be blown about by winds or swept away by floods.  The paternal and maternal relatives of the ruler will join in plotting revolt.

Before long, the ruler will fall gravely ill, and after his life has come to an end, he will be reborn in one of the major hells.... And the same fate will befall the ruler's consort, his heir, the high ministers of the state, the lords of the cities, the village heads and generals, the magistrates of districts, and the government officials."

 

With that, Nichiren Daishonin cited four sutras, the Konkomyo, Ninno, Daijuku, and Yakushi Sutras, regarding the calamities that will occur if people donŐt uphold the True Teachings of the Lotus Sutra.

 

The passages I have quoted from these four sutras are perfectly clear--what person in ten thousand could possibly doubt their meaning? And yet the blind and the deluded trust to heretical doctrines and fail to recognize the correct teachings. Therefore, throughout the empire these days people are inclined to turn away from the Buddhas and the sutras and no longer endeavor to protect them. In turn, the benevolent deities and sages abandon the nation and leave their accustomed places. As a result, demons and followers of heretical doctrines create disaster and inflict calamity upon the populace.

 

The traveler will garner more doubts from this response, and further questions the host. I will explain this next month.

As you already know, we are now less than five months away from our first Tozan in April, and before you know it, the second Tozan in the end of May is now half a year away. Already, formal application forms are out for everyone to fill out. If you are planning on attending these two Tozans, please fill out the forms and turn them in as soon as you can. Anyone who has turned in the early Tozan Surveys, has a tentative spot in these Tozans, so by filling out the new form, you will now be formally placed in them.

 

Finally, we witnessed a very special event this past week. Although it is said that change is coming, even if we say or hear that change is coming, the real change wonŐt come unless people in responsible positions converts to this True Buddhism. But as you know, that will not be an easy task. For now, let us focus on what we can do on the forefront of shakubuku.

 

In closing, I wish for further development of faith and greater health and happiness for each and everyone here today. Thank you very much.