November 2009 Oko/ Mokushi-e Ceremony

 

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, starting off with a passage inside the Nirvana Sutra. The ending of the previous passage mentions by not offering anything to heretical teachings or anyone who supports erroneous beliefs are to be praised. The main point being made here is based on protecting the correct Law. In this passage, it points out the elimination of the Brahman. Here, Shakyamuni mentions that he was a king named SenŐyo. A Brahman who specializes in religion, and morality educated him for twelve years. But SenŐyo somehow had a mysterious fate in which he heard of the Mahayana teachings before, and had adoration towards these teachings. He had a pure and sincere heart, completely free of wickedness, jealousy, or stinginess. When the twelfth year passed, SenŐyo approached the Brahman and tells him, ŇI believe the Mahayana teachings are correct. We must learn this.Ó

But the Brahman tells the king, ŇThose Mahayana teachings are like grasping thin air, it isnŐt worth learning.Ó

Hearing this, the king immediately kills him. In regards to this, Shakyamuni mentions, Ňbecause of this causal relationship that I created, I have never fallen into hell since.Ó

What does this means? Shakyamuni mentions this in the following passage.

ŇThere are three degrees of killing- low, middle, and high [that bring about the corresponding degrees of retribution]. Killing any animal, even an ant, constitutes the lowest degree of killing. With the exception of killing bodhisattvas who chose to be born as animals to offer their lives in order to save the people, one who commits this offense will fall into the worlds of hell, animality, or hunger, and will suffer the lowest degree of retribution.... My disciples, taking the life of an icchantika does not result in the sufferings of retribution from any of the three degrees of killing, even if one does so willingly. My disciples, the Brahmans [that I killed in my past lives, when I was king] were all icchantika

 

TodayŐs portion of the Rissho Ankoku ron mentions the justification of killing anyone who slanders the True Law. But as you well know, Nichiren Daishonin did not directly kill, nor ordered his disciples to kill these slanderers, despite the fact that He faced many persecutions led by people who were out to kill him.

 

Nichiren Daishonin mentions a much further meaning of these passages in other sutras and passages, which I will explain next month.

 

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