Mokushi-e November Oko

 

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.

 

Today, I have read a passage from the gosho ŇThe Three Kinds of Treasure.Ó This gosho was written on September 11, 1277, when Nichiren Daishonin was 56 years old. It was addressed to Shijo Kingo, who was placed under house arrest by his lord, Ema Mitsutoki, on June 23 of that year. Shijo KingoŐs house arrest was a result of his denial to write an oath discarding the practice of the Lotus Sutra, or face severe punishment, which included confiscation of his fief (land), and banishment from the Ema family. A little more than two months later in September, there was an epidemic that raged in Kamakura, Shijo KingoŐs colleagues, who falsely accused him to the government, succumbed to the illness. Lord Ema became ill himself. The illness dragged on, forcing Lord Ema to order Shijo Kingo to cure the Lord from the illness.

Immediately following his release, Shijo Kingo sent a letter to Nichiren Daishonin, reporting how all this came about, and requesting guidance on how to handle the matter. This gosho was His response. He mentions in detail how we should behave, speak, and what to wear. Today, I would like to talk about a personŐs behavior and the term having profound knowledge of this world is itself Buddhism.

 

In the early days of Japan, even before Nichiren DaishoninŐs parents were born, Prince Shotoku created the Seventeen-Article Constitution in 604. In Article 14 of the Constitution, it states:

Do not be envious! For if we envy others, then they in turn will envy us. The evils of envy know no limit. If others surpass us in intelligence, we are not pleased; if they are more able, we are envious. But if we do not find wise men and sages, how shall the realm be governed?

This article proclaims that if we our envious of others, they will be envious of us in return. It warns us the evil influence it has on people.

Also, Dale Carnegie, a well-known writer and lecturer, wrote a book that was first published in 1936, called ŇHow to Win Friends and Influence People.Ó In the book, it states:

When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.

These are related to the three poisons of greed, anger, and stupidity.

 

In the gosho ŇThe Three Kinds of TreasureÓ, Nichiren Daishonin tells Shijo Kingo never hold a grudge towards Lord Ema, even if the Lord orders him to write the oath discarding the practice of the Lotus Sutra. Shijo Kingo was able to provide offerings to Nichiren Daishonin and continue to uphold the Lotus Sutra because of his LordŐs consideration, and he must never forget the gratitude he owes to his Lord.

Nichiren Daishonin was always worried about Shijo KingoŐs personality. He had a quick temper, easily getting angry. Nichiren Daishonin tells him:

That the guardian deities will not protect a short-tempered person.

(Pref. MWND Vol. 2 p. 275)

Nichiren Daishonin strongly admonishes to control his anger and always be patient.

 

Next, despite being under house arrest, Shijo Kingo is ordered to treat Lord EmaŐs illness. His jealous colleagues became even more jealous. Nichiren Daishonin warns him some of his colleagues might try to make an attempt on his life, and advises him never to be alone, always take good care of your brothers, and do not separate yourself from them, and work together to overcome this difficulty.

 

Nichiren Daishonin also tells him to be humble and treat the other person with respect. When corresponding to another person, it is important not only to avoid incurring another personŐs ill will, but also to work hard to remove the other personŐs grudge and jealousy towards you.

It is hard for someone arrogant to be humble all the time. But Nichiren Daishonin provides a thorough example in this gosho. Although it is titled ŇThe Three Kinds of TreasureÓ, it is also known as ŇThe Story of Emperor Sushun.Ó Nichiren Daishonin relates the story of Emperor Sushun, who was assassinated by one of the high ministers because of his short temper.

It is very important that we always maintain a humble attitude and treat others with absolute respect. The gosho passage that I read at the beginning mentions to Shijo Kingo that among the three kinds of treasure, it is the treasure of the heart that is most valuable. We must strive to accumulate the treasure of the heart.

 

Today is the Mokushi-e Ceremony, celebrating the children of Nichiren Shoshu. The children are always watching our behavior. If we treat another person without a humble attitude or respect, then the children will think that kind of attitude is appropriate. It is not just your children that you are dealing with. But it is with the other children that we are showing an example of ourselves. On our path to attain enlightenment and Kosen-rufu, we must show a model behavior that other people, as well as believers can respect. It is the way that we live our daily lives that we can show other people that having profound knowledge of this world is itself Buddhism.

 

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