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 coincides with the Mokushi-e Ceremony. During this ceremony, we observe the memorial of Third High Priest Nichimoku Shonin.
Nichimoku Shonin was born to Niida Shigetsuna in Izu Province in 1260. His original name was Torao-maru and he was the fifth of six sons. It was in that year that Nichiren Daishonin submitted the ŇRissho Ankoku-RonÓ to remonstrate the Kamakura Shogunate.
In September 1272, when Torao-maru was 12, 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 -- 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 whom 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 42 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 74 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 peacefully on November 15, 1333, while chanting Daimoku.
We observe Nichimoku ShoninŐs memorial as a reminder 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 17th 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.
I had mentioned in the past, of the eight fundamental points a Hokkeko member must hold, Hotto Sozoku was one of them. Hotto Sozoku, Passing Down Faith to OneŐs Progeny, means that Nichiren DaishoninŐs Buddhism must be relayed to our future generations. In teaching this Buddhism to our children, there are many important things to tell them. One of them is to make the pilgrimage to the temple. Make it a habit of coming to the temple during their early childhood. Make sure they have Juzu beads and the sutra book with them. Children who started this practice during Elementary, Middle or Junior High School, should learn the importance of making the pilgrimage to the temple by attending the ceremonies held at the temple.
The temple is the training hall of our faith and practice. We must never yell or scream inside the temple. Once inside the main hall, where the Gohonzon resides, we must delight in the sanctity that exists within this sanctuary, away from the hectic world in which we live. Also, the main hall of the temple doesnŐt show the eeriness that other churches have. When we teach our children, we definitely must avoid pushing our own opinions of the practice and always base them on the guidance of the High Priest, Overseas Department Chief, and the Chief Priest of your local temple.
Another thing to teach our children is Gongyo. And they should start at an early age. Ideally, placing your baby on your lap is one way to teach. Although the baby will grow restless, patience is required when we teach them Gongyo. It also is necessary that the parents show their children the manner on serving the Gohonzon, from cleaning the Butsudan to offering water and lighting the candles and incense. This is a daily effort, and it will take time. Your children watch you closely when you are doing this.
Study is another element that you teach your children. If the child is taught only through the various teachings in this world, they will be poisoned by the three categories of action consisting of thoughts, words, and deeds, and eventually fall into the evil paths. On the other hand, from the standpoint of faith, it is necessary to learn the compassion and capacity of the other person by going to school and learning all of that in order to do shakubuku.
Through all of this, the child will encounter tremendous hardships and difficulties. This involves the vow to save innumerable living beings that are immersed in the sufferings of life and death, the first of the four universal vows. If we try to solve the hardships and difficulties through our practice, then we can use the knowledge of the experience to do shakubuku.
If your children are devoted to the practice without any doubt, then they can overcome any kind of obstacle. I believe every parent knows that children are easily influenced by the three poisons of greed, anger, and stupidity. Unfortunately, children donŐt have that certain firewall to prevent it from coming out. So, it all comes down to the parents.
First, regarding the poison of greed, desires are two sides of the same coin. It can be positive or negative. It is the parentŐs responsibility to bring out the positive and pull out the negative.
Then, the poison of anger easily is affected with the child getting angry. As a parent, it is our responsibility to ask our children gently and calmly to join in chanting Daimoku. Let them bring out their discontent through the chanting of Daimoku. Just like the saying, no prayers will go unanswered.
Finally, the poison of stupidity is truly complicated. The older we get, the degree of anger can be devastating. A parentŐs three poisons can be triggered by a childŐs anger. That will lead to a fragile relationship between the father and child. By chanting the daimoku and doing morning and evening Gongyo everyday, we are able to eradicate our sins and negative karma, and also cleanse our six senses. Even if it does activate the three poisons, we can change the poison into medicine and avoid making the other person uncomfortable.
It is the ability of the parent to handle their own poisons as well as the childrenŐs. But the three poisons are not the only thing to worry about. The three illusions can affect a relationship between parent and child. The three illusions are the illusions of thought and desire, illusions innumerable as particles of dust and sand, and the illusion of fundamental darkness.
During the Kofu Shodaikai in October 2009, High Priest Nichinyo Shonin says:
In the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, the illusions of thought and desire are regarded as the cause for birth and death in the threefold world.
He also tells us:
The illusions of thought and desire also are referred to as shared illusions (tsū waku), because they are connected to the three vehicles, such as the worlds of learning, realization and bodhisattva.
The illusion of thought is based on the instinct of the person, while the illusion of desire is based on oneŐs mistaken views. The childŐs heart is controlled by this illusion.
Next, the illusion innumerable as particles of dust and sand is the information a child is getting and the connection of friends from school. With dust and sand, the more it is accumulated; the chance that it will create a greater disaster is definite. If we see ourselves unable to understand our children, we must have the spirit of forbearance and continue to practice Passing Down Faith to OneŐs Progeny.
Finally, the illusion of fundamental darkness is the most troublesome of the illusions. A parent will not recognize this illusion in their child until they are met with a life changing moment.
How can we handle the three illusions? Simply putting our absolute to the Gohonzon and attain the knowledge we receive from the Gohonzon.
As long as we devote ourselves with absolute faith to the Gohonzon, we know that we can overcome any obstacle, difficulty, or hardship.
In closing, I wish for further development of faith and greater health and happiness for each and everyone here today. Thank you very much.