September Oko 2008
The person named Nichiren was beheaded during the Hours of the Rat and the Ox on September 12 last year. This is his soul that has reached Sado Province, and this soul wrote down this document during the snowy weather in February of the following year. Sending it to his close disciples, the readers may well understand how fearful are the difficulties I have suffered and how fearless my mind was, is and will be.
I would like to thank you for attending today’s 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.
This month’s Oko Ceremony is coincided with the Gonan-e Ceremony. The Gonan-e Ceremony is to commemorate the Tatsunokuchi Persecution that befalled on Nichiren Daishonin. The Tatsunokuchi Persecution, named after the Tatsunokuchi Beach, located in the outskirts of Kamakura, occurred on September 12, 1271. It was one of the four major persecutions that Nichiren Daishonin faced in order to prove the validity of the twenty-line verse of the Kanji chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
The twenty-line verse of the Kanji chapter of the Lotus Sutra predicts the difficulty of propagating the Lotus Sutra in the age of Mappo, the Latter Day of the Law, as well as the persecutions that the votary of the Lotus Sutra must undergo. It describes the Three Powerful Enemies, a group of people who persecute the votaries of the Lotus Sutra. They are the following:
1. Lay people who slander and persecute the votary without recognizing true Buddhism.
2. Cunning priests of misleading sects who slander the believers of true Buddhism.
3. Those who enjoy the respect of the people and persuade political or social authorities to persecute the believers of true Buddhism on false charges.
It is explained in the Kanji chapter of the Lotus Sutra as follows:
There will be many ignorant people who will curse and speak ill of us and will attack us with swords and staves.
In that evil age there will be monks with perverse wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked who will suppose they have attained what they have not attained, being proud and boastful in heart.
Or there will be forest-dwelling monks wearing clothing of patched rags and living in retirement. They will claim they are practicing the true way, despising and looking down on all humankind. They will be greedy for profit and support, and will preach the Law to white-robed laymen. They will be respected and revered by the world as though they were arhats who possess the six transcendental powers...(omission)...Borrowing the name of forest-dwelling monks they will take delight in proclaiming our faults, saying things like this: "These monks are greedy for profit and support and therefore they preach non-Buddhist doctrines and fabricate their own scriptures to delude the people of the world.
It also describes the vow that eight hundred thousand billion nayutas of bodhisattvas gave to declare their firm determination to propagate the Lotus Sutra, saying "let us do our utmost to spread the Law even if the three powerful enemies appear to inflict numerous troubles and persecutions on us after the passing of Shakyamuni in the age of great conflict of Mappo."
The events that led to this persecution are as follows. Japan had been in a long drought, and the Kamakura shogunate government asked a priest of the Shingon-Ritsu sect named Ryokan, to pray for rain. Nichiren Daishonin challenged Ryokan that if his prayers could produce rain in seven days, then He would follow Ryokan. Nichiren Daishonin also mentioned to Ryokan that he must embrace the Lotus Sutra should he fail.
At first, Ryokan agreed on the terms. But once he started his prayers, no rain came down, and instead damaging winds for a prolonged period occurred. Rather than keeping the promise he made with Nichiren Daishonin, Ryokan started spreading rumors about Nichiren Daishonin in hopes of influencing people in the government. This led to a summon by Hei no Saemon Yoritsuna, the deputy chief of the Office of the Military and Police Affairs, to question the Daishonin on September 10, 1271.
Nichiren Daishonin used this opportunity to remonstrate to the government again. This was His second remonstration; the first one was when He submitted the “Rissho Ankoku Ron” on July 16, 1260. He warned the government that if they were to continue to practice incorrect teachings and follow heretical priests, an outbreak of internal strife and foreign invasion would surely occur.
But rather than heed the warning, the government decided to charge Nichiren Daishonin with treason, and sent Hei no Saemon along with several hundred warriors to arrest Him. Imagine having to send that much just to arrest a priest. Nichiren Daishonin mentioned these turn of events in “On the Buddha’s Behavior”:
On the night of the twelfth day of the ninth month in the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271), I was arrested in a manner which was extraordinary and unlawful, even more outrageous than the arrest of Ryoken and the priest Ryoko who had actually rebelled against the government. Hei no Saemon led hundreds of armor-clad warriors to take me. Wearing the headgear of a court noble, he glared in anger and spoke in a rough voice.
During this, one of the warriors, Shofu-bo, took a scroll of the fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra from Nichiren Daishonin’s robe, and struck Him three times in the face. Ironically, the fifth volume contains the Kanji chapter, the very chapter that preaches the validity of the twenty-line verse of the Kanji chapter. After He was captured, the Daishonin was taken to be sentenced. Officially, the shogunate sentenced the Daishonin to be exiled to Sado Island.
But this sentence was given as a ploy. The shogunate’s real intention was to execute the Daishonin at Tatsunokuchi. On the way to Tatsunokuchi, the party passed Hachiman Shrine at Tsurugaoka. There, the Daishonin reprimanded great Bodhisattva Hachiman for not protecting the Votary of the Lotus Sutra, as the Bodhisattva had promised.
As they approached the gate of the Goryo Shrine, the Daishonin dispatched someone to inform Shijo Kingo, who lived nearby, of what was happening. Shijo Kingo and his three brothers immediately came to the Daishonin. Grasping the reins of His horse, they accompanied the Daishonin to Tatsunokuchi. With tears flowing, Shijo Kingo vowed that if the Daishonin were beheaded, he would take his own life. But Nichiren Daishonin scolded him, saying that there is no greater fortune than to give one’s life for the Lotus Sutra.
Knowing that He was going to be executed, Nichiren Daishonin calmly seated Himself at the execution site, chanting Daimoku with perfect composure. It was on that moment, when He was about to be beheaded, that a luminous object shot across the sky from the southeast. The soldiers were so frightened that they immediately scattered and hid. Not only that, but they couldn’t move.
The Daishonin loudly urged to the soldiers,
"Here, why do you shrink from this miserable prisoner? Come nearer! Come closer!" … "What if the dawn should break? You must hasten to execute me, for you will find it unbearable to do so after sunrise."
However, no one would approach the Daishonin. The execution failed miserably, and the government decided to keep the Daishonin at the home of Lord Honma at Echi, in Sagami Province, until Nichiren Daishonin’s exile to Sado Island.
Before the Daishonin’s advent, no one in all of India, China, or Japan practiced as the Lotus Sutra was taught. Had the Daishonin not undergone major and minor persecutions, then Shakyamuni’s prediction in the sutra would have proven false, and Shakyamuni Buddha would have been known as a man of great falsehood.
The Daishonin awakened to the fact that He was the reincarnation of Bodhisattva Jogyo. After invoking the five or seven characters of the Daimoku for the first time on April 28 in the fifth year of Kencho (1253), He continuously condemned the heretical schools and doctrines, and remonstrated with the sovereign. As a result, the three powerful enemies appeared. By physically living every passage of the Lotus Sutra, the Daishonin proved Himself to be the votary of the Lotus Sutra as predicted by Shakyamuni Buddha. The truth of the Lotus Sutra was proven. Finally, the Daishonin revealed His true identity as the Original Buddha of Kuon ganjo while seated at the execution site at Tatsunokuchi.
Furthermore, using the quote that I read at the beginning, the Daishonin teaches that to meet persecution or hardships for the sake of the Law is a means to offer a Buddhist apology and eradicate evil karma. We must therefore realize that without facing persecutions and hardships for the sake of Kosen-rufu, we cannot eradicate our evil karma and surmount our difficulties.
It is during the Gonan-e Ceremony that we reflect on the Daishonin’s strong determination to uphold and propagate the Law no matter how strong the three powerful enemies may seem. With the spirit of “single-mindedly yearning to see the Buddha without begrudging our lives,” and the spirit of “the Law to be propagated is more important than the bodies of the votaries themselves,” let’s strive to grasp the significance of this ceremony and repay the debt of gratitude we owe the Daishonin.
Now, I would like to continue “Rissho Ankoku Ron” with portions of the host’s response to the traveler. Last time, I closed last month’s Oko with the question from the traveler, “These disasters that befall the empire, these calamities of the nation--I am not the only one pained by them; the whole populace is weighed down with sorrow. Now I have been privileged to enter your home and to listen to these enlightening words of yours. You speak of the gods and sages taking leave and of disasters and calamities arising side by side--upon what sutras do you base your views? Could you describe for me the passages of proof?”
To this question, the host (Nichiren Daishonin), cites the Konkomyo Sutra with the following:
The host said: There are numerous passages that could be cited and a wide variety of proofs.
For example, in the Konkomyo Sutra we read: "[The Four Heavenly Kings said to the Buddha,] 'Though this sutra exists in the nation, the rulers have never allowed it to be propagated. In their hearts they turn away from it, and they take no pleasure in hearing its teachings. They do not serve it, respect it, or sing its praises. Nor are they willing to respect...or give material support to the four kinds of Buddhists who embrace the sutra. In the end, they have made it impossible for us and the countless other heavenly beings who are our followers to hear the teachings of this profound and wonderful Dharma. They have deprived us of the sweet dew of its words and cut us off from the flow of the True Law, so that our majesty and strength are drained away. Thus the number of beings who occupy the four evil paths increases and the number who enjoy the human and heavenly states decreases. People fall into the river of birth and death and turn their backs on the road to nirvana.
"'World-Honored One, we, the Four Heavenly Kings, as well as our various followers and the yakshas and other beings, observing this state of affairs, have decided to abandon this nation, for we have no more heart to protect it. And it is not we alone who cast aside these rulers. All the great benevolent deities who guard and watch over the countless different regions of the country will also invariably reject them. And once we and the others have abandoned and deserted this nation, then many different types of disasters will occur in the country and the rulers will fall from power.
Not a single person in the entire population will possess a heart of goodness; there will be nothing but binding and enslaving, killing and injuring, anger and contention. Men will slander each other or fawn upon one another, and the laws will be twisted until even the innocent are made to suffer. Pestilence will become rampant, comets will appear again and again, two suns will come forth side by side and eclipses will occur with unaccustomed frequency. Black arcs and white arcs will span the sky as harbingers of ill fortune, stars will fall, the earth will shake, and noises will issue from the wells. Torrential rains and violent winds will come out of season, there will be constant famine, and grains and fruits will not ripen. Marauders from many other regions will invade and plunder the nation, the people will suffer all manner of pain and affliction, and there will be no place where one may live in safety.'"
This portion of the Konkomyo Sutra states that two calamities will occur. One is the invasion and plunders from foreign lands; the other is the revolt within one's own domain. It is clearly mentioned in this sutra, as to why such calamities will occur. But this is just a portion of what happens if people continue to practice the erroneous teachings. The host will bring up other sutras that I will explain next month, during the Oeshiki weekend.
In closing, I wish for further development of faith and greater health and happiness for each and everyone here today. Thank you very much.