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.
For those who have requested for Toba, I have offered my sincere prayers to the Gohonzon for the peace and happiness of your late relatives, friends, and ancestors.
This month’s Oko Ceremony is coincided with the Gonan-e Ceremony. Usually I would go on and continue explaining about this ceremony. But there is one thing that I must let everyone know before I move on. During this past week, from August 29 to September 6, I was unavailable at the temple. I assume there were people who asked about my whereabouts, and were told that I was in Japan. But in reality, that was not the case. I did not accompany anyone this past tozan. The only people who knew were the officers, as well as my wife and Rev. Morioka. But now, with everything done without major interference from the other organization, I can now tell everyone what really happened. During the past week, I was actually in Panama, helping with the preparations for the official opening of Risshozan Daikoji Temple. The “Public Announcement of the Official Designation of Risshozan Daikoji Temple and the Enshrinement Ceremony of the Wooden Gohonzon” was successfully conducted with 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin leading the 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.
Today would usually be an ordinary day. A day that we come to the temple and continue our practice of True Buddhism. Yet, ten years ago on this day, our way of life changed forever. People are more anxious than before, angrier than before, and more suspicious than before.
As disciples of Nichiren Daishonin, we are the only people who can bring salvation in this pathetic world we live in. We must realize our responsibility to continue to strive in our practice of shakubuku, because that is the only way that we can save the people.
68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin presented us with goals for every chapter in the world to accomplish by the years 2015 and 2021. Let’s continue to strive in shakubuku with absolute faith to the Dai-Gohonzon through our continuous devotion to Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.
In closing, I wish for all of you to further strengthen your devotion, faith and practice, as well as for your health and happiness for each and everyone here today. Thank you very much.