Risshu-e Ceremony; April 2008
I would like to thank you for attending today’s Risshu-e 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.
Today’s Risshu-e ceremony is to commemorate the declaration of True Buddhism by Nichiren Daishonin, done 755 years ago on April 28, 1253. In the early morning of this day, Nichiren Daishonin stood alone in Kasagamori forest at the top of Seicho-zan Mountain waiting for dawn. As the sun rose above the Pacific Ocean, Nichiren Daishonin joined His hands in prayer and began to chant the Daimoku.
He also made this declaration in front of an audience at the south side of the Jibutsu-do hall of Shobutsu-bo at Seichoji Temple. He declared himself as “Nichiren, the votary of the Lotus Sutra”, and saying the first words to denounce the Nembutsu sect as a sect that led to the hell of incessant suffering. Many people in the hall were very offended by this; one of them was Tojo Kagenobu, the steward of the Tojo Village in Awa province. Lord Tojo was so offended that he tried to attack Nichiren Daishonin in the grounds of Seichoji Temple. With the help of senior priests Joken-bo and Gijo-bo, Nichiren Daishonin escaped safely from Seichoji Temple. Since the incident, Lord Tojo would only see Nichiren Daishonin as a mortal enemy.
Before Nichiren Daishonin was ordained as a priest, He prayed to the Kokuzo Bosatsu to become the wisest person in Japan so that he could discover the true intention of Shakyamuni Buddha's teachings. But specifically, he wanted to know why the emperor had been defeated by the shogunate in 1221, despite the fact that the Shingon sect, which advocates itself as the guardian of the nation, is showing actual proof that shows otherwise; he wanted to know why the people who put their faith in Nembutsu were still suffering and even undergoing terrible and painful deaths, and He wanted to know why the Shingon, Nembutsu, and Zen sects would proclaim themselves as the superior religion? Nichiren Daishonin mentions in the “Repaying Depths of Gratitude” (Ho-on Sho),
When we look at the world, we find each of the various sects saying, “We are the one, we are the one!” But within a nation, there can be only one man who is sovereign. If two men try to be sovereign, the country will know no peace. Likewise, if one house has two masters, it will surely face destruction. Must it not be the same with the sutras?
(Gosho p. 1000; MW Vol. 4-175)
Nichiren Daishonin rightfully thought there could be only one religion, one sutra that can serve the purposes of Shakyamuni. It was thought that Nichiren Daishonin went to various temples to study the various sutras, and through those studies, He would attain the ultimate conviction that the Lotus Sutra is the only Sutra. However, Nichiren Daishonin was already filled with the knowledge of the Lotus Sutra, so his travels was more of confirming what He felt as a common mortal, and to deepen His knowledge from a realistic conviction.
As I mentioned before, Nichiren Daishonin made the declaration of True Buddhism on April 28, 1253. But He would actually make His first declaration on March 28 of that year. It was His closest friends, master Dozen-bo, and possibly His parents and brothers that were in attendance. This declaration was solemn and respect worthy, without any dissent coming from the audience. But that would not be the case when He presented the declaration one month later at Seichoji Temple.
Why did He declare True Buddhism at Seichoji Temple? The first was the repayment of His debt of gratitude to Bodhisattva Kokuzo. As a child, Nichiren Daishonin prayed to Bodhisattva Kokuzo to become the wisest person in Japan. The second was His debt of gratitude to His master, Dozen-bo. The third was the contemporary significance of Awa Province. Awa Province at that time was considered to be the central place in the country of Japan because of the existence of the Tensho Daijin Shrine.
Since then, Nichiren Daishonin would face numerous persecutions during His lifetime. Amongst the major persecutions He encountered were the Matsubagayatsu Persecution, Izu Exile, Komatsubara Persecution, Tatsunokuchi Persecution, and the Sado Exile. But no matter the scale of the persecution, Nichiren Daishonin knew this was going to happen. Because, in the Lotus Sutra, it mentions the following passages:
“Since hatred and jealousy abound even during the lifetime of the Buddha, how much worse will it be in the world after his passing?”
“The people will be full of hostility, and it will be extremely difficult to believe.”
“There will be many ignorant people who will curse and speak ill of us”
Had Nichiren Daishonin not have the ultimate conviction to the Lotus Sutra, we would not be striving in shakubuku. But since His declaration at the Jibutsudo hall of Seichoji Temple, Nichiren Daishonin was immediately attacked, proving the passages of the Lotus Sutra to be true.
Later, Nichiren Daishonin would submit “On Securing the Peace of the Land Through the Propagation of True Buddhism” (Rissho ankoku-ron) to the Kamakura Shogunate on July 16, 1260. He would point out the errors of upholding heretical teachings, declaring that disasters can only be prevented if the people of the nation took faith in the Lotus Sutra. It will be forty-two days after submitting the Rissho ankoku-ron that Nichiren Daishonin would encounter the Matsubagayatsu Persecution. This persecution was the conduct of Nembutsu monks who were backed by the Shogunate, and their believers, banding together to attack the Daishonin’s hut. He would escape this persecution, and continue to propagate True Buddhism despite the fact His life was in constant danger.
Despite the persecutions and exiles, Nichiren Daishonin continued to refute the heretical teachings. After each persecution, His determination to propagate True Buddhism would grow stronger, and stronger, and stronger. 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. He goes on to express His delight to face persecutions and viewed those who persecuted the Votary of the Lotus Sutra as good influences (zenchishiki). Nichiren Daishonin expresses these sentiments in the Gosho “On the Buddha’s Behavior”.
Devadatta, more than anyone else, proved the validity of Shakyamuni’s teaching. In this age as well, it is not one’s friends but one’s enemies who assist his progress. … For me, my best allies in the attainment of enlightenment are Hei no Saemon and Regent Hojo Tokimune, as well as Tojo Kagenobu and the priests Ryokan, Doryu, and Doamidabutsu. I am grateful when I think that without them, I could not have proven myself the Votary of the Lotus Sutra.
The significance of today’s ceremony is to express our gratitude to Nichiren Daishonin. Through His profound mercy, He overcame tremendous obstacles to establish True Buddhism for all eternity. So we commemorate this day by making the determination to follow the Daishonin’s example of teaching everyone about Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
This year, Nichiren Shoshu has designated the slogan for 2008 as “the Year of Great Advancement.” 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin mentioned in His New Year’s Address:
As a matter of course, when we press forward in our activities for righteousness and justice, devilish obstacles will arise one after another, without fail. Therefore the Daishonin stated: “If devils do not arise successively, there will be no way of knowing that this is the true teaching.” (Gosho p. 986) I ask you all to have great conviction in the immense benefits of the Dai-Gohonzon and to advance courageously to achieve our objectives, no matter what obstacles you may encounter.
Whatever hardships, obstacles, and difficulties we face, we must strive in the practice of Jigyo-keta, and make further progress in our shakubuku efforts. This year, Myogyoji Temple has set up the shakubuku goal of 30 households. I believe this is a number that can be accomplished, if we strive ourselves in Itai-doshin (many in body, one in mind). By accomplishing our goals for this year, we can make 2009, the 750th Anniversary of Revealing the Truth and Upholding Justice through the Submission of the Rissho ankoku-ron, successful as well.
Although we live in a totally different environment from the Daishonin’s, we still inherit the spirit that continues for 756 years. The teaching has spread all over the world, with at least 650,000 people practicing. Compared to the number of believers of the major religions, this number is like a small quantity of soil placed on top of a fingernail. We all understand the fact that only the teaching of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo will save the people from the disasters, calamities, and turmoil breaking out all over the world. We must share this fact to everyone without fail, by carrying out the practice of Jigyo-keta, practicing for oneself and for others. Let us make great advancement towards next year without making any regrets later on whatsoever.