5. The Establishment of True Buddhism

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The Life of Nichiren Daishonin

Part Five – The Establishment of True Buddhism

On April 28, in the fifth year of Kencho (1253) Rencho, the only
person in the entire world who had declared the establishment of
True Buddhism, changed the name he had been ordained a priest
with and took the new name of “Nichiren”, or literally, “Sun Lotus”.
He took the portion Nichi (“Sun”) in “Nichiren” from the term
Nichigatsu (“Sun and moon”) in the passage in the Nyorai Jinriki
(“Divine Power of the Tathagata”) chapter of the Lotus Sutra that
Just as the sun and light of the moon dispel darkness, so this person
who carries out the Buddhist practice in this world will disperse the
fundamentally innate darkness of all living beings.1
He took the final syllable of Ren in “Nichiren” from the term Renge
(“Lotus Flower”) in the passage in the Juji Yujutsu (“Springing Forth
from the Earth”) chapter of the Lotus Sutra that states:
They are as untainted with worldly things, as the Lotus Flower in
water emerges from the earth.”2
The name “Nichiren” indicates that just as the sun completely
illuminates all things and the lotus blossom is a pure flower that
blooms from a plant that grows in dirty water, it is indeed only
Nichiren Daishonin who made his advent into this world as the
reincarnation of Bodhisattva Jogyo. His purpose was to illuminate the
fundamentally innate darkness of all living beings throughout the
ten thousand years and into eternity of the period of the Latter Day
of the Law and cleanse this impure and evil world.
Furthermore, in his work, “Letter to Jakunichi-bo” also referred to as
“Jakunichi-bo Gosho” , Nichiren Daishonin states that the name of
Nichiren indicates the realm of Buddhahood when he writes,
Names are important for all things. That is why the Great Teacher
T’ien T’ai placed “designation” first among the five major principles.
Giving myself the name Nichiren signifies that I attained
enlightenment by myself.” (Shinpen, p.1393; M. W. Vol. 1, p.236)
At noon on the twenty eighth of April during the fifth year of Kencho
(1253), Nichiren Daishonin took the first step in generating Kosen-
rufu, or the propagation of the True Law of Buddhism, when he
turned his efforts to presenting a doctrinal discussion of the Law of
Myoho-Renge-Kyo for the first time in Jibutsudo Hall in the
Shobutsu-bo lodging temple of Seichoji temple.3
Of the people who had gathered on that day at Seichoji temple to
hear the results of the Daishonin’s studies and travels, was the
steward of the Tojo Village in Nagasa District in Awa Province, Tojo
Saemon-no-jo Kagenobu, a blindly ardent believer of the Nembutsu4
faith. Lord Tojo Kagenobu had climbed Mt. Kiyosumi where Seichoji
temple is located, accompanied by his retainers.
With bated breath, the priests and lay believers of Seichoji temple
awaited the start of the Daishonin’s sermon. Nichiren Daishonin
entered Jibutsudo Hall in a mixture of anticipation and tension.
Putting on his priestly vestments and taking hold of his prayer
beads, the Daishonin mounted the lecturer’s platform. His stately
manner and dignity overwhelmed the people.
Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nam-Myoho-
Powerfully chanting the Daimoku three times, Nichiren Daishonin
presented his sermon on the Law of Buddhism, explaining in a logical
manner that of all the Buddhist teachings that had been expounded
by Shakyamuni Buddha throughout his entire lifetime, only the Lotus
Sutra is the true teaching and the only Law of Buddhism that can
lead all living beings to enlightenment. He then proceeded in refuting
the Nembutsu doctrines that were popular throughout Japan at that
time and pointed out the errors of the Zen sect.5 The priests and the
people around them who listened to this lecture were highly
surprised at hearing the faith that they profoundly embraced being
refuted. The reactions of the people varied. Some of the people were
stunned in amazement while others became overcome with rage.
The “Peaceful Practices”(Anrakugyo , fourteenth) chapter of the
Lotus Sutra states:
All the world will be filled with hostility and it will be extremely
difficult to believe.
Just as was predicted in this passage from the Anrakugyo chapter of
the Lotus Sutra, there was not a single person who believed in what
Nichiren Daishonin was saying and infuriated, the Nembutsu
believers turned boisterous. Amongst these, was Lord Tojo Kagenobu
who like a raging fire, angrily shouted, “You ingrate!” as he reached
for his sword and tried to harm the Daishonin. At this time, the
Daishonin’s master, Dozen-bo, who had also been shocked at hearing
his disciple refute the Nembutsu teachings in his sermon and
terrified at the clamor and resulting confusion, did nothing
whatsoever in front of the government authorities.
With intent to kill, these enraged people tried to injure the Daishonin
who then left Jibutsudo Hall. Lord Tojo Kagenobu with his retainers
awaited the Daishonin, lying in seclusion on the mountain path in an
attempt to assassinate him.
Nichiren Daishonin’s fellow disciples (of Dozen-bo), Joken-bo and
Gijo-bo, were concerned about the Daishonin’s well-being as he tried
to leave Seichoji temple and descend Mt. Kiyosumi by himself. They
ran after him and guided him down the mountain path, dodging
Kagenobu’s pursuitful gaze and leading the Daishonin to Rengeji
temple in the Saijo Hanabusa area, out of the territory under Tojo
Kagenobu’s jurisdiction and control.
Nichiren Daishonin who had been able to escape persecution from
Lord Tojo Kagenobu and feeling that now was the best time to truly
repay his debt of gratitude to his mother and father, and fulfill his
filial duties, visited his parents’ home. At first, troubled over the
disturbance at Seichoji temple and out of concern for the Daishonin’s
safety, his parents pleaded with him to, if at all possible, reverse his
determination to refute the heretical sects of Buddhism and
propagate only the Lotus Sutra. They then implored him to return to
Dozen-bo to lead a life as one of the priests at Seichoji temple.
However, Nichiren Daishonin explained to them that of all the Sutras
expounded by the Buddha, only the Lotus Sutra contains the true will
of all the Buddhas of the three existences of past, present and future
and that it is the direct path to enlightenment. Observing the
Daishonin’s logical explanation and the pious appearance of their
child, before they realized it, the parents were folding their in hands
in reverence to the Daishonin. In the end, they abandoned their
belief in the Nembutsu doctrines as they embraced the faith of the
Lotus Sutra while determining to chant the Daimoku of Nam-Myoho-
Renge-Kyo. Upon taking faith in True Buddhism, the Daishonin
bestowed Buddhist names upon them, using one character each from
his own name “Nichiren”. To his father, the Daishonin gave the
character of “Nichi” (“Sun”) which he coupled with the character
“Myo” (“Mystic”, but also an abbreviation for “Myoho-Renge-Kyo”), to
become “Myonichi” (“Mystic Sun”, or “Sun of Myoho-Renge-Kyo”). To
his mother, he bestowed the character of “Ren” (“Lotus”) which he
also combined with the character “Myo” to become “Myoren” (“Mystic
Lotus”, or “Lotus of Myoho-Renge-Kyo”). Nichiren Daishonin
accomplished at this time, the highest possible form of repaying his
debt of gratitude owed to his mother and father while truly fulfilling
his filial duties by educating and encouraging his parents to embrace
the teachings and faith of True Buddhism.
Concealing himself from open view, Nichiren Daishonin then left
behind his native home of the Village of Kominato in the Province of
Awa. To bring the bright illumination of Myoho-Renge-Kyo to a
society in a strife-torn country caused by religious disorder and save
all living beings throughout the entire era of the Latter Day of the
Law of Buddhism, or Mappo, Nichiren Daishonin then proceeded
towards Kamakura, the principle political, cultural and economical
center of Japan then.

1. Myoho-Renge-Kyo Narabini Kaiketsu, Taisekiji Edition, p.584.
2. The Threefold Lotus Sutra, Kosei Publishing Co.
3. Jakunichi-bo Gosho (“Letter to Jakunichi-bo”), Shinpen Gosho,
p.1393; The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, N.S.I.C., Vol. I,
4. A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts, Nichiren Shoshu
International Center.
5. A Dictionary of Japanese Buddhist Terms with Supplement, Heian
International, Hisao Inagaki
1 This passage is from the prose and concluding section of the
twenty-first chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Together with the preceding
and succeeding phrases, the full passage reads, “After the Tathagata
is extinct, one who understands this sutra as the Buddha taught it,
[together with] its reasoning and process, shall expound it according
to its true meaning. Just as the light of the sun and the moon dispel
darkness, so this person who carries out the Buddhist practice in this
world will disperse the fundamentally innate darkness of all living
beings and cause innumerable Bodhisattvas to finally abide within
the one vehicle [of Buddhahood].”
2 This passage is from the sixth prose and concluding section of the
fifteenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra which explains the emergence of
the multitudes of Bodhisattvas from the earth. Together with the
preceding and succeeding phrases, the full passage reads, “These sons
of the Buddha, innumerable in number, have long pursued the way
of the Buddha. They are firm in transcendent wisdom power and
they have ably learned the way of the Bodhisattva. They are
untainted with worldly things, as the Lotus Flower in water emerges
from the earth. All have a reverent mind as they stand before the
World Honored One.”
3 Seichoji: Also referred to as Kiyosumidera (different
pronounciation of the same Chinese characters in the temple’s name).
Seichoji Temple is located on Mt. Kiyosumi in Kominato, Chiba
Prefecture. The complete name of the temple is Senkozan Seichoji.
It was founded in 771 by a priest named Fushigi (Mystery) who
enshrined a statue of Bodhisattva Kokuzo which he had carved out of
oak. In the following century, Jikaku, the third chief priest of the
Tendai Sect’s Head Temple, Enryakuji, visited Seichoji. This visit
notably increased the prestige and importance of the temple.
Originally, Seichoji was established as a Tendai temple, but later fell
under the influence of the Shingon and Jodo (Pure Land) sects. By
the time of the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), when Nichiren
Daishonin entered the temple, the traditions and practice at Seichoji
were a mixture of all three sects.
4 Nembutsu: A provisional sect of Mahayana Buddhism. Nembutsu
is also referred to as the Jodo or “Pure Land” teachings is a term
which indicates the invocation of a Buddha’s name, but more
commonly it refers to Amida Buddha. The Pure Land or Jodo sect
which made its way to Japan in the late 1100’s became very
widespread throughout the common populace of Japan. The
Nembutsu Sect originated in ancient China, based on the Muryoju,
Kammuryoju and Amida sutras together with the Jodo Ron by
Vasubandhu (an Indian Buddhist scholar who lived in the fourth or
fifth century and considered the twenty-first of Shakyamuni
Buddha’s twenty four successors). The Nembutsu doctrines of the
Jodo Sect teach that through faith in Amida Buddha one can be
reborn into the Pure Land, hence its name.
5 The Zen sect: Also known as the Ch’an sect of Buddhism, is a school
of provisional Mahayana Buddhism considered to have been founded
by Bodhidharma in the sixth century in India. This sect propounds
that enlightenment cannot be found in the study of the sutras, but
only through the perception of one’s mind through zen or
“meditation”, hence the sect’s name. The Zen sect teaches that
enlightenment is transmitted from mind to mind, from Shakyamuni
Buddha to his disciple Mahakashyapa who passed it on to the second
patriarch Ananda, who then transferred it on to the third patriarch
Shanavasa. This was then passed down through the successive
patriarchs to Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma then brought the teachings
to China in 520 AD. The Zen doctrines later spread to Korea and
reached Japan at the end of the Heian period (794-1185), where it
grew to become widely popular amongst the elite samurai classes
during the Kamakura (1185-1333) and Muromachi (1336-1573)

©1995 Nichiren Shoshu Monthly