6. Propagation in Kamakura

FacebookTwitterGoogle+EmailGoogle GmailEvernoteShare

The Life of Nichiren Daishonin

Part Six Propagation in Kamakura

After proclaiming the establishment of True Buddhism on April 28,
in the fifth year of Kencho (1253), and embracing a great desire to
propagate the True Law of Buddhism, Nichiren Daishonin left his
home in the land of Awa and departed for the city of Kamakura.
For Nichiren Daishonin, the area where the Law of True Buddhism
had to be first spread was the capital city which housed the
Kamakura Shogunate, the seat of government, and the center of the
economy and culture. The great temples of the new Buddhist sects1
also jostled for positions within the crowded city of Kamakura.
During this time, the Kamakura Shogunate approached its height of
prosperity as Hojo Tokiyori became the Kamakura Regent and
grasped authority over the entire nation. Hojo Tokiyori’s ambition in
regard to the national culture which had resulted from the older
forms of Buddhism, was to create a powerful military and cultural
city. The new Buddhist orders paid close attention to his ambitions
and the importance of the city of Kamakura.
Numerous temples throughout Kamakura received the patronage of
the Shogunate. Furthermore, in order to surpass the culture of Kyoto,
the Shogunate gathered renowned Buddhist priests from every
corner of the nation and numerous temples were thus erected one
after another throughout the city. The Kamakura Shogunate was
proud of the glory and splendor of having priests such as Ryokan at
the Ritsu temple of Gokurakuji, Gyobin at the Nembutsu (Pure Land)
temple of Jokomyoji and Doryu at the Zen temple of Kenchoji, among
many others. However, these temples and their various religious
doctrines were no more than tools to display the authority of the
Kamakura Shogunate. All of Japanese society was then thrown into
turmoil as it was wrought with repeated natural disasters, calamities,
warfare and then epidemics. The suffering of the general populace
grew to unbearable extent.
Nichiren Daishonin entered the city of Kamakura around August of
the fifth year of Kencho (1253). He set-up his residence at
Matsubagayatsu in the Nagoe area of the city. This hermitage would
later become the center of propagation of the Law of True Buddhism
for a period of eighteen years until the time of the Tatsunokuchi
Persecution during the eighth year of Bun’ei (1271). Shortly after
arriving in Kamakura, in an attempt to eradicate the heretical and
misguided teachings and forms of Buddhism and manifest the true
teachings, Nichiren Daishonin stood on street corners within the city
and began to cry out, “the teachings of Nembutsu lead to the hell of
incessant suffering,” “Zen is the work of demons,” “Shingon destroys
the nation” and “Ritsu is traitorous.”
The Daishonin stood on a corner called Omachi on one of the most
traveled streets in Kamakura, Wakamiya Avenue, and in a solemn
and resounding voice, chanted “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo…”
People gathered around him in astonishment, having never before
seen this priest nor having heard the phrase he was chanting.
Waiting for a suitable moment, Nichiren Daishonin then declared:
In dedication to the Buddha, I am Nichiren who practices the Lotus
Sutra, the teaching which will save the world, our country and all
living beings.
The Daishonin continued:
The doctrine that will save all living beings is the Lotus Sutra, the
highest of Shakyamuni’s teachings and one that he preached toward
the end of his life. In the ‘The Sutra of Innumerable Meanings”
(Muryogi Sutra) which is a preface to the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni
Buddha states, “Honestly discarding the provisional teachings,” I am
preaching only the highest path (that leads to enlightenment). All
teachings prior to the Lotus Sutra are provisional doctrine. The
teachings of Nembutsu create a karma that leads to the hell of
incessant suffering, Zen is the work of demons, Shingon is an evil law
that destroys the nation while Ritsu is traitorous. All other sects of
Buddhism have no benefit and are sources that lead one to hell.
There is a passage in Nichiren Daishonin’s collected writings that
At first, when I, Nichiren, alone chanted the Daimoku, those who saw
me or heard me, stopped up their ears, glared at me with furious
eyes, contorted their mouths, clenched their fists, and ground their
teeth. Even my parents, brothers, teachers and friends became my
enemies. (“Letter to Nakaoki Nyudo,” Shinpen, p. 1431; M.W.; Vol. 5,
p. 294)
It can be presumed that the expression “those who saw or heard me”
in the above quote means that Nichiren Daishonin actively pursued
the propagation of True Buddhism among numerous people
throughout Kamakura. Nichiren Daishonin began his preaching of the
Law, standing on street corners, refuting the mistaken religious
teachings that were the source of all the disasters which the people
had been experiencing. Based on his own maxim “the teachings of
Nembutsu lead to the hell of incessant suffering, Zen is the work of
demons, Shingon destroys the nation and Ritsu is traitorous’, Nichiren
Daishonin strived to shakubuku the populace and propagate the True
Law of Buddhism in a powerful, stately and positive manner.
As a result of his courageously bold effort to convert the people to
True Buddhism, many people later became Nichiren Daishonin’s
disciples and followers, devoting their lives to the faith in and
practice of the Lotus Sutra.
The first person to become a disciple was Nissho2 who would later
become one of Nichiren Daishonin’s six senior disciples.3 The first
time that Nissho visited Nichiren Daishonin was at the Daishonin’s
residence at Matsubagayatsu in November of the fifth year of Kencho
(1253). Nissho, whose original priestly name was Joben, had scaled
Mt. Hiei to study the doctrines of the Tendai sect of Buddhism at
Enryakuji Temple.
At that time, Enryakuji Temple’s teachings purported that the
Dainichi Sutra which is the principle doctrine of the Shingon Sect of
Buddhism was superior to the Lotus Sutra. Upon meeting the
Daishonin, Nissho was able to dispel his doubts and become a disciple
of Nichiren Daishonin, receiving the Buddhist name of Nissho. At this
time, Nissho was thirty-three years old, one year older than Nichiren
Daishonin. In October of the sixth year of Kencho (1254), Nichiro4
became a disciple of Nichiren Daishonin. Nichiro was ten years old at
that time and the son of Nissho’s elder sister.
As for the lay believers who embraced the Daishonin’s Buddhism,
Toki Goro Tanetsugu5 took faith in the fifth year Kencho (1253).
After taking faith, Tanetsugu took the tonsure, the name Jonin and
became a lay priest. Toki Jonin was an important and central figure
among the lay believers who later embraced the faith, such as Soya
Kyoshin, Ota Jomyo and Akimoto Taro.6
Shijo Kingo7 who also embraced the Daishonin’s Buddhism at about
the same time as Toki Jonin, was a retainer of Lord Ema Mitsutoki8
an important person within the Kamakura Shogunate. Before taking
faith in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, he had originally been an
ardent believer in the doctrines of the Zen Sect. Shijo Kingo became
indignant hearing Nichiren Daishonin preach that zen was the work
of demons. He called upon Nichiren Daishonin at his residence in
Matsubagayatsu in an attempt to force the Daishonin to yield and
recant his allegations. When Shijo Kingo heard Nichiren Daishonin’s
doctrine with its exhaustive reasoning and literary proof from the
sutras, he began devoting himself to faith in the Law of Myoho-
Furthermore, during the first year of Kogen (1256), Shinji Taro
Zenshun, Kudo Yoshitaka, Ikegami Munenaka, Jimbara Yoshimune
and others followed in succession in embracing the faith of Nichiren
Daishonin’s Buddhism. In the first year of Bun’o (1260), Hiki
Yoshimoto (Daigaku Saburo)9 also took faith. In this way, Nichiren
Daishonin made steady progress in spreading the Law of Myoho-
Renge-Kyo, while the amount of influential believers embracing the
Mystic Law increased.

1. A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts, Nichiren Shoshu
International Center.
2. A Dictionary of Japanese Buddhist Terms with Supplement, Heian
International, Hisao Inagaki
1. Denotes the Zen and Nembutsu (Pure Land) sects of Buddhism. The
largest of the great temples of these new sects, often referred to as
Kamakura Buddhism, were Kenchoji and Enkakuji, among others.
2. Nissho (1221-1323): Originally a Tendai priest, Nissho was the first
priest to be converted by Nichiren Daishonin to True Buddhism, later
becoming one of the Daishonin’s six senior disciples. His full name
and title was Ben Ajari Nissho. A native of Shimosa Province (present
day Chiba Prefecture), he received training in Tendai Buddhism at
Mt. Hiei. After converting to the Daishonin’s Buddhism in November
of 1253, his propagation activities as a disciple of the True Buddha
were centered mainly in Kamakura. After the Daishonin’s demise,
Nissho returned to Kamakura and built Myohokkeji temple, but later
renounced his relationship with his master by declaring himself to be
{again} a priest of the Tendai sect.
3. Six Senior Disciples: Also referred to as the six senior priests which
were designated by Nichiren Daishonin as his principle disciples on
October 8, 1282 shortly before his death on the following October 13.
These disciples, in order of conversion, were Nissho, Nichiro, Nikko,
Niko, Nitcho and Nichiji.
4. Nichiro (1245-1310): Born in Shimosa Province and a nephew of
another of Nichiren Daishonin’s six senior disciples, Nissho, Nichiro
converted to Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism in 1254. Taking the
tonsure under his uncle Nissho, he received a Buddhist name and the
title of Daikoku Ajari Nichiro. During the Tatsunokuchi Persecution in
September of 1271, Nichiro was imprisoned in a cave dugout in the
hill behind the residence of Yakoya Mitsunori along with a number of
lay believers. It is said that he was able to convince Yakoya
Mitsunori to accept faith in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. He built a
temple, called Hommonji in Ikegami (present day Ota Ward in the
southern sector of Tokyo) where Nichiren Daishonin passed away and
then established Myohonji temple in the Hikigayatsu area of
Kamakura which he used as a base for propagation throughout the
Kanto area. However, after the Daishonin’s death in 1282, Nichiro
failed to observe his turn in the rotation system for looking after
Nichiren Daishonin’s tomb and then later in 1285, proclaimed
himself, like his uncle Nissho, to be a Tendai priest.
5. Toki Goro Tanetsugu (1216-1299?): Also referred to simply as
Toki Tsunenobu, or Lord Toki Nyudo. Originally from the Toki District
of Inaba Province (present day Tottori Prefecture), Toki Jonin was a
prominent believer of True Buddhism during the Daishonin’s time
who resided in the Wakamiya area of Shimosa Province and served
Lord Chiba as retainer. His full name and title was Toki Goro Saemon-
no-jo Tanetsugu. In 1251, he took the tonsure and became a lay
priest renaming himself Toki Jonin and in 1254, embraced True
Buddhism. During the Matsubagayatsu Persecution, he invited
Nichiren Daishonin to stay at his residence in Shimosa, where he
remained for approximately six months. At this time Toki Jonin
converted to True Buddhism. He received many Goshos, including the
very important Kanjin no Honzon Sho. During the time of the
Atsuhara Persecution in 1279, the priests Nisshu and Nichiben were
forced to flee the Fuji area. Toki Jonin took them in and gave them
lodging and protection. After the Daishonin’s passing, Toki Jonin
renamed his family temple Hokkeji which later became Hokkekkyoji
Temple of the Nakayama sect.
6. Lay believers from various areas throughout Shimosa Province
(which formed parts of present day Chiba, Ibaraki and Tochigi
7. Shijo Kingo (c.1230-1300): His full name and title was Shijo
Nakatsukasa Saburo Zaemon-no-jo Yorimoto. He served a lord of the
Hojo Clan, Regents of the Shogunate during the Kamakura Period. Not
only a samurai warrior, Shijo Kingo was a skilled physician, and an
ardent follower of Nichiren Daishonin. He was entrusted with one of
the Daishonin’s most important writings, the Kamoku sho, or
“Opening of the Eyes.” Shijo Kingo was heavily pressured by his lord
to renounce his faith and as a result suffered great hardship, but
after having cured his lord from illness, received an estate three
times the size originally possessed.
8. Lord Ema Mitsutoki: Lord Ema Mitsutoki was also referred to as
Hojo Mitsutoki. Ema Mitsutoki was a grandson of the second regent of
the Kamakura Shogunate, Hojo Yoshitoki and son of Hojo Tomotoki, a
member of the Supreme Court of the Shogunate. Lord Ema was lord
to Shijo Kingo and governor of Echigo Province (Present day Niigata
9. Hiki Yoshimoto (Diagaku Saburo, 1202-1286): An official teacher of
Confucianism for the Kamakura Shogunate. His full name is Hiki
Daigaku Saburo Yoshimoto. He studied Confucianism in Kyoto and
was the son of Hiki Yoshikazu, an important founding figure of the
Kamakura Shogunate. He converted to the Daishonin’s Buddhism
after having read a draft of the Rissho Ankoku Ron and later entered
the priesthood, taking the name Nichigaku. He built Myohonji Temple
in Hikigayatsu in Kamakura.

©1995 Nichiren Shoshu Monthly. All rights reserved