2011 Summer Study Tozan Group Lecture August 28, 2011
In 2009, the High Priest gave us the objective to carry out shakubuku toward increasing the membership of all countries by 50 percent by the year 2015, when we will celebrate the auspicious occasion of the 770th anniversary of the birth of Second High Priest Nikko Shonin. Hokkeko members all over the world are striving toward the achievement of this objective.
Today, I would like to share my sermon titled “Nikko Shonin and Nanjo Tokimitsu,” in relation to the objective of the 770th anniversary of the birth of Nikko Shonin and the significance of repaying our debts of gratitude.
As you may know, the residence of Nanjo Tokimitsu was established in 1324, almost 680 years ago. Later, it became Myorenji Temple, named in honor of the Buddhist name of his wife, Myoren. The graves of both parents of Nanjo Tokimitsu, Nanjo Hyo’e Shichiro and his wife, Myoho-ama, still remain. They are located just more than a half mile south of Myorenji Temple. Every year on May 1, the anniversary of Nanjo Tokimitsu’s passing; all the priests of Myorenji Temple and believers in the neighborhood visit his grave and pay their respects.
On March 8, 1265, the father of Tokimitsu, Hyo’e Shichiro, passed away and was buried in the Nanjo family cemetery. That same year, Nichiren Daishonin personally traveled here to the Ueno area, all the way from Kamakura, to visit Hyo’e Shichiro’s grave.
Nichiren Daishonin stated the following in the Gosho, “In Celebration of Spring”:
I was deeply grieved to hear of the death of Hyo’e Shichiro who was a man in his prime. I had been thinking about him with fond memories. Thus, I went all the way to Suruga Province to visit his grave.
Nichiren Daishonin was in the midst of continuous persecutions, arising one after another. Two years before Hyo’e Shichiro passed away, he was pardoned from exile in Izu. But the following year, in November 1264, he and his party were attacked at Komatsubara. His disciple Kyoninbo and a believer named Kudo Yoshitaka were killed, and the Daishonin was injured. Although he was in a precarious situation, he still went to visit Shichiro’s grave in Suruga Province.
This occasion of the Daishonin’s visit was the first opportunity for Nanjo Tokimitsu to meet him. Later, Tokimitsu would go on to become a believer who protected Nichiren Daishonin, Nikko Shonin, and their disciples and believers at the risk of his life. However, at the time he first met the Daishonin, Tokimitsu was only a seven-year old boy.
On this occasion, a bond formed between Nikko Shonin and Nanjo Tokimitsu. This profound relationship later became the origin for the establishment of Taisekiji Temple. Nichiren Daishonin, as the True Buddha, could have foreseen this and made the trip to Suruga Province. On the other hand, Nanjo Tokimitsu, who was in deep sorrow over losing his father, was encouraged profoundly by the compassionate figure of Nichiren Daishonin when he visited the Nanjo family residence.
A seven-year old boy is like a student who is in the second grade of elementary school today. This encounter with Nichiren Daishonin was the beginning of Nanjo Tokimitsu upholding his faith and practice. He did not begrudge his life to protect Nichiren Daishonin. This is described as the manifestation of a karmic relationship (shukuen kunpotsu).
Eventually, nine years later — although there was no news of Nichiren Daishonin for quite awhile — the Daishonin was pardoned from exile in Sado and moved to Minobu. Within days, the master-disciple relationship between the two grew stronger.
Nichiren Daishonin settled in Minobu in May 1274. In June, when his residence was built, his disciples and believers started to visit him.
Soon, the Daishonin met Tokimitsu for the first time in almost 10 years since he visited Shichiro’s grave in 1265. In July 1274, the Daishonin related his impression of Tokimitsu in the Gosho, “Reply to the Widow of Lord Ueno”:
Not only his appearance, but also his attitude toward faith resembles his father’s. It seems that Hyo’e Shichiro himself has renewed his youth and left his son as a bequest.
(“Reply to the Widow of Lord Ueno,” [Summary])
In 1274, Tokimitsu was 16 years old. He had just assumed responsibility for his family, due to the death of his brother, Shichiro Taro.
At that time, Nikko Shonin was 29 years old, strong, and energetic. He was focusing on propagation efforts in Suruga province and paid frequent visits from Minobu to Fuji to expand the range of propagation. Naturally, he also forged closer ties with the Nanjo family.
This can be seen from the Daishonin’s statement in the Gosho, “In Celebration of Spring,” written in January 1275:
I have sent my disciple to fulfill my intention to visit you during the first month, and recite the scroll of the Jigage section at gravesite.
Nikko Shonin visited the grave of Hyo’e Shichiro on behalf of Nichiren Daishonin.
For nine years, from the time Nichiren Daishonin moved to Mt. Minobu in July 1274, to his demise in 1282, Nanjo Tokimitsu dedicated himself to protect the Daishonin. Throughout those years, the Daishonin received various Gokuyo offerings from the Nanjo family every year during the harvest season.
As a point of reference, it takes a full day to walk from Myorenji Temple to the site of the Daishonin’s residence in Minobu.
(Note: This article can be read in its entirety in the December, 2011 edition of the Nichiren Shoshu Monthly magazine. For more information, please contact your local temple.)