EVEN THE CLOUDS OF SADNESS
THAT SPREAD OVER ME
WOULD BE BLOWN CLEAR AWAY
BY THE WINDS OF MT. EAGLE
FILLED WITH THE SOUNDS OF THE LOTUS SUTRA.
by Nichiren Shonin "Tachi Wataru"
Nichiren Shonin, the founder of the Nichiren Shu was born on February
16, 1222 in Kominato, in what is now Chiba Prefecture, Japan. At
age eleven, his parents sent him to Seichoji-Temple to study. From
an early age, he began to wonder why there were so many schools
of Buddhism, while the Buddhism expounded by Sakyamuni Buddha was
but one? He was ordained a priest at Seichoji Temple at the young
age of fifteen. After considerable study of the Buddhist schools,
Nichiren Shonin concluded that the Lotus Sutra indeed represented
the perfect culmination of the true teaching of the Buddha.
Following a period of intense prayer during seven days of seclusion,
he found that he was now ready to embark on his plan of reformation
and proclamation of his new gospel. His grand declaration with a
resounding cry of the Odaimoku took place atop the summit of a hill
overlooking the wide Pacific; it was in the early morning as the
sun broke through the morning haze. This was Nichiren Shonin's proclamation
of his gospel to heaven and earth with the all-illuminating sun
as his witness. The date was April 28, 1253.
Soon after, he left for Kamakura, then the seat of the government,
and began preaching the Lotus Sutra. Discord prevailed among the
governing clans and rumors were widespread predicting impending
political coups. In addition, the people were suffering from a series
of natural calamities; typhoons, flooding and earthquakes; and fear-provoking
comet-sightings compounded the impact of these events amid famine
and rampant plague. All of these occurrences drove the citizens
Witnessing these disasters Nichiren Shonin was motivated to write
the Rissho Ankoku Ron, (Treatise on Spreading Peace Throughout the
Country by Establishing Righteousness). In it he attributes the
disasters to the foolishness of the government and the degeneracy
of the people who were following superstition and misguided religious
beliefs. He admonished the people to convert to Nichiren Shonin's
faith based on the Lotus Sutra.
A copy of the treatise was presented to the government authorities
and the message of that work was repeated in his preachings on the
streets. The work drew a very hostile reaction from those people
criticized by Nichiren Shonin. Fueled by the rage of the religious
authorities whom Nichiren Shonin accused of false teachings, the
treatise triggered a succession of persecutions. Notable among these
punishments were the persecution at Matsubagayatsu, the exile to
Izu peninsula, more persecution at Komatsubara and Tatsunokuchi
and the nearly three years of lonely exile to Sado Island,
Throughout these adversities Nichiren Shonin's missionary zeal
was unrelenting. His subsequent writing of four more major works
demonstrates his resolve. While in exile on Sado Island, Nichiren
Shonin completed two works. The "Kaimoku Sho" (Opening
the Eyes) expressed Nichiren Shonen's state of mind as a practitioner
of the Lotus Sutra. In the "Kanjin Honzon Sho" (The Spiritual
Introspection of the Supreme Beings), he expounds on the idea of
unity between the Eternal Truths and the Eternal Buddha. To underscore
this thesis introduced in this latter work, Nichiren Shonin shortly
thereafter rendered a graphic representation of his underlying theology.
This representation is the Mandala Gohonzon.
In 1274, Nichiren Shonin entered Mount Minobu, which was to be
his home of voluntary exile during the last nine years of his life.
It was a period dedicated to the consummation of his mission and
perpetuation of his religion. Two more major writing were created
during this period.
In his work entitled the "Senji Sho", (Selection of Time),
he affirmed the righteousness of his propagating the Lotus Sutra
and predicted the victory of his convictions. In March 1276, his
old master, Dozen died. In his memory, Nichiren Shonin wrote the
"Hoon Jo" (Recompense of Indebtedness).
Wracked by failing health, in September 1282, Nichiren Shonin left
his beloved Mt. Minobu with the intention of visiting a hot spring
for its recuperative effects. His failing health, however, caused
him to stop short of his destination. On October 13, 1282 at Ikegami,
Tokyo, Nichiren Shonin, surrounded by his six senior disciples,
Nissho, Nichiro, Nikko, Niko, Nichiji, Niccho, other disciples and
followers. ended his 60 years of eventful life. His will, "please
build my grave on Mt. Minobu where my heart resides forever,"
was faithfully carried out