Nichiren Shonin (Issho Jobutsu Sho)
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 into panic.
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.
About Nichiren Shonin (paragraph below from: The Nichiren Buddhist International Center)
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image:: NONA Pictorial Life Website
image:: Nichiren Shonin
Statue of Nichiren Shonin, Altar of the Kannon Temple.
Engraved in the third year of Sho-ouh (1290) by Nichizo
"When you polish a dusty mirror, it will surely shine like a jewel. Your immature and misguided mind is like a dusty mirror. When you polish your dusty mind, it will become a mirror reflecting the universal truth. Put your firm faith in the three treasures (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) and let your mind shine day and night. How do you get it to shine? Just say, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo."