The original meaning of ko
is “to lecture on the sutras.” It also indicated ceremonies
where everyone gathered. Later, it came to mean “a gathering of practitioners.”
Thus, “Hokkeko” means a gathering of the people who believe in the Daishonin’s
correct teaching and strive to do Gongyo, Shodai, and shakubuku. The Daishonin
himself used the name Hokkeko. We can understand this from the fact that the
Dai-Gohonzon, enshrined in the Hoando, has the following inscription:
With great respect for the petitioner of the High
Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, Yashiro Kunishige and the people of the
Second High Priest Nikko Shonin wrote in his “Letter to the Members of Sado”:
The believers of Nichiren Shoshu have been called
“Hokkeko-shu” (members of the Hokkeko).
The roots of the Hokkeko come from the original
believers in the Fuji Atsuhara district. They propagated the true Law and
protected the Daishonin’s teachings, even though their lives were in danger.
The Atsuhara Hokkeko members were new believers who recently had taken faith in
the Daishonin’s Buddhism. They strove in doing shakubuku under the leadership
of Nikko Shonin.
Due to their efforts, many people in the region,
including local farmers, became believers, and the Daishonin’s Buddhism spread.
However, a powerful priest of another sect and others under his influence tried
to stop them. Some of these members were arrested and told, “If you do not give
up this practice, you will be beheaded.” But the Atsuhara Hokkeko members never
stopped chanting. The central figures, Jinshiro, Yagoro, and Yarokuro were
executed without being charged for any crimes. Even in the midst of this
drastic situation, the farmers never gave up their faith and practice. They continued
to uphold the Daishonin’s Buddhism. This incident is called the Atsuhara
Having witnessed this sincere faith of his
disciples, the Daishonin knew that the time had come to reveal the purpose of
his advent as the True Buddha in the Latter Day of the Law. Hence, on October
12, 1279 (second year of Koan), he inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon of the High
Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching.
Unlike the present time, there were eras when
believers were unable to practice freely. Even under these circumstances,
Hokkeko members strove in their faith and diligently practiced. Down through
the ages, many people took faith in true Buddhism. They upheld faith in the
Dai-Gohonzon and followed the guidance of the successive High Priests. Thus,
the correct faith and practice of Nichiren Shoshu has been handed down to the
present time. The Hokkeko members of today must follow the example of these
believers and do shakubuku without begrudging their lives. This will ensure
that the Daishonin’s Buddhism will be propagated into the future.
The purpose of the Hokkeko is to protect the Head
Temple Taisekiji and the local temples, and to practice together with fellow
Hokkeko members, giving encouragement to each other. We should never cut
ourselves off from the Head Temple and the local temples.
Most Hokkeko chapters are named after their local
temple—for example, “Myogyoji Chapter.” The temple is the center. All Nichiren
Shoshu believers belong to a local temple and practice under the guidance of
the chief priest, who also is called the “guiding priest.”
Each chapter has a koto, who is the representative
of the believers. There also are various officers who are called kanji. Some
Hokkeko chapters have representatives for the young adult believers, the
teenage members, and the children’s group. Each officer and representative is
making efforts to help our faith and practice become stronger. So it is
important to cooperate with them.
People who practice with Nichiren Shoshu are all
Hokkeko members. When a person receives Gojukai and has become a Nichiren
Shoshu believer, he or she also becomes a Hokkeko member. The same is true for
those who have returned to Nichiren Shoshu and received the Reaffirmation
High Priest Nichinyo Shonin often encourages us by
stating, “When the chief priest and lay believers put their efforts together
and take action, our goals will be achieved without fail.” All of our friends
are important of course; however, the relationships we develop through the
temple are extremely important, since we are connected through faith and
practice. Let us happily participate in our various Hokkeko activities.
Furthermore, let’s achieve our chapter goals through chanting abundant Daimoku
in total unity.