Nichiren Daishonin was born on February 16, 1222, at the beginning
of the Latter Day of the Law to fulfill Shakyamuni's prophesy that the True
Buddha would appear and teach the great pure Law to save people for the eternal
future. The date of the Daishonin's birth has a mystic connection with
Shakyamuni's Buddhism because Shakyamuni died on February 15. This indicates that
the Daishonin's Buddhism began at the point where the power of Shakyamuni's
Three Periods in Buddhism
In Buddhism, the time following the death of Shakyamuni Buddha is
divided into three periods that relate to the effectiveness of his teaching.
The first 1,000 years after his death are called the Former Day of the Law
. During this period, Shakyamuni's Buddhism prevailed and people
could attain enlightenment through its practice.
The second 1,000 years are called the Middle Day of the Law (zobo)
The efficacy of Shakyamuni's Buddhism began to decline and, although Buddhism
was firmly established within society, it gradually lapsed into formality.
The third period, called the Latter Day of the Law (mappo)
extends for 10,000 years and into the future. At the time of mappo
Shakyamuni's teachings lose the power to lead people to enlightenment. In mappo
,the lives of the people are defiled by the
three poisons of greed, anger, and stupidity, causing the world to be filled
with conflict and corruption.
Predictions of the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law
The end of the Heian era and the beginning of
the Kamakura era (12th and 13th Centuries) were a dark age for the whole world.
In Japan, the entire country displayed the human suffering predicted for the
Latter Day of the Law. Quarrels arose among the adherents of Shakyamuni's
teachings, and the pure Law became obscured. Countless battles and civil wars
were fought to satisfy human greed. Morality was lost in the midst of great social
upheaval. Unseasonable weather, crop failures, and natural calamities showed
that even nature was affected by the corruption of human life. Due to the
Mongol conquests, immeasurable blood was shed throughout Asia. Simultaneously,
in the West, religious crusades brought tremendous suffering
to countless people. Virtually every kind of misery afflicted the people of the
world during this period of human history proving Shakyamuni's predictions
concerning the Latter Day of the Law.
The advent of the True Buddha was predicted by
Shakyamuni Buddha in the Wonderous Powers (Jinriki;
chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which states:
Just as the light of the sun and moon illuminates all obscurity,
this person will practice among the people and dispel the darkness of all
Omens Surround the Birth of Nichiren Daishonin
The Daishonin was born to a fisherman named Mikuni no Tayu and his
wife, Umegiku-nyo, in the small fishing village of Kominato in Tojo in Awa
Province, which is now Chiba Prefecture in Japan. His childhood name was
Zennichimaro. The Daishonin referred to his birth in several of his Goshos,
saying, "I am a fisherman’s son," (Gosho
, p.1279) and "I, Nichiren, am the son of an 'untouchable' family." (Gosho
p.482; M.W., Vol. 5, p. l24).
In spite of such humble circumstances surrounding the birth of
Nichiren Daishonin, there were many auspicious omens that are recorded in the
Gosho, "Transfer Document on the Birth of Nichiren Daishonin" ("Ubuyu Sojo
. One of them concerns a dream that the Daishonin's mother had
before his birth, in which she saw herself seated on Mount Hiei, where the head‑temple
of the Tendai sect was located. She was washing her hands in the waters of Lake
Biwa. As the sun rose out of the east from behind Mount Fuji, she cradled the
sun (Japanese: Nichi
) in her arms. Startled by this dream, she awoke and
told it to her husband.
He, too, had an unusual dream in which Bodhisattva Space
Repository (Kokuzo), who represents the wisdom of the universe, appeared before
him. On his shoulder, the bodhisattva carried a handsome boy. He told the
Daishonin's father that this child was Bodhisattva Jogyo, who was destined to
be a great leader to save all people. Space Repository said, "I will grant this
lovely boy to you," and disappeared. Shortly afterward Umegiku-nyo realized
that she was pregnant.
Umegiku-nyo had another dream the night before the Daishonin's
birth in which a blue lotus (Japanese: ren
) flower blossomed with pure
water springing forth from it. A baby was inside the lotus flower, taking his
first bath. The water, which sparkled with a golden color, spilled out onto the
ground. The grasses shone as trees blossomed and bore fruit. These symbolic
dreams foretold the advent of the True Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.
Celebrations of the Advent of Nichiren Daishonin
Ceremony (or simply Tanjo-e
the advent of Nichiren Daishonin, the True Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.
The ceremony at the Head Temple Taisekiji is held on the 16th of February
at the Mieido Temple. Immediately following, the High Priest goes to the
Five-Story Pagoda opening its western doors, and does Gongyo to the Gohonzon
enshrined there. The ceremony at the Five-Story Pagoda is derived from the
Treasure Tower (Hoto;
eleventh) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, in which
Shakyamuni revealed his most profound teaching. In it, an immense treasure
tower suddenly emerges from the ground and remains suspended in the air. Taho
Buddha, seated inside the treasure tower,announces in a huge voice:
Excellent, excellent. You, Shakyamuni, have expounded the Lotus
Sutra, the teaching of equality and great wisdom, to this great multitude. Thus
it is, what you, Shakyamuni, have expounded is true.
The words of Taho Buddha affirmed the truth of Myoho-Renge-Kyo,
the eternal Law of time without beginning or end (kuon ganjo)
Nichiren Daishonin states:
In the Latter Day of the
Law, there is no treasure tower other than the figures of the men and women who
embrace the Lotus Sutra. It follows, therefore, that those who chant
Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, irrespective of social status, are themselves the treasure
tower; that is to say, the treasure tower is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
...Now the entire body of Abutsu Shonin is composed of the five
universal elements of earth, water, fire, wind, and space. These five elements
are also the five characters of the Daimoku. Therefore, Abutsu-bo is the
treasure tower itself, and the treasure tower is Abutsu-bo himself. (Gosho,
p. 792; M.W., Vol. 1, p. 30)
The Five-Story Pagoda indicates the five characters of
Myoho-Renge-Kyo and the five elements, which are the substance of life and the
universe itself. The Gohonzon is enshrined in the center of the pagoda,
indicating that the core of one’s life and the universal Law are the same as
Nichiren Daishonin's life, or the true entity of the Law, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
For this reason, Nichiren Shoshu regards the Daishonin's birthday
as the date of the appearance in this world of the Gohonzon or treasure tower,
and this is the reason the ceremony is conducted at the Five-Story Pagoda. The
main door of this pagoda faces west, in contrast to all other Japanese
five-story pagodas, which face south, showing that the Daishonin's Buddhism
will spread to the west, like the sun, which moves from east to west and
illuminates the entire world.
Nichiren Daishonin-Sovereign, Teacher, and Parent
The Gosho states, "I, Nichiren, am sovereign, father and mother,
and teacher of all people in Japan." (Gosho
, p. 577; M.W., Vol.
2, p. 212) The Daishonin is the teacher and master who embraces the mystic Law
of time without beginning or end. He possesses the three virtues of sovereign,
teacher, and parent for all mankind. The virtue of a sovereign is to use his
power to protect all living beings and help them prosper. The virtue of a
teacher is to instruct people and help them gain wisdom. The virtue of a parent
is, even at the cost of one's own life, to compassionately nurture and protect
a dear child.
Nichiren Daishonin took on his task at great personal sacrifice.
He suffered severe hardships, yet, he single-mindedly struggled to lead the
people to the true teachings. In a passage from the Gosho, "The True Entity of
Life" ("Shoho jisso sho")
, Nichiren Daishonin wrote, "Birds and insects
may cry, but they do not shed tears. I, Nichiren, do not cry, but my tears
never cease to flow." (Gosho
, p. 667; M.W.
, Vol. 1, p. 94) The
Daishonin wrote the "True Entity of Life" when he himself was undergoing severe
hardships during his exile on Sado Island. We can truly feel his boundless
compassion in this Gosho. The Daishonin saw that the people were suffering from
the effects of their bad karma, and could not cease to shed tears for them. Day
and night he prayed for them to lead happy, productive lives.
We recite the following words from the Juryo
chapter of the
Lotus Sutra every morning and evening during Gongyo: "mai ji sa ze nen, i ga
ryo shujo, toku nyu mujodo do, soku joju busshin."
This passage means that
the Buddha is always trying to open the perfect way for the people to attain
enlightenment without delay. Interpreting this from the standpoint of the
essence (not the superficial reading) of the Lotus Sutra, it means that from
the infinite past to the eternal future, it is the Daishonin's unceasing desire
to lead all people-those who embrace true Buddhism as well as those who do
not-to the correct path and to enable them to attain enlightenment, the life
condition of absolute happiness. We, who already practice this true Buddhism are
indeed truly fortunate!
In summary, the Otanjo-e
Ceremony commemorates the birth of
the Daishonin and celebrates the True Buddha and the appearance of the Great
treasure tower of the mystic Law in this world. In order to offer our deepest
respect and profound gratitude for this, we the members of Nichiren Shoshu, as
a unified body of priests and believers, should sincerely pledge to deepen our
faith and propagate the mystic Law.