Memorial for Nichimoku
Shonin and Children’s Day Ceremony
Shonin, the Third High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu, was born to Niida Shigetsuna
in Izu Province in 1260, the same year Nichiren Daishonin presented the Rissho
ankoku-ron in remonstration with the Kamakura government. He was originally
named Torao-maru and was the fifth of six sons.
September 1272, at the age of 12, he entered Enzo-bo Temple at Mount Soto (also
called Mount Izu) near his home in order to study. In 1274, he witnessed a
debate between Nikko Shonin, who was propagating Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings
in that area, and Shikibusozu, an influential priest of Enzo-bo Temple and master
of the Shingon sect. As a result of the latter’s sound defeat, Torao-maru
converted to Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings. Two years later, after studying
under Nikko Shonin, Torao-maru was ordained at Mount Minobu. He was given the
name Kunaikyo-no-Kimi, which was later changed to Nichimoku.
Shonin sincerely served the Daishonin while learning the profundities of his
teachings. Legend has it that in his devoted service to Nichiren Daishonin, he
carried buckets of water on his head from a stream to the temple at Mount
Minobu several times a day. As a result, a permanent impression marked the spot
on his head where the buckets had rested. Incidentally, this indentation
appears on his painted image as a testimony to his devoted service.
Shonin, the Third High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu, was a strong man and a
skilled debater, and there is a famous story regarding his excellent ability.
the time Nichiren Daishonin stayed at Ikegami Munenaka’s home on the way to
Hitachi, a student priest at Mount Hiei named Nikaido-Ise Hoin came to see
Nichiren Daishonin. Disregarding Nichiren Daishonin’s poor health, Hoin
challenged the Daishonin to a debate.Hoin, the son of a Kamakura government official, and hiding behind his
father’s authority, showed complete disrespect to Nichiren Daishonin. All of
the disciples were surprised at Nikaido-Ise’s lack of etiquette, but Nichiren
Daishonin firmly replied: “It is an easy task for Nichimoku. Let him do it.”
The debate lasted ten rounds and covered ten crucial
points. In each round, Nichimoku Shonin reduced Hoin to submission on all
points. Witnesses to the debate were astonished and deeply impressed. When
Nichiren Daishonin heard the report, he smiled and said, “He has done well. It
has happened just as I told you.”
After Nichiren Daishonin’s death, Nichimoku Shonin served
Nikko Shonin as he had Nichiren Daishonin. In 1289, the Second High Priest left
Mount Minobu because the major land owner of that area, Hagiri Sanenaga, had
committed four slanderous acts against the Daishonin’s teachings. Nichimoku
Shonin accompanied him to Mount Fuji, where the Head Temple Taisekiji now
Nikko Shonin recognized the superiority of Nichimoku
Shonin over the other priests, some of whom were Nichimoku Shonin’s seniors,
and appointed him the first of his six main disciples. After the completion of
the Head Temple, Nikko Shonin bestowed the Ozagawari Gohonzon upon him.
It is presently enshrined in the Reception Hall at Taisekiji. This special
Gohonzon indicated the transfer of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings from Nikko
Shonin to Nichimoku Shonin.
it was presented, Nikko Shonin retired to the Omosu area, and Nichimoku Shonin
built Renzo-bo Temple at Taisekiji, which served as a place of worship as well
as his residence. He protected the Head Temple until he officially became High
Priest, in 1332, at which time Nikko Shonin transferred to him all of the
treasures of that office, including the Dai-Gohonzon.
Today, Nichimoku Shonin is remembered for his spirit to
practice and propagate true Buddhism even at the risk of his own life.
According to one account, Nichimoku Shonin remonstrated more than forty-two
times with the Kamakura government and the imperial court at Kyoto on behalf of
Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin. In the entire history of Nichiren Shoshu,
he was the first to attempt to shakubuku the imperial court.
In 1333, the Kamakura shogunate collapsed and imperial
rule was restored. Nichimoku Shonin was seventy-four at the time and tried once
again to accomplish the kosen-rufu of Japan by exhorting the imperial court to
take faith in true Buddhism, knowing that if it did, the entire country would
spite of his advanced age and the bad weather, he prepared to remonstrate with
the imperial court. Then, in October, Nichimoku Shonin transferred all of
Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings to Nichido Shonin in case of his death.
started for Kyoto in the mid-November snow. The journey and task proved too
much for him and he fell seriously ill. He was taken through the icy cold and
cutting wind to an inn at Tarui in Mino Province. Nichimoku Shonin died calmly,
on November 15, 1333, while chanting Daimoku.
observe Nichimoku Shonin’s memorial to remind ourselves to wholeheartedly
propagate Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism with every word and deed.
it was thought that November 15 was a particularly auspicious day, it was
selected as a celebration of childhood as well. The Shici-go-san, or
Children’s Ceremony, has been celebrated on November 15 in Japan since the 17th
Century. Originally, children aged three, five, and seven celebrated on their
birthdays, but later this tradition was changed to November 15.
In Nichiren Shoshu, this children’s ceremony has deep
significance. Because children are the treasure of their parents and society,
it is most important that they establish their connection to the Gohonzon of
the Three Great Secret Laws. The children of Nichiren Shoshu believers must
continue the heritage of their parents’ faith in order to propagate the
Daishonin’s Buddhism worldwide. All children aged seven and under are invited
to participate as attending parents join with the priest to pray for the
prosperity and happiness of each child.
is said that when the time for kosen-rufu approaches, Nichimoku Shonin will
appear to finish the task. Although his tenure as High Priest was very short,
no one has matched his spirit in successfully challenging erroneous beliefs,
whether held by those in authority or everyday people.
ceremony conveys our gratitude for his unparalleled effort in 14th Century
Japan, and also carries with
it our hopes for the children of tomorrow, that they may grow to be as skilled
in Buddhism and as strong
in faith, wisdom, and knowledge as Nichimoku Shonin when they assume the
leadership in the future.