Celebrating Nichiren Daishonin’s Eternal Life
At local temples this ceremony is called the Oeshiki Ceremony. At the Head temple it is called Gotaie.

Nichiren Daishonin passed away serenely at the Ikegami Munenaka residence in Ikegami (present-day Tokyo) on October 13, 1282, while many of his close disciples and believers chanted Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. According to the “Document of Nichiren Daishonin’s Passing,” written by Nikko Shonin, the Daishonin passed away at about eight o’clock in the morning. At the same time, there was an earthquake and the cherry trees in the garden bloomed out of season. This account of the earthquake awakens us to the realization that the physical passing of the True Buddha, whose life is the life of the universe itself, is to be mourned. The blooming cherry trees remind us that it is to be celebrated because the life of the Daishonin remains the same—immortal and always present.

The Oeshiki Ceremony—also called Otai’e—is the celebration of the eternal life of Nichiren Daishonin. The Head Temple Taisekiji as well as local temples of Nichiren Shoshu decorate the altar with colorful paper cherry blossoms. Traditionally the Rissho ankoku-ronis read, which is a symbolic reaffirmation of the determination to undergo all hardships in order to achieve the absolute will of the Daishonin—kosen-rufu.

There are three important points to keep in mind about the Oeshiki Ceremony. The first is that the wondrous life of Nichiren Daishonin has existed eternally and will continue to exist through the perfect transmission of the Three Great Secret Laws. The second point is the concept of oneness, which is an essential concept in Buddhism. The third point to remember is that the will of the Buddha is kosen-rufu.

The very life of the Daishonin is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, embodied in the Dai-Gohonzon. The person and the Law were embodied in human form, but the body matured, aged and passed away leaving behind the Dai-Gohonzon for humankind.

The Daishonin states in his “Record of Orally Transmitted Teachings” (“Ongi kuden”), “There is nothing that exists on this earth eternally; whether something exists or not solely depends on time.” (Gosho, p. 1746)

Although his body definitely passed away, Nichiren Daishonin’sessential life remained one with the universe, retaining the power to influence the world. The Jigage portion of the Juryo chapter reads: “I let people witness my nirvana as a means to save them. But in truth, I do not die. I am here always, teaching the Law.”

The True Buddha exists eternally, but because of human nature, when the Buddha is incarnate right here in our midst, we forget everything else and spend all our time thinking of him. Therefore, he must teach us and then leave, or we would be forever distracted from the task of achieving our own enlightenment.

The following passage from the Gosho makes the point clearthat the life of the True Buddha lives in the Gohonzon, “I Nichiren, with sumi, have infused my life into the Gohonzon.” (Gosho, p. 685)

The essence of the Gohonzon has been handed down to us in tangible form by each successive High Priest from Nichiren Daishonin to Nikko Shonin, to Nichimoku Shonin and each one thereafter to the present High Priest.

The second important point to remember is that at the core of Buddhist doctrine is the revelation of the concept of oneness. The fact that at the time of the Daishonin’s death there was an earthquake and the cherry trees bloomed out of season teaches us the Buddhist concept of oneness. The oneness of the common mortal and Buddha, the oneness of life and its environment, the oneness of body and mind, and the oneness of death and birth cannot be separated from each other. Therefore, at the moment of the True Buddha’s physical death, the earth shook in farewell, but the cherry trees bloomed out of season in welcome. Thus, the Daishonin’s passing reveals the principle of oneness.

The “Record of Orally Transmitted Teachings” (“Ongi kuden”) states, “When we chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, our ignorance changes to revelation because of the mystic Law.” (Gosho, p. 1746)

After his passing, the Buddha’s life is manifested in the mandala that simultaneously contains the ten life-conditions. In other words, the Buddha’s life is none other than the Gohonzon, the purpose of the Daishonin’s advent into this world.

The third point involves the absolute necessity of the disciples to carry on the pure heritage after the Daishonin’s passing by maintaining a pure practice. Of the Daishonin’s six senior disciples, Nikko Shonin was the only one who understood the deep meaning of the Daishonin’s life and teaching. Only he kept the vow to protect and propagate the true teaching as it was taught.

Consequently, today, only Nichiren Shoshu carries out the true meaning of the Oeshiki Ceremony and has held it according to the doctrine and correct faith for more than 700 years.

The reason for the Daishonin’s advent was presaged by his desire to secure peace through the propagation of the true Law. This underlying principle is manifested in his Gosho, On Securing the Peace of the Land Through the Propagation of true Buddhism (Rissho ankoku-ron).

Nichiren Daishonin’s will was inherited by Nikko Shonin, Nichimoku Shonin, and each of the successive High Priests who, themselves, remonstrated with the government. Thus the tradition was established in Nichiren Shoshu to read the Rissho ankoku-ron and other letters and treatises of remonstration called moshi-jo during the Oeshiki Ceremony to remind us of our tradition and pledge to accomplish kosen-rufu.

This ceremony is celebrated by local temples at a different time than at Taisekiji. The ceremony is performed in the U.S. and Japan’s local temples in October, while Taisekiji celebrates in November. This is because October 13, 1282, on the lunar calendar corresponds to November 21 of the same year on the western calendar. Therefore, Taisekiji celebrates the Oeshiki Ceremony according to the date on the western calendar.

The Oeshiki Ceremony at the Head Temple is performed over two days. The first day, November 20, is called Otaiya; the following day is Goshoto.

The Otaiya.
The afternoon of the 20th, the ceremony begins as prayers are offered to the Dai-Gohonzon in the Hoando. In the evening, the Oneririte is performed. The High Priest, representing the Daishonin, slowly leads a procession of priests up the main pathway of the temple grounds, halting when he arrives in front of the Mieido Temple. A bell is struck seven, five, and then three times, as six priests run out to greet the High Priest, bowing reverently. This performance symbolizes the disciples asking the True Buddha to enter the temple to expound the Law.

The procession then moves west around the Mieido and enters from the rear. This is done because Nichiren Daishonin is assumed, in this ceremony, to dwell eternally at the Mieido to elucidate true Buddhism. The lay members enter as guests at the front entrance.

After entering the hall, the High Priest takes a seat facing north on an elevated pulpit, the jogyo-za (Bodhisattva Jogyo’s seat). At this time, he represents Bodhisattva Jogyo, whose emergence from the earth is described in the Emerging from the Earth (Yujutsu; fifteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

A priest then asks the High Priest to take the seat of the Buddha. After the High Priest takes his new seat in front of the altar, he burns ceremonial incense and begins his sermon on the Juryo chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The High Priest’s performance in this ritual teaches the identity of the Daishonin as the True Buddha of kuon ganjo, who reveled Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo contained in the depths of the Juryo chapter.

Shortly after the sermon, the san san kudo ceremony is performed for the High Priest and six senior priests by six attending priests. (Literally, san san kudo means three times three equals nine.) This is an ancient ceremony in Japanese tradition performed to celebrate a happy event. In this ceremony, the san san kudo serves as a gesture to congratulate the Daishonin and his six main disciples, securing the bond between master and disciples. This ritual concludes the first day.

The Goshoto.
The second day begins with an early morning Gongyo. At eight in the morning, the priests assemble at the Mieido Temple for a Gosho Oko Ceremony. The High Priest gives a reading of the Gosho Rissho ankoku-ron. The six other priests read the public remonstrations (moshijo) written by the successive High Priests.

This ritual indicates that the essence of the Daishonin’s Buddhism is the propagation of the Law. This is a symbolic reaffirmation of the determination to undergo any hardship in order to achieve the kosen-rufu of substantiation. It means that the enlightenment of all humankind is only possible through the propagation of the true Buddhism of the Three Great Secret Laws. The OeshikiCeremony ends with the final ritual of taking the paper cherry blossoms down from the altar.
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