Tozan, (translated as “to climb the mountain”), is
the pilgrimage to Taisekiji, the Head Temple of Nichiren Shoshu at Mt. Fuji in
Japan. It is part of the essential practice in Buddhism, and is the basis of
daily Gongyo, shakubuku, visits to your local Temple, and other aspects of
During the lifetime of the True Buddha, Nichiren
Daishonin, tozan was the pilgrimage to visit him. Its original meaning
encompassed directly serving the Daishonin and receiving his guidance. During
his lifetime, Nichiren Daishonin himself was the center of worship, the True
Master who would lead all living beings to enlightenment. What should those who
were not alive during the Daishonin’s lifetime, and who became disciples and
believers after his passing do? Making a pilgrimage to Taisekiji, the dwelling
place of both the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary and the High Priest is the
answer. It has exactly the same significance as making a pilgrimage to see the
Daishonin during his lifetime.
On October 12, 1279, the Daishonin inscribed the
Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, the very entity of his enlightened life, as
the object of worship for all living beings in the Latter Day of the Law. The
Dai-Gohonzon has been solemnly protected at Taisekiji for over 750 years. The
Daishonin transferred the entirety of his own enlightenment as the True Buddha
to Nikko Shonin alone and appointed him as his successor after his passing. In
this succession, Nichimoku Shonin followed Nikko Shonin, and Nichido Shonin
followed Nichimoku Shonin. This has continued in an unbroken line of succession
down to the present High Priest. Therefore, because we didn’t live during the
Daishonin’s lifetime, we make the pilgrimage to Taisekiji, single-mindedly
yearning to see the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary and the current High
Priest, who is the legitimate successor to Nichiren Daishonin. Herein lies the
true significance of tozan in our time.
If we think of the Dai-Gohonzon of the High
Sanctuary, treasured at the Head Temple, as the fundamental root, then all
other Gohonzons are branches and leaves. The Gohonzons enshrined in each temple
and the Gohonzons that we received and to which we do Gongyo every morning and
evening were transcribed by the High Priest from the Dai-Gohonzon of the High
Sanctuary. The great benefits arising from them arise from the power emanating
from the Dai-Gohonzon, the source.
If we think that all Gohonzons are the same, and do
not seek the Dai-Gohonzon, we will not be able to receive benefits and attain
Buddhahood. It is like a branch that has been cut off, losing all access to
nutrients, and thereby withering away. The Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary
is the source of all Gohonzons. The Twenty-sixth High Priest Nichikan Shonin
said this about its immeasurable benefits:
This Gohonzon bestows limitless, infinite benefit,
and its unfathomable workings are vastly profound. Therefore, if you chant
Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo with faith in this Gohonzon for even a short while, there
is no prayer that will not be answered, no evil that will not be eradicated, no
blessing that will not be bestowed, and no reason that will not become clear.
(Yoshu, Vol. 4, p. 213)
It is said that even our lives can be prolonged if
we pray earnestly, always keeping in our hearts the yearning to see the
Dai-Gohonzon. Therefore, at any possible opportunity we should make a
pilgrimage to the Head Temple, where the Dai-Gohonzon is enshrined.
Nikko Shonin, Nichimoku Shonin and each successive
High Priest possess the entirety of the Daishonin’s most profound Buddhism
within himself. They each are one of the great Doshi (masters) who lead the
living beings of the whole world in the Latter Day of the Law to attain
Buddhahood. We recognize each successive High Priest as the single person who
possesses the Lifeblood Heritage of the Law of True Buddhism and follow him as
the true Master. We are able to manifest the immeasurable benefits of the
Gohonzon by embracing the original principle of the relationship between master
and disciple. This can be achieved by going on tozan, deeply desiring to see
the High Priest, and by praying to the Dai-Gohonzon together with him. The
great Chinese teacher, Miaole, stated, “When one accepts the Buddhist teaching,
one must examine the source. If one is mistaken about the source, one will be
likely to become arrogant, and therefore will not be able to attain
In Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, the “source” of faith
and benefit is to be found at the Head Temple, Taisekiji, and this is the
reason tozan to the Head Temple is a fundamental practice in True Buddhism.
At the Head Temple, Ushitora Gongyo, a great
tradition that has continued for over 750 years, is held at the Reception Hall.
It is officiated by the High Priest during the hours of the ox and the tiger
(of ancient eastern tradition).
Ushitora (directly translated: ox and tiger)
indicates the time near three o’clock in the morning, in between the hour of
the ox (1:00 am–3:00 am) and the hour of the tiger (3:00 am–5:00 am). These
hours have been traditionally viewed as the times of the departure of darkness
and the arrival of light. This is the time when the darkness of night gradually
vanishes and the sun in the eastern horizon makes its appearance at dawn. It is
the transitional time in the rhythm of nature, of night and day, and of dark
From the viewpoint of Buddhism, this time is
important because Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment and became a Buddha
during this period between the hours of the ox and the tiger. Also, at this
time, on the 12th of September 1271, during the occasion of the Tatsunokuchi
Persecution of Nichiren Daishonin, he discarded his temporary identity as the
reincarnation of Bodhisattva Jogyo and commenced to lead the people as the True
Buddha. The hours of the ox and tiger are the hours of transformation from his
death as a common mortal to the beginning of life as the True Buddha.
Nichiren Daishonin and each successive High Priest
have been officiating at Ushitora Gongyo every morning for over 750 years. We
are able to understand the significance of this special Gongyo when we
participate with the High Priest as he officiates at Ushitora Gongyo and
assumes the status of the Buddha, which he inherited from Nichiren Daishonin.
Ushitora Gongyo is also the Gongyo that the High Priest leads so that all
living beings may attain Buddhahood. Because of the great mercy of the High
Priest, when we are granted the privilege to participate in Ushitora Gongyo, we
accumulate the immense benefit of becoming a Buddha as a common mortal.
During Ushitora Gongyo, after the five prayers of
morning Gongyo at the center of the Reception Hall (Kyakuden), the High Priest
moves to the Yohaijo
, the small altar
at the left, and recites the Hoben-pon, Jigage, Daimoku, and silent prayers
while facing toward the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary in the Hoando.
Why does the High Priest offer the prayer to the
Dai-Gohonzon from the Yohaijo
Reception Hall? The Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary will be enshrined in the
True High Sanctuary as the foundation place of faith for all people of the
world at the time of the achievement of kosen-rufu. Until then, it is being
protected in seclusion and is not open to the public. This is why, until
kosen-rufu arrives, the sanctum where the Dai-Gohonzon is enshrined is firmly
closed most of the time. For the same reason, in the Hoando, evergreens are
never offered at the altar. Morning and evening Gongyo are not conducted there.
Until the time comes when kosen-rufu is achieved, evergreens, candles and
incense are offered at the Yohaijo
and the sutra is recited there, facing the Dai-Gohonzon in the Hoando.
We will receive immense benefits through offering
our sincere prayers to the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary with the High
Priest. Ushitora Gongyo possesses profound significance and immeasurable
benefit. For this reason, it has been one of the great traditions among the
Hokkeko membership to participate in the Ushitora Gongyo during tozan.
When the time of kosen-rufu comes, the name of the
Head Temple at Mt. Fuji is to be changed from Taisekiji to Honmonji (the name
left by Nichiren Daishonin). It was the specific will of Nichiren Daishonin
that the True High Sanctuary be built at that time and in that place.
Participation in Ushitora Gongyo
When we participate in Ushitora Gongyo, it is
important to have an attitude of appreciation to be given the opportunity to
accompany the High Priest.
When the High Priest enters, he faces the Gohonzon,
chants Daimoku Sansho
and then faces
east and chants Daimoku Sansho
to begin the first prayer as in morning Gongyo. At these times, when he faces
the Gohonzon and also when we face east, we silently do Daimoku Sansho
in our hearts while placing our
palms together in prayer. The rest is to be done in the same manner as one
would do the five prayers during morning Gongyo with two or more people.
However, when the High Priest recites the Hiki
(prolonged) Daimoku after the Jigage section of the sutra before the first,
second, third and fourth silent prayers, we follow the High Priest’s lead,
reciting the Hiki
making sure we do not get ahead of him.
Ushitora Gongyo is performed in front of the Ozagawari
Gohonzon (the Gohonzon
bestowed upon Third High Priest, Nichimoku Shonin, by Second High Priest, Nikko
Shonin, signifying the transmission of the Heritage of the Law) enshrined in
the main altar of the Reception Hall. When the High Priest moves to the Yohaijo
, the smaller altar located on
the west side of the main altar, we change our position so that we are facing
and do an additional
recitation of the sutra which consists of the Hoben-pon, Jigage, and Shodai
(Parts A and C from the sutra book and Daimoku).
The silent prayers for this Gongyo of worshipping
from afar, are to be done in the following manner. Shodai ends with the ringing
of the bell and after the High Priest does Daimoku Sansho
, we silently recite the second silent prayer. After the High
Priest does another Daimoku Sansho
we silently recite the first part of the third silent prayer for Nichiren
Daishonin. Again the High Priest does Daimoku Sansho
and we silently recite the last part of the fifth silent
prayer. At the end, upon the striking of the bell, everyone, in unison with the
High Priest, does a concluding Daimoku Sansho
Gokaihi (Audience with the
In the course of the more than 750 year history of
Nichiren Shoshu, there has been a gradual increase in the number of believers
who have had the occasion to hear about the great benefit and magnificent power
of the Dai-Gohonzon, and they have developed a strong yearning to see it. The
successive High Priests have felt great compassion due to the faith of these
pure-minded believers and have allowed them to come into the sanctum housing
the Dai-Gohonzon in order to worship the Dai-Gohonzon at close range. This act
is called Naihai
Because prayers are normally offered to the
Dai-Gohonzon from the Yohaijo
able to go into the sanctum and offer prayers is very special. Because the
world is still filled with people who slander the true Law, only Nichiren
Shoshu believers are permitted to participate in the Gokaihi Ceremony, when the
doors to the Butsudan enshrining the Dai-Gohonzon are opened. We are allowed to
participate in the Gokaihi Ceremony due to the great mercy and consideration of
the High Priest, for the sake of pure-minded believers who greatly yearn for
Participating in the Gokaihi Ceremony
The Gokaihi Ceremony begins with the chanting of
Daimoku as the priests enter. The High Priest (or the senior priest that the
High Priest has designated to lead the Gokaihi Ceremony) enters, and the
several layers of doors to the Altar of Sumeru (the altar of the Dai-Gohonzon)
are opened. Finally, the High Priest rings the bell, and the inner doors of the
altar are opened. The believers bow in reverence as the inner doors are opened.
The High Priest leads the recitation of the
Hoben-pon, Chogyo, and Jigage (Parts A, B, and C of the sutra book). The Jigage
(Part C) section is repeated once or twice. This is followed by the chanting of
Daimoku. The High Priest has a list of the names of all the believers in
attendance at the Gokaihi Ceremony. He offers his prayers to the Dai-Gohonzon
for all those in attendance. At the end of Daimoku, the second, third, last
half of the fourth, and last half of the fifth silent prayers are offered. The
High Priest then turns towards the believers and says a few words. He then
leads the chanting of Daimoku as the doors to the altar of the Dai-Gohonzon are
closed. The believers bow in reverence as the inner most doors are closed.
As you face the altar of the Dai-Gohonzon, you will
probably notice that there is a gold pagoda on both the right and left side of
the altar. The pagoda on your left contains the ashes of the True Buddha,
Nichiren Daishonin. The pagoda on your right contains a statue of the
Daishonin. This statue was carved by the Daishonin’s disciple, Nippo, from a
piece of wood that was left over after carving the Dai-Gohonzon. We are told that
he personally presented the Daishonin with this statue, and was told by the
Daishonin that it looked exactly like himself. These two pagodas are opened
during Gokaihi for the Airing of the Sacred Treasures Ceremony in April and the
Oeshiki Ceremony in November.
We should attend the Gokaihi ceremony with the deep
understanding that it is allowed only because of our pure-minded faith and our
single-minded yearning for the Dai-Gohonzon.
The Spirit of Tozan
When a believer named Nichimyo Shonin heard about
the Daishonin’s exile to Sado Island, she departed from Kamakura with her
daughter Otogoze to visit Him. In those days, rebels, bandits, and pirates
roamed freely, and one made this journey at the risk of one’s life. Nichimyo
Shonin made this journey without any male protection, accompanied only by her
Later, when Nichiren Daishonin moved to the
mountains of Minobu, Nichimyo Shonin again immediately made the pilgrimage to
Mt. Minobu, thereby demonstrating the depth of her faith. This strong, persevering
faith is what made her pilgrimages to Sado and Mt. Minobu possible. The
Daishonin praised Nichimyo Shonin’s faith and determination to follow Him on
her own, even at great danger to herself. That is why the Daishonin gave the
Buddhist title of Sage (Shonin) to this woman.
Abutsubo and his wife, Senichiama, were converted by
the Daishonin on Sado. Later, Abutsubo went on tozan from Sado to visit the
Daishonin at Mt. Minobu three times, even at the age of ninety years. On his
last tozan in 1278, he carried his articles of Gokuyo on his shoulders, and
traveled alone for twenty-two days in order to visit the Daishonin. His pure
and strong faith is deeply moving. The kind of faith exhibited by Nichimyo
Shonin and Abutsubo is the true spirit of tozan.
A major persecution of Nichiren Shoshu believers
took place during the Edo era (1600–1867). It was called the Kanazawa
Persecution. More than anything else, during this difficult period, it was the
greatest wish of the Hokkeko members in the Kanazawa region of Japan to be able
to go on tozan to the Head Temple.
There were Kanazawa believers among those who took
part in the procession of sankin kotai. This was the procession of the lords
and their retainers from their hometown provinces to the capital city of Edo.
The central government had ordered the lords in each clan to pay a visit to the
Shogun in Edo (present day Tokyo) at certain intervals. On the night that the
procession stayed in the town of Yoshiwara in the Fuji area, the believers
waited for the people of their camp to fall asleep and then slipped out of the
camp in twos and threes. Outside the camp, they met up again as a group and ran
towards Taisekiji, which was about ten miles away. It is said that when they
arrived at Taisekiji, they instantly knelt on the stone path in front of the
Treasure Storehouse. Focusing their faith on the Dai-Gohonzon of the High
Sanctuary enshrined there, they chanted intently, ignoring the bitter cold of
the winter. Then they ran back to the camp at Yoshihara, before the lords and
their people woke up.
These members of the Hokkeko mirrored the faith of
Nichimyo Shonin and Abutsubo. At all times, they considered tozan a great joy
and held on to their faith even at the risk of their lives. In the present day,
with modern transportation, going on tozan is both safe and easy. It is
important, therefore, to remember that the spirit of tozan is to be rigorous in
In a letter to Senichiama, the Daishonin wrote:
How wonderful your husband was! He came here to Mt.
Minobu from Sado Island last year, and again this year as well. He picked the
greens, fetched water and chopped wood, and served me for more than a month,
just as King Dan sincerely served the Immortal Ashi. I feel a mystic connection
existing between myself and him. I cannot express my deep admiration for him.
(Gosho, p. 1220)
Since tozan included enduring many hardships, and
took many days of travel, we believe that after their arrival, the Hokkeko
believers stayed for a time. As they sojourned there, an expression of their
sincere faith was to serve the Daishonin in various ways. The Gosho states:
Truly, the best path for attaining Buddhahood is by
serving the master.
(Shintei Gosho, Vol. 3, p. 2308)
Serving the Buddha or the master is the true spirit
of the disciple. This is an element which must never be lacking in our Buddhist
practice. Today, we have few opportunities to serve at the Head Temple and to
devote ourselves to the master. We do our tozans amidst all the organized
arrangements of transportation, accommodation, and meals. But in spite of this,
we must engrave in our hearts the spirit of tozan from ancient times.
Everything we do while at Taisekiji including Gongyo
at the Head Temple, Gokuyo, meals, the cleaning of the lodging temples, going
to sleep, and so on, becomes part of our training in Buddhist practice.