Nichiren Shu Holidays
For many us, there is often some confusion about holidays ['holy days'] and their observance in western culture. While we do not disregard our traditions as westerners, we also adopt and commemorate traditional holidays in our effort to ground our faith in daily life. The following are brief explanations of our major holidays and special events observed during the year. Come visit the Temple during these events to learn more. Some events are festooned with special decorations and symbols and others are simple services. Check the Calendar for times of celebrations.
New Years Eve and Day - For the Japanese, Oshogatsu (New Year; literally, "new month"), is the most important celebration of the year, a festive occasion with good feelings and nostalgia. The Japanese New Year's celebrations evolved out of rituals associated with the changes of season, which are of utmost importance in Japanese farming. The New Year's events are widely celebrated and enjoyed in Japan, beginning on New Year's eve with the tradition of striking the joya no kane (end-of-the-year bell) from nearby Buddhist temples. The tolls represent the leaving behind of 108 bonno, or worldly concerns of the old year, which, according to Buddhist belief, torment mankind. During this ceremony, each toll is struck after the reverberations from the preceding toll have dissipated. The last peal of the bell is struck at midnight, coinciding with the first few seconds of the New Year; thus a new beginning dawns, enabling the start of a prosperous and joyous year.
Hatsumode is the first shrine visit of the New Year in Japan. Many people go during the first, second, or third day of the year as most are off work those days. Generally, one makes wishes for the new year, gets new o-mamori (charms or amulets), and returns old o-mamori to be burned. We generally gather for our celebration of the New Year on New Year's Day with a service and potluck or outing for a meal.
Annual Meeting - The Nichiren Buddhist Sangha of Texas, a not-for-profit entity in the State of Texas, holds an Annual Meeting to elect officers and conduct the sangha business for the year. We will be discussing what kind of programs we would like to hold along with a discussion of advertising and other ways we can get the word out to the community.
Setsubun Service - Setsubun literally means "season division." According to the Chinese solar calendar, February 3rd marks the last day of winter and the beginning of a new year. February 3rd will mark the first day of the Year of the Rabbit. At Setsubun, we pray for our good health and protection against misfortune in the upcoming year. At the service, the man and woman of the year (those born under the years animal zodiac sign) throw blessed soy beans to chase away evil and welcome good fortune for the coming year.
Parinirvana Day - Sakyamuni Buddha entered into parinirvana on the day of the full moon in the month of February. After giving his final instructions to his disciples, the Buddha told Ananda to inform the people of Kushinagara that he would pass away during the coming night. He entered into parinirvana on February 15th.
Nichiren Shonin's Birthday - Our Founder, Nichiren Shonin, was born at Kominato in the Province of Awa (modern time know as Chiba Prefecture) on February 16, 1222. His father was Shigetada Nukina and his mother, Umegiku. He was named Zennichimaro. It is said that several lovely miracles happened at his birth; many white lotus flowers bloomed in the bay, a great number of fish appeared in the sea and a spring of water gushed out in front of the Nukina home.
Spring and Fall Equinox
Higan Service - Higan literally means "the other shore." The fourth day of the Higan week is on the spring and fall equinox. During the Higan week we practice the six paramitas of  giving Dana,  keeping precepts,  practicing patience,  endeavoring in our practice,  meditation (chanting Odaimoku), and  gaining wisdom from our practice. During this time we also dedicate merit from our practice to our ancestors for their ongoing happiness and progress toward enlightenment.
Hanamatsuri - Over 2,500 years ago, a prince was born in the Sakya clan in Lumbini Garden on April 8. Lumbini Garden is located in present day Nepal. His father was King Suddhodana, and his mother, Queen Maya. The queen named her son Siddhartha. It is said that when he was born that he stood, took seven steps and pointing to the earth and heavens said, "In heaven and on earth, I am alone honored." This statement was his vow to show all beings the way to enlightenment and stop their suffering. We celebrate the historical Buddha's birthday decorating a small shrine with flowers to represent the Lumbini Garden. A statue of the infant Buddha is placed into the shrine in a lotus bowl with sweet tea. During the ceremony we pour the sweet tea over the Buddha re-enacting the cleansing of the Buddha by the heavenly beings at his birth.
Rikkyo Kaishu-e - On the morning of April 28, 1253, Nichiren Shonin, at the age of 32, was standing on top of a hill named Asahigamori on Mt. Kiyosumi, chanting the Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, for the first time while facing the rising sun over the Pacific Ocean. He vowed to save all people with the Lotus Sutra. From that time onward, Nichiren Shonin, a messenger of the Lotus Sutra, devoted his life to spread the teaching of the Lotus Sutra and the Odaimoku. We commemorate this day as the founding day of our order.
Izu Persecution - Nichiren Shonin submitted his treatise entitled "Rissho Ankoku-ron (Treatise on spreading peace throughout the contry by establishing the true Dharma)", to the Kamakura Shogunate to take politics under the True Dharma of the Lotus Sutra on July 16, 1260. The Shogunate, far from accepting his opinion, exiled him to Izu on may 12, 1261. Left on an offshore rock, Nichiren Shonin was saved by Funamori Yasaburo.
Myoken's Day-- While not an official Nichiren Shu holiday, this temple celebrates May 15 as the founding day of Myoken, the guiding deity of our temple, after whom we are named.
Obon - During the Obon period, each family welcomes and remembers ancestors and loved ones who have passed away. The origin of Obon service comes from the story of one of the Buddha's major disciples, Maudgalyayana and his mother. In the story Maudgalyayana saved his mother from the realm of hungry ghosts by offering merits gained through his Buddhist practice. Nichiren Shonin teaches us that the merit of the obon service extends not only beyond seven generations of our ancestors but also to all living beings in the universe.
Matsubagayatsu Persecution - On the night of August 27, 1260, just forty one days after Nichiren Shonin submitted his "Rissho Ankoku ron" to the Shogunate, a mob hostile to Nichiren Shonin, attacked the outspoken reformer in his hermitage. They set fire to the building which was located in the Matsubagayatsu section of Kamakura. According to legend, a white monkey miraculously appeared before the sleeping priest, leading him to safety.
Tatsunokuchi Persecution - On September 10, 1271, Nichiren Shonin, who was called by the shogunate, pointed out his prediction of Mongol threat have come true and requested a public debate with other sects of Buddhism. The shogunate, however, did not listen to him and arrested him on September 12. On the way to Sado Island, where Nichiren Shonin was to be exiled, they tried to kill him at Tatsunokuchi beach, an execution ground outside Kamakura. Legend says a thunderbolt broke the executioner's sword into pieces and Nichiren Shonin narrowly escaped death.
Sado Persecution - After hte Tatsunokuchi incident, Nichiren Shonin was detained at Echi, near Kamakura for about a month. Departing Echi on October 10, Nichiren Shonin was exiled to Sado Island. Being exiled in Sado for four years, Nichiren Shonin deepened his faith as an avatar of Jogyo Bodhisattva. He also wrote "Kaimoku Sho" and the "Kanjin Honzon Sho", two of his most important treates on doctine. He also wrote the great Mandala Gohonzon on July 8, 1273 while on Sado.
Oeshiki - On the way to a hot spa in Hitachi provence from Mt. Minobu to recover his heath, Nichiren Shonin's health declined. He rested at the Ikegami Munenaga's residence in present day Tokyo and could no longer continue his trip. On the morning of October 13, 1282, at 8:00 am, Nichiren Shonin ended his long life of spreading the Lotus Sutra for 60 years. The Oeshiki service is held to express our gratitude to our Founder.
Komatsubara Persecution - After returning from exile at Izu in 1264, Nichiren Shonin visited his home village in Awa Province to see his sick mother. After she recovered, Kudo Yoshitatka, the Lord of Amatsu, invited Nichiren Shonin to his residence. On their way in the evening of November 11, Nichiren Shonin and his retainers were attacked by Tojo Kaganobu and his followers at Komatsubara. Nichiren Shonin was injured on his forehead, and his disciples, Kyoninbo and Lord Yoshitaka were killed. A cotton hat is put on Nichiren Shonin's statue from November 11 through the Rikkyo Kaishu-e Service (April 28) to heal the injury on his forehead.
Jodo-e - Prince Siddhartha left his castle in his twenties and traveled all over to seek the truth of life. He found out that various practices he encountered were not the right way, so that he decided to meditate under a tree at Gaya. After seven days of meditation, in the early morning of December 8, the prince gained Enlightenment and became the Buddha, the Enlightened One. The Jodo-e service is held to commemorate the event of the historical Buddha gaining Enlightenment here in this world.