322-1 Kiyosumi, Amatsu Kominato-cho,
Awa-gun, Chiba Prefecture
This is the sacred place where Nichiren Shonin entered the priesthood, and the main temple where he powerfully declared the establishment of a new order based on the Lotus Sutra (Rikkyo kaishu). The temple is near the Shonin's birthplace in Kominato, quite a steep climb up Mt. Kiyosumi by car. The bracing air is filled with a sense of austerity and profundity appropriate for a sacred place of training. Even though the elevation is only 383 meters, Mt. Kiyosumi is the second highest mountain in the Boso Peninsula. As its slopes rise directly out of the shoreline, the mountain gives the majestic impression of Mt. Hiei. This is no wonder, as Mt. Kiyosumi was once revered as one of the most sacred mountains for Tendai Shu, and was the site of a large temple. The principal deity is Kokuzo Bosatsu, the bodhisattva of wisdom. On May 12th, 1233, at the age of 12, Nichiren Shonin climbed the mountain accompanied by his father and became a page to Chief Priest Dozenbo. His name at that time was Yakuo-maro. He studied the esoteric Buddhism of the Tendai Shu. On October 8th, 1239, at the age of 16, he entered the priesthood under the guidance of Dozen-bo, and changed his name to Zesho-bo Rencho. Nichiren Shonin once prayed to Kokuzo to make him the wisest man in Japan. On the 21st day of prayer, he received a precious jewel from an old monk (actually the personification of Kokuzo) in a dream. From that day forward, he gave himself over to his studies and training, the path that would lead to his finding of the true teachings of the Lotus Sutra. While keeping Seicho-ji Temple as a base, Nichiren Shonin went on to study at places such as Kamakura, Mt. Hiei, Nara and Mt. Koya. He studied many things, including esoteric, Jodo, Zen and Ritsu Buddhism, but could not discover the true teaching. He continued to study many scriptures, and finally realized that the only true teaching was contained in the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren Shonin returned to his mountain, with the intent of correcting the wrongs of the many different orders, and spreading the truth of the Lotus Sutra. After much thought, he made the firm decision to spread the teachings of the Lotus Sutra far and wide, and in the early morning of April 28, 1253, at the age of 32, he chanted "Namu Myo-ho Renge Kyo" to the rising sun. This was the Rikkyo Kaishu declaration. At that time, he also changed his name to "Nichiren," based on the Lotus Sutra, which represents the brightness of the sun and the moon (Nichi) and the purity of the lotus (Ren). Many peoples reactions were cold. Lord Kagenobu Tojo, a devout Jodo believer, was especially enraged, and not only had Nichiren Shonin banished from the mountain, but also planned his murder. While in hiding at Renge-ji Temple in Hanabusa, Nichiren Shonin made the decision to leave Kiyosumi, his physical and spiritual home, and go to Kamakura. He bid his parents farewell, and headed for the west coast of the peninsula. This historic temple was originally built in 771A.D. Restored by the priest Jikaku-daishi in the Heian era, it flourished as the Tendai Shu's largest temple in the Boso peninsula. It was converted from a Tendai to Shingon Shu temple after receiving devotions from the shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa in the early Edo era, and received a status equal to one hundred thousand goku (a unit used to measure the value of a Daimyo (lord) or Samurai's fiefdom in the feudal era). Seicho-ji Temple was also ranked first out of three primary monasteries in the Kanto region, and was granted the crest of the chrysanthemum. The temple was converted to Nichiren Shu on February 16, 1949, on the anniversary of the founder's birth. There are several buildings and treasures of significance on the temple grounds. Within the Mani-den or main hall, a statue of the principle deity Kokuzo, is enshrined and is one of only three in existence in Japan. The Dai-soshi-do, the grand hall of the founder, was built in 1971 in celebration of the 750th anniversary of the founder's birth; the Kyaku-den was built in 1921 in celebration of the 700th anniversary of the founders birth; and the training hall was built in 1999 in celebration of the 750th anniversary of the Rikkyo Kaishu. The large bronze statue of the founder in Asahi-ga-mori, the burial place of Dozen-bo, the government protected cedar and the temple bell (prefectural cultural property) from 1392 are equally important. In addition, a sacred statue of the founder donated by the Lady Oman-no-kata and the founder's ink stone (in a lacquered box) are enshrined in the Dai-soshi-do hall.
The Pilgrims entered Seicho-Ji that afternoon were they would be staying the night. After checking luggage into the Retreat Hall we went out exploring the Temple grounds of Seicho-Ji.
Standing in front of the Hondo.
Facing the treasure House beside the 800 year old camphor tree.
The modern looking Shoshido in the background and the Hondo to the right.
Above, the altar in the Shoshido with the statue of our founder Nichiren Shonin. During the ceremony in the morning the group would see the altar open.
Below, the group after chanting the Odaimoku and Jigage in the Shoshido.
Getting some souvenirs from the Temple office. The pilgrims would have their Pilgrim coats stamped at each Temple visited.
Dozen Bo's tomb. Above, lighting incense before offering of Odaimoku to Dozen Bo.
Below, a clear view of the tomb.
We would pass by the steps leading to Asahigamori that evening but in the morning would climb up the steps to greet the morning sun as Nichiren Shonin had done April 28, 1253.
We visited the Temple on the other side of Asahigamori to see the Peace Pagoda. The temple belongs to the Nipponzan Myoho Ji. The Nichiren Shu and Nipponzan Myoho Ji cooperate together to spread peace and Odaimoku around the world following Nichiren Shonin's guidance.
Click the above link to see more about the Nipponzan Myohoji and their mission.
The group circumambulated the Stupa which contains relics of the Buddha. As we walked three times around we chanted Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. Above, you can see the image of the Buddha with the Omandala Gohonzan. The other sides show scenes from the Buddha's life.
The group settles down for a relaxed evening at the retreat house.
Dinner was served Shojin style (vegetarian), afterwards a relaxing bath and bed. We would have a very early morning tomorrow continuing our journey.