Nichiren Shonin and Mt. Minobu
Rev. Teijo Kunugi
Chief Director of Propagation Department of Kuonji Temple
On September 8, 1282,
Nichiren Shonin left Mt. Minobu, where he had lived for 9 years. In December,
1277, when he was 56, he fell ill. Though his condition improved once,
it took a turn for the worse at the end of 1281, and led to the loss of
Worried about his condition,
his disciples and Hakii Sanenaga, the local lord, recommended that Nichiren
Shonin go to the Hitachi hot springs, which famous for the treatment of
stomach illnesses. Finally, accepting their recommendation, Nichiren Shonin
decided to leave Mt. Minobu. It was the first time he had left the mountain
in 9 years.
Halfway through the trip to Hitachi, Nichiren Shonin and his attendants
dropped in at the house of Munenaka Ikegami, in Ikegami Village, Musashi
Province (present-day Tokyo). Normally this would have been a trip of
about 7 days, but their trip took 11 days. It was September 18.
The next day Nichiren Shonin dictated a letter to his disciple Nikko for
Lord Hakii Sanenaga. "We have arrived at Ikegami safely, without
encountering any mishaps on the way.... I wish to make a return journey.
It may not materialize, however, since I am not well. I do not have words
to express my gratitude for your religious devotion and contributions
of offering these past nine years to me, who is considered a nuisance
throughout Japan. Therefore, I want to ask you to erect my tombstone in
the valley of Mt. Minobu wherever I die."
At no other place but Minobu had Nichiren Shonin and his disciples had
an opportunity to chant and discuss the Lotus Sutra at any time to their
hearts' content, which is why Nichiren Shonin wished to have his grave
built in Mt. Minobu. For Nichiren Shonin, who had encountered many hardships,
Mt. Minobu was the only place he could feel at ease and recite the Sutra.
In the Hakii-dono Gosho, Nichiren Shonin wrote: "No matter where
I die, please erect my tombstone at Mt. Minobu, where I chanted the Lotus
Sutra in peace for nine years. My heart will go on to stay on Mt. Minobu
His disciples, who followed Nichiren Shonin's dying request, did erect
his grave on Mt. Minobu. Today it is believed that his soul stays on at
Mt. Minobu, and it is respected as the head temple of Nichiren Shu.
Nichiren Shonin once said that we should visit Mt. Minobu as the central
place for worship. He also said that, because the wisest man lives on
this mountain, numerous Buddhas and deities gather from all over the world
at this mountain.
Nichiren Shonin said, "Sakyamuni Buddha, Many-Treasures Buddha, all
the Buddhas in the worlds of the ten quarters, any Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
in the Lotus Sutra, the Brahman-Heavenly-King, King Sakra, a dragon, ten
female raksasa - all are gathering in this mountain." He said that
because he had chanted the Lotus Sutra on this mountain for nine years,
and because Mt. Minobu is the world of the Great-Mandara.
He added, "Mt. Minobu is no different a place than Mt. T'ien-T'ai
where T'ien-T'ai Chih-I lived, or Mt. Sacred Eagle where Sakyamuni Buddha
lived and expounded the Lotus Sutra. In this place, even a refreshing
breeze, shaking plants and grasses, and the sound of the flowing water
are reciting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo." These words are the proof of
his love for Mt. Minobu.
Kuonji Temple recognizes June 17, 1274, the day he entered a new hermitage
in Nishidani Valley, as its dedication day. Since then, every year on
June 17, a grand service is held on Mt. Minobu to mark the anniversary
of this event. When the grand hall (Daido), which was as large as ten-ken
square (one ken measures about six feet), was built the year before he
passed away, Nichiren Shonin named Minobusan Kuon-ji Myohokkein Temple,
which is the original history of the Kuon-ji Temple. ("Kuon"
literally means the remotest past.)
It remained in Nishidani Valley (western valley) for about 200 years,
until it was moved to its current location at the time of Gyogakuin Niccho
(1422-1500), who was the 11th chief abbot of Kuon-ji Temple. The reason
for the move, according to Niccho, was that the place in the western valley
was geographically narrow for the temple and was always in danger from
It took about ten years to finish the move, which was completed in 1475.
Six years later, the 200th memorial service for Nichiren Shonin was held
on a grand scale.
Niccho Shonin made a great contribution not only to the moving of the
Temple, but also to the establishment of annual and monthly religious
events at the Temple, and the promotion of education in order to spread
Since he laid the foundation of today's organization of the Kuon-ji Temple,
he has been called the restorer of Mt. Minobu. Next year, 1999, will be
his 500th anniversary. We will have a memorial service for Niccho Shonin
on June 25, 1999 at Kuon-ji Temple.
Throughout its long history, Mt. Minobu has been a center of the faith
of Nichiren Buddhism as the head temple of Nichiren Shu.
Under the institution of "Rinban Hoshi" (Rotating the watch
over the founder's tomb), many believers from all over the country have
come to the Temple to worship.
Nichiren Shonin said when the new grand hall was dedicated in 1281, "This
is the worlds greatest worship hall to practice the teachings of
the Lotus Sutra."
His earnest prayer is for people all over the world to chant Namu Myoho
Renge Kyo, with Mt. Minobu as the center of faith.
We have to preach and spread Namu Myoho Renge Kyo throughout the whole
world in order for Mt. Minobu to be the worldwide central place for the
faith of Nichiren Buddhism, both in name and practice.
The Teaching Of the Lotus Sutra
Rev. Daisuke Tomikawa
"Know this, Sariputra!
I once vowed that I would cause
All living beings to become
Exactly as I am.
That old vow of mine
Has now been fulfilled.
I lead all living beings
Into the Way to Buddhahood."
The Lotus Sutra
Chapter 2 "Hoben-pon" - Expedients
to believe we are approaching the end of 1998 and awaiting the new
year. How was the year of 1998 for you? Some may have had the best
year of their lives. Others may have been just busy. Or a few people
may have had a celebration or an unhappiness in the family. In any
case, we would like to thank the Buddha and Nichiren Shonin for being
able to spent the year safety.
I want to offer a suggestion to you as we greet the New Year. People
often say, "New Years Day is the day to make your plans for the
whole year." So I encourage you to think of a plan or a way to
improve yourself. Any small plan is fine. For example, being more
punctual. Chant the Odaimoku every day, three times in the morning
and three times in the evening. Continue to exercise even a little
every day, or it try to clean the "Butsudan" or altar once
a week. When you decide on your plan for the year, you should make
a promise to the Buddha, Nichiren Shonin, and your ancestors. I'm
sure they will watch over you and protect you. When I was a student,
I made a vow to read 100 books and watch 100 movies in one year. Looking
back now, it was a funny vow, but I had a feeling of satisfaction
when I had completed it. Please not only make a vow but really make
an effort to get it accomplished.
Id like to talk to you about the vow of the Buddha. The vows
of the Lotus Sutra can be sorted into three categories. The first
category is the vow of the Buddha. The second includes the vow of
the Boddhisattva, and the last category includes the vows of other
What is the Buddha's vow? The opening words come from the Lotus Sutra,
chapter 2, called "Hoben-pon". The Buddha explains the purpose
of his teaching and makes a vow that "all living beings become
a Buddha like me." That is such an immeasurable vow. Of course,
all living beings means not only us, but everyone - rich
or poor, good or bad. The Buddha included everyone, not only a few.
Even a killer, thief, or "bad" person has a chance to become
a Buddha, though it may be more difficult for some than others. The
Buddha preached his teachings with a purpose and an ideal like that.
And "That old vow of mine Has now been fulfilled." means
that the Buddha's original vow from long ago for all to attain Buddhahood
has now been fulfilled. In short, the Buddha's wish will be completed
if we listen to his teachings and practice them. Only then will the
Buddha will be satisfied.
When we think about the Buddha's mercy, we can find meaning in our
lives. One desirable effect is that we not make light of ourselves.
All of us can attain Buddhahood. It is not certain exactly when we
can become a Buddha. But don't give up, because with continued effort
all of us will become enlightened. We must keep in mind, however,
that not underestimating ourselves does not mean that we should become
This principle also applies to the way we view other people. You may
have a grudge against someone, or look down on others in their daily
lives. If you find this happening, please remember - "He (or
she) will surely become a Buddha someday. The Buddha said so. Your
grudge may be caused by a lack of effort in practicing the Sutra."
So please try and set a goal or your own vow for 1999. And remember
that, if and when you experience a setback, please bring to mind the
Buddha's vow by chanting Odaimoku.