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 his appetite.

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 forever."

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.

Minobusan 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 natural disasters.

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 Nichiren Buddhism.

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 world’s 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

It’s hard 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.

I’d 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 people.
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 arrogant.
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.