The San Jose Nichiren Buddhist Temple

3570 Mona Way

San Jose, CA 95130.

Phone (408) 246-0111

sanjosenichiren@yahoo.co.jp

 

Schedule of Events

(all events start at 10 am unless stated otherwise):

 

February 8 – Sunday Service

A Buddhist service is the basic daily practice of Nichiren Buddhism, the centerpiece of which is the recitation of Odaimoku and whose supporting practices include the recitation of passages from chapter 2 and 16 of the Lotus Sūtra. The daily service (that can also be done at home) can be found here.

 

February 15 - Shodaigyo meditation followed by study class or Shakyo class/Shabutsu Practice.

 

Shodaigyo meditation is a practice involving a period of silent sitting, a longer period of Odaimoku chanting to the rhythm of a taiko drum, and another short period of silent sitting. It is explained in more detail here.

 

Following the service one can participate in either the study class or shabutsu practice.

 

The study class is currently focusing on Nichiren’s major writing The Opening of the Eyes (Kaimoku-shō). The study guide is here. The chapter we will be coveringcovers the meaning of references to the protection of the gods and the hindrances caused by demons. It is here.

 

Alternatively, Shabutsu Practice will also be offered. Shabutsu is the devotional and contemplative practice of drawing of Buddhist images. The temple will provide copying paper, pens, brushes, and sumi ink. No prior art experience is necessarily. One may also practice Shakyō, the copying of passages from the Lotus Sūtra.

 

February 23 – Nehanye and Kotanye

The service on this Sunday will be a dual commemoration of the passing of the historical Śākyamuni Buddha and a celebration of the birth of Nichiren Shōnin.

 

March 1 - Meditation

We begin with some stretching exercises and then do about 20 minutes of silent meditation (as per the tranquility and insight practices taught by T’ien-t’ai Chih-i) followed by some silent walking meditation. Instructions for this can be found here. After this we adjourn to the dining hall for a Buddhist temple style breakfast (rice porridge, takuan, miso soup).

 

March 8 – Sunday Service

A Buddhist service is the basic daily practice of Nichiren Buddhism, the centerpiece of which is the recitation of Odaimoku and whose supporting practices include the recitation of passages from chapter 2 and 16 of the Lotus Sūtra. The daily service (that can also be done at home) can be found here.

 

March 15 - Shodaigyo meditation followed by study class or Shakyo class/Shabutsu Practice.

 

March 22 – Ohigan service.

Ohigan is the service held on or around the vernal equinox as a memorial service for those who have passed away.

 

March 29 – No service.

“A man called Nichiren was beheaded between the hours of the rat and the ox (between eleven p.m. and three a.m.) during the night of the twelfth day of the ninth month last year. His spirit has come to the province of Sado and is writing this in the midst of snow in the second month of the following year to be sent to his closely related disciples from past lives. As such, this writing of mine may sound to you frightening, but it should not. How fearful others will be when they read this writing! This is the bright mirror in which Śākyamuni Buddha, Many Treasures Buddha, and the emanation buddhas of the worlds of the ten directions reflect the future state of Japan through the conditions of Japan today. Consider this as my memento in case I die.”

So Nichiren had written to Shijō Kingo and other disciples and lay followers back in Kamakura in a long essay entitled Kaimoku-shō (Open Your Eyes). It would be one of the most important writings of his life, for he could no longer afford to hold anything back from them. Of course he had not literally been beheaded, but he felt as though he had already given his life at Tatsunokuchi, the Dragon’s Mouth. Though he had been sent to the barren and remote Sado Island to die slowly of exposure and starvation it was also still possible that a messenger could arrive from Kamakura on any given day with new orders reinstating the death penalty. To be alive at all, suddenly seemed like a fantastic dream.

As dawn broke on the thirteenth of the ninth month of the eighth year of Bun’ei (1271), Hei no Saemon directed his vassals to take Nichiren to the estate of Homma Shigetsura in Echi. Shijō Kingo, quite overcome and speechless with awe of Nichiren, accompanied them. As they rode away from the beach Nichiren looked back and said, “How wondrous! There may have been times in past lives when I sacrificed myself for the sake of wife and children, property, and retainers. I may have cast myself away in the mountains, in the oceans, in the rivers, on the shores, or on the streets. However, none of those instances of casting away the body and facing persecutions were done for the sake of the Lotus Sūtra or the daimoku and so they did not contribute to spiritual awakening. Because they did not contribute to awakening, the oceans and rivers where I cast myself away was not the buddha-land. This time I face exile and the death penalty as a practitioner of the Lotus Sūtra. I have been exiled to Itō and now have received the death penalty at Tatsunokuchi. Tatsunokuchi is where I have cast away my life, so it should not be considered inferior to the buddha-land. This is because it is here that I have faced persecution for the sake of the Lotus Sūtra, the one true teaching in the buddha-lands of the ten directions. Here, where my life remains, is the Pure Land of Tranquil Light.”

They arrived at the manor of Homma Shigetsura around noon. Upon arriving, Nichiren requested bottles of sake to treat the members of his escort. After a while the escort was ready to leave. The warriors bowed their heads with their palms together. The leader of the troop said to Nichiren, “We did not know what kind of person you were until today and simply hated you because we have been told that you were a slanderer of Amitābha Buddha in whom we seek refuge. Having seen what happened last night with our own eyes, we are so awestricken that we have now made up our mind to quit the nembutsu, which we had chanted all these years.” Some of the warriors took out juzu from their flint bags and threw them away. Others swore not to chant nembutsu any longer. When the escort left for Kamakura, the retainers of Homma Shigetsura took over the duty of guarding Nichiren. Shijō Kingo also left for home with the escort. Though Nichiren was a condemned criminal, Umanojō, Shigetsura’s deputy, was very circumspect and even reverential towards him, treating him as an honored guest rather than a prisoner.

That evening, a messenger of the shōgunate came from Kamakura with an official letter. Shigetsura’s retainers were grim. They were expecting a letter ordering them to behead Nichiren. Umanojō ran into the courtyard with the letter and knelt on the ground before Nichiren. He said, “This official letter, which I was afraid might be an order to carry out your execution tonight, turned out to be a lucky one. According to the messenger, around the hour of the hare (six a.m.), Lord Hōjō Nobutoki, who is officially your custodian, had already left for a hot spring at Atami. The messenger feared that if he tried to deliver the letter to Nobutoki first it would not reach this manor in time to prevent a hasty execution. So, the messenger decided to deliver the letter here first, rushing over from Kamakura in only four hours. The messenger has already left for Atami Spa, where Hōjō Nobutoki is staying.” Umanojō showed Nichiren the postscript of the letter. It stated, “This person is not guilty and will be pardoned before long. Be careful not to commit hasty mistakes that you might regret later.”

That night dozens of samurai were on guard duty around Nichiren’s room and in the large garden outside. The moon was shining in the clear sky when Nichiren stepped out into the garden at midnight to recite the Verses of Eternity from the sixteenth chapter of the Lotus Sūtra. He recited it several time, and then began to briefly explain the comparative profundity of the different Buddhist schools and to outline the teachings of the Lotus Sūtra to anyone who might care to listen. The guards became still and silent to give ear to Nichiren’s talk. When his discourse was done, Nichiren put his palms together, raised his eyes to the heavens and began to harangue the moon.

“Are you not the Moon God who attended the assembly in which Śākyamuni Buddha taught the Lotus Sūtra? Are you not the very Moon God who was ordered directly by Śākyamuni Buddha in the eleventh chapter, ‘Apperance of the Stūpa of Treasures,’ to spread the Lotus Sūtra and protect its practitioners after his death? Are you not the god who was touched by the Buddha on the head three times and made a great vow to carry out the Buddha’s order without fail in the twenty-second chapter, ‘Transmission’? The vow you made in front of the Buddha would be mere empty words if not for the great difficulties of Nichiren who is providing you with a chance to carry out your vow. At this moment I am facing this great trial for the sake of the Lotus Sūtra. You should be delighted to take the place of a practitioner of the Lotus Sūtra, carry out the Buddha’s order, and make good on your oath. It is quite unbelievable that you have not shown any sign of fulfilling your oath at this very moment when I am being condemned for the sake of the Lotus Sūtra. Should there be no sign, I will not return to Kamakura even if I am pardoned. What will happen to you, Moon God, if you show no sign but continue to shine carefree in the clear sky? It is taught in the Great Assembly Sūtra, ‘The sun and moon will not shine,’ in the Benevolent Kings Sūtra, ‘The sun and moon will lose their brightness,’ and in the Golden Splendor Sūtra, ‘The thirty-three gods will become angry’ in the land where the True Dharma is slandered. What happened to you, Moon God? Why can you not respond?”

In this manner, he sternly accused the Moon God of dereliction of duty. When he was finished, a star looking like Venus suddenly fell from heaven, and perched on a branch of a plum tree in the front garden. The guards were all astonished at the sight of it and jumped off the veranda. Some crouched in the garden behind the foliage, while others hid behind the house. Soon the whole sky became dark, strong winds began to blow, and the horrible sound of a howling storm around Enoshima Island echoed in the sky as loudly as huge drums.

It was dawn on the following day when a man named Lay Monk Jurō rushed in from Kamakura and reported, “There was an uproar at the residence of the Regent Hōjō Tokimune last night. A diviner who was called in to divine the future on this matter of Nichiren reported that this was an omen of great disorder in the nation. He went on to say that it stemmed from the punishment of the monk Nichiren, and that unless Nichiren was pardoned at once, he would be unable to predict how serious the chaos of the world might become. Some among the regent’s counselors suggested pardoning Nichiren right away, but others insisted it would be better to put off pardoning him until they could discover the truth of his prediction of a war to occur within one hundred days as he had predicted when interrogated by Hei no Saemon before the Council of State.”

That day, Nichiren wrote to Toki Jōnin of the aborted execution, his impending exile to Sado Island, and his detention in Echi. In the letter he wrote, “I understand that you lament for me, but since I expected this to happen from the beginning, I do not lament for myself. In fact, I regret that I have not yet been beheaded. If I had been beheaded for the Lotus Sūtra in a past life, I would not have been born as such a lowly man in this present life. As stated in the ‘Encouragement for Upholding This Sūtra’ chapter of the Lotus Sūtra, ‘Practitioners of the Lotus Sūtra will often be driven out of monasteries.’ I have received punishment from time to time for the sake of the Lotus Sūtra, eliminating serious transgressions committed in my previous lives. As this is the only way for me to attain buddhahood, I am willing to undergo such ascetic practices.”

In a postscript he added, “Having faith in the Lotus Sūtra involves suffering and punishment by the shōgunate. There is no doubt that the moon waxes and wanes and the tide ebbs and rises. Though at the moment I endure punishment and suffering, they will return to me as merit. Why would I lament a joy such as this?”

He was detained in Echi for almost three weeks after that. In the meantime arsons took place seven or eight times and murders occurred nearly every night in Kamakura. Some made false charges to the shōgunate blaming disciples of Nichiren for the recurring arsons. Believing that might be the case, Hei no Saemon made a list of some 260 disciples and devotees of Nichiren to be banished from Kamakura. It was rumored that the Council of State deliberated a proposal to banish all of them to distant places or to execute imprisoned disciples of Nichiren. However, it was later found that the arsons were the work of precept holders and nembutsu believers as a ploy to discredit Nichiren’s disciples and lay followers. By then, however, the damage had been done. His disciples were banished or imprisoned. Samurai who were known associates of Nichiren incurred the anger of their lords and in some cases were stripped of their fiefs, lost their status as vassals, or expelled. Those followers who remained steadfast were abandoned by their siblings or disowned by their parents. In the end, all but one out of a thousand followers lost faith. Among those who abandoned Nichiren were Lord Itō and the Nun Proprietress who had been his benefactors. Some of those who disassociated themselves from Nichiren out of fear of persecution even went so far as to persuade others to give up their faith in the Lotus Sūtra and return to the practice of nembutsu or the teachings of the Mantra school.

Nichiren was especially worried about those disciples who had been arrested along with him but had remained in Kamakura. He knew that they were not being treated as gently as he was. On the third day of the tenth month he sent a letter to five of his disciples who had been imprisoned in a cave in the custody of Yadoya Mitsunori. One of the five was Nichirō, who was no longer a boy but had grown to be a competent and learned monk in his mid-twenties. In the letter he wrote, “As all of you who have been put in prison due to your faith in the Lotus Sūtra have actually read through the entire Lotus Sūtra with both body and mind, you not only reap the merits yourself, but extend the merits to the spirits of your parents, brothers, and sisters as well. It is so cold tonight that I am worried and feel sorry more for you in prison than for myself. When pardoned and released from prison, be sure to visit me in Sado next spring. I hope to see you then.”

To his lay supporters he wrote letters explaining that, like Never Despising Bodhisattva in the Lotus Suūtra, by facing persecution he was expiating the transgressions of previous lifetimes and that in any case it was inevitable to face great difficulties when trying to spread the teaching of the Lotus Sūtra, especially in the Latter Age of Degeneration. He wrote, “When evil kings in ancient times acted tyrannically and oppressed Buddhism, many sage monks were persecuted. I can conjecture from my own experience today how grief-stricken their followers, relatives, disciples, and supporters were. Now I, Nichiren, have actually practiced the entire Lotus Sūtra just as it is taught. Even those who uphold a single phrase or verse are guaranteed to become buddhas in the future. All the more so for those who actually practice the entirety of the Lotus Sūtra to attain buddhahood. This is most certain. Though unbecoming of me, I am hoping to attain buddhahood not only for myself but also for all living beings in the whole country. I am sorry to say, however, that this is beyond my ability because we are in a country where the ruler does not heed my words.”

On the tenth day of the tenth month, the journey to Sado Island began. Nichiren, escorted by the retainers of Homma Shigetsura, traveled for twelve days to reach the port of Teradomari in Echigo Province. The escort set a grueling pace. Tired and hungry every step of the way, Nichiren found he could not even think straight anymore. It was all he could do to shoulder his pack, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and chant daimoku for as long as he was able before losing his breath. In every small village and post station it seemed as though formidable enemies were lining up one after another in wait for him, to jeer and curse. All of them were believers in the nembutsu. Some were armed with swords, spears, and staves but they kept their peace when they saw the determination of the warriors guarding the prisoner. Even his escort, fearing an ambush, became uneasy as they passed through overgrown fields and traversed the mountain passes. Whenever a gust of wind rattled the bamboo or blew through the tall grasses on the cliffs and plains they reached for their swords in alarm.

Upon arriving at Teradomari, they had to wait for six days until the winds were favorable enough to safely cross the Sea of Japan. Nichiren looked across the gray choppy waves to the north, but it was too cloudy to see Sado Island. Nichiren knew that most of those who were exiled to Sado died there. Very few returned home alive. It was to Sado that the Retired Emperor Juntoku had been exiled after the disastrous attempt by the Retired Emperor Go-Toba to overthrow the shōgunate, and it was there that the retired emperor had died some thirty years ago.

Recalling the fate of the Retired Emperor Juntoku set Nichiren to thinking about the Jōkyū Disturbance and the failure of the mantra rites to bring victory to the imperial forces. That had been their second great failure, the first being the prayers by the Tendai monks of Enryakuji on Mt. Hiei to defeat Minamoto Yoritomo. Now it was the shōgunate that was commissioning the likes of Ryōkan and others to perform prayer services using the mantra practices derived from the Mahāvairocana sūtra instead of prayers based on the Lotus Sūtra. Nichiren decided that it was time to begin expressing the misgiving he had long held about the teachings of the Mantra school. He began to write about his concerns in letters he sent to Toki Jōnin and planned to write more as soon as could.

As he reflected upon the errors of the Mantra school and the inevitable destruction of Japan if the mantra practices were used to defeat the Mongols the skies cleared and the arctic winds died down long enough to set sail. Once on Sado, true to the character of the northern provinces, he found the winds especially strong, the snows deep as the long winter gathered force, and food scarce. The robes he had brought with him were thin and threadbare, though he at least had a straw coat. Upon arrival he was taken to see Honma Shigetsura at his residence on the island. The indifferent deputy constable assigned the exile to stay in a place known as the Sanmaidō, or Samādhi Hall. It was located in a field called Tsukuhara behind the deputy constable’s own residence. Nichiren was taken there and left to his own devices on the first of the eleventh month.

The Sanmaidō turned out to be a dilapidated thatched hut, about six-foot square in size. It stood in the midst of a charnel ground covered with eulalia and pampas grass. The roof was full of holes and the four walls had gaps so that snow piled up in the room and never melted away. Day and night, he sat on a scrap of fur and shivered in his straw raincoat. At night it snowed, hailed, and thundered continuously. In the daytime not even a ray of sunshine was able to penetrate the heavy clouds. Apart from the storms, all that could be heard was the moaning of the wind. In the overcast gloom of the day, the only thing to look at was the drifting snow that covered the land. Nichiren felt as though he had entered the realm of the hungry ghosts or fallen alive into one of the eight cold hells.

As he had so often, Nichiren considered the teachings of the Lotus Sūtra relating the hardships that a practitioner of the sūtra must expect to face. It seemed as though he alone had undergone the persecutions that the sūtra spoke of, and it seemed that the assurances given in the sūtras were being spoken directly to him. He felt more certain than ever that he would attain the perfect and complete awakening of a buddha.

He thought of the story related in the twelfth chapter of the Lotus Sūtra wherein a king in a past age renounced his throne to seek the True Dharma. The king turned ascetic devoted himself to long and difficult practice under the instruction of a seer named Asita who taught him the Lotus Sūtra as it appeared in that age. Śākyamuni Buddha revealed that he had been able to attain buddhahood because he had been that king who in a past life had been able to encounter and practice the Lotus Sūtra, and the seer Asita had been a past life of his treacherous cousin Devadatta. Devadatta, therefore, had actually once been the teacher of Śākyamuni Buddha and had helped him attain awakening.

Nichiren considered that the regent, Hōjō Tokimune, who had forced him to experience the hardships predicted by the Lotus Sūtra by exiling him was actually a good friend enabling him to achieve the way of the Buddha. Hei no Saemon who had tried to kill him was like Devadatta who had tried to kill Śākyamuni Buddha. Those who chanted the nembutsu were like the monks who had left the Buddha when Devadatta had split the Sangha. It was as though the events of the Buddha’s lifetime were recurring in the present. All of the events of the past few months suddenly seemed to be filled with great significance. And of course they should! The gist of the Lotus Sūtra was that all phenomena are themselves ultimate reality. Both seemingly essential and non-essential things have their reasons to exist and are after all one and equal.

The Great Master Tiantai had taught in the Great Calming and Contemplation, “As understanding and practice advance, the three hindrances and four devils will arise in confusing forms to torment the practitioner of the Buddha Way.” He also wrote, “It is also similar to an ocean growing larger with its tributaries flowing in, or a fire increasing the force of its flames as firewood is added.” The three hindrances were those things that arise to hinder one’s practice. They consisted of one’s inner defilements such as greed and hatred, the unwholesome habits motivated by the defilements, and finally the painful consequences of those habitual responses to life’s vicissitudes. The four devils likewise worked to distract the practitioner or prevent practice altogether. The first was the devil of the five aggregates, one’s own body and mind. The second was the devil of the defilements. The third was the devil representing one’s fear of death. And the last and most formidable was Māra himself, the devil king of the sixth heaven. Māra was said to enter the minds of kings, parents, spouses, children, religious devotees, or evildoers. Sometimes Māra would even pose as a fellow practitioner or patron. Working through these people, the devil king would do all he could to seduce or scare the practitioner into turning away from the True Dharma. Those who did turn away and take up provisional or false practices would be cherished by the devil king and find themselves greatly esteemed and given offerings by those who had formerly opposed them when they tried to practice the True Dharma. Nichiren saw that his persecutions at the hands of the rulers of the country were proof that he was practicing correctly. It showed that he had aroused the three hindrances and four devils, a sure sign that he must be a practitioner of the True Dharma.

Nichiren reflected to himself, ‘Devadatta, archenemy of Śākyamuni Buddha was the primary good friend who helped the Buddha in his pursuit of the Dharma. It seems that strong enemies, rather than friends, are the ones who help people improve themselves. By the same token, my greatest allies who are helping me to attain buddhahood are Tōjō Kagenobu, who tried to kill me at Komatsubara, the monks Ryōkan, Dōryū, and Dōamidabutsu, who brought false charges against me to the shōgunate, Hei no Saemon, who tried to have me executed at Tatsunokuch, and Hōjō Tokimuni who sent me here to this island to die. If not for those people, how could I have become a practitioner of the Lotus Sūtra?’

Feeling his sincere debt to those who had persecuted him and thereby enabled him to live the sūtra in both body and mind, Nichiren put his hands together and bowed deeply in the direction of Kamakura, chanting, “Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō, Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō, Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō…”

It was a thing to be wondered at, mused Nichiren, to be dying in bed at the age of sixty-one, surrounded by disciples and lay followers. He had been certain, more than ten years before, that he would be spared the agonies of old age, starvation, and illness by the sudden stroke of an executioner’s blade. Would he have felt the cut? Would there have been a moment of searing pain and disorientation as his head fell away? Would his eyes have been able to look back upon his body lying upon the beach, his ears hear the cries of his followers, his mind understand that his sacrifice for the sake of the Lotus Sūtra was complete before his spirit fled? Or would he have instantly found himself among the assembly of the ongoing Ceremony in the Air at the Pure Land of Eagle Peak?

It was in the middle of the afternoon on the twelfth of the ninth month of the eighth year of the Bun’ei era (1271), two days after being brought before the Council of State, when Hei no Saemon led several hundred foot soldiers clad in dō-maru armor, a light lamellar cuirass and skirt, and ebōshi, black cloth hats, with naginata in hand and tachi swords at their sides. As they burst onto the grounds of the hermitage their eyes glared and they shouted angrily for everyone to submit to arrest. All present were astounded, for the amount of force arrayed against Nichiren and the dozen or so monks at the hermitage was far larger in scale than previous arrests of suspected conspirators over the past two decades. It was clear that they suspected Nichiren not simply of predicting domestic disturbance but of actively fomenting rebellion against the Hōjō regency.

Nichiren and his six main disciples and other monks who had been listening to a lecture on the sūtra presented themselves on the veranda of the hermitage. Nichiren looked upon the outrageous show of force and said to his disciples, “The time has come to fulfill my wish. I am overjoyed. From the eternal past down to the present, I have sometimes lost my life in vain, but not even once for the sake of the Lotus Sūtra. Now I shall be beheaded on account of the sūtra, succeeding the Venerable Āryasimha, the last patriarch of Buddhism who also gave his life for the Dharma. My merit of propagating the Lotus Sūtra will be more than that of the great masters Tiantai and Dengyō. My name will be added to the list of twenty-five patriarchs of the True Dharma and the list will be changed to include twenty-six names. My practice will be more meritorious than that of Never Despising Bodhisattva. Śākyamuni Buddha, Many Treasure Buddha, and the emanation buddhas of the worlds of the ten directions will not know how to treat me. How lucky I am to be able to sacrifice my life for the sake of the Lotus Sūtra.”

Hei no Saemon strode forward, dressed in the formal robes of his office as the Chief Deputy of the Board of Retainers. “You and all those with you here are under arrest. If you are lucky, you will only be exiled.” He looked over all the monks present and assured himself that no one was armed or likely to resist. He signaled to his vassals and they rushed up the steps onto the veranda. “Take them into custody! Search the grounds!”

Nichiren tucked the fifth fascicle of the Lotus Sūtra that he had been lecturing upon into the front collar of his robes and stepped in front of the oncoming warriors. In a firm voice he spoke over their heads to Hei no Saemon, “As we all know, the rulers of Japan are able to do anything they wish. Yet, in a lawsuit, the rulers should call both sides to a meeting in order to listen to what each will say to the other to come to a judgment. Why is it that in only my case they did not hold such a meeting? Shouldn’t I be allowed to meet in debate against the teachers of the other schools before being sentenced to such a serious punishment? This is nothing but a breach in proper conduct! Even if I were a felon, such illegal treatment would throw the administration of our country into chaos, with peace lost.”

In a rage at Nichiren’s insolence, Shō-bō, a ranking vassal of Hei no Saemon, rushed at him. He snatched the fifth fascicle of the Lotus Sūtra from out of Nichiren’s robes. Like all such scrolls it was wound around a heavy wooden rod. Shō-bō struck him in the face with it again and again before unrolling it and tearing it to pieces. Nichiren was stunned and disoriented, unable to block the blows or take back the scroll. He fell back into the arms of Nisshō and Nichirō. As he regained his senses he looked down upon the scraps of the fascicle that was now being trod under the sandals of the warriors who were storming past him into the hermitage. He suddenly realized, the scroll used to beat him was the very one that contained the words, “Ignorant people will speak ill of us, abuse us, and threaten us with swords or sticks. But we will endure all this.”

Inside the warriors scattered the remaining nine fascicles of the threefold Lotus Sūtra that were upon the lecture stand, stepped on them, wrapped themselves in them, and scattered them all over the straw mats and the wooden floor of the house. Seeing this riotous behavior, Nichiren uttered in a loud voice, “How amazing! Everybody, look at Hei no Saemonnojō Yoritsuna losing his head! He is now going to fell the pillar of Japan! I, Nichiren, am the chief support of Japan! When you kill me, you will cut the pillar of Japan! Before long, there will be a civil war, in which the Japanese people will fight among themselves, and foreign invasion, in which many people in Japan will not only be killed but also captured by foreign invaders. Unless all the temples of the Pure Land and Zen schools such as Kenchōji, Jufukuji, Gokurakuji, Daibutsuji, and Chōrakuji are burned down and their monks all beheaded at Yuigahama Beach, Japan will be bound to be destroyed.”

Hei no Saemon and his vassals as well as Nichiren’s disciples were all struck dumb and astonished. Nichiren had regained his poise, though it was he who was in disgrace in the eyes of the world. The warriors, on the contrary, went pale. They stopped what they were doing, shamefaced and now regretting that in their anger they had torn and scattered one of the sacred sūtras that contained the teachings of the Buddha.

Finally, Hei no Saemon gathered his wits and said, “Still you persist in calling for the burning of temples and the execution of holy monks?”

Nichiren said, “I had a copy of the Treatise on Spreading Peace Throughout the Country by Establishing the True Dharma sent to you, but evidently you did not read it. Still you fail to grasp my true meaning.”

After that things calmed down somewhat. Nichiren and his disciples were bound around the upper arms and chest and marched like criminals to the government offices where they were kept under guard in a courtyard until that evening. Nichiren was set upon a mat before the steps leading into the building while Hei no Saemon sat at the top of the steps. He looked down upon Nichiren and interrogated him once more. Nichiren refused to recant any of what he had said in the previous interview. He explained in detail to Hei no Saemon that the Mantra school was an evil teaching that would destroy the country, that Zen Buddhism was a false teaching of heavenly devils, that nembutsu leads to the Hell of Incessant Suffering, and that the proof of the lack of power of those who followed teachings other than the Lotus Sūtra could be seen in the failure of Ryōkan’s prayer for rain. While listening to this, Hei no Saemon sometimes scornfully laughed and other times got fiercely angry. Unable to defend Ryōkan’s failure, Hei no Saemon ended the interrogation in disgust.

Sometime around midnight it was announced that Nichiren was to be taken into custody by Hōjō Nobutoki, the Lord of Musashi Province, to await exile to some distant region. Though unbound, he was set upon a saddleless horse. Accompanied by Hei no Saemon and his vassals, both foot soldiers and mounted warriors, he was paraded as a prisoner in front of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine. In the streets of Kamakura, despite the late hour, the followers of Ryōkan and other slanderers of the True Dharma whom Nichiren had denounced came out to point, laugh, and jeer as the procession passed by.

They had told Nichiren that he was being taken to the home of Homma Shigetsura, one of Hōjō Nobutoki’s vassals. However, the road they were taking was not the way to Echi, where Shigetsura’s manor was located, but to the execution grounds upon the beach at Tatsunokuchi, the Dragon’s Mouth. The public sentence may have been exile, but it was quite evident that Hei no Saemon intended to execute him that night.

When they came to the crossing of the bridge over Young Prince Avenue that passed in front of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, Nichiren stopped his horse. This was the place where one would have to dismount in any case to show respect to the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, but Hei no Saemon’s vassals clustered around Nichiren warning him not to cause any trouble. He said to them, “Keep quiet, I have nothing special in my mind except that I want to speak to the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman.”

Nichiren dismounted, turned north to face the shrine, and in a resounding voice declared, “Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, are you truly a god? In ancient times, when Wake no Kiyomaro was about to be beheaded at the order of the corrupt monk Dōkyō, did you not protect Kiyomaro by appearing as a ten foot wide moon? When the Great Master Dengyō lectured on the Lotus Sūtra, did you not present him with a purple kesa? Now I, Nichiren, am the foremost practitioner of the Lotus Sūtra in Japan. Besides, I have committed no wrongdoing whatsoever. What I have been preaching is the doctrine to save all the people in Japan, who are sure to fall into the Hell of Incessant Suffering for slandering the True Dharma, the Lotus Sūtra. Yet, I am about to be beheaded because of it. How can you, bodhisattva, just sit and watch me be executed? When the Great Mongol Empire invades this country after I am put to death, will even such guardian deities of Japan as Amaterasu Ōmikami and Great Bodhisattva Hachiman be safe?

“Moreover, when Śākyamuni Buddha taught the Lotus Sūtra, Many Treasures Buddha, various buddhas and bodhisattvas from all the worlds in the ten directions gathered together and arranged themselves so that they shone like suns, moons, stars, and mirrors. Then the Buddha asked numerous gods as well as virtuous deities and sages of India, China, and Japan to take an oath to protect practitioners of the Lotus Sūtra. Each of them wrote such an oath, did they not? If this was the case, you ought to immediately carry out what you swore without any reminders. Why don’t you appear right here to prove your sincerity?”

After a pause, he added, “Upon arriving at the Pure Land of Eagle Peak after being beheaded tonight, I will, without hesitation, first report to Śākyamuni Buddha that Amaterasu Ōmikami and Great Bodhisattva Hachiman are two deities who do not keep their pledges. If you feel at a loss, you had better reconsider and act quickly.”

Having spoken these things, Nichiren got back on his horse. Hei no Saemon and his vassals were speechless. Who would dare to chastise the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman in such a way? Surely, this monk was not in his right mind. The warriors murmured, fearful of even being in the presence of such a madman and blasphemer, lest the ground crack open to swallow him up and perhaps anyone else who happened to be standing too close.

They proceeded along the beach. In front of Goryō Shrine, Nichiren told the escorting soldiers, “Please stop for awhile. Here, I have a person to whom I want to inform about this matter.” A boy named Kumaō-maru was then dispatched to the home of Shijō Kingo, who lived nearby.

Shijō Kingo and three of his brothers rushed to join the procession. Nichiren saw that they were all barefoot, having run out of their home so fast they had not even stopped to put on their sandals. Because of his standing as a samurai who was a retainer of one of the vassals of the Hōjō clan, Shijō Kingo was allowed to accompany Nichiren. He took hold of the bridle of the horse Nichiren rode and led it himself.

“What is happening? What is this?” Shijō Kingo stammered.

Nichiren told him, “I am going to be beheaded tonight. This is what I have been longing for the past several years. In past lives I was born in this Sahā world many times. Sometimes I was born as a pheasant only to be captured by a hawk; and other times as a rat only to be eaten by a cat. Even when I was born a human being, I lost my life for my wife and children, and to my enemies, more often than the number of particles of the great earth without sacrificing my life for the sake of the Lotus Sūtra even once. As a result, I was born to this world as a poor monk unable to serve my parents as much as I would like and repay what I owe to my country. This is the time for me to dedicate my head to the Lotus Sūtra and present its merit to my parents and what is left to my disciples and followers. This is what I have been saying these days and it will become a reality tonight.”

Shijō Kingo burst into tears. When he could finally speak he said, “If you are to die tonight then I will commit seppuku and follow you in death, right here upon this beach.”

The procession stopped. They had arrived at the Dragon’s Mouth. The warriors began to mill around in excitement. Some of them set up a camp curtain around the perimeter of the place of execution. A straw mat was laid down for the condemned monk while a folding chair was set out for Hei no Saemon to sit upon while he observed the execution. A brazier was set in place to provide light. A fierce wind blew in from Sagami Bay, causing the camp curtains to billow. Lightning flashed over the waters of the bay. The crash of thunder joined the roaring of the breakers.

Nichiren was taken to the mat and made to kneel. Holding his juzu before him he put his hands in the añjali mudrā and began to chant, “Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō, Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō…” The executioner took up his position behind Nichiren and drew his sword.

Shijō Kingo, standing by the curtain with his brothers and still holding the reins of the horse began to cry, saying, “The last moment has come!”

Nichiren turned to Shijō Kingo and his brothers and said, “How cowardly you all are! You should be laughing at such a wonderful occasion as this when I am going to present my malodorous head to the Lotus Sūtra. It will be like exchanging sand for gold or pebbles for jewels. Why do you break the promise you had made?”

Nichiren resumed chanting the daimoku. The executioner forced Nichiren to lower his head and then raised his sword. The storm was making him nervous. It was not a wise thing to be holding a naked blade upon a beach with lightning flashing overhead. Executing a monk, even one as mad as this one, was also tempting fate. The executioner looked to Hei no Saemon, waiting for the order to strike. Did the Deputy Chief really dare to go through with this?

Just at that moment, something shining like the moon flew like a ball from Enoshima Island, going from southeast to northwest. It was still before daybreak and was so dark that faces could not be seen clearly. However, the night was so brightened by the shining object that all present were able to see each other as clearly as on a moonlit night. The executioner dropped his sword and fell to the ground as though blinded. The other warriors became frightened. Some ran out of the perimeter of the tent, others dismounted from horses and squatted down on the ground, while others remained stiff on horseback.

In chanting the daimoku, the power of the whole sūtra and all its protectors had been invoked. Who had sent that ball of lightning across the sky at just that moment? Perhaps it had been World Voice Perceiver Bodhisattva, of whom the Buddha sang in the verses of chapter twenty-five of the Lotus Sūtra, “Suppose you are sentenced to death, and the sword is drawn to behead you. If you think of the power of World Voice Perceiver, the sword will suddenly break asunder.”

Nichiren shouted, “Why do you stay away from a felon like me? Come back here quickly!” None of them, however, were anxious to come near the mad monk who now also seemed to be under divine protection. “Daybreak is coming very soon; what can you do if it gets light? If you have to kill me, do it right away. It would be unsightly if you wait until daylight.”

Not even Hei no Saemon dared to respond.

A month after Ryōkan’s failed attempt to end the drought, a monk named Gyōbin sent a letter to Nichiren saying, “Although I have never met you it is customary to take this opportunity to reproach you and ask some questions. If the rumors are true, your doctrines are indeed dubious. First of all, you hold that all sūtras expounded before the Lotus Sūtra are false and do not lead to buddhahood. Secondly, you insist that Mahāyāna and Hīnayāna precepts confuse people, causing them to fall into evil realms. Thirdly, you maintain that the nembutsu is a karmic cause for falling into the Hell of Incessant Suffering. Fourthly, you also assert that Zen is a teaching of heavenly devils and if people practice it, their wrong views will only be strengthened. If you have claimed all this, you are indeed the loathsome enemy of Buddhism. Therefore, I would like to meet you and refute your wrong views. However, if these are not your thoughts, it is a shame that you have received such a notorious reputation. At any rate, kindly reply in detail regarding the truth or falsehood of the above.”

Nichiren replied, “In regards to your questions, I do not think we should have a private debate, as that would be meaningless. If you are inclined to a public debate, however, you should appeal to the shōgunate to stage one in order to truly decide which view is right according to its instructions. As far as I am concerned, I sincerely hope you will make such a proposal.”

Gyōbin, and whoever else put him up to his initial challenge, did not take Nichiren up on the offer to petition the shōgunate for a public debate. Instead, Ryōkan and two second-generation disciples of Hōnen who were active in Kamakura, Nen’amidabutsu and Dōamidabutsu, sent a petition to the shōgunate listing a variety of complaints against Nichiren and demanding that a public debate be held to refute his erroneous views. Nichiren welcomed the opportunity to engage in such a debate with Ryōkan and the others, and in the meantime he submitted a response to Ryōkan’s petition. In reply to the accusation that he claimed that that there is only one right teaching and all others are wrong, he simply pointed out that this is what Hōnen himself had been teaching when he said to “abandon, close, set aside, and cast away,” all other teachings and rely only on the nembutsu. In reply to the accusation that he was attached only to the Lotus Sūtra and slandering all the other Mahāyāna sūtras, he pointed out that it was the Buddha himself in the Lotus Sūtra who praised only the Lotus Sūtra, as well as Many Treasures Buddha and the emanation buddhas of the ten directions. In reply to the accusation that he insisted that the sūtras preached before the Lotus Sūtra were all false, Nichiren only had to point to the statement in the Infinite Meanings Sūtra, “For more than forty years I have expounded the Dharma in all manner of ways through adeptness in skillful means, but the core truth has still not been revealed.” In reply to the accusation that he asserted that chanting nembutsu leads to the Hell of Incessant Suffering, he pointed out that practice of Pure Land Buddhism was causing people to turn away from the Lotus Sūtra even though the Buddha had warned, “Those who do not believe this sūtra but slander it will destroy the seeds of buddhahood of all living beings of the world.” In reply to the accusation that he insisted that Zen deludes people and disturbs their practice of Buddhism, he pointed out that the Buddha said in his final teaching, “Anyone who insists that the True Dharma exists outside the sūtras is a heavenly devil.” In reply to the accusation that he insisted that Hīnayāna and Mahāyāna precepts delude people, he pointed out that in the past the Great Master Dengyō had already received letters of submission from the six schools of Nara and transmitted the perfect and sudden Mahāyāna precepts to them, thus making all other precepts obsolete. In reply to the accusation that he burned and threw away statues of Amitābha Buddha and World Voice Perceiver Bodhisattva he asked if there were any witnesses and accused Ryōkan and his fellow petitioners of lying. In reply to the accusation that he was inciting mobs at his hermitage he accused them of slandering him just as the Lotus Sūtra said the three kinds of enemies would do. In reply to the accusation that he was storing weapons, he pointed out that the Buddha allowed for the use of weapons for defense of the True Dharma as he taught in the Nirvāa Sūtra, “I now allow those who keep the precepts to rely on the companionship of those in white robes who wield weapons. Though kings, high officials, and merchant may take up weapons as lay followers in order to protect the Dharma, I declare this to be entirely in keeping with the precepts. However, though one may take up weapons in defense of the Dharma, he should not take another’s life.”

No debate ever took place, however. Instead, the monks of the schools he had criticized waged a campaign of rumor and gossip, slandering Nichiren to the magistrates, top officials, and also the wives of the Hōjōs and the widows of the late Tokiyori and Shigetoki. The outcry grew so great that Nichiren was summoned to appear before the Council of State on the tenth of the ninth month of the eighth year of Bun’ei (1271) to respond to a series of accusations brought against him. His questioner was Hei no Saemon Yoritsuna, Deputy Commander of the Board of Retainers, second in command to Hōjō Tokimune.

Once Nichiren was shown his seat, he glanced up at the council members ranged before him. Most looked on impassively, though a few could not hide the hostility and contempt they felt for the rabble rousing peasant monk who clearly did not know his place and who had dared to criticize the teachers and teachings that they revered and depended upon for rebirth in the Pure Land. Hei no Saemon looked at Nichiren with nothing but disdain all throughout the preliminaries of the inquest.

Hei no Saemon took up a scroll handed to him by an aid and addressed the other members of the council, “This monk, Nichiren, who sits before us, is accused of a variety of offences.” He opened the scroll and began to read from it. “It is said here that you declared that the late Hōjō Tokiyori and Hōjō Shigetoki had fallen into the Hell of Incessant Suffering; that such temples as Kenchōji, Jufukuji, Gokurakuji, Chōrakuji, and Daibutsuji should be burned down; and that such monks as Dōryū and Ryōkan, whom the late lords Tokiyori and Shigetoki revered, must be beheaded. How can we fail to exile or execute anyone who dares say such things? You have been summoned here today so that you can tell us whether or not you in fact made such derogatory statements.”

In response, Nichiren said, “They are all true, but…” He waited for the astonished gasps and cries of outrage to die down, “It is not true that I insisted that the late lords Tokiyori and Shigetoki had gone to hell after they died. I had warned them that they were heading to the Hell of Incessant Suffering for following false teachings when they were still alive.

“In short, I made all those statements for the sake of this country. If you wish for this country to remain at peace, you should give me the chance to meet those monks in debate, so that a decision can be reached as to whose teachings and practices are correct. If you should listen only to their false charges and unreasonably punish me, in the end this country will surely encounter serious problems. If you exile or execute me, it would mean that you have failed to heed a messenger of the Buddha. In that case, I am certain that within one hundred days, or at most within seven years, after I am exiled or executed a domestic disturbance will erupt, in which struggles among the branches of the Hōjō family will ensue due to the divine punishment of Brahmā, Indra, the gods of the sun and moon, and the four heavenly kings, who are all protectors of the Lotus Sūtra. Thereafter, this country will be threatened by foreign invasion from four directions, especially from the west. It will then be too late for you to have regrets.”

Hei no Saemon was enraged. His face reddened and his eyes bulged as he shouted at Nichiren as though there were no one else in the room. “How dare you say such things! Do you have any idea how much trouble you are in? Have you no shame! Do you really mean for us to burn down temples and execute the most respected monks of Kamakura just because a nobody like you has the temerity to make such demands? For you to even make such a suggestion is a violation not only of the Mahāyāna precepts against taking life but a violation of the Jōei Code that prohibits slander and provocation! And why do you say there will be domestic disturbance? Are you privy to any plots? If so, you had better tell us what you know immediately.”

Nichiren sat still and calm. “I think you misunderstand me. I will be happy to send you a copy of my written opinion, Treatise on Spreading Peace Throughout the Country by Establishing the True Dharma. That work will explain things in more detail. The offense of slandering the True Dharma is truly grave, and perhaps deserving of execution. However, Śākyamuni Buddha does not teach that we should execute slanderers. He does teach that offerings should not be given to them. Is this not reasonable? Please read my treatise and you will see the clear statements from the Nirvāa Sūtra outlawing slanderers of the True Dharma. What the Nirvāa Sūtra means is not at all that we should outlaw disciples of the Buddha, but that we should only chastise slanderers of the True Dharma. Also, I know nothing of any plots. I am only repeating the predictions in the sūtras. All of the disasters predicted have already come true in the last few years, except for domestic disturbance and foreign invasion, and so it is inevitable that they will occur as well. Again, I have cited all the relevant passages from the sūtras in my treatise.”

Hei no Saemon glared at Nichiren, hatred burning in his eyes. Of the other council members, some became angry and even furious, while others were simply amazed at the audacity of this monk who had no standing speaking in such a way, and some of them even began to wonder if there might be something to what Nichiren was saying. Hei no Saemon removed the weights used to hold open the scroll of petition on the desk before him. He handed it back to his aid and the dismissed Nichiren. “We have heard enough I think,” he looked around at the others. “You are dismissed.”

Nichiren left. He had been unable to face his accusers in public debate, and now his fate would be decided behind the closed doors of the Council of State. The submission of the Treatise on Spreading Peace Throughout the Country by Establishing the True Dharma in response to the impending Mongol invasion would be his second remonstration with the shōgunate. This time, however, he was not being met with indifference from the rulers but outright hostility. It seemed that the time had come for him to live the verses of chapter thirteen of the Lotus Sūtra wherein the bodhisattvas vowed to the Buddha: “We will not spare even our lives. We will treasure only unsurpassed awakening.”