The San Jose Nichiren Buddhist Temple

3570 Mona Way

San Jose, CA 95130.

Phone (408) 246-0111


Schedule of Events

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

September 6 - 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).


September 13 - 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.


September 20 – Ohigan Service. Ohigan is a service held on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. It is a commemoration of our ancestors and an occasion to dedicate merit so that they and all beings may attain awakening. Higan literally means the “other shore,” referring to the other shore of nirvana as opposed to this shore, which is the world of birth and death.

Usually Shodaigyo and the study class are held on the third Sunday. For more information see below.


September 27 - No service.


October 4 - 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).


October 11 – Clean Up.


October 18 - 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.


October 24 -Ceremony for 35th Anniversary of Founding of San Jose Nichiren Buddhist Temple at 10:30 am.


Usually on 3rd Sunday of month  - 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. This Sunday we will be covering the chapter dealing with Shojū, the way of propagation by embracing the good already being done by others.

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.





At the Beginning

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The rising sun cast a soft diffuse light through the shōji screens into the room where Nichiren lay in the Ikegami manor. It was dawn on the thirteenth day of the tenth month of the 5th year of Kōan (1282). Winter had begun less than two weeks before. The morning chill no longer bothered him. His mouth and throat were dry, but he was beyond thirst. Quick shallow breaths were followed by long pauses lasting almost a minute. The disciples seated around him tensed, unable to breathe easy themselves until he took another breath. He had stopped thumbing the beads of his juzu, as it had become irritating. Everything that touched him seemed too hard and coarse. He looked down at his left hand, the one holding his juzu, and was amazed at how pale it had become. He smiled contentedly as his six senior disciples led the others, both clergy and lay followers, in chanting the daimoku. He lay on his right side facing west. The statue of Śākyamuni Buddha from Izu and the mandala that hung behind it were placed so that it was directly before his gaze. He could not chant aloud anymore, but the recitation of Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō was something that never ceased in his mind and heart. It was always there, a constant companion.

He closed his eyes. The characters of the mandala began to shine with a golden light. It was so bright that he could still see them through his closed lids. For the first time in what seemed to be years he felt light and at ease. The pain had fallen away completely. To his surprise he could see everyone in the room as though he were a cloud floating overheard. They were ranged around him to the east in a semicircle, all facing the mandala. There was a choked cry. The six senior disciples had begun to sob. Why such sadness? Couldn’t they feel how at peace everything was? He knew now that his efforts had not been in vain. All of them would carry on his work as best they could. He smiled down at Nichizō, the fourteen-year old younger half-brother of Nichirō. He had become his elder brother’s disciple some eight years ago. A few days before Nichiren had exhorted him to continue in his practice and studies with his elder brother and to someday go to Kyōto and teach the Lotus Sūtra to the emperor himself. The boy’s eyes had flashed with zeal. He had prostrated himself before Nichiren and vowed to give his life to accomplish the mission he had been given. There indeed was another bodhisattva emerging from the earth. They were countless. They included those in the room, and multitudes throughout Japan, China, and beyond. Those who had already appeared and those yet to come would all rally around the banner of Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō. They might be many in body, but they would be one in mind. Through their harmonious efforts, the great vow of widely promulgating and spreading the Lotus Sūtra would be fulfilled.

Nichiren watched as Nisshō, his old companion from his student days at Mt. Hiei and now the eldest of his senior disciples, left the room and went outside to the hanging bell in the courtyard. He weaved his way through a crowd that had gathered there. They were all whispering to one another. Some had begun weeping. Others covered their faces with the sleeves of their kimonos. Nisshō began to strike the bell with the beam suspended at its side. At that signal, bitter wracking sobs issued from all present. The disciples inside composed themselves and began to chant the Verses of Eternity.

“It is many hundreds of thousands

Of billions of trillions

Of asaṃkhyas of kalpas

Since I became the Buddha.

“For the past innumerable kalpas

I have always been expounding the Dharma

To many hundreds of millions of living beings

In order to lead them to buddhahood.

“In order to save the contrary people,

I expediently show my nirvāṇa to them.

In reality I shall never pass away.

I always live here and expound the Dharma.

“Although I always live here

With the contrary people

I disappear from their eyes

By my supernatural powers.”

The light cast by the characters of the mandala was becoming brighter than the sun. It was curious that he could even stand to look upon them, but the light did not hurt his eyes. The light took him into itself. He could no longer see the courtyard. There was only the light, a boundless compassionate embrace. The sound of crying and weeping also faded, though in his mind the recitation of the verses continued, but now it seemed that other, more resonant, voices had taken it up. There were so many of them! They were all around him now. The first of the voices were coming from the characters of the mandala that were now resolving into figures of light, but more figures were joining them. It was a vast assembly of golden beings floating high above a mountain peak. They placed their hands palm to palm in greeting, gratitude, and mutual reverence.

“When they see me seemingly pass away,

And make offerings to my relics,

And adore me, admire me,

And become devout, upright, and gentle,

And wish to see me

With all their hearts

At the cost of their lives,

I reappear on Mt. Sacred Eagle

With my Sangha,

And say to them:

“I always live here.

I shall never be extinct.

I show my extinction to you expediently

Although I never pass away.

I also expound the unsurpassed Dharma

To the living beings of the other worlds

If they respect me, believe me,

And wish to see me.

You have never heard this;

Therefore, you thought that I pass away.”

He had spoken and written over the years to so many grieving people. Wives mourning husbands, husbands mourning wives, parents mourning children, sons and daughters mourning mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters mourning their siblings. He told them they would meet again if they maintained their faith. Upon death they would at last see that all things and phenomena in the ten Dharma-realms are manifestations of the ultimate reality. They would realize that all beings possess the three bodies of buddhahood. They would know that the only difference between the ignorant ordinary people of the Latter Age and the awakened buddhas was that the ignorant had not awakened to the true reality of all phenomena. The ignorant had no faith but had instead turned away from the truth and slandered the True Dharma. Those with faith, however, would die chanting Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō, awaken at last, and find themselves in the company of the Eternal Śākyamuni Buddha, Many Treasures Buddha, and the emanation buddhas of the ten directions. Upon death these buddhas would take them by the hand and lead them to the Pure Land of Eagle Peak.

“I see the contrary people sinking

In an ocean of suffering.

Therefore, I disappear from their eyes

And cause them to admire me.

When they adore me,

I appear and expound the Dharma to them.

“I can do all this by my supernatural powers.

I live on Mt. Sacred Eagle

And also in the other abodes

For asaṃkhya kalpas.

“The contrary people think:

‘This world is in a great fire.

The end of the kalpa of destruction is coming.’

In reality this world of mine is peaceful.

It is filled with gods and men.

The gardens, forests and stately buildings

Are adorned with various treasures;

The jeweled trees have many flowers and fruits;

The living beings are enjoying themselves;

And the gods are beating heavenly drums,

Making various kinds of music,

And raining mandārava-flowers

            on the great multitude and me.

“This pure world of mine is indestructible.

But the contrary people think:

‘It is full of sorrow, fear, and other sufferings.

It will soon burn away.’

“Because of their evil karmas,

These sinful people will not be able

To hear even the names of the Three Treasures

During asaṃkhya kalpas.”

Nichiren was home. It was the home he had never left. For sixty-one years he had struggled in the Sahā world, the world of endurance, but it had never really been anything but the Pure Land of Eternally Tranquil Light. As Nichiren, he had not been able to see this with his worldly eyes. He had, instead, seen a world ravaged by drought, famine, epidemics, earthquakes, the terror caused by all manner of ill omens, and worst of all the brutality of violent oppression and war. Now he could see and think clearly again. All things were truly at peace, for no thing was ever born and so no thing ever died. He could see that there was nothing that was not true reality. There was not a single sight nor smell that was not the middle way that is forever free of the extremes of being and non-being. There was only a single unalloyed reality, and nothing whatsoever existed outside of it. He saw that all things were by nature at peace, and though peaceful, that same nature was ever luminous.

His brethren among the assembly greeted him and he resumed his place among them. They all smiled upon one another and upon their teacher of old, who in turn smiled upon them. Though still and silent, in a space beyond the world, there was not a moment when they were not emerging into the world to expound the True Dharma.

“To those who have accumulated merits,

And who are gentle and upright,

And who see me living here,

Expounding the Dharma,

I say:

‘The duration of my life is immeasurable.’

To those who see me after a long time,

I say, ‘It is difficult to see a buddha.’

“I can do all this by the power of my wisdom.

The light of my wisdom knows no bound.

The duration of my life is innumerable kalpas.

I obtained this longevity by ages of practices.”

The six senior disciples knew in their hearts that things were not as they seemed, nor were they otherwise. Their master had entered final nirvāṇa and so they grieved, and yet they also rejoiced for his suffering was ended and he now awaited them in the Pure Land of Eagle Peak. Hadn’t he told them in the past whenever there was a parting, “Whenever you yearn for me, Nichiren, look toward the sun which rises in the morning and the moon which appears in the evening. I will inevitably be reflected in the sun and moon.” Assured in their faith, they continued to recite the Buddha’s words in the Verses of Eternity:

“All of you wise men!

Have no doubts about this!

Remove your doubts, have no more!

My words are true, not false.

The physician who sent a man expediently

To tell his contrary sons

Of the death of their father in order to cure them,

Was not accused of falsehood although he was still alive.

“In the same manner, I am the father of the world.

I am saving all living beings from suffering.

Because they are contrary,

I say that I pass away even though I shall not.

If they always see me,

They will become arrogant and licentious,

And cling to the five desires

So much that they will fall into the evil regions.

“I know who is practicing the way and who is not.

Therefore, I expound various teachings

To all living beings

According to their capacities.

“I am always thinking:

‘How shall I cause all living beings

To enter into the unsurpassed way

And quickly become buddhas?’”

Famine and epidemics swept the land once more in the third and fourth years of the Kenji era (1277-1278). During that time, Nichiren had written a description of the ghastly situation, “The condition of Japan today is miserable. As famine has continued for the last several years, people have no clothes to wear and no food to eat. Domestic animals have been eaten, and now cannibalism has begun to appear. Some cut off the flesh of the dead, infants, or the sick and sell them mixed with the flesh of fish and deer. As a result, people began eating human flesh unknowingly. Thus Japan has unexpectedly become a country of demons.

“Moreover, an epidemic spread all over the country from last spring until the middle of the second month of this year, when five out of ten households perished from illness. Those who did not succumb to illness suffered from anguish even greater than the pain of those who contracted the disease. Even if one happened to survive, can life still have meaning after losing a child who had always been there like one’s shadow, or losing a spouse with whom one had been inseparable like a pair of eyes, or losing parents whom one depended on like heaven and earth? How is it possible for any sensible person not to abhor human life? The Buddha taught, ‘The triple world is unsafe.’ Nevertheless, the condition of Japan today seems too cruel.”

In the third year of the Kōan era (1280), a fire consumed the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine in Kamakura. Nichiren was grieved to hear of it. It seemed to him that the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman was being reprimanded by the other heavenly beings for protecting and not punishing the ruler of Japan and his subjects who hated and slandered the practitioner of the Lotus Sūtra. Either that, or the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman himself burned down his own shrine and returned to heaven to protest the treatment of Nichiren and his followers. On a deeper level, Nichiren believed that the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman was in reality a shadow or trace manifestation of Śākyamuni Buddha and that his vow to protect one hundred emperors was actually a vow to reside in the minds of honest people and protect them, a vow that still held true even if it seemed the emperors were no longer protected. In a treatise called Kangyō Hachiman-shō (Remonstration with Bodhisattva Hachiman) written shortly after the fire, Nichiren explained his earlier remonstrations against the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman, such as he had delivered on the way to Tatsunokuchi. Towards the end of the treatise he asserted, “Now, the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman’s original substance, Śākyamuni Buddha, expounded the sole, true Lotus Sūtra in India. As he manifested himself in Japan, he summarized the sūtra in two Chinese characters for honesty, and vowed to live in the head of a wise man. If so, even if Hachiman burned his palace and ascended to heaven, whenever he finds a practitioner of the Lotus Sūtra in Japan, he will not fail to come down to reside where his practitioner is and protect him.”

Concluding the treatise, Nichiren exhorted his disciples to not be discouraged by such a seemingly evil omen as the burning of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, but to do what they could to spread the True Dharma of the Lotus Sūtra throughout the world, even back to India, its place of origin. He told them, “India is called the country of the moon, where the Buddha appears shining in the world as brightly as the moon. Japan is called the origin of the sun. How can it be that no sage as bright as the sun appears in Japan? The moon moves from west to east. It is the omen of Buddhism in India spreading to the east. The sun orbits from east to west. This is a fortunate omen of Buddhism in Japan returning to India. Moonlight is not as bright as sunlight, therefore the Buddha preached the Lotus Sūtra for only eight years of his lifetime. Sunlight is brighter than moonlight, an auspicious omen of Japanese Buddhism shining throughout the long darkness of the fifth 500-year period. The Buddha did not save slanderers of the Lotus Sūtra because there existed no slanderers during his lifetime. In the Latter Age of Degeneration, there will be many formidable enemies of the One Vehicle Lotus teaching everywhere. This is the time when we can reap the harvest of Never Despising Bodhisattva’s way of subduing evil by sowing the seed of buddhahood. Each of my disciples should exert himself to spread the teaching of the Buddha even at the cost of his life.”

In addition to drought, famine, disease, and the disastrous fires in Kamakura, the threat of another Mongol invasion still hunger over Japan. The Mongols had sent five envoys in the fifth month of the first year of the Kenji era (1275) to reiterate their demand for tribute. This time the shōgunate responded by bringing the envoys to Kamakura where they were beheaded in the tenth month. Before long, more troops were sent west to defend Kyūshū and a wall was built around Hakata Bay to hamper the landing of an invasion force. By the third month of the second year of the Kōan era (1279), the Great Mongol Empire had defeated the last remnant of the Southern Song dynasty. They were finally ready to turn their full attention back to Japan. In the seventh month they sent five more envoys. Those five were executed in Hakata. In the second month of the third year of the Kōan era (1280) the imperial court ordered all the temples and shrines of Japan to pray for victory over the Mongols who were sure to send another fleet.

Some people thought that Nichiren was looking forward to the impending invasion, for it would be a vindication of his teachings. But this was not how he felt. Several times he wrote to his supporters to clarify his position. In a letter to Nanjō Tokimitsu after the first invasion attempt in the eleventh year of the Bun’ei era (1274) he said, “To begin with, most of my thinking is devoted to saving Japan from the impending national crisis, but all of the people of Japan, both rulers and subjects alike, not only refused to listen to me but also subjected me to frequent persecutions. Though this may be an omen of national destruction, I felt things were beyond my capabilities and decided to retreat into the mountain. Regarding the anticipated invasion of Japan by troops of the Great Mongol Empire, I truly feel remorseful as I believe that a national crisis such as this could have been averted if the people of Japan had heeded my words. I cannot stop tears from rolling down my cheeks when I think of the people in Japan, all captured and murdered just as those on the islands of Iki and Tsushima had been recently.”

A little over a year later he wrote again to Nanjō Tokimitsu to say, “As I have always taught that, according to the Lotus Sūtra, a country in which the True Dharma is slandered will be attacked by foreign troops, some people criticize me saying, ‘Nichiren is happily waiting for the Mongols to invade Japan.’ This is utterly incorrect. Regarding my prediction of foreign invasion, people all blame me as if I were a sworn enemy. I cannot help it, however, because it is clearly stated in the sūtras.”

Nichiren imagined the suffering of the samurai and foot soldiers that had to make the long march to Kyūshū, and the greater sufferings that would fall upon all the people of Japan because of how the shōgunate had treated him, but he also knew that there was hope for those who did put their faith in the Lotus Sūtra.

Though Toki Jōnin was not one of those sent, Nichiren wrote the following to his wife, “Leaving Kamakura, the husbands went away through Yuigahama, Inamura, Koshigoe, Sakawa, and Hakone Pass. As the days passed, they were journeying further away from Kamamkura step by step, beyond the river, over the mountains, and through the clouds. Through all this, only tears and sorrow kept them company. How sad they were! While grieving over their misfortune, when the Mongol troops attack, they will be captured somewhere in the mountains or ocean and suffer misery aboard the enemy ships or in Korea.

“Those in power are solely responsible for this miserable situation in Japan because they abused me, Nichiren, who is the practitioner of the Lotus Sūtra that is the father and mother of all living beings. Without just cause they beat me and paraded me around the streets like a criminal. Their acts of sheer madness were punished by the ten female rākasī, resulting in the current misery facing Japan. Hereafter, there will be sufferings millions and billions of times harder to bear. You may be witnessing such awful scenes before your very eyes.

“However, when we believe in the certainty of attaining buddhahood, is there anything to fear? It is pointless to become royalty and enjoy the pleasures of this life. It is useless to be born in heaven and enjoy its pleasures. Instead, follow the example of the dragon girl, who attained buddhahood in the ‘Devadatta’ chapter of the Lotus Sūtra, and align yourself with Mahāprajāpati. How delightful it will be! How joyful it will be! Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō. Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō.”

The feared attack came in the summer of the fourth year of the Kōan era (1281). This time the invasion force was many times larger. It consisted of a fleet of 900 ships from Korea and 3,500 ships coming up from the China to the south. The total number of sailors and troops was believed to be as many as 140,000. The fleet from Korea arrived in the middle of summer and soon overran Iki and Tsushima. They were successfully held at the wall around Hakata Bay for weeks while they waited for the larger fleet from China. By the time the two fleets had combined their forces the typhoon season had begun. On the first day of the seventh month a typhoon struck the fleet and destroyed more than 4,000 ships before it ended two days later. Naturally, the monks who had led special esoteric prayer services for the repulsion of the Mongols eagerly claimed credit for the kamikaze or “divine winds” that had miraculously saved Japan.

Nichiren was not fooled. The esoteric rites of the mantra teachings had not saved Emperor Antoku or the Retired Emperor Go-Toba. Why should anyone believe that their prayers and rituals were any more effective against the Mongols? In a letter to Toki Jōnin he pointed out, “After the enemy ships were damaged by waves aroused by autumn winds, the Mantra monks must have spread a rumor attributing the capture of the enemy commander to the effects of the esoteric rites of mantric Buddhism. If this were so, you might ask them whether or not the head of the Mongol Emperor had been taken.” The defeat of the Mongols was obviously not the result of the power of esoteric Buddhism, but a result of the Mongols not taking the typhoon season into account. It was as simple as that. Japan was still in danger. The threat of foreign invasion would never go away so long as the rulers and their subjects continued to slander the True Dharma and rely upon false teachings.

Nevertheless, Nichiren and the thirty or more disciples that were studying and practicing with him at Mt. Minobu did not despair of the world. Instead, in spite of rain and later a heavy snowfall, they set to work in the 11th month of the 4th year of the Kōan era (1281) building a temple roughly 60 square feet in size, along with stables and residence halls. The temple was dedicated on the 24th of the month, the day of the annual memorial lecture for the Great Master Tiantai. In celebration they danced the Longevity Dance to their hearts content. In the evening, they all gathered before the altar to copy the Lotus Sūtra, though they did not finish it at that time, as Nichiren felt it would be wiser to complete it when the prayers of their patron, Lord Sanenaga, had been fulfilled. It was a grand achievement. The temple thereafter came to be called Kuonji, the Temple of Eternity. Actually, the Chinese characters ku and on together meant “remote past”, but these were the characters used to refer to the measureless amount of time since Śākyamuni Buddha actually attained buddhahood according to chapter 16 of the Lotus Sūtra, so it was understood to mean “eternity.”

Though the life span of the Eternal Śākyamuni Buddha of the Original Gate of the Lotus Sūtra was without measurable limits, Nichiren felt that he was fast coming to the limit of his own time in the world. Within days after the dedication of Kuonji, he received a horse load of rice, as well as sake and medicinal herbs, from the mother of Nanjō Tokimitsu. In his letter thanking her, he wrote, “Conditions on Mt. Minobu have not changed at all, which I told you about in my previous letter to you. I have not stepped out of this place since the 17th of the 6th month in the 11th year of the Bun’ei era (1274), when I entered this mountain, till today, the 8th of the 12th month of this year (1281). During these past eight years, I have been ill almost every year and my body and mind have become feeble with age. This spring, I have become seriously ill and my condition has taken a turn for the worse through this fall and winter. I have eaten very little in these past ten days. Besides, this winter has been very cold and there has been heavy snow. My body is chilled like a stone and my breast feels like ice. At such a moment, I warm up the sake that you sent me and swallow it with medicinal herbs. They are like kindling ignited in my chilled breast and warm my body like a hot bath. With drops of perspiration I can cleanse my entire body and warm my feet. Wondering how to express my appreciation to you for sending me such articles of great value, I shed tears of gratitude for your kindness.”

Now on his deathbed, Nichiren strained to remember what it was like to feel young and vigorous. How had it been to have warmth and the energy to get out of bed, to be able to hike into the mountains and down into the valleys? How had it been to breath fully and easily? He had long since lost his taste for food, and now could barely even keep down sake, tea, or even water. He now knew well that no breath was guaranteed.

He was surprised that he had not succumbed to his illness sooner. By the fall of the 5th year of Kōan (1282) he was sick enough that he was willing to be taken to the hot springs in Hitachi Province rather than risk another winter at Mt. Minobu. On the 8th day of the 9th month, he set out. Hakii Sanenaga lent Nichiren a horse to ride and provided his sons as an escort. Ten days later, Nichiren arrived at the home of Ikegami Munenaka. He was too ill to go any further. On the 19th he dictated a final letter to Hakii Sanenaga.

“I would like to tell you how things have gone. We have arrived safely at Ikegami in Musashi Province. I am very glad to say that, although it was not easy for me to cross the mountains and rivers, I was able to reach here, kindly guarded by yours sons.

“I hope to return to Minobu by the same road I passed through, but I am not sure whether or not I shall be able to return due to my sickness. Regardless, I am deeply grateful to you for embracing me for as long as nine years when everyone else in Japan did not know what to do with me, Nichiren. That being said, I would like to have my tomb erected in Minobu Valley no matter where I die.

“The chestnut-colored horse you lent me for riding is a very good and beautiful one. I do not wish to part from it. At first, I wished to ride on it up to the hot spring of Hitachi, but thinking that it might be stolen there, I decided to leave it in the care of Lord Mobara in Kazusa Province until I return from Hitachi. I would feel sorry for the horse if it had to change its groom, so I have decided to leave him with the present groom until I come back. I hope you will approve my decision.

“Please forgive me for omitting my formal signature due to my illness.”

It would be several years before the Mongols were able to send another fleet. During that time, Nichiren remained at Mt. Minobu, teaching the community of monks who had come to live with him there. He also wrote many letters during this time, while his six major disciples took care of propagating his teachings throughout the country. Nisshō and his nephew Nichirō led the community back in Kamakura and in Shimōsa Province. Nikō took care of the lay followers in Kazusa Province. Nikkō remained closer to Mt. Minobu, teaching in the provinces of Suruga, Kai, and Izu. Nitchō helped his stepfather Toki Jōnin in Shimōsa. Nichiji worked in Suruga.

In the third month of the first year of the Kenji era (1275), fires spread throughout Kamakura. In response to Shijō Kingo’s report, Nichiren wrote, “A name and its referent correspond to each other, and there is a sage nicknamed Ryōka (Two Fires), who slanders the True Dharma, but is revered by everyone in Kamakura, high and low, as a master.” Here Nichiren was referring to Ryōkan, who he was sure had schemed behind the scenes to have him executed and, when that failed, exiled. Nichiren was certain that Ryōkan and his disciples were continuing to work for the suppression of his teachings and the persecution of his disciples and lay followers. Nichiren went on to say, “The nickname of Two Fires stems from the fire that burnt his own Gokurakuji, transforming it into a temple in hell, and another fire that spread all over Kamakura, destroying the shōgun’s palace. These two fires not only razed the country in this lifetime but also foretells the fate of the corrupt masters and their disciples in future lives, when they will fall together into the Hell of Incessant Suffering and be burned by its raging fires. When an ignorant monk does not listen to a man of wisdom, he invites calamity such as this. It is pitiful.”

Further on in the same letter he wrote, “Watch what happens, hereafter. If those Buddhist monks who speak ill of me pray for the tranquility of Japan, our country will instead collapse further. In the end, the whole of Japan will be tortured and everyone, from the ruler on high down to the masses, will be forced to become slaves of the pigtailed Mongols and have bitter regrets. I have just entreated Brahmā, Indra, the gods of the sun and moon, and the four heavenly kings to punish those who stand against the Lotus Sūtra in this life, not to mention what will happen to them in future lives. Judge for yourself from the results of my prediction whether or not Nichiren is the practitioner of the Lotus Sūtra.”

Shijō Kingo was a zealous disciple and even tried to convert his lord, Ema Mitsutoki, to abandon the nembutsu and take faith in the Lotus Sūtra. Perhaps tired of such exhortations and heeding the advice of Shijō Kingo’s enemies among his retainers, Lord Ema decided to transfer Shijō Kingo from his current fief near Kamakura to one in far off Echigo Province. Angered by the reassignment, Shijō Kingo considered filing a lawsuit with the shōgunate, but Nichiren counseled patience.

In a letter written sometime in the third year of the Kenji era (1277), Nichiren wrote to Shijō Kingo, “You need to consider the matter carefully and be cautious. Your lord is someone from whom you, your father, as well as all your relatives have received favors. Moreover, when I was punished by the shōgunate a few years ago and despised by everyone in Japan, my disciples were deprived of their fiefs while many of my lay followers were banished by their lords or deprived of their fiefs. You, however, were not ill-treated at all by your lord. This was an especially great favor. As such, you should never hold a grudge against him even if you do not receive any more favors from him. Nevertheless, you are unwilling to accept a new fief assignment. Isn’t this the case of you not fully understanding the circumstances?

“It is said that a sage is not affected by the eight winds of gain and loss, fame and infamy, praise and blame, and pleasure and pain. This means that a sage neither takes delight in his crowning hour nor grieves during the depths of despair. Those who are unaffected by the eight winds are protected by the heavenly deities without fail, but not so for those who carry an irrational grudge against their lord, no matter how hard they pray.”

On the ninth day of the sixth month of that same year, Shijō Kingo aroused the wrath of his lord by allegedly behaving disruptively during a lecture given by a Tendai monk named Ryūzo. Ryūzo, as far as Nichiren knew, was a disreputable monk who had supposedly been expelled from Mt. Hiei for cannibalism, and had come to Kamakura where he had become a disciple of Ryōkan. Lord Ema, as it happened, revered Ryōkan and his disciple Ryūzo. Therefore, Lord Ema was very displeased when Shijō Kingo’s enemies reported that NIchiren’s disciple Sammi-bō had interrupted a lecture being given by Ryūzo to initiate a debate and that Shijō Kingo and other armed samurai had been there as well, acting in a provocative manner. Lord Ema immediately demanded that Shijō Kingo submit a written pledge to the effect that he would abandon his faith in the Lotus Sūtra. Of course this was unthinkable.

Upon receiving a letter from Shijō Kingo relating his determination never to abandon the Lotus Sūtra even though he might lose his lands, Nichiren wrote back, “I felt as if I had seen an uumbara flower, which is said to bloom only once in 3,000 years.” He further wrote, “I myself may be able to endure attacks with sticks and pieces of wood, withstand rubble and debris thrown at me, vilification, and persecution by the ruler of the country, but how can lay believers who have a wife and children and no knowledge of Buddhism bear these difficulties? Wouldn’t it have been better instead for such people if they had not believed in the Lotus Sūtra? I had been feeling sorry for you thinking that if you couldn’t carry through with your faith, holding it only for temporary comfort, you would be mocked and ridiculed. However, it was wonderful that you showed the steadfastness of your faith throughout my numerous persecutions, including two banishments. Though threatened by your lord, you wrote this written pledge swearing to carry through your faith in the Lotus Sūtra even at the cost of two fiefs in two places. Words cannot describe your commendable aspiration.”

Lord Ema followed through on his threats and Shijō Kingo’s fiefs were confiscated. However, epidemics had begun to spread throughout the land once again. By the ninth month, Lord Ema himself was bedridden and had to call upon Shijō Kingo’s skills as a physician. Despite the murderous jealousy of the other retainers, it seemed as though Shijō Kingo might once again be find himself in his lord’s good graces, if he didn’t die of fever.

Nichiren worried. There were so many things that could go wrong. Lord Ema could die. Or Shijō Kingo’s many enemies might ambush him and strike him down at night or in a careless moment alone. Shijō Kingo’s own angry outbursts could easily lead to his downfall. Nichiren cautioned him to remain humble and calm and to stay on good terms with his younger brothers.

Still, despite Shijō Kingo’s flaws, he was a warm-hearted and loyal follower. Nichiren would never forget how Shijō Kingo had accompanied him to the beach at Tatsunokuchi when he was certain he was about to be executed. No matter what, Nichiren would never abandon Shijō Kingo either. He wrote to him, “If by chance you should fall into hell, I will refuse the invitation of Śākyamuni Buddha to become a buddha. Instead, I will go to hell with you. If we both were to hell, how could it be possible that we would not find Śākyamuni Buddha and the Lotus Sūtra there?”

He also told Shijō Kingo to have courage and not despair of the world. “Do not complain to other people about hardship in life. If you abandon everything to become a lay monk because life is too much to bear, you renounce the way of sages…It is not easy to be born as a human being in this world. The chance of this happening, as stated in the Nirvāa Sūtra, is as small as the amount of dirt on a fingernail compared to the immeasurable amount of soil on earth. Life as a human being is as fragile as a drop of dew on the grass. It is important, however, to live to earn honor even for a day rather than to live in disgrace for 120 years. Please endeavor so that the people of Kamakura will praise you saying, ‘Shijō Kingo was a good man who served not only his lord and Buddhism, but also ordinary people.’”

Nichiren further cautioned him, “It is useless to stack up a pile of treasure in your storehouse if you are in poor health. Therefore, the value of a healthy body is more precious than treasures in the storehouse. At the same time, however, a healthy body means nothing if your mind is not pure. This is why we can say that our most precious treasure is our mind itself. Upon reading this letter, please try to accumulate the treasure of your mind.”

He ended the letter with the following exhortation, “A wise man named Confucius of China is said to have thought over what he intended to say nine times before he uttered a word. It is also said that Dan, the Duke of Zhou, would interrupt washing his hair, or having a meal, as many as three times in order to see visitors without keeping them waiting. How much more you who have faith in Buddhism should take these examples to heart! Otherwise, you will regret it later. Please do not resent this advice I am giving you. This is the teaching of the Buddha. The essence of Buddhism is the Lotus Sūtra, and the essence of practicing the Lotus Sūtra is shown in the ‘Never Despising Bodhisattva’ chapter. Contemplate why Never Despising Bodhisattva stood on the street to bow to passersby. The true purpose of Śākyamuni Buddha appearing in this world was to teach us how to behave ourselves on a daily basis. Consider this well. The wise are called human beings while the foolish are beasts.”

In the end, Lord Ema recovered and Shijō Kingo fortunes were restored, as his fiefs were returned and enlarged.

The Ikegami brothers, the elder Munenaka and the younger Munenaga, also persevered in their faith. In the spring of the 12th year of the Bun’ei era (1275), their father, Ikegami Yasumitsu, a follower of Ryōkan, demanded that the two brothers abandon their faith in the Lotus Sūtra. When they did not, he disowned the elder, Munenaka, in hopes that the younger, Munenaga, would abandon the Lotus Sūtra in order to become the new heir. Both brothers, however, remained steadfast and supported one another. Nichiren wrote to them, “This is an opportunity for you to endure persecution to see for yourselves the blessings of the Lotus Sūtra.” He also wrote, “Without the efforts of the both of you, you will never be able to attain buddhahood. You two are like the two wings of a bird or the two eyes of a person.”

Concerned that the wives of the brothers might put pressure on them to give in, he wrote, “What is more, your wives are your supporters. Generally speaking, the woman comforts her partner while receiving his support. When a husband enjoys life, his wife also prospers; when a husband is a thief, his wife also becomes a thief. The marital relationship is not limited to this present life but continues to exist forever, life after life, like the body and its shadow, flowers and fruits, or roots and leaves. Insects eat the wood of the trees they live in, and fish drink the water they live in. It is said that orchids sigh when a field dies, and that an oak is pleased when a pine tree prospers. Even plants are like this. It is said there is a bird called hiyoku that has two heads in one body with two mouths feeding the one body. It is also said there is a fish called himoku that only have one eye each so that the male and female stay together without separation throughout life so they can help each other see all around. Thus should be the relationship between a husband and wife. In order to accomplish faith in the Lotus Sūtra, the wife should not regret being with her husband, even if the result is death. If the wife is of one mind with her husband and struggles with him, she will succeed the dragon girl who attained buddhahood in the ‘Devadatta’ chapter of the Lotus Sūtra and become an example of a woman attaining buddhahood in the Latter Age of Degeneration.”

On that occasion the elder brother was restored as heir before long, but was again disinherited by his father in the third year of the Kenji era (1277). By the fall of the following year, however, he was again restored and in addition their father decided to take faith in the Lotus Sūtra as well.

In considering all that had happened, upon hearing of the death of their father the following year, Nichiren wrote to Munenaga, “As you and your elder brother were born in the Latter Age of Degeneration in an outlying country and have faith in the Lotus Sūtra, I was sure that demons would possess the nation’s ruler or your parents and persecute you. But as I expected, despite your father disowning you repeatedly, you two brothers held onto your faith. Are you the reincarnation of the princes Pure Store and Pure Eyes, who led their father King Wonderful Adornment to the Buddha Dharma? Or did this happen through the workings of Medicine King Bodhisattva and Superior Practice Bodhisattva? Your father’s disinheritance was revoked in the end and you were able to carry through with filial piety as before. Are you not filial sons in the truest sense of the word? I am sure the various heavenly beings will give you joy, and the ten female rākasī, protectors of the Lotus Sūtra, will accept your prayers. Moreover, there is something heartfelt about you. When my doctrine spreads as widely as predicted in the Lotus Sūtra, I hope to share the joy with you.”

Not all the incidents involving his disciples and lay followers worked out so happily, at least in worldly terms. One of the worst persecutions to befall his followers occurred in the village of Atsuhara in the Fuji District of Suruga Province. Nikkō had originally come from Suruga Province and had great success in converting many monks and farmers there, especially with the help of Nanjō Tokimitsu, the steward of Ueno village. Conflict between those who had become disciples of Nichiren through Nikkō’s efforts and those who continued to cherish the Pure Land teachings came to a head in the ninth month of the second year of Kōan (1279), when Gyōchi, the deputy administrator of Ryūsenji temple, accused Nichiren’s disciples of forcibly invading the abbot’s quarters at Ryūsenji on the 21st and of harvesting rice from fields belonging to the temple. Twenty farmers were arrested and sent to Kamakura. Nichiren’s disciples filed a counter petition denying the charges brought against them and in turn accusing Gyōchi of all manner of wrongdoing such as inciting violence, taking bribes, misappropriating roof tiles, allowing farmers to hunt on temple grounds, and even of poisoning the temple’s pond in order to catch fish to sell in the villages.

In light of the arrest of the farmers, Nichiren wrote a letter to his disciples and followers on the first day of the tenth month and sent it to Shijō Kingo in Kamakura. In it he wrote, “The Buddha revealed his true intent in the Lotus Sūtra after teaching expedients for forty years or so, while the great masters Tiantai and Dengyō took more than thirty and twenty years or so respectively to accomplish their purposes. As I have told you, the difficulties they encountered during those years were indescribable. In my case, it took twenty-seven years, and you all know about the great persecutions I encountered during this period.

“As the practitioners of the True Dharma, you will inevitably be protected by various deities. My disciples and lay followers, therefore, should have the mind of a lion king and should not be afraid of any threat. As the lion king is not afraid of any animal, its offspring are the same. Those who abuse Nichiren are like foxes howling at a lion, while Nichiren’s followers are like roaring lions…Day by day, month by month, strengthen your faith. If you slacken even in the slightest bit, devils will take advantage.

“Now regarding the followers in Atsuhara who are farmers, it is important to encourage them without frightening them. Encourage them to strengthen their determination. Tell them that it would be a miracle to be pardoned as suffering is to be expected. If they complain about hunger, tell them about the worse sufferings in the realm of hungry ghosts. If they grumble that they are cold, tell them about the worse sufferings in the eight cold hells. If they say they are scared, tell them to think about how much worse a pheasant feels upon encountering a hawk or how a mouse feels upon coming across a cat.”

At the end of the letter, he cautioned his followers not to respond to violence with violence. “Even if they cause a commotion by taking up arms against my followers, we should not act likewise. If any follower of mine tries to take up arms, please send me his name at once.”

What was his wish that had been fulfilled after twenty-seven years? What had happened was that ordinary people were at last becoming practitioners of the Lotus Sūtra. On the 15th of the tenth month, Hei no Saemon interrogated the farmers. According to Nikkō, Hei no Saemon even had his thirteen year old son, Iinuma Hangan, shoot the bound farmers with blunt arrows until they chanted nembutsu, but they would not yield and only chanted the daimoku. Exasperated, Hei no Saemon finally beheaded three brothers from among them: Jinshirō, Yagorō, and Yajirō. The surviving farmers still refused to give up their faith. Some time later, they were released.

Upon hearing what had happened, Nichiren wrote to Nikkō, “When JInshirō and other farmers living at Atsuhara who believed in the Lotus Sūtra were unreasonably imprisoned, I heard that they single-mindedly chanted Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō without any concern for their own lives. Indeed, this is not a trivial matter. I wonder if the ten female rākasī possessed Hei no Saemon, who interrogated the farmers, and tested them to see if they were true practitioners of the Lotus Sūtra.”

In the same letter he also wrote, “Nāgārjuna and Great Master Tiantai understood the character myō to mean changing poison into medicine. If this interpretation is true, justice will soon prevail and this misfortune will become the starting point for spreading the Lotus Sūtra.”