The Origin and History of the High Sanctuary
Japanese Buddhist term kaidan
literally means “precept platform,” but is usually is translated
as “ordination platform,” and refers to the place where the ritual of receiving
Buddhist precepts (Gojukai) is performed. In Nichiren Shoshu, the preferred
English translation of the word kaidan
is “high sanctuary.”
tradition of the kaidan began during
Shakyamuni’s lifetime, when earth was heaped up into a high mound, upon which a
dais was erected. It was from atop this platform that the
formal receiving of precepts took place. During the Sung Dynasty in China, an
Indian Buddhist translator named Gunabhadra constructed a precept platform in a
bamboo grove at Nanlin Temple (Ch., Nanlinssu).
The first ordination platform in Japan was built during the Nara Period, when a
Chinese priest named Ganjin (Ch., Chin Chien-chen) built a precept platform at
Todaiji Temple in Nara and converted Emperor Shomu and a number of Japanese
nobles to Hinayana Buddhism. Other Hinayana ordination platforms were later
erected at Yakushiji in Shimousa and at Kanzeonji in Tsukushi. During the Heian
Period, the Great Teacher Dengyo Saicho erected the first Mahayana ordination
platform on Mt. Hiei. Mahayana ordination platforms had not been constructed in
either India or China.
any event, these platforms were erected to serve Shakyamuni’s Buddhism of
Maturing and Harvest. The ordination platform, or, in this case, the High
Sanctuary, for the Latter Day of the Law is the place where Nichiren
Daishonin’s Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching (honmon no honzon) is enshrined. This High Sanctuary is referred to
as the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching (honmon no kaidan).
used in the word kaidan, the Chinese
character for kai indicates precepts,
which are one of the three pillars of Buddhist training, the other two being
meditation and wisdom. These three disciplines are designed to curb negativity
and harmful behavior as a way of helping Buddhists practice the Buddha Path
correctly. In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha admonishes his disciples to discard
all of his pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, and encourages them to embrace the Lotus
passage from the Expedient Means (Hoben;
second) chapter of the Lotus Sutra reads:
I, joyful and fearless, in the midst of the bodhisattvas, honestly discarding
expedient means, will preach only the unsurpassed way.
p. 124; The Lotus Sutra, Watson, pp.
also states the following in the Parable (Hiyu;
there are monks who…seek the Law in every direction…not accepting a single
verse of the other sutras, to persons such as this it is permissible to preach
p. 183; The Lotus Sutra, Watson, p.
above passages warn us not to believe in or practice any of the doctrines that
the Buddha expounded prior to the Lotus Sutra. At the end of the Treasure Tower
(Hoto; eleventh) chapter, Shakyamuni
makes the following assurance:
sutra is hard to uphold; if one can uphold it even for a short while I will
surely rejoice and so will the other Buddhas. A person who can do this wins the
admiration of the Buddhas. This is what is meant by valor, this is what is
meant by diligence.
p. 354; The Lotus Sutra, Watson,
Here, Shakyamuni establishes the sole precept of
embracing the Lotus Sutra, whose practice innately purifies our senses and
assists our elimination of harmful earthly desires. The pure practice of
embracing the Lotus Sutra encompasses the three disciplines of precepts,
meditation, and wisdom, and is the source for all of the other precepts that
Shakyamuni expounded in his pre-Lotus Sutra teachings.
Shakyamuni’s Lotus Sutra only establishes the theory of the mystic Law of ichinen sanzen that underpins the true
entity of all life. The sole precept of embracing Shakyamuni’s Lotus Sutra is
likewise a theoretical precept for people whose capacities are adapted to his
Buddhism of Maturing and the Harvest.
Daishonin established the actual precept for the Latter Day of the Law—to
embrace and practice the mystic Law of actual ichinen sanzen from kuon
ganjo that he himself revealed. In short, the Daishonin explains that we
should discard all pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, together with the theoretical
teaching of the Lotus Sutra, and simply accept, uphold, believe in and practice
to the Dai-Gohonzon of the Essential Teaching.
practice of accepting and upholding the Gohonzon is conducted in the place
where the Gohonzon is enshrined, which is referred to as the High Sanctuary (kaidan). The High Sanctuary of the
Essential Teaching is the training center where the Object of Worship of the
Essential Teaching is enshrined and the place where we exert ourselves in faith
The Actual High Sanctuary
In contrast with theoretical precept platforms
established on the basis of the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra, the
place where the Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching resides is referred
to as the actual High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching. The Dai-Gohonzon of
the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching is the fundamental entity of the
Law that encompasses the Three Great Secret Laws. There is, on the one hand, the
High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching in fact, and, on the other, the High
Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching in principle.
The Daishonin defines the
actual High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching in “On the Three Great Secret
Laws” (“Sandai hiho bonjoji”). He
When the principles of government come to accord with
Buddhism and the spirit of Buddhism pervades secular affairs, when both the
ruler and the governed alike embrace the Three Secret Laws of True Buddhism and
the bond of old between King Utoku and the monk Kakutoku shall become evident
at some future time in the defiled Latter Day of the Law; then, when an
imperial decree is delivered and handed down, seek out a place of the finest
scenery comparable to the pure land of Eagle Peak and there erect the High
The actual High
Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching is defined here as the High Sanctuary that is
to be established at the dawn of kosen-rufu, when the mystic Law has spread and
is practiced throughout the world.
before kosen-rufu is realized, however, the place where the
Dai-Gohonzon of the Essential Teaching is enshrined is referred to as the
actual High Sanctuary. As the physical manifestation of Nichiren Daishonin’s
doctrine of actual ichinen sanzen,
the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary is the fundamental entity of the Law to
be spread worldwide. So even now, when kosen-rufu has not yet been
accomplished, the place where the Dai-Gohonzon resides is referred to as the
actual High Sanctuary.
Dependent High Sanctuaries
Shonin explains dependent High Sanctuaries in Exegesis on “Repaying Debts of Gratitude.”
are two categories of High Sanctuary, actual and theoretical. By theoretical,
we mean that which accords with a principle. Theoretical High Sanctuaries are
also referred to as dependent High Sanctuaries. Branch temples and homes where
transcriptions of the Object of Worship are enshrined are all dependent High
even if a given place houses a Gohonzon inscribed by the Daishonin or
transcribed by one of the successive High Priests, if that place is divorced
from Nichiren Shoshu’s transmission of the Lifeblood Heritage of the Law to a
single person, upon which the actual High Sanctuary is based, then that place
cannot be called a dependent High Sanctuary. Nor can practice to such a
Gohonzon help one attain Buddhahood within a single lifetime.
Looking forward to the Establishment of the Actual High
passage from “On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings” (“Nyosetsu shugyo-sho”) describes what actual conditions on the
planet will be like when the mystic Law spreads worldwide:
that time because all people chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo together, the wind will
not beleaguer the branches or boughs, nor will the rain fall hard enough to
break a clod. The world will become as it was in the ages of Fu Hsi and Shen
Nung in ancient China. Disasters will be driven from the land, and the people
will be rid of misfortune. They will also learn the art of living long,
fulfilling lives. Realize that the time will come when the truth will be
revealed that both the person and the Law are unaging and eternal. There cannot
be the slightest doubt about the sutra’s solemn promise of a peaceful life in
p. 671; MW-1, pp. 101-102)
are two reasons for establishing the actual High Sanctuary. The first is to
bring to fruition the True Buddha’s supreme vow to relieve the sufferings of
all people. The other is that by persevering in the practice of our faith as we
work to accomplish kosen-rufu, we priests and lay members of Nichiren Shoshu
can attain the ultimate reward of Buddhahood within a single lifetime.
the “Document for Entrusting the Law that Nichiren Propagated throughout his
Life” (“Nichiren ichigo guho fuzoku-sho”)
Nichiren Daishonin specifies the place where the actual High Sanctuary is to be
the sovereign embraces this Law, you must establish the High Sanctuary of
Honmonji at Mt. Fuji.
Daishonin leaves us his final wish in this passage, which is that we establish
the High Sanctuary of Honmonji Temple at the foot of Mt. Fuji.
realize that goal as quickly as possible, let us first accomplish High Priest
Nichinyo Shonin’s directive to double the Hokkeko membership through rigorous
shakubuku in preparation for the 750th anniversary of Nichiren Daishonin’s
submission of the Rissho ankoku-ron
in praise of the true doctrine.