Daishonin’s Eternal Life
local temples this ceremony is called the Oeshiki Ceremony. At the Head temple
it is called Gotaie.
Nichiren Daishonin passed away serenely at
the Ikegami Munenaka residence in Ikegami (present-day Tokyo) on October 13,
1282, while many of his close disciples and believers chanted
Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. According to the “Document of Nichiren Daishonin’s
Passing,” written by Nikko Shonin, the Daishonin passed away at about eight
o’clock in the morning. At the same time, there was an earthquake and the
cherry trees in the garden bloomed out of season. This account of the
earthquake awakens us to the realization that the physical passing of the True
Buddha, whose life is the life of the universe itself, is to be mourned. The
blooming cherry trees remind us that it is to be celebrated because the life of
the Daishonin remains the same—immortal and always present.
The Oeshiki Ceremony—also called Otai’e—is
the celebration of the eternal life of Nichiren Daishonin. The Head Temple
Taisekiji as well as local temples of Nichiren Shoshu decorate the altar with
colorful paper cherry blossoms. Traditionally the Rissho ankoku-ronis
read, which is a symbolic reaffirmation of the determination to undergo all
hardships in order to achieve the absolute will of the Daishonin—kosen-rufu.
There are three important points to keep in mind about the Oeshiki
Ceremony. The first is that the wondrous life of Nichiren Daishonin has existed
eternally and will continue to exist through the perfect transmission of the
Three Great Secret Laws. The second point is the concept of oneness, which is
an essential concept in Buddhism. The third point to remember is that the will
of the Buddha is kosen-rufu.
The very life of the Daishonin is
Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, embodied in the Dai-Gohonzon. The person and the Law were
embodied in human form, but the body matured, aged and passed away leaving
behind the Dai-Gohonzon for humankind.
The Daishonin states in his “Record of Orally
Transmitted Teachings” (“Ongi kuden”), “There is nothing that exists on this earth
eternally; whether something exists or not solely depends on time.” (Gosho,
Although his body definitely passed away,
Nichiren Daishonin’sessential life
remained one with the universe, retaining the power to influence the world. The
Jigage portion of the Juryo chapter reads: “I let people witness
my nirvana as a means to save them. But in truth, I do not die. I am here always,
teaching the Law.”
The True Buddha exists eternally, but because
of human nature, when the Buddha is incarnate right here in our midst, we
forget everything else and spend all our time thinking of him. Therefore, he
must teach us and then leave, or we would be forever distracted from the task
of achieving our own enlightenment.
The following passage from the Gosho makes
the point clearthat the life of the
True Buddha lives in the Gohonzon, “I Nichiren, with sumi, have infused
my life into the Gohonzon.” (Gosho, p. 685)
The essence of the Gohonzon has been handed
down to us in tangible form by each successive High Priest from Nichiren
Daishonin to Nikko Shonin, to Nichimoku Shonin and each one thereafter to the
present High Priest.
The second important point to remember is
that at the core of Buddhist doctrine is the revelation of the concept of
oneness. The fact that at the time of the Daishonin’s death there was an
earthquake and the cherry trees bloomed out of season teaches us the Buddhist
concept of oneness. The oneness of the common mortal and Buddha, the oneness of
life and its environment, the oneness of body and mind, and the oneness of
death and birth cannot be separated from each other. Therefore, at the moment
of the True Buddha’s physical death, the earth shook in farewell, but the
cherry trees bloomed out of season in welcome. Thus, the Daishonin’s passing
reveals the principle of oneness.
The “Record of Orally Transmitted Teachings” (“Ongi kuden”) states,
“When we chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, our ignorance changes to revelation because
of the mystic Law.” (Gosho, p. 1746)
After his passing, the Buddha’s life is
manifested in the mandala that simultaneously contains the ten life-conditions.
In other words, the Buddha’s life is none other than the Gohonzon, the purpose
of the Daishonin’s advent into this world.
The third point involves the absolute
necessity of the disciples to carry on the pure heritage after the Daishonin’s
passing by maintaining a pure practice. Of the Daishonin’s six senior
disciples, Nikko Shonin was the only one who understood the deep meaning of the
Daishonin’s life and teaching. Only he kept the vow to protect and propagate
the true teaching as it was taught.
Consequently, today, only Nichiren Shoshu
carries out the true meaning of the Oeshiki Ceremony and has held it
according to the doctrine and correct faith for more than 700 years.
The reason for the Daishonin’s advent was
presaged by his desire to secure peace through the propagation of the true Law.
This underlying principle is manifested in his Gosho, On Securing the Peace of
the Land Through the Propagation of true Buddhism (Rissho ankoku-ron).
Nichiren Daishonin’s will was inherited by
Nikko Shonin, Nichimoku Shonin, and each of the successive High Priests who,
themselves, remonstrated with the government. Thus the tradition was
established in Nichiren Shoshu to read the Rissho ankoku-ron and other
letters and treatises of remonstration called moshi-jo during the Oeshiki
Ceremony to remind us of our tradition and pledge to accomplish kosen-rufu.
This ceremony is celebrated by local temples
at a different time than at Taisekiji. The ceremony is performed in the U.S.
and Japan’s local temples in October, while Taisekiji celebrates in November.
This is because October 13, 1282, on the lunar calendar corresponds to November
21 of the same year on the western calendar. Therefore, Taisekiji celebrates
the Oeshiki Ceremony according to the date on the western calendar.
The Oeshiki Ceremony at the Head
Temple is performed over two days. The first day, November 20, is called Otaiya;
the following day is Goshoto.
The afternoon of the 20th, the ceremony
begins as prayers are offered to the Dai-Gohonzon in the Hoando. In the
evening, the Oneririte is performed. The High Priest, representing the
Daishonin, slowly leads a procession of priests up the main pathway of the
temple grounds, halting when he arrives in front of the Mieido Temple. A bell
is struck seven, five, and then three times, as six priests run out to greet
the High Priest, bowing reverently. This performance symbolizes the disciples
asking the True Buddha to enter the temple to expound the Law.
The procession then moves west around the
Mieido and enters from the rear. This is done because Nichiren Daishonin is
assumed, in this ceremony, to dwell eternally at the Mieido to elucidate true
Buddhism. The lay members enter as guests at the front entrance.
After entering the hall, the High Priest
takes a seat facing north on an elevated pulpit, the jogyo-za
(Bodhisattva Jogyo’s seat). At this time, he represents Bodhisattva Jogyo,
whose emergence from the earth is described in the Emerging from the Earth (Yujutsu;
fifteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
A priest then asks the High Priest to take
the seat of the Buddha. After the High Priest takes his new seat in front of
the altar, he burns ceremonial incense and begins his sermon on the Juryo
chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The High Priest’s performance in this ritual
teaches the identity of the Daishonin as the True Buddha of kuon ganjo,
who reveled Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo contained in the depths of the Juryo
Shortly after the sermon, the san san kudo
ceremony is performed for the High Priest and six senior priests by six
attending priests. (Literally, san san kudo means three times three
equals nine.) This is an ancient ceremony in Japanese tradition performed to
celebrate a happy event. In this ceremony, the san san kudo serves as a
gesture to congratulate the Daishonin and his six main disciples, securing the
bond between master and disciples. This ritual concludes the first day.
The second day begins with an early morning
Gongyo. At eight in the morning, the priests assemble at the Mieido Temple for
a Gosho Oko Ceremony. The High Priest gives a reading of
the Gosho Rissho ankoku-ron. The six other priests read the public
remonstrations (moshijo) written by the successive High Priests.
This ritual indicates that the essence of the
Daishonin’s Buddhism is the propagation of the Law. This is a symbolic
reaffirmation of the determination to undergo any hardship in order to achieve
the kosen-rufu of substantiation. It means that the enlightenment of all
humankind is only possible through the propagation of the true Buddhism of the
Three Great Secret Laws. The OeshikiCeremony ends with the final ritual
of taking the paper cherry blossoms down from the altar.