History of Nichiren Buddhism

The Mission to Kyoto
by Ryuei Michael McCormick

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Nichizo (1269-1342) was the half-brother of Nichiro, and he became Nichiro's disciple in 1275. On his deathbed, Nichiren Shonin commissioned Nichizo with the task of converting the emperor in Kyoto to the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Flower Teaching. From November 1, 1293 until February 10, 1294 he chanted the Jigage 100 times every night at Yuigahama Beach. This was the inspiration for the practice of Aragyo which occurs annually at Nakayama Hokekyoji. After completing these prayers and a pilgrimage to the important places in Nichiren's life, Nichizo finally arrived in Kyoto on April 1, 1294. Due to pressure from the Tendai sect, Nichizo was exiled in 1307, 1310, and in 1321. None of these exiles were very severe. The first exile lasted two years, but Nichizo spent them in the suburbs of Kyoto. Nichizo was quickly pardoned from the other two exiles. After the third exile, the Emperor Godaigo permitted the propagation of Odaimoku and Nichizo was allowed to found the Myokenji Temple. In the following years, the Emperor Godaigo and his son Prince Morinaga intrigued to overthrow the shogunate and restore the imperial family to power. In 1333, Myokenji Temple joined in the pray for Emperor Godaigo's success. Fortunately for Nichizo, the emperor was successful and the Kamakuran Shogunate fell in 1333. In 1334, the emperor recognized Myokenji Temple as an Imperial Prayer Temple. In this way, Nichiren Buddhism was finally given official recognition. Nichizo's lineage would later be known as the Shijo Lineage due to the location of Myokenji Temple in Kyoto. The Myokenji Temple was burned down by Tendai sohei (soldier-monks) from Mt. Hiei in 1387. It was rebuilt in 1398 and renamed Myohonji. It took the name Myokenji again in 1519.

Daigaku Myojitsu (1297-1364) carried on Nichizo's work. In fact, Daigaku may have been instrumental in winning the favor of the Imperial Court since he was a member of the Konoye family which was a noble family with close connections to the court. In 1358, Daigaku was asked to pray for rain during a drought. His prayers were so successful that he was given the title Chief Abbot (Daisojo) of the Nichiren Sect by the emperor. In addition, the emperor officially recognized Nichiren Shonin as a great bodhisattva, and Nichiro and Nichizo as bodhisattvas. In addition, Daigaku began missionary work in Osaka, Okayama.

Nichizon (1265-1345) was a disciple of Nikko, who travelled to Kyoto with Nichimoku and Nichigo who were also Nikko's disciples. Unfortunately, Nichimoku died on the way and Nichigo returned to Fuji with his ashes. Nichizon alone went on to Kyoto. In 1339, he established the Jogyo-in Temple. The Jogyo-in was later renamed Yoboji Temple.

Nichijo (1298-1369) was a disciple of Nichiin, one of the Nine Senior Disciples of Nichiro. Both Nichiin (1264-1328) and Nichijo were known for teaching that the essential section of the Lotus Sutra is superior to the theoretical sections, a doctrine known as shoretsu. He was also the uncle of Ashikaga Takauji, the first Ashikaga shogun. Ashikaga Takauji became the shogun in 1336 when he chased Emperor Godaigo out of Kyoto and enthroned Emperor Komyo instead. Nichijo came to Kyoto in 1341 and founded the Honkokuji Temple there in 1345 under the patronage of his nephew, the new shogun Ashikaga Takauji. Nichijo's lineage is known as the Rokujo Lineage because that is the name of the location of Honkokuji Temple in Kyoto.

Copyright by Ryuei Michael McCormick. 2000.

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