Memorial for Nikko Shonin
Koshi-e Ceremony is conducted at the Head Temple Taisekiji on February
7, the memorial date of Nikko Shonin's death. Local Nichiren Shoshu Temples
also honor this ceremony, but usually at a convient date nearest to the 7th.
Shonin was the only one among Nichiren Daishonin's senior disciples who was
capable of directly receiving the Lifeblood Heritage of the Law as the Second
High Priest. His total dedication to the Daishonin and spirit to preserve his
true teachings for future generations have become the eternal foundation of
the three treasures, we respect Nikko Shonin as the first among the Treasure of
the priest because his efforts made it possible for us to encounter the true
Law in this present age. Participation in this ceremony shows our appreciation
to Nikko Shonin and our determination to follow his spirit in accurately
preserving the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin for posterity.
year, priests of the Head Temple go to the Shojin River to gather dropworts, a
fern-like plant, which, together with the memorial tablet, they offer to the
Gohonzon. Nikko Shonin led a truly austere lifestyle and enjoyed eating
dropworts, so this offering is reminiscent of his life. This Nichiren Shoshu
tradition has been followed for more than 600 years.
Shonin was born on March 8, 1246, at Kajikazawa in Koma District of Kai
Province, the present Yamanashi Prefecture in Japan. Because his father died
when he was a child and his mother remarried into another family, he was raised
by his maternal grandfather. At the age of seven, he entered Shijuku-in, a
Tendai Temple in Suruga Province, to receive his education. In addition to the
Tendai doctrine, he studied many subjects demonstrating a unique aptitude for
Japanese and Chinese literature, poetry and calligraphy.
1258, Nichiren Daishonin visited Jissoji Temple which was closely affiliated
with Shijuku-in, to do research in its sutra repository. Nikko Shonin, who was
then 13 years old, had an opportunity to serve the Daishonin. Nikko Shonin was
deeply moved by the Daishonin's noble character and, in response to their
karmic relationship from the past, became the Daishonin's disciple receiving
the name Hoki-bo Nikko.
than three years later, Nichiren Daishonin remonstrated with the Kamakura
government through his treatise "On Securing the Peace of the Land Through the
Propagation of true Buddhism" (Rissho ankoku-ron). The government and
other Buddhist priests were so angered that they banished the Daishonin to
exile on the Izu Peninsula. When Nikko Shonin learned of the exile, he set out
for Izu on foot in order to join his master.
From that time on, he was Nichiren Dai-shonin's close
disciple. He was responsible for converting many priests and lay people from
other Buddhist schools. Later,he once
again followed the Daishonin
into exile, this time to Sado Island where he endured numerous hardships with
him. Through his devoted service, sparing no pain in his efforts to support the
Daishonin and the struggle for propagation, Nikko Shonin developed an
incomparable understanding of the depth and truth of Nichiren Daishonin's
His vigorous propagation efforts centered in the Kai,
Suruga, Izu, and Totomi areas, where he developed countless strong believers.
As the number of converts increased, so did the pressure on the Daishonin's
followers culminating in the most tragic incident of martyrdom in Nichiren
Shoshu history, the Atsuhara Persecution. But due to Nikko Shonin's leadership
for kosen-rufu, the Atsuhara believers had developed the unshakable faith to
chant Daimoku despite the threat of death.
Daishonin recognized Nikko Shonin's accomplishments and his profound
understanding of true Buddhism. Seeing that his own death was approaching, the
Daishonin designated Nikko Shonin as his successor in two different transfer
documents. One was written at Mount Minobu in September 1282, transmitting the
Lifeblood Heritage of the Law to Nikko, and the other, in which he entrusted
Kuonji Temple at Minobu to Nikko Shonin's leadership, was written at the
Ikegami residence on the day of his death, October 13, 1282.
the Daishonin's death, the other five senior priests failed to support Nikko
Shonin as the legitimate successor to his teachings. They all left Minobu to
return to their respective areas. As none of the five priests shared Nikko
Shonin's depth of understanding of the true teaching, it was only a matter of
time before they compromised the Daishonin's Buddhism by mixing it with
elements of other popular teachings. This made it easier for them to survive in
a time when provisional and incorrect forms of Buddhism prevailed. They did not
understand that their inability to remain true to their master's teaching was
an act of slander against the Daishonin himself. They eventually lost sight of
the prime point of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism and declared themselves to be
priests of the Tendai sect. During this period, Nikko Shonin stayed at Kuonji
Temple in Minobu and upheld the orthodoxy of the Daishonin's teaching.
one of the five senior priests, returned to Minobu around 1285, and Nikko Shonin
appointed him chief instructor of priests. But in time, Niko allowed Hagiri
Sanenaga, the lord of the Minobu area, to commit many acts flagrantly
contradictory to the Daishonin's teachings. Nikko Shonin repeatedly warned Niko
and Sanenaga about their slanderous behavior, but to no avail.
1289, feeling that he could no longer protect the Daishonin's teachings at
Minobu, Nikko Shonin sorrowfully decided to leave Minobu taking the
Dai-Gohonzon, the Daishonin's ashes and other treasures with him. This was an
expression of his conviction as the one person who could protect and realize
the purpose of true Buddhism.
the following year, in response to the sincere urging of a devout lay believer,
Nanjo Tokimitsu, Nikko Shonin moved to the Fuji area, where he founded the Head
Temple of Nichiren Shoshu, Taisekiji, as the center for kosen-rufu.
establishment of Taisekiji at Mount Fuji was in accordance with Nichiren
Daishonin's will and was essential in order to provide a sanctuary (kaidan)
in keeping with the Three Great Secret Laws of true Buddhism.
Shonin dedicated the rest of his life to nurturing his disciples, collecting
the Daishonin's writings for propagation purposes and remonstrating with the
Japanese sovereign for the sake of future generations. He later entrusted
Taisekiji to his successor, Nichimoku Shonin, while he stayed in nearby Omosu
and founded a seminary for the training of priests.
Shonin passed away peacefully at the age of 88 on February 7, 1333, at Omosu
The Koshi-e Ceremony provides a way by
which we, in harmonious unity of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and laity, can
show appreciation to Nikko Shonin for his tenacious spirit to attain