Matsuoka Essay

2. The Meaning in Faith of the Heritage Transferred Only Through the Lineage of the Successive High Priests of Taiseki-ji

What is the meaning of the transferof the heritage of the Law from one high priest to another to the faith of the Fuji school? Existent historical data guide us to the following viewpoints.

First of all, the exclusive transfer of the heritage of the Law from one high priest to another has been emphasized within Taiseki-ji, with a focus on inheriting the Dai-Gohonzon of the high sanctuary of the essential teaching (honmon kaidan no Dai-Gohonzon), the fundamental object of devotion in faith for both priests and lay believers. In “Matters to Be Observed after Nikko’s Death (Nikko Ato Jojo no Koto),” which is said to have been written by Nikko, founder of Taiseki-ji, to his successor Nichimoku, Nikko writes, “Nikko shall bestow upon Nichimoku the Dai-Gohonzon inscribed in the second year of Koan [1279]” (from the Complete Collection of Nichiren Shoshu Successive High Priests’ Writings[Nichiren Shoshu Rekidai Hossu Zensho], which is abbreviated as CC, p. 96, or The Untold History of the Fuji School, p. 38).

Nisshu, the 14th high priest of Taiseki-ji who lived in the Warring States period of Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, writes in his “On ‘Matters to Be Observed after Nikko’s Death (Nikko Ato Jojo no Koto Jisho),’” “The Gohonzon concerns the transfer matters of Taiseki-ji, which denotes the exclusive transfer from one high priest to another. The Dai-Gohonzon of the high sanctuary of the essential teaching, which Nikko Shonin inherited from the Daishonin and transferred to Nichimoku Shonin in the era of Shoan, is exactly and changelessly the whole entity of the transfer through the Nichiren–Nikko–Nichimoku lineage in the Latter Day of the Law” (ibid., p. 96). Nisshu’s reference to the Dai-Gohonzon was the first reference to the Dai-Gohonzon among all the existent and publicized historical data. Nisshu also refers to the concept that the Dai-Gohonzon is the entity of the Law that was transferred exclusively through the lineage of the successive high priests of Taiseki-ji. It can be said that the high priests of theEdoperiod and modern times emphasized that the Dai-Gohonzon was the entity of the Law that was transferred from one high priest to another.

The doctrine of the object of devotion was naturally transferred in conjunction with the transmission and preservation of the Dai-Gohonzon. Nichiu, the 9th high priest, is said to have verbally transferred, as is written in “The Accounts of Teacher Nichiu (Yushi Dansho Monsho),” “seven articles and fourteen important points of the object of devotion” (The Essential Works of the Fuji School [Fuji Shugaku Yoshu] [EWFS], Vol. 2, p. 160). Nisshun, the 22nd high priest, wrote, “The teachings, which were verbally transmitted with regards to the object of devotion through the lineage of Nichiren Daishonin-Nikko-Nichimoku Shonin, have been kept at this temple. In addition, Nichigen, founder of the temples in Iwamoto who followed Teacher Nikko, orally received the transfer teachings from his mentor with regards to seven important articles of the object of devotion” (Refuting the Teachings of Nichiyo [Benha Nichiyo Gi], in CC, vol. 3, p. 242).

Moreover, in the Taiseki-ji school of the Edo period, the transfer of the teachings concerning the object of devotion was sometimes referred to as the inheritance of the “one great secret Law (ichidaiji no hiho).” For instance, Nichion, the 35th high priest, recorded how he received the heritage of Taiseki-ji, “Teacher Nichigen, saying, ‘I will now completely transfer to the 35th high priest, Nichion Shonin, in front of the Gohonzon, Nichiren Daishonin, founder of true Buddhism, and Nikko Shonin, founder of Taiseki-ji, the one great secret Law that Nichiren Daishonin states he secretly possesses within his mortal flesh.’ Thus he transferred the one great secret Law to me.”

Nichikan, the 26th high priest, also states in his “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths (Montei Hichin Sho),” “The one great secret Law of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, is the entity in the transfer of the essence of the Lotus Sutra (ketcho fuzoku). It is also the purpose of the advent of Founder Nichiren, and the ultimate entity of the Three Great Secret Laws. It denotes the true object of devotion of the essential teaching. It is the most profound, secret, and great Law hidden since time without beginning in the heart of Shakyamuni Buddha. Therefore, it is called the One Great Secret Law” (EWFS, Vol.3, p. 93). Within the context of Taiseki-ji’s doctrines, the One Great Secret Law points to the object of devotion of the essential teaching (honmon no honzon). For this reason, transferring the One Great Secret Law signifies an act to orally transfer the teaching concerning the object of devotion.

Then, what constitutes the contents of the teaching concerning the object of devotion? One aspect is about the Three Great Secret Laws that Founder Nichiren defined as “the object of devotion of the essential teaching (honmon no honzon), the sanctuary of the essential teaching (honmon no kaidan), and the daimoku of the essential teaching (honmon no daimoku),” which was expounded only within the Taiseki-ji school. The other aspect is considered to be about the teachings in conjunction with transcribing the mandala Gohonzon.

The teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws that the Fuji school alone emphasized is recorded as follows in Miscellaneous Records (Zatsu Zatsu Monsho), “There is a teaching that Nichimoku heard. It is about the importance of the object of devotion. In other words, it is about the Three Great Secret Laws, especially about the object of devotion of the essential teaching” (EWFS, Vol. 2, p. 163). It is suggested here that there was an orally transmitted teaching about the Three Great Secret Laws, especially about the object of devotion of the essential teaching.

In the Edo period, 22nd high priest Nisshun taught in his “First Preaching (Shodo Seppo),” “What are these Three Great Secret Laws? Doesn’t the object of devotion of the essential teaching signify the Wooden Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of this temple? Isn’t the place where this Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary is enshrined the location of the sanctuary while kosen-rufu is not yet achieved?” (CC, vol. 3, p. 103). By saying this for the first time in the history of Taiseki-ji, Nisshu pointed out that the object of devotion of the Three Great Secret Laws is nothing other than the Wooden Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of this temple.

Furthermore, the 25th high priest, Nichiyu wrote in his “Comment on ‘The Object of Devotion for Observing One’s Mind (Kanjin no Honzo Sho Ki),’” “The contents of the golden teaching that was orally transmitted from one high priest to another were no more than the five major writings and the mystic meanings of the object of devotion of the Three Great Secret Laws” (ibid., vol. 3, p. 369). Nichiyu also wrote in his “Meaning of the Two Characters ‘Nichiren’ (Nichiren no Niji Sata),” “The Daishonin made the object of devotion out of the Three Great Secret Laws” (ibid., vol. 3, p. 369). Nichiyu thus made clear that the contents of the verbaltransmissionof the heritage of the Law from one high priest to another (konku sojo) were the teachings concerning the object of devotion of the Three Great Secret Laws that result from Nichiren Daishonin’s five major writings (Godaibu).

Moreover, 26th high priest Nichikan, when his name was Kakushin Nichinyo as a student priest of Hosokusa Seminary (Hosokusa Danrin), lectured on the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra in 1699. In his lecture, Nichikan stated, “What the founder transferred to Teacher Nikko was the Three Great Secret Laws. What was transferred from Teacher Nikko to Teacher Nichimoku was also the same Three Great Secret Laws” (EWFS, Vol. 10, p. 131). “The Three Great Secret Laws have been orally transferred from Teacher Nichimoku all the way down to the current 24th high priest in the same manner that water is transmitted from one vessel to another. Thus, the Three Great Secret Laws exist only at Taiseki-ji. Because the time has not come yet, the actual sanctuary (ji no kaidan) is not yet in existence. Yet, since the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the essential teaching exists here, this location is the sanctuary” (ibid., vol. 10, p. 131). In this way, Nichikan states that the heritage transferred orally from one high priest to another is nothing other than the Three Great Secret Laws that center on the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the essential teaching.

As is clear from the statements of these past high priests, the object of devotion that is part of the Three Great Secret Laws has been defined by Taiseki-ji as the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary. In other words, Taiseki-ji trusted the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary to be the true entity of the Three Great Secret Laws. This teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws fundamentally defined the faith and creed of the Taiseki-ji school. In this respect, the teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws is indispensable in the Taiseki-ji school’s faith.

As to the various doctrines regarding how to transcribe the mandala Gohonzon, only the school’s successive high priests were able to have access to them. Today, however, they are known to many others through such published documents as “The Transmission of Seven Teachings on the Gohonzon (Gohonzon Shichika Sojo)” and “The Transmission of Three Points on the Gohonzon (Honzon Sando Soden).” These doctrines must have been considered necessary sources of knowledge to enable successive high priests to copy the Gohonzon on behalf of Nichiren with the same compassionate mind as his.

The Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, the object of devotion for both priests and lay people in the Fuji school, was looked upon as a secret Buddha at Taiseki-ji since ancient times. This Gohonzon was not allowed to be exposed to the public until the time of kosen-rufu. However, the successive high priests of the Taiseki-ji school copied the inner enlightenment of the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary when they transcribed the Gohonzon and conferred it upon believers in accord with the principle of “dispersion of the body (bunshin santai).” As a result, Nichiren Shoshu believers were able to have direct access to the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary at their temple or home. The 25th high priest, Nichiyu, wrote in his “Comment on ‘The Object of Devotion for Observing One’s Mind (Kanjin no Honzon Sho Ki),’” “The successive high priests have been copying the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary that enables one to erase all the sins that one has been accumulating since time without beginning. They then conferred the Gohonzon upon us. We now see the Gohonzon innate within our lives in front of us. With our doubt-free faith, we clearly perceive and grasp the Gohonzon within. Faith is the most important thing to manifest the Gohonzon inherent within our lives” (CC, vol. 3, 374).

It is clear from these documents that there historically existed at Taiseki-ji the tradition that its successive high priests transcribe the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, a secret Buddha, and confer its copy upon believers. In this sense, we have to say that the successive high priests’ inheritance of the doctrines regarding how to transcribe the mandala Gohonzon was indispensably significant for the faith of Taiseki-ji’s priesthood and laity.

To sum up the significance in faith of the exclusive transfer of the heritage of Taiseki-ji from one high priest to another, we can come up with the following three points:

  • To transmit and preserve the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, the fundamental object of devotion in faith.
  • To inherit Taiseki-ji’s unique teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws that fundamentally defines the school’s faith and creed.
  • To inherit the doctrine with regards to the manner for transcribing the mandala Gohonzon.

Of course, the fundamental meaning of the transfer of the heritage from one high priest to another lies in supporting believers’ efforts to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime and promote kosen-rufu. The afore-mentioned three meanings are derived from the great objective of saving all people with the power of Nichiren Buddhism. The transfer of the heritage from one high priest to another should be based upon the heritage of faith that harmonizes with Founder Nichiren’s vow to save all beings. In other words, discussion about the meaning of the transfer of the heritage from one high priest to another should be premised upon the inheritance of the heritage of faith. The inheritance of the heritage by any high priest who has lost the heritage of faith is meaningless under any circumstances.

Furthermore, as the Nichikan teaching came into existence, Taiseki-ji’s unique theory about the teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws was then exposed to the public. Not only that, the secret transfer documents in conjunction with the object of devotion were also published, which undermined the secrecy of Taiseki-ji’s Gohonzon doctrines. Also, the lapse of time has made it unnecessary for the high priest to transcribe the Gohonzon anew. In this regard, the raison d’etre of points (2) and (3) are no longer significant in the realm of the transfer of the heritage from one high priest to another. And point (1) also needs to be reconsidered. I would like to touch upon this subject categorically in this thesis.

The Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the essential teaching that Nichiren inscribed on October 12, 1279, which Taiseki-ji houses is defined as the ultimate Gohonzon among the many other original Gohonzons by Nichiren.

To argue the supremacy of the inner enlightenment of any high priest who received the heritage of the school, Mr. Nikken Abe of the current priesthood of the Taiseki-ji school cites “The Biography of Nichido (Nichido Den) in “The Biography of Nikko (Kechu Sho),” authored by the 17th high priest, Nissei, “I (Nichimoku) entrust the Law upon Nichido. This is the so-called transfer of the teaching of Nichiren Buddhism’s being superior to Shakyamuni Buddhism and Nichiren’s Buddhism being a cause-making teaching. In general, this is the direct transmission of the Law from one high priest to another. Specifically, there are twelve secret teachings that are transferred from one high priest to another. This is an extremely profound transfer of the heritage. This heritage should not be transferred to anybody who is not qualified to receive it. There are the twelve secret teachings, which, as the entity of the Law, were never exposed to the public while kept in secret within the lives of the successive high priests.” However, Nichiko Hori regarded this remark of Nissei as his subjective statement that is not grounded in any historically legitimate document, stating, “His statement is not correct. With his own thought added to it, his remark is even more erroneous, which we should lament over” (WRS, vol. 6, p. 198). Therefore, I did not quote this statement by Nissei in this thesis.

The History of Fuji School’s Believers and Its Teachings (Fuji Monto no Enkaku to Kyogi, Saichiro Matsumoto, Taisei Shuppan Sha, 1968, p.95). Nichikan’s “On the Three Treasures” also reads, “The One Great Secret Law was not transferred to the other five senior priests, much less to all other priests under them. It was transferred only to Nikko. Hence it is called the sole transmission of the Law from one individual to another” (CC, vol. 4, p. 385).

In this thesis, I refer to the entire transfer of the heritage including the transmission of the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary from one high priest to another as yuiju ichinin and the transfer of the heritage through words or documents from one high priest to another as konku sojo. Konku means the Buddha’s words or teachings.

  1. The Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the essential teaching that Nichiren inscribed on October 12, 1279, which Taiseki-ji houses is defined as the ultimate Gohonzon among the many other original Gohonzons by Nichiren.
  2. To argue the supremacy of the inner enlightenment of any high priest who received the heritage of the school, Mr. Nikken Abe of the current priesthood of the Taiseki-ji school cites “The Biography of Nichido (Nichido Den) in “The Biography of Nikko (Kechu Sho),” authored by the 17th high priest, Nissei, “I (Nichimoku) entrust the Law upon Nichido. This is the so-called transfer of the teaching of Nichiren Buddhism’s being superior to Shakyamuni Buddhism and Nichiren’s Buddhism being a cause-making teaching. In general, this is the direct transmission of the Law from one high priest to another. Specifically, there are twelve secret teachings that are transferred from one high priest to another. This is an extremely profound transfer of the heritage. This heritage should not be transferred to anybody who is not qualified to receive it. There are the twelve secret teachings, which, as the entity of the Law, were never exposed to the public while kept in secret within the lives of the successive high priests.” However, Nichiko Hori regarded this remark of Nissei as his subjective statement that is not grounded in any historically legitimate document, stating, “His statement is not correct. With his own thought added to it, his remark is even more erroneous, which we should lament over” (WRS, vol. 6, p. 198). Therefore, I did not quote this statement by Nissei in this thesis.
  3. The History of Fuji School’s Believers and Its Teachings (Fuji Monto no Enkaku to Kyogi, Saichiro Matsumoto, Taisei Shuppan Sha, 1968, p.95). Nichikan’s “On the Three Treasures” also reads, “The One Great Secret Law was not transferred to the other five senior priests, much less to all other priests under them. It was transferred only to Nikko. Hence it is called the sole transmission of the Law from one individual to another” (CC, vol. 4, p. 385).
  4. In this thesis, I refer to the entire transfer of the heritage including the transmission of the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary from one high priest to another as yuiju ichinin and the transfer of the heritage through words or documents from one high priest to another as konku sojo. Konku means the Buddha’s words or teachings.
  5. The current priesthood of the Taiseki-ji school contends that Nissei, in his Chronology of Nichiren Shonin (Nichiren Shonin Nenpu) refuted Nisshin’s view of the object of devotion. This contention is a very misleading interpretation of historical data. I would like to take up this subject in a different thesis in the future. In his Chronology of Nichiren Shonin, Nissei opposes “Kai Sho,” in which the object of devotion just in terms of the Law is emphasized with the statement that “We should designate the Lotus Sutra as the object of devotion.” He opposes this statement on the basis of Nisshin’s theory that the Dai-Gohonzon is the Gohonzon for the general while other Gohonzons (where the Person is Shakyamuni who attained Buddhahood in the remote past and the Law is the actual Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) are for the specific” (EWFS, vol. 5, p. 118). However, Nisshin’s view of the object of devotion does not lead to the clarification of the oneness of the Person and the Law in terms of the object of devotion that the Taiseki-ji school regards as the correct teaching of Nichiren Buddhism. Therefore, Nichiko Hori commented on Nisshin’s view of the object of devotion that Nissei adopted as it is, stating, “Teacher Nisshin’s view of the object of devotion in terms of the Law in both a general and a specific sense does not capture the Fuji school’s correct teaching (ibid., p. 118). Adoption of Nisshin’s idea of regarding Shakyamuni who attained enlightenment in the remote past as the object of devotion in terms of the Person leads to the Nichiren–True Buddha teaching. Regarding this, Nichiko commented, “Teacher Nisshin’s idea of building Shakyamuni’s statues is a wrong teaching that is manifested in his view of the meaning the object of devotion. We should not be misled by his teaching” (ibid., p. 118).
  6. Right after this quote, Nichikan states, “Since this teaching does not harm myself, I do not refute it.” This expression seems to show humility toward seniors in faith who were swayed by Nisshin’s doctrines. I can say this because in his “Toke Hosoku Monbatsusho To,” Nichikan cites the part where Nissei discusses his view of the object of devotion and the practice of faith, criticizing it indirectly, “Teacher Nissei was confused by another school’s view. His view is the same as Nisshin’s view. Therefore, Teacher Nissei’s view is not in accord with the original teaching of this school” and “Teacher Nissei’s view in this regard is also based upon another school’s view. It is not a correct view” (WSR, vol. 9, pp. 757 and 763). This statement by Nichikan shows his negative reaction to Nissei’s confusion with another school’s view. It is evidence that Nichikan was concerned about the negative influence of the Nisshin doctrine within the Taiseki-ji school.
  7. The “Genshi Sho” that Nichikan wrote when he was the study head of the Taiseki-ji school explains about “different in name but same in entity” between Shakyamuni and Nichiren, “The Lord Shakyamuni of the Essential Teaching is the Lord of the teaching of the true cause. The Lord Shakyamuni of the true cause is Sage Nichiren Daishonin. Therefore, ‘The Transfer Documents (Kechimayku Sho)’ reads, ‘The lord of the teaching of the true cause, who is Nichiren.’ This is what is called the object of devotion that is ‘different in name but same in entity.’ Although Shakyamuni and Nichiren are two different names, they share the same entity as the Lord of the teaching of the true cause” (WSR, vol. 10, p. 228).
  8. Dispelling Illusion and Observing One’s Mind (Nichio Oishi, Dainichiren Editorial Office, 1971, first edition in 1894, p. 158).