Matsuoka Essay

4. Phases of Nichikan’s Revelation of the Theoretical Basis for the Teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws

How did Nichikan reveal the theoretical basis for the teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws that was transmitted only through the lineage of the successive high priests of Taiseki-ji? Let me address this question categorically.

The teaching of sowing that is hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter and the Nichiren–True Buddha doctrine, which had been transmitted through the lineage of the successive high priests, were sporadically addressed before Nichikan’s efforts in study by past high priests or priests who were versed in study. However, it is safe to say that the 24th high priest, Nichiei, the 25th high priest, Nichiyu, and the 26th high priest, Nichikan, began to delineate a systematic theory of Taiseki-ji’s secret transfer teachings by relating them to the doctrine of the Three Great Secret Laws that constitutes the core of Taiseki-ji’s heritage. Nichiei and Nichiyu (even though we don’t know whether they were under Nichikan’s influence or whether they influenced Nichikan) elucidated the meaning of the Three Great Secret Laws as the teaching of sowing that is hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter, discussing the teaching of oneness of the Person and the Law in terms of the object of devotion. Further expanding Nichiei and Nichiyu’s theory, Nichikan went on to clarify the theoretical basis of Taiseki-ji’s unique teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws. 

  • The Theory of the Actual Ichinen Sanzen(Ji no Ichinen Sanzen) Hidden in the Depths of the “Life Span” Chapter

Nichikan established the teaching of the threefold secret teaching (sanju hiden) by quoting the following passage from “The Opening of the Eyes,” “The doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life is found in only one place, hidden in the depths of the ‘Life Span’ chapter of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra. Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu were aware of it but did not bring it forth into the light. T’ien-t’ai Chih-che alone embraced it and kept it ever in mind” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 224).

The threefold secret teaching reveals the teaching of the actual ichinen sanzen in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra through three kinds of comparison: between the provisional and true teachings, between the theoretical and essential teachings, and between the teaching of sowing and the teaching of the harvest. Nichikan thus contended that the actual ichinen sanzen is the supreme teaching in Buddhism. In “The Threefold Secret Teaching (Sanju Hiden Sho),” Nichikan regarded as the “profound, secret, and great teaching of this school” the teaching that Nichiren Daishonin indicated in “The Opening of the Eyes” which is hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter. Nichikan looked upon it as the school’s secret teaching, as he put it, “Predecessors did not articulate this” (EWFS, Vol. 3, p. 6).

As to the actual ichinen sanzen hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter, “On the True Cause” refers to its meaning, “Question: What is the one great secret Law in the depths of the ‘Life Span’ chapter? Answer: It is the one secret true Law. You should keep it strictly to yourself. Since the teaching expounded by the Buddha in this lifetime is theoretical, his entire Lotus Sutra only reveals the theoretical ichinen sanzen. When you view his essential teaching of the ‘Life Span’ chapter as the teaching based upon the theoretical teaching, you are referring to Shakyamuni’s Lotus Sutra as Buddhism of the harvest. What is hidden in the depths of the ‘Life Span’ chapter is the Mystic Law that Shakyamuni exclusively practiced to attain Buddhahood instantly in the remote past. The actual ichinen sanzen is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo itself” (Gosho Zenshu, p. 877).

As stressed in the above passage as “It is the one secret true Law. You should keep it strictly to yourself,” the teaching of the actual ichinen sanzen was regarded since the ancient times as ultimately secret. Therefore, Nichikan’s predecessors never openly articulated the meaning of the actual ichinen sanzen hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter, using the contents of the “On the True Cause.” It is conceivable that the reason why the ichinen sanzen hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter was regarded as the “actual” teaching belonged to the category of Taiseki-ji school’s own secret teaching.

This point is warranted as valid by the fact that, in his "The Threefold Secret Teaching," Nichikan acknowledged that Taiseki-ji school's unique essential teaching hidden in the depths of the "Life Span" was named the actual ichinen sanzen, looking upon this naming as the ultimately secret revelation. (EWFS, Vol. 3, p. 53)

Therefore, no one ever elaborated on this doctrinal area before Nichikan did. If I dared to point out an exception in this regard, I might refer to what the 24th high priest, Nichiei, who was Nichikan’s mentor, states in his “Orally Transmitted Teaching (Kuketsu),” “This is the teaching of the five or seven characters that are the actual ichinen sanzen hidden in the depths of the ‘Life Span’ chapter. The Daishonin indicated this by stating ‘The Buddha perceived his life as the five elements or Myoho-renge-kyo itself before the time of kuon ganjo (measured by the numberless major world system dust particles)’” (CC, vol. 3, p. 318). This statement by Nichiei seems to imply that the viewpoint of fusion of reality and wisdom (kyochi myogo) at the time without beginning of kuon ganjo may be cited as the reason why the ichinen sanzen hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter is the actual teaching. But Nichiei’s statement is suggestive, not overt.

To summarize, before Nichikan appeared, no teachers fully addressed the meaning of the actual ichinen sanzen hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter or the reason why the ichinen sanzen referred to in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter was the actual teaching. However, two years before his death, Nichikan drafted “The Threefold Secret Teaching.” Before he passed way, he reedited it, revealing the theoretical basis for the teaching hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter. In so doing, Nichikan interpreted the above passage from “The Opening of the Eyes” on three different levels—summary, interpretation, and conclusion (hyo shaku ketsu). He addressed ten points in conjunction with this passage, revealing his detailed thinking about its contents step by step. Nichikan thus clearly proved the actual ichinen sanzen hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter as the “unique essential teaching (dokuitsu honmon).” By quoting various transfer documents, he pointed out that the ichinen sanzen hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter is the actual ichinen sanzen because it expounds oneness of the Person and the Law (ninpo taiichi). Thus Nichikan declared that the ichinen sanzen hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter is the teaching that was never propagated in the Former and Middle Days of the Law and should be propagated in the Latter Day of the Law. Quoting openly such transfer documents as “On the True Cause” and “Seven Transfer Articles of the Gohonzon (Gohonzon Shichika Sojo)” (which were kept within Taiseki-ji in absolute secrecy in those days), Nichikan wrote “The Threefold Secret Teaching” in order to elaborate for the first time the actual ichinen sanzen hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter.

Descriptions within “The Threefold Secret Teaching” naturally led to the theoretical elucidation of the Three Great Secret Laws that had been transmitted only though the lineage of the successive high priests. The theoretical basis for the actual ichinen sanzen hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter was revealed in “The Threefold Secret Teaching,” and “the object of devotion in terms of the Law” was disclosed in “The Meanings Hidden in the Depths (Montei Hichin Sho),” another vital writing that is part of Nichikan’s Six-Volume Writings. And the ichinen sanzen hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter is nothing other than the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary, the entity of the Law that had been transmitted along the lineage of the high priests of Taiseki-ji. It can be said that Nichikan’s detailed explanations of the actual ichinen sanzen hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter were the necessary first step that Nichikan had to take in order to make clear the theoretical basis for the teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws.

(2) The Teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws Centering on the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary

At the beginning of “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths,” Nichikan states, “‘Essentials of the Lotus Sutra (Hokke Shuyo Sho)’ reads, ‘Question: What are the secret Laws that Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, T’ien-t’ai, and Dengyo left behind for more than 2,000 years after the Tathagata’s passing? Answer: They are the object of devotion, the sanctuary, and the daimoku of the essential teaching.’” Nichikan then refers to the meaning of the Daishonin’s clarification of the Three Great Secret Laws: 

“This is the important matter hidden in the depths of the ‘Life Span’ chapter. It is the Secret Law that was never propagated in the Former and Middle Days of the Law. It denotes the purpose of the advent of Founder Nichiren. It is the true entity of the Buddhism of sowing in the Latter Day of the Law. It is the ultimate, unsurpassed teaching of this school. Therefore, great teachers of the past did not clearly refer to it. How could those who were not well versed in the study of Buddhism understand it? Yet I am now ready to lecture on it. I have no choice but to reveal it in summary. First, I will comment on the object of devotion of the essential teaching, then the sanctuary of the essential teaching, and the daimoku of the essential teaching” (EWFS, Vol. 3, p. 70).

Nichikan contends that the Three Great Secret Laws are the important matter hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter. He also contends that revealing the Three Great Secret Laws is the purpose of the advent of Founder Nichiren. Nichikan also declares that the Three Great Secret Laws are the ultimate, unsurpassed, secret teaching of this school. But in the above quote, Nichikan says he is about to reveal the theory behind the ultimate, secret teaching of the Taiseki-ji school. Nichikan clearly predicts in the above passage that the contents of “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths” concerns the revelation of the theoretical basis of the secret doctrine that had been transmitted through the lineage of the successive high priests of Taiseki-ji. Incidentally, before inheriting the heritage of Taiseki-ji, Nichikan took the position that the high priests of Taiseki-ji alone knew about the Three Great Secret Laws hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter, as he wrote in “Personal Comment on ‘The Selection of Time (Senji Sho Guki),’” “The Founder states, ‘This sutra is hard to understand unless you have received the heritage’ ‘Transmission through Nichiren, Nikko, and Nichimoku.’ This teaching is hard to know. Question: Then, what does it mean? Answer: The Founder writes, ‘A blue fly (if it clings to the tail of a thoroughbred horse, can travel ten thousand miles), and the green ivy (that twines around the tall pine can grow to a thousand feet)’” (CE, p. 271).

However, toward the end of his life, Nichikan took a renewed position in his reedited version of “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths,” and he wrote there, “I have no choice but to reveal it in summary.” This statement can be taken as Nichikan’s determination to make a revelation of the theoretical basis for the Three Great Secret Laws hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter, as he was an individual who had received the heritage of the Law through the sole lineage of the successive high priests of Taiseki-ji.

In the first chapter of “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths,” Nichikan addresses the object of devotion in terms of the Law, the Person, and oneness of the Person and the Law. In the second chapter, Nichikan discusses the sanctuary while addressing the actual sanctuary and the Fuji Sanctuary. In the third chapter, Nichikan discusses the daimoku, teaching that the daimoku of the essential teaching is the type of daimoku that accompanies faith and practice. Each of these three points reflects Nichikan’s attempt to theorize the fundamentals of the heritage transmitted through the sole lineage of the successive high priests. Here I would like to take a look at how Nichikan revealed the theoretical basis of the heritage that is related to the Three Great Secret Laws.

What Nichikan actually did was to discuss the theoretical foundation for the contents of the heritage in faith by declaring that the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary is the entity of the Three Great Secret Laws. As I mentioned previously, the Taiseki-ji school advocates the transmission of the object of devotion, and has inherited the view of the Three Great Secret Laws with the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary in the center. This particular view on the part of Taiseki-ji was opposed to other schools’ view of the Three Great Secret Laws that was based upon daimoku, not the object of devotion. This particular Gohonzon-centered view, before the time of Nichikan, remained only within the heritage transmitted along the sole lineage of the high priests of the Taiseki-ji school. However, Nichikan took an unheard-of-action to reveal the theoretical foundation for the Three Great Secret Laws.

Nichikan’s theory centers on the Gohonzon of the essential teaching, and discusses the unification and opening of the Three Great Secret Laws. Nichikan equates the entity of the object of devotion of the essential teaching to the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary. Nichikan elucidates the unification and opening of the Three Great Secret Laws in such works as “Exegesis on ‘Taking the Essence of the Lotus Sutra (Hokke-shuyo-sho),’” “Exegesis ‘On Repaying Debts of Gratitude (Hon’on Sho Mondan)’” and “Interpreting the Text Based upon Its Essential Meaning (Egi Hanmon Sho).” In “Interpreting the Text Based upon Its Essential Meaning,” Nichikan defined the place where the Gohonzon is enshrined as “the high sanctuary of the essential teaching,” and the act of chanting the Mystic Law with faith in the Gohonzon as the daimoku of the essential teaching. Nichikan thus paved the way to open the Three Great Secret Laws through the object of devotion of the essential teaching. To justify the point that the object of devotion should be placed in the center in reference to the Three Great Secret Laws, Nichikan cites “Biography of Distinguished Monks”(Ryo Koso Den), which reads, “One mind represents the whole of all phenomena,” showing that “You should know that the object of devotion embodies the entirety of all phenomena” (EWFS, Vol. 3, p. 106).

Thus, Nichikan established the theory that “Unification of the Three Great Secret Laws, points to the idea of the sole object of devotion that constitutes the One Great Secret Law” (ibid., Vol. 3, p. 106). Moreover, Nichikan elucidates, “Therefore, the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the essential teaching is considered to be the object of devotion where all the Three Great Secret Laws dwell” (ibid., Vol. 3, p. 106). Nichikan thus defined the object of devotion of the essential teaching as the One Great Secret Law, and the center of the Three Great Secret Laws as the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the essential teaching. And he indicated this Gohonzon as the Gohonzon where the whole of the Three Great Secret Laws dwell. As I mentioned before, the 22nd high priest, Nisshun, advocated that we should regard Taiseki-ji’s Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary as the object of devotion of the essential teaching. Inheriting this theory from Nisshun, Nichikan did not give any theoretical explanation to it in his “The Interpreting the Text Based upon Its Essential Meaning.” The sidenote of the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary reads, “Recipient of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching.” Since the ancient times, Taiseki-ji’s Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary had been called the “Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the essential teaching.” The name of this Gohonzon in itself indicates that it is the Gohonzon of the essential teaching that should be enshrined at the high sanctuary of the essential teaching. It was apparent to the Taiseki-ji school that the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary is the Gohonzon of the essential teaching. Therefore, Nisshun’s view that “Isn’t the object of devotion of the essential teaching this temple’s Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary?” must have easily satisfied Nichikan’s mind. Therefore, Nichikan probably incorporated this view of Nisshun’s without any hesitation into his theory of the unification and opening of the Three Great Secret Laws, sensing no need to question Nisshun’s contention. As a result, Nichikan systematized the theory that the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary is the Gohonzon where all the Three Great Secret Laws dwell.

This is how Nichikan elucidated the theory of the Three Great Secret Laws based on the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary. Through this revelation by Nichikan, we can say that the meaning behind the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary was cherished as a theory in the realm of Taiseki-ji’s transmission of the Three Great Secret Laws through the lineage of its successive high priests.

(3) The Theory of Nichiren Being the True Buddha

It is generally recognized that Nichikan established the view that Nichiren was the True Buddha. However, the teaching that views Nichiren as the original Buddha of limitless joy and the reward body (kuon ganjo jijuyuhoshin) and defines him as the object of devotion in terms of the Person (nin honzon) had been in existence within the Taiseki-ji school since the olden times.

Through various writings it has been shown that Nikko, the founder of Taiseki-ji, was known to have offered to Nichiren those offerings he received from his disciples and believers. He did not offer these things to Shakyamuni Buddha or other Buddhas or bodhisattvas. For instance, Nikko wrote, “I offered them to the sage of the Lotus Sutra” (CC, vol. 1, p. 197). “I offered them to the sage Buddha” (ibid., vol. 1, p. 199), refering to Founder Nichiren. We can gather from Nikko’s writings that he placed offerings to Nichiren’s statue or to the mandala Gohonzon that he regarded as Nichiren’s life itself.

Sanmi Nichijun, a disciple of Nikko who served as the second head of Omosu Seminary (Omosu Dansho), wrote the “Commentary on ‘On the True Cause’ (Hon’in-myo Guketsu),” in which he interpreted the 24th point in the 24 comparisons between T’ien-’tai’s teachings and Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings. These 24 comparisons are referred to in “On the True Cause.” He wrote, “He expounds ichinen sanzen and isshin sankan (threefold contemplation in a single mind) based upon the Buddha of the reward body and limitless joy, the Buddha who became a Buddha, but I expound based upon the Buddha of the reward body and limitless joy, the Buddha who (as a Buddha from time without beginnijng) directly chants the Mystic Law, the selfless and original Law.” Sanmi Nichijun regards Shakyamuni who expounded the “Life Span” chapter as the Buddha who gained the reward of becoming a Buddha: “The idea of the Buddha of the reward body and limitless joy at the time without beginning signifies that we should define Nichiren Daishonin, who is the teacher of the true cause, as described in the ‘Life Span’ chapter as ‘originally I practice the bodhisattva way,’ as the Buddha of limitless joy of the time without beginning. The golden Buddha, who is the teacher of the theoretical teaching, expounds only the two transient teachings of maturing and of the harvest” (EWFS, Vol. 2, p. 83).

This contention by Nichijun defines Shakyamuni as the Buddha who became a Buddha and as the teacher who expounded only the teachings of maturing and of the harvest, and defines Nichiren as the Buddha of the reward body and limitless joy since time without beginning — this clearly shows that Nichijun regarded Nichiren as the True Buddha. This concept was carried on among the successive high priests of Taiseki-ji. The 13th high priest, Nichi’in, states, exactly as Nichijun put it, in his “Report of Nisshin of Yobo-ji (Yobo-ji Nisshin Goho),” “We should define Nichiren Daishonin, who is the teacher of the true cause, as the Buddha of limitless joy of the time without beginning. The golden Buddha, who is the teacher of the theoretical teaching, expounds only the two transient teachings of maturing and of the harvest” (CC, vol. 1, p. 84). Nisshun and Nichikan made a copy of “Commentary on ‘On the True Cause.’”

Furthermore, Nichijunused the expression in his “Pledge (Seimon)” (1342), “Nichiren Shonin, the whole body of the object of devotion” (EWFS, Vol. 2, p. 28). This description shows that there was a teaching in the olden days of the Taiseki-ji school that regarded Nichiren as the object of devotion. Later on, the 9th high priest, Nichiu, went on to clearly state in his “On Formalities (Kegi Sho),” “The object of devotion of this school should be limited to Nichiren Shonin” (EWFS, Vol. 1, p. 65).Sakyo Nikkyo, even before he swore allegiance to the 9th high priest, Nichiu, also advocated the theory of Nichiren being the True Buddha in his “One Hundred and Fifty Articles (Hyaku Gojukka Jo),” writing “Shakyamuni, the teacher of the essential teaching, is none other than Nichiren Shonin” (ibid., p. 2, p. 230). In the latter days of his life, Nikkyo remarked in “My Personal Views (Ruiju Kanshushi),” “Shakyamuni, the lord of the essential teaching, is Nichiren Daishonin, who taught the true cause that is described as the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth” (ibid., vol. 2, p. 230).

The following three views that Nichikan expressed regarding the Taiseki-ji school’s traditional theory of Nichiren’s being the True Buddha seem noteworthy.

First, Nichikan looked upon the Taiseki-ji school’s traditional theory of Nichiren being the True Buddha as the secret teaching that was handed down only through the lineage of its successive high priests. In viewing writings by Nichikan in his role as the study head of Taiseki-ji, we can see the theory that Shakyamuni, lord of the teaching of the true cause, is synonymous with Nichiren. Nichikan emphasizes that this theory is the very content of the heritage transmitted along the lineage of the successive high priests. To cite some examples: his “Personal Account of ‘The Selection of Time’ (Senji Sho Guki)” reads, “The Shakyamuni of the true cause is Nichiren” (CE, p. 221) and “Founder Nichiren is equal to Lord Shakyamuni of the true cause of time without beginning. Keep it strictly to yourselves” (CE, p. 257). “The Exegesis on ‘Taking the Essence of the Lotus Sutra’” reads, “Founder Nichiren Daishonin of today is equal to Shakyamuni of time without beginning and of the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth. Therefore, today, in the Latter Day of the Law, the Tathagata of the “Life Span” chapter is exactly Founder Sage Nichiren. Hence his orally transmitted teachings. You should keep this to yourselves” (ibid., pp. 568-569) and “This is the transfer teaching. This shall not be disclosed openly. In the final analysis, Lord Shakyamuni of the true cause, the sun, the moon and Nichiren Daishonin share the same entity and beneficial power” (ibid., p. 578).

Next, let’s turn to what Nichikan said after he took office as the 26th high priest. Just as he did before he became high priest of Taiseki-ji, he emphasized as the school’s secret teaching the theory of the oneness of Lord Shakyamuni of the true cause and Nichiren. For instance: In “The Teaching for the Latter Day (Mappo Soo Sho),” Nichikan writes, “The ancient transfer teaching of this temple states that Lord Shakyamuni of the essential teaching is Founder Sage Nichiren” (EWFS, Vol. 3, p. 162). In “Exegesis on ‘The Entity of Life’ (Totai Gisho Mondan),” Nichikan writes, “Lord Shakyamuni of the true cause denotes the past, not now in the Latter Day of the Law, in terms of guiding people to enlightenment. The past means the time without beginning. Therefore, we can identity the practice and proof of that time. This is the secret teaching of this school. You must not expose it. We should realize that Lord Shakyamuni of the true cause is Founder Sage Nichiren, who is the sovereign, teacher and parent in the Buddhism of sowing in the Latter Day of the Law” (CE, p. 664). In “Exegesis on ‘The Object of Devotion for Observing One’s Mind’ (Kanjin no Honzon Sho Mondan),” Nichikan writes, “The sixth Shakyamuni, lord of the teaching hidden in the depths of the ‘Life Span’ chapter, means Founder Sage Nichiren himself. Ponder this transfer teaching that Lord Shakyamuni of the true cause and Nichiren Daishonin bear different names but share the same entity” (CE, p. 531). In “Exegesis on ‘The Entity of Life,’” Nichikan writes, “Question: The Buddha of limitless joy at the time without beginning signifies Shakyamuni. Why does this Buddha denote Founder Nichiren? Founder Nichiren is Bodhisattva Supreme Practices among Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Why can he be called the Buddha of limitless joy at the time without beginning? Answer: This is the transfer teaching of this school. No other schools have ever known this teaching” (CE, p. 702). In this way, Nichikan regarded the view of Nichiren’s being the Buddha of limitless joy at the time without beginning as this school’s unique transfer teaching.

In short, Nichikan understood the school’s ancient teaching of Nichiren’s being the True Buddha. His understanding of it could be rendered as the teaching of “Lord Shakyamuni of the true cause=the Buddha of limitless joy at the time without beginning=Nichiren”. Especially after he became high priest of Taiseki-ji, Nichikan emphasized this view as the school’s transfer teaching. However, the fact that Sanmi Nichijun and Sakyo Nikkyo expounded the Nichiren’s being the True Buddha teaching as early as the formative days of Taiseki-ji, this theory in itself cannot be regarded as the contents of the heritage transmitted through the lineage of the high priests. But it seems that Nichikan looked upon Nichijun and Nikkyo’s theory as a partial revelation of the heritage transmitted from one high priest to another.

To prove the correctness of this point, after he took office, Nichikan expounded the Nichiren–True Buddha theory as the vital teaching that constitutes the teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws transmitted through the lineage of the successive high priests. This is the second important point about Nichikan’s attitude toward the traditional Nichiren–True Buddha theory propounded by Taiseki-ji. The Nichiren–True Buddha theory can be seen as a component of the teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws. This is spelled out from the viewpoint of “the object of devotion in terms of the Person” in the chapter on the object of devotion in the essential teaching — this is within the document “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths.” In it, Nichikan writes, “The object of devotion in terms of the Person is the most compassionate Nichiren Daishonin, who is the rebirth of the Buddha of limitless joy at the time without beginning; the sovereign, teacher and parent in the Buddhism of sowing; and the lord of the teaching of the true cause” (EWFS, Vol. 3, p. 77).

Nichikan then cites the reason as to why we regard Nichiren as the object of devotion in terms of the Person. He quotes the “One Hundred Six Articles (Hyaku Rokka Sho),” the document that revealed the Daishonin’s profound enlightenment, which refers subsequently to the actual and documentary proofs that justify the theory of the Nichiren–True Buddha theory. As Nichikan mentioned, no other documents describe the ultimate teaching of this school more clearly than “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths.” Therefore, “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths” is regarded as the document that reveals the ultimate transfer teaching of Taiseki-ji. If that is so, it is only natural that the Nichiren–True Buddha theory that was revealed in “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths” should be regarded as part of the heritage transmitted orally through the lineage of the high priests.

As to the relationship between the Nichiren–True Buddha theory and the meaning of the Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary that is the entity of the Law that was transmitted through the lineage of the successive high priests, Nichikan refers to it most directly in “The Practices of This School (Toryu Gyoji Sho),” writing, “What is the entity of the great Gohonzon of the essential teaching? It is Founder Sage Nichiren himself. For this reason, it is stated in the transfer teaching that ‘Each of the ten worlds mentioned on either side of the main title that is written down the center signifies Nichiren. Hence the remark “Nichiren’s signature is here” is attached to this object of devotion.’ It is also stated in the transferdocument that ‘Founder Nichiren Daishonin is said to have remarked that “When I saw my body reflected in the Bright Star Pond, what I saw there was a great mandala.”’ It is also stated in the transfer teaching that ‘The seven characters that are chanted signify Buddhahood and we ordinary individuals who chant them signify the nine worlds. This reality truly shows the mutual possession of the ten worlds (jikkai goku)’” (EWFS, Vol. 3, pp. 217-218).

In this way, Nichikan clearly indicated that the entity of the great Gohonzon of the true teaching (the Dai-Gohonzon of the HighSanctuary) is Founder Nichiren Daishonin himself. To prove this point, Nichikan quotes three passages from “The Transmission of Seven Teachings on the Gohonzon (Gohonzon Hichika Sojo).” Nichikan considered this document the secret document to which only the successive high priests of Taiseki-ji were allowed access. For instance, in his “Exegesis on ‘Taking the Essence of the Lotus Sutra,’” Nichikan writes, “Seven teachings on the Gohonzon have been transmitted orally through the lineage of the successive high priests. The Seven Orally Transmitted Teachings of the Object of Devotion (Honzon Hichika no Kuden), the Threefold Orally Transmitted Teaching (Sanju Kuketsu), and Important Pointsfor Transcribing the Gohonzon(Hippo no Daiji) are the transfer teachings transmitted only through the lineage of the successive high priests. How could we reveal them openly?” (CE, p. 599).

We can draw forth from these facts the realization that Nichikan doubtlessly regarded the Nichiren–True Buddha theory as part of what constitutes the vital entity of the secret teaching that was transmitted solely through the lineage of the successive high priests. In the same era that Nichikan lived, the 24th high priest, Nichiei, wrote in his “Orally Transmitted Comments (Guketsu),” “Nichiren today chant the daimoku that Shakyamuni chanted at the time without the beginning. Nichiren is the original teacher who propagates the Law. Nichiren is also the object of devotion” (CC, vol. 3, p. 320). The 25th high priest, Nichiyu, wrote in “Comment on ‘The Object of Devotion’ (Kanjin no Honzon Sho Ki),” “Nichiren Daishonin is equal to a scroll of the Gohonzon” (CC, vol. 3, p. 373) and “Since the Daishonin put down his signature on the Gohonzon, he is the object of devotion in terms of the Person” (ibid., vol. 3, p. 373). “We here recognize that there was a resurgence within Taiseki-ji that reenhanced its traditional “Nichiren=the object of devotion” doctrine. In the midst of this trend within the Taiseki-ji school, Nichikan advocated the Nichiren–True Buddha theory as a vital doctrine in the systematic theory of the Three Great Secret Laws.

Third and last, another important aspect of Nichikan’s intention is found in his attempt to strengthen and clarify the school’s various doctrines concerning the Nichiren–True Buddha theory. We can sense that Nichikan was influenced by Sakyo Nikkyo’s theory that Lord Shakyamuni of the essential teaching is equal to Nichiren, when Nichikan repeatedly advocated the idea of the oneness of Lord Shakyamuni of the true cause and Nichiren — this idea justifies the theoretical basis of the Nichiren–True Buddha doctrine. In this sense, Nichikan’s theory was basically a copy of the school’s traditional Nichiren–True Buddha theory; but at the same time, Nichikan disclosed his own view of the Nichiren–True Buddha theory, which we should not disregard. In his “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths,” Nichikan interpreted the passage from the “One Hundred Six Articles” that reads, “Nichiren, the teacher of the true cause and effect ever since the time without beginning, whose original entity is the Buddha of limitless joy and the reward body, the rebirth of Bodhisattva Supreme Practices and the great teacher of the essential teaching,” (Gosho Zenshu, p. 854). In his interpretation, Nichikan established his own theory that “Nichiren is the rebirth of Bodhisattva Supreme Practices, if you look at him only in terms of his appearance and from a shorter perspective. However, if you observe his inner profound enlightenment, Nichiren is the rebirth of the original Buddha of limitless joy. Therefore, let us know that Nichiren’s original entity is the Buddha of limitless joy, his ephemeral figure is Bodhisattva Supreme Practices, and now in the Latter Day he has revealed his true entity” (EWFS, Vol. 3, p. 77).

Nichikan, by drawing forth the view that “Nichiren’s true entity is the Buddha of limitless joy, his ephemeral figure is Bodhisattva Supreme Practices, and Nichiren now in the Latter Day revealed his true entity,” denied the idea advocated by various Nichiren schools that Nichiren is simply the rebirth of Bodhisattva Supreme Practices. Nichikan presented the Nichiren–True Buddha theory in a new light by proclaiming that Nichiren’s true entity is the Buddha of limitless joy and that Nichiren is the rebirth of the Buddha of limitless joy. Quoting the following passage from “The Opening of the Eyes,” Nichikan cites the Tatsunokuchi Persecution as actual proof that Nichiren cast off his ephemeral entity as the rebirth of Bodhisattva Supreme Practices and revealed him as the Buddha of limitless joy and of the time without beginning: “On the twelfth day of the ninth month of last year, between the hours of the rat and the ox (11:00 P.M. to 3:00 A.M.). This person named Nichiren was beheaded. It is his soul that has come to this island of Sado” (WND, p. 269). Furthermore, Nichikan emphasizes that Nichiren is the rebirth of the True Buddha of limitless joy and that he is the object of devotion in terms of the Person by quoting Nichiren’s writings, transfer documents such as “On the True Cause,” “One Hundred Six Articles,” and even non-Buddhist documents. Some of the quotes include: “Nichiren is the rebirth of the original Buddha of limitless joy and the reward body” “Nichiren is the sovereign, teacher and parent of the Buddhism of sowing in the Latter Day of the Law” “Nichiren is the lord of the teaching of the true cause” “Nichiren is the greatest in compassion” and “Namu-Nichiren Daishonin.” In this way, Nichikan added strength to Taiseki-ji’s traditional Nichiren–True Buddha theory through citing actual and documentary proofs.

To sum up, we can say the following. The school’s traditional Nichiren–True Buddha theory can be regarded as a profound teaching that supports the Three Great Secret Laws transmitted verbally through the lineage of the successive high priests. However, the Nichiren–True Buddha theory was long known to many learned priests within the Taiseki-ji school. Nichikan first introduced the school’s traditional Nichiren–True Buddha theory as its secret teaching when he was the study head of Taiseki-ji. However, after he took office as the 26th high priest, he developed a strong belief that the Nichiren–True Buddha theory is a vital part of the teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws that had been transmitted verbally through the lineage of the successive high priests. Therefore, in the reedited version of “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths,” Nichikan added theoretical strength to the school’s traditional Nichiren–True Buddha theory, newly featuring it as a vital part of the transfer teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws.

(4) Oneness of Law and Person in the Theory of the Object of Devotion

The concept of the oneness of Law and Person is part of the theory of the object of devotion. It indicates that the object of devotion in terms of the Law (the natural, original law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the actual ichinen sanzen) is one with the object of devotion in terms of the Person (Nichiren that is the rebirth of the original Buddha of limitless joy and the reward body). Nichikan elucidates this in “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths,” “Different in name but the same in entity (ninpo taiichi)” (EWFS, Vol. 3, 83). Nichikan’s theory is that the object of devotion of the essential teaching is in fact the object of devotion where the Person and the Law are one. This theory of the object of devotion can be said to be the core of the teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws that had been transmitted verbally through the lineage of the successive high priests of Taiseki-ji. The 56th high priest, Nichio, writes in Distilling Illusion and Observing One’s Mind, “The teaching of the oneness of Person and Law deals with the inner enlightenment of the Buddha. It cannot be understood outside of the heritage of this school.”

Different from the Nichiren–True Buddha theory, the theory of the oneness of the Person and the Law (in terms of the object of devotion) has no sign of having been discussed in the very early days of Taiseki-ji. The only indication of this theory is seen in the statement made in “Transfer of the Gohonzon’s Body and Mind (Gohonzon Shikishin Sojo)” by Nichiyo of Myohon-ji to Hota (who was under the influence of the 9th high priest, Nichiu): “According to a legend, the Gohonzon corresponds to blue in terms of color. … Because it embodies the oneness of the Person and the Law, this Buddha dwells on the blue earth” (The Writing of Study Research [Kenkyu Kyogaku Sho], vol. 30, p. 732). One more statement that may attract some attention in this regard is Nichiga’s remarks in “Secret Teachings of Formalities (Kegi Hiketsu),”“The ‘Life Span’ chapter is the objectof devotion where the Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of sowing and Nichiren are one” (EWFS, Vol. 1, p. 277). Nichiga also mentions in “Moshijo Kenbun,” “Nichiren Shonin is the object of devotion in the Three Great Secret Laws that should be spread in the Latter Day of the Law. You should ponder the teaching of the oneness of the Person and the Law” (ibid., vol. 4, p. 92).

However, as early as when he was the study head of Taiseki-ji, Nichikan touched upon this view of the oneness of the Person and the Law in terms of the object of devotion. Nichikan wrote in “Genshi Sho,” “Ichinen Sanzen equals the Buddha of limitless joy. The Buddha of limitless joy equals Founder Sage Nichiren” (WRS, vol. 10, p. 225). Nichikan also writes in “Hobenbon Dokujyu Shinchi no Koto” (EWFS, Vol. 3, p. 318), “We practice to the great law hidden in the depths of the ‘Life Span’ chapter that is equal to the Buddha of limitless joy, that is, the object of devotion of ichinen sanzen. What we do for practice is to chant the five and seven characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” He also writes in “Personal Account of ‘The Selection of Time’ Part Two (Senji Sho Guki Ge),” “The reason why this passage is quoted is to praise the object of devotion, because the Buddha of limitless joy is the law of ichinen sanzen. This should be strictly kept in secret” (CE, p. 313). He also writes in “Exegesis on ‘Taking the Essence of the Lotus Sutra,’”  “Since it embodies the fusion of reality and wisdom, and the oneness of Person and Law, we say it is the object of devotion of the actual ichinen sanzen” (CE, p. 599). He also writes, in “Personal Comment on ‘The Opening of the Eyes’ (Kaimoku Sho Guki),” “The jigage of the past denotes the Gohonzon of the oneness of the Person and the Law” (CE, p. 174).

Why was Nichikan, the study head of Taiseki-ji, able to touch upon this theory of the oneness of Person and Law in terms of the object of devotion, a theory that comprised the core teaching transmitted through the lineage of the successive high priests? We may presume that his mentor, Nichiei (who instituted a study seminary at Renzo-bo lodging on the grounds of Taiseki-ji and invited Nichikan to lecture on Nichiren’s writings there) allowed Nichikan to know the core teaching of Taiseki-ji to attempt to wipe out the bad influence of Yobo-ji’s doctrines within the Taiseki-ji school. In “Orally Transmitted Comment,” Nichiei remarked, “When fused, the original entity of reality and wisdom became the five characters of the Mystic Law. It is also the entity of the Buddha of limitless joy. The Person and the Law are one at the time without the beginning” (CC, vol. 3, p. 321). Furthermore, Nichiei quotes Nichiren’s “Record of the Orally Transmitted Teaching,” “Dengyo says, ‘A single moment of life comprising the three thousand realms in itself is the body that is freely received and used’ [or the Buddha of limitless joy]. ‘The body that is freely received and used’ is the Buddha who has forsaken august appearances” (CC, vol. 3, p. 321). Nichiren’s view, as expressed above, must have served as the basis of Nichikan’s contention of the oneness of Person and Law in terms of the object of devotion. Also, Nichikan earnestly copied the writings authored by Nichiyo and Nichiga of Hota that had been carrying on the study of the early days of Taiseki-ji. Nichikan was positive toward Nichiga’s view. The writings by the Hota school must have been a great reference for Nichikan to learn the transfer teachings of the early days of Taiseki-ji.

In this vein, did any change happen to Nichikan’s view of the oneness of Person and Law in terms of the object of devotion after he took office as Taiseki-ji’s 26th high priest? In essence, Nichikan’s contentions are consistent before and after he became high priest. One thing that is obvious is that after he became the 26th high priest, he engaged himself in more substantial discussion about the oneness of Person and Law in terms of the object of devotion, quoting the sutras, Buddhist teachers’ interpretations of them, Nichiren’s writings, and the transfer documents more extensively to justify his theory. Below are some quotes from statements concerning the oneness of Person and Law in terms of the object of devotion that Nichikan made after he took office as 26th high priest.

“The Meaning in the Depths” reads, “Scholars must know, ‘The original Buddha of limitless joy equals the law of ichinen sanzen. Therefore, it is called the object of devotion of the actual ichinen sanzen. This should be strictly kept in secret” (EWFS, Vol. 3, p. 88).

“The Practices of This School” reads, “It is said in the profound and secret transfer teaching of this school that the five elements of our body are the same five elements of all phenomena. The five elements of all phenomena are the five elements of our body” (EWFS, Vol. 3, p. 203).

“Exegesis on ‘The Object of Devotion for Observing One’s Mind’” reads, “The Person is the original Buddha of limitless joy and the reward body. The Law is the actualization of ichinen sanzen. The great mandala embodies the Person and the Law. The Law is one with the Person. The great mandala of the actual ichinen sanzen shall be the sovereign, teacher, and parent. The Person is one with the Law. Sage Nichiren, the original Buddha of limitless joy,is the sovereign, teacher, and parent. Though named differently, the entity of the Person and that of the Law are one” (CE, p. 459).

“Exegesis on ‘The Object of Devotion for Observing One’s Mind’” reads, “Question: What is the entity of the five characters of the Mystic Law? Answer: It is the object of devotion of ichinen sanzen. What is the entity of the object of devotion of ichinen sanzen? It is Sage Nichiren. Question: If so, can you describe your answer through an analogy? Answer: Although different in terms of their expression, the Person and the Law shares the same entity. For instance, ‘Life at each moment is endowed with the Ten Worlds.’ ‘Life permeates all phenomena, and all phenomena are contained in one’s life’” (CE, p. 548).

“Exegesis ‘On Repaying the Debts of Gratitude’” reads, “The Lord Buddha of the true cause and limitless joy is one with the Law. Neither the Person nor the Law is superior or inferior to each other. The Person is one with the Law, and the Law is one with the Person. Therefore, the sutra states, ‘The entirety of the Buddha dwells where the sutra is located.’ T’ien-t’ai states, ‘This sutra describes the Dharma body.’ The Dharma body means the Buddha of limitless joy. Founder Nichiren states, ‘The Buddha of limitless joy equals ichinen sanzen.’ Dengyo states, ‘Ichinen sanzen equals the Buddha of limitless joy.’ Therefore, let us acknowledge that Lord Shakyamuni of the true cause or the entirety of the Buddha of limitless joy is the object of devotion of the actual ichinen sanzen, and that the entirety of the object of devotion of the actual ichinen sanzen equals Lord Shakyamuni of the true cause, or the Buddha of limitless joy” (CE, p. 435).

“Comment on ‘On Making Offerings to the Myoho Mandala’ (Myoho Mandala Kuyo Kenmon Hikki)” reads, “The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo are the entity of the object of devotion. This object of devotion consists of the Person and the Law. It is Myoho-renge-kyo in terms of the Law. It is the Buddha eternally endowed with the three bodies in terms of the Person; the Buddha eternally endowed with the three bodies is Nichiren Daishonin. The Gosho states, ‘I, Nichiren, have inscribed my life in sumi ink, so believe in the Gohonzon with your whole heart. The Buddha’s will is the Lotus Sutra, but the soul of Nichiren is nothing other than Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.’ ‘The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings’ reads, ‘This being the case, the term “eternally endowed with the three bodies” refers to the votaries of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. The title of honor for one who is eternally endowed with the three bodies is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is what the three great concerns of the actuality of the “Life Span” chapter refer to.’ This shows the oneness of the Person and the Law. Though stemming from the same entity, the Person and the Law express themselves differently” (CE, pp. 733-734).

In this way, Nichikan in his role as high priest of Taiseki-ji described more overtly and thoroughly than previously, the theory of the oneness of Person and Law in terms of the object of devotion. On the other hand, in “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths” (that he reedited toward the end of his life), Nichikan quotes the sutras, Buddhist teachers’ interpretations of them, Nichiren’s writings, and the transfer documents extensively to justify his theory, which emphasized the secrecy of his oneness theory of the object of devotion. In “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths,” Nichikan refers to the object of devotion, stating, “Question: Why do you call the unique essential teaching hidden in the depths of the ‘Life Span’ chapter the object of devotion of the actual ichinen sanzen?” (EWFS, Vol. 3, p. 76). Nichikan’s response to this question is supposed to be his explanation of the object of worship that embodies the oneness of the Person and the Law. “The Threefold Secret Teaching” reads, “Question: Why is the unique essential teaching hidden in the depths of the ‘Life Span’ chapter called the actual ichinen sanzen? Answer: Even though this is a secret teaching, I will explain it. It is because the Person and the Law are one” (ibid., vol. 3, p. 53). The word “actual” in terms of the ichinen sanzen hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter denotes the oneness of the Person and the Law. However, in response to the previous question quoted out of “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths,” Nichikan would not answer the question (ibid., vol. 3, p. 76). In that document, Nichikan refuses to answer the question by referring to the oneness of the Person and the Law. He then contends in “The Threefold Secret Teaching,” “The way of this school is to actually show the actual. Therefore, the entity of the Law is an actual thing. So, our object of devotion is called the Gohonzon of the actual ichinen sanzen” (ibid., vol. 3, p. 76). Again, in response to the question he placed in “The Threefold Secret Teaching,” which reads, “Question: If so, what is the actual entity of the Law?” Nichikan refused to answer it by stating, “Answer: I have never revealed this to anyone” (ibid., vol. 3, p. 76). Nichikan then moved on to discuss the object of devotion in terms of the Person. In this way, in “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths,” Nichikan stubbornly refrained from giving the theoretical explanations about the actual entity of the Law that is hidden in the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, or the object of devotion that embodies the oneness of the Person and the Law. Yet, in the “Object of Devotion” chapter in the “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths,” Nichikan is very clear in expounding the profound meaning of the oneness of the Person and the Law, to the point where he concludes, “Scholars must know that ‘The original Buddha of limitless joy equals the law of ichinen sanzen.’ Therefore, it is called the object of devotion of the actual ichinen sanzen. This should be strictly kept in secret” (EWFS, Vol. 3, p. 88). In this way, Nichikan eventually gave his answer to the question that he at first refused to answer. In the final analysis, in the reedited version of “The Meaning Hidden in the Depths,” Nichikan gave final assurance to the theory of oneness of the Person and the Law in terms of the object of devotion.  He must have wanted to emphasize that the idea of oneness of the Person and the Law was the secret teaching that must never be revealed to the public and must be kept to the successive high priests of Taiseki-ji.

After he took office as the 26th high priest of Taiseki-ji, Nichikan was relentless in expounding the oneness of Person and Law in terms of the object of devotion. At the same time, he was very emphatic about maintaining the secrecy surrounding the theory of the oneness of Person and Law in terms of the object of worship. As I observe these two seeming contradictions in Nichikan’s attitude toward the theory of the oneness of Person and Law in terms of the object of devotion, it is clear that this theory was the issue of utmost secrecy in the teaching of the Three Great Secret Laws that was transmitted through the lineage of the successive high priests of Taiseki-ji.

  1. 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).
  2. Dispelling Illusion and Observing One’s Mind (Nichio Oishi, Dainichiren Editorial Office, 1971, first edition in 1894, p. 158).
  3. In addition to Nichiei, we can think of the 25th high priest, Nichiyu, who is considered to have influenced Nichikan’s view of the oneness of the Person and the Law as one of his predecessors. In his “Comment on ‘The Object of Devotion,” Nichiyu describes, “The Person who gains the Law and the Law that gains the Person constitute the object of devotion, that is the entity of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds” and “While putting aside the object of devotion supported by the theoretical underpinnings of ichinen sanzen of Shakyamuni’s Buddhism of the harvest, that features the superficial magnificence of the Buddha’s appearance, we should select the object of devotion of the actual ichinen sanzen of the Buddhism of sowing in the Latter Day of the Law that, embodying oneness of the Person and the Law, is hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter” (CC, vol. 3, pp. 378-384). In this way, Nichiyu emphasizes the oneness of the Person and the Law in terms of the object of devotion. However, it is not known when the “Comment on ‘The Object of Devotion” was written, and this writing by Nichiyu sounds very similar to the Nichikan doctrine. Also, Nichiyu was four years younger than Nichikan, and he lived three years longer than Nichikan, as evidenced by The Chronology of the Fuji School (Fuji Nenpyo). It is possible that Nichiyu was the one who was under the influence of Nichikan’s doctrine. Under this influence, Nichiyu developed his theory of oneness of the Person and the Law in terms of the object of devotion in his “Comment on ‘The Object of Devotion.’” In this connection, we cannot assert how they influenced each other.