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the Nichiren Shoshu Shoshin-kai
BACKGROUND: Following Izu was the Komatsubara Persecution which took place on November 11,
1264 when an assassination of Nichiren was attempted while he was on his way to visit believers in
Awa Province. In the skirmish, Nichiren suffered a cut on his forehead and a broken left hand, while
two of his followers, Kudo Yoshitaka and Kyonin-bo were killed. Hostilities continued to escalate
for the next seven years, and finally culminated in the Tatsunokuchi Persecution. Nichiren
describes that eventful day in On the Buddha's Behavior (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 1):
"On the night of the twelfth day of the ninth month in the eighth year of Bun'ei (1271), I was
arrested in a manner which was extraordinary and unlawful, even more outrageous than the arrest
of Ryoken and the priest Ryoko who had actually rebelled against the government. Hei no Saemon
led hundreds of armor-clad warriors to take me. Wearing the headgear of a court noble, he glared
in anger and spoke in a rough voice.
These actions were no different from those of the Prime Minister Taira no Kiyomori, who
seized power only to lead the country to destruction. I immediately recognized the dire portent of
this event and thought to myself, 'I expected something like this to happen sooner or later. How
fortunate that I can give my life for the Lotus Sutra! If I am to lose this worthless head for
Buddhahood, it will be like trading sand for gold or rocks for jewels!'
Shou-bo, Hei no Saemon's chief retainer, rushed up, snatched the fifth scroll of the Lotus Sutra from
inside my robe, and struck me in the face with it three times. Then he threw it on the floor. Warriors
seized the nine other scrolls of the sutra, unrolled them and trampled on them or wound
them around their bodies, scattering the scrolls all over the matting and wooden floors until every
corner of the house was strewn with them.
I said in a loud voice, 'See how insanely Hei no Saemon is acting! You all have just toppled
the pillar of Japan!' Hearing this, the assembled troops were taken aback. When they saw me
standing before the fierce arm of the law unafraid, they must have realized that they were in the
wrong, for the color drained from their faces.
Both on the tenth, when I was summoned, and on this night, the twelfth, I fully described to Hei no
Saemon the heresies of the Shingon, Zen and Jodo sects, as well as Ryokan's failure in his prayers
for rain. As his warriors listened, they would burst into laughter, and other times they grew furious.
. . . .
That night of the twelfth, I was placed under the custody of Hojo Nobutoki, lord of the province of
Musashi, and around midnight was taken away to be executed. Entering Wakamiya Avenue, I looked
at the crowd of warriors surrounding me and said, "I will not cause any trouble. Don't worry.
I merely wish to say my last words to Bodhisattva Hachiman." I got down from the horse and called
out, "Bodhisattva Hachiman, are you truly a god? When Wake no Kiyomaro was about to be
beheaded, you appeared as a moon ten feet wide. When the Great Teacher Dengyo lectured on the
Lotus Sutra, you bestowed upon him a purple surplice. I, Nichiren, am the greatest votary of the
Lotus Sutra in Japan, and entirely without guilt. I have expounded the Law to save all people from
falling into the hell of incessant suffering for opposing the Lotus Sutra. Moreover, if the forces of
the great Mongol empire attack this country, can even the Buddhist gods Tensho Daijin and
Hachiman remain safe and unharmed? . . . Finally I called out, "If I am executed tonight and go to
the pure land of Eagle Peak, I shall report at once to Shakyamuni Buddha that Tensho Daijin and
Hachiman have broken their oath to him. If you feel this will go hard on you, you had better do
something about it right away!" Having spoken, I remounted my horse.
As the party passed the shrine on Yui beach, I spoke again. "Stop a minute, gentlemen. I have a
message for someone living near here," I said. A boy called Kumao was sent to Shijo Kingo, who
rushed to meet me. I told him, 'Tonight, I go to be beheaded. This wish I have cherished these many
years. This world has seen pheasants born only to be caught by hawks, mice born only to be eaten by
cats, and men born to be killed attempting to avenge the murder of their wives and children. Such
things have occurred more times than there are specks of dust on earth. . . But until now, no one has
ever lost his life for the sake of the Lotus Sutra. I myself was born to become a poor priest, unable
fully to repay the debt of gratitude I owe to my parents and to my country. Now I will present my
severed head to the Lotus Sutra and share the blessings therefrom with my parents, and with my
disciples and believers, just as I have promised you.' Then the four Shijo brothers, holding on to my
horse's reins, went with me to Tatsunokuchi at Koshigoe.
Finally we came to a place that I knew must be the site of my execution. Indeed, the soldiers
stopped and began to mill around in excitement. Shijo Kingo, in tears, said, 'These are your last
moments.' I replied, 'How thoughtless you are! You should be delighted at this great fortune. Don't
you remember your promise?' I had no sooner said this when a brilliant orb as bright as the moon
burst forth from the direction of Enoshima, shooting across the sky from southeast to northwest. It
was shortly before dawn and still too dark to see anyone's face, but the radiant object clearly
illuminated everyone like bright moonlight. The executioner fell on his face, his eyes blinded. The
soldiers were terrified and panic-stricken. Some ran off into the distance, some jumped from their
horses and knelt on the ground, and others crouched down in their saddles. I called out, 'Here, why
do you shrink from this miserable prisoner? Come nearer! Come closer!' But no one would
approach. 'What if the dawn should break? You must hasten to execute me, for you will find it
unbearable to do so after sunrise.' I urged them on, but they made no response.
They waited a short time, and then someone requested that I proceed to Echi in the same province
of Sagami. I replied that since none of us knew the way, someone would have to guide us there. No
one was willing to lead the way, but after we had waited for a while, one soldier finally said, 'That is
the road you must take.'
Setting off, we followed the road and by noon reached Echi. We then proceeded to the
residence of Honma Rokurozaemon. There I ordered sake for the soldiers. When the time came for
them to leave, some bowed their heads, joined their hands as though in prayer, and said in a most
respectful manner, 'We did not realize what kind of person you are. We hated you because we were
told that you slandered Amida Buddha, whom we worship. But now that we have seen your
greatness with our own eyes, we will discard the Nembutsu that we have practiced for so long.'
Some of them even took their Nembutsu rosaries from their tinder bags and flung them away. Others
pledged that they would never again chant the Nembutsu. After they left, Rokurozaemon's retainers
took over the guard. Then Shijo Kingo and his brothers departed."
September 12, 1271