Just before dawn on the 28th day of the fourth month in the year 1253, Zeshō-bō Renchō left his sanctum at Seichō-ji temple at Mount Kiyosumi, and climbed the hilltop overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Kasagamori. At the first sign of the sun on the horizon his voice resounded with Namumyohorengekyo in salutation. In that instant, before the sun, heaven and earth as witnesses, mankind’s first invocation of the supreme Law was issued and the true practice of Buddhism for the Latter Day was proclaimed. Myohorengekyo is the Japanese transliteration of the title of the Lotus Sutra as it was translated into Chinese from Sanskrit by Kumarajiva (344-409). In “The One Essential Phrase” Nichiren Daishonin explains the significance of this phrase:
. . .[T]he Lotus Sutra defines our life as the Buddha’s life, our mind as the Buddha’s wisdom and our actions as the Buddha’s behavior. . . .Namumyohorengekyo is only one phrase but it contains the essence of the entire sutra. . . .Everything has its essential point, and the heart of the Lotus Sutra is its title, Namumyohorengekyo. Truly, if you chant this in the morning and evening, you are correctly reading the entire Lotus Sutra . . . .A Law this easy to embrace and this easy to practice was taught for the sake of all mankind in this evil age of the Latter Day of the Law.
When Renchō intoned this simple phrase the audience of the sun, earth and heaven had no objections. His human audience, he would soon discover, was of a different mind. At noon of the same day, when the sun was high overhead, Renchō stood before an audience of his peers, family and members of the local community in a hall at Seichō-ji Temple. In a dynamic voice full of resolve, with palms pressed together in prayer position, he pronounced Namumyohorengekyo for human ears to hear for the first time. From there Renchō went on to denounce the four major sects of the day – Ritsu, Zen, Nembutsu and Shingon. At the end of his discourse he announced that he was changing his name to Nichiren. Nichiren means sun-lotus, and its significance is that it suggests Nichiren attained enlightenment by himself. To realize the truth on one’s own, without the aid of a teacher, is the sign of a sage. Two years later, in 1255, Nichiren explained the purpose of chanting Namumyohorengekyo in “On Attaining Buddhahood” :
If you wish to free yourself from the suffering of birth and death you have endured through eternity and attain supreme enlightenment in this lifetime, you must awaken to the mystic truth which has always been within your life. This truth is Myohorengekyo, Chanting Myohorengekyo will therefore enable you to grasp the Mystic truth within you.
Every April 28th, Risshu-e is celebrated to observethe birth of Namumyohorengekyo and the initiation of Nichiren's practice of the True Law.
CELEBRATING THE DECLARATION OF THE PRACTICE OF TRUE BUDDHISM