Ceremonies

Attending Ceremonies at the Temple

Visiting our local temple and attending ceremonies is a significant opportunity to deepen our understanding of Buddhism through actual practice and experience. When we deepen our understanding of Buddhism we naturally deepen our understanding of life. A variety of ceremonies are conducted each month to express our gratitude to the Buddha, pray for the achievement of world peace, commemorate significant events in the history of Nichiren Shoshu, and contribute towards the happiness and enlightenment of our departed ancestors, family and friends.

Through the accumulation of positive action in this way we naturally develop ourselves as human beings and find a deep sense of compassion, gratitude and respect well up from within us that influences all aspects of our lives positively. Participating in ceremonies and listening to our Chief Priest’s lectures naturally ignites our seeking spirit to ask questions, which is how we begin to learn about Buddhism. Please scroll down to read about the specific ceremonies of Nichiren Shoshu.

Monthly Ceremonies

Kosen-rufu Shodai Ceremony
The Kosen-rufu Shodai Ceremony is conducted by all Nichiren Shoshu temples around the world on the first Sunday of each month under the guidance of our High Priest. On this day, we chant together in unity for the establishment of true peace and stability in the world, which we call Kosen-rufu, and make the determination to contribute towards its actualization through compassionate action in our daily lives.

Oko Ceremony
The Oko Ceremony is conducted on the second Sunday of each month to express our sincere gratitude to True Buddha Nichiren Daishonin. The concept of acknowledging and repaying debts of gratitude is foundational to the spirit of the Oko Ceremony and in understanding the spirit of Buddhist practice in our daily lives.

Okyobi Ceremony
The Okyobi Ceremony is conducted on the last Sunday of each month to repay our debt of gratitude to our deceased ancestors, family and friends. Through the positive cause of making Toba memorial offerings and prayers we are able to share the benefit of our Buddhist practice with the deceased and contribute towards their happiness, enlightenment and peace.

Annual Ceremonies

January - New Year's (Gantan) Gongyo

New Year’s Day has been celebrated since ancient times and marks the renewal of a person’s determination to open the way to happiness. Nichiren Daishonin states the following on the significance of celebrating New Year’s Day:

“New Year’s Day marks the first day, the first month, the beginning of the year and the start of spring. A person who celebrates this day will gain virtue and be loved by all, just as the moon becomes full gradually, moving from west to east, and the sun shines more brightly traveling from east to west.”

Myoho-Renge-Kyo is the ultimate Law that activates the original energy of all life and existence. In the Gosho, “The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra” Nichiren Daishonin states, “‘Myo’ means to revive, that is, to return to life.” In Buddhism, the word “revive” means to transform our negative nature into a higher life-condition and attain Buddhahood.

Reviving our seeking spirit at the source and making determinations by chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon indicate the significance of New Year’s Day in Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. By performing an energetic first Gongyo of the new year at the temple, we proactively set the tone for steadfast faith and practice throughout the year. With the determination to contribute towards Kosen-rufu as our largest resolution, we will naturally establish a balanced practice for oneself and others that furthers us along in the development of all of our personal goals and determinations as well.

February - Koshi-e: In Commemoration of Nikko Shonin

The Koshi-e Ceremony is conducted each year to commemorate our Second High Priest Nikko Shonin, who passed peacefully at the age of eighty-eight on February 7, 1333.

Nikko Shonin was the only one among Nichiren Daishonin’s senior disciples who was capable of directly receiving the Lifeblood of the Law as the Second High Priest. His total dedication to Nichiren Daishonin and spirit to preserve his true teachings for future generations have become the eternal foundation of Nichiren Shoshu.

At the age of thirteen Nikko Shonin had the opportunity to serve Nichiren Daishonin and was deeply moved by his noble character, quickly becoming his most devoted disciple. Nikko Shonin was always at Nichiren Daishonin’s side through every persecution and exile, sparing no pain in his efforts to support Nichiren Daishonin and his will for propagation throughout the land. As a result, Nikko Shonin developed an incomparable understanding of the depth and truth of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. Recognizing his accomplishments and profound understanding of Buddhism, and seeing that his own death was approaching, Nichiren Daishonin designated Nikko Shonin as his successor to protect the Dai-Gohonzon and his teachings for the future.

Among the Three Treasures, we respect Nikko Shonin as the first among the Treasure of the Priest. His efforts to protect the Dai-Gohonzon and preserve Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings are what made it possible for us to encounter the True Law in this present age. Participation in the Koshi-e Ceremony shows our appreciation to Nikko Shonin and our determination to follow his spirit in accurately preserving the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin and perpetuating them for the future.

Each year, in preparation for the Koshi-e Ceremony, the priests of our Head Temple Taisekiji go to the Shojin River to gather Seri, a fern-like plant, which they offer to the Gohonzon. Nikko Shonin led a very austere lifestyle and enjoyed eating Seri, so this offering is reminiscent of his life. This Nichiren Shoshu tradition has been followed for more than 600 years.

The Koshi-e Ceremony provides a way for all of us to express our unified appreciation to Nikko Shonin for his tenacious spirit to attain Kosen-rufu.

February - Otanjo-e: In Celebration of Nichiren Daishonin's Advent

The Otanjo-e Ceremony commemorates the advent of True Buddha Nichiren Daishonin on February 16, 1222. The date of Nichiren Daishonin’s birth has a mystical connection with Shakyamuni’s Buddhism because Shakyamuni Buddha physically passed on February 15. This indicates that Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism began at the point where the power of Shakyamuni’s Buddhism ceased. Nichiren Daishonin was born on February 16, 1222, at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, fulfilling Shakyamuni Buddha’s prophecy that the Original Buddha would appear at that time to teach the Great Pure Law for all people into the eternal future.

In Nichiren Shoshu we also celebrate Nichiren Daishonin’s birthday as the anniversary of the appearance of the Gohonzon or Great Treasure Tower of the Mystic Law in this world. For this reason, at our Head Temple Taisekiji in Japan, the Otanjo-e Ceremony is conducted at the Five-Story Pagoda which represents the five characters of Myoho-Renge-Kyo and the five elements, which are the substance of life and the universe itself. The Gohonzon is enshrined in the center of the pagoda, indicating that the core of one’s life and the Law are the same as Nichiren Daishonin’s life, or the true entity of the Law, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. The main door of this pagoda faces west, in contrast to all other Japanese five-story pagodas, which face south, demonstrating how Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism will spread to the west, like the sun, which moves from east to west and illuminates the entire world.

March - Spring Higan-e: Memorial Service on the Occasion of the Equinox

Nichiren Shoshu temples perform the Higan-e Ceremony every spring and autumn, as a Buddhist practice devoted to amassing benefit in our lives and sharing it with our deceased ancestors, family and friends. The repaying of one’s debt of gratitude to ancestors and parents is especially emphasized in Buddhist teachings, because none of us could be here today without the family that came before us. This expression of gratitude is also extended to all those who have contributed to our lives, and with the prayer for all living beings to be able to attain the tranquil state of enlightened life. As a result of the practice of making Toba memorial offerings in this way over time, we deepen our understanding of the fact that all of our lives are connected and supported by one another.

During the time of the equinox, the hours of daylight become equal to the hours of darkness at night. This represents the inseparability of darkness and light (yin and yang), and the oneness of good and evil. The Sutras always teach us that, “The Buddha desires the middle way.” So in Buddhism, the deep significance of this time is acknowledged, when darkness and light meet together in the middle with balance. The benefits of carrying out our Buddhist practice at this time are considered even more significant than at other times, so the Higan-e Ceremony is an especially meaningful time to accumulate benefit for ourselves and share that benefit with the deceased through Toba memorial offerings and prayers. The positive causes we make to support the deceased’s enlightenment always contribute towards our own growth and development on the path towards enlightenment at the same time.

April - Risshu-e: In Celebration of the Establishment of True Buddhism

The Declaration of the Establishment of True Buddhism, from The Life of Nichiren Daishonin

The Risshu-e Ceremony commemorates Nichiren Daishonin’s establishment of True Buddhism on April 28, 1253, through the public voicing of the Mystic Law for the very first time. The ultimate significance of Nichiren Daishonin’s declaration lies in the fact that the seed of enlightenment, the Mystic Law, was sown for all living beings and the entire universe. Nichiren Daishonin’s absolute compassion, the essence of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, is capable of permeating all lands, people and the five components of life: form, perception, conception, volition and consciousness. For this reason, by voicing Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo on April 28, 1253, the seed was sown for these three realms of existence to become the manifestation of enlightenment.

The significance of the annual Risshu-e Ceremony is to express our sincere gratitude to Nichiren Daishonin. Through his profound mercy, he overcame tremendous obstacles and persecutions to establish True Buddhism for all living beings. So we commemorate this day by making the determination to follow Nichiren Daishonin’s example of compassionately teaching others about Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo for the development of unshakeable happiness in their lives and peace in the world around us.

July - Urabon-e: Annual Summer Memorial for the Deceased

Since the early days of Buddhism, the Urabon-e Ceremony has been a time set aside for people to pray for the peace and happiness of the deceased, in the spirit of helping those who cannot help themselves by making offerings to the Buddha on their behalf.

The origins of this ceremony are found in the Bussetsu Urabon Sutra which tells the story of Maudgalyayana, one of Shakyamuni Buddha’s Ten Major Disciples, and the foremost in occult power. Maudgalyayana’s mother had died when he was very young, before he had the opportunity to repay his debt of gratitude to her as a son. With sincere concern for her life condition he searched the entire universe for her using his occult powers, and sadly found that she had fallen into the world of hunger as a result of begrudgingly making offerings to the Buddha when she was alive. Maudgalyayana tried to use his occult power to send her food, but each time the food turned into flames as soon as she put it in her mouth. When he tried to send her water to put out the flames, the water immediately turned to oil so the flames only blazed more furiously. As a result, his mother was suffering more than ever.

Maudgalyayana realized that, even with his special powers, he could do nothing to help her. Shakyamuni Buddha provided guidance at that time to explain that although Maudgalyayana’s mother was trapped in a state of suffering because of her selfish actions from the past, if Maudgalyayana simply focussed on attaining enlightenment in accordance with the correct teaching of the Buddha, he would be able to transform his mother’s selfish nature through their karmic connection. Shakyamuni Buddha encouraged him to invite priests from the ten directions on July 15 and sincerely make the positive cause of abundant food and drink offerings to them to save his mother from the incessant hell of hunger.

Maudgalyayana faithfully followed Shakyamuni’s guidance. Through his offerings to the priests on July 15, Maudgalyayana relieved the sufferings of his mother for one kalpa, an immeasurably long, yet limited period of time. He was delighted with this accomplishment and asked Shakyamuni how he could help others benefit not only their deceased parents, but even seven generations into the past. Shakyamuni replied that they should carry out this Buddhist ceremony for the deceased each year, and this is the origin of the Urabon Ceremony.

In the “Urabon Gosho” Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Maudgalyayana’s deceased parents live on in him. When Maudgalyayana’s life attains Buddhahood, so will the lives of his parents.”

Maudgalyayana, indeed, went on to attain enlightenment by upholding the Lotus Sutra, and he was able to directly support the enlightenment of his parents as a result. The Lotus Sutra of the Latter Day of the Law is the Gohonzon, inscribed by True Buddha Nichiren Daishonin. All people, without discrimination can attain Buddhahood by chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon and fusing their life with the Buddha’s life. The benefits of enlightenment are such that they are perfectly shared with others, including our deceased relatives, with whom we share a karmic bond. The spirit and purpose of the Urabon-e Ceremony goes far beyond simple remembrance of the deceased. It recognizes the eternally profound meaning of life and death in the light of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. This we do not only for the living, but also for the sake of those who have passed on, and those who are yet to come. Since no single part of the universe is separate from the rest, Buddhism teaches that we must help the insentient world achieve enlightenment, too. Most importantly though, let’s all put our utmost efforts into Buddhist practice to the Gohonzon, so we ourselves can accumulate and share the benefits of enlightenment with those we have a karmic connection to.

September - Gonan-e: In Commemoration of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution

Tatsunokuchi Persecution, from The Life of Nichiren Daishonin

The Gonan-e Ceremony commemorates the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, when Nichiren Daishonin revealed his true identity as the Original Buddha of the infinite past of Kuon-ganjo. The Tatsunokuchi Persecution was so named because it took place on the outskirts of Kamakura at Tatsunokuchi Beach on September 12, 1271. The Tatsunokuchi Persecution is one of the four major persecutions that Nichiren Daishonin underwent to attest to the validity of the “twenty-line verse of the Kanji chapter of the Lotus Sutra” in which Shakyamuni Buddha predicts the persecutions that the Votary of the Lotus Sutra will experience in the Latter Day of the Law.

Nichiren Daishonin devoted his entire life to spreading True Buddhism for the people despite the political and social dangers involved at that time. Many people in high ranking positions profited from the existing system of corruption, and were angered by Nichiren Daishonin’s actions to reveal the truth about Buddhism to the people. They soon tried to put an end to his efforts by arresting and attempting to execute him.

However, upon arrival at the Tasunokuchi execution grounds Nichiren Daishonin calmly chanted the Daimoku with perfect composure. At the very moment the executioner raised his blade, a bright light shot through the sky, rendering all those present frozen, and too terrified to ever try to harm Nichiren Daishonin again. It was after this failed execution attempt by the Kamakura government that Nichiren Daishonin discarded his provisional identity and revealed his true identity, which is referred to as Hosshaku Kempon. This means to discard the provisional identity of the common mortal and reveal the true identity of the Buddha. Nichiren Daishonin went on to reveal his inner realization as the Dai-Gohonzon, the True Object of Worship of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, which is considered to be the greatest purpose of his advent.

During the Gonan-e Ceremony we all express our sincere gratitude to Nichiren Daishonin and reflect on his selfless and compassionate determination to propagate the Law no matter how strong the three powerful enemies may seem. By upholding the spirit of “single-mindedly yearning to see the Buddha without begrudging our lives,” we can grasp the deep significance of this ceremony and carry out Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism in our lives.

September - Fall Higan-e: Memorial Service on the Occasion of the Autumn the Equinox

Nichiren Shoshu temples perform the Higan-e Ceremony every spring and autumn, as a Buddhist practice devoted to amassing benefit in our lives to share with our deceased ancestors, family and friends. The repaying of one’s debt of gratitude to ancestors and parents is especially emphasized in Buddhist teachings, because none of us could be here today without the family that came before us. This expression of gratitude is also extended to all those who have contributed to our lives, and with the prayer for all living beings to attain the tranquil state of enlightened life. As a result of the practice of making Toba memorial offerings over time in this way, we deepen our understanding of the fact that all of our lives are connected and supported by one another.

During the time of the Equinox, the hours of daylight become equal to the hours of darkness at night. This represents the inseparability of darkness and light (yin and yang), and the oneness of good and evil. The Sutras always teach us that, “The Buddha desires the middle way.” So in Buddhism, the deep significance of this time is acknowledged, when darkness and light meet together in the middle with balance. The benefits of carrying out our Buddhist practice at this time are considered even more significant than at other times, so the Higan-e Ceremony is an especially meaningful time to accumulate benefit ourselves and share that benefit with the deceased through Toba memorial offerings and prayers. These positive causes to support the deceased’s enlightenment always contribute towards our own growth and development on the path towards enlightenment at the same time.

October - Oeshiki: In Celebration of Nichiren Daishonin's Eternal Life

The Oeshiki Ceremony is the annual celebration of the eternal life of Nichiren Daishonin. At this time, all Nichiren Shoshu temples decorate their altars with colorful paper cherry blossoms, and the “Rissho Ankoku Ron” is read as a symbolic reaffirmation of the determination to overcome all hardships and contribute to the achievement of the Buddha’s greatest aspiration of Kosen-rufu, or true peace and stability in the world.

On the occasion of the Oeshiki Ceremony there are three points that we always keep in mind. The first is that the life of Nichiren Daishonin exists eternally through the perfect transmission of the Three Great Secret Laws. The second point is the concept of oneness, which is an essential concept in Buddhism. The third point is that the will of the Buddha is the establishment of true peace and stability in the world, which we call Kosen-rufu.

Regarding the first point on the eternal existence of the Buddha’s life, we should understand that although Nichiren Daishonin’s physical body passed from this world on October 13, 1282, his essential life remains one with the universe. The very life of Nichiren Daishonin is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, as embodied in the Dai-Gohonzon; the establishment of which was the purpose of Nichiren Daishonin’s advent into this world. The following passage from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings makes the point clear that the life of the True Buddha lives in the Gohonzon, “I, Nichiren, with sumi ink, have infused my life [into the Gohonzon]. So believe in it. The will of the Buddha is the Lotus Sutra, but the spirit of Nichiren is nothing other than Nam- Myoho-Renge-Kyo.”

Fortunately the Dai-Gohonzon has been protected and transmitted by each successive High Priest, from Nichiren Daishonin to Nikko Shonin, to Nichimoku Shonin and so on, to the present High Priest, Nichinyo Shonin, so that we can all receive the great good influence of Nichiren Daishonin’s enlightened life in our daily lives today.

The second important point to consider regarding the Oeshiki is that at the core of Buddhist doctrine is the revelation of the concept of oneness. The fact that at the time of Nichiren Daishonin’s passing there was an earthquake as the cherry trees bloomed out of season teaches us the Buddhist concept of oneness. The oneness of the common mortal and Buddha, the oneness of life and its environment, the oneness of body and mind and the oneness of death and birth cannot be separated from each other. Therefore, at the moment of the True Buddha’s physical passing, the earth shook in mourning, but the cherry trees bloomed out of season in celebration of the Buddha’s eternal life. In this way Nichiren Daishonin’s passing reveals the principle of oneness.

The third point to always remember on the occasion of the Oeshiki is that Nichiren Daishonin’s will and greatest aspiration is for the achievement of Kosen-rufu. At this significant time we always remind ourselves of the importance of upholding a sincere practice, as disciples of the Buddha, and purely carrying on the Heritage of Buddhism into the future towards this goal of Kosen-rufu. When we have the same compassionate spirit as Nichiren Daishonin and maintain the same determination to achieve peace and stability in the world, we are able to manifest enlightenment for both ourselves and for others and establish a truly peaceful world.

November - Mokushi-e: In Commemoration of Nichimoku Shonin

The Mokushi-e Ceremony commemorates Nichimoku Shonin, the Third High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu, who passed on November 15, 1333. Nichimoku Shonin was born on April 28, 1260, exactly seven years after Nichiren Daishonin’s establishment of True Buddhism, and during the same year that Nichiren Daishonin submitted the “Rissho Ankoku Ron” in remonstration with the Kamakura government. This is no coincidence considering Nichimoku Shonin himself went on to remonstrate more than forty-two times with the Kamakura government and the imperial court at Kyoto on behalf of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin. In the entire history of Nichiren Shoshu, he was the first to attempt to shakubuku the imperial court.

Nichimoku Shonin sincerely served Nichiren Daishonin from a young age while learning the profundities of his teachings. Legend has it that in his devoted service to Nichiren Daishonin, he carried buckets of water on his head from a stream to the temple at Mount Minobu several times a day. As a result, a permanent impression marked the spot on his head where the buckets had rested. This indentation appears in his painted image as a testimony to his devotion to Nichiren Daishonin

Nichimoku Shonin is always remembered for his spirit to practice and propagate True Buddhism even at the risk of his own life. In 1333, when the Kamakura shogunate collapsed and imperial rule was restored, Nichimoku Shonin braved the harsh winter conditions at the age of seventy-four to conduct one last remonstration with the imperial court. In the month before his departure he transferred all of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings to Nichido Shonin, in case of his death. It was during this courageous journey for the sake of true peace and stability in the land, that Nichimoku Shonin passed peacefully while chanting the Daimoku at a small inn in Tarui of Mino Province.

We observe the Mokushi-e Ceremony each year to remind ourselves to wholeheartedly propagate Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism with every word and deed like Nichimoku Shonin did, without ever begrudging our lives.

The Shichi-go-san, or Children’s Ceremony, has also been celebrated on November 15 in Japan since the seventeenth century. It is tradition for children aged three, five, and seven to visit the temple on this day and receive prayers for their health, happiness, and bright futures. In more recent times children of all ages are celebrated on this day. In Nichiren Shoshu faith, children are considered the treasure of their parents and society as those who will one day perpetuate Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings on into the future.

The Mokushi-e Ceremony conveys our sincere gratitude for Nichimoku Shonin’s unparalleled efforts to spread Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings for all people, and also carries with it our hopes for the children of tomorrow, that they may grow to be as skilled in Buddhism and as strong in faith, wisdom and knowledge as Nichimoku Shonin.