Tozan pilgrimage

Tozan Pilgrimage

Tozan, meaning “to climb the mountain,” is the pilgrimage that Nichiren Shoshu believers make to seek the source of our faith and practice, the Dai-Gohonzon, enshrined at our Head Temple Taisekiji, in the foothills of Mt. Fuji in Japan. The spirit of tozan is the yearning to express our heartfelt gratitude to the Dai-Gohonzon, the very entity of the Buddha’s enlightened life, and to share the wondrous benefit we derive from this experience with others, in our mission for Kosen-rufu (world peace).

The Significance of Tozan

During the lifetime of Nichiren Daishonin, a tozan was a pilgrimage made to visit the True Buddha. Its original meaning existed in directly serving the Daishonin and receiving his guidance. This is because Nichiren Daishonin is the Original Master who will lead all living beings to enlightenment. Therefore, the True Buddha himself was the center of faith and worship. What, then, of the people of today, who become disciples after the Daishonin’s passing?

In the Gosho, Reply to Kyo’o (Gosho, p. 685), Nichiren Daishonin states:

I, Nichiren, with sumi ink, have infused my life [into the Gohonzon]. So, believe in it.

The Dai-Gohonzon, therefore, is the perfect fusion of the True Buddha Nichiren Daishonin and the True Law of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, and is enshrined within the Hoando at Head Temple Taisekiji. By making a pilgrimage to the Head Temple, we are able to worship the Dai-Gohonzon, the eternal life of the True Buddha, which has been solemnly safeguarded at Taisekiji for over 700 years. If you’d like to learn more about the significance of going on a tozan pilgrimage see the Importance of Tozan chapter in the Nichiren Shoshu Basics of Practice.

The Root, the Branches, and the Leaves

If we think of the Dai-Gohonzon as the root or trunk, then all other Nichiren Shoshu Gohonzons are either branches (Temple Gohonzons) or leaves (our individual Gohonzons). The Gohonzon enshrined in each temple or the Gohonzon that we have received and enshrined in our homes are all transcribed by the High Priest. These are all transcriptions of the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary and the great merit arising from them come entirely from the Dai-Gohonzon, the eternal true source.

We must never mistakenly think that all Gohonzons are the same or forget to seek out the true source of our enlightenment. Without being connected to the true source – the Dai-Gohonzon – the other Gohonzons are like branches or leaves which have been cut from the tree; losing their supply of nutrients. We should always keep in our hearts a deep yearning to see the Dai-Gohonzon, the source, and, whenever possible, we should make a pilgrimage to the Head Temple where the Dai-Gohonzon is enshrined.

The Master and Disciple Relationship

Before his passing, Nichiren Daishonin transferred the Living Essence of the True Buddha to Nikko Shonin alone, and chose him to be his successor after his passing. In a continuing succession, from Nikko Shonin to Nichimoku Shonin and so on until the present 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin, the Heritage of the True Law has been passed down from High Priest to High Priest, carefully preserving Nichiren Daishonin’s Living Essence as the True Buddha of Kuon Ganjo. Nikko Shonin, Nichimoku Shonin and each successive High Priest function as the exact representative of Nichiren Daishonin. They are the Great Doshi (Great Masters), or True Masters, who in each successive time period lead the living beings of the world to enlightenment. Therefore, our pilgrimage should be one of single-mindedly yearning to see the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary and to receive guidance from the current High Priest, who is the legitimate successor to Nichiren Daishonin.

The Gokaihi Ceremony

It is a great honor and privilege to be able to offer our prayers directly to the Dai-Gohonzon, because the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary is to be kept protected in seclusion until the dawning of Kosen-rufu. However, due to the deep compassion of the lineage of successive High Priests and their sincere nurturing of the faith and practice of all Nichiren Shoshu practitioners, pure-minded believers are permitted to enter the sanctuary which protects the Dai-Gohonzon and worship the Dai-Gohonzon during the Gokaihi Ceremony, led by our High Priest. The primary purpose of tozan is to attend the Gokaihi Ceremony and express our sincere gratitude to the Dai-Gohonzon.

Ushitora Gongyo

Ushitora Gongyo is a tradition which has been observed since the time of Nichiren Daishonin, over 700 years ago. At the Head Temple Taisekiji, Ushitora Gongyo is held at the Reception Hall (Kyakuden) and is officiated by the High Priest during the hours of the Ox and the Tiger. Ushitora, translated literally as ‘Ox and Tiger,’ indicates the time centered around three in the morning; this is the time between the hours of the Ox (1:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.) and the hours of the Tiger (3:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.). These hours have been designated as the time of the arrival of the light and the departure of the dark. This is the time when the darkness of night gradually vanishes and when the sun in the eastern sky makes its appearance in the form of dawn; it is the transition time in the movement of nature, between night and day and between dark and light. From the standpoint of Buddhism, this time is when Shakyamuni Buddha attained personal confirmation of his enlightenment and this is when, on the 12th of September in 1271, Nichiren Daishonin ended his conduct as a common mortal and began to lead the people of Mappo as the True Buddha. As we can see from these examples, the hours of the Ox and Tiger are the hours of transformation from death as a common mortal to the beginning of life as a Buddha. Ushitora time, therefore, is the time when all Buddhas realize their enlightenment.

Nichiren Daishonin performed Morning Gongyo at this time, and each successive High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu has been doing the same for over 700 years. We can begin to understand the deep significance of this ceremony when we witness the High Priest officiating Ushitora Gongyo and assuming the status of the Buddha which he inherited from Nichiren Daishonin. The High Priest leads Ushitora Gongyo with the great wish that all living beings who practice True Buddhism will attain Buddhahood and that Kosen-rufu will be achieved.

Tozan Experiences

Deepening My Faith at the Source – Experience by Sam Brents

Deepening My Faith at the Source – Experience by Sam Brents

Tozan Experience by Sam Brents Vancouver, WA Last year, 2023, was the celebration of the 800th Anniversary of the Advent of our founder, Nichiren Daishonin. Sam Brents and his wife, who have been practicing for many years, made the determination to go on tozan for the...

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Tozan Experience by Matt Bowen

Tozan Experience by Matt Bowen

Experience by Matt Bowen Alameda, California Tozan, meaning “to climb the mountain”, is the pilgrimage Nichiren Shoshu Buddhists make to see the Dai-Gohonzon, our object of worship enshrined at the Head Temple in the foothills of Mt. Fuji in Japan. Myoshinji Temple...

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Tozan Experience by Treva Drake

Tozan Experience by Treva Drake

Experience by Treva Drake Portland, Oregon This year, 2023, is the celebration of the 800th Anniversary of the Advent of our founder, Nichiren Daishonin. Treva Drake took this unique opportunity to go on a tozan pilgrimage with her daughter Sable Jackson to Head...

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Application Process

  1. Contact your Area Coordinator to sign up for the tozan of your choice.
  2. Wait for instructions from the temple regarding application form and tozan fee.
  3. Purchase airfare and travel/health insurance.
  4. Submit your application form and non-refundable tozan fee by the deadline provided.
  5. Attend the Tozan Orientation Meeting for your tozan group.

2024 Myoshinji Temple Group Tozan Dates

October 26 - 29, 2024

December 14 - 17, 2024