QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON NICHIREN SHOSHU BASICS OF PRACTICE
AUGUST 2015, PP.47-50
Question: WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE KANSHI-E CEREMONY?
Kanshi-e is an annual memorial ceremony for the Twenty-sixth High Priest, Nichikan Shonin. Nichikan Shonin thoroughly refuted the heretical doctrines of the Nichiren-Shu sects, which were rampant during the Edo era, and he propagated the Daishonin’s true Buddhism widely. Because of these meritorious deeds, he is revered as a “restorer” along with Ninth High Priest Nichiu Shonin. Every year at the Head Temple, the Kanshi-e ceremony is led by the High Priest.
Two ceremonies–Otaiya (the day before the anniversary date of Nichikan Shonin’s passing) and Goshoto-e (the anniversary date of his passing) — are conducted in the Kyakuden (Reception Hall) and the Joshodo ( Ever Chanting Temple), respectively. On the day of the Otaiya Ceremony,the Nichikan Shonin Honokakuriki Sumo Match is held at Taisekiji’s Tonohara Grounds. A special Sumo wrestling ring is erected there and fireworks are featured at night. Also, on the other side of the street many shops are open for business. This is a lively event!
Nichikan Shonin the Restorer
Nichikan Shonin was born in August 1665 (the fifth year of Kanbun), in Kozukenokuni Maebashi (present day Maebashi City in Gunma prefecture).
He was born with the name Ichinoshin. In 1683 (the third year of Tenwa), when he was 19, he questioned a priest who was carrying a copy of the Lotus Sutra, but chanting the Nembutsu and offering prayers to Bodhisattva Kannon. A gate keeper nearby heard the discussion and suggested to Ichinoshin that he visit Jozaiji Temple in Edoshitaya (present day Taito ward, Tokyo). There, he was able to listen to a lecture by the Seventeenth High Priest Nissei Shonin. Ichinoshin’s long held questions were all answered, and he decided to become a priest of Nichiren Shoshu.
Ichinoshin entered the priesthood as a disciple of the chief priest of Jozaiji Temple, who later would become the Twenty-fourth High Priest Nichiei Shonin. He was given the name Kakushin Nichinyo. After completing his Buddhist training at Jozaiji Temple and at Head Temple Taisekiji, he entered the Hosokusa Danrin seminary located in present-day Chiba Prefecture. Danrin means a school for priests to study doctrines. Among the many seminaries, Hosokusa Danrin had a profound connection to Nichiren Shoshu. It was built with the support of Kyodai-in-den, the wife of the Lord of Tokushima. She also had donated funds to rebuild the Mieido at the Head Temple.
During the Genroku era, several hundred priests in training gathered at Hosokusa Danrin and studied assiduously. After entering the seminary, Nichikan Shonin spent springs and autumns there, when school was in session; and the rest of the time at Taisekiji or other centers of Buddhist training and study. As a result, at age 44, he became the head of the Hosokusa Danrin seminary, and his name was changed to Kenjuin Nichikan. Several years later, High Priest Nichiei Shonin appointed Nichikan Shonin as the chief priest of the Renzobo at Taisekiji and the head instructor of the younger priests of the Head Temple.He lectured on the Gosho to the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and also wrote books on doctrine. In this way, he made tremendous efforts to fulfill his academic responsibilities.
In March, 1718 (the third year of Kyoho), receiving the transmission of the Lifeblood Heritage of the Law from the Twenty-fifth High Priest Nichiyu Shonin, Nichikan Shonin became the Twenty-sixth High Priest of Taisekiji.
He gathered his scholarship on the fundamental teachings of Nichiren Shoshu into the Six Volume Writings (Rokkan-sho). He clarified the true Law and correct teachings handed down from the Daishonin and completely refuted the errors of the Nichiren-Shu sects. In terms of faith and practice, Nichikan Shonin built the Joshodo (Ever Chanting Temple). He also made efforts to develop Nichiren Shoshu through promoting the actual practice of Shodai, the cultivation of believers, and the donation of funds to build the Five Story Pagoda. He passed away on August 19, 1726 (the 11th year of Kyoho), at the age of 62.
Events Approaching the Passing of Nichikan Shonin
Realizing that his last day was nearing, after saying goodbye to the Twenty-eighth High Priest Nissho Shonin, priests at Taisekiji, and believers, Nichikan Shonin ordered a professional coffin maker to build his coffin. At midnight on the 18th of August, he had the Gohonzon enshrined in his chamber and wrote a poem, anticipating his passing:
Though I was born in the Latter Day with a lesser body and mind, the seed from long ago is unchanged.
Next, he ate seven chopstick-servings of buckwheat noodles, which he ordered his disciple to prepare in advance. Then, with a smile on his face, he declared, “How happy a life I have lived in this world.” After this, he rinsed his throat, tidied up his clothes, and chanted to the Gohonzon. While chanting, he passed away solemnly, as if he were sleeping, at the time of the dragon (8:00 AM), on August 19.
Nichikan Shonin made great efforts for the development of Taisekiji, as he clarified and propagated the doctrines based on the Lifeblood Heritage of the Law inherited from Nichiren Daishonin. His legacy is beaming ever more brightly 280 years after his passing. We revere his supreme virtue as the restorer to this day. If you have an opportunity, please take part in the Kanshi-e Ceremony and sincerely repay your debt of gratitude to Nichikan Shonin.