|Six Senior Disciples of Nichiren|
Rokurôsô or the Six Senior Disciples of Nichiren :
(1) Nisshô (1221-1323).
Born of a samurai family in the Province of Shimousa (Chiba-ken). Nichiren's classmate at Hieizan. He visited Nichiren at Matsubagayatsu, Kamakura, in 1253, and became his disciple. After Nichiren's hermitage at Matsubagayatsu was destroyed in the Tatsunokuchi Incident in 1271, he moved to Hama (Zaimokuza), Kamakura. His hermitage at Hama became Hokkeji Temple in 1284. The temple was moved to Kadono in the Province of Izu (Shizuoka-ken) in 1593, and again to Tamazawa in the same province in 1621, with the name changed to Myôhokkeji.
(2) Nichirô (1245-1320).
After Nichiren died at the residence of Ikegami Munenaka in the Province of Musashi (Tokyo) in 1282, Nichirô founded a Hokkedô Hall beside the residence of Ikegami Munenaka. Ikegami Munenaka was a relative of Nichirô The Hokkedô Hall was remodeled into Hommonji Temple in 1288.
(3) Nikkô (1246-1333).
While Nichiren stayed at Minobu from 1274 to 1282, Nikkô propagated the Daimoku among the samurais and countrymen mainly in the provinces of Suruga and Kai. After Nichiren died in 1282, Nichiren's disciples met and decided that his tomb at Minobu be taken care of by one or two of them at a time in two-month shifts. Nikkô acted as secretary at the conference, and the minutes written by him are preserved today. The agreement was observed for the first year or so, but was soon neglected because the priests in Kamakura became too busy to attend Minobu. After Nichiren's death, the Kamakura Government renewed its suppression of the Daimoku-chanting Buddhism. They ordered Nichiren priests in Kamakura to pray for the peace of the government together with the priests of other sects. Otherwise, they warned that the Nichiren temples in Kamakura would be destroyed and the priests, banished from the city. Nisshô and Nichirô appealed to the government and barely saved Nichiren Buddhism from annihilation. This suppression continued till about 1285. Nikkô and his followers lived mostly in the provinces of Suruga and Kai. Nikkô began to stay at Minobu constantly since 1285 where the tomb of Nichiren was taken care of by Nikkô and his followers. Nambu Sanenaga, Lord of Minobu, began to treat Nikkô as the chief priest of Minobusan Kuonji Temple.
Nikô came from Mobara to Minobu in 1285 and worked under Nikkô But Nikkô was displeased by Nikô, who was favored by Nambu Sanenaga. Nikkô then moved from Minobu to his mother's old home at Fuji, Ueno, in the Province of Suruga on December 5, 1288. Nambu Sanenaga made Nikô, the chief priest of Kuonji.
Nikkô would found Taisekiji Temple at Fuji, Ueno, under the patronage of Nanjô Tokimitsu in 1290. He also founded Hommonji Temple at Omosu, Kitayama, in the same province in 1298, and spent the rest of his life there.
After Nikkô died in 1333, many forgeries were made by the followers of Nikkô claiming that Nikkô was the direct successor of Nichiren as the chief priest of Minobusan Kuonji Temple. They called themselves Nikkô Monryû (Branch), and became independent of the main body of the Nichiren Sect. The name of their sect was at first Fuji Ha (Subsect) because most of their temples were founded at the foot of Mt. Fuji. The name of the sect was changed several times thereafter and was finally settled on Nichiren Shôshû in 1912, with Taisekiji Temple as its head temple. Hommonji at Kitayama was transferred to the Nichiren Sect in 1941.
Nikkô did not make any new doctrine. He remained a faithful disciple of Nichiren. The Nichiren-hombutsu-ron or the "Nichiren-Is-True-Buddha" theory was created by Nichigen of the Nikkô Monryû in 1380.
(4) Nikô, (1253-1314).
(5) Nitchô (1252-1317).
Chief Priest of Guhôji Temple. Refuted by Nitchô Ryôshô eventually left, and Guhôji became a Nichiren temple, with Nitchô as the chief priest. Nitchô tried to approach the Kamakura Government for remonstrance in 1291. To this end, he also requested a public debate with a priest of the Jôdo Sect in 1292. Nitchô's aggressive attitude seemed to displease Toki Tsunenobu. Nitchô left Guhôji in 1292, and returned to his home town, Omosu, which was near Fuji, Ueno, where Nikkô had already founded Taisekiji Temple in 1290. He joined Nikkô and helped him found Hommonji Temple at Omosu, Kitayama, in 1298.
(6) Nichiji (1250-?).
Nichiji would attend the 13th memorial service held for Nichiren at Minobusan Kuonji on October 13, 1294. Then, on January 1, 1295, he started on an overseas mission. He went northwards, founded two temples in the Province of Mutsu (Aomori-ken), and three temples in Yezo (Hokkaido). Then he crossed the strait over to Karafuto (Sakhalin), and then went upstream of the Amur River. There are few but no definite accounts as to what happened to Nichiji beyond this point.
All these priests were very active in propagating the Daimoku. Nichizô was especially outstanding.
Nichizô was a half brother of Nichirô In 1275, he became a disciple of Nichirô who was then the chief priest of Myohonji Temple, Kamakura. In 1293, he made a vow to propagate the Daimoku in Kyoto. He chanted the Jigage 100 times every night at Yuigahama Beach for one hundred cold days. After completing that practice in February 1294, he visited places connected with Nichiren such as Kominato, Kiyosumi, Minobu and Sado. On his way from Sado to Kyoto, he founded temples in the provinces of Noto (Ishikawa-ken), Kaga (Ishikawa-ken), Wakasa (Fukui-ken) and Omi (Shiga-ken). He reached Kyoto on April 1, 1294.
He preached on the street, and lived on alms. At that time, Kyoto was quickly becoming the commercial center of Japan, and many rich merchants were gaining power. Nichizô was supported by some of them.
The Daimoku-chanting people were increasing in number day after day, year after year; and in ten years they were numerous enough to attract the attention of the monk army of Hieizan, who suppressed any new movement of Buddhism. In 1307, the Chief Abbot of Hieizan, instigated by the monk army, appealed to the Imperial Court in Kyoto for suppression of Nichizô's brethren. The Imperial Court still maintained jurisdiction over the land owned by the Imperial family, nobles, and temples.
As a result, Nichizô was sentenced to exile to the Province of Tosa (Kôchi-ken) that year. But the sentence was nominal. When Nichizô reached Yamasaki in the suburb of Kyoto on his way to Tosa, the monk army became silent. Nichizô stayed there for two years. He was pardoned and allowed to return to Kyoto in 1309. But soon afterwards he was again banished to the Province of Kii (Wakayama-ken). In 1310, he was pardoned, and once again returned to Kyoto.
In 1313, Myôjitsu (1297-1364) became a disciple of Nichizô Myôjitsu was a member of the Konoye family which was closely connected with the Imperial family. This shows how attractive Nichizô had become, so much so, as to attract the attention of the nobility. In 1321, Nichizô was deported from the city of Kyoto for the third time, but within two weeks, he was again pardoned and the propagation of the Daimoku was officially permitted by the Imperial Court. Nichizô founded Myôkenji Temple in Kyoto that year.
The Emperor Godaigo (1288-1339), who ascended the throne in 1318, wished to restore the Imperial regime by overthrowing the Kamakura Government. He made his son Prince Morinaga (1308-1335) a priest in 1326, and appointed him Chief Abbot of Enryakuji Temple of Hieizan in 1327 for the purpose of controlling the monk army of the temple. Thus the head temple of the Tendai Sect of Japan was transformed into the headquarters of the Imperial army. In 1331, the Emperor poised his army against the Kamakura Government, but soon was defeated. He fled to Kasagi in the Province of Yamato (Nara-ken), but was caught and brought to Kyoto in the same year. He would be exiled to Oki Island in 1332.
Prince Morinaga abandoned the priesthood in 1332, and raised his army at Yoshino in the Province of Yamato. He dispatched messengers to temples including Myôkenji, and ordered them to pray for the return of the Emperor to Kyoto. In April 1333, Ashikaga Takauji, a general of the Kamakura army, betrayed the Kamakura Government and sided with the Emperor. This effort returned the Emperor to Kyoto in June 1333. In 1334, Myôkenji was granted the rank of Chokuganji or the "Imperial Prayer Temple."