October 12 is the day Nichiren Daishonin inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon 733 years ago. It was three days prior to the Atsuhara persecution on which the three Atsuhara farmers, known as the three martyrs were executed for their unwavering commitment to the belief in the Daishonin's teaching. It signals a victory of the human spirit that triumphs over the devilish forces of the authority.
From the moment the Daishonin proclaimed the establishment of his teaching, he staked his life by waging a struggle of selfless dedication to the propagation of the Law, without a moment's rest. These efforts in itself led the Daishonin to arrive at the climatic stage of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, thereby actualising the principle of 'Casting off the transient and revealing the true'. One aspect of the significance behind Nichiren Daishonin's manifestation of the Gohonzon is 'Casting Off the Transient and Revealing the True'. It was the turning point, in the course of his life, that led to his decision to inscribe the Gohonzon.
In the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, the Daishonin manifested in his own life as a human being, the life of the Buddha of time without beginning and defeated the devilish nature of power and moved the Buddhist god throughout the universe to action. Henceforth, another aspect of the Daishonin's inscription of the Gohonzon lies in having revealed in himself the Buddha of limitless joy while remaining an ordinary person. The life of the Daishonin was a great example of what it takes for an ordinary person to live in oneness with the Great Law. Apart from the aforementioned perspectives, President Ikeda states the basis for the Daishonin's revelation of the Gohonzon:
"As to why it was necessary for him to reveal the Gohonzon, one reason is that he did not know when he would be able to return from Sado; in addition his life was being threatened. For the sake of his disciples at the time as well as those in the future, it was necessary for him to reveal a correct model or standard for faith and practice of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day.
Another reason, and this is the most important, is that the Daishonin needed to establish the correct way for ordinary people to manifest the world of Buddhahood just as they are - something he himself had achieved. This was necessary to ensure the eternal perpetuation and widespread propagation of the Law after his passing. [WNDW, Vol. 2, pg 111]
In the Latter Day of the Law, the true teacher is indeed an ordinary person in every aspect, but his true identity is that of the Buddha. For the purpose of realising the widespread propagation of the Law in a world of ordinary people who are steeped in the three poisons, the teacher has to be an ordinary person with the heart of the Buddha. To set out the great path of salvation for the people in the Latter Day, Nichiren Daishonin inscribed his inner life state of the Buddha of limitless joy, the Buddha who has been enlightened since time without beginning, in the object of devotion known as the Gohonzon. NIchiren Daishonin teaches us, from his writings, that the same state of life embodied in the Gohonzon also exists within our lives.
President Ikeda teaches, "The Daishonin revealed the Gohonzon to teach people of this limitless life force. With the Gohonzon as the clear mirror, we should develop confidence in the existence of this power of life in ourselves, in our friends, and in all people.To believe in the Gohonzon is to believe that all people are endowed with the 'life of the Buddha of limitless joy' as a real potential." [WNDW, Vol. 2, pg 118]
Indeed the appearance of the Gohozon has effectuated a radical change in the concept of the object of devotion where the emphasis is placed on human being. It is, in essence, a 'religion for humanity' that supremely respects human potential. President Ikeda shares, "The Lotus Sutra explains this truth as the pledge to "make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us." (LS2, pg 36) This is the paean of a champion of humanity. It declares: "I am a human being. You, too, are human beings! How great human beings are!" This is the heart of the Lotus Sutra," [WNDW, Vol. 2, pg 128]
On the similar note, the Daishonin fulfilled the purpose of his advent in this world due to the appearance of resolute and steadfast followers, emerging from among the ranks of the ordinary people in dedicating their lives to kosen-rufu. President Ikeda shares, "Like the Persecutions that befell the Daishonin, his followers came under attack during the Atsuhara Persecution precisely because they weren't passive or retiring. To correctly grasp the essence of this repression, we must first of all recognise that it took place as the result of the Daishonin's true disciple Nikko Shonin standing up to take the lead in propagation efforts. His righteous struggle to transform reality, infused with his youthful spirit, set the stage, and then others, ordinary people - first two, three, and then a hundred - awakened to faith in the Daishonin's Buddhism." [WNDW, Vol. 4, pg 95]
The Atsuhara Persecution was conjured by the young people's effort to combat evil. In 1268, the young NIkko Shonin composed a letter, titled 'The Disgraceful State of Affairs at Jissho-ji temple' and appealed it to the authorities to have the chief priest removed from his post. In the letter of indictment, the then 23 years old Nikko Shonin outlined the 51 specific instances of misconduct, committed by the chief priest of Jissho-ji temple. His bold and indefatigable efforts in 'refuting the erroneous and revealing the true' won him the support of many people in the Suruga area. Numerous were converted to the Daishonin's Buddhism eventually and they were inclusive of Nisshu, Nichiben, Nichizen and other priests of Ryusen-ji temple.
In response to the success of the propagation efforts in Suruga area, initiated by Nikko Shonin, obstacles and devilish functions emerged in full force. In April 1276, Gyochi, the temple deputy chief priest, adjured Nisshu and the Daishonin's other followers at Ryusen-ji to write an oath swearing to abandon the Lotus Sutra and to chant the Nembutsu instead. Their refusal to comply led up to Nisshu and the others being stripped of their positions and ousted from the lodging temples where they resided. On top of it, Gyochi connived with officials at the Hojo administrative office in Fuji District to have a Daishonin's follower wounded with a sword and another decapitated. Following that, Gyochi and his confederates pinned the blame for these 2 crimes on Nisshu and other disciples of the Daishonin.
The machination of devilish forces reached a summit when Gyochi orchestrated another attack on the Daishonin's followers in September 1276. Gyochi ordered his confederates, whom were the Daishonin's former followers that renounced faith in the early stages of the Atsuhara Persecution, to cause a melee with the Atsuhara farmers helping with the harvesting of rice from the field of Nisshu. The motive of Gyochi's confederates was to seize the opportunity to steal the crops from the fields of Nisshu and Nichiben in the midst of this confusion. Following that, Gyochi and his cohorts incited Yatoji, the elder brother of the 3 Martyrs, to submit a complain to the authority, falsely claiming the Daishonin's followers as the culprits behind the violence and lawlessness committed on Ryusen-ji temple grounds. As a result, 20 farmers were arrested based on the allegations inclusive of charges of murder, assault and armed theft of rice.
With regard to these allegations, President Ikeda commented, "The Daishonin says with regard to the charges made by Gyochi and his cronies, "They are an utter sham." The entire claim was completely groundless - a total fabrication." [WNDW, Vol. 4, pg 95]
Since those claims which were brought upon the 20 farmers were criminal charges, it has to be under the jurisdiction of Hei no Saemon. Riding on Hei no Saemon's support, Gyochi was confident to win even in the most reckless and preposterous lawsuit. However, none of the farmers' commitment to faith were wavered by the arrest and this had greatly alarmed Hei no Saemon. Hence, the interrogation he conducted on the 20 farmers were highly unusual. On October 15, 1279, Hei no Saemon tasked his second son to coerce the 20 to chant the Nembutsu but none of Atsuhara farmers yielded. They were later subjected to various kind of torture including firing blunt-tipped whistling arrows at them.
President Ikeda remarks:
"But no one of the Daishonin's followers abandoned their faith.
Hei no Saemon may not have initially intended to carry out any executions. But the sight of these humble people who so adamantly defied him - one of the most powerful people in the land - and who seemed willingly to lay down their lives for their beliefs must have filled him with irrepressible rage." [WNDW, Vol. 4, pg 95]
Since Hei no Saemon's arrogance was greatly challenged by the Atsuhara farmers' undaunted spirit, he rashly proceeded to behead the 3 Martyrs, Jinshiro, Yagoro and Yarokuro on October 15, 1279. The evil forces that attempt to repress the ordinary people always resort to false propaganda, deception and, when all of their evil means are exhausted, violence is their last weapon. They are the robbers of life and robbers of benefit.
President Ikeda shares:
"The actions of these 20 brave ordinary people in feudal, 13th-century Japan amount to a great pioneering struggle for human rights that shines with eternal splendour. These farmers, who did not even have surnames, staunchly maintain their religious convictions and responded to the tyrannical demands of the authorities with a resounding "No!" This is an episode that deserves mention in the history of the struggle for human rights." [WNDW, Vol. 4, pg 115]
"The Daishonin established the Dai-Gohonzon in response to the appearance of growing numbers of believers, ordinary people, who embraced strong faith and a commitment to actively realise kosen-rufu." [WNDW, Vol. 4, pg 113]
Realising that the believers who would uphold this teaching with the spirit of 'not begrudging their lives' appeared among the ordinary people, Nichiren Daishonin fulfilled the purpose of his appearance in this world by inscribing the Dai-Gohonzon on October 12, 1279, three days prior to the Atsuhara Persecution. The Atsuhara Persecution signalled a victory of the human spirit in which these ordinary followers of the Daishonin, through their magnificent solidarity as Bodhisattva of the Earth, triumphed over the devilish forces of the authority.
Incidentally, on Oct 12 last year, a MD member received a notice of expulsion, summoning him to appear before a board of directors in SSA Headquarter to answer to their enquiries. Consecutively on Oct 15, 5 senior YMD leaders received the final peremptory demand for their individual presence to be enquired by the top leaders. Subsequently, all recipients were either expelled or removed from their leadership responsibilities after they failed to submit to the oppressive demands of the top leaders.
In the first place, why would a final peremptory demand required by the top leaders of an organization, practising mutual respect for each other's Buddha nature?
Many people who failed to acquire a penetrating insight, may perceive the entire issue arose from differing views or quarrel between the 2 parties in the top leadership. After reading umpteen times on the 'flow of events', one will never fail to develop the ability to discern a deeper meaning in it. After BC Ong succeeded the office of General Director from our respected Mr. Koh, the propagation effort had reached an impasse, with the membership lingering around 20k. Together under the leadership of former YMD chief Mr. Tay HC, the removed and the expelled, who were the group of YMD senior leaders then, supported him in restoring the propagation spirit of SSA in 2005. This rejuvenated spirit had led to the impetus growth of the YMD and the rhythm carried the YMD forward in leading the propagation efforts for the next few years.
Nevertheless, the great propagation efforts put through by this group of YMD will naturally call forth the devilish forces that seek to destroy the achievement. Initially it appeared in the life of the newli succeeded YMD chief, Leonard Koh who instead of executing the spirit and values of the 3 Founding Presidents to lead the entire YMD forces, he implemented the MOE's management style to manage the division. This one wrong step, carried out by Leonard Koh nearly toppled the entire division till the expelled and the removed assisted him to revamp the entire division.
The subsequent YMD chief, Khoo GH who succeeded Leonard Koh is in no way better than his predecessor. After his appointment, the YMD was thrown into chaos. One to one dialogue and the spirit of our founders has long been forgotten. The emphasis was placed on big meetings as a substitute and they were modeling after the success of City Harvest Church. The YMD Shq team could hardly meet to discuss the current affairs and the future of the division was left unattended. Fearing the future of the YMD will crumble under the hand of the new YMD chief, the removed, who held the position of YMD senior leadership repeatedly engaged Khoo GH in dialogues. After each dialogues, the decision on the directions which had been casted together varied without the prior notice of the YMD Shq team. Upon further inquiries from his Shq team for the sudden change of directions, he will avert all concerns by channelling all blames to the Youth secretariat.
This left some of the YMD Shq team with no choice but to seek from the new Youth chief, Leonard Koh. Ironically, Leonard Koh evaded and channelled all the blames to the ex-GD BC Ong and the Central Committee. He claimed that all decisions were made by the Central Committee and the function of the Youth Secretariat was just to provide proposal on the directions. If the Youth secretariat was tasked by the ex-GD in spearheading the movement of Youth, it is rightful for the individual divisional chief to revert to their division to thoroughly discuss with their Shq team before implementing the direction, spearheaded by the Youth secretariat. However, this did not take place at all. It was after this distinct incident that these senior YMD leaders began to be cognizant that they were being sidelined by Leonard Koh and his confederates. Such were the conditions of the Youth Division, headed by Leonard Koh.
Like the Atsuhara farmers, these sidelined senior YMD leaders did not waver in their commitment to kosen-rufu. Indeed they pursued to settle the issues through dialogues. The event took a turn with the involvement of ex-GD BC Ong and VGD Oh KY. In one of the YMD Shq leaders meeting, designated to plan the YMD direction, it unexpectedly turned out to be an interrogation session inquiring on the Malacca trip which occurred nearly 2 years from the meeting. It was falsified by Leonard Koh and his accomplice as a trip planned to plot against the organization. (For details, pls read 'The Flow of Events' on HK Website)
Arming on the falsified facts as their weapon, the conniving top leaders proceeded to compel the senior YMD leaders to apologise for the charge of plotting against the organization during the Malacca trip. These senior YMD leaders were undaunted in their stance to comply on something which they did not commit. Their non-compliance to the oppression of the treacherous top leaders thus led to the removal of the YMD leaders and expulsion of a MD member while the dialogues were carried out halfway. After all, the ultimatum issued by the top leaders are just subterfuge employed to carry out their execution to silent these YMDs.
President Ikeda shares with regards to the Atsuhara persecution as follows:
"In response, the startled authorities went to extreme lengths to clamp down on their activities. But despite the high-handed and oppressive means they employed, they could not sway the faith of a single of the Daishonin's farmer believers. This fact is the heart and essence of the Atsuhara Persecution. The callous execution of three of these humble believers ultimately symbolises the spiritual ruin of those in power.
By contrast, the strength and splendour of the faith of the Daishonin's followers in Atsuhara, who remained undaunted by even the most hideous outrages committed by the authorities, makes their beliefs a landmark event without precedent in the religious and folk history of Japan. Indeed, these believers shine with an eternal spiritual brilliance, and could without exaggeration be described as noble forerunners in the struggle for Human Rights."
[WNDW, Vol. 4, pg 96]
To expel a member, without proceeding even a single dialogue, is the act of oppression. It is an act to remove him from the orbit of happiness and it defies the spirit of the Lotus Sutra. It runs conflictingly to the spirit of the Daishonin's Buddhism which is to embrace and value every single life based on the belief that all people are endowed with the 'life of the Buddha of limitless joy' as a real potential. Such actions displayed by SSA top leaders correspond to the robbers of life and robbers of benefit whom totally disregard and disrespect human rights. In addition, the behaviour of the top leaders in conniving with their confederates, to do away with the group of senior YMD leaders who were committed to actively realising kosen-rufu befits the Gyochi's. This episode symbolises the dark age of SSA and the spiritual ruin of the top leaders who abuse its powers to meet its end. In contrast, the life of the victims who suffered under the treacherous hands of the hideous top leaders will shine with an eternal spiritual brilliance. This history shall forever be remembered by all.
P.S. - Thanks to a reader who contributed the article known as 'The Digression'. It will be published in Hosshaku Kempon website in due course.