September 12, the day on which Nichiren Daishonin faced the greatest ordeal of his lifetime and it is known as the Tatsunokuchi Persecution. Although this incident took place in 1271, it is the day that crystallizes the essence of Nichiren's Buddhism. It is also the day that Soka Gakkai designates it as Study Department Day to commemorate this significant event.
Nichiren Daishonin's life was beset by a succession of persecutions which he describes as "Minor persecutions and annoyances are too numerous even to be counted but the major persecutions number four". [WND, pg 240] The four major persecutions to which Nichiren Daishonin refers to were Matsubagayatsu Persecutions (1260), the Izu exile (1261), the Komatsubara Persecution (1264) and lastly, the persecution that began with his near execution at Tatsnokuchi and lasted through his exile in Sado (1271).
It was certainly not due to any secular offenses which the Daishonin committed that led him to be assailed by persecution after persecution. These persecutions were called forth by the Daishonin for arduously asserting that the Lotus Sutra is the only one vehicle that will enable all people to attain supreme enlightenment in the Latter Day of the Law. In other words, it is the sole teaching for relieving the suffering of the people and enabling them to become happy. His strong proclaimation of the correct teaching had frightened other religious figures which constituted the powerful religious authority of his day. This induced in themselves the outburst of anger and jealousy towards the Daishonin.
In Tatsunokuchi Persecution, the three powerful enemies emerged in unison to persecute Daishonin. They were the combination of ignorant lay people and arrogant, cunning priests who combined forces with priest whom was revered as sage by the general public. Emerged as the third of the three powerful enemies in Tatsunokuchi Persecution was Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji temple.
One factor that hastened the occurrence of Tatsunokuchi Persecution was the Daishonin's rival with Ryokan in praying for rain. Besides being famous as a Precept priest, Ryokan's additional forte was his success in praying for rain. Henceforth, he accepted Daishonin's challenge with great pleasure. Ryokan announced to his disciples that he would cause rain to fall within seven days. However, he failed to produce rain even after fourteen days of prayer he offered with several hundreds of priests, instead, fierce gales arose. Ryokan was blatantly defeated and his resentment and hatred towards Daishonin intensified.
In lieu of acknowledging his own defeat, Ryokan plotted against the Daishonin. He devised a scheme to have Gyobin of Jokomyo-ji temple, acted as the plaintiff to file a written complaint against the Daishonin's followers for casting the mages of Amida and Kannon into fire or water. In actuality, the main culprits were the Nembutsu followers who accused the Daishonin's followers of committing deeds to which they themselves were guilty of. Nevertheless, due to Gyobin's failure in submitting evidence and witness to support his claims, as was ardently demanded by the Daishonin, no official judgement was passed on the complaint.
Mr. Saito remarks in The World of Nichiren Dashonin's Writing:
"Evil people always resort to similar tactics. They make smoke when there is no fire. They attack people of justice with lies and false rumours, accusing them of the very base actions which they themselves are guilty.
No matter how many lies they may amass, the truth is one. In fact, the more falsehoods they manufacture, the more certain it is that all their lies will come crashing down."
[WNDW Vol 2 pg 67,68]
President Ikeda continues:
"That is why it is important to thoroughly challenge lies. Then the villains, who are cowards deep down, will continue piling up lies and will eventually bring about their own ruins.
[WNDW Vol 2 pg 68]
These words of wisdom, by President Ikeda, truly portray the current situation confronting the top leaders of SSA for using lies to cover another lie.
In spite of this, Ryokan's evil machination on the Daishonin did not cease. Indeed he began using his influence among the wives and widows of top shogunate officials to make accusations against the Daishonin. As a result, Nichiren Daishonin was summoned for interrogation by the deputy chief of the Office of Military and Police Affairs, Hei no Saemon, on September 10, 1271. the Daishonin took the opportunity to calmly remonstrate with Hei no Saemon, predicting the outbreak of internal strife and foreign invasion if the rulers punished him unlawfully.
Two days later on September 12, Hei no Saemon led a contingent of several hundred armour-clad soldiers to arrest the Daishonin at his dwelling in Matsubagayatsu. Hei no Saemon was wearing the headgear of a court noble, glaring angrily and speaking coarsely. With this, President Ikeda shared, "The Daishonin was a religious person who was unarmed and had no powerful backing. If his arrest had been the only objective, then 20 people would have been more than sufficient. It was because the Daishonin was viewed with such hostility that the manner of his arrest was so ostentatious." [WNDW Vol 2 pg 73]
Such scenic depiction of event rekindles our memory of the few bout of meetings that were specially conducted to announce the removal and the expulsion. Coincidentally the venue of the meetings were heavily guarded by the YMD Gajokai and the MD Ojokai. The atmosphere was tensed and taut. Numerous leaders who attended the meeting remarked, "Was our centre protected from terrorists? If not, why was it so heavily guarded and the attendees were closely scrutinised?" Unless the removed and expelled were viewed with such hostility, there was no reason for the venue to be kept under close surveillance. Although the victim of persecution may differ from time to time, the nature of the people behind the evil machination resonates.
Neither legal proceeding or judicial hearing was conducted before they sentenced the Daishonin to be exiled to Sado Island. For the Daishonin to undergo such treatment by Hei no Saemon, was equivalent of treating the former as a rebel for a crime committed against the state. Outwardly it was declared that the Daishonin would be exiled to Sado, behind closed doors, they had planned to execute him in the night. Around midnight, the Daishonin was taken by Hei no Saemon's men to the execution grounds on the beach at Tatsunokuchi.
While en-route to the execution site, the party passed the Tsurugaoka Hachiman shrine, the Daishonin requested that he be given a moment. His request was granted, and he turned to reprimand Bodhisattva Hachiman for failing to protect him, saying that he was the votary of the Lotus Sutra, whom Bodhisattva Hachiman had vowed to protect in the presence of Shakyamuni Buddha.
Finally the party arrived at the Yui beach, the Daishonin sent a messenger to Shijo Kingo. In response, Shijo Kingo hurried to the Daishonin's side barefoot and wept in grief, determined to die with his mentor.
With regards to this episode, President Ikeda shared:
"It was a sublime drama of mentor and disciple. Persevering along the supreme path of life no matter what may happen, ready to give their lives together for their convictions - this image of mentor and disciple must have left a powerful impression on everyone present, regardless of their religious beliefs.
By that point, the minds of the soldiers must have been completely shaken. "Just what kind of criminal is this?" they were probably wondering. "Can it really be right to execute him like this in the middle of the night?" "Are we about to commit some wrong that can never be redeemed?" It would not be all surprising if this was how they felt."
[WNDW Vol 2 pg 78,79]
When the executioner drew his sword and was ready to carry out the execution, a luminous orb shot across the sky, brightly illuminating the surroundings. The executioner fell on his face, his eyes were temporary blinded while the soldiers trembled in fear, threw themselves prostrate on the ground, ran away and cowered down.
From the gosho, 'The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra':
I called out, "Here, why do you shrink from this vile prisoner? Come closer! Come closer!" But no one would approach me. "What if the dawn should come? You must hurry up and execute me - once the day breaks, it will be too ugly a job." I urged them on but they made no response. [WND' pg 767]
From the perspective of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, the Daishonin had truly displayed his magnificent life-state of the Buddha. By contrast, the persecutor cowered down in fear and made no advances. Why did the persecutor need to carry out the execution hastily in the middle of the night? Because it would be too ugly a job to slaughter an innocent person who was free from crime in the broad daylight. In the similar manner, on what basis did the top leaders hinge on to remove and expel the YMD senior leaders and a MD member hastily while in the midst of dialogues? Since the nature of the persecutor is similar across the ages, the reason could only be one. That was to silent them before more dark secrets of the top leaders were being disclosed in the Facebook. Outwardly, the top leaders declared to solve the issue through dialogues, but behind closed doors, the top had decided, long ago, to remove and expel them.
Right after the failed attempt in executing the Daishonin, he was placed in custody at the residence of Homma Shigetsura, deputy constable of the island province of Sado, for about a month. On October 10, 1271, he was sent into exile on Sado.
What is the deep significance of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution?
It was then that the Daishonin actualised the principle of 'casting off the transient and revealing the true'. It does not mean that the Daishonin had become someone else. Rather, he manifested the life of the eternal Buddha within the life of an ordinary person. President Ikeda explains:
"In other words, at the time of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution Nichiren Daishonin discarded his transient status as an ordinary practitioner at the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth; and while as an ordinary person, he manifested his true identity as the Buddha of limitless joy who has been enlightened since time without beginning. To put in another way, while remaining as an ordinary person, he manifested the eternal Thus Come One that is one with the eternal Mystic Law, the fundamental Law of the universe.
After discarding his transient status and revealing his true identity, the Daishonin stood up as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. And, as the Buddha of the Latter Day, he began inscribing the Gohonzon in the form of a mandala for all people to revere as the fundamental object of devotion and to believe in as the origin and basis of their own lives."
It is our fervent wish, as frontline leaders, that the top leaders will transform the innate darkness that beset their lives and reveal their dharma nature. To cast off their transient is simply to cast off their weakness and cowardice which envelop their lives and reveal their identity of courage to face up to their mistakes. They have to respond to different opinions with the most positive attitude. The attitude of 'always liberal when it suits them and small-minded when it does not' has to be completely discarded. Only then will our beloved organization free from the darkness of discrimination and conflict of disparity. For this to happen, more people has to awaken to this truth and join us to pray and act for our beloved top leaders to 'cast off their transient and revealing the true'.