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History of Minobusan Kuonji Temple

The Kuonji Temple on Mt. Minobu, located in Yamanashi Prefecture, is the head temple of the Nichiren Order of Buddhism in Japan. Mt. Minobu is where Nichiren Shonin, the founder of Nichiren Buddhism, spent the last several years of his life and willed that his soul would remain forever.

Having been released from exile on Sado Island, Nichiren returned to Kamakura in the eleventh year of the Bunei Era (1274) and remonstrated with the Kamakura Shogunate for the third time on the government by the True Dharma. When the military regime ignored his advice, Nichiren decided to retreat into Mt. Minobu controlled by Hakii Sanenaga. 1

Lord Hakii had promised to donate the vast mountain land about 13 ris quare (ri is some four kilometers) in order to receive Nichiren. Upon completion of his residence at the northern foothill of Mt. Takatori, Nichiren entered it on the l7th of the 6th month. For more than eight years there after, he remained there guiding his disciples in preparation for the spread of the Lotus teaching during 10,000 years of the Latter Age of Degeneration. Thus this date, l7th of the 6th month, has been commemorated as the birthday of the Kuonji Temple on Mt. Minobu.

His temple-residence on Mt. Minobu was originally a small building of 6 square yards consisting of 12 pillars, but it was greatly expanded in the fourth year of the Roan Era (1281) by Lord Hakii to a hall of 20-square yards. The new temple-residence was dedicated on the 24th day of the 11th month of the same year, and was publicly named the Minobu-san Myohokke-in Kuonji.

The majority of Nichiren's life timewriting, including the Senji-sho (Selecting the Right Time) and Hoon-jo (Essay on Gratitude),as well as almost all of his mandala go-honzon given to his followers were written during his nineyear stay in this temple on Mt. Minobu.

He also climbed daily to the top of the mountain to look toward his native province of Awa (southern part of Chiba Prefecture) shedding tears of gratitude to his parents. The Shishin-kaku Hall that stands atop Mt. Minobu today stemmed from this filial act of Nichiren Shonin.

Feeling feverish, Nichiren left Minobuon the 8th day of the 9th month in the 5th year of the Roan Era (1282), hoping to pay respect to his parents tomb in Awa Province and then to proceed to the Kakurai Spa in Hitachi Province (presently, Ibaraki Prefecture) for recuperation.

Arriving at the residence of Ikegami Munenaka at the Senzoku County in Musashi Province (presently, Tokyo) on the l8th of that month, Nichiren was too weak to go any further and soon passed away in the morning of the l3th day of the 10th month. He was 60 years old. He had written in a letter to Lord Hakii saying, "No matter where I should die, please build my grave on Mt. Minobu, where I have been able to recite the Lotus Sutra to my hearts content. My heart will remain on Mt. Minobu forever in the future . . ."

Accordingly Nichiren Shonin's ashes were taken to Mt. Minobu, where his mausoleum was built. At the first annual memorial service, it was agreed for his six elder disciples to take turn to guard the Founder's mausoleum. However, this system of alternating services was abolished at the 7th year memorial service, when Niko Shonin was named as the second Chief Minister of the Kuonji Temple.

In 1475, during the tenure of Nitcho Shonin, 11th Chief Minister,the temple was rebuilt in a greatly expanded scale with "seven halls and towers". He is also credited to have instituted rules and regulations of the temple and encouraged studies. Nitcho Shonin and his two disciples, Nichii and Nichiden, who succeeded him as the l2th and l3th Chief Ministers of the Kuonji Temple, are known as the Restorers of the Founders temple. In the early Tokugawa Period (1600-1868), another set of three Chief Ministers, Nichiju, Nichiken and Nichion were able to gain the patronage of feudal lords in order to bring about the heyday of Mt. Minobu. In 1706, the Kuonji Temple was commissioned by the Imperial House to pray for its prosperity during the tenure of the 33rd Chief Minister Nichiko. Branch temples sprang up, numbering as many as 167.

To ward the end of the Tokugawa Period and in the early Meiji Era, however, Mt. Minobu had the misfortune of several disastrous fires: in 1821, 1824, 1829, 1865, 1875, and 1887.

In 1865, for instance, a fire which started as Nishidani destroyed 17 brunch temples and 28 buildings of the Kuonji including the Main Hall, Founder's Hall, Guest House and Five-story Pagoda. It also burned down more than 100 houses in the town of Minobu. The fire in 1875 burned up 73 buildings together with many irreplaceable treasures. 12 brunch temples, 10 residences of the town's people; while in 1887 fire lay waste to 6 branch temples and J38 houses of the town people.

Despite these repeated disasters, Mt. Minobu has been able to rise again like phoenix bird, regaining its former glory and thriving as the center of fervent faith in the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Shonin, The Temple today runs a hospital, a college and a high school, and publishes a monthly booklet entitled the Minobu. Located within the temple compound are graves of several former feudal lord families such as the Todo, Makino, Ota and Matsudaira families.

To reach the Temple, take the JR Minobu Line, set off at the Minobu Station and take the bus for Minobu-san. It will take about 20 minutes, while a taxi will take you there in 10 minutes.

Shikin-Kaku

Located on the peak of Mt. Minobu (4,728 feet above sea level), is a temple called Okunoin or Fundari-no-Mine (Lotus Peak). Nichiro Shonin, one of the six elder disciples of Nichiren Shonin, is said to have build a hut in 1282 and called it Koto-in or Daiko-in. Because it was where our Founder stood to Look east toward his native land of Awa Province while staying on Mt. Minohu for nine years, the original hut came to be called Shishin-kaku (Thinking Parents Hall).

Later, during the reign of the 24th Chief Minister, Nichiyo, it was rebuilt as full-fledged temple by Lady Fukuju-in, mother of Lord Maeda of Kaga Province, (lshikawa Prefecture). It was rebuilt by Lady Ernmyo-in, wife of the 4th Shogun Tokugawa Ietsuna, about 300 years ago.

ShIchimen-zan Keishin-in
(Keishin-in Temple on Mt. ShIchimen)

Mt. Shichimen is located about 12.5 miles west of Mt. Minobu and is about 6, 500 feet high. In 1297, Nichiro Shonin, one of the six elder disciples, enshrined Goddess Shichimen atop the mountain, naming it Manishu-rei (Peak of Wish-fulfilling Gem). The goddess is said to have appeared in front of our Founder, Nichiren Shonin, and swore that she would protect the practicer of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Age of Degeneration. The pond near the peak is said to have never dried up and the white soil at the bottom is believed to cure various sickness such as boils.

Social Welfare Activities

"Kudoku-kai Association" and "Jinkyo-en Hospital" highlight the social welfare activities of Minobusan. Established on the same year of 1906, the objective of the Kudoku-kai was the relief of people dying on the street, mentally-handicapped people, runaways and others. It was founded by Rev. Kanzen Hasegawa of the Daizenbo Temple. The association now runs a nursing home for the aged.

The Jinkyo-en Hospital was established to accommodate leprosy patients. The founder was Rev. Ryumyo Tsunawaki, The number of such patients, at first 16, totaled some 700 at its peak in 1928. The hospital now serves the seriously handicapped people.

Published by the Nichiren Shu Headquarters & Kagai Fukyo Koenkai

Gassh __/\__ Y k, Namu Myh Renge Ky.

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