The Grand Ceremony of the Airing of the Sacred Treasures - Goreiho Mushibarai Daiho-e
The Goreiho Mushibarai Daiho-e or the Grand Ceremony of the Airing of the Sacred Treasures, conducted at the Head Temple Taisekiji every year during the two days of April 6 and 7, is one of Nichiren Shoshu's two great ceremonies, the other being the autumnal Gotai-e (Oeshiki) Ceremony. A great number of extremely important treasures have been preserved by the priesthood during the long seven hundred year period since the time of our founder Nichiren Daishonin. Once a year, great care must be taken to expel moisture and harmful insects from these treasures so that they may be passed on to later generations far into the future. At the same time, this momentous ceremony provides a chance for the many participating worshippers to deepen their faith.
Here is a brief summary of the activities that occur during the Grand Ceremony of the Airing of the Sacred Treasures in modern times. All of the events begin on April 6 with the Gokaihi Ceremony. After the recitation of the Lotus Sutra and during the chanting of Daimoku at this Gokaihi Ceremony, His Holiness the High Priest himself, conducts the ceremony of cleaning the accumulated dust from the face of the Dai-Gohonzon with heavy paper specially made just for this occasion. This ceremony is followed in the evening by a solemn procession. At this time, the approach road between the Nitenmon Gate and the Mieido is aglow with the blaze of post fires. After following a long cortege of priests, the High Priest solumnly faces the Mieido, ascends a prepared dais and begins a sermon on the Gosho. Thereafter, the first day' s activities draw to a close with lectures provided by priests on the propagation of the Law.
At 2:30 a.m. of the second day, April 7, attending priests and members of the faith assemble at Kyakuden (The Reception Hall) to worship at the Ushitora Gongyo Ceremony and pray single-mindedly with the High Priest for the attainment of the worldwide propagation of the Law. Then at 7:00 a.m., the High Priest makes his second appearance at the Mieido to rigorously observe the monthly Oko Ceremony in gratitude to the Second High Priest Nikko Shonin. Subsequently, at 9:00 a.m., the eventful Airing of the Sacred Treasures finally commences at Kyakuden (The Reception Hall). Preceding this, a great number of sacred treasures stored within the Treasure Storehouse are transported into Kyakuden (The Reception Hall). These Sacred Treasures are contained within three large black lacquered chests. Each chest is mounted upon a litter and draped with a sacred gold brocade altar cloth. Carried on priests' shoulders under the direction of the High Priest, the chests, inscribed first with a Treasure Wheel, then a Circular Crane and lastly a Tortoise Shell, are transferred in sequence before those waiting in attendance at Kyakuden (The Reception Hall). There, in the presence of the Chief Lay Representative of the Head Temple, the seal on the chest marked with the Treasure Wheel is broken. The Daishonin' s bones, His dental framework and the incense burner, candlestick and evergreen vase that were used by the Daishonin when He prayed for rain, are removed from the chest and placed on a table before the Gohonzon.
Next, as the High Priest and the General Administrator read off the names, various Gohonzons are hung on large frames especially erected in the inner and outer sanctuaries, beginning with the Gohonzon that has been called since ancient times "The Gohonzon inherited from master to disciple, inscribed by the Daishonin, and continuing with Gohonzons inscribed by the Second High Priest Nikko Shonin, the Third High Priest Nichimoku Shonin and other successive High Priests of Nichiren Shoshu. Finally, the wide Gohonzon of the Transferal of the Law which Nikko Shonin bestowed on Nichimoku Shonin at the time of the establishment of Taisekiji, is hung in the middle of the outer sanctuary and at this time, the recitation of the Lotus Sutra and the chanting of Daimoku are conducted.
After the Airing of the Gohonzons is completed, we move next to the handwritten scroll compositions. During this Ceremony, Gosho written by Nichiren Daishonin, as well as documents and letters written by Nikko Shonin, Nichimoku Shonin and others are exposed for ventilation. After His Holiness the High Priest ascends the central dais and recites the Lotus Sutra, he reads The Minobu Transfer Document and The lkegami Transfer Document (ancient copies), as well as The Articles of Procedure After Nikko, that is the document written by Nikko Shonin in which He transfers the Law to Nichimoku Shonin. Following this, the names of Gosho with which most people are familiar are read, such as In Celebration of Spring, Three Shingon Masters Pray for Rain, The Kalpa of Decrease, Treasures Have No Value Compared With the Law, The Gift of Rice, King of the Lions Gosho, The Bodies and Minds of Ordinary Beings, In Remonstrance of Bodhissattva Hachiman and Offering of Three Blades of Straw. In 1967, twenty-six of the Daishonin's scroll manuscript Gosho were designated Important National Cultural Assets.
In addition to these, there are many other manuscripts, including a great number copied by Nikko Shonin, such as the Rissho Ankoku Ron, Capturing the Essential Teachings of the Lotus Sutra, On the Four Stages of Faith and Five Stages of Practice and The Eight Volumes of the Lotus Sutra, as well as copies of letters and Gosho, such as Reply to Lord Ueno and Reply to Kubo-ama and letters written to other disciples. There are epistles by Nichimoku Shonin and Nichido Shonin, Nichido Shonin's Godendodai, which is a draft manuscript known as the oldest extant writing about the life of the Daishonin, as well as Nichikan Shonin's manuscript of the Rokkan-sho. Symbolizing seven hundred years of history and tradition, these copious Sacred Treasures are truly a magnificent sight.
The Gosho and other documents brought before the participating believers are aired at the hands of the priests. Many priests sit before a long table in front of the inner sanctuary, fan the un-scrolled parchments with Japanese folding fans, and then re-roll them. Handling these irreplaceable Sacred Treasures scrupulously with white-gloved hands to prevent any possible damage, the priests store them once again in the lacquer chests in proper succession, which brings the ceremony to a close.
After the Daishonin's death, five of the six elder disciples, including Nissho and Nichiro insisted that the letters, which the Daishonin wrote using Japanese syllabic characters (called kana, rather than scholarly Chinese characters), were mere acknowledgments for offerings from sincere believers or for the purpose of clarifying basic and often critical misinterpretations. It was believed that, if they left these writings for future generations, they would bring disgrace upon the reputation of the Daishonin. As a result, the five elder priests either tore up or burned some of the Daishonin's letters. In the final analysis, it must be said that these five elder priests, who had not received the transmission of the Living Essence of the Law, did not understand that the Daishonin is the True Buddha who came to save all existence in the Latter Day of the Law. The words He spoke and the writings He left behind, therefore, are the Buddha's Golden Words and should be greatly revered. Besides admonishing them for their misunderstanding, the Daishonin's legitimate successor, Nikko Shonin, worked to collect the Gosho that had been widely dispersed, and to catalogue and write explanations of the major works for future generations. He even went so far as to take up the brush and make copies of the Gosho, to prevent the Daishonin's sacred teachings from being lost.
It is only because the successive High Priests, who have continually transferred the Law of Myoho-Renge-Kyo from Nikko Shonin, even at the risk of Their own lives and the lives of members in faith, that we are able to behold these most holy of sacred teachings today.
As in this Goreiho-Omushibarai-e, the Grand Ceremony of the Airing of the Sacred Treasures, which exemplifies the Nichiren Shoshu tradition of transmitting the Daishonin's Buddhism exactly as He taught for future generations, we must instill within ourselves that great spirit of protection of the True Law. It may also be said that participation in this ceremony signifies our faith in this one and only, absolute pure Supreme Law, and that the Law of Myoho-Renge-Kyo will thoroughly take root in society and continue to spread throughout the entire world.