New Year’s Address
Reverend Gyoyu Urushibata
Overseas Department Chief
January 1, 2017
To the members of Hokkeko chapters worldwide: Happy New Year 2017!
On this first day of the year, I extend my sincere New Year’s greetings to all Nichiren Shoshu priests serving abroad and Nichiren Shoshu Buddhists throughout the world, and I pray wholeheartedly for the peace and advancement of Kosen Rufu in each country.
Last year, under the guidance of 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin, Nichiren Shoshu priests and laity worldwide carried out resolute shakubuku activities toward the achievement of 800,000 Hokkeko members by 2021, the 800th anniversary of the birth of our Founder, Nichiren Daishonin. I am happy to report that great strides were made by our Japanese members as well as by those worldwide.
2017 is the 3rd year since our activities to establish 800,000 Hokkeko members began. This means only four years remain until 2021 and the 800th anniversary of Nichiren Daishonin’s advent. To be precise, we have 1,508 days to accomplish our goal. I want you to consider this time frame as you put further energy and effort toward achieving 800,000 Hokkeko members by 2021.
To this end, I want each Hokkeko chapter to create plans detailing your annual goals, monthly schedules, and daily activities. In this way, along with your fellow Buddhists, you can be proactive in accomplishing your shakubuku goals. At the start of this new year, I am asking you to renew your determination to fulfill your shakubuku pledge to advance the spread of the True Law.
The slogan for this year is, “The Year to do shakubuku, develop your faith, and help others develop their faith and practice.” Relative to this, I propose the following three guidelines to aid your practice:
- To dedicate ourselves to accomplishment of our shakubuku goals by conducting Gongyō and Shōdai consistently.
- To foster the new believers and develop our faith and practice through attending the Oko Ceremony.
- To encourage each other to make a tozan pilgrimage together.
First, regarding the slogan “The year to do shakubuku, develop your faith, and help others develop their faith and practice” the key words are “shakubuku” and “development.” Accomplishing Shakubuku in the next four years requires an increase in the number of people receiving the seed of Buddhahood through our contact with them. A vital means of expanding these contacts is through the family and personal relationships of new members. Therefore, our efforts to develop the faith and practice of new Nichiren Shoshu Buddhists is of utmost importance.
Next, I want to explain this year’s three guidelines for action.
1: To dedicate ourselves to accomplishment of our shakubuku goals by conducting Gongyō and Shōdai consistently.
Our basic training as a Buddhist, is our daily practice of Gongyō and Shōdai. You set aside a time of the day to offer water to the Gohonzon, you light the candle, you offer the fragrance of the incense and fresh greens, and you practice Gongyō and Shōdai every morning and evening without fail. For a new Buddhist, it is especially important to learn how to properly serve the Buddha.
You gain a strong life to overcome various obstacles through your daily practice of Gongyō and Shōdai. Over time, your life condition will elevate, helping you gain a life of firm conviction, paving the way for a life of happiness. It is important to support new Buddhists to gain this confidence in faith and life that comes from Gongyō and Shōdai. That way, they too will share and spread to their friends and family, helping to plant the seed of Buddhahood. This is the real purpose of the first guideline.
2: To foster the new believers and develop our faith and practice through attending the Oko Ceremony.
The second guideline involves the Oko Ceremony. Oko is an important ceremony held monthly to repay our debt of gratitude to Nichiren Daishonin. Participation in Oko allows you to gain knowledge about Buddhism through the lectures of guiding priests. Oko gives you an opportunity to reaffirm your will to accomplish your shakubuku pledge with your fellow Buddhists in attendance at the ceremony. It is also an opportunity to discuss various faith activities such as Tozan planning, or the means for accomplishing shakubuku goals. Also, it is a great opportunity to meet new Buddhists. It's a time where you can exchange and share experiences in faith and the joy of working toward kosen rufu. The Oko Ceremony gives you the chance to patiently support the growth in faith of the new Buddhists as they develop a strong conviction in their practice. You can truly say successful shakubuku was accomplished when new Buddhists start propagation activity based on their own conviction.
3: To encourage each other to make a tozan pilgrimage together.
This year’s final guideline is about Tozan. The practice of going on a Tozan pilgrimage to the Head Taisekiji is the foundation of our faith. The Head Temple is our principle sacred ground where the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, which is the very life of Nichiren Daishonin, is strictly protected. It is also the place where the High Priest resides, protecting the lineage of the lifeblood Heritage of the Law, leading us to the attainment of the life of Buddhahood.
Through your attendance on a Tozan pilgrimage to the Head Temple, the High Priest prays for the expiation of your slanders against the Law and hindrance of harmful behaviors since the infinite past, and at the same time, your further growth in faith, and for your good health and longevity. It is also an important opportunity for us to directly pray to the Dai-Gohonzon and accumulate great fortune.
Through participating on a Tozan pilgrimage to the Head Temple, we build the conviction in our great fortune for the opportunity to have an audience with the Dai-Gohonzon. Experiencing this great joy, our faith grows stronger. When new Buddhists participate in the Gokaihi ceremony, the audience to the Dai-Gohonzon, with the backdrop of the magnificent Mt. Fuji, it will definitely deepen their conviction in faith.
Nichiren Daishonin states in Letter to Jakunichi-bo (Jakunichi-bō gosho),
You should grasp the deep bond from previous lifetimes for you to become disciples and lay followers of such a person, and propagate the Lotus Sutra just as I, Nichiren does.
As we prepare for the auspicious occasion of the 800th anniversary of the birth of Nichiren Daishonin four years from now, we join in this ever continuing line for the propagation of the true Law. This is due to our truly deep bond from previous lifetimes with Nichiren Daishonin. We share the mission to strive in Shakubuku, together, with our earnest prayers.
I hope you take to heart Nichiren Daishonin's words, “grasp the deep bond from previous lifetimes.” In the four years ahead, it is our noble mission toward kosen-rufu to chant serious shodai and to make efforts in shakubuku.
In Reply to Shijō Kingo(Shijō kingo dono-gohenji), the Daishonin explains,
I have been ceaselessly calling upon the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha, and Nitten (the sun deity) for your sake. This is because I am convinced that you are a person who inherits the very life of the Lotus Sutra.
Today, “a person who inherits the very life of the Lotus Sutra” means precisely us - the priests and laity of Nichiren Shoshu who protect and propagate the true Law. Whether you have been practicing for a long time or have recently joined, every one of you is a precious follower of the Bodhissattvas Emerging from the Earth who will inherit the very life of the Lotus Sutra to the next generation, comrades protecting and propagating the true Law.
Members of Hokkeko worldwide, please keep these words, “grasp the deep bond from previous lifetimes” and “a person who inherits the very life of the Lotus Sutra” deep in your heart. In the year ahead, let us, by the joint efforts of the priests and laity, following the High Priest’s guidance, together strive toward accomplishing our shakubuku goal, produce shakubuku results and develop in faith and practice based on our strong conviction.
I would like to conclude my new year’s address by praying from the bottom of my heart for each one of you, your happiness, and for the peace and advancement of propagation of the true Law in your country.