On this day, September 12th, 1271, Nichiren Daishonin underwent the Tatsunokuchi Persecution. This was an unsuccessful attempt by the Kamakura Government to behead the Daishonin. This is one of the four major persecutions underwent by Nichiren Daishonin to prove the validity of the twenty line verse in the “Encouraging Devotion” (Kanji; thirteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. This verse teaches the numerous persecutions that will befall the Votary of the Lotus Sutra in the defiled age of the Latter Day of the Law. By encountering these various persecutions, Nichiren Daishonin “read the Lotus Sutra with his own life.” It is said that when the soldiers came to arrest the Daishonin prior to the execution, a soldier struck him with the scroll of the fifth volume of the Lotus Sutra which contains the 20 line verse of the Kanji Chapter.
The events that unfolded at Tatsunokuchi Beach that night were truly significant and magnificent. As the Daishonin along with Hei-no-Saemon and a group of soldiers proceeded to the execution sight, they approached Hachiman Shrine. The Daishonin dismounted from his horse a reprimanded Bodhisattva Hachiman for not protecting the Votary of the Lotus Sutra as he promised Lord Shakyamuni Buddha and the assembly at Eagle Peak. He then sent a messenger to retrieve Shijo Kingo who was determined to die at the side of Nichiren Daishonin. The Daishonin reprimanded Shijo Kingo for his grief, declaring there is no greater honor than to give one’s life for the Lotus Sutra.
Nichiren Daishonin was seated in perfect composure at Tatsunokuchi Beach, chanting Daimoku as he was about to be executed. As the soldier raised his sword to behead the Daishonin, a luminous object shot across the sky from the southeast, terrifying the soldiers and all present. The soldiers absolutely frightened at this moment, panicked and scattered, prostrating themselves before the Daishonin. At this moment Nichiren Daishonin discards his provisional identity and revealed himself to be the True Buddha of Kuon-Ganjo. The Daishonin teaches us in the “Opening of the Eyes” (“Kaimoku-sho”),
On the twelfth day of the ninth month of last year, between the hours of the Rat and the Ox (11:00 PM to 3:00 AM), this person named Nichiren was beheaded. It is his soul that has come to this island of Sado and in the second month of the following year, snowbound is writing this to send to his close followers. The description of the evil age in the Kanji chapter seems terrifying, but because I have dedicated myself to the true Law, I Nichiren, have nothing to be terrified about. Those observing me will be awe-struck.
(Gosho, p. 177)
The “person named Nichiren was beheaded” refers to Nichiren Daishonin as Bodhisattva Jogyo. He was “beheaded” for the sake of the Lotus Suta. In this context “beheaded” refers to discarding the provisional identity. “His soul that has come to Sado Island” refers to the soul of the Original True Buddha of Kuon-Ganjo. It was only after discarding this transient status did the Daishonin inscribe the Gohonzon for the first time, as he was infusing his enlightened life into it.
It has thus been 749 years since the Tatsunokuchi Persecution. In that time the Mystic Law has spread throughout the world bringing happiness to many individuals. It was through undergoing the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, that the Daishonin revealed his true identity, enabling him to reveal the Three Great Secret Laws (sandai-hiho), the ultimate purpose of his advent. Currently, our world is plagued with COVID-19 Pandemic. At such a time as this, it is important to reflect on the true purpose of Nichiren Daishonin’s advent and to teach others that they have the Buddha-nature and can attain enlightenment through chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon. I will leave the following famous quote from Nikko Shonin’s “Twenty Six Admonitions” (“Nikko yuikai okimon”),
Until Kosen-rufu is achieved, propagate the Law to the full extent of your ability without begrudging your life.
(Gosho, p. 1884)
Thus let us strive forth in achieving the peace and security of the land through the propagation of True Buddhism (Rissho Ankoku).
Nichiren Daishonin on exile at Sado Island