The Six Major Disciples of Nichiren

Nissho Shonin (1221-1323)
by Ryuei Michael McCormick

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On October 8, 1282 at the house of Munenaka Ikegami, Nichiren Shonin designated the Six Senior Disciples (Roku Roso) to carry on his work after his death. These six were: Nissho (1221-1323), Nichiro (1245-1320), Nikko (1246-1333), Niko (1253-1314), Nitcho (1252-1317), and Nichiji (1250-1305?).

Nissho (1221-1323) had once been a fellow student with Nichiren Shonin at Mt. Hiei. Though he was one year older, he was so impressed with Nichiren Shonin that he joined him in Kamakura when Nichiren Shonin first began preaching there in 1253. It is said that Nissho had been adopted by Konoye Kanetsune, the third head of the Konoye family of the Kyoto nobility. This connection would become important later on in the propagation of Nichiren Buddhism.

After the Tatsunokuchi Incident, Nissho took up residence in Hama, Kamakura. In 1284, the Hamado hermitage became the Hokkeji Temple. Because Nissho's lineage was first based at Hama, it is known as the Hama Lineage. In 1317, Nissho transferred Hokkeji Temple to his disciple Nichiyu. The Hokkeji Temple was moved to Tamazawa, Izu in 1621 and renamed Myohokkeji Temple.

Click here to learn more about the Prayer Gohonzon Nichiren inscribed for Nissho Nissho and his nephew Nichiro had a very difficult time in Kamakura after the death of Nichiren Shonin. In 1284, Nissho submitted a revised version of the Rissho Ankoku-ron to the Kamakuran Shogunate. The new version extended Nichiren's criticism of slander to Shingon and Tendai esotericism. Just as with Nichiren Shonin's original submission, this one also brought out a mob which tried to burn down the Hamado hermitage. Nissho calmed them down by telling them that he was a loyal Tendai priest who simply wanted to reform Tendai Buddhism. Nissho and Nichiro also used the argument that they were simply Tendai reformers and were not trying to establish an illegal sect when the War Minister Yoritsuna again tried to suppress Nichiren Buddhism in 1285. War Minister Yoritsuna demanded that they join the other sects in praying for the peace of the Hojo family (who controlled the Kamakuran Shogunate). In order to protect the fledgeling Nichiren Buddhist community in Kamakura, Nissho and Nichiro relented and participated in the prayers, though they did petition for a debate with the other schools.

Nissho and his disciples probably did see themselves as Tendai reformers. The Hama Lineage maintained good relations with the Tendai school for a long time, and even sent students to Mt. Hiei to study Tendai philosophy and even to receive their ordinations.

Nissho also founded the Myohoji Temple in Nase, Sagami in 1306. This temple was transferred to Nissho's disciple Nichijo in 1307. Myohoji Temple was moved to Murata, Echigo when it's main patron, Nobuaki Kazama, moved back there.

Copyright by Ryuei Michael McCormick. 2000.

Online Temples Associated with Nissho
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