The Six Major Disciples of Nichiren

Nitcho Shonin (1252-1317)
by Ryuei Michael McCormick

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Nitcho (1252-1317) was the step-son of Nichiren Shonin's important lay disciple, Toki Jonin (1214-1299). He was a novice priest at a Tendai temple called Guboji in Mama, Shimofusa. Upon the recommendation of his step-father, Toki Jonin, he became the disciple of Nichiren Shonin in 1267. He also joined Nichiren Shonin in exile on Sado Island.

In 1278, Nitcho won a debate with the chief priest of Guboji Temple and shortly after took over the temple. At the time, Nichiren Buddhism was not a recognized sect, so Guboji Temple remained a Tendai temple, at least nominally. Unfortunately, relations between Nitcho and Toki Jonin broke down. In 1292, Nitcho left for Omosu, Kitayana where he had been born. At Omosu, he joined Nikko and helped him to establish Honmonji Temple.

After Nitcho left, Toki Jonin ordained himself and took the name Nichijo. He founded the Hokkeji Temple at his home in Wakamiya. The Hokkeji was next to the residence of Ota Jomyo, another important lay follower of Nichiren Shonin. Ota Jomyo's son, became a disciple of Nichijo and was given the name Nichiko. When Nichijo died, Nichiko made the residence of his father at Nakayama into a temple named Hommyoji. In 1545 the Hokkeji and the Hommyoji were united as the Nakayama Hokekyoji. Today, Nakayama Hokekyoji is well known as the location of the 100 day ascetic practice known as Aragyo. Nichijo is also noted for collecting and cataloging the writings of Nichiren Shonin. The lineage begun by Nichijo is known as the Nakayama Lineage.

Copyright by Ryuei Michael McCormick. 2000.

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