Taiseki-ji

Tahō Fuji Dainichirenge-zan Taiseki-ji (多宝富士大日蓮華山大石寺); more commonly just Sōhonzan Taiseki-ji (総本山大石寺), informally known as Head Temple Taiseki-ji (大石寺) is the administrative center of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. It is located in the foothills of Mount Fuji in Kamijo, Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan.[citation needed]

Taiseki-ji was founded in 1290 by Nikkō Shōnin, one of Nichiren's immediate disciples, on a land parcel donated by the believer Daigyo Sonrei (Born as Lord Nanjo Tokimitsu).[citation needed]

The temple is the home of the Dai Gohonzon, Nichiren Shoshu's object of worship, which draws pilgrim believers from various countries. The temple's vast open grounds are also open to the public for sightseeing, though its religious buildings are restricted to non-believers.[citation needed] Accordingly, adherents of the Soka Gakkai are not permitted entry access to the Head Temple grounds.

Taiseki-ji is Nichiren Shoshu's administrative center, and its chief abbot (貫主, Kan-Cho) Chief Priest is simultaneously the high priest (法主 (hossu)) of Nichiren Shoshu. The current 68th High Priest is Nichinyo Hayase (1935 – Present) who assumed the position on 16 December 2005.[citation needed]

Taiseki-ji is the home of the Dai Gohonzon, Nichiren Shoshu's object of worship. This image is visited by believers who come on personal pilgrimages, to participate in regular ceremonies, or to take part in large events such as study programs, and similar large meetings. The temple is also known for numerous historically significant buildings and gardens as well as features like the old weeping cherry trees that line its Tatchū (main path lined with lodging temples).[citation needed]

According to Nichiren Shoshu tradition, Taiseki-ji was founded in 1290 by Nichiren's disciple Nikkō on a tract of land called Ōishigahara (大石ケ原 "great stone meadow") donated by the district steward, Nanjo Shichiro Jiro Hyoe Taira no Tokimitsu (Buddhist name: Daigyo Sonrei) (1259–1332). The name derives from an alternative reading of the kanji for Ōishi (大石), Tai (Big) - Seki (Stone), and the character Ji (寺), temple. Tokimitsu was one of Nichiren's lay followers and he looked up to Nikkō as his personal teacher. Taiseki-ji started with one small temple building, the Mutsubo with six rooms, but grew gradually as Nikkō's disciples built sub-temples. It went through further growth phases during the mid-Edo and in the post-World War II periods.[citation needed]

The following significant buildings are listed for their historical and architectural value:[citation needed]

The Sanmon (written 三 門, sometimes 山 門) gate is Taiseki-ji's "front door" and has been designated as a Shizuoka prefectural cultural asset. It was built in 1717 with financial assistance from Lady Tennei-in, the wife of sixth Shōgun Tokugawa Ienobu, who donated 300 ryō for its construction. In 1997, it was significantly vandalized and defaced with graffiti. It was recently restored and is awaiting public presentation.

The first Mutsubō (六 壷) was erected in 1290 as Taiseki-ji's first building. It has been rebuilt many times since, but the Gohonzon (object of veneration) it houses is attributed to temple founder Nikkō Shōnin dating from November 1332. It maintains its original design of having six rooms. [1] The current structure, which uses much keyaki heartwood, was completed in 1988. The High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu proceeds to the Mutsubō on concluding Ushitora Gongyo in the Kyakuden (see below) to perform another gongyo recitation with young priests and acolytes.[citation needed]

The first Dai-Kyakuden (大 客 殿 "Grand Reception Hall") was originally built in 1465. It was rebuilt as a modern building on 1 March 1959 and expanded again in the year 1964 by the Soka Gakkai. The current edifice, a wood-clad steel-framed structure, was demolished in September 1995 and constructed entirely in 1998 with steel-reinforced concrete building.

The priesthood cited its imposing ferroconcrete mass as incongruent with the architectural tone appropriate for a temple compound. A pre-war building, which had been requisitioned by the Japanese imperial military, burnt down in a June 1945 fire that claimed the life of 62nd High Priest Nikkyō Shōnin, who died in an effort to protect the Gohonzon of Nikko Shonin.[citation needed]

The Grand Reception Hall is the site of Ushitora Gongyo, a daylight prayer service officiated by the High Priest or his proxy. The Ozagawari Joza Gohonzon ("Gohonzon of the Seat of the Dharma") is enshrined in the hall on the second floor of the Kyakuden, flanked by lifesize statues of Nichiren Daishonin (left) and Nikkō Shōnin (right).[citation needed]

The Mieido (English: Image Hall Kanji: 御 影 堂) traces its history to a building called the Mido (Midō: 御堂) erected by Nikko Shonin when he founded Taisekiji in 1290. It takes its name from a lifesize image of Nichiren sculpted by Japanese Buddhist artisan Echizen Hōkyō Kaikei, a carver of Buddhist images. This image was enshrined in year 1388 in a building that was then replaced in 1522. The current, classical structure was erected in 1632 with donations from Kyōdai-in, wife of Hachisuka Yoshishige, Lord of the Tokushima Castle.[citation needed] Several rounds of expansions, improvements, and repairs have been undertaken since then, and it was designated a prefectural tangible cultural property by Shizuoka Prefecture after major repairs in 1971. The most recent overhaul was finished in November 2013. The seven-year project entailed completely breaking down and reassembling the building piece by piece. All the parts were cataloged, mapped, and their condition recorded. Damaged structural members were repaired or replaced, and decorative fixtures such as transom carvings and other artwork, were painstaking restored. When the building was reassembled, aseismic structural augmentation (dampers) was installed to protect it from earthquake damage. New gold leaf was applied to the indoor pillars, and all exposed surfaces were finished with vermilion using traditional methods.[2][3][4] The building is known for its decorative transoms that depict various Buddhist deities that are believed to occupy the Treasure Tower of the Lotus Sutra.[citation needed]

The Hōandō (奉 安 堂) houses the Dai Gohonzon, the supreme object of worship in Nichiren Shōshū.[citation needed] The Hōandō is built in the style of a Kura storehouse to signify that the Nichiren Shoshu faith has not yet taken hold as the primary religion of the world's people.[citation needed] Nichiren Shoshu claims that Nichiren willed that the Dai Gohonzon is not to be made publicly accessible, but rather stored away and only viewed by those who have asked for and been granted an audience by the High Priest, until such time.[citation needed] Another interpretation of this is that, as different from all other Nichiren Shoshu altars, the one in the Hōandō has neither offerings of evergreens nor drums, and non-believers are not permitted entry. Handicapped believers and their attendants are given priority entry and seating within the building.[citation needed]

On the high altar, the Shumidan, of the Hōandō is a Buddhist Stupa containing the ashes of Nichiren Daishonin (left), an inner-altar housing the Dai Gohonzon (center), and another stupa containing a statue of Nichiren Daishonin carved by Izumi Ajari Nippō Shōnin from the same camphorwood plank that the Dai Gohonzon was inscribed on; while pious tradition claims that Nichiren approvingly characterized the statue as an exact image of himself.[citation needed]

Numerous relics from Taiseki-ji's 750-year history are kept in the Gohozo Treasure House.

The Hōandō replaced the Shōhondō (正本堂: true main hall), built mostly by Soka Gakkai. The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood stripped Soka Gakkai of its status as a lay organization in 1991, and later determined that a structure built by an organization turned heretical and was no longer suited to house the Dai Gohonzon.[citation needed]

The priesthood viewed the Soka Gakkai intentions as impure and freely concedes that their demolition of the Shōhondō was an extension of the doctrinal dispute. [5] From its inception, there had been friction over the naming of the building since its construction began, since many Nichiren Shoshu priests felt that, given that Kosen-rufu had not yet been achieved, it was too early to erect Taiseki-ji's "True Main Hall".[citation needed]

Taiseki-ji has traditionally regarded the Mieidō (see above) as the temple's Hondō (main hall), but only its provisional main hall until wide propagation is achieved, when the building housing the Dai Gohonzon would take over that role. Note that almost all temples, regardless of school, have one building or section of a building considered their Hondō, which is usually where their most significant ceremonies are held.[citation needed]

Before the Shōhondō was completed in 1972, the Dai Gohonzon had been kept locked away in another storehouse called the Gohōzō or enshrined in the Hōanden, another storehouse-like structure built behind the Gohōzō.[citation needed]

The Gohōzō (御 宝 蔵) ("Treasure House") houses various religious scrolls and paintings, and other religious and historical records, relics, and artifacts. It possesses the original Gosho documents of Nichiren conversing with the Buddhist deity Hachiman, as well as a personal letter given to Lord Nanjo Tokimitsu while he was alive. In addition, all Gohonzons transcribed by Nichiren Shoshu priests are stored within this building, which are mostly taken out in April for the Omushibarai Ceremony.[citation needed]

In addition, it also features modest displays of cultural objects donated by pilgrims from countries where they have attracted converts. The Hōanden (奉 安 殿) building, where the Dai Gohonzon was once enshrined, stands behind it.[citation needed]

Completed in 1749 with the assistance of the Edo government, Taiseki-ji's pagoda was built with donations of 5,000 gold ryō. It is five-storied and faces west rather than the usual south to signify that Nichiren's Buddhism would spread from the east (Japan) to the west; that is, back to the land of Sakyamuni Buddha and beyond to the rest of the world. It is the largest five-storied pagoda along the Tōkaidō, the historical main highway along Japan's eastern seaboard from Edo (today's Tokyo) to Kyoto. The pagoda was designated a national cultural treasure in year 1966 and a major restoration was completed in January 2017. Its doors are ceremoniously opened every February 16 to celebrate Nichiren's birthday.[citation needed]

The Daikōdō ("English: Grand Auditorium") was donated by Soka Gakkai, with construction completed on 1 March 1958. It houses the “Abutsubo Gohonzon” (often wrongly mistaken for the "Mannenkugo Gohonzon" or "Dai-Honzon" ) inscribed by Nichiren for the enlightenment of women and bestowed to Sennichi, the pious wife of disciple Abutsubo. It is flanked by the ihai memorial tablets of second High Priest Nikkō Shonin and his successor, third High Priest Nichimoku. It is in a dilapidated condition and scheduled for demolition and reconstruction after completion of the new Sanmon gate in 2021.[citation needed]

The former highest lay leader of Hokkeko believers (Hokkeko Sokoto), Jōsei Toda addressed youth adherents from this building on 16 March 1958.[citation needed]

The Shōhondō, constructed in 1972, demolished in 1998. Circa December 1979.

In 1968, approximately 8 million Soka Gakkai adherents contributed money to construct the building which was to be [6] the Shōhondō (正 本 堂) building at Taiseki-ji, which was opened in 1972 and subsequently demolished in 1998. SGI President Daisaku Ikeda personally designed the building. The Soka Gakkai inaugurated the building as the High Sanctuary of the Dai Gohonzon as mandated by Nichiren, a title that was disputed by the Myoshinko (now known as Kenshōkai) lay organisation. The temple priesthood, along with Nittatsu Hosoi also directed the Shōhondō to be a temporal shrine for the venerated image, issuing a Gohonzon to Daisaku Ikeda with a hand inscription commemorating its construction but refraining from assigning it to be its permanent home. As Nittatsu Shonin wrote in 1973:[7]

The Shohondo is the True High Sanctuary at the present time, and carries the significance stated in the Transfer Document, "Document for Entrusting the Law that Nichiren Propagated Throughout his Life" ("Nichiren ichigo guho fuzoku-sho") and [the Gosho] "On the Three Great Secret Laws." – (Collected Words of High Priest Nittatsu Shonin, vol. 2-1, p. 3)

The "Eternal Flame" at the entrance of the now-demolished Shōhondō. Photo dated 3 November 1978.

The design of the Shōhondō is based on a crane taking flight, similar to the Tsuru-no-maru logo of Nichiren Shoshu, while its entrance gates alluded to lotus flowers. The inside featured mid-century modern architecture, bronze carvings and a Butsudan with an automatic door, considered to be a rare novelty at the time. In its high altar was a shrine built to house the Dai Gohonzon, an inscribed wood block mandala which is the "True Object of Worship" of Nichiren Shoshu. The Shōhondō was regarded as an important work of post-war Japanese architecture, noted for its vast unsupported roof span.[citation needed]

The construction of the Shōhondō was funded largely by donations from lay believers of Nichiren Shoshu. An estimated grand total of ¥35,536,000,000 was raised:

The building was subsequently demolished in 1998. The official reason given by Nichiren Shoshu for demolishing the building was due to rust discovered on the pillars within the temple. Engineers discovered that ocean sand had been used in the mortar of the building, risking the Dai Gohonzon's safety during an earthquake. The school also concedes that its demolition of the Shōhondō was an extension of the doctrinal dispute between it and Sōka Gakkai, emphasizing the impiety of the organisation for deviating from its formal doctrines of orthodoxy.[9] The then-Nichiren Shoshu High Priest, Nikken Abe, replaced the Shōhondō with a traditional style building called Hōandō. Soka Gakkai disputes both the report and the reason for the building's demolition.[citation needed]

American architects Richard Meier and Robert Arthur Stern both disparaged the demolition. Terence Riley, former chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York opined that the planned demolition would be a "regrettable finale" to a century that has "witnessed so much loss".[10]

An approximate thirty-minute walk from the Head Temple is Myoren-ji, which is another former residence of Nanjo Tokimitsu, the person who donated the land of Taisekiji to Nikko Shonin. The temple's name derives from the Buddhist name (kaimyō) Nanjo Tokimitsu's wife, Myōren, whose historical birth name is unknown. This temple houses many historically significant artifacts, in particular the Gohonzon enshrined in its main altar, which was inscribed by Nikko Shonin in year 1315, and a small, decorative statue of Nichiren that is preserved as a historical remembrance. The temple is known for the unique format of its Oeshiki ceremony commemorating the death of Nichiren.[citation needed]