Kan-Shugyo—Intensive winter practice to commemorate Nichiren Shonin’s hardship in Sado Island

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Members who are on duty for preparing breakfast offer Udon and Soba (buckwheat) noodles to visitors during Kan-shugyo.
Members who are on duty for preparing breakfast offer Udon and Soba (buckwheat) noodles to visitors during Kan-shugyo.

Nichiren Shonin was oppressed many times for spreading the Odaimoku, true teaching of the Lotus Sutra, in the age of Mappo (age of degeneration of dharma) as predicted in the Lotus Sutra that people who engages in propagation of the Odaimoku in Mappoperiod on behalf of the Buddha will suffer various persecutions such as being exiled to a distant island, slashed with a sword, and so on. Even out of those, the most severe persecution was his banishment to an extremely cold island, Sado Island. Soon after being exiled, Nichiren Shonin was resigned to die living in a tumbledown shack which could not even shelter him from the rain and snow. However, even under such an extreme state of adversity, his passion for propagation inspire him and made him to write treatises, Kanjinhonzon-sho (A Treatise Revealing the Spiritual Contemplation and the Most Venerable One), Kaimoku-sho (Opening Your Eyes to the Lotus Teaching), and Nyosetsushugyo-sho (True Way of Practicing the Teaching of Buddha) which are all important teachings for us nowdays to hand down the true teaching of the Buddha to the next generation. Thanks to his hardship and pain, we, HBS followers, have inherited the faith in the Odaimoku.

To commemorate his hardship in Sado Island, we set a period of one month from January 1 to February 5 and devote ourselves to Asa-sankei (everyday morning Buddhist service) in such a coldest season of the year. This period is called Kan-shugyo. Kan literally means “in cold winter”, and Shugyo is “a practice.” Kan-shugyo is also called Kan-sankei, and Sankei means “visiting a temple.” Therefore, Kan-sankei is a training period for all HBS members from adults to children to devote ourselves to Asa-sankei to discipline and improve our faith. Our prayers for the new year will be answered and able to avoid curses and live peacefully and quietly due to the Kudoku accumulated by working hard on Asa-sankei during the Kan-shugyo period in the hardest season.

During Kan-shugyo, the same Gohomons based on the same theme are preached at every temple so that members are able to improve their faith together encouraging each other. Breakfast is also served during Kan-shugyo usually at most temples. Members by turns come to their temple early morning before Asa-sankei starts to prepare the breakfast and offer steaming hot Udon noodles, Soba noodles or Miso soup and plane rice which warm visitors’ body. This comes from that a few believers who had been converted by Nichiren Shonin during his exile in Sado Island offered foods and drinks to him everyday.

 

Follow Ryosetsu Ikemoto:

Buddhist Priest of Honmon Butsuryū Shū (HBS), belongs to Kosenji temple in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Pref., Japan. Secretary to the 25th HBS head priest.

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