Nissei (日政)

Nissei (March 23, 1623 - March 30, 1668) was a Buddhist monk of the Nichiren sect and a poet of Chinese poetry who lived in the early Edo period. He founded Zuiko-ji Temple in Fukakusa, Yamashiro. His lay name was Motomasa ISHII. When he was small, he was called Genpachiro one time, and Toshihira at another time. His pseudonyms included Myoshi, Taido, Kushi, Genshi, and Fukashigi.


He was born as the fifth son of Motoyoshi ISHII, a low rank official, in Ichijo, Kyoto. His elder sister, Shunkoin, was a concubine of Naotaka II, the lord of Hikone Domain.

When he was nine years old, he entered Daitoin of Kennin-ji Temple and was taught by a priest named Kugon. Then he moved to Hikone, Omi, and at the age of thirteen he began serving Naotaka II, the lord of the castle.

From childhood he loved literature and often visited Kyoto, and when he listened to lectures on the Lotus Sutra by Nyoshu of Unryuin, Senyo-ji Temple, he was extremely impressed. Also because he had been sick, he resigned his post in 1649 and became a monk under Nippo of Myoken-ji Temple of the Nichiren Sect. He had close relationships with Nichigo of Chujoin and Nittoku of Honsho-ji Temple, and studied Nichiren sect Buddhism in depth. In 1655 when he was thirty-three, he founded Shoshin an (later Zuiko-ji Temple) in Fukakusa, Fushimi, named himself Chikuyo (bamboo leaf) an, and began applying himself to study Buddhism. The next year he visited the temple of Mt. Minobu with his seventy-nine-year-old mother, Myoshu, and on his way back home, in Edo he brought his mother to the mansion of Ii family while he himself stayed in an inn at Nihonbashi. He stubbornly refused the frequent invitations to the mansion from Naozumi II, his nephew, and came back to Kyoto with his mother. In the same year, he added buildings including one where a Buddhist image was enshrined, established Shinsozan Zuiko-ji Temple as a school for studying the Lotus Sutra and practicing Buddhism, put his disciple Seno as his senior, and studied together. Between the study and practices, he enjoyed poetry and mixed with many celebrities such as Banzan KUMAZAWA and Kigin KITAMURA.

In 1667, after he held the funeral of his mother Myoshu, he went to Takatsuki, Settsu, and stayed there for more than a month, where he became sick in January the next year, and knowing that he was about to die, came back to Fukakusa. He asked Nitto to take care of the school, and died. He was forty-six years old. It is said that his body was buried beside the Shoshin an with three bamboos planted as his grave marker.
His last poem was, 'Over the mountain of eagles the moon is supposed to dwell, appearing one time and disappearing at another time above the peak.'

Writings and revisions

Nissei left many writings of his own and revisions of others' writings.

As a revisioner his works included "Kunten Tendai Sandaibu Hosei ki" (Helpful Readings of the Three Great Tendai Scriptures), "Commentary on the Great Wisdom Sutra," "The Interpretation to understand the Nirvana Sutra," "Hoon Jurin" (Fa-yuan zhu-lin, the Chinese encyclopedia of Buddhism), "Shakumon Shofukuku gi," "The Complete Works of Yuan Hong-dao," and "The Treasury."

His writings included six volumes of "Treasury of Tathagata," three volumes of "Small Writings about Meditation," three volumes of "Commentary on the Legend of Ryuge Tree under which Bodhisattva Attains Nirvana," three volumes of "Commentary on Japanese Nichiren Sect," three volumes of "Writings about Japanese Hermits," two volumes of "Poetries exchanged between Nissei and Chen Yuan-Ping, "衣裏 Hoju sho," "Twenty-four Dutiful Children among Buddhists," "Writings about Dutiful Children among Buddhists," "Traditions of Generations of Teachings from Teachers to Disciples about Attaining Nirvana," "The Record of Shichimen, Mt. Minobu," "Travelogue of Mt. Minobu," "Onsen Yuso," "Sickly Life at Shoshin," "Important Teachings at Sozan," "Sozan Poetry," "Important Collections on Food and Medicine," "Annotations about Hojo ki by St. Iku," "Incantation in Unison by Priest and Believers," "Souvenir from Kyoto," "Teachings of Kakoku," "Teachings by Kosa," "得意 Incantation of the Name of the Lotus Sutra," and "Small Writings about Poetries sung as Teachings of the Nichiren Sect."

He was also known as a poet of Chinese poetry influenced by Chen Yuan-Ping who was in exile from the Ming Dynasty China and was serving Nagoya feudal clan.

His collections of Chinese poetry included thirty volumes of "Collection at Grassy Mountain," and six volumes of "Poetry at 谷口山."

[Original Japanese]