Hokkekō (法華講, Hokke kō) is the mainstream lay organization affiliated with the Nichiren Shōshū school of Japanese Buddhism. It traces its origins in the three martyr disciples who were arrowed and later beheaded in the Atsuhara persecutions and in a more recent tradition between 1726 and 1829 claims surviving family lineages who have historically protected the Dai-Gohonzon over the centuries.
The word Hokke is a reference to the Lotus Sutra (妙法蓮華経 Myōhō-Renge-Kyō or 法華経 Hokekyō), the Buddhist scripture Nichiren Shoshu bases its teachings on, and kō (講) in this usage means "lay group" or "congregation". Based on the word Hokke Shu inscribed on the Dai Gohonzon, another translation is "Lotus believers".
The Hokkeko lay memberships are headed by local leaders called Koto and is not affiliated with any political organization. Hokkeko members meet in respective residential homes and hold a local chapter each year to plan their Tozan religious pilgrimages to the head temple, Taisekiji.
Prior to 30 September 1997, lay members of the Soka Gakkai were still canonically considered by Nichiren Shoshu to be Hokkeko members, entitled to participate in meetings and see the Dai-Gohonzon, allowing a 7 year span before officially ending their sectarian membership. The current Dai-Koto Chairperson for the Hokkeko Federation is Mr. Koichiro Hoshino.
Before the current lay association established with Nichiren Shoshu members, the Hokkeko traces its origins from the Atsuhara persecutions who were mostly lower class peasants in Japanese feudal society. Seventeen believers were whipped and dragged to their death, while three of known farmers, Jin-shirou, Yagoro and Yarou-Kuro were tied to a wooden post and shot to death by arrows upon the pain of renouncing the Lotus Sutra in replacement to accepting the Pure Land teachings. In later references, temple congregations as Hokkekō or Hokkekōshū (法華講衆) date back to at least the 13th century. Nichiren Daishonin (1222-1282), the founder of Nichiren Shōshū, also referred collectively to his lay followers as Hokke—shū in the dedication written on the Dai-Gohonzon, the school's object of veneration, inscribed on 12 October 1279. Nichiren Shoshu attributes the appellation Hokkekō to this usage by Nichiren Daishonin. Hokkekō is the name given to Nichiren Daishonin's believers who died at the Atsuhara persecution and its present living family descendants. They are affiliated with the head temple at Taiseki-ji in Japan.
In addition to being what congregations of Nichiren Shoshu temples (close to 700 in Japan and 20 in other countries have traditionally called themselves, Hokkekō is also used loosely in reference to all temple congregations (local Hokkekō chapters) collectively. When used this way, it can be understood to mean the national Hokkekō umbrella organization in Japan and Hokkekō groups that encompass the congregations of Nichiren Shoshu temples outside Japan.
The Japanese umbrella organization, officially called the Hokkekō Rengō Kai (Hokkekō federation), is related to Japanese Buddhism and was incorporated under Japanese law in 1962. Its headquarters is located at Nichiren Shoshu's head temple Taisekiji in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka, Japan, and it maintains a chapter at each local temple.
Hokkekō groups tend to be organized fairly loosely and are generally unregimented. Whereas some members are very active in temple-based propagation and other activities, others come only for a monthly service called o-kō (or, more formally, go-hōon o-kō (御報恩御講), "meeting to show gratitude to the Buddha"), the annual Oeshiki ceremony on the anniversary of Nichiren Daishonin's passing, and other temple events.
Though Nichiren Shoshu still considered individual Soka Gakkai members as lay followers until a rule change in 1997, most members mistakenly believed that they had been excommunicated along with the Soka Gakkai organization and its executive leaders. . Hokkekō is not affiliated with any political organizations. The current Dai-Koto of the Hokkeko Federation is Mr. Koichiro Hoshino.Nichiren Shoshu Temple
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