three-time gaining of distinction ［三度の高名］ ( sando-no-kōmyō): Also, three-time distinction. In his 1275 treatise The Selection of the Time, Nichiren declares: “In the secular texts it says, ‘A sage is one who fully understands those things that have not yet made their appearance.’ And in the Buddhist texts it says, ‘A sage is one who knows the three existences of life—past, present, and future.’ Three times now I have gained distinction by having such knowledge” (579). Nichiren made predictions on three occasions when he remonstrated with the leaders of the Kamakura shogunate, hoping thereby to bring peace and security to the country and protect its people from disaster.
According to The Selection of the Time, the first occasion was the sixteenth day of the seventh month, 1260, when he presented his work On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land to Hōjō Tokiyori, the former regent but effective leader of the Kamakura shogunate. “At that time,” he writes: “I said to the lay priest Yadoya, ‘Please advise His Lordship that devotion to the Zen school and the Nembutsu school should be abandoned. If this advice is not heeded, trouble will break out within the ruling clan, and the nation will be attacked by another country’” (579).
The second time was the twelfth day of the ninth month in 1271, when Hei no Saemon, deputy chief of the Office of Military and Police Affairs (the chief being the regent), came with his men to arrest Nichiren at Matsubagayatsu. At that time Nichiren stated: “Nichiren is the pillar and beam of Japan. Doing away with me is toppling the pillar of Japan! Immediately you will all face ‘the calamity of revolt within one’s own domain,’ or strife among yourselves, and also ‘the calamity of invasion from foreign lands’” (579).
The third time was the eighth day of the fourth month in 1274, on his return to Kamakura from his exile on Sado Island, when he said to Hei no Saemon: “The task of praying for victory over the Mongols should not be entrusted to the True Word (Shingon) priests! If so grave a matter is entrusted to them, then the situation will only worsen rapidly and our country will face destruction” (579). Asked when the Mongols would attack, Nichiren replied, “It will probably occur before this year has ended” (579). The first attack by Mongol forces against Japan did in fact take place in the tenth month of 1274. After taking two small Japanese islands, the Mongols mounted an extensive land invasion at Hakata and Hakozaki, but their fleet was heavily damaged and driven back by severe weather. As for Nichiren’s prediction of internal strife within the ruling clan, it was fulfilled in the second month of 1272, when Hōjō Tokisuke, a shogunal deputy stationed in Kyoto, revolted against his younger half brother, the regent Hōjō Tokimune, in an attempt to seize power.