The Nichiren Buddhism【ミステリーな日蓮 英訳版】3. The Lotus Sutra unpopular with the Eastern warriors

3. The Lotus Sutra unpopular with the Eastern warriors

Hiroto Ema

Although gaining power rapidly and entering on the center stage in Heian era(794-1185), the Eastern warriors couldn’t read Chinese writings well. Many vassal warriors of the Kamakura Shogunate employed aristocrats who could read and write Chinese as civil officials, and commissioned them to do political and legal affairs. In that era, it would be difficult just to get sutras, which were either transcribed by the specialists or printed with woodblock and then bound beautifully, so traded with a huge sum of money. Moreover, the Lotus Sutra requires as training to read, recite, expound, and transcribe the sutra written in Chinese. For the aristocrats who were familiar with Chinese writings and had sufficient knowledge and wealth, the belief in the Lotus Sutra was natural, but it couldn’t be accepted easily by the native Eastern warriors. Minamoto no Yoritomo(1147-99), the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate, read and recited the Lotus Sutra everyday, but it is because he was an aristocrat.


Meanwhile, Honen(1133-1212) preached that anyone can attain rebirth in the Paradise and the Pure Land by only chanting of Namu Amida Butsu(南無阿弥陀仏). The chanting of Namu Amida Butsu is called Nenbutsu, similarly the chanting of Nam Myoho Renge kyo(南無妙法蓮華経) is called Daimoku, and Honen asserted that Nenbutsu is the only way to attain rebirth in the Paradise and the Pure Land. Also, he insisted that one must dedicate only to Nenbutsu and all other beliefs must be discarded because they were obstruction to the Paradise and the Pure Land, thus he preached the exclusive practice of Nenbutsu, and founded the Pure Land sect. Naturally, all other sects of Buddhism reacted against it bitterly, because their doctrine was contradicted completely. Also the Kamakura Shogunate banned Nenbutsu.


But the Pure Land sect led by Honen overcame all the fierce resist and prohibition and was spread like wildfire. So the Imperial Court had to transport Honen to an isolated island and tried to squash the spread of the Pure Land sect.


Honen started the Pure Land sect in 1198, and was transported to Kagawa prefecture in 1207. These nine years coincide with the death of Yoritomo in 1199 and the rise of the Hojo clan, the climax of which is the installation of Yoshitoki Hojo(1163-1224) to a regent of the Shogunate in 1205. But though Honen was transported, the Pure Land sect didn’t lose momentum. Even in Kamakura, Nenbutsu was popularized rapidly among the society of warriors by the preaching of Dokyo (Nenku) and others. How did Nenbutsu overcome the prohibition by the Imperial Court and the Shogunate and spread widely? In next section, we will start with this question. September 1st 2018


Please let us know your feedback via e-mail (Next section will be released on October 1st).

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 しかし、法然の浄土宗は、この激しい反発と禁制を乗り越えて、大変な勢いで広まっていきます。やむなく朝廷は、法然を流罪にして、浄土宗の波及を押さえようとしました。 法然が浄土宗を興したのは1198年で、讃岐に流されたのは9年後の1207年です。この9年間は、鎌倉では1199年に頼朝が没し、その後、北条氏が着々と権力を掌握して北条義時が1205年に執権となった時期と重なります。法然が流罪されても、浄土宗の勢いは止まりません。鎌倉においても道教(念空)らの布教によって、称名念仏は武家社会に急速に広まっていきました。朝廷や幕府の禁止令を超えて、なぜ、称名念仏は広まっていったのでしょう。次回はそこから考えたいと思います。