Politics and Doctrine of Nichiren Buddhism#007【ミステリーな日蓮 〈番外編〉「日蓮と政治」英訳版】

Politics and Doctrine of Nichiren Buddhism#007


Hiroto Ema


Chapter 2

Political nature of Nichiren’s doctrine


2.The interest of temples and shrines was the motive for oppression

Here, we shall discuss the reason why high priests such as Ninshō attacked Nichiren. In the first place, if the attack against Nichiren was a matter of doctrine, why wasn’t any official debate by the shogunate, which Nichiren had longed for so strongly, realized? Even if the exclusive nature of Nichiren’s doctrine or his logic of selection stood as problem, these were just a matter of controversy after all. In fact, they had a motive for attacking Nichiren which was more compelling than mere a problem of doctrine. Namely, matters of political and economic interest.


In those days, temples and shrines were feudal lords that held and managed vast dominions. The rituals of prayer conducted by them were equal to a military power, and they were supposed to help those in power and the shogunate through prayer during disasters or battles, the fortune-tellings for time and direction, and letters of recommendation about edicts or disasters(50). While the vassals of the shogunate were guaranteed their dominions according to their exploits, temples and shrines were basked in the same privilege through the devotion of the shogunate and those in power(51).


In “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the peace of the Land”, Nichiren insisted the alms for Nenbutsu be “quickly stopped”. And since his prophesy was realized when an official letter from Mongolia arrived in 1268, and the prayer by Ninshō was in vain when he prayed for rainning in 1271, Nichiren’s attack against Ninshō became more fierce. Both problems were concerned with rituals of prayer, and for Ninshō a matter of his economic base.


While Nichiren was detained in Sado Island, Nenbutsu monks cried about the situation that Nenbutsu believers in Sado converted to the sect of Nichiren, saying “We will die of starvation. By all means, we have to kill Nichiren”(52). Here the motive for oppressing Nichiren is clear. What Nenbutsu monks feared the most was “starvation”, and to them the expansion of Nichiren’s sect meant that the existent Buddhists should lose their economic base.


Here we would like to take an example of Ninshō. In those days, many vagabonds and untouchables flooded into Kamakura as a result of abnormal climate and famine. As Susumu Ishii points out, Ninshō, the chief priest of Gokuraku temple then, blocked out these people at the boundary of Kamakura, organized and used them as the workforce for a construction project which he had contracted with the shogunate, and gained huge profits from it. And he was also allowed other privileges such as the maintenance of Iijima port facilities and the collection of customs duty. Moreover, he was given rights to promote prohibition of killing around Yuigahama beach and Zaimokuza beach, and to take necessary measures there. He is even said to make excessive profits by cornering wood trasported to the port when there was a shortage of it. All these interests were given by the shogunate to Gokuraku temple, and Ninshō is said to have enjoyed huge privilege by the devotion of Gokurakuji Shigetoki, who occupied the position of Rensho (the assistant to the regent) then(53).


Because temples and shrines in those days were strongly dependent on the shogunate, they were susceptible to the rivalry among those in power. Here we take another example. In the Court riot(1246) and battle of Hōji(1247), Hōjō Tokiyori expelled most monks for supporting anti-Tokiyori faction and cursing him, and gave Ryūben, the only monk who stood for him, an important post of the chief priest of Tsuruoka Hachiman shrine and Onjō temple. Thus, we can understand from this fact how the monks in those days were deeply involved with political rivalry and tried to hold and promote their political and economic power.


Likewise, Nichiren, who was said to be closely connected with Nagoe clan, bitterly criticized Ninshō, who was to gain huge profits by the devotion of Shigetoki, and Nichiren’s criticism was aimed at the interests of Gokuraku temple as well(54). So it might be natural that the head family and the family of Gokurakuji clan regarded Nichiren as a political threat. Ikegami Munenaka was disowned by his father Yasumitsu who had bowed to Ninshō’s wish, and later dismissed from his duties concerning the construction of Hachiman shrine. It was because members of Ikegami clan, who as the officials responsible for construction dealt with wood, was under strong influence of Gokuraku temple.



(50) Yutaka Takagi. “Nichiren.” Nihonjin no kōdō to shisō 4, Hyōron Sya, 1973, pp. 64.

(51) ed. Rizō Takeuchi. “Tochi seido shi 1.” Taikei Nihonshi sōsyo, Yamakawa Syuppan, 1973. pp. 231-245.

(52)”Shuju onfurumai gosho: The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra.” ed. Rissyō University, op. cit., pp. 977.

(53) Susumu Ishii. “Toshi Kamakura ni okeru ‘jigoku’ no fūkei.” ed. Gokeninsei Kenkyūkai. Gokeninsei no kenkyū, Yoshikawa Kōbun Kan, 1981, pp. 90-94.

(54) “Shōgu mondō shō: Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man.” ed. Rissyō University, op. cit., pp. 353-354.


October 1st 2020


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ミステリーな日蓮 〈番外編〉「日蓮と政治」#007


第2章 日蓮仏法の政治性



























江間浩人 編著『鉛筆でなぞる『法華経』—-「方便品」と「如来寿量品」

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