The Nichiren Buddhism【ミステリーな日蓮 英訳版】16. Nichiren, a monk of Tendai school, attacks Tendai school

16. Nichiren, a monk of Tendai school, attacks Tendai school


Hiroto Ema


For Nichiren, the battle with Esoteric Buddhism was very hard and required careful preparation. Why?


Nichiren belonged to the mainstream faction of authentic Buddhism. They were the monks who had experienced 12 years of training done in the form of Sange Gakusyo Shiki (山家学生式) in Enryaku temple in Mt. Hieizan (Tendai school) as Saityo (Dengyo Daishi 766-822) had mandated. At first, such a training was permitted to only two students each year, and those who finished it were given the official rank of a high priest “Ajari” from their masters. Though recently some refer to the fact that Nichiren also experienced such a training,  formerly it has been seen unrelated to him.


During the 12 years in Enryaku temple, Nichiren memorized and repeated the sutras of defending the country such as the Lotus Sutra, Golden Light Sutra, Benevolent Kings Sutra, and the books for reference of them thoroughly. The first and most important of the training is memorization. Before entering Enryaku temple, Nichiren was said to have prayed to The bodhisattva Space Treasury, the idol of Seicho temple, to make him “the first philosopher of Japan”, and seemed to train up his ability of memorization. From this fact we can understand the importance of memorization in those days. In letters to his disciples, Nichiren cited the sentences of the sutras of defending the country many times and used them freely. And during the early days of the transportation to Sado Island, he cited the sentences of sutras as before, even though main sutras had been scattered and lost. These facts tell that Nichiren memorized the sentences of sutras, and it is due to his training in Enryaku temple.


Given the commandment and the official rank of a high priest “Ajari” in Enryaku temple, he began his tasks as an authentic monk who was descended from Chigi (Tendai Daishi 538-597) of China and Saityo of Japan. But within Tendai school of Enryaku temple, the center of Japanese Buddhism, the third chief priest En-nin (Jikaku Daishi 794-864) had put Esoteric Buddhism above the Lotus Sutra and made Tendai school a sect of Esoteric Buddhism. For Nichiren, the battle with the Pure Land sect entailed little difficulty both on the point of doctrine and the position of him because Tendai school also urged the prohibition of the extreme Nenbutsu, but it is not the case with the battle against Esoteric Buddhism.


When Nichiren submitted “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the peace of the Land” to the shogunate, he wrote “天台沙門日蓮撰”, which means “the author of this work is Nichiren, a monk of Tendai school”. So it was a rebellion against Tendai school for Nichiren, who called himself a monk of Tendai school, to criticize Esoteric Buddhism.


*Shigeru Nishiyama, an Emeritus Professor of Toyo University, has proposed “In the essence of the doctrine by Nichiren exists practice. So let us study both the doctrine and practice, and recompose the study of Nichiren doctrines in the modern society”. To revive the doctrine of Nichiren, the same struggle is required and it is indivisible from reading the Lotus Sutra personally. Thus, a revival without struggle cannot be possible. A disciple of Nichiren must have preparedness.


October 1st 2019


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