The Nichiren Buddhism【ミステリーな日蓮 英訳版】17.No prayer, no Buddhism

17.No prayer, no Buddhism


Hiroto Ema


Nichiren, who had started his career as a monk of Tendai school, attacked Tendai school, which was the foundation of his authenticity. In this section, we will discuss from a different point of view how hard such defiance was.


One thesis that has changed the modern studies on the Buddhism in the Kamakura era (1185-1333) is “Ken Mitsu Taisei Ron (a thesis on the exoteric and esoteric structure)” by Toshio Kuroda. This criticizes existent studies that have claimed that the Kamakura era was a period when new sects called Kamakura new Buddhism, such as Zen, Jyodo (the Pure Land sect), and Nichiren, became dominant, and argues that older sects such as Ritsu, Tendai, and Shingon, all of which had existed before the Kamakura era, had overwhelming power as the mainstream force of Buddhism. And it concluded that the scale of Kamakura new Buddhism was small, and its power as heresy was also insignificant.


Here, the older sects refer to the state sects of Buddhism in the Nara era (Sanron, Jyojitsu, Hossou, Kusya, Kegon, and Ritsu 710-794) and two sects which were established in the Heian era (794-1185) and acknowledged by the Imperial Court (Tendai and Shingon). Among these eight sects, Kuroda focuses on the power of influence of Shingon esoteric sect. According to him, the Esoteric Buddhism characterized by prayer was adopted by other sects and later the whole circles of Buddhism became esoteric. The eight sects mentioned above, which had become esoteric, was acknowledged by the state, closely related with it, and integrated into it. And the structure which was established by the integration into the state is called “the exoteric and esoteric structure”.


Before the transportation to Sado Island, Nichiren had already prided himself in pushing back the tide of the belief in Nenbutsu. In other words, he probably thought that he had won over the so-called new Buddhism. So the enemy he had to fight against was “the exoteric and esoteric structure” itself. It was not only the declaration of war against the whole Buddhism, but also the defiance against the national structure, that Nichiren urged the shogunate to halt the esoteric prayer and criticized the Esoteric Buddhism widely.


Nichiren began such kind of daring challenges when he was in Sado Island as a prisoner. It is surprising how extraordinary his preparedness as a monk of the Lotus Sutra was since the transportation to Sado Island. Then, what did Nichiren aim at ultimately by these challenges? In the next section, we will discuss the aim of Nichiren through which he wished to change the national structure.

November 1st 2019


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