Masaharu Anesaki.

Nichiren, the Buddhist prophet [microform] online

. (page 8 of 13)
Online LibraryMasaharu AnesakiNichiren, the Buddhist prophet [microform] → online text (page 8 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

pen to hasten the accomplishment of his ideals and ends.
His release would be acceptable only in case the govern-
ment authorities should repent of the measures they had
taken toward him, and be converted. " I shall never return,


until they are willing to yield to my proposals." Judged
from several of his own utterances, this seems to have been
his determination.^

In this frame of mind, Nichiren was watching current
events, and looking for the possible repentance of the
government. What he especially desired was the fulfilment
of his prophecies about approaching dangers from internal
disturbances and foreign invasion. And, indeed, events
seemed more and more to confirm these predictions. While
Nichiren's case was pending, a Mongol ship with one hun-
dred men arrived, causing a panic, although it finally proved
not to be a warship. In the following years, 1272 and 1273,
Mongol envoys came repeatedly and urged a reply to the
messages of the Khan, and the Japanese government was
busily engaged in plans for defence, as well as in offering
prayers to Shinto and Buddhist deities. Beside the danger
from the Mongols, a serious struggle broke out between two
Hojo brothers, which ended in a fratricide. It was after this
event that the government, as has been related above,
ordered the governor of Sado to give Nichiren a better
abode, and to take good care of the exile. Nichiren regarded
these occurrences as signs of his success, and at the same
time rejoiced in his sufferings as being evidence of his mis-
sion. About this time, also, an influential member of the
Hojos, of the name Tokimori, began to revere Nichiren, and
often sent him presents and comforting letters. Although
Tokimori seems to have had the superstitious motive of
securing Nichiren's intercession with Buddha, and his
prayers to avert the threatened invasion, yet he gave pro-
gressive evidence of sincere conversion to Nichiren's religion.
This was another sign of Nichiren's triumph.

^ 1 For instance, Works, pp. 1414, 1416.


The Hojos were not unanimously hostile to Nichiren.
Tokimori, the elder, not only showed his good-will toward
him, but finally sent a precious sword as a token of the con-
version of his Samurai soul to the Lotus of Truth. Nichiren
thanked him heartily for it, and advised the convert further
to sohdify his faith. The letter reads: ^

I, Nichiren, am perhaps the most intractable man in Japan. I
warned you that all manner of disasters would take place, because you
worshipped Amita, Dainichi, and those Buddhas whom you held
dearer than your parents and more precious than your sovereign; and
that you were destined, in this world, to ruin yourselves and cause the
fall of the country, and in the future life, to sink to the nethermost hell.
Because I gave these warnings incessantly, I am suffering from perse-
cutions ... I am suffering from the perils heaped upon me by my
adversaries, three in kind, simply because I am the one who lives the
life of the Lotus of Truth. That you have become a follower of such a
man is something beyond common expectation; there must be some
significance in the fact. Be strenuous in your faith, and prepare
yourself to partake in the communion of the Paradise of Vulture

You have sent one sword, with its mate, as your offering ... to the
Lotus of Truth. The swords were, while in your hands, weapons of
malice; now, being offered to Buddha, they are weapons of good. . . .
These swords will serve as staves in your journey beyond. Know that
the Lotus of Truth is the staff for all Buddhas on their way to enlight-
enment I Especially rely on me, Nichiren, as the staff and pillar! . . .
The Sacred Title will be your guidance and support on the journey
after death. The Buddhas Prabhuta-ratna and Sakya-muni, as well
as the four chief Bodhisattvas, will surely lead you by the hand. If
I should be there before you, I, also, will not fail to welcome you. . . .
I cannot Sc^y all I have to say in this letter. Put your faith in all the
deities (the guardians of the Truth)! March indefatigably on in the
way of faith, and reach your final destiny! Tell your ladies also of all
this! Sincerely in reverence.

This letter is indeed significant as evincing Nichiren's
affection for a member of the Hojos, and as a sign that they
were inclining more to him. It is dated the twenty-first of

^ Works, pp. 1032-1034.


the second month (March 30), 1274, just when the sentence
of release was on the way to Sado.

Nichiren had in various ways inspired awe in the Hojos,
and their own troubles caused them to think again of the
exile who had spoken like a prophet, and whose predictions
seemed to be having their fulfilment. The opinions of the
authorities were divided, and Nichiren still had many im-
placable enemies, but the Commissioner Tokimune finally
decided to recall Nichiren to Kamakura. It seems that an
intimation of this outcome had been given by Tokimori
in the message accompanying the swords. The edict for his
release was issued on the fourteenth of the second month
(March 23) , and reached Sado in the following month, two
weeks after the letter above quoted was written, on the
eighth of the third month (April 16). Nichiren complied
with the order, bade farewell to his followers in the island,
and left his abode of two years and a half, as signs of spring
were appearing after a long winter, on the thirteenth of the
third month (April 21). His religious opponents made at-
tempts on his life at several points on the way, but the
guards furnished by the government protected him, and
brought him in safety to Kamakura, where he arrived on
the twenty-sixth of the third month (May 4), after a
journey of two weeks.

It was a triumphal entry for Nichiren. Not only did his
old disciples and followers rejoice over the fulfilment of their
long-cherished hope, but the government circles seemed to
listen to Nichiren, and to seek his advice about the measures
to be taken in view of the threatened Mongol invasion. Ten
days after the return, on the memorable eighth of the fourth
month (May 15), Nichiren was invited to the Commis-
sioner's ofiice. It now became the duty of Hei no Saemon,


his bitter enemy, to communicate the good-will of the
Commissioner and to make advances to Nichiren. Let
Nichiren himself tell the story. ^

All of them received me courteously — something quite different
from their former attitude. Some asked me questions about Amita-
Buddha, others about the Shingon mysteries, others again about Zen.
Hei no Saemon himself put questions concerning the efhcacy of the
teachings current before the revelation of the Lotus. I replied to them
all by citing the Scriptures. Hei no Saemon, on behalf of His Excel-
lence, the Commissioner, asked me when the Mongols would come over.
I answered that they were to be expected within this year, etc.

Thus the officials showed some readiness to yield to Nichi-
ren's propaganda. He, on his part, did not fail to take the
opportunity to renew his strong remonstrances and warn-
ings. His attitude was as aggressive as before, and he
showed no disposition to compromise. Nothing would do
but that the nation as a whole should at once adopt his
religion, while all other religions should be prohibited, and
their leaders severely punished. He commented on the
many wrongs done by the Hojo government, not only to
himself, but to the religion of Buddha and to the country.
Nichiren retired from the palace, and the government was
put in a serious dilemma, whether to comply with the de-
mands of the intransigent prophet or to ignore him. Either
course seemed to them not only unwise but impracticable.
Finally they adopted a compromise, and offered the prophet
a great donation, together with high ecclesiastical rank and
a public grant for his propaganda. Although the document
embodying these proposals which is preserved by the Nichi-
renites is certainly not authentic, there is little doubt that
the authorities wished to see Nichiren's polemics subdued,

^ Works, p. 1406, in a writing containing his reminiscences, written in
1276 — two years after the event, therefore. Similarly, Works, p. ii6g
(written in 1275); pp. 1241, 1283, 1579.



and to have him join in the prayers for the repulse of the
Mongol invaders. Naturally, the prophet would hear to no
compromise, but persisted in his demands.

While the question of Nichiren's propaganda was being
discussed, the government gave fresh evidence that it had
undergone no change of heart, but put its confidence as
before in the Shingon mysteries. It was a time of a long
drought, and the authorities called on the other Buddhists
to pray for rain, as was customary. Nichiren was very in-
dignant. He saw in the offers made to him a deceptive bait,
and in the measures taken for rain an open dishonor done to
himself. He protested again and again, but the govern-
ment always vacillated; while his opponents were renewing
their accusations and intrigues. The sequel of the tri-
umphal entry was an irreconcilable breach. Nichiren left
Kamakura, on the twelfth of the fifth month (June 17), and,
taking only a few disciples and retainers, set out for a place
among the mountains on the west side of Fuji.

The clamorous prophet was now suddenly changed to a
silent recluse or a voluntary exile. Five days' journey
brought him to his new abode, and the local chief of the
place, Lord Hakiri, one of his warrior followers, welcomed
him. A little hut was built in a deep valley in the midst of
high peaks, and there the recluse began his new life with a
few of his beloved disciples. This place, called Minobu,
became Nichiren's home for the last eight years of his life,
and, as we shall see later, he regarded it as a paradise on
earth because of his residence there.

The change was perhaps quite unexpected, even to his
intimate followers, but was a premeditated plan on the part
of Nichiren. Various motives have been conjectured for
this sudden turn in his Hfe, but he himself, better than any


one else, tells us why he made it. The simplest explanation
of the matter is given in the words: " I had always re-
solved to repeat my remonstrance three times, and to retire
if these attempts should prove a failure." Now the " three
times " is in accordance with an old Chinese proverb, and
Nichiren had delivered his message thrice: in 1260, when
he had presented his Rissho Ankoku Ron; in 1268, when he
had repeated the remonstrance as a kind of ultimatum ; and
now, when he had pressed his demands after the return from
Sado. But when we read between the lines, the retirement
meant a continuation of his life in exile. It had been his
determination not to return to Kamakura, unless the Hojos
should be completely converted, and now his return had
proved a failure. How could he remain peacefully in
Kamakura ? If he should continue his protests, his fate
was plain — another execution or another exile ! He was
not so blind as to expect anything better. Why should
he not become a voluntary exile, instead of a compulsory
one ? The reception of his third and last remonstrance was
the occasion of his retirement, but not its true cause. His
motives lay deeper. Let us see what they were.

The first was negative, the idea of expiation. We have
already seen that Nichiren conceived his suffering as expia-
tion. His idea was, " Expiation of my sins is the fulfilment
of my mission to perpetuate the Lotus of Truth to the
coming ages. Sins are not extinguished until the aim be
attained." Since his triumphal entry had proved a failure,
he must continue the expiation as he had been doing in Sado.
Naturally, he associated with expiation a measure of suffer-
ing. Whenever he suffered from the extreme cold of
Minobu, he must have reminded himself of his first winter
in Sado; and he always rejoiced to liken his suffering with
the self-castigation of Buddha during his years of self-train-


ing among the mountains. " The height of the hermitage
is only seven feet, while the depth of snow is ten feet. Ice
makes up the walls, and the icicles are like the beads of gar-
lands decorating shrines." ^

Whenever his followers at a distance sent him food or
clothing, he wrote touching letters thanking them for the
presents, and likened his benefactors to his parents or to
those persons who suppHed food to Buddha. His life at
Minobu was one of extreme simplicity and austerity, and he
never left the obscure spot. The uninviting place, a small
piece of level ground, " as large as the palm of a hand,"
surrounded by high peaks, was his abode for eight years.
Here he constructed a hermitage, and rejected Lord Hakiri's
offer to erect a larger edifice. It was only in the year before
his death that he at last consented to the building of an
assembly hall of moderate size; but he enjoyed his abode
there as if it were a paradise.

" Expiation " was the thought that constantly occupied
his mind, but this idea was, after all, a negative one; the
positive, and by far more important, reason of his retire-
ment was his solicitude for the future of his reUgion. As we
have had repeated occasion to note, Nichiren associated
every step of his life with some feature of the Scripture, and
especially regarded his life in Sado as the chief part, the
climax, of his life. Now the last stage was to be inaugurated,
and dedicated to the consummation of his mission and to the
perpetuation of his religion, just as the last twelve chapters
of the Scripture made up the consummation of the Truth.
He had proclaimed the Sacred Title at the outset of his
ministry; he had furnished the object of worship and
spiritual introspection by the graphic representation of the
Supreme Being; one thing alone remained — to prepare for,

^ Works, p. IQ39 (written in 1280).


or establish, the central seat of his religion. These three
instruments of his propaganda were called the " Three
Mysteries." Although there are some allusions to them in
his writings before this time, Nichiren proclaimed this
trinity for the first time in the first essay written after his
retirement. This treatise is dated the twenty-fourth of the
fifth month (June 24) — just a week after his arrival at
Minobu. The great plan which he had long been meditating,
and the motive which led him to retire from the present
world, and to work for the future, was the estabhshment of
the " Kaidan" or the Holy See of the Catholic Church of

In the essay just referred to he says :

What, then, is that mystery which Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu,
Tendai and Dengyo have not revealed during the more than two
thousand years since Buddha's decease ? It is nought else but the
Supreme Being {Honzon), the Holy See (Kaidan), and the five char-
acters of the Sacred Title (Daimoku), all according to the truth of
the primeval Buddhahood. . . .

Behold the tribulations and commotions coming one upon another!
They are, indeed, the signs heralding the appearance of the sages,
Visista-caritra and the others. They will appear and estabUsh the
Three Gateways to the truth of the primeval Buddhahood. Then,
throughout the four heavens and the four quarters will prevail uni-
versally the Lotus of the Perfect Truth. Can there by any doubt
about this ?

^ The essay is entitled " Hokke Shuyd-sho," or " A Treatise on the Quin-
tessence of the Lotus of Truth "; Works, pp. 1035-1045.



THE place whither Nichiren retired was surrounded on
all sides by high mountains, and when his hermitage
was finished in summer time, he doubtless enjoyed cool
breezes rustUng in the green trees on the slopes. " Like
screens," he wrote to a lady in the following winter, " steep
peaks surround my abode. On the mountains trees and
grasses grow luxuriantly; in the valleys are rolling stones
and rocks. Wolves howl and monkeys cry, and the echoes
of their voices resound through hill and dale; deer plaintively
call the does, and crickets chirp noisily. Flowers that else-
where bloom in spring, bloom here in summer, and fruits do
not ripen till winter. Occasionally human figures are seen,
but they are only wood-cutters; or sometimes I have visits
from some of my comrades in religion. ^ His mind often
turned to retrospection on his past; but what now occupied
his quiet thought was rather the future destiny of his religion.
As the one foreordained to fulfil the prophecies of the
Lotus, he had gone through all perils, and was enjoying the
tranquillity of a hermit. A mere secluded life, however, was
not his mission. What should he do for the consummation
of his life-work, and for the perpetuation of his gospel ?
This was his question, and he formulated it immediately
after his arrival at Minobu. The result was the essay re-
ferred to at the close of the last chapter, which was, in fact,
intended to be the proclamation of Nichiren's plan, for the
accomplisment of which he was about to prepare.

1 Works, p. 1088; dated the sixteenth of the second month (March 14),




Nichiren's fervor never declined, but in his quiet life as a
recluse his mind was occupied, perhaps exclusively, with
enthusiasm for his ideal. His method was no longer
confined to vehement warnings to the nation, and fiery
attacks upon other Buddhists; he reflected calmly, and
examined again and again the meaning of the ideal Kingdom
of Buddha as the basis of the Buddhist Cathohc Church of
which his proposed Holy See should be the centre. He was
always firm in the conviction that the Holy See was to be
established in Japan, the land where the savior of the Latter
Days was destined to appear, and where he, the man, was
actually born and was doing the savior's work. Yet, on the
other hand, his work was not merely for the sake of a small
country, composed of many islands. Just as he recognized
in his own life two aspects, the actual and mortal, on the one
side, and the ideal and eternal, on the other, so he saw in
Japan a similar twofold significance, one, the physically
limited, and the other, to be realized through transformation
according to his high ideal. In this latter sense, Japan meant
for him the whole world. He said once: ^

The great master Myoraku says in his commentary on the Scrip-
ture, " The children benefit the world by propagating the Truth of the
Father." " The children " means here the Saints-out-of-earth; " the
Father " is the Lord Sakya-muni; " the world," Japan; " benefit "
means the attainment of Buddhahood; and " Truth," the Adoration
of the Lotus of Truth. Even now, this is not otherwise because " the
Father " means Nichiren; " the children," Nichiren's disciples and
followers; " the world," Japan; " benefit," the Ufe (of these men)
laboring to perpetuate (the Truth) and hasten the attainment of
Buddhahood; and " Truth " means the Sacred Title handed down to
us from Visista-caritra.

What he meant was this: Buddhahood, or Truth, is
eternal. It can be, and ought to be, made a fact in our own

1 In the " Dictated Portions of the Lectures on the Scripture "; the
lectures given during his retirement and recorded by his disciples.


life. Nichiren is the man sent to lead all to that life, and he is
now assisted by his followers, who are, therefore, the Saints
prophesied in the Scripture. The attainment of Buddha-
hood is not a matter of individuals or of the aggregate of
individuals, it is the embodiment of the all-embracing com-
munion of all beings in the organic unity of Buddhahood
which is inherent in them all. This realization is the King-
dom of Buddha, the establishment of the Land of Treasures,
as Nichiren had declared in his Rissho Ankokii Ron^ and ex-
plained on many occasions. Now this Kingdom of Buddha
is, properly speaking, immanent in the soul of every one,
but it can only be realized in the spiritual and moral com-
munity of those who are united in the Adoration of the
Lotus, and in the worship of the Supreme Being as revealed
by Nichiren. This community has been organized by
Nichiren, and is growing in the fellowship of his followers.
It is to be further extended among their countrymen, and
finally to the whole world. The individual, the nation, the
world, and the Kingdom of Buddha — these terms stand for
different aspects of the one ideal.^ The Holy CathoHc
Church of Buddhism is to have the world, the whole cosmos,
as its stage; while the cosmos is not to be conceived as a
mere universe in space, but essentially exists in the heart of
every true Buddhist. Buddha is the Father and Lord of the
Kingdom, and his children should strive for the reahzation
of the Kingdom both in their own lives and in the com-
munity of all beings.

Nichiren's thinking always aimed, as we have seen, to
unite two opposites, and to explain either by reference to the
other. This method was apphed to the relation between the
particular and the universal, between the world and the
individual, between human nature and Buddhahood. So

' See above, p. 37. ^ For more on this subject, see below, p. 108,


also with the Kingdom of Buddha. It is individual and uni-
versal at the same time; either aspect is incomplete apart
from the other; individual perfection is inconceivable with-
out the basis of the universal truth, while the universal com-
munity cannot exist apart from the spiritual enhghtenment
of every individual. The Kingdom means the complete
working out of the harmonious relation of these two aspects
of perfection — Buddhahood. Thus, we see that Nichiren's
mind was occupied as much as ever with his own mission and
actual life, while at the same time he was thinking no less
earnestly on the coming Kingdom of Buddha. He believed
himself to be the savior of the coming ages, and was there-
fore concerned for the future of his religion ; but the future
was foreshadowed in his present Hfe, and he saw a " Land
of Treasures " even in his own hermitage.

" Behold, the kingdom of God is within you!" This was
the creed of Nichiren also, witnessed by his life, confirmed by
the Scripture, and supported by his metaphysical specula-
tion. When he concentrated his thought on his own calling,
he was in communion with the saints in the Lotus; when he
expressed anxiety about his country, yet with confidence in
its destiny, he was a prophet and an ideal patriot; when he
reflected on his tranquil life among the mountains, he was
almost a lyric poet, glorifying his surroundings by his
religious vision; he was a scholastic philosopher when he
interpreted the truths of existence and the nature of the
religious community; and he was a mystic in his vision of
the future realization of Buddhahood in himself and in the
Kingdom of Buddha. Enough has now been said about his
conception of his mission, and we shall presently see how he
ideahzed his abode at Minobu; but before taking up this
poetic side of his character, let us examine a piece of his
scholastic mysticism.


The mystical strain is stronger in the writings from the
years of quiet meditation at Minobu than in the preceding
period of storm and stress. The best example of this is an
essay written in 1279, after four years of retirement. It is
entitled, " The Testimony Common to all the Buddhas of
the Three Ages." ^ We reproduce the essay in extract.

It is said in the chapter on Tactfuhicss (chap, u): " According to
the model of teaching adopted by all the Buddhas of the three ages,
I proclaim the truth which has no distinction (but is universal)." ^
" The truth without distinction " means the perfect truth of the Sole
Road. For, in everything, in grasses and trees, in mountains and
streams, even in earth and dust, there are present the truths of
existence of the ten realms of existence {hokkai, or dharnia-dhdtu)
which participate in one another; while the Sole Road of the Lotus
of the Perfect Truth, which is immanent in our own souls, pervades
the paradises in the ten quarters and is everywhere present in its
entirety. The fruits (of truth), both proper and subsidiary,^ are
manifest in the excellence and grandeur and beauty of the paradises
in the ten quarters. All these fruits are inherent in our own soul, and
the soul is in reality identical with the Tathagata of the primeval
enlightenment (in his eternal entity), who is furnished with the three

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryMasaharu AnesakiNichiren, the Buddhist prophet [microform] → online text (page 8 of 13)