|Mount Hiei. ...
For Nichiren, the Lotus Sutra, on which the Tendai teaching was based, was the key to everything. It is the final and supreme teaching of the Buddha Shakyamuni, revealing the one and only way of salvation. In this sutra, the three forms of the Buddha — his Universal or Law Body (Dharmakaya), Body of Bliss (Sambhogakaya), and Transformation Body (Nirmanakaya) — are seen as one and inseparable, and the prevailing schools of Buddhism emphasized one form at the expense of the others. Esoteric Buddhism stressed the Universal Buddha, Vairochana, or Dainichi; and Amidism worshiped the Body of Bliss, Amitabha. By thus dispensing with the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni (the Transformation Body), they committed the inexcusable crime of mutilating Buddha’s perfect body. Conversely, Zen Buddhism and the Vinaya school, which was undergoing something of a revival at that time, ignored the universal and eternal aspect of the Buddha in favor of the historical or actual Buddha. That is, the Lotus Sutra alone upholds the truth of the triune Buddha, and only in this trinity is the salvation of all assured. (SJT, 292-3)
From Conflict to Exile[O]n April 28, 1253, the same day he took the name Nichiren, he confronted the monks of his original monastery with the notion that all other forms of Buddhism than his should be forbidden, for they were erroneous and deceptive. His message was not well received by either his fellow monks or by feudal lords enamored of “erroneous” doctrines. Nichiren had to flee for his life to Kamakura. There he preached on street corners, declaring the Lotus truth as he understood it and attacking other schools of Buddhism. His well-known saying was, “The nembutsu is hell, Zen is a devil, Shingon is the ruin of the nation, Ritsu is treason.” In the shogunal capital he received hostility equal to his own assaults.
At the same time, the country was being afflicted by epidemics, earthquakes, and internal conflict. In 1260 Nichiren wrote a tract called Rissho ankoku-ron, (Estalish righteousness and pacify the country) in which he contended that the evils Japan faced were due to its failure to acknowledge the Lotus-truth. If the country would accept his doctrine and banish all others, Nichiren said, all would be well. But if not, worse would befall, climaxing in a foreign invasion. He was exiled by the shogunal government to a distant province in 1261, but pardoned two years later and, nothing daunted, renewed his attacks. (IJR, 135-6)
He returned to Kamakura in 1274, now moving in high government circles owing to influential friends. He was treated with respect, but his demands were still not granted. Finally, returning to a mountain retreat, he wrote and instructed his close disciples until his death in 1282. (IJR, 136)Nichiren is undoubtedly the most controversial religious figure in all Japanese history. Sometimes compared to a Hebrew prophet, he does not fit the usual stereotype of Buddhist monks as mild and meditative. His spiritual practice was dynamic chanting of the daimoku, not meditation. Incapable of compromise, he saw truth in black-and-white terms, and contended in season and out, at the cost of exile and even death, that error should be extirpated. His followers were given to disrupting the meetings of other sects with loud protests and brutal action, on several occasions burning Pure Land temples. This method is called shakubuku, “break and subdue,” based on Nichiren’s idea that by deliberately provoking people to anger they will be caused to reconsider their beliefs. (IJR, 136)
Nichiren’s Religious PracticeIronically, the two main practices advocated by Nichiren closely resemble those of the two traditions that he attacked the most vehemently: Pure Land and Shingon.
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