Rissho Ankoku Ron

A Gosho Commentary
by the Rev. Ryuei Michael McCormick

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The Living Rissho Ankoku Ron

It is said that Nichiren’s teachings begin and end with the Rissho Ankoku Ron. Unfortunately, this work is very difficult for people today to relate to. Nichiren was addressing a feudal Japanese society whose state religion was Buddhism, a milieu very far removed from what Japan is today, let alone what non-Japanese would be familiar with. In addition, much of the sophistication of Nichiren’s thought is not present in Rissho Ankoku Ron, which is a simple call to action. Many of the issues Nichiren sees as a matter of life and death for his nation strike even modern Japanese people as obscure and of no relevance in a culture that has become thoroughly secular and which upholds democracy and the separation of church and state as nonnegotiable political values. However, I believe the central theme of the Rissho Ankoku Ron is still relevant. In fact, I believe it is of great significance. I believe that Nichiren was trying to warn his contemporaries that a society that does not base itself on Truth and the universal dignity of human life will become corrupt and will eventually destroy itself. In upholding the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren was not simply upholding a text sacred to the Buddhist tradition. Rather, he was trying to uphold the sacred nature of all life in this world. That is the theme that binds together all of Nichiren’s teachings from beginning to end. I hope that in this commentary on Rissho Ankoku Ron I can explain the background and context of this work in order to clarify its meaning, and ultimately show that this work can still speak to us today.

Throughout this commentary I refer to two different translations of the Rissho Ankoku Ron that can be found in two different volumes of translations of Nichiren’s writings. The WNSD1 refers to the Writings of Nichiren Shonin Volume 1 published by the University of Hawaii. WND refers to the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin published by the Soka Gakkai. I include the latter because I know that many people have access to that edition and it is also online.

  • The World’s Suffering – Causes and Solutions

  • The Origin of the Sutras and the Role of their Predictions

  • The Transmission of Buddhism to East Asia and the West

  • Prophecies of the Latter Age of the Dharma

  • The Subversive Nature of Nichiren’s Prophetic Stance

  • Review of Pure Land Buddhism Part 1: The Triple Pure Land Sutras

  • Review of Pure Land Buddhism Part 2: Pure Land Buddhism in India and China

  • Review of Pure Land Buddhism Part 3: Pure Land Buddhism in Japan

  • Review of Pure Land Buddhism Part 4: The Life and Teachings of Honen

  • Review of Pure Land Buddhism Part 5: The Pure Land School after Honen

  • Key Points of the Senchaku Shu Part 1: Rejecting the Gateway of the Holy Path

  • Key Points of the Senchaku Shu Part 2: Casting Aside the Miscellaneous Practices

  • Key Points of the Senchaku Shu Part 3: Closing the Gateway of the Mahayana Sutras

  • Key Points of the Senchaku Shu Part 4: The Band of Robbers in the Parable of the White Path

  • Key Points of the Senchaku Shu Part 5: Lay Aside, Abandon, and Set Aside All but the Nembutsu

  • Nichiren’s Critique of the Senchaku Shu Part 1: Honen’s Slanderous Recommendations

  • Nichiren’s Critique of the Senchaku Shu Part 2: The Effects of Honen’s Teachings on Buddhism in Kamakuran Japan

  • The Buddha’s Criteria for Evaluating Teachings

  • The Sutra Classification System of the T’ien-t’ai School

  • Competing Systems of Sutra Classification

  • The Confucian Nichiren Part 1: Confucius and the Origins of Confucianism

  • The Confucian Nichiren Part 2: Confucian Virtues and the Mandate of Heaven

  • The Confucian Nichiren Part 3:The Buddhist Appropriation of Confucianism

  • The Confucian Nichiren Part 4: The Shinto/Buddhist Mandate of Heaven

  • Empowerment and Responsibility of the Buddha’s Disciple

  • Should One Refrain from Arguing the Dharma?

  • The Question of Nationalism Part 1: Should the Dharma Serve the State?

  • The Question of Nationalism Part 2: Should the State Serve the Dharma?   

  • Should Slanderers Be Executed? 

  • Have the Gods Abandoned Japan?

  • Evaluating Shingon

  • Predictions of Foreign Invasion and Civil War

  • Choosing Hell or the Pure Land

  • Conversion and Altruistic Determination

  • Glossary

  • Sources

  • Copyright by Ryuei Michael McCormick. 2004.

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