Living Rissho Ankoku Ron

A commentary
by Ryuei Michael McCormick > Historic Buddha > Mahayana > Lotus Sutra > Blog

The Subversive Nature of Nichiren’s Prophetic Stance

 Honen, Slanderer of the True Dharma

The Traveler, Still Furious, Persisted

WNSD1: p. 118, WND: p. 12


                      The guest is very upset by the host’s accusation that evil monks have misled the rulers of Japan. To say this is to question the judgment of the rulers. So the guest wants to know who exactly he is accusing and on what grounds. Here we have come to the potentially subversive nature of the Rissho Ankoku Ron. Nichiren was very much in the mold of a Biblical Hebrew prophet. He "spoke the truth to power" as some people say today. The Hebrew prophets were not fortunetellers, though unfortunately that is how many people often view them. Primarily the prophets were charged by God to warn the rulers and the people that they were leading their country to ruin by defying God's demands. These demands almost always concerned fidelity to God and to God's call for justice. The prophet’s predictions were actually warnings of what would happen if the nation did not change course, and words of hope if they did repent and reform. In Nichiren's case, the Buddha Dharma inspired him. Like the prophets he came before the rulers of Japan with words of warning and words of hope. Unlike the prophets, Nichiren was not the representative of a deity, but he did come before the rulers and the people with a call to fidelity to the Truth and to a way of life that would restore justice and compassion to his society based upon the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.


                      Nichiren was a patriot, because he cared deeply about the welfare of the people of Japan. But his patriotism was not the idolatrous nationalism that says, "my country right or wrong." Rather, Nichiren's patriotism was of the sort that caused him to risk his life by telling those in power what he believed they needed to do to align Japan with the Wonderful Dharma so that true peace and prosperity could be restored and maintained. Of course in doing so he had to challenge the status quo of the military government and its patronage of Buddhist movements which Nichiren believed were leading the country away from the true intent of the Buddha's teachings.


                      It is important to remember that Nichiren was not just persecuted for holding unorthodox religious views. Nichiren's views, at the time of the Rissho Ankoku Ron, were not very far off from T’ien-t’ai orthodoxy in the first place. Rather, Nichiren's critique was subversive because he questioned the judgment of the ruling Hojo regency that controlled the religious establishment at that time. Military governments like the Kamakuran Shogunate do not take well to having their judgment questioned, and Nichiren seems to have realized this would be the reaction to his criticisms which is why he has the guest respond as he does in this passage.

Copyright by Ryuei Michael McCormick. 2004.

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