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Establishment of the Legitimate Teaching for the Protection of the Country
- Rissho Ankoku Ron -


In 1253 Nichiren returned to Kamakura and undertook a quiet propagation of his teachings in his own home and in nearby tern-ples. He was convinced that the doctrine he was expounding represented a return to the Tendai teachings of T'ien-t'ai (Chih-i), Miao-lo (Chan-jan), and Dengyo Daishi; thus Tendai monks became a suitable audience for his preaching. He had also a lay following among the lower-rank government officials, and they contributed to his support.

Soon after his arrival Kamakura and the country as a whole faced a series of disasters that served to emphasize his conviction that the Latter Day of the Law had indeed been entered upon. On the sixth day of the eighth month of 1256 gale force winds and torrential rains caused floods and landslides, destroying crops and devastating much of Kamakura. In the ninth month of the same year an epidemic swept through the city, taking the lives of the shogun and other important officials. During the fifth, eighth, and eleventh months of 1257 violent earthquakes rocked the city and the sixth and seventh months witnessed a disastrous drought. The eighth month of the next year, 1258, saw storms destroy crops throughout the nation and floods in Kamakura drowned numerous people. On the sixteenth day of the tenth month of the same year Kamakura was visited by heavy rains and severe floods. In the first month of 1258 fires consumed the Jufuku-ji and the Hachiman shrine at Tsurugaoka, and in the eighth month of 1259 a violent rainstorm decimated crops. Throughout this year and the following, 1260, famine and frequent plagues devastated the country. The era-name was changed five times in the five years from 1256 to 1261. An era-name was usually changed only on the accession of a new emperor or when some natural disaster of severe proportions occurred; the frequency of the changes during this period attests to the magnitude of the disasters that struck Japan.

Nichiren sought answers to the cause of these disasters in the scriptural writings, and he found them in such sutras as the Ninno, Yakushi, Daijuku, and Konkomyo. He quotes passages from these sutras in the present text, the "Rissho Ankoku Ron," or "Establishment of the Legitimate Teaching for the Protection of the Country," chronologically the first of his five major works.

The work was originally written in classical Chinese and submitted to Hojo Tokiyori through the good offices of his majordomo, Yadoya Mitsunori, on the sixteenth day of the seventh month, 1260. Tokiyori was then living in retirement but still remained the most influential member (tokuso) of the Hojo family. The work occasioned no immediate reaction and no official response was made to Nichiren. But the members of the government were incensed at the violent attack that the work made on the Pure Land teachings of Honen and his followers. Government officials and Pure Land followers apparently encouraged an attack made on Nichiren's home on the twenty-seventh day of the eighth month. Nichiren managed to escape and made his way to the province of Shimosa to stay at the home of a follower. He returned to Kamakura early in the following year, 1261. He re-mained continually under the threat of persecution, and was summarily banished to Izu on the twelfth day of the fifth month of the same year.

This work consists of a dialogue between a host and a visitor who has stopped by. We may assume that Nichiren is the host and the visitor represents Hojo Tokiyori or some other high government official. At the outset the host lays the blame for the disasters that have befallen the country on the belief in an erroneous religion, the Pure Land teachings of Honen. Presented are numerous scriptural references to disasters that will befall a nation that follows false teachings. Nichiren puts particular emphasis on a passage in the Yakushi Sutra that describes seven kinds of disasters that will strike a nation. Of these calamities, Nichiren points out, five have already occurred and two, the "calamity of invasion from foreign lands" and the "calamity of revolt within one's own domains" have yet to occur. Nichiren cautions that these will come about if the doctrines of the Lotus Sutra are not followed.

"Rissho Ankoku Ron" is not only the earliest of Nichiren's major works, but the most direct and least detailed. At this time Nichiren had perhaps not formalized the basic elements of his teachings and was directing his attention to a reformation of society as a whole through an appeal to the most powerful members of the government. That his appeal was ignored only gave emphasis to a continued unremitting effort to propagate his commitment to the primacy of the Lotus Sutra.

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