ASIA212Varley

After a number of years of study at the tendai center

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Unformatted text preview: in China. The chief factor in determining the nature of Nichiren Buddhism was Nichiren’s own extraordinary personality. But, in order to understand how and why the sect arose in the mid-thirteenth century, it is essential also to note the particular political and social conditions under which Nichiren grew to maturity. When the great founder of the Kamakura shogunate, Minamoto Yoritomo, died in 1199, he was succeeded as shogun by a young and ineffectual son. A power struggle soon arose among the leading vassals of the Minamoto, and in the early years of the thirteenth century the Hòjò family, related by marriage to Yoritomo,9 emerged as the new de facto rulers of the shogunate. But the Hòjò chieftain, in characteristic Japanese fashion, sought to avoid being stigmatized as a mere power seeker by assuming the rather modest-sounding title of shogunal regent and by designating an infant of the courtier clan of Fujiwara to occupy the high, but now politically impotent, office of shogun.10 While the Hòjò were consolidating their position at Kamakura, a certain former emperor in Kyoto organized a plot to overthrow the shogunate, which seemed so torn with internal strife after Yoritomo’s death. In 1221 the former emperor branded the Hòjò regent a rebel and called upon people everywhere to rise and destroy the shogunate. But the Hòjò, acting decisively, sent an army to Kyoto that swiftly overran the former emperor’s poorly organized troops.11 This brief clash of arms was a great blow to the ancien régime in Kyoto, even though many members of the courtier class had refused to join the former emperor’s cause. As victors, the Hòjò were able to confiscate thousands of additional estate holdings for distribution among their samurai followers and to appoint many new military officials throughout the country. Moreover, the Hòjò from this time on not only dictated to a far greater degree than before the conduct of affairs at The Canons of Medieval Taste 101 court, but even assumed the right to decide the line of succession to the throne. Nichiren was born in a fishing village in the Kantò the year after the former e...
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