ASIA212Varley

As a result of his virulent attacks on the other

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Unformatted text preview: mperor’s disastrously unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Hòjò. He went through his formative years in an age when the fortunes of the imperial court and those institutions that supported it, including the Tendai and Shingon churches, were far lower than they had been during the youth of Hònen or even of Shinran. Nichiren appears, moreover, to have been more profoundly affected by the concept of mappò than probably any other religious leader of the Kamakura period. After a number of years of study at the Tendai center on Mount Hiei and elsewhere, he formed an apocalyptic view of the deterioration of Japan from within and its destruction from without. An exceptionally large number of natural disasters appeared during the mid-thirteenth century to confirm his prediction of internal deterioration; and the two attempts of the Mongols to invade Japan in 1274 and 1281, although unsuccessful, seemed to be chilling portents that the country might indeed be overwhelmed by forces from outside its borders. Nichiren asserted in loudly militant and shockingly intemperate language that Japan was suffering such agonies because of the false doctrines of other Buddhist sects and the vile ways of those who propagated them. Thus, for example, he labeled Kûkai “the greatest liar in Japan” and the adherents to Shingon, Kûkai’s sect, “traitors.” He regarded Zen as “a doctrine of fiends and devils”; he called the followers of Ritsu, one of the Nara-period sects, “brigands”; and he considered the nembutsu “a hellish practice.”12 When asked by the Hòjò regent how Japan might defend against the pending Mongol invasion (the first invasion), Nichiren replied that the shogunate should crush the other Buddhist sects, inasmuch as they had weakened and corrupted Japan to the point that it was vulnerable to invasion. Upon hearing later that Mongol envoys to Japan had been executed, Nichiren said: “It is a great pity that they should have cut off the heads of the innoce...
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