The Life of Nichiren Daishonin
Part Eight The Matsubagayatsu Persecution
On July 16th, in the first year of the Bun’o period (1260), Nichiren
Daishonin submitted the “Treatise on Securing Peace in the Land
through the Establishment of True Buddhism” (Rissho Ankoku Ron)
to Hojo Tokiyori, the supreme authority of the Kamakura Shogunate.
The Daishonin submitted this remonstrative document out of his
great desire to save all the people. Because of Nichiren Daishonin
propagation efforts, enormous interest in True Buddhism had grown
among the people. This was, in part, the result of his national
remonstration directed towards the Shogunate. The Shogunate
however made no public respond to the Daishonin’s remonstration,
but secretly plotted to get rid of Nichiren Daishonin.
Hojo Tokiyori, along with the rest of the statesmen of the Kamakura
Government, were intoxicated with the deceptive wine of slander
against the True Law of Buddhism and desired to protect their own
personal interest and social standings. The high priests of the Zen,
Nembutsu, Ritsu and other sects secretly assembled to plot the
assassination of Nichiren Daishonin.
Instigated by Doryu,1 Ryokan,2 Nen’a,3 Royo and the other priests of
Kamakura, in the middle of the night of August 27, 1260, the fortieth
day after the submission of the Rissho Ankoku Ron, a mob of a few
thousand people consisting mainly of followers of the Nembutsu sect,
gathered at the hermitage of Nichiren Daishonin at Matsubagayatsu
in an attempt to murder him.
The Matsubagayatsu Persecution was authorized by Shigetoki of
Gokurakuji Temple,4 a powerful authority within the Kamakura
Shogunate. Moreover, the Matsubagayatsu Persecution led to the
behind the scenes maneuver of the government in which they
schemed that if the Shogunate slaughtered a priest, it could not be
considered a crime.
This murderous scheme by the followers of the Nembutsu and other
priests could not deter Nichiren Daishonin, the Votary of the Lotus
Sutra. It is said that an old white monkey took Nichiren Daishonin by
the hand and lead him into the hilly forest away from danger. What
actually happened at this time, however, is not entirely clear. In any
event, miraculously through the protection of the Shoten Zenjin,
Nichiren Daishonin was successfully able to escape numerous
assailants in a night attack upon his residence.
After the Matsubagayatsu Persecution had occurred, the people
responsible for this assault were never even questioned for their
crimes. This had been an action in which the Kamakura government
itself had directly violated the Law of Buddhism.
After the assault at Matsubagayatsu the Daishonin temporarily left
the city of Kamakura and through the invitation of Toki Jonin, moved
to the Toki residence in Wakamiya in the province of Shimofusa
(present day Chiba Prefecture). According to the traditional annals of
the history of Nichiren Daishonin, it is said that at this time the “one
hundred sermons in one hundred days” took place. However, since no
documentary proof exists, it is not clear what transpired. It is true
however, that when Nichiren Daishonin arrived in the Shimofusa
area he labored very extensively to propagate the Law of True
Buddhism, pointing out the correct path and spreading the Mystic
Law of Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
It is believed that it was during this time that Ota Jomyo, Soya
Kyoshin, Akimoto Taro Hyoe-no-Jo and others took faith in the
Daishonin’s True Buddhism.
1. A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts, Nichiren Shoshu
2. A Dictionary of Japanese Buddhist Terms with Supplement, Heian
International, Hisao Inagaki
3. A History of Japan, George Sansom, Tuttle
4. Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan, E. Papinot, Tuttle.
1. Doryu: A Zen priest who came to Japan from China in 1246 and
was very influential within the Kamakura government. He first
stayed in Kyoto, but was later invited in 1253 by Hojo Tokiyori to
become the abbot (chief priest) of Kenchoji Temple, one of the largest
and most influential Zen temples in Kamakura. Doryu instructed
Tokiyori in the teachings of Zen Buddhism since his youth.
2. Ryokan: A renowned Shingon-Ritsu priest who joined together
with other priests from the different sects and held great influence
over the Kamakura Shogunate during Nichiren Daishonin’s time.
Ryokan’s temple, Gokurakuji, was constructed by Hojo Shigetoki, the
assistant to Regent Hojo Tokiyori. Ryokan had been directly installed
as abbot of this temple by Hojo Nagatoki, assistant to the sixth regent
of Kamakura, Hojo Tokimune. In 1281, Gokurakuji was designated
the government’s official temple of prayer.
3. Nen’a: Nen’a was a disciple of Honen and priest of the Nembutsu,
or Pure Land, sect. Nen’a like Ryokan and Doryu, was another noted
and very influential person within the Kamakura Bakufu, the
founder of Komyoji Temple in Kamakura and the fourth high priest
of the Shin Nishi branch of the Jodo sect.
4. Shigetoki of Gokurakuji Temple: Denotes Hojo Shigetoki (1198-
1261), assistant to Regent Hojo Tokiyori. He lived in retreat at
Ryokan’s Gokurakuji Temple from 1256 to 1261 and was a devout
believer of Amida Buddha and the Nembutsu teachings, taking the
Buddhist name of Nindo Shigetoki. He remained rigorously hostile to
Nichiren Daishonin and True Buddhism until his death. Shortly before
he died, Shigetoki left a letter of posterity to his descendants entitled
Gokurakuji Dono no On-Shosoku (“The Gokurakuji Letter”) in which
he commands his descendants never to approach nor embrace
Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, “To revile the scriptures is to disobey
the profound mysterious wishes of the Lord Buddha. Make sure that
you and your family, even the little children, are not guilty of
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