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Nichiren Daishonin—His Lifelong Vow and Great Compassion

Installment 5: Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land—Part 2

Cappadocia, Turkey. Photo by Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz / Unsplash.

This is the fifth installment of a translation of the Soka Gakkai Study Department’s series, “Nichiren Daishonin—His Lifelong Vow and Great Compassion,” published in the July 2022 issue of the Daibyakurenge.

Prompted by the great earthquake of the Shoka era that struck Kamakura in 1257, Nichiren Daishonin wrote “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land” and submitted it to the most powerful figure in government, Hojo Tokiyori.
In this treatise, he presents his argument in the form of a dialogue between a host and his guest. Citing various Buddhist scriptures as evidence, he asserts that the root cause of the calamities continuing to plague the country lies in Honen’s advocacy of the exclusive practice of Nembutsu, which has caused people to turn their backs on the correct Buddhist teaching.

The Meaning of ‘Land’

At that time, the major Buddhist schools conducted prayer ceremonies for the protection of the nation. However, the word nation, or land, was understood to indicate the imperial court and the emperor, who ruled over the populace. Therefore, it’s safe to say that when priests offered prayers for the protection of the nation, they had the rulers foremost in mind.

In contrast, when Nichiren used the word for land, country or nation, he was referring to the place where the people lead their lives. Nichiren writes, “Now surely the peace of the world and the stability of the nation are sought by both ruler and subject and desired by all the inhabitants of the country” (“On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 18). Rather than concerning himself with just the ruler, he directed his compassionate gaze toward each ordinary person.

Nichiren viewed the nation as the entire social system built upon the land. And he saw the ruler as someone who administers this system and works to protect the people as a “veritable roof beam of the nation,” and as someone who serves them, acting as their “hands and feet” (“Letter to Hei no Saemon-no-jo Yoritsuna,” WND-2, 318). He stood up to be the pillar supporting the whole of society.

Thus, the “land” that Nichiren sought to protect and that which other Buddhist schools had sought to protect differed broadly in meaning. Nichiren Buddhism focuses on the well-being of every person living amid society’s challenges.

Starting With the Transformation of One Person

The treatise goes on to urge Japan’s rulers, represented by Hojo Tokiyori, to cease providing support to the priests who slander the correct teaching. He warns that if the people continue to follow such erroneous teachings, then the country will suffer the calamities of internal strife and foreign invasion—the only two calamities among the “three calamities and seven disasters”[1] predicted in the sutras that had not yet struck Japan. Nichiren cautions that, should these disasters occur, and invaders plunder the lands that both officials and commoners depend on for sustenance, the nation will perish.

The host warns: “If the nation is destroyed and people’s homes are wiped out, then where can one flee for safety?” He then tells the guest how believers should put Buddhism into practice for the good of society: “If you care anything about your personal security, you should first of all pray for order and tranquillity throughout the four quarters of the land, should you not?” (“On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” WND-1, 24). We can view this passage as a guide for us in putting Buddhism into practice in society.

There is no such thing as one person alone becoming happy or avoiding unhappiness. Therefore, Nichiren teaches us to pray for the happiness of all people and for the basis of that happiness, which is a peaceful and secure society.

He writes, “Therefore, you must quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart and embrace the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]. If you do so, then the threefold world will become the Buddha land, and how could a Buddha land ever decline? The regions in the ten directions will all become treasure realms, and how could a treasure realm ever suffer harm?” (WND-1, 25).

The “tenets you hold in your heart” means what one chooses to believe. The key to transforming the calamities affecting an entire nation lies in a change in people’s hearts and minds, in transforming their deep-seated beliefs. “The one true vehicle” is the correct teaching to be diligently practiced. It is the Mystic Law expounded in the Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren declares that it enables us to transform this “threefold world”—the real world we live in, filled with suffering and delusion—into a peaceful Buddha land imbued with wisdom and compassion.

By making faith in the Mystic Law our foundation for living, we each can transform our state of life and create happiness. The Lotus Sutra teaches a philosophy of respect for the dignity of life grounded in the idea that all people can attain Buddhahood. It sets forth this idea as the fundamental principle for changing society, so that the real world we live in, just as it is, can become an indestructible Buddha land.

This is the concept of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.” The main theme of both of Ikeda Sensei’s novels, The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution, is: “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.”[2]

Each Soka Gakkai member’s efforts to put this belief into practice have moved the world closer to realizing Nichiren’s ideal of establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.

The Determination of the Guest

The guest, who initially opposed the host’s arguments, becomes convinced as the dialogue progresses. Eventually he admits how easily he had gone along with the words of Honen and other Nembutsu leaders and says, “I hope we may set about as quickly as possible taking measures to deal with these slanders against the Law and to bring peace to the world without delay, thus insuring that we may live in safety in this life and enjoy good fortune in the life to come” (WND-1, 26).

Finally, the guest makes a vow: “But it is not enough that I alone should accept and have faith in your words—we must see to it that others as well are warned of their errors” (WND-1, 26). This concludes “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land.”

Finally awakened to the truth, the guest now shares the host’s passionate vow. The dialogue between the host and guest, which began with sharing their sorrows, concludes with them sharing a vow. In this we can see that Nichiren wrote “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land” believing in and wishing to awaken the Buddha nature in one human being, Hojo Tokiyori.

Nichiren’s submission of his treatise to Tokiyori, effectively the country’s highest authority, is known as his first remonstration with the sovereign, or ruler, of the nation.[3]

Response to the Treatise

He had written and submitted the treatise out of his passionate wish to save the people from suffering, but it received no response from the Kamakura government (see “Letter to Shimoyama,” WND-2, 700).

This was possibly due to the influence of Hojo Shigetoki, who had served as a vice-regent[4] to Tokiyori during the latter’s time as regent, and Nagatoki, Shigetoki’s son and the current regent. Shigetoki was a powerful figure in the Hojo clan and the father of Tokiyori’s wife, Lady Kasai. Lady Kasai was the mother of Hojo Tokimune, who later became the eighth regent. By the time “On Establishing the Correct Teaching” was submitted Shigetoki had entered the priesthood and taken a Pure Land (Nembutsu) school priest as his teacher.

Knowledge of the treatise’s content spread among those connected to the shogunate, and when it became known that it criticized Honen’s Nembutsu Chosen above All, opposition arose among Nembutsu believers. The revered leader of the Nembutsu followers in Kamakura, Doamidabutsu,[5] a second-generation disciple of Honen, challenged Nichiren to a debate but lost, unable to respond to his arguments after exchanging only a few words.

Realizing that none of them was a match for Nichiren in debate, the Nembutsu believers and priests conspired to attack him, which included making false accusations against him to the authorities. They also appealed to the shogunate to punish Nichiren, but the government would not act on their claims against him. Rather than accepting their charges, Tokiyori is thought to have wished to remain impartial (see “Refuting Ryokan and the Others,” WND-2, 1052).

Ultimately, however, Tokiyori had to consider the position of Shigetoki and others who had supported him when he was regent, and consequently had no choice but to ignore Nichiren’s treatise and tacitly permit the Nembutsu loyalists to persecute him.

Emboldened, the Nembutsu followers concluded that even if they killed Nichiren, no one would be charged with a crime because he was a priest of no use to the shogunate. So they planned a raid on Nichiren’s hut to murder him. Nichiren wrote that the people involved were “a group of several thousand” (see “Letter to Shimoyama,” WND-2, 700) or even “numbered several tens of thousands” (see “Refuting Ryokan and the Others,” WND-2, 1052). It’s not clear whether a crowd this large attacked at once or there were repeated attacks, but we can imagine a mob rushing his dwelling. Quite miraculously, however, Nichiren escaped unharmed (see “Letter to Shimoyama,” WND-2, 700). This incident became known as the Matsubagayatsu Persecution, from the name of the place where Nichiren’s hut was traditionally thought to have been located.

Those who tried to kill him were never held to account, most likely due to behind-the-scenes maneuvering by Hojo Shigetoki, Nagatoki and their allies (see “The Three Obstacles and Four Devils,” WND-1, 638; and “Letter to Shimoyama,” WND-2, 700).

In this way, Nichiren submitting “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land” sparked a quickly spreading blaze of persecution.

(To be continued in an upcoming issue)

Respect for All

Ikeda Sensei: Because Buddhism regards all beings as Buddhas, it finds absolute dignity and limitless potential in each individual. These same ideals constitute the unshakable philosophical basis of democracy.

Moreover, as we bring forth our inherent Buddha nature, we develop compassion for others. “Embracing the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]” (“On Establishing the Correct Teaching,” WND-1, 25) means, in one sense, abandoning all prejudiced and partial views of life and humanity and returning to a respect for the supreme dignity of life. It means doing away with egoism and living by the rule of compassion, basing ourselves on true humanism. Here we find the universal principle that provides the key to humankind’s prosperity and peace on Earth.[6]

From the May 2023 Living Buddhism


  1. Three calamities and seven disasters: Calamities and disasters predicted in various sutras that result from denying or opposing the correct teaching or persecuting those who practice and uphold that teaching. ↩︎
  2. Daisaku Ikeda, The Human Revolution, vol. 1 (Santa Monica, CA: World Tribune Press, 2004), p. viii. ↩︎
  3. Nichiren wrote of three instances in which he remonstrated with the nation’s rulers and “gained distinction” by making accurate predictions. The first was his submission of his treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land” on the 16th day of the 7th month in 1260. The second was his remonstration with Hei no Saemon-no-jo, when the latter had come to arrest him on the evening of the 12th day of the 9th month in 1271, at the time of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution. The third was his final remonstration with Hei no Saemon on the 8th day of the 4th month in 1274, after returning to Kamakura from exile on Sado Island. ↩︎
  4. Also cosignatory. The signature of the person holding this position appeared next to that of the regent on official documents. ↩︎
  5. Also known as Dokyobo Nenku, Dokyo, Nenku or Doa. ↩︎
  6. Daisaku Ikeda, The New Human Revolution, vol. 4 (Santa Monica, CA: World Tribune Press, 2019), p. 248. ↩︎

The Spirit to Strive

Before It Is Too Late