1260 | Japan

Policy Brief

“Men’s ears are deaf and their eyes are blind.”

A traveler came to lament: “We see many signs in heaven and on earth of famine and plague. The whole country is filled with misery. Horses and cows die on the roadsides and so do men, and there is no one to bury them. Half the population is stricken, and no house goes unscathed.

“Hence many minds turn to religion. Some comfort themselves with the thought that disease is but a short-lived phenomenon, that old age and death are but fantasies. Others say, ‘The seven troubles come merely as a matter of rotation, and soon will be succeeded by the seven forms of prosperity.’ With this thought they set themselves to the details of countless ceremonies. Others, again, enter into ecstatic meditation, and contemplate the truth free from all care. Some write the names of the seven gods of luck on pieces of paper, and affix these papers by the hundreds to the doorposts of their houses.

“In other parts of the country, the lords are in fear. They remit taxes and govern their people with benevolence. But no matter what men do, famine and plague still rage. There are beggars everywhere, and unburied corpses line the roads.

“Now, when we see sun, moon, and stars go on in their courses, when the three treasures of Buddhism continue to be respected, and when kings rule peaceably, we know that the world is not about to come to an end. But look around at the misery. Look at the decay of Buddhism. What do you think causes all this?”

The master answered: “This is just what I’ve been contemplating. I see that our thoughts run in the same channels. Pray forgive me if I enlarge on this topic. When a man embraces the Buddhist religion he expects that his religion will be a way to obtain enlightenment. But at the present day neither does the power of the gods manifest itself, nor are there any signs of men attaining enlightenment. When I look around, my foolishness fills me with doubts about the future. When I look to the sky, I am filled with resentment. When I contemplate the earth, I see matter for earnest thought. But when I come to examine things more closely in light of the scriptures, I find that the whole world rebels against what is right. Men have universally become slaves of evil. Not only have the good deities left the country, but even the sages abandon it and refuse to come back. Evil spirits and demons have come to take their places, and calamities and sorrows have befallen us. We cannot help speaking of these matters. We can only fear them.”

The traveler inquired: “I am not the only one who bemoans the sorrows of our empire and the miseries of my country. But I have never heard anyone suggest that the gods and sages were forsaking the country, and that demons and evil spirits have taken their places. Please tell me what scriptural proof you have for your statement?”

The master responded: “The proofs are many and varied. In the Golden Light Sutra it is said: Although this sutra exists in the land, it has no proper power or influence, for the people are backsliders at heart. They do not wish to hear it read. They do not offer it worship, respect, or reverence. For this reason, both we and our families and all the hosts of heaven have lost our proper dignity and power. Men close their ears to the deep mysteries of the sutra, and get out of the current of the stream of true Buddhism. These men cherish the causes of evil. They injure men and angels. They fall into the river of life and death, and wander from the road to nirvana. Therefore, World-Honored One, we, the four heavenly kings, and all our followers, seeing these things taking place, shall forsake that country and cease to act as its protectors. Not only shall we forsake the king, but all good deities that are the guardians of the land will depart from it. Once this forsaking is accomplished, many calamities will befall this land, and it will lose its dignity and self-respect. Its people will lose their virtuous minds and become criminals and malefactors. They will rage against one another. They will slander one another. They will even wag their tongues against the innocent. There will be plagues and comets. Two suns will appear simultaneously in the sky, with disturbed courses. Two-colored rainbows, black and white, will be seen with distressful omens. There will be falling stars and earthquakes, and voices will come forth from wells. Storms and hurricanes will occur out of season. There will be constant famines, and rice will perish in its tender shoots. Bandits will invade the country from foreign lands and plunder it. The inhabitants will suffer all sorts of evils. Peace and comfort will not be found there.

“These sutra states the case clearly, and there is no doubt as to its meaning. But men’s ears are deaf and their eyes are blind. They believe in the corrupt teaching because they want to believe it. They have lost the power to distinguish between truth and falsehood. In short, the whole world has departed from Buddha and the sutras, and no one desires to protect them. It is no wonder that the good deities and sages have forsaken the land, and that evil spirits and heretics have brought about calamities and distress.”



From “Establishing Righteousness to Secure the Peace of Nations.” Born in 1222 in eastern Japan, Nichiren became a Buddhist monk at fifteen. In 1260, in response to the earthquakes, epidemics, and discord ravaging Japan, Nichiren submitted this treatise to national authorities claiming that only adherence to the Lotus Sutra could stabilize the country; for this he was exiled. Pardoned in 1262, he was soon exiled again for making similar assertions. After his death in 1282, Nichiren’s school grew to become among the most popular of modern-day Buddhism.