History of Nichiren Buddhism

The Fuju Fuse Debate
by Ryuei Michael McCormick

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Nichio (1565-1630) was the leading figure in the last important development of Nichiren Buddhism in the fuedal era. In 1595, the dictator Hideyoshi requested that 100 representatives from each of the major Buddhist schools attend monthly memorial services for his ancestors before the Great Buddha that he had commissioned. The leaders of the Kyoto temples believed that to refuse would mean the destruction of their temples and communities. In addition, while they agreed in principle that one should not give services for slanderers or receive donations from them (the fuju fuse doctrine), they argued that the secular authorities were exceptions to this rule. Only Nichio, the head priest of Myokakuji Temple refused to compromise. In protest, he left Myokakuji Temple. In 1599, Tokugawa Ieyasu, at that time one of the five regents appointed to lead the country after Hideyoshi's death, invited Nichio to debate his views with the leaders of the Kyoto temples at Osaka Castle. The outcome was foreordained by Tokugawa Ieyasu, and Nichio was sent into exile to Tsushima Island the next year.

In 1608, a new blow was dealt to Nichiren Buddhism by Tokugawa Ieyasu who was now the new shogun. In that year, Nikkyo, the chief priest of Myomanji Temple, was invited to the Tokugawa Castle in the new capital of Edo to debate Shakudo of the Pure Land school. The night before the debates, intruders broke into Nikkyo's quarters and beat him so badly that he was unable to debate the next day even though the Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered him carried in on a stretcher. The Shogun declared Shakudo the winner by default and sentenced Nikkyo and five of his followers to have their noses and ears removed.

Tokugawa Ieyasu also demanded that the Nichiren Buddhists cease their propagation efforts. Nichion, head priest of Kuonji Temple at Mount Minobu refused to go along with that order and he was arrested and sentenced to crucifixion. Fortunately for him, one of the Shogun's concubines, the Lady Oman, threatened to kill herself in front of her children if Nichion was executed. The Shogun relented and Nichion was released, though he did not return to Kuonji Temple for fear of not being able to propagate Nichiren Buddhism if he should resume his position as chief priest. This event is called the Keicho Persecution, after the era in which it occured.

Nichio was finally pardoned in 1616 and allowed to return to Myokakuji Temple. By this time, those who supported the fuju fuse stance had become quite numerous. In 1623, the fuju fuse movement was even officially permitted by the shogunate. Such permission, however, was subject to the convenience of the Tokugawas. The debate about whether to attend a government sponsored memorial service came up again in 1626 when the wife of Shogun Hidetada died. Two factions arose. The Minbou led faction decided to attend the ceremony, whereas the Ikegami led faction decided not to attend. Naturally, Nichio was on the Ikegami side of the debates which followed. In 1630 the Tokugawa Shogunate sponsored a debate between the two factions and subsequently declared the more accomodating Minobu faction the winners. Nichio was sentenced to another exile, but he had already died. With the debate of 1630, fuju fuse was forbidden by the Tokugawa Shogunate.

In 1665, the Tokugawa Shogunate ruled that all temples would have to report the land which had been granted to them by the government for worship. This meant that all the temples had to admit that they had received their land as a donation from the government for religious purposes. Those who still clung to the fuju fuse doctrine could not do this without compromising their principles, and so the new rule effectively ended the fuju fuse movement. They could no longer receive any recognition from the government, and without that recognition they could not operate their temples. Without membership in a government recognized temple the fuju fuse adherents became outlaws. The fuju fuse movement would remain illegal until 1876. The movement is now called the Nichiren Shu Fuju Fuse-Ha (founding date 1595).

Copyright by Ryuei Michael McCormick. 2000.

Refuting Nichio and the Niike Gosho 1629
Fuju Fuse Articles Nichio
The Kansho Accord 1466
Myomanji Regulations 1451
Myokakuji Regulations 1413

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