The Atsuhara Affair: The Lotus Sutra, Persecution, and Religious Identity in the Early Nichiren Tradition

Jacqueline I. Stone
2014 Japanese Journal of Religious Studies  
In 1279, twenty peasants who were lay followers of the Buddhist teacher Nichiren were summarily arrested at Atsuhara in the Fuji district of Suruga province and were sent for trial to Kamakura, where three of them were beheaded. This incident is known in the history of Nichiren Buddhism as the Atsuhara persecution. The first part of this article outlines the circumstances of the persecution and the political and religious tensions that fueled it and considers how Nichiren was able to persuade
more » ... able to persuade his followers to remain steadfast in the face of a grave threat. The second part examines links between Nichiren's interpretation of the persecution and larger themes in his teaching of exclusive devotion to the Lotus Sutra, especially that offering one's life for the sutra's sake guarantees one's attainment of buddhahood. Lastly, the article touches on how later accounts of the Atsuhara persecution shaped a normative ideal within the Nichiren tradition of how Lotus devotees should meet opposition from those in power.
doi:10.18874/jjrs.41.1.2014.153-189 fatcat:ig2lrre4bbhd7bahitjrtxpbl4