BUSHI & RELIGION

Publié le par Yama no Kami Nobusada

en construction



FÛDÔ MYÔ


    Tradition has it that the 1561 clash was the fourth of a five-round battle between the great generals. Although the earliest encounter took place in 1553, we have no recorded comment by the participants themselves until the time of the final fight in 1564. Actually, there are documents that predate this, but these consist solely of thank you notes from Kenshin and Shingen to their retainers for heads taken in battle. The notes look suspiciously like form letters bearing the generals seals. "I thank you," Shingen wrote again and again, "for "x" number of heads taken on "y" date at "z" battle. It was terrific. Keep up the good work." These notes tell us little of the personalities of the contenders.

    Uesugi Kenshin, in preparation for the 1564 battle, visited a shrine in the environs of his fort and made an offering. This prayer, offered in the hope of receiving divine assistance for victory, is a list of Takeda Shingen's misdeeds. Written in simple vernacular script, it gives us a glimpse of Kenshin's attitude toward his rival. He lists seven categories of wrongdoing. He charged that Shingen had been remiss in overseeing religious ceremony and had assigned secular authorities to supervise temples and shrines when he invaded Shinano Province. Some of Kenshin's charges go beyond simple indictment of Shingen*s impious action. "Now that Shingen has destroyed Shinano's temples and shrines, and exiles their attendants, who could possibly revere the authority of the gods if they allow his continued victory? " This threat to divinity, demanding that it act in order to preserve its believers' faith, is reminiscent of the early Greek idea of the relationship between human and divine. The gods of Japan were controllers of the natural forces acting on some location.

    They are linked even now to the agricultural cycles discovered with civilization. The meaning of religion for the peasant, just like that for the Athenian, was performance of ritual. Japanese divinities of the medieval period were a potpourri of Shinto kami and Buddhist bodhisattva with interchangeable identities and powers. While villagers held festivals in honor of agricultural deities, warlords and other samurai supported and worshipped gods who could provide succor in battle.
    The most famous of these gods is Hachiman, the War God. The Minamoto, a great samurai family who established the first military government at Kamakura appealed to its protection. Support of religious institutions was one of the fundamental duties of local samurai landlords. The fact that all but one of the charges against Shingen cite his failure to support established ritual shows that character of one major form of medieval religious practice, the cyclical ritual of agrarian society. Kenshin was a devout Buddhist, and remained single throughout his life. Luis Frois, the Jesuit missionary who lived in Japan from 1564 to 1587, wrote that Shingen too had taken the tonsure and led a priestly life, It may he true that Shingen liked monastic trappings, but his heart was bound to affairs of state. He could never have given up the hunt, the battle, or the romance for a purely religious life.
    His attitude toward religion was divided into matters of personal faith and political policy. Religion, in the form of Zen and Confucian training, was essential to prepare the samurai to be a good soldier and public administrator. In the form of ritual, it was essential to control the peasants of governed territories.
    Shingen was basically conservative, hoping to preserve at least the religious aspect of the medieval order. Oda Nobunaga, who conquered all Japan a decade after Shingen's death, was an iconoclast, never hesitating to crush the Buddhist temples which opposed him with brutal force.
    Under Nobunaga's protection the Jesuits were able to continue their missionary work. One wonders what would have been the fate of Japan at the hands of a less ruthless, but equally ambitious, warlord. If Shingen had lived but a few years longer? .... the historian may ask the question, but his early death at fifty-three left only a few contenders in the arena where the course of history was decided.

Publié dans Histoire

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