The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism
Atsuhara Persecution[熱原の法難] ( Jpn Atsuhara-no-honan)
A series of threats and acts of violence against followers of Nichiren in Atsuhara Village, in Fuji District of Suruga Province, Japan, over a period of three years, beginning in earnest in 1278. Around 1275, after Nichiren had taken up residence at Mount Minobu, propagation efforts in the Fuji area began under the leadership of Nichiren's disciple Nikko. At Ryusen-ji, a temple of the Tendai school in Atsuhara, Nikkoconverted several of the younger priests, who in turn converted a number of local farmers.Alarmed at the defection of priests and lay supporters, Gyochi, a lay priest and a member of the ruling Hojoclan who acted as the deputy chief priest of the temple, demanded that the priests Nisshu, Nichiben, and Nichizen, who had converted and been renamed, discard their belief in Nichiren's teachings. When they refused, Gyochi ordered them to leave the temple. Nichizen returned to his home, but the other two remained and redoubled their propagation efforts. Having failed to shake the conviction of these priests, Gyochi turned his attention to the lay believers. He enticed the samurai Ota Chikamasa and Nagasaki Tokitsuna as well as other followers of Nichiren to renounce their faith and join forces with him in intimidating Nichiren's believers among the peasantry. In the fourth month of 1279, Shiro, a lay follower of Nichiren, was attacked and wounded during an archery contest at a local shrine, and in the eighth month another believer named Yashirowas beheaded. Gyochi's group tried to attribute the offenses to Nichiren's followers, including Nisshuand Nichiben.On the twenty-first day of the ninth month, twenty farmers, all believers, were helping to harvest the rice crop from Nisshu's private fields when they were arrested for allegedly stealing rice from the fields of Ryusen-ji. During the arrest the farmers resisted, and Daishin-bo was thrown from his horse and died. Ota Chikamasa and Nagasaki Toki-tsuna who joined the attack also lost their lives. Gyochi filed charges with the Kamakura shogunate against the arrested believers, and their case was presided over by Hei no Saemon, the deputy chief of the Office of Military and Police Affairs. Ignoring a joint petition from Nisshuand others, drafted on their behalf by Nichiren and Nikko, the officer had them imprisoned and tortured at his private residence, urging them to recant. Not one of them yielded. Eventually he had three of them executed— the brothers Jinshiro, Yagoro, and Yarokuro. The date of their execution was the fifteenth day of the tenth month (the eighth day of the fourth month, 1280, according to another account). The other seventeen were banished from Atsuhara. This incident marked the first time that official persecution of this magnitude had been directly leveled at Nichiren's followers rather than Nichiren himself. It is believed that their steadfast faith in the face of this persecution inspired Nichiren to inscribe the Dai-Gohonzon, the great mandala he later transferred to Nikko, his successor, which he intended as the object of devotion for the enlightenment of humankind.