Militant Buddhists: A look at the Ikko-Ikki
history, religious fanaticism could be found in varying degrees and for various
causes. Many fanatical groups often used religion and politics to build up sects
of loyal followers in order to fulfill their aims. One such group was the Ikko-Ikki rebels of mediaeval
The Ikko-Ikki was a massive group of Buddhist fanatics, whose
main goal was to topple the feudalist government that controlled
The origins of the Ikko-Ikki can be found in the 1400’s, where small groups who
followed the Jodo-Shinshu or “
Their role as a military force
reached its peak when they gained control of the entire
For the next 50 years the Ikko-Ikki grew in strength and numbers, recruiting many
peasants who shared the groups views. The rebels
had soon become troubling to the various samurai warlords. One such warlord who
found these Buddhist fanatics to be a nuisance was Oda
Nobunaga, the first of the three unifiers of
In 1570 after 11 years of battling with the Ikko-Ikki, Oda Nobunga took the fight straight to their temple fortresses. Although his first few attempts at crushing the rebels were disastrous, Nobunaga managed to first isolate the Ikko-Ikki and destroy their allies. Soon Nobunaga would resort to harsh brutality to cripple the rebel monks, in 1574 after restricting the inhabitants of Nagashima fortress to the inner buildings. He had a giant wooden wall built to surround the complex. Nobunaga then ordered the whole thing to be set on fire. Any person who made it out of the fire was to be shot and killed. By the end of the day 20,000 men, women and children laid dead.
In 1580 the Ikko-Ikki faced Nobunaga for the last time. With a majority of their allies and supporters dead or gone, the Ikko-Ikki had only support from within. With the support of pirates Nobunaga managed to push the Ikko-Ikki back into the innermost part of their fortress. The samurai army waited, letting the rebels run out of ammunition and food. Eventually the abbot of Hongan-Ji surrendered. Dr. Turnbull writes that “the terms of the surrender were bloodless, and soon 11 years of fighting came to an end”. After 100 years of violence the Buddhist fanaticism that lead the Ikko-Ikki was no more.
There can be a few lessons learned from the Ikko-Ikki. Fanatical militant groups can be found in almost every culture and religion. And a group with a wholehearted devotion to their religion and cause can be just as powerful as any army with a general, which makes this type of religious and political fanaticism a frightening phenomena.
Turnbull, Stephen. The Samurai
Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai
Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai
C.E. West and F.W. Seal, www.samurai-archives.com/, 2005
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