Essay about The Tale of the Heike

Essay about The Tale of the Heike

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The Tale of the Heike is a collection of tales that depict the livelihood of warriors during the Heian and Kamakura period. These tales illustrate that warriors during this period spent their existence dedicated to their duty to the Buddhist Law and that the growing contention arose from each warrior’s devotion and loyalty to the Buddhist Law.
The tales communicate that a warrior’s duty was to protect the Buddhist Law which in turn meant to protect the imperial authority. Written letters between the Onjōji to the Kōfukuji Temples avow that the “great virtue of the Buddhist Law is that it guards the imperial authority; the imperial authority endures because of the Buddhist Law.” Furthermore, the letters articulate that whether one is “southern capital or northern, we are all disciples of the Buddha.” Middle Captain Shigehira’s plea to the Buddha, before his execution, exemplifies this. Shigehira declared “I was not acting of my own free will when I committed my grave sins; I was merely trying to do my duty. Who that lives can spurn an imperial command?” Regardless of what was commanded the warrior was obligated to obey. Director of the Military Stores Bureau Yorimasa confirms this decree when he is ordered to restrain an invisible monster. Yorimasa reported “from the old, the mission of warriors posted to the court has been to repulse rebels and destroy violators of imperial commands” then, prepared to die for his lord, struck the monster with an arrow. Inomata no Koheiroku Noritsuna reveals that warriors would announce their identity before battle in view of religious beliefs. He maintained that “a man who kills an enemy does not perform a great exploit unless he takes the head after identifying himself and requiri...


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... Genji held off their attack in order to “allow the enemy time to perform religious rites.” Plus, high officials altered sentences from death to exile. As in the case of the warrior Nobutsura whose life was spared after Kiyomori was given an account of Nobutsura’s meritorious reputation. Warriors would take time to justify why they are unable to save them from execution as Yortiomo did with Munemori. Yoritomo elucidated “it is impossible for anyone born in this country to disregard and imperial edict.” It is the actions of these warriors that exhibit characteristics of people who kill purely for duty.
The wars, the victories, the defeats and deaths arose from the warrior’s duty to the Buddhist Law. These warriors lived their duty and this is reflected through the tales that illustrate actions that include loyalty and respect towards other warriors.


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