Life od Nichiren

FEBRUARY 16Nichiren
1222: Nichiren Daishonin is born in Tōjō Village of Awa Province, Japan.
1984: President Ikeda attends the SGI Dallas Pioneer meeting.

Life od Nichiren

SGI members follow the teachings of Nichiren, a Buddhist monk who lived in 13th-century Japan. Nichiren was the son of a fisherman, born in 1222, a time rife with social unrest and natural disasters. The ordinary people, especially, suffered enormously. Nichiren wondered why the teachings of Buddhism had lost their power to enable people to lead happy, empowered lives. His intensive study of the Buddhist sutras convinced him that the Lotus Sutra contained the essence of the Buddha’s enlightenment and that it held the key to transforming people’s suffering and enabling society to flourish.

The Lotus Sutra affirms that all people, regardless of gender, capacity or social standing, inherently possess the qualities of a Buddha, and are therefore equally worthy of the utmost respect.

Based on his study of the sutra, Nichiren established the invocation (chant) of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a universal practice to enable people to manifest the Buddha nature inherent in their own lives and gain the strength and wisdom to challenge and overcome any adverse circumstances. Nichiren saw the Lotus Sutra as a vehicle for people’s empowerment–stressing that everyone can attain enlightenment and enjoy happiness in this world. He first chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo on April 28, 1253, and later inscribed the mandala of the Gohonzon (the object of devotion to enable people to perceive the enlightened life state of the Buddha in graphic form).


A 1,000 year-old tree at Seicho-ji temple where the young Nichiren studied Buddhism  (photo)  A 1,000 year-old tree at Seicho-ji temple where the young Nichiren studied Buddhism

Nichiren was critical of the established schools of Buddhism that relied on state patronage and served the interests of the powerful while encouraging passivity in the suffering masses. He called the feudal authorities to task, insisting that the leaders bear responsibility for the suffering of the population and act to remedy it. His stance, that the state exists for the sake of the people, was revolutionary for its time.

In 1260, in the wake of a series of devastating natural disasters, Nichiren wrote his most famous tract, the “Rissho Ankoku Ron” (On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land). He presented this treatise to the highest political authorities of Japan and urged them to sponsor a public debate with representatives of other schools of Buddhism. The call for public debate–which Nichiren would repeat throughout his life–was ignored, and he was banished to the Izu Peninsula.

The years that followed brought further banishment, and ultimately an attempt to execute him on the beach of Tatsunokuchi near Kamakura, seat of the military government. By his account, moments before the executioner’s sword was to fall, a luminous object–perhaps a meteor–traversed the sky with such brilliance that the terrified officials called off the execution. Nichiren was banished to Sado Island where, amidst extreme deprivation, he continued to share his teachings and write treatises and letters.

Following a pardon, Nichiren returned to Kamakura and then retreated to Mount Minobu, where he wrote copiously to clarify his interpretation of the Lotus Sutra and to encourage his individual followers–both men and women–who often wrote to him for advice. He also focused on training his successors.

During this period, converts to Nichiren’s teachings were harassed and attacked, and three were executed in 1279. The fact that these peasant followers remained steadfast in the face of persecution inspired in Nichiren the confidence that his teachings would be maintained and practiced after his own passing. Where he had to date inscribed Gohonzon for individual believers, he now inscribed a mandala explicitly dedicated to the happiness and enlightenment of all humankind. Nichiren died of old age three years later.

Nichiren’s legacy lies in his unrelenting struggle for people’s happiness and the desire to transform society into one which respects the dignity and potential of each individual. Today, SGI members throughout the world chant to the Gohonzon he established and study his letters and treatises to deepen their understanding of how to apply Buddhism to the challenges of daily life.

Read more: Life of Nichiren and SGI President Ikeda’s essay On Nichiren


Point Thirteen, on the words “I am always here, preaching the Law.”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: “Always here” refers to the place where the votaries of the Lotus Sutra abide. “Here” is the sahā world. “Mountain valleys or the wide wilderness” (chapter twenty-one, Supernatural Powers)—this is what the sutra means when it speaks of “here.”

“Preaching the Law” is the sound of the words of all living beings, that is, the sound of preaching the Law through the wisdom that is freely received and used, a part of their original makeup. Now that we have entered the Latter Day of the Law, preaching the Law means Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is the preaching of the Law carried out now by Nichiren and his followers.

OTT: Part Two – Life Span (pp.123 – 143)



Sahā world [娑婆世界] (Skt; Jpn shaba-sekai): This world, which is full of suffering. Often translated as the world of endurance. Sahā means the earth; it derives from a root meaning “to bear” or “to endure.”


QUESTION: In the evil world of the latter age, what should ordinary men and women take as their object of devotion?

Answer: They should make the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra their object of devotion.

Question: In what sutra passage or what commentary of the Buddhist teachers is this view expressed?

Answer: The “Teacher of the Law” chapter in the fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states: “Medicine King, in any place whatsoever where this sutra is preached, where it is read, where it is recited, where it is copied, or where a roll of it exists, in all such places there should be erected towers made of the seven kinds of gems, and they should be made very high and broad and well adorned. There is no need to enshrine the relics of the Buddha there. Why? Because in such towers the entire body of the Thus Come One is already present.”

The “Nature of the Thus Come One” chapter in the fourth volume of the Nirvana Sutra states: “And I say this, Kāshyapa. What the Buddhas take as their teacher is the Law. Therefore, the Thus Come Ones honor, respect, and make offerings to it. Since the Law is eternally abiding, the Buddhas [who became enlightened to the Law] are also eternally abiding.”

And the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai in his “Method of Repentance through the Lotus Meditation” says: “In the place of practice one should erect a suitably fashioned dais and place a copy of the Lotus Sutra on it. One need not adorn it with any statues of the Buddha, his relics, or copies of other scriptures. Simply place a copy of the Lotus Sutra there.”

WND II: 302 – Questions and Answers on the Object of Devotion (pp.787 – 801)

SPECIAL NOTE: This Gosho gives an excellent explanation as to why we as believers in Nichiren Buddhism use ONLY the Gohonzon as our object of devotion. The Gohonzon Nichiren Daishonin inscribed is the core of the “The Life Span of the Thus Come One” (16th) chapter of the “Essential Teachings” and the supreme Law contained in the Lotus Sutra.

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