British Broadcasting Corporation Home. Nichiren Buddhism differs from other schools of Buddhism in focusing on this world, and in its view that it is the only correct tradition. Nichiren Buddhism is a Japanese Buddhist movement in the Mahayana tradition. It is also popular in the West and has a fast growing membership in the UK. It also emphasises the importance of individuals taking responsibility for improving themselves.

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Nichiren Buddhism focuses on the Lotus Sutra doctrine that all people have an innate Buddha-nature and are therefore inherently capable of attaining enlightenment in their current form and present lifetime. There are three essential aspects to Nichiren Buddhism, the undertaking of faith, the practice of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo accompanied by selected recitations of the Lotus Sutra, and the study of Nichiren's scriptural writings, called Gosho. The Nichiren Gohonzon is a calligraphic image which is prominently displayed in the home or temple buildings of its believers.

The Gohonzon used in Nichiren Buddhism is composed of the names of key bodhisattvas and Buddhas in the Lotus Sutra as well as Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo written in large characters down the center.

After his death, Nichiren left to his followers the mandate to widely propagate the Gohonzon and Daimoku in order to secure the peace and prosperity of society. Several Japanese new religions are Nichiren-inspired lay groups. Nichiren proposed a classification system that ranks the quality of religions [11] [12] : and various Nichiren schools can be either accommodating or vigorously opposed to any other forms of Buddhism or religious beliefs.

Within Nichiren Buddhism there are two major divisions which fundamentally differ over whether Nichiren should be regarded as a bodhisattva of the earth , a saint, great teacher—or the actual Buddha of the third age of Buddhism. Nichiren's teachings encompass a significant number of concepts.

Briefly, the basic practice of Nichiren Buddhism is chanting the invocation Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to a mandala inscribed by Nichiren, called the Gohonzon. Nichiren considered that in the Latter Day of the Law — a time of human strife and confusion, when Buddhism would be in decline — Buddhism had to be more than the theoretical or meditative practice it had become, but was meant to be practiced "with the body", that is, in one's actions and the consequent results that are manifested.

He considered his disciples the " Bodhisattvas of the Earth " who appeared in the Lotus Sutra with the vow to spread the correct teaching and thereby establish a peaceful and just society. The specific task to be pursued by Nichiren's disciples was the widespread propagation of his teachings the invocation and the Gohonzon in a way that would effect actual change in the world's societies [8] : 47 so that the sanctuary, or seat, of Buddhism could be built.

Nichiren Buddhism originated in 13th-century feudal Japan. A prevailing pessimism existed associated with the perceived arrival of the Age of the Latter Day of the Law. The era was marked by an intertwining relationship between Buddhist schools and the state which included clerical corruption. It was the most frequently read and recited sutra by the literate lay class and its message was disseminated widely through art, folk tales, music, and theater.

It was commonly held that it had powers to bestow spiritual and worldly benefits to individuals. Nichiren developed his thinking in this midst of confusing Lotus Sutra practices and a competing array of other "Old Buddhism" and "New Buddhism" schools. Modern scholarship on Nichiren's life tries to provide sophisticated textual and sociohistorical analyses to cull longstanding myths about Nichiren that accrued over time from what is actually concretized. It is clear that from an early point in his studies Nichiren came to focus on the Lotus Sutra as the culmination and central message of Shakyamuni.

As his life unfolded he engaged in a "circular hermeneutic " in which the interplay of the Lotus Sutra text and his personal experiences verified and enriched each other in his mind. For more than 20 years Nichiren examined Buddhist texts and commentaries at Mount Hiei's Enryaku-ji temple and other major centers of Buddhist study in Japan. In later writings he claimed he was motivated by four primary questions: 1 What were the essentials of the competing Buddhist sects so they could be ranked according to their merits and flaws?

Throughout his career Nichiren carried his personal copy of the Lotus Sutra which he continually annotated. From this early stage of his career, Nichiren started to engage in fierce polemics criticizing the teachings of Buddhism taught by the other sects of his day, a practice that continued and expanded throughout his life.

He took issue with other Buddhist schools of his time that stressed transcendence over immanence. Nichiren's emphasis on "self-power" Jpn. These four critiques were later collectively referred to as his "four dictums. The target of his tactics expanded during the early part of his career.

Between and he proselytized and converted individuals, mainly attracting mid- to lower-ranking samurai and local landholders [35] : and debated resident priests in Pure Land temples. Drawing on Tendai thinking about the non duality of person and land, Nichiren argued that the truth and efficacy of the people's religious practice will be expressed in the outer conditions of their land and society. He thereby associated the natural disasters of his age with the nation's attachment to inferior teachings, predicted foreign invasion and internal rebellion, and called for the return to legitimate dharma to protect the country.

During the middle stage of his career, in refuting other religious schools publicly and vociferously, Nichiren provoked the ire of the country's rulers and of the priests of the sects he criticized. As a result, he was subjected to persecution which included two assassination attempts, an attempted beheading and two exiles. Hokke shikidoku ," fulfilling the predictions on the 13th chapter Fortitude that votaries would be persecuted by ignorant lay people, influential priests, and their friends in high places.

Nichiren began to argue that through "bodily reading the Lotus Sutra," rather than just studying its text for literal meaning, a country and its people could be protected. His three-year exile to Sado Island proved to be another key turning point in Nichiren's thinking. This has been described as embodying the same condition or state he attained in a physical object of devotion worship so that others could attain that equivalent condition of enlightenment.

Inviolable shall remain these vows! Rather, he expressed a resolve to fulfill his mission despite the consequences. Nichiren's teachings reached their full maturity between the years and while he resided in primitive settings at Mount Minobu located in today's Yamanashi Prefecture. In so doing, according to him, he validated the 13th "Fortitude" chapter of the Lotus Sutra in which a host of bodhisattvas promise to face numerous trials that follow in the wake of upholding and spreading the sutra in the evil age following the death of the Buddha: slander and abuse; attack by swords and staves; enmity from kings, ministers, and respected monks; and repeated banishment.

On two occasions, however, the persecution was aimed at his followers. First, in , in conjunction with the arrest and attempted execution of Nichiren and his subsequent exile to Sado, many of his disciples were arrested, banished, or had lands confiscated by the government. At that time, Nichiren stated, most recanted their faith in order to escape the government's actions. In contrast, during the Atsuhara episode twenty lay peasant-farmer followers were arrested on questionable charges and tortured; three were ultimately executed.

This time none recanted their faith. Although Nichiren was situated in Minobu, far from the scene of the persecution, the Fuji district of present-day Shizuoka Prefecture , Nichiren held his community together in the face of significant oppression through a sophisticated display of legal and rhetorical responses. He also drew on a wide array of support from the network of leading monks and lay disciples he had raised, some of whom were also experiencing persecution at the hands of the government.

Throughout the events he wrote many letters to his disciples in which he gave context to the unfolding events by asserting that severe trials have deep significance. In addition, a few very large mandalas were inscribed, apparently intended for use at gathering places, suggesting the existence of some type of conventicle structure. The Atsuhara Affair also gave Nichiren the opportunity to better define what was to become Nichiren Buddhism.

He stressed that meeting great trials was a part of the practice of the Lotus Sutra; the great persecutions of Atsuhara were not results of karmic retribution but were the historical unfolding of the Buddhist Dharma.

Out of historically identified followers of Nichiren, 47 were women. Many of his writings were to women followers in which he displays strong empathy for their struggles, and continually stressed the Lotus Sutra's teaching that all people, men and women equally, can become enlightened just as they are. His voice is sensitive and kind which differs from the strident picture painted about him by critics.

Which of these writings, including the Ongi Kuden orally transmitted teachings , are deemed authentic or apocryphal is a matter of debate within the various schools of today's Nichiren Buddhism. After Nichiren's death in the Kamakura shogunate weakened largely due to financial and political stresses resulting from defending the country from the Mongols.

It was replaced by the Ashikaga shogunate — , which in turn was succeeded by the Azuchi—Momoyama period — , and then the Tokugawa shogunate — During these time periods, collectively comprising Japan's medieval history, Nichiren Buddhism experienced considerable fracturing, growth, turbulence and decline. A prevailing characteristic of the movement in medieval Japan was its lack of understanding of Nichiren's own spiritual realization.

Serious commentaries about Nichiren's theology did not appear for almost two hundred years. This contributed to divisive doctrinal confrontations that were often superficial and dogmatic. This long history of foundings, divisions, and mergers have led to today's 37 legally incorporated Nichiren Buddhist groups. Despite their differences, however, the Nichiren groups shared commonalities: asserting the primacy of the Lotus Sutra, tracing Nichiren as their founder, centering religious practice on chanting Namu-myoho-renge-kyo , using the Gohonzon in meditative practice, insisting on the need for propagation, and participating in remonstrations with the authorities.

A last wave of temple mergers took place in the s. The roots of this splintering can be traced to the organization of the Nichiren community during his life. Each had led communities of followers in different parts of the Kanto region of Japan and these groups, after Nichiren's death, ultimately morphed into lineages of schools. Chief among these complaints was the syncretic practices of some of the disciples to worship images of Shakyamuni Buddha.

Sanenaga defended his actions, claiming that it was customary for his political family to provide monetary donations and make homage to the Shinto shrine of the Kamakura shogunate. He returned to his home in Suruga Province and established two temples: Taiseki-ji in the Fuji district and Honmonji in Omosu district.

He spent most of his life at the latter, where he trained his followers. However, his followers claimed that he was the only one of the six senior disciples who maintained the purity of Nichiren's legacy. Taiseki-ji does not dispute that the original documents are missing but holds that certified copies are preserved in their repositories. The demographic base of support in Kyoto were members of the merchant class Jpn.

Tanabe hypothesizes they were drawn to this faith because of Nichiren's emphasis on the "third realm" Jpn. The Hokke-ikki was an uprising in of Hokke followers against the followers of the Pure Land school in Initially successful it became the most powerful religious group in Kyoto but its fortunes were reversed in when Mt.

Their influence in the arts and literature continued through the Momoyama — and Edo — periods and many of the most famous artists and literati were drawn from their ranks. Although the various sects of Nichiren Buddhism were administratively independent, there is evidence of cooperation between them. During the Edo period , with the consolidation of power by the Tokugawa shogunate , increased pressure was placed major Buddhist schools and Nichiren temples to conform to governmental policies.

Suppressed, adherents often held their meetings clandestinely which led to the Fuju-fuse persecution and numerous executions of believers in In this system Buddhist temples, in addition to their ceremonial duties, were forced to carry out state administrative functions. Thereby they became agents of the government and were prohibited to engage in any missionary activities. Nichiren Buddhism was deeply influenced by the transition from the Tokugawa — to Meiji — periods in nineteenth-century Japan.

The changeover from early modern kinsei to modern kindai was marked by the transformation of late-feudal institutions into modern ones as well as the political transition from shogunal to imperial rule and the economic shift from national isolation to integration in the world economy.

Although commonly perceived as a singular event called the Meiji Restoration , the transition was full of twists and turns that began in the later Tokugawa years and continued decades after the — demise of the shogunate and launch of imperial rule. By this time Japanese Buddhism was often characterized by syncretism in which local nativistic worship was incorporated into Buddhist practice. Anti-Buddhist sentiment had been building throughout the latter part of the Tokugawa period — Critics included promoters of Confucianism, nativism, Shinto-inspired Restorationists, and modernizers.

Buddhism was critiqued as a needless drain on public resources and also as an insidious foreign influence that had obscured the indigenous Japanese spirit.

Under attack by two policies of the day, shinbutsu bunri Separation of Shinto Deities and Buddhas and haibutsu kishaku Eradication of Buddhism , Japanese Buddhism during the Tokugawa-to-Meiji transition proved to be a crisis of survival.

The new government promoted policies that reduced the material resources available to Buddhist temples and downgraded their role in the religious, political, and social life of the nation. The policies of shibutsu bunri were implemented at the local level throughout Japan but were particularly intense in three domains that were the most active in the Restoration: Satsuma, Choshii, and Tosa. Throughout the country thousands of Buddhist temples and, at a minimum, tens of thousands of Buddhist sutras, paintings, statues, temple bells and other ritual objects were destroyed, stolen, lost, or sold during the early years of the restoration.

Starting in the second decade of the restoration, pushback against these policies came from Western powers interested in providing a safe harbor for Christianity and Buddhist leaders who proposed an alliance of Shinto and Buddhism to resist Christianity. As part of this accommodation, Buddhist priests were forced to promote key teachings of Shinto and provide support for national policies. Nichiren Buddhism, like the other Buddhist schools, struggled between accommodation and confrontation.


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Nichiren Buddhism


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