Nichiren Shōshū

Nichiren Shōshū
Taisekiji, The Head Temple of Nichiren Shoshu
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Nichiren Shōshū (日蓮正宗) is a branch of Nichiren Buddhism based on the teachings of the 13th-century Japanese monk Nichiren (1222–1282). Nichiren Shōshū claims Nichiren as its founder through his disciple Nikkō (1246–1333), the founder of the school's Head Temple Taiseki-ji. It has adherents throughout the world, with the largest concentrations in Indonesia and Japan and many more in Taiwan; South Korea; Sri Lanka; Singapore; Malaysia ; Thailand ; Hong Kong ; North, Central, and South America; the Philippines; Europe; and Ghana.



Nichiren Shōshū is a school of Mahayana Buddhism with its Head Temple, Taiseki-ji, located on the lower slopes of Mount Fuji in Japan. It has a substantial international membership. The denomination's name Nichiren Shōshū means "Orthodox Nichiren School". The denomination is sometimes referred to as "The Fuji School", deriving from Taiseki-ji's location.

Nichiren Shōshū claims a direct lineage of successive High Priests from Nikkō, who was chosen by Nichiren to carry on the propagation of his Buddhist practice in the Latter Day of the Law. This direct transmission of the Law is set forth in Nichiren Daishōnin's "One Hundred and Six Articles"[citation needed].

The central object of worship within Nichiren Shōshū is the Dai-Gohonzon (Great Gohonzon). All Gohonzons inscribed and issued by the successive High Priests of Nichiren Shōshū are authorized transcriptions of the Dai-Gohonzon, and are believed to derive their beneficial power from it. Taiseki-ji is visited regularly by Nichiren Shōshū believers from around the world who come to worship the Dai-Gohonzon. Nichiren Shōshū has over 700 local temples and temple-like facilities in Japan. Additionally, there are 22 overseas temples - six in the United States, nine in Taiwan, two in Indonesia - as well as temples in Brazil, France, Spain, Singapore, and Ghana.[1]

Nichiren Shōshū is currently led by the Sixty-Eighth High Priest, Nichinyo Shonin (1935–). Nichiren Shōshū priests distinguish themselves from those of most other schools by wearing only white and gray robes and a white surplice, exactly as Nichiren Daishōnin did[citation needed]. Since the Meiji Era, Nichiren Shōshū priests, like those of many other Japanese Buddhist sects, have been permitted to marry.

Believers are organized in temple-based congregations known as Hokkeko. Most attend services at a local temple or in private homes when no temple is nearby. Services are usually officiated by a priest, but lay leaders sometimes fill in when no priest is available. When they gather, believers frequently study Nichiren Shōshū teachings, particularly the various writings of Nichiren Daishōnin, called Gosho.

Doctrines and practice

Much of Nichiren Shōshū's underlying teachings are extensions of Tendai (天台, Cn: Tiantai) thought. They include much of its worldview and its rationale for criticism of Buddhist schools that do not acknowledge the Lotus Sutra to be Buddhism's highest teaching, as stated by Buddha Shakyamuni. For example, Nichiren Shōshū doctrine extends Tendai's classification of the Buddhist sutras into five time periods and eight categories (五時八教: goji-hakkyō), its theory of 3,000 interpenetrating realms within a single life-moment (一念三千: Ichinen Sanzen), and its view of the Three Truths (三諦: Santai).

View of Nichiren Daishonin's lifetime of teaching

Nichiren Shōshū holds that in revealing and propagating his teachings, Nichiren Daishonin was fulfilling a prophecy made by the Buddha Shakyamuni (Siddhartha Gautama; 563?–483? BC). Shakyamuni foretold that the True Buddha (久遠元初の御本仏: Kuon Ganjo no go-hombutsu; see Eternal Buddha) would appear in the "fifth five hundred-year period following the passing of Shakyamuni,"[citation needed] at the beginning of a later age called Mappō. The True Buddha would spread the ultimate Buddhist teaching (Honmon, or the "true" teaching) to enable the people of that age to attain enlightenment, as by then his own teachings (Shakumon, or the "provisional" teaching) would have lost their power to do so[citation needed].

Nichiren Shōshū teaches that Nichiren Daishonin is the True Buddha and that his Dharma, or Mystic Law (Myōhō: mystic in the sense of profound, sublime, or unfathomable), is the True Buddha's ultimate teaching. Nichiren Shōshū's acceptance of Nichiren Daishonin as the True Buddha is its reason for referring to him as Nichiren Daishōnin ("Great Sage Nichiren").

Central Practice

Nichiren Shōshū teaches that personal enlightenment can be achieved in one's present form and lifetime (即身成仏 sokushin jōbutsu). Chanting Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō is central to their practice.

Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is called the Daimoku (題目: "title"), since it comprises Nam and the Japanese title of the Lotus Sutra, Myōhō-Renge-Kyō. It can be understood as a sort of invocation meaning "I submit myself (or "dedicate, commit my life") to the Mystic Law of Cause and Effect." The believer's practice (gyōriki: power of practice) and faith (shinriki: power of faith) are believed to call forth the power of the Buddha (butsuriki) and the power of the Dharma (Law) inherent in the Gohonzon (hōriki). This practice and faith are thought to expiate the believer's "negative karma", and bring forth a higher life condition.

The Dai-Gohonzon

The Dai-Gohonzon is a mandala believed by Nichiren Shoshu to have been inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin in Chinese and Sanskrit characters on October 12, 1279. Its existence is believed to have been “hidden in the depths of the text” (文底秘沈: montei hichin) of Shakyamuni's Lotus Sutra, remaining secret until Nichiren Daishonin revealed it. The most important part of the inscription is the line down its center, which reads Na-mu-myō-hō-ren-ge-kyō Nichi-ren. This signifies that the Law of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and the Buddha who proclaimed it (Nichiren Daishonin) are one. They are two facets of a single entity (ninpō ikka: "oneness of the person and the Dharma"). Hence the Dai-Gohonzon is revered as representative of Nichiren Daishonin and his enlightenment, as and every Nichiren Shōshū temple and household possesses a transcription of it.

The Dai-Gohonzon is enshrined in a sanctuary (kaidan; often called an "ordination platform" in other Buddhist schools) at Taiseki-ji. The sanctuary is the place where a Gohonzon is enshrined, and where worship services are held.

Transcriptions of the Dai-Gohonzon

The transcriptions of the Dai-Gohonzon made by the successive high priests of Nichiren Shoshu are called, simply, Gohonzon (go is an honorific prefix indicating respect). Most Gohonzon in temples are on wood tablets into which the inscription is carved (the tablets are coated with black urushi and the characters, gilded), while most of those in homes are in the form of a paper scroll. Although Gohonzon enshrined in temples and similar facilities are personally inscribed by one of the successive high priests, those in private homes can be either personally inscribed or printed using traditional wood-block printing. Personally inscribed Gohonzon are bestowed upon believers of long standing or in recognition of major accomplishments in faith and have a dedication on the far right naming the recipient. Printed Gohonzon have the dedication "for the recipient" on them.

Regardless of their type, all Gohonzon issued by Nichiren Shoshu have been consecrated by one of the successive High Priests in an "Opening of the Eyes Ceremony", conducted in the Dai-Gohonzon's sanctuary, and thus have the same power, as defined by Nichiren Daishonin himself in his Gosho "The Four Debts of Gratitude". A Nichiren Shoshu priest, acting as proxy for the High Priest, bestows the Gohonzon on new believers upon their initiation into the faith at a local temple. Personal Gohonzon are enshrined in the home in a Butsudan (altar). Home altars generally include a candle, a bell, incense, a vessel containing water, and an offering of fresh greens or fruit. When a Gohonzon is bestowed upon an individual, the individual pledges to stand by and protect the Gohonzon throughout the recipient's life.

The Significance of the Dai-Gohonzon and the Three Treasures in Nichiren Shoshu

In Nichiren Shoshu, it is believed that the Dai-Gohonzon (and its constituent facets) is the ultimate Buddhist teaching revealed by the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. Furthermore, the school teaches that inscribing the Dai-Gohonzon for all mankind to worship, fulfilled the purpose of Nichiren Daishonin's advent. This is stated by Nichiren Daishonin himself in his Gosho.

A fundamental doctrine in Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism is reverence for the Three Treasures. Called sambō or sampō (三宝) in Japanese, the Three Treasures are the Buddha (butsu: he who reveals the Law), the Law (: Dharma or "body of teachings"), and the Priesthood (: he who receives from the Buddha, maintains the purity of, and transmits the Law). In Nichiren Shoshu, Nichiren Daishonin himself is the Treasure of the Buddha; the Mystic Law of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is the Treasure of the Law; and Nichiren Daishonin's successor Nikkō and each of the successive High Priests are the Treasure of the Priesthood. The central importance for Nichiren Shoshu believers of revering and expressing gratitude to the Three Treasures in the True Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin is explained in the Gosho "The Four Debts of Gratitude".


The daily practice of Nichiren Shoshu believers consists of affirming and renewing their faith by performing gongyō twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening. Gongyo entails reciting certain sections of the Lotus Sutra and chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon, while focusing on the Chinese character myō ("mystic law") near its center.

Morning gongyo consists of a series of five sutra recitations followed by silently recited, prescribed prayers. Evening gongyo encompasses only three sutra recitations and the second, third, and fifth of the same silent prayers. This practice, particularly when shared with others, is regarded as the “true cause” for attaining enlightenment.

The logic behind this is that through thoughts, words, and deeds, every being creates causes, and every cause has an effect. Good causes produce positive effects; bad causes, negative ones (see karma). This law of causality is the universal principle underlying all visible and invisible phenomena and events in daily life. Nichiren Shoshu believers strive to elevate their life condition by acting in accordance with this law in their day-to-day lives and by sharing their faith with others, believing their Buddhist practice to be the ultimate good cause for effecting changes in life and attaining enlightenment.

Excommunication of Sōka Gakkai

In 1991, Nichiren Shōshū officially excommunicated the leaders of its then-largest lay organization, Sōka Gakkai, over doctrinal differences and disputes with the priesthood. In 1997, those non-leaders who chose to remain as members of Sōka Gakkai, instead of becoming members of Nichiren Shōshū, were also excommunicated and lost the privilege of visiting Taiseki-ji to worship the Dai-Gohonzon. Sōka Gakkai now operates as a doctrinally and organizationally distinct group.[2]

Destruction of Sho Hondo

The then high priest of Nichiren Shoshu, Nikken Shonin, also oversaw the demolition of the Sho Hondo, which is thought to be a continuation of the dispute. The reasons given ranging from instability due to earthquakes to flooded chambers possibly linked to the shutoff of pumps in the facility.

External links

Official websites

Unofficial websites

Sources and references


  1. ^
  2. ^ Michelle Magee, "Japan Fears Another Religious Sect", San Francisco Chronicle, 27 December 1995. Accessed 2 January 2011.
  • Basic Terminology of Nichiren Shoshu, Vol. 1, Nichiren Shoshu Shumuin, eds. Dainichiren Publishing Co., 2009. ISBN 4904429281, ISBN 978-4904429280
  • Nichiren Shoshu Basics of Practice, Nichiren Shoshu Temple, 2003 (revised). No ISBN.
  • Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism", Seiganzan Myoshinji Temple, 2007 [available for download and online at]
  • The Gosho of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 1, Nichiren Shoshu Overseas Bureau, trans. Dainichiren Publishing Co., 2005. ISBN 4904429265, ISBN 978-4904429266
  • The Gosho of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 2: Rissho Ankoku Ron, Nichiren Shoshu Shumuin, trans. Dainichiren Publishing Co., 2009. ISBN 4904429265, ISBN 978-4904429266
  • The Doctrines and Practice of Nichiren Shoshu, Nichiren Shoshu Overseas Bureau, 2002. Also available online in its entirety.
  • A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts, Nichiren Shoshu International Center (NSIC), Tokyo, 1983. ISBN 4888720142.(Note: Despite its name, NSIC is no longer affiliated with Nichiren Shoshu; however, the dictionary largely reflects Nichiren Shoshu interpretations of terms and concepts.)


  • Nichiren Shōshū yōgi (日蓮正宗要義: "The essential tenets of Nichiren Shoshu"), Taiseki-ji, 1978, rev. ed. 1999
  • Nichiren Shōshū nyūmon (日蓮正宗入門: "Introduction to Nichiren Shoshu"), Taiseki-ji, 2002
  • Dai-Nichiren (大日蓮), monthly magazine published by Nichiren Shoshu. Fujinomiya, Shizuoka, Japan (numerous issues)
  • Dai-Byakuhō (大白法), the Hokkekō organ newspaper. Tokyo (numerous issues)

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