Nichiren was a Japanese Buddhist priest and philosopher of the Kamakura period.
91 Facts About Nichiren
Nichiren declared that the Lotus Sutra alone contains the highest truth of Buddhist teachings suited for the Third Age of Buddhism, insisting that the Sovereign of Japan and its people should support only this form of Buddhism and eradicate all others.
Nichiren advocated the repeated recitation of its title, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the only path to Buddhahood and held that Shakyamuni Buddha and all other Buddhist deities were extraordinary manifestations of a particular Buddha-nature termed Myoho-Renge that is equally accessible to all.
Nichiren declared that believers of the Sutra must propagate it even under persecution.
Nichiren was a prolific writer and his biography, temperament, and the evolution of his beliefs has been gleaned primarily from his own writings.
Nichiren claimed the reincarnation of Jogyo bodhisattva in a past life, and designated six senior disciples, of which the claims to successorship are contested.
The main narrative of Nichiren's life has been constructed from extant letters and treatises he wrote, counted in one collection as 523 complete writings and 248 fragments.
Nichiren launched his teachings in 1253, advocating an exclusive return to the Lotus Sutra as based on its original Tendai interpretations.
In 1274, after his two predictions of foreign invasion and political strife were seemingly actualized by the first attempted Mongol invasion of Japan along with an unsuccessful coup within the Hojo clan, Nichiren was pardoned by the Shogunate authorities and his advice was sought but not heeded.
Several hagiographies about Nichiren and are reflected in various pieces of artwork about incidents in his life.
Nichiren remains a controversial figure among scholars who cast him as either a fervent nationalist or a social reformer with a transnational religious vision.
Nichiren is often compared to other religious figures who shared similar rebellious and revolutionary drives to reform degeneration in their respective societies or schools.
Nichiren was born in the village of Kominato, Nagase District, Awa Province.
Nichiren described himself as "the son of a Sendara, "a son born of the lowly people living on a rocky strand of the out-of-the-way sea," and "the son of a sea-diver.
Nichiren's father was Mikuni-no-Tayu Shigetada, known as Nukina Shigetada Jiro ; and his mother was Umegiku-nyo.
The exact site of Nichiren's birth is believed to be currently submerged off the shore from present-day Kominato-zan Tanjo-ji near a temple in Kominato that commemorates his birth.
Between the years 1233 and 1253 Nichiren engaged in an intensive study of all of the ten schools of Buddhism prevalent in Japan at that time as well as the Chinese classics and secular literature.
Nichiren next traveled to Mount Hiei, the center of Japanese Tendai Buddhism, where he scrutinized the school's original doctrines and its subsequent incorporation of the theories and practices of Pure Land and Esoteric Buddhism.
Nichiren envisioned Japan as the country where the true teaching of Buddhism would be revived and the starting point for its worldwide spread.
At his lecture, it is construed, Nichiren vehemently attacked Honen, the founder of Pure Land Buddhism, and its practice of chanting the Nembutsu, Nam Amida Butsu.
Nichiren then developed a base of operation in Kamakura where he converted several Tendai priests, directly ordained others, and attracted lay disciples who were drawn mainly from the strata of the lower and middle samurai class.
Nichiren sought scriptural references to explain the unfolding of natural disasters and then wrote a series of works which, based on the Buddhist theory of the non-duality of the human mind and the environment, attributed the sufferings to the weakened spiritual condition of people, thereby causing the Kami to abandon the nation.
Nichiren was challenged to a religious debate with leading Kamakura prelates in which, by his account, they were swiftly dispatched.
Nichiren's critics had influence with key governmental figures and spread slanderous rumors about him.
Nichiren began to emphasize the purpose of human existence as being the practice of the bodhisattva ideal in the real world which entails undertaking struggle and manifesting endurance.
Nichiren suggested that he is a model of this behavior, a "votary" of the Lotus Sutra.
Nichiren sent 11 letters to influential leaders reminding them about his predictions in the Rissho Ankoku Ron.
Nichiren accelerated his polemics against the non-Lotus teachings the government had been patronizing at the very time it was attempting to solidify national unity and resolve.
Nichiren's claims drew the ire of the influential religious figures of the time and their followers, especially the Shingon priest Ryokan.
Nichiren considered this as his second remonstration to the government.
Regardless of the account, Nichiren's life was spared and he was exiled to Sado Island.
Nichiren was accompanied by a few disciples and in the first winter they endured terrible cold, food deprivation, and threats from local inhabitants.
Nichiren scholars describe a clear shift in both tone and message in letters written before his Sado exile and those written during and after.
The tactics of the bakufu suppression of the Nichiren community included exile, imprisonment, land confiscation, or ousting from clan membership.
Such hardship, Nichiren argued, fulfilled and validated the Lotus Sutra.
Nichiren identified himself with the bodhisattva Visistacaritra to whom Shakyamuni entrusted the future propagation of the Lotus Sutra, seeing himself in the role of leading a vast outpouring of Bodhisattvas of the Earth who pledged to liberate the oppressed.
Nichiren had attracted a small band of followers in Sado who provided him with support and disciples from the mainland began visiting him and providing supplies.
At this point Nichiren was transferred to much better accommodations.
Nichiren read in the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra a three-fold "secret Dharma" of the daimoku, the object of worship, and the ordination platform.
Nichiren wrote that his innocence and the accuracy of his predictions caused the regent Hojo Tokimune to intercede on his behalf.
Nichiren used the audience as yet another opportunity to remonstrate with the government.
Nichiren showed the ability to provide a compelling narrative of events that gave his followers a broad perspective of what was unfolding.
Nichiren's followers encouraged him to travel to the hot springs in Hitachi for their medicinal benefits.
Nichiren was encouraged by his disciples to travel there for the warmer weather, and to use the land offered by Hagiri Sanenaga for recuperation.
Nichiren's teachings developed over the course of his career and their evolution can be seen through the study of his writings as well as in the annotations he made in his personal copy of the Lotus Sutra, the so-called Chu-hokekyo.
Anesaki claims that later during his Minobu years, in lectures he is said to have transmitted to his disciples, Nichiren summarized the key ideas of his teachings in one paragraph: Buddhahood is eternal, all people can and should manifest it in their lives; Nichiren is the personage in the Lotus Sutra whose mission it is to enable people to realize their enlightenment; his followers who share his vow are the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.
Nichiren set a precedent for Buddhist social activism centuries before its emergence in other Buddhist schools.
Nichiren held adamantly that his teachings would permit a nation to right itself and ultimately lead to world peace.
Nichiren was a product of his times and some of his teachings were drawn from existing schools of thought or from emerging ideas in Kamakura Buddhism.
Nichiren stressed the concept of immanence, meaning that the Buddha's pure land is to be found in this present world.
Nichiren constructed a triad relationship between faith, practice, and study.
Nichiren asserted, in contrast to other Mahayana schools, this was the best possible moment to be alive, the era in which the Lotus Sutra was to spread, and the time in which the Bodhisattvas of the Earth would appear to propagate it.
Nichiren elevated countering slander of the Dharma into a pillar of Buddhist practice.
At age 32, Nichiren began a career of denouncing other Mahayana Buddhist schools of his time and declaring what he asserted was the correct teaching, the Universal Dharma, and chanting its words as the only path for both personal and social salvation.
Nichiren appropriated the structure of a universally accessible single practice but substituted the Nianfo with the daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
From Nichiren's corpus appear several lines of unique Buddhist thought.
Nichiren held that Zen was devilish in its belief that attaining enlightenment was possible without relying on the Buddha's words; Ritsu was thievery because it hid behind token deeds such as public works.
Nichiren deemed the world to be in a degenerative age and believed that people required a simple and effective means to rediscover the core of Buddhism and thereby restore their spirits and times.
Nichiren described his Three Great Secret Laws as this very means.
At the age of 51, Nichiren inscribed his own Mandala Gohonzon, the object of veneration or worship in his Buddhism, "never before known," as he described it.
Nichiren believed this practice was efficacious, simple to perform, and suited to the capacity of the people and the time.
Nichiren describes the first two secret laws in numerous other writings but the reference to the platform of ordination appears only in the Sandai Hiho Sho, a work whose authenticity has been questioned by some scholars.
Nichiren apparently left the fulfillment of this secret Dharma to his successors and its interpretation has been a matter of heated debate.
The first proof is "documentary," whether the religion's fundamental texts, here the writings of Nichiren, make a lucid case for the eminence of the religion.
Nichiren was deeply aware of the karmic struggles his followers faced in their day-to-day existence and assured them that they could "cross the sea of suffering".
Nichiren accepted prevailing Buddhist notions about karma that taught that a person's current conditions were the cumulative effect of past thoughts, words, and actions.
Nichiren showed little concern for attributing current circumstances to supposed past deeds.
Nichiren introduced the term "votary of the Lotus Sutra" to describe himself.
Nichiren's sufferings became, in his thinking, redemptive opportunities to change his karma and give his life transcendent meaning.
In enduring severe persecutions Nichiren claimed that the negative karma he had accumulated from the past could be eradicated quickly in his current life.
Nichiren was an active agent in this process, not a victim.
Nichiren even expressed appreciation to his tormentors for giving him the opportunity to serve as an envoy of the Buddha.
In letters to some of his followers Nichiren extended the concept of meeting persecution for the sake of propagating the Dharma to experiencing tribulations in life such as problems with family discord or illness.
Nichiren encouraged these followers to take ownership of such life events, view them as opportunities to repay karmic debts and mitigate them in shorter periods of time than would otherwise be the case.
Nichiren reached a state of conviction that offered a new perspective on karma.
Nichiren express that his resolve to carry out his mission was paramount in importance and that the Lotus Sutra's promise of a peaceful and secure existence meant finding joy and validation in the process of overcoming karma.
Nichiren's teachings are replete with vows he makes for himself and asks his followers to share as well.
Nichiren urged his followers to attain "treasures of the heart" and to reflect on their behavior as human beings.
Nichiren was unique among his contemporaries in charging the actual government in power, in this case the bakufu rather than the throne, with the peace of the land as well as the thriving of the Dharma.
Nichiren was a charismatic leader who attracted many followers during both his missionary trips and his exiles.
Nichiren maintained to his women followers that they were equally able to attain enlightenment.
Nichiren set a high standard of leadership and, in his writings, shared his rationale and strategies with them, openly urging them to share his conviction and struggles.
Nichiren left the fulfillment of the kaidan, the third of his Three Secret Dharmas, to his disciples.
Nichiren claimed the precedent for shitei funi is a core theme of the Lotus Sutra, especially in chapters 21 and 22 where the Buddha entrusts the future propagation of the sutra to the gathered bodhisattvas.
Nichiren's existing works number over 700 manuscripts in total, including transcriptions of orally delivered lectures, letters of remonstration and illustrations.
Nichiren Shoshu adds an additional five writings to comprise a set of ten major writings.
Collectively these letters demonstrate that Nichiren was a master of providing both comfort and challenge befitting the unique personalities and situations of each individual.
Nichiren incorporated several hundred of these anecdotes and took liberty to freely embellish some of them; a few of the stories he provided do not appear in other collections and could be original.
Nichiren used his letters as a means to inspire key supporters.
Against a backdrop of earlier Buddhist teachings that deny the possibility of enlightenment to women or reserve that possibility for life after death, Nichiren is highly sympathetic to women.
The sword was given to Nichiren by lay follower Nanbu Sanenaga for protection.