Who is Nichiren Daishonin?

When you come into contact with Nichiren Buddhism you regularly hear one name coming up, namely the man who founded this practice. You may be wondering who is Nichiren Daishonin?

Nichiren Shonin or Nichiren was born on February 16, 1222 in Kominato as Zennichi-maro and is founder of Nichiren Buddhism. On April 28, 1253, he chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the first time.On October 9, 1271 he made the very first gohonzon.

In response to his introduction in the Seicho-zan-school where he was taught by master Dōzen.

Yakuo-maro is the founder of Nichiren Buddhism.  Yakuo-maro entered the Seichō-ji temple as a student in 1233 at the age of 11. Seichō-ji temple was founded by the priest Fushigi.

Yakuo-maro was formally dedicated on 16 At his ordination as Buddhist monk he was given the religious name Zeshō-bo Rencho.

Then Zeshō-bō Renchō left in 1253 to study in Kamakura and elsewhere. When Zeshō-bo Renchō on April 28, 1253 overt announced of Namu-Myhoho-Renge-Kyo. Zeshō-bo Renchō changed his name to Nichiren.

Fun Fact

Did you know his name has been changed over 4 times and that Nichiren Daishonin was born on February 16, 1222 in Kominato;

Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō

From his study of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren distilled the recitation (or chanting) of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo as a universal practice that enables people to bring forth Buddha nature into their lives and find the wisdom and strength to setback or overcome any problem. Nichiren emphasized that everyone can become happy and attain enlightenment and saw the Lotus Sutra as the means by which people can realize this. On April 28, 1253, he chanted Namu-myoho-renge-kyo for the first time. Later he recorded the gohonzon, the object of devotion that helps people to sense their enlightened Buddha nature.

Opposition to authority

Nichiren criticized the then popular Buddhist movements that defended the interests of a wealthy minority and made the people dependent. He called the ruling powers to account and demanded that they take responsibility for the suffering of the population. His statement that the government is there for the people and not the other way around was revolutionary for that time. Not only religious leaders felt attacked, but also secular authorities.

Rissho ankoku ron

In 1260, at the beginning of a series of natural disasters, Nichiren wrote his well-known work Rissho ankokuron (“On Establishing the Correct Doctrine for Peace in the Land”). In it, he attributes the cause of those recent calamities to the people’s reliance on false teachings.

He presented this treatise to the highest political authority in Japan and urged him to support a public debate that he wanted to have with representatives of various Buddhist denominations. This call for a public debate, something Nichiren would do all his life, was ignored and he was banished by the government to the deserted coast of the Izu Peninsula.

Prosecutions

In the following years he would be banned more often; there was even an attempt to execute him on Tatsunokuchi beach near Kamakura. His account of the event states that seconds before the executioner’s sword was to hit him, the sky was illuminated by a shining object – possibly a meteorite – that terrified officials so much that they called off the execution. Nichiren was banished to Sado Island, where he continued to spread his teachings and write treatises and letters amid extremely harsh conditions such as cold and hunger.

After being pardoned, Nichiren returned to Kamakura. He then retired to Mount Minobu, where he continued to write at length to explain his vision of the Lotus Sutra and to encourage his followers, the men and women who regularly wrote to ask him for advice. He also spent a lot of time training students.

During this period, countless of Nichiren’s followers were taunted and attacked. Twenty farmers were arrested and tortured; three were beheaded. The fact that his followers remained so steadfast in their faith even in the face of death convinced Nichiren that his teachings would be preserved and practiced after his own death. Until then he had recorded a Gohonzon for individual followers, but now he recorded the Dai-Gohonzon as a symbol of the happiness and enlightenment of all humanity. Three years later he died of old age.

Legacy

Nichiren’s legacy lies in his tireless struggle for the happiness of the people and his desire to transform society into a place where the dignity and potential of every human being are respected. Today, people around the world recite a printed copy of the gohonzon he recorded. They study his letters and treatises to better understand how to apply Buddhism in daily life for their own happiness and that of those around them.

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