Nichiren Buddhism

The Founding of Buddhism

Buddhism originates in the teachings of Shakyamuni (Gautama Siddartha), the historical founder of Buddhism who was born in what is now Nepal some 2,500 years ago.

Shakyamuni was born a prince but renounced his royal upbringing to embark on a spiritual quest to understand how human suffering could be ended. Eventually, while in deep meditation, he experienced a profound awakening, or enlightenment–a deep, encompassing understanding of life and human nature.

According to tradition, Shakyamuni then traveled throughout the Indian subcontinent for nearly 40 years sharing his enlightened wisdom, promoting peace and teaching people how to unleash the great potential of their lives. He became known as the Buddha, or “awakened one.” His teachings were recorded as sutras and spread throughout Asia, giving rise to a number of distinct schools of Buddhism, generally characterised by an emphasis on peace and compassion.

The Lotus Sutra

The Lotus Sutra is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential sutras, or sacred scriptures, of Buddhism.

Its key message is that Buddhahood – a condition of absolute happiness, freedom from fear and from all illusions – is inherent in all life. The development of this inner life state enables all people to overcome their problems and live a fulfilled and active life, fully engaged with others and with society.

Almost two thousand years after Shakyamuni’s death, Nichiren, a thirteenth-century Japanese monk, distilled the profound theory of the Lotus Sutra into a practice to enable anybody to reveal their Buddhahood, or highest state of life, in the midst of day-to-day reality.

Nichiren Daishonin

SGI members follow the teachings of Nichiren, a Buddhist monk who lived in thirteenth-century Japan. Nichiren’s teachings provide a way for anybody to readily draw out the enlightened wisdom and energy of Buddhahood from within their lives, regardless of their individual circumstances. Each person has the power to overcome all of life’s challenges, to live a life of value and become a positive influence in their community, society and the world.

In Search of the Solution to Human Suffering

Nichiren was born in 1222 in Japan, a time rife with social unrest and natural disasters. The common people, especially, suffered enormously. Nichiren wondered why the Buddhist teachings had lost their power to enable people to lead happy, empowered lives. While a young priest, he set out to find an answer to the suffering and chaos that surrounded him. 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 Essence of Buddhism

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 Buddhahood inherent in their 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 while they are alive.

Persecution

Nichiren was critical of the established schools of Buddhism that relied on state patronage and merely 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.

Nichiren’s claims invited an onslaught of often-violent persecutions from the military government and the established Buddhist schools. Throughout, he refused to compromise his principles to appease those in authority.

Nichiren’s legacy lies in his unrelenting struggle for people’s happines and the desire to transform society into one which respects the dignity and potential of each individual life.