The Establishment of Nichiren Buddhism
Our History: April 28, 1253
Nichiren Daishonin first taught the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo on April 28, 1253, at Seichoji temple in what is today Chiba Prefecture, where he had first studied Buddhism as a young boy.
Nichiren was 32 years old, and extensive study of the Buddhist sutras had clarified for him that the Lotus Sutra was the vehicle that would lead all people directly to attain enlightenment, or Buddhahood, in this present lifetime.
SGI President Ikeda writes of that event: “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the sound that awakens the Buddha nature of all humankind. It is the great teaching of supreme hope . . . At this important juncture, the Daishonin changed his name from Zesho-bo Rencho—which he took upon his ordination as a priest—to Nichiren, written with the Chinese characters for ‘sun’ and ‘lotus.’ The sun illuminates the world, and the lotus brings forth beautiful blossoms unsullied by the muddy water in which it grows.”
Nichiren knew he would meet opposition, as there was great attachment at that time to the practice of Nembutsu, which encouraged people to believe that they could be reborn in a Pure Land after death. By declaring that the practice of the Lotus Sutra would enable people to manifest the Buddha nature in this lifetime, he was challenging the fundamental mindset of the time; that ordinary people were powerless to effect change . . . Starting from the first day he declared his teaching, Nichiren was repeatedly threatened and attacked, risking his own life in an effort to help people discover the true message of Buddhism—that each person possesses limitless potential within their lives.
Despite being exiled twice and nearly killed on several occasions, Nichiren lived to the age of 61, dying peacefully. Transmission of his teachings and the fulfillment of his vision of peace founded on respect for the sanctity of life has been the guiding inspiration for the first three Soka Gakkai presidents and is the central pillar of SGI members’ activities worldwide.