Honoring the Founder of Nichiren Buddhism
Feb. 16 commemorates the 797th anniversary of the birth of Nichiren Daishonin, the 13th-century Buddhist reformer and founder of Nichiren Buddhism.
Born in a small fishing village in Japan, Nichiren witnessed firsthand the suffering of ordinary people in a country plagued by violence and disasters. His deep concern led him, as a young boy, to pray “to become the wisest person in Japan” in order to discover a solution (“The Tripitaka Master Shan-wu-wei,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 175).
On April 28, 1253, after embarking on a period of intense study at major centers of Buddhist learning, Nichiren, at age 32, declared that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was the sole teaching capable of leading all people to genuine happiness. The Japanese Buddhist schools of the day, he pointed out, were incapable of doing so due to their errors interpreting the Buddha’s teachings. This declaration angered the priests of the established schools, and Nichiren was subjected to constant harassment and persecution.
In 1260, after a series of natural disasters devastated Japan, the Daishonin composed one of his major writings, “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land.” In this treatise presented to the highest political authorities of Japan, he urged that they discard erroneous teachings and revive the spirit of reverence for the sanctity of human life through faith in the correct teaching of the Lotus Sutra.
Nichiren’s persistent resolve to stand for justice and the happiness of the people brought a series of persecutions from the other Buddhist schools and government authorities. He was attacked by swords, ambushed at home, labeled as a criminal and was nearly executed at Tatsunokuchi.
The Daishonin left behind an accessible practice that enables each person to bring forth their greatest potential.
Moments before the executioner’s sword was to fall, a luminous object traversed the sky with such brilliance that the terrified officials called off the execution. Nichiren was then banished to Sado Island, where circumstances were inhumane and harsh beyond measure.
Despite these persecutions, Nichiren’s spirit remained undaunted. He emerged from the persecution at Tatsunokuchi with the conviction that it had enabled him to reveal his true identity as a Buddha—an enlightened ordinary person dedicated to spreading the teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. With this, Nichiren began inscribing the Gohonzon, the object of devotion that graphically embodies the life condition of Buddhahood, to enable all people to reveal the same state of life themselves.
Nichiren continued to share his teachings and poured his life into writing letters of encouragement to his followers until he passed away peacefully at age 61.
Through the practice of chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in front of the Gohonzon, the Daishonin left behind an accessible practice that enables each person to bring forth their greatest potential, and in his courageous and compassionate words and behavior, a model of supreme humanity. His numerous writings to this day provide millions of people with inspiration, ringing with a powerful lion’s roar for each person to stand undefeated as a force for great good.
Did You Know?
SGI President Ikeda writes, “There are three passages from Nichiren Daishonin that I have always engraved in my heart at the start of the new year since the days of my youth, along with a fresh personal determination” (Jan. 31, 2014, World Tribune, pp. 1, 7).
The three passages are:
“You must not spend your lives in vain and regret it for ten thousand years to come.” (“The Problem to Be Pondered Night and Day,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 622)
“Life is limited; we must not begrudge it. What we should ultimately aspire to is the Buddha land.” (“Aspiration for the Buddha Land,” WND-1, 214)
“Could there ever be a more wonderful story [in all future time] than your own?” (“Letter to the Brothers,” WND-1, 499)