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April 28—The Dawn of a Religion for All Humanity 

Motivated by his unwavering compassion and commitment to eradicate suffering, Nichiren establishes the teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Photo by MarinaZakharova / Getty Images.

April 28, 1253. In an age of degeneracy, anguish plagued people’s hearts, and the Buddha’s teachings all but lost their power of salvation. This date, however, marked a new dawn, for out from the shadows arose the Buddhism of the Sun.

Nichiren Daishonin declared the essence of Buddhism and the Law of all life: Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Ikeda Sensei writes:

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the fundamental path that enables the people of the Latter Day to bring forth their Buddha nature. In the sense that it was Nichiren Daishonin who opened this path, it could be said that he founded the “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo school of Buddhism.” His teaching, however, goes beyond the narrow margins of a single school, in that its doors are open to all people everywhere. In other words, the Daishonin introduced a religion for humanity itself.[1]

As we approach the 771st anniversary of the establishment of Nichiren Buddhism this month, the World Tribune explores this significant date and what it means to carry on Nichiren’s spirit today.

Nichiren Daishonin was born on Feb. 16, 1222, in a humble coastal village in present-day Chiba Prefecture, Japan. The Daishonin later expressed pride in his origins, noting that while many priests of the established Buddhist schools of his day came from prestigious backgrounds, he was born into a family of fishermen—the lowest class in society—and among the common people.

Around this time, Japan was fraught with natural disasters and turmoil in society. The nation was gripped in an ongoing power struggle between the shogunate military forces and the imperial family; prolonged droughts gave rise to famine; a strong typhoon devasted the city of Kamakura; and instability fueled further social disorder.

Witnessing this turmoil and the people’s suffering, Nichiren, at 12, vowed “to become the wisest person in Japan,”[2]searching for answers within Buddhist sutras. At age 16, he entered the priesthood at Seicho-ji temple desiring to solve problems and suffering associated with birth and death. He intended to repay the profound gratitude he owed to his parents, teacher and country by leading them all to enlightenment.

Through his devoted efforts, he eventually gained wisdom “as brilliant as the morning star.”[3] Sensei explains:

Nichiren Daishonin had attained the wisdom of the Mystic Law. Armed with the great desire to fundamentally lead all people to enlightenment, he fervently sought the way and thus awakened to this wisdom. …

It means that he suddenly became aware of the intrinsic nature of his own life; he revealed the Buddha nature inherent in the life of an ordinary person. …

Nichiren received the “jewel of wisdom” because of his deep and earnest prayer to somehow lead people to enlightenment. The key is that he didn’t regard this gift as his final destination; he took it as his departure point to further seek the way. …

His vow was to become the wisest person in Japan so that he could enable those to whom he was indebted to realize true happiness. As he studied, his vow deepened into the desire to bring happiness to all people of the Latter Day. This became his great wish for kosen-rufu, which led him to declare the establishment of his teaching.[4]

Nichiren pursued what was taught in the Buddhist sutras rather than following other priests’ interpretations. But recognizing the limits of studying in an outlying province, he journeyed to centers of Buddhist learning in Kamakura, Kyoto and elsewhere to deepen his understanding.

As he thoroughly researched numerous Buddhist sutras, he confirmed that the Lotus Sutra correctly revealed the true nature of Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment. He further discerned that this Lotus Sutra and its title elucidated the essential Law that permeates all life and the universe—Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. 

The Daishonin learned that people had turned their backs on the correct teaching, and the leading priests of various schools who misinterpreted the Buddhist teachings were at fault for leading them astray. If he spoke about this openly, he would naturally become the target of many people’s wrath. He deeply pondered whether to speak out or remain silent.

The Buddha warned of the difficulty of embracing and propagating the Lotus Sutra after his death. But to carry on the Buddha’s wish to enable all people to achieve enlightenment, Nichiren stood up decisively, writing, “Nevertheless, I vowed to summon up a powerful and unconquerable desire for the salvation of all beings and never to falter in my efforts.”[5] Sensei elaborates:

Nichiren knew that only by resolutely winning in this struggle would Buddhism begin to spread. The same was true of Shakyamuni—if he spoke out, he would face great persecution. If he didn’t, he would lack compassion.

The sutras are clear that one must speak out in order to lead people to enlightenment. This is what Nichiren based his vow on, resolving that once he had spoken out, he would never retreat, no matter how severe the persecutions. It was as if he had set sail alone into a raging storm. But he had to go. He had to rescue the people whose ship had been wrecked by the tumultuous seas of society.

A “great ship” is therefore crucial to our endeavor; in other words, we must base ourselves on a great vow. This vow is found in the determination to win in the struggle against the devilish functions. And this determination must be the departure point.[6]

On April 28, 1253, the time had come for the Daishonin, who had returned to Seicho-ji, to explain his teaching to the priests there.

On that occasion, he revealed Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the heart and essence of Buddhism. He also criticized prominent Nembutsu priest Honen, admonishing his erroneous teachings that fundamentally disempowered people. 

From then on, he began using the name Nichiren, explaining: “The Lotus Sutra is the sun and moon and the lotus flower. Therefore it is called the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law. Nichiren, too, is like the sun and moon and the lotus flower.”[7]

Despite storms of persecution that immediately followed the establishment of his teaching, he did not retreat a single step. He held great pride in encountering hardships precisely as the sutras had predicted would assail a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra.

Today: Continuing Nichiren’s Legacy for All Humankind

By establishing his teaching, Nichiren declared his wish to bring happiness to all people of the Latter Day. Therefore, always looking toward the future and leading people to happiness are at the heart of his teachings.

For us, what does April 28 signify? Sensei writes:

The best way to celebrate this auspicious anniversary is to be filled with the spirit to work for kosen-rufu and brim with hope for the future. This is the spirit of SGI members.[8]

The best way to celebrate this auspicious anniversary is to be filled with the spirit to work for kosen-rufu and brim with hope for the future. This is the spirit of SGI members.8

There is no doubt that today’s worldwide spread of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is due to the painstaking efforts of the three founding Soka Gakkai presidents and SGI members who pioneered the kosen-rufu movement around the world. The goal or motivation has never simply been to expand a “religion.” Instead, the continued growth and expansion of Nichiren Buddhism is anchored in the spirit to return again and again to the shared vow to lead all people everywhere to happiness.

While reaffirming our vow again this April 28 and deeply appreciating Nichiren’s courageous efforts, let’s set forth afresh in our places of mission toward 2030 with the conviction that what we do today determines the future. When we each courageously share Buddhism with one person and teach them about the practice to the best of our ability, we will collectively produce numberless multitudes of fellow Bodhi-
sattvas of the Earth who can and will build a realm of true human harmony.

—Prepared by the World Tribune staff 

April 19, 2024, World Tribune, pp. 6–7


  1. The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings, vol. 1, p. 47. ↩︎
  2. “Letter to the Priests of Seicho-ji,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 650. ↩︎
  3. Ibid. ↩︎
  4. January 2023 Living Buddhism, p. 27. ↩︎
  5. “The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 240. ↩︎
  6. The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings, vol. 1, p. 40. ↩︎
  7. “Easy Delivery of a Fortune Child,” WND-1, 186. ↩︎
  8. The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings, vol. 1, p. 38. ↩︎

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