Nichiren Shōshū

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Symbol of Nichiren Shoshu
Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism
Head Temple Taisekiji Sohonzan
Taisekiji Head Temple, Fujinomiya, Japan
Classification Nichiren Buddhism
Scripture Lotus Sutra
Gosho writings of Nichiren
Theology Hokke Buddhism
Polity Hokkeko
High Priest Nichinyo Shonin
Buddhist temple 732
Liturgy Liturgy of Nichiren Shoshu
Headquarters Base of Mount Fuji
Founder Nichiren Daishonin
Nikko Shonin
Origin 1290
Minobu, Yamanashi, later transferred to Taisekiji
Members 628,000 active registered Hokkeko members (2017)
Official website Nichiren Shoshu Website

Nichiren Shōshū (日蓮正宗 English: Orthodox School of Nichiren) is a branch of Nichiren Buddhism based on the teachings of the 13th-century Japanese Buddhist priest Nichiren Daishonin (1222–1282). Nichiren Shōshū claims Nichiren as its founder through his disciple Nikkō Shonin (1246–1333), the founder of the school's Head Temple Taiseki-ji, located at the base of Mount Fuji. It has adherents throughout the world, with the largest concentrations in Japan,[1] Taiwan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Ghana, the Philippines, Europe, and North, Central, and South America, while the Myohoji Temple located in Los Angeles serves as its main headquarters within the United States. Its vowed lay members are called the Hokkeko (法華講衆).[citation needed]

The main object of worship and veneration by its believers is the Dai Gohonzon, presently enshrined in Hoando building located in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture while the official logo used is the round crane (Japanese: Tsuru-no-Maru). Both its leadership and faithful ascribes a uniquely honorific title to Nichiren, as the Dai-Shonin (Great Teacher) while maintaining that the sole legitimate successor to both his ministry and legacy is Nikko Shonin alone and his successive high priests. Both male and female priesthood exists in Nichiren Shoshu.[citation needed]

Nichiren Shōshū formerly chartered Soka Gakkai and Soka Gakkai International (SGI) as one of its lay organizations which it consequently excommunicated (Japanese: Hamon literally: Expelled) on 28 November 1991 in a public schism due to doctrinal dispute over the role of future modern Nichiren Buddhism and the traditionalist roles of the priesthood as sole custodians and arbiters of Buddhist doctrine along with its strong emphasis on Buddhist piety and religiosity.[citation needed] The current 68th high priest of the temple priesthood is Nichínyo Shonin.[citation needed]


Early alleged photograph of the Dai-Gohonzon at Taiseki-ji, printed in historian Kumada Ijō's book Nichiren Shōnin, 8th edition, page 375, published in 1913.

Nichiren Shōshū is a school rooted in Mahayana Buddhism. Its head temple, the Taiseki-ji, is located on the lower slopes of Mount Fuji in Japan. Taiseki-ji is visited regularly by Nichiren Shōshū believers from around the world who come to chant to the Dai Gohonzon, which was described by Nichiren as "the essence of my Buddahood written in Sumi Ink".[citation needed] Unlike other Mahayana Buddhist practices, Nichiren expounded the Lotus Sutra and chanting Nam-myōhō-renge-kyō as a way for anyone to obtain Enlightenment regardless of one's position in life, condition of circumstances, gender and occupational role as well as not necessarily waiting to be reincarnated into another future existence.[citation needed]

Nichiren Shōshū has over 700 local temples and temple-like facilities in Japan.[citation needed] Additionally, there are 22 overseas temples - six in the United States (West Hollywood,[2] Pinole,[3] West Chicago,[4] Silver Spring,[5] Queens[6] and Kaneohe[7]), Canada (Vancouver), Panama (Panama City), nine in Taiwan (Taipei,[8] Sanchong,[9] Taoyuan,[10] Yilan City,[11] Ji'an,[12] Toufen,[13] West,[14] Puxin[15] and Siaogang[16]), two in Indonesia (Jakarta and Bogor) - as well as temples in Brazil (São Paulo), France (Paris), Ghana (Accra), Singapore, the Philippines (Quezon City) and Spain (Madrid and Tenerife). There are 10 propagation centers - two propagation centers in South Korea (Seoul and Busan) as well as others in Argentina (Buenos Aires), Brazil (Rio de Janeiro), Hong Kong, Malaysia (Klang), and Taiwan.[17][18] In 2002 Nichiren Shōshū had approximately 350,000 believers in Japan and approximately 200,000 in other countries. In 2014, the temple launched a propagation effort towards 800,000 members in honor of the 800th anniversary of Nichiren for the year 2021.

Nichiren Shōshū claims a direct lineage of successive High Priests from Nikkō called "Yuijo Ichinen Kechimyaku Sojo" who they believe was chosen by Nichiren to carry on the propagation of his Buddhist practice in the Latter Day of the Law, which is a focus that distinguishes the Nichiren school in general.[citation needed] This direct transmission of the Law is set forth in the following Nichiren documents:

  1. The Law that Nichiren Propagated throughout His Life (Nichiren ichi-go guho fu-zo-ku-sho)
  2. The Ikegami Transfer Document (Minobu-San-Fu-Zo-Ku-sho)[19][full citation needed]
  3. The 106 Articles of Nichiren Shōshū (Hya-Ku-Rokka-Sho)[20][full citation needed]

Nichiren Shōshū is currently led by the Sixty-Eighth High Priest, Nichinyo Shōnin (1935–).[citation needed] Nichiren Shōshū priests distinguish themselves from those of most other schools by wearing only white and grey vestment robes and a white surplice, as they believe Nichiren did. The colour of the robes symbolises the way that the lotus flower grows straight and true through the mud. Since the Meiji period, Nichiren Shōshū priests, like other Japanese Buddhist sects, have been permitted to marry.[citation needed]


Lay believers are organized in temple-based congregations known as Hokkekō groups, designed to encourage solidarity among fellow members to study the Nichiren Shoshu doctrines and plan one's Tozan pilgrimage to the head temple in Japan. Most attend services at a local temple or in private homes when no temple is nearby. Services are usually officiated by a priest, but lay leaders sometimes fill in when no priest is available. When they gather, believers frequently study Nichiren Shōshū teachings, particularly the various writings of Nichiren, called Gosho. A leader in a local group or district is called Koto while a widely held position on a grander scale was once called So-Koto, now expired and no longer used.[citation needed]. The present Dai-Koto of the Hokkeko Federation is Koichiro Hoshino.


The circular crane bird, used as the official logo of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism.

The official symbol of Nichiren Shōshū is the crane bird (Tsuru).[citation needed] More specifically the posture of the crane is in a circular position (Tsuru-no-Maru). The crane, being a longstanding symbol of prowess and longevity is attributed to Nichiren Daishonin, who is viewed as a Buddha for the latter age.[citation needed] Pious beliefs also recount the pairing of two cranes, one having an open beak while the other closed, symbolically representing the "Master and Disciple" relationship. Another notable meaning often used is the phrase "Yui Butsu Yo Butsu Nai No Kujin" which references the 2nd chapter of the Lotus Sutra, emphasizing that Buddhahood and the true nature of all phenomena can only be fully understood between already enlightened beings.[citation needed] Pious legends attribute that Nichiren took on this crest after seeing cranes take flight sometime after the Atsuhara persecution.

Formerly, Nichiren used the Mandarin Tachibana Orange flower as his crest which he inherited from his ancestral parents. After the Atsuhara persecution, he adopted the Japanese Tsuru crane bird which Nikko Shonin also adopted on when he left Mount Minobu and moved to Taisekiji Sohonzan. Another symbol is the eight wheel of Noble Eightfold Path called Rimbo (Treasure Ring) used by all Buddhist sects, as well as the tortoise crest for Nikko Shonin, who is considered by the school to be the sole and legitimate successor to Nichiren. The pine, plum and bamboo combination crest is also present in the temple altars, representing Nichimoku Shonin.[citation needed]

Buddhist doctrines[edit]

Goryeo-Illustrated manuscript of the Lotus Sutra from Gwangdeoksa temple in Chenan, Korea
An example of Buddhist prayer Juzu beads

Much of Nichiren Shōshū's underlying teachings are extensions of Tendai (天台, Chinese: Tiantai; Korean: Cheontae) thought. They include much of its worldview and its rationale for criticism of Buddhist schools that do not acknowledge the Lotus Sutra to be Buddhism's highest teaching which they believe was stated by Buddha Shakyamuni.

Nichiren Shōshū doctrine extends Tendai's classification of the Buddhist sutras into five time periods and eight categories (五時八教: goji-hakkyō), its theory of 3,000 interpenetrating realms within a single life-moment (一念三千: Ichinen Sanzen), and its view of the Three Truths (三諦: Santai). In addition, the school holds that in revealing and propagating his teachings, Nichiren was fulfilling a prophecy made by the Buddha Shakyamuni (Siddhartha Gautama; 563?–483? BC) in the 21st chapter of the Lotus Sutra which states the following:

"Like the rays of the sun and the moon that dispel the darkness of phenomena, this person will practice in the world, dispel the darkness of all humanity and lead immeasurable numbers of bodhisattvas to finally attain the one vehicle."[21][full citation needed][22]"

  1. (Namu Butsu) Nichiren Shōshū teaches that Nichiren Daishōnin is the True Buddha of the modern age[21] corresponding to the present Buddhist age and on for eternity—for this reason by referring to him as Nichiren Daishōnin ("Great Sage Nichiren").
  2. (Namu Ho) The Dharma, or Mystic Law (Myōhō: mystic in the sense of profound, sublime, or unfathomable), is the True Buddha's ultimate teaching, crystallized in Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō.
  3. (Namu So) The Sangha refers to the collective of Nichiren Shōshū priests who serve to protect and preserve the doctrines and dogma of Nichiren Shōshū.

The Three Great Secret Laws[edit]

According to the doctrinal beliefs of Nichiren Shoshu, Nichiren Daishonin instituted the mastery of three "Primary Disciplines" namely the following:

  1. Precepts - designed to help practitioners replace the negative causes that they tend to make with positives ones.
  2. Meditation - designed to tranquil and focus the mind towards purity.
  3. Wisdom - designed to discern the causes of negative passions and desires and embody the Buddhist universal truth.

Ultimately, Nichiren Shoshu teaches that Nichiren Daishonin revealed the Three Great Secret Laws namely the following:[23]

  1. The Dai-Gohonzon as the Supreme Object of Worship, sourcing to the vow of Precepts.
  2. The Dai-moku of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo as the Supreme Invocation, sourcing to its Meditational practice.
  3. The Dai-Sekiji no Honmon Kaidan (Tai-sekiji) as the Platform of the High Sanctuary of Essential Teaching, sourcing to its authoritative office of Wisdom.

Daily practice[edit]

Nichiren Shōshū teaches that personal enlightenment can be achieved in one's present form and lifetime (即身成仏 sokushin jōbutsu). Chanting Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō is central to their practice. Only by chanting Nam-myōhō-renge-kyō to the Gohonzon is a person believed to change, or expiate, bad karma and achieve enlightenment. In this process, the individual chooses to lead others to an enlightened state of being.[citation needed]

Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō is called the Daimoku (題目: "the prayer of the Nichiren sect"[24]), since it comprises Nam and the Japanese title of the Lotus Sutra, Myōhō-Renge-Kyō. It can be understood as a sort of invocation meaning "I submit myself (or "dedicate, commit my life") to the Mystic Law containing the Cause and Effect of the enlightenment of all Buddhas." The believer's practice (gyōriki: power of practice) and faith (shinriki: power of faith) are believed to call forth the power of the Buddha (butsuriki) and the power of the Dharma (Law) inherent in the Gohonzon (hōriki). This practice and faith are thought to expiate the believer's "negative karma", and bring forth a higher life condition.[citation needed]

The daily practice of Nichiren Shōshū believers consists of affirming and renewing their faith by performing gongyō twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening. Gongyō entails chanting a portion of Chapter 2 (Expedient Means) and all of Chapter 16 (Life Span of the Thus Come One) of the Lotus Sutra and chanting Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō to the Gohonzon, while focusing on the Chinese character 妙 [J. myō] (Eng. Mystic; Wonderful), the second character of the Daimoku.[citation needed]

Morning gongyō consists of a series of five sutra recitations followed by silently recited, prescribed prayers. Evening gongyō encompasses only three sutra recitations and the second, third, and fifth of the same silent prayers. This practice, particularly when shared with others, is regarded as the "true cause" for attaining enlightenment. A rin copper bell is used to announce prayers for the Buddhist protection gods of Shoten Zenjin as well as to announce the dead relatives prayed for during Gongyo services.[citation needed]

The logic behind this is that through thoughts, words, and deeds, every being creates causes, and every cause is to have an effect. Good causes produce positive effects; bad causes, negative ones (see karma). This law of causality is the universal principle underlying all visible and invisible phenomena and events in one's physical and spiritual daily life. Nichiren Shōshū believers strive to elevate their "life condition" by acting in accordance with this law in their day-to-day lives and by sharing their faith and practice with others, believing their Buddhist practice to be the ultimate good cause for effecting changes in life and attaining enlightenment, and achieving peace in the world.[citation needed]

The Dai-Gohonzon[edit]

The Dai Gohonzon (Formally: Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of Essential Teachings) is a calligraphic mandala inscribed with Sanskrit and Chinese characters on a plank of Japanese camphorwood and the supreme object of veneration for the Shōshū school. The Shōshū school claims that Nichiren inscribed it on 12 October 1279 (Japanese: Koan).[citation needed]

The religious importance of this item is that it proclaims the ninpō-ikka or "unity of the Person and the Buddhist Law" and the Dai Gohonzon is revered as the personification of Nichiren himself. Every Nichiren Shōshū temple and household possesses a gohonzon that is a transcription of the Dai Gohonzon.[citation needed]

The Dai Gohonzon is enshrined at the Hoando building within the Taiseki-ji Grand Main Temple complex grounds at the foot of Mount Fuji, which is the headquarters of the Shōshū school. The image was previously enshrined in the Shohondo modern-style building at exactly the same site, which was ultimately destroyed in 1998, replacing a more traditional style building.[citation needed]

The Nichiren Shōshū faithful are not daily exposed to view the Dai-Gohonzon except on major events held as holidays by the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, who remain as both owners and custodians until today. Accordingly, the temple priesthood will only expose the image for constant public veneration once Kosen-rufu is achieved, maintaining the beliefs of Nichiren Shōshū as the primal religion in the world. Contrary to most Gohonzons, It is not enshrined with Skimmia Japanese evergreen leaves, only brass Lotus flowers plated in 24karat gold. The image is approximately the size of a modern wooden door, with wider sides and is made in black glossy finish, styled with golden calligraphy.[citation needed]

As Supreme object of main worship[edit]

Fenghuangs on the Taiseki-ji main entrance of the Dai-Gohonzon sanctuary.

Transcriptions of the Dai Gohonzon, made by successive High Priests of Nichiren Shōshū, are called gohonzon[25] (go, honorific prefix indicating respect). Most gohonzons in temples are wood tablets in which the inscription is carved; the tablets are coated with black urushi and have gilded characters. Gohonzons enshrined in temples and other similar facilities are personally inscribed by one of the successive High Priests.[citation needed]

In Nichiren Shoshu, the second recitation of the Lotus Sutra is offered and dedicated in honor of the Dai-Gohonzon. Out of the five authorised prayers by Nichiren Shoshu, the second silent prayer is considered the most auspicious and most significant.[citation needed]

"I (name), express my sincere devotion to the Dai Gohonzon—the Soul of the Juryo Chapter of the Essential Teachings and the Supreme Law concealed within its depths, the fusion of the Realm of Original Infinite Law and the inherent Wisdom within the Buddha of Kuon Ganjo, the manifestation of the Buddha of Intrinsic Perfect Wisdom—the Eternal Co–existence of the Ten Worlds, the entity of Ichi-nen-San-Zen, the Oneness of the Person and the Mystic Law, and the Supreme Object of Worship of the Most High Sanctuary. I also express my deep and heartfelt gratitude for its Beneficence, and pray that it's profound Benevolent Power may ever more widely prevail. " (Dai-Moku San-Sho 3x times. )[citation needed]

Individual believers may make a request to receive a personal gohonzon to their local temple Chief priest. These gohonzons are facsimiles printed on paper and presented as a small scroll, measuring approximately 7” x 15” inches. The local chief priest sends all requests to the Head Temple. As these requests are granted, gohonzons are then delivered to the recipient’s local priest and he bestows them on the individual members. In this ritual, the recipient vows to sincerely believe in Nichiren's teachings and to practice and uphold the gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws.[citation needed]

Religious practices[edit]

Offerings of fruit on a Butsudan altar

Buddhist piety and religiosity is a highly held virtue in Nichiren Shōshū Buddhism. Visitors who enter the temple may consider becoming a member by accepting the Gojukai ceremony which the lay believer accepts the precepts of Nichiren Shōshū and vow to defend and venerate the Dai-Gohonzon in their present existence and future existences if reincarnated once again. Nichiren Shoshu claims this tradition from the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra dedicated to the goddess Kannon, where the Shakyamuni Buddha passes his vow to the Jogyo Bodhisattva and his "infinite followers" all the merits of the Seven Jewels of the Treasure Tower.[citation needed]

For former members which have not been active, they are allowed to receive the Kankai or reaffirmation vows. Special Gokuyo or monetary offering is suggested depending on religious services such as the following:

  • Gojukai ceremony for new members
  • Kankai-kishi ceremony for former members
  • Gohonzon approval (dependent on Priestly discretion)
  • Kantoku ceremony for transfering ownership of an an heirloom Gohonzon to a practicing descendant
  • Toba (Stupa) memorials for the dead relatives, friends and pets
  • Ushi-Tora Gongyo (2:30 AM) at the Kyakuden (English: Reception Hall).
  • Eye opening ceremony for Buddhist religious articles
  • Inscription for Kakocho memorial / ancestral book for the home altar
  • General offerings / Thanksgiving
  • Gokaihi ceremony at the Hoando, donation for the prayers and maintenance of the Dai-Gohonzon

Donations to a Nichiren Shōshū temple is highly regarded as a personal issue and is therefore always contained in small white envelopes labeled Gokuyo offering with a checklist that labels the purpose of ones donation. In addition, monetary donations from non-members is also trivialized and strongly prohibited.[26]

The difference between a Nichiren Shōshū gohonzon granted to lay believers by the Priesthood and all other types is that they are the only ones specifically sanctioned and issued by Nichiren Shōshū. The following Gohonzons are issued if deemed worthy of the lay believer upon application:

  • Joju type, a carved wooden platform with a special inscription that is reserved for grand temples and buildings
  • Regular sized Okatagi, or woodblock type commonly issued to practicing members
  • Grand size Okatagi Tokubetsu, following the 10th year anniversary of a practicing member
  • Omamori or pocket sized, issued to highly commended practitioners

Regardless of their type, all gohonzons issued by Nichiren Shōshū have been consecrated by one of the successive High Priests in a ceremony conducted in the Hoando building of Taisekiji temple. It is believed that this ceremony endows a gohonzon with the same enlightened property of the Dai Gohonzon, thus giving it the same power. Upon death, the gohonzon must be returned to a Nichiren Shōshū temple. Unauthorized reproduction or photography of the gohonzon is prohibited to believers.[citation needed]

Regarding Honzon scrolls used by Soka Gakkai, the temple requires that former SGI members return their Honzon back to their former organization before becoming a full pledge member, since they deem the image a counterfeit copy that brings no auspicious benefits nor sanction from the high temple.[citation needed]

Juzu or Buddhist prayer beads may be used in various bead colors and material providing that they are in the 5 structure used by Nichiren Shōshū, while the cords and dangling Pom-Pom ornaments are strictly in white color. The long tasseled Juzu beads are reserved for priests, who use them to officiate special ritualized blessings which have also come to represent their primary role in priestly service. Juzu sold at the temple bookstore are automatically shipped every week from Tozan pilgrimages from Japan and have automatically received the Eye-Opening ritual ceremony. Members who choose to purchase Juzu outside of the temple may still use them providing that they have received the Eye-opening ceremony performed by ones local priest. The rubbing of Juzu prayer beads is prohibited during both Gongyo and Shodai services.[citation needed]

No statues or other religious images are used or allowed in an altar of a Nichiren Shōshū believer, while photographs of relatives and friends are also discouraged from the main altar as they form possible distraction during Gongyo prayers. Instead, a Kakocho memorial booklet is granted to a member by the Nichiren Shōshū temple priest that is held by a paperweight commonly inscribed with the names of alive or deceased relatives being prayed for. Only a Nichiren Shōshū priest may inscribe names within the book, and members are required to provide both the anniversary death and birth to the temple for further remembrances.[citation needed]

Religious pilgrimages are referred to as Tozan where a lay believer makes an offering to a "Temple Stay" which includes food, board and lodging for a consecutive amount of days in the Taisekiji temple. A group Tozan pilgrimage is less costly than a personal pilgrimage, where the lay believer will shoulder all the cost. Members get to tour the Taisekiji temple grounds and if permitting be able to witness the Dai Gohonzon or the various ceremonies carried throughout the calendar. The visitation, but not participation of services of other Nichiren Shu historical temples is also permitted, especially for pious purposes in wanting to see the historical artifacts related to Nichiren which many are held under the custody of the Nichiren Shu sect.[citation needed]

Personal gohonzons are enshrined in a Butsudan altar. Not all Butsudan shrines are required to have doors, but a white cloth is required to cover an open Butsudan if not being used. Home altars generally include a candle, a rin copper bell, incense, a vessel containing water and an offering of fresh evergreens and fruit, sometimes wine or cooked rice depending on special occasions. Food offerings are allowed to be consumed by lay believers. The most popular offerings left by lay believers in Nichiren Shōshū high altars are various fruits and sacks of rice.[citation needed]

List of High Priests of Nichiren Shōshū[edit]

Nichiren calms a storm in Kakuda bay.
List of High Priests of Nichiren Shoshu
High Priest Date of Death
Nichiren Dai-Shonin 13 October 1282
Nikko Shonin 7 February 1333
Nichimoku Shonin 15 November 1333
Nichido Shonin 26 February 1341
Nichigyo Shonin 13 August 1369
Nichiji Shonin 4 June 1406
Nichi a Shonin 10 March 1407
Nichi-ei Shonin 4 August 1419
Nichiu Shonin 29 September 1482
Nichijo Shonin 20 November 1472
Nittei Shonin 7 April 1472
Nitchin Shonin 24 June 1527
Nichi-in Shonin 6 July 1589
Nisshu Shonin 17 August 1617
Nissho Shonin 7 April 1622
Nichiju Shonin 21 February 1632
Nissei Shonin 5 November 1638
Nichi-ei Shonin 7 March 1683
Nisshun Shonin 12 November 1669
Nitten Shonin 21 September 1686
Nichinin Shonin 4 September 1680
Nisshun Shonin 29 October 1691
Nikkei Shonin 14 November 1707
Nichi-ei Shonin 24 February 1715
Nichiyu Shonin 28 December 1729
Nichikan Shonin 19 August 1726
Nichiyo Shonin 4 June 1723
Nissho Shonin 25 August 1734
Nitto Shonin 1 December 1737
Nitchu Shonin 11 October 1743
Nichi-in Shonin 14 June 1769
Nikkyo Shonin 12 August 1757
Nichigen Shonin 26 February 1778
Nisshin Shonin 26 July 1765
Nichi-on Shonin 3 July 1774
Nikken Shonin 3 October 1791
Nippo Shonin 26 May 1803
Nittai Shonin 20 February 1785
Nichijun Shonin 30 July 1801
Nichinin Shonin 25 August 1795
Nichimon Shonin 14 August 1796
Nichigon Shonin 11 July 1797
Nisso Shonin 3 December 1805
Nissen Shonin 7 January 1822
Nichirei Shonin 8 May 1808
Nitcho Shonin 27 January 1817
Nisshu Shonin 22 September 1816
Nichiryo Shonin 29 May 1851
Nisso Shonin 8 May 1830
Nichijo Shonin 1 May 1836
Nichi-ei Shonin 9 July 1877
Nichiden Shonin 24 June 1890
Nichijo Shonin 25 June 1892
Nichi-in Shonin 2 June 1880
Nippu Shonin 4 March 1919
Nichi-o Shonin 15 June 1922
Nissho Shonin Unrecorded
Nitchu Shonin 18 August 1923
Nichiko Shonin 23 November 1957
Nichikai Shonin 21 November 1943
Nichiryu Shonin 24 March 1947
Nikkyo Shonin 17 June 1945
Nichiman Shonin 7 January 1951
Nissho Shonin 14 October 1957
Nichijun Shonin 17 November 1959
Nittatsu Shonin 22 July 1979
Nikken Shonin (Living, Retired)
Nichinyo Shonin Current High Priest (Incumbent)

  • The dates denote the date of death of each high priest.

Offshoot lay groups[edit]

In chronological order, the following groups were once associated with Nichiren Shoshu:

The Ken-shokai (True Revival Group)[edit]

In 1974, a lay group called Myōshinkō from the Myoenji temple in Yanaka, Tokyo was expelled by High Priest Nittatsu Hosoi from Nichiren Shōshū after holding a public protest against Soka Gakkai for claiming that the Shohondo building as the true and permanent sanctuary of the Dai Gohonzon as mandated by Nichiren Daishonin, even without the conversion of Emperor Showa.[27] The Soka Gakkai in response asserted that the permanent sanctuary can be built even without the conversion of the Emperor of Japan. The group later changed its name to Fuji Taisekiji Kenshōkai (English: Revival True Group). The group is highly devoted to the Dai Gohonzon enshrined at Taisekiji even without the support or affiliation of Nichiren Shōshū. Kenshōkai is oftentimes described as one of the fastest growing denominations of Buddhism in Japan.[28] Some Kenshokai members are also members of the Hokkeko Rengai Federation and are permitted access to enter the Head Temple Taisekiji and see the Dai Gohonzon.

The Sho-shinkai (Correct Faith Group)[edit]

In 1980, a group of Nichiren Shōshū priests and supporters called Shōshinkai (English: Correct Faith Group) were expelled from Shōshū for questioning the legitimacy of the new head abbot Nikken and for criticising Soka Gakkai's influence on temple affairs. At the time, Soka Gakkai supported Nikken's claim as the rightful successor of Nittatsu Hosoi as high priest. Shōshinkai continues to refer to itself as the true Nichiren Shōshū. In later years, the Shoshinkai sect would be famed for founding a dissident association of Nichiren Shoshu priests seeking reformation and for transcribing their own creative version of Gohonzon, as opposed to taking a transcribed copy from one of the lineage of Nichiren Shōshū high priests.[29][30]

The Soka Gakkai (Value Making Group)[edit]

After the Second World War, under the leadership of president Jōsei Toda, Sōka Gakkai (English: Value Making Group) emerged as a lay organization affiliated in one of the temples located in the Taiseki-ji land complex. The lay organization was based on the teachings of Nichiren Shōshū. Later development between the two organizations, however, revealed a sequence of doctrinal conflicts.[citation needed]

As early as the 1970s, propositions of formal split had begun between Nichiren Shōshū and Soka Gakkai. On 10 May 1974 Hiroshi Hojo, the Vice-President of Soka Gakkai, submitted a written report to Daisaku Ikeda proposing a schism to Nichiren Shōshū, specifically expressing the verbatim example of "Protestants and Roman Catholics" as "differences".[31] In response, High Priest Nittatsu Hosoi refused the proposal to create a board committee that would overlook temple affairs and its bookeeping practices, while mentioning his gratitude for the construction of the Shohondo building. Furthermore, Nittatsu acknowledged the possibility of the split, and specifically threatened to place the Dai-Gohonzon back into the Nichiren Shōshū treasury building (御宝蔵: Gohōzō) where only a select few faithful would be able to venerate the image. The climax which ultimately led to the resignation of third president Daisaku Ikeda in 1979 from his post as Sokoto or lay leader went hand in hand with the formal excommunication by High Priest Nikken further escalated the public schism.[32]

The second president of Soka Gakkai, Josei Toda allegedly declared the following to the High Priest Nichijun Shonin in the re-construction of Myoden-ji Temple:[33]

If, in the future, having grown larger, the Soka Kyuiku Gakkai should exert pressure on the Priesthood or interfere in its internal affairs, please, at any time, order the Gakkai to disband.

— Lectures by Josei Toda, 10 August 1956, Myodenji Temple, Okayama Prefecture, Japan.[33]

These and other conflicts based on the traditionalist role of Nichiren Shōshū priests resulted in a complete and formal disassociation of the two sides after Nichiren Shōshū excommunicated the leaders of the Sōka Gakkai and stripped it of its status as a lay organization of Nichiren Shōshū in 1991. Ultimately, Daisaku Ikeda was excommunicated as his role of Sokoto or lay leader by High Priest Nikken, while the formal decree of excommunication invalidated the tax exempt status of Soka Gakkai under Japanese law due to its lack of temple affiliation.[34][35]

Within the following months on 20 June 1974, Ikeda would attempt to file copyright patents for the prayer Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, which was officially denied support by the Tokyo local court on 20 May 1977.[36] Further causes of conflict came when the temple priesthood began to notice the construction of Community Centers instead of funding construction of new Nichiren Shōshū temples. On 30 September 1997, Nichiren Shōshū finally excommunicated all remaining SGI members in order to preserve their doctrinal tenets from further dismantlement which Soka Gakkai insisted via public rebellion through its local meetings.[37]

Third party observers regard the dispute as being a process as where after the "schism with Nichiren Shōshū, the Aum Shinrikyo assassination attempts on Ikeda, and the coordinated attack on Ikeda by opponents in politics and the media amplified a sense within Soka Gakkai that the organization’s loyal Ikeda disciples stood as a righteous few embattled in an increasingly hostile world. Beginning in the 1970s, Soka Gakkai began a decisive transformation from an organization run by Ikeda to a group dedicated to Ikeda, and the events of the early and mid 1990s only served to focus the group even more intently on its Honorary President". [38]:69

The modern Shohondo building which previously housed the Dai Gohonzon was ultimately demolished, being replaced by a traditional style Hoando on 14 June 1998. Primary reason was the discontent of the Temple priests to have any reminder of memorial owing to the Soka Gakkai funds, though the building was also funded by Nichiren Shōshū members, Kempon Hokke Shu members, and relatives of Temple priesthood.[39][full citation needed]

Further installation of a bas-relief of a man and woman reclining half-naked on the left side of main altar below the Dai Gohonzon platform further aggravated the sentiment as sacrilegious.[40] Furthermore, the latent discovery of ocean sand mixed in the mortar of the building by Kempon Hokke engineers revealed rust on the pillars and risking danger to the safety of the Dai-Gohonzon, which prompted immediate measures to rehouse the ancient venerated relic.[41][full citation needed][42][full citation needed]

Another significant dispute which arose between Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai were the several woodcarved gohonzons utilized by Ikeda in their own headquarters. Ikeda justified his decision to transcribe the gohonzons into wooden platforms due to the aging of the paper material of the original gohonzons, allegedly claiming that they were authorised by High Priest Nittatsu Shonin. The earliest gohonzon transcribed into wooden platform without permission was enshrined at the seventh floor of the Soka Gakkai building at Shinjuku, Tokyo in December 1973.[43] In later years, the following gohonzon's transcribed into wood platform were:[44]

List of paper Gohonzons transcribed by Soka Gakkai into wood[44]
Designated Location Date of Gohonzon Authorising High Priest Status
Soka Gakkai Tokyo Headquarters 19 May 1951 64th H.P. Nissho Shonin Granted
Kansai Headquarters 13 December 1955 64th H.P. Nissho Shonin Confiscated
The European Headquarters 13 December 1964 66th H.P. Nittatsu Shonin Confiscated
Soka Gakkai "Bunka" Hall 15 June 1967 66th H.P. Nittatsu Shonin Confiscated
The Presidential Room 1 May 1967 66th H.P. Nittatsu Shonin Confiscated
The American Headquarters 29 June 1968 66th H.P. Nittatsu Shonin Confiscated
The Omamori Gohonzon of Daisaku Ikeda 3 May 1951 64th H.P. Nissho Shonin Confiscated

Upon the widespread discovery of the woodcarved platforms, Nittatsu denied giving permission to the reproductions, resulting in Soka Gakkai apologizing publicly and ultimately confiscated all the Gohonzons except for one Gohonzon transcribed by Nissho Shonin which the inscription dedicated for widespread propagation.

In September 1993, the Soka Gakkai officially manufactured its own Honzon scroll for widespread distribution, citing the refusal of Nichiren Shoshu to grant the expelled organization any more Gohonzon's from the head temple. The Jo-En-Ji Temple in Tochigi Prefecture, headed by Chief Priest Sendo Narita ultimately granted a woodblock copy of the gohonzon transcribed by the High Priest Nichikan Shonin. The recipient of this original Gohonzon, which reads "Daigyo Ajari Honshobo Nissho of Honmyozan Joenji in Ogusurimura, Shimotsuke Province" is removed, while its Sanskrit characters are stretched and splattered ink marks removed using modern technology. The scroll itself is composed of one single piece and is printed with peony and Fenghuang phoenix background.[45] It was first publicly issued on 2 October 1993.[citation needed]

Present lay members of Nichiren Shōshū remain due to their affiliation with priests and the desire to follow the Dai-Gohonzon, rather than following the money or donations offered by the Soka Gakkai organization at the expense of tampering with traditional doctrines while Soka Gakkai members remain distant with Nichiren Shōshū believing that their monastic methods and formal rituals are no longer needed or palatable to modern Buddhism, in addition to finding no pressing need for a lineage of formal monastic priesthood.[46][47]

Accordingly, various modern changes continued to occur within the practices of Soka Gakkai, namely the following:

  • The removal of sutra recitation of the prose section of the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra in August 1994. (Commonly known as Part "B").[48]
  • Adding SGI three colored beads on the Juzu prayer beads in 1992, while since 2014, permitting to both manufacture and commercially sell Juzu prayer beads that have colored cords, colored pom-poms which may also contain long colored tassels. In March 2017, Juzu with long colored tassels were removed from the inventory storefront. [49] [50]
  • The removal of the expressed prayers for the Buddhist protection gods of Shoten Zenjin in the first portion of "The Silent Prayers".
  • Replacement of gratitude towards the first three SGI presidents instead of the Nichiren Shōshū high priests.[citation needed]
  • The formal rejection of the Dai-Gohonzon as the supreme object of worship[51]
  • The removal of Hiki-Daimoku used to enunciate slowly the Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō[48]
  • Altering the Morning Gongyo and Evening Gongyo to be both concise, short and same in formula.[52]

Opposing views[edit]

The Shohondo hall of the Taiseki-ji temple. Constructed in 1972, demolished in 1998.

Various criticisms of Nichiren Shoshu are often published by its former lay organization, the Soka Gakkai. In its dissenting group Soka Spirit that questions and opposes Nichiren Shoshu doctrines, the Soka Gakkai rejects both the priestly authority of the High Priest of Taisekiji and the intermediary role of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood as relevant or necessary in practicing Buddhism for a contemporary age.[53]

Former practitioners often cite the orthodox beliefs of Nichiren Shoshu that places great emphasis in religious piety and religious ceremonies that prohibit tolerance for other cultures and foreign religious values under an atmosphere of orthodoxy.[54] Chief among this is the prohibition of members to attend other religious venues, the purchase of buddhist religious articles outside of the Taisekiji vicinity and the monetary donation to non-Nichiren Shoshu religious or charity organizations.[55] Most significant is the alleged monopoly of Nichiren Buddhism through the devotional Tozan pilgrimages to the Dai Gohonzon.[56] The donations, while voluntary, are granted for Toba memorial tablets, Kakocho ancestral books and the overwhelming Japanese conservative customs and mannerisms associated with Buddhist practice.[57]

Furthermore, allegations of accepting Ofuda and Omamori Shinto talismans during the Second World War to support the Japanese Emperor Showa's patriotic war effort to maintain immunity from persecution was supposedly contradictory to its doctrinal beliefs to reject other religions. The first talisman dedicated to the solar goddess Amaterasu-Omikami enshrined at the Dai-Kyakuden Hall was installed by the Japanese Imperial Army.[58]

The most prominent of this criticisms is the posterior elevation of the High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu as the sole inheritor of the enlightened entity of the Buddha called the "Living Essence" or the Heritage of the Law, referring to its doctrinal office of Taisekiji while the Soka Gakkai claims to be the inheritor of Heritage of the Faith without any distinct priestly lineage. A longstanding negative sentiment is crystallized in the destruction of the Sho-hondo and other Soka Gakkai funded buildings which came from the member donations during the 1970s. In addition, the alleged manipulation of Nichiren's writings called Gosho by either abbreviating or manipulating its interpretative meaning to suit a hierarchical sentiment is criticised against the priesthood and its school. Another are the allegations that only the priesthood is entitled to the title "Bodhisattvas of the Earth" and its restriction of the Juzu prayer beads consisting of long white tassels, referring to the ultimate role of propagation with minimal or no credit given to lay Hokkeko believers.[59]

Outside researchers such as author Daniel Metraux view the issue of perceived authority as the central point of the conflict:

"The priesthood claims that it is the sole custodian of religious authority and preservation of dogma, while the Soka Gakkai leadership claims that the scriptural writings of Nichiren, not the priesthood, represent the ultimate source of authority, and that any individual with deep faith in Nichiren’s teachings can attain enlightenment without the assistance of a Nichiren Shōshū priest”.[60]

According to Ian Reader, another researcher of Japanese religious studies, "it is clear that there has been corrupt and scandalous behavior on both sides."[61]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nichiren Shoshu Myokan-ko official website
  2. ^ "Nichiren Shoshu Myohoji Temple Los Angeles, CA". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Nichren Shoshu Seiganzan Myoshinji temple". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Myogyoji Buddhist Temple, Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  5. ^ "Myosenji Buddhist Temple, Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  6. ^ "Myosetsuji temple Nichiren Shoshu temple". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  7. ^ "Honseiji Temple". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  8. ^ "本興院介紹 - 財團法人中華民國日蓮正宗基金會". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  9. ^ "法秀院介紹 - 財團法人中華民國日蓮正宗基金會". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  10. ^ "正行院介紹 - 財團法人中華民國日蓮正宗基金會". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  11. ^ "妙照院介紹 - 財團法人中華民國日蓮正宗基金會". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  12. ^ "花東布教所介紹 - 財團法人中華民國日蓮正宗基金會". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  13. ^ "財団法人台湾省苗栗県日蓮正宗宝林山妙徳寺 - About - Google+". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  14. ^ "妙行院介紹 - 財團法人中華民國日蓮正宗基金會". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  15. ^ "本照院介紹". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  16. ^ "法宣院介紹 - 財團法人中華民國日蓮正宗基金會". Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  17. ^ Nichiren Shoshu Temples
  18. ^ 布教区別 日蓮正宗寺院一覧表 (Nichiren Shoshu Temples List)
  19. ^ The Doctrines and Practices of Nichiren Shoshu
  20. ^ Doctrines and Practices of Nichiren Shoshu Chapter 29
  21. ^ a b
  22. ^ The Lotus Sutra translation by Burton Watson ISBN 978-0231081610
  23. ^
  24. ^ Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha Limited, Tokyo 1991, ISBN 4-7674-2015-6
  25. ^ Gohonzon by Nittatsu Shonin
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Stone, Jacqueline (2012). "The Sin of "Slandering the True Dharma"". Sins and Sinners: Perspectives from Asian Religions. Brill. p. 147. ISBN 9004229469. 
  29. ^ Shoshū Hashaku Guide (Jp: 諸宗破折ガイド: Guide to refuting [erroneous teachings of] other schools). Taiseki-ji, 2003 (no ISBN); pp. 178–79.
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ Daisaku Ikeda biography
  33. ^ a b
  34. ^ Sōka Gakkai point of view
  35. ^ Nichiren Shōshū point of view
  36. ^ “Le Bouddhisme de l’Ecole Fuji”, December Issue No. 17, 1992.
  37. ^
  38. ^ McLaughlin, Levi (2012). "Did Aum Change Everything? What Soka Gakkai Before, During, and After the Aum Shinrikyo Affair Tells Us About the Persistent "Otherness" of New Religions in Japan". Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. 39 (1): 51–75. Archived from the original on 2013-12-23. 
  39. ^
  40. ^ Commemorative Sho-Hondo Anniversary Book - Soka Gakkai International: Chapter - "Entryway"
  41. ^ Encountering the Dharma: Daisaku Ikeda, Soka Gakkai, and the Globalization. pp 136-137.
  42. ^ - The Demolition of Sho-Hondo.
  43. ^
  44. ^ a b
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^ a b The Liturgy of Soka Gakkai, Revised edition 2016, Gongyo portion.
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^ 14 November 2014, SGI President - Minoru Harada, Seikyo Shimbun Publications., Page 6. -
  52. ^ The Liturgy of Soka Gakkai, Revised edition 2016, Gongyo portion. Morning and Evening Gongyo are now completely identical with no differentiation.
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^
  59. ^
  60. ^ D. Metraux, "The dispute between the Sōka Gakkai and the Nichiren Shōshū priesthood: A lay revolution against a conservative clergy", Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. Vol 19 (4), p. 326, 1992. Archived from the original
  61. ^ Reader, Ian (1995). "Review of "A Time to Chant" by Wilson and Dobbelaere". Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22 (1-2), 223

Further reading[edit]


  • Richard Causton: Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, Rider & Co, London 1988. ISBN 0712622691
  • Basic Terminology of Nichiren Shoshu, Vol. 1, Nichiren Shōshū Shumuin, eds. Dainichiren Publishing Co., 2009. ISBN 978-4-904429-28-0
  • Nichiren Shoshu Basics of Practice, Nichiren Shōshū Temple, 2003 (revised). [
  • Introduction to True Buddhism, Nichiren Shoshu Temple, Myohoji 1999
  • Introduction to Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism", Seiganzan Myoshinji Temple, 2007
  • The Gosho of Nichiren Daishōnin, Vol. 1, Nichiren Shōshū Overseas Bureau, trans. Dainichiren Publishing Co., 2005. ISBN 4-904429-26-5, ISBN 978-4-904429-26-6
  • The Gosho of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 2: Rissho Ankoku Ron, Nichiren Shōshū Shumuin, trans. Dainichiren Publishing Co., 2009. ISBN 4-904429-26-5, ISBN 978-4-904429-26-6
  • The Doctrines and Practice of Nichiren Shōshū, Nichiren Shōshū Overseas Bureau, 2002
  • Collected Sermons, High Priest Nikken Shonin 1992-2002 Dai Nichiren Publishing 2002
  • Refuting The Soka Gakkai's "Counterfeit Object Of Worship, "100 Questions and Answers", Dai Nichiren Publishing 1996
  • Shinyo Magazine (Numerous issues 1991-2005) Dai Nichiren Publishing
  • Myodo Magazine (2 issues) 1991 Published by Seiganzan Myoshinji Temple San Francisco.
  • Taisekiji: Shoshū Hashaku Guide (Jp: 諸宗破折ガイド: "Guide to refuting [erroneous teachings of] other schools"). 2003 (no ISBN); pp. 160–164. Published by the Buddhist school formerly associated with Sōka Gakkai and presents details of Sōka Gakkai's gradual distortion of the school's teachings and reasons for its severing of ties.


  • Gosho Heisei Shimpen 平成新編日蓮大聖人御書 Dainichiren Publishing Co. 1994 ISBN 978-4-904429-22-8
  • Nichiren Shōshū yōgi (日蓮正宗要義: "The essential tenets of Nichiren Shōshū"), Taiseki-ji, 1978, rev. ed. 1999
  • Nichiren Shōshū nyūmon (日蓮正宗入門: "Introduction to Nichiren Shōshū"), Taiseki-ji, 2002
  • Dai-Nichiren (大日蓮), monthly magazine published by Nichiren Shōshū. Fujinomiya, Shizuoka, Japan (numerous issues)
  • Dai-Byakuhō (大白法), the Hokkekō organ newspaper. Tōkyō (numerous issues)
  • History of Nichiren Shoshu 日蓮大聖人正伝 改訂版 Dainichiren Publishing Co.. 1994 ISBN 978-4-905522-04-1
  • Fuji Chronology 富士年表 Dainichiren Publishing Co. 2008 ISBN 978-4-904429-04-4
  • Shakubuku - Faith and Correct Religion Professor Hiroshi. Dainichiren Publishing Co. 2007 ISBN 978-4-904429-05-1
  • Sermons on the Juryo Chapter Expanded Edition. Dainichiren Publishing Co. 2014 ISBN 978-4-905522-22-5
  • Essential Gosho Quotations on Practice. Dainichiren Publishing Co. 2014 ISBN 978-4-905522-23-2
  • Lectures on the Seven Characters of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo by Nikken Shonin (2 volumes) 妙法七字拝仰 Dainichiren Publishing Co. 1996 ISBN 978-4-905522-15-7 ISBN 978-4-905522-13-3
  • Sermons on the Kanjin no Honzon Sho 観心本尊抄講話 (5 Volumes). Dainichiren Publishing Co. 2010 ISBN 978-4-904429-85-3 ISBN 978-4-904429-89-1 ISBN 978-4-904429-91-4 ISBN 978-4-904429-98-3 ISBN 978-4-905522-02-7
  • The Six Volume Writings of 26th high priest Nichikan Shonin 六巻抄 Dainichiren Publishing Co. 1996 ISBN 978-4-904429-34-1
  • Notes on the One Hundred-Six Articles 百六箇種脱対見拝述記 Dainichiren Publishing Co. 2007 ISBN 978-4-904429-00-6
  • Nichikan Shonin's Exegeses on Selected Gosho 日寛上人御書文段 Dainichiren Publishing Co. 2001 ISBN 978-4-904429-36-5
  • Useful Gosho Quotes 祖文纂要 Dainichiren Publishing Co. 1994 ISBN 978-4-904429-45-7
  • Benn'Aku Kanjin Sho 弁惑観心抄 Dainichiren Publishing Co. 1994 ISBN 978-4-904429-46-4
  • The story of Nikko Shonin leaving Mount Minobu 日興上人身延離山史 Dainichiren Publishing Co. 2006 ISBN 978-4-904429-56-3
  • 法乃道 (A book about propagation efforts in the 1920s and 30's) Dainichiren Publishing Co. 1962 ISBN 978-4-904429-57-0
  • 日寛上人と興学 (A book regarding Nichikan Shonin and an exegesis on his 6 volume writings) Dainichiren Publishing Co.
  • A History of the Fuji Schools: Omosu 富士門流の歴史 重須篇 Dainichiren Publishing Co. 2007

External links[edit]

Official websites[edit]

Critical websites[edit]