Nichiren Shōshū

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Symbol of Nichiren Shoshu
Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism
日 蓮 正 宗
Head Temple Taisekiji Sohonzan
Taisekiji Head Temple, Fujinomiya, Japan
ClassificationNichiren Buddhism
ScriptureLotus Sutra
Gosho writings of Nichiren
TheologyHokke Buddhism
High PriestNichinyo Shonin
LiturgyLiturgy of Nichiren Shoshu
HeadquartersBase of Mount Fuji
FounderNikko Shonin[citation needed]
Minobu, Yamanashi, later transferred to Taisekiji
Members670,000 lay members[citation needed]
Official websiteNichiren Shoshu Website
LogoRound crane

Nichiren Shōshū (English: Orthodox School of Nichiren, Kanji:日蓮正宗) is a branch of Nichiren Buddhism based on the teachings of the 13th-century Japanese Buddhist priest Nichiren (1222–1282). Nichiren Shōshū claims Nichiren as its founder through his disciple and secretary Nikko Shonin (1246–1333), the founder of the school's Head Temple Taiseki-ji, located at the base of Mount Fuji. Nichiren Shōshū has adherents around the world, with the largest concentration in Japan. The Enichizan Myohoji Temple located in Los Angeles, California serves as the organization's headquarters within the United States.[citation needed]

The main object of worship and veneration by its believers is the Dai Gohonzon, presently enshrined in the Hoando building located in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture. Its official logo is the round crane (Japanese: Tsuru-no-Maru). Both its leadership and adherents ascribe 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 the successive high priests of Nichiren Shōshū. The lay organisation is Hokkeko. The current High Priest of the sect is Hayase Myoe Ajari Nichinyo Shonin, who ascended the position in 15 December 2005.[1]


The round crane used as the official logo of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism.

Nichiren Shōshū is a Mahayana Buddhist sect. Its original name is Nichiren School (Shu) of the Fuji area, branch of Taisekiji Temple. After the Meiji restoration, it was given its own name, Nichiren Shoshu, in 1912. Its head temple 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 they claimed was described by Nichiren as ”…the essence of my Buddhahood 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 claims over 700 local temples and additional temple-like facilities (propagation centers) in Japan.[citation needed]. It also claims 24 overseas official designated temples[citation needed] and 678,000 registered members.[citation needed]

Nichiren Shōshū claims a direct lineage, called Yuijo Ichinen Kechimyaku Sojo, of successive High Priests from Nikko Shonin, who they believe was chosen by Nichiren to carry on the propagation of his Buddhist practice in the Latter Day of the Law, a unique aspect claimed among other Nichiren Buddhist sects.[citation needed] This direct transmission of the Law is set forth in the following Nichiren documents:[citation needed]

  1. The Law that Nichiren propagated throughout his life (Nichiren ichi-go guho fu-zo-ku-sho)
  2. The Ikegami Transfer Document (Minobu-Sanfu-Zokusho)
  3. The 106 Articles of Nichiren Shōshū (Hya-Ku-Rokka-Sho)

The current leader of the sect is the 68th 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. Since the Meiji period, Nichiren Shōshū priests, like other Japanese Buddhist sects, have been permitted to marry.[citation needed]


Lay believers belong to official 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. The present Dai-Koto leader of the Hokkeko Federation is Mr. Koichiro Hoshino.[citation needed]

The official symbol of Nichiren Shōshū is the crane bird (Tsuru). More specifically, the posture of the crane is in a circular position (Tsuru-no-Maru). 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 Three Friends of Winter combination crest is also present in the temple altars, representing Nichimoku Shonin.[citation needed]


Buddhist Juzu prayer beads with white cords and balls, the only color and format permitted in Buddhist practice within Nichiren Shoshu practice.

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 Shakyamuni Buddha; 563?–483? BC) in the 21st chapter of the Lotus Sutra which states the following:[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

  1. (Namu Butsu) - Nichiren Shōshū teaches that Nichiren is the True Buddha for the modern age 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 instituted the mastery three spiritual disciplines:

  1. Precepts - designed to help practitioners replace the negative causes that they tend to make with positive 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 revealed the Three Great Secret Laws:

  1. The Dai-Gohonzon as the Supreme Object of Worship, sourcing to the vow of Precepts.
  2. The Daimoku 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]

The 68th High Priest officiating training with novice priests inside the Mutsubo building. A Tokudo (graduation) ceremony, Taisekiji.

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"[2]), 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 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 Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō|Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō to the Gohonzon, while focusing on the Chinese character 妙 [Japanese: 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 traditional 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]

Object of Worship[edit]

Early photograph of the Dai-Gohonzon at Taiseki-ji, printed by historian Kumada Ijō's. From the 1913 book, Nichiren Shōnin, 8th edition, pp. 375.

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 storage building within the Taiseki-ji Grand Main Temple complex grounds at the foot of Mount Fuji. The image was previously enshrined in the Shohondo modern-style building at exactly the same site, which was ultimately destroyed in April 1998 due to claims of heresy by the Soka Gakkai, who funded its construction, replacing a more traditional style building.[citation needed] 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. Unlike other Gohonzons enshrined at the Head Temple, it is not enshrined with shikimi branches.

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

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]

For former members who 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:[citation needed]

Common religious services of the Nichiren Shoshu Temple
Gojukai Ceremony for the initiation of a new member taking on the Precepts of Diamond Chalice.
Kankai-Kishi Re-initiation ceremony for a formerly practicing member.
Gohonzon Conferral of the Nichiren Shoshu Object of Worship with the discretion approval of a Temple priest.
Kantoku Transfer ceremony of an heirloom or ancestral Gohonzon from a deceased member to a practicing descendant.
Toba Ceremony for making memorial offerings for the deceased in hopes of their next reincarnation as Hokkeko or achieving Buddhahood.
Ushitora Gongyo The distanced recitation of Gongyo at 2:30 AM with the High Priest at the Dai-Kyakuden window for the Dai Gohonzon.
Kaigen Ceremony for infusing the soul of the Gohonzon into Buddhist paraphernalia, namely the Buddhist O-Juzu / O-nenju prayer beads.
Gokaihi Selected prayer offerings for the Dai Gohonzon to erase slander, the conversion of the Japanese Emperor and usher the construction of the national platform temple (Honmon Kaidan)
Kakocho Ceremony for the enshrinement of deceased ancestors into a Memorial Register book.
Gokuyo Regulated offerings of either priesthood or laity to the Gohonzon, belonging to three types: A. Daimoku and Gongyo Recitation B. Physical labor to assist the temple, or C. food / monetary offerings for the propagation of the Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism.
Oeshiki Commemorative funeral ceremony for Nichiren Daishonin as the True Buddha of Mappo, accompanied by the recitation of select portions of the Risshō Ankoku Ron (立正安国論).
Two Japanese artisans making Juzu Buddhist prayer beads select to Nichiren Shoshu color and format. Dated 1 September 1914, from the collection of Elstner Hilton, Portland, Oregon.

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] The following gohonzons are issued if deemed worthy of the lay believer upon application:[citation needed]

Four types of Gohonzon
Joju Either an oversized scroll, or a large carved wooden platform with a special commemorative inscription that is reserved for families that have historically protected the Dai Gohonzon, or towards grand temples and buildings.
Okatagi Ordinary woodblock type commonly issued to practicing members.
Okatagi Tokubetsu An enlarged woodblock type with ornamental scroll mounting issued to members with at least ten years of practice, along with other commendable qualifications designated by a temple Chief priest.
Omamori A pocket sized Gohonzon issued to members who request specialized protection and also have a dire need to travel on a regular basis.

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.[citation needed] 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–fledged 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.[citation needed] 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 ceremony.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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 number of days in the Taisekiji temple.[citation needed] 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[edit]

The 65th High Priest Nichijun Shonin officiating the Gongyo prayers in October 1959 at the Jozai-ji temple in Ikebukuro, Toshima, Japan.
List of High Priests of Nichiren Shoshu[citation needed]
Rank High Priest Date of Birth Date of Death
1 Nichiren Daishonin 16 February 1222 13 October 1282
2 Nikko Shonin 8 March 1246 7 February 1333
3 Nichimoku Shonin 28 April 1260 15 November 1333
4 Nichido Shonin 1283 26 February 1341
5 Nichigyo Shonin Unrecorded 13 August 1369
6 Nichiji Shonin Unrecorded 4 June 1406
7 Nichi a Shonin Unrecorded 10 March 1407
8 Nichi-ei Shonin 7 November 1353 4 August 1419
9 Nichiu Shonin 16 April 1402 29 September 1482
10 Nichijo Shonin Unrecorded 20 November 1472
11 Nittei Shonin Unrecorded 7 April 1472
12 Nitchin Shonin 1469 24 June 1527
13 Nichi-in Shonin 1518 6 July 1589
14 Nisshu Shonin 1555 17 August 1617
15 Nissho Shonin 1562 7 April 1622
16 Nichiju Shonin 1567 21 February 1632
17 Nissei Shonin 1600 5 November 1683
18 Nichi-ei Shonin 3 March 1594 7 March 1638
19 Nisshun Shonin 1610 12 November 1669
20 Nitten Shonin 1611 21 September 1686
21 Nichinin Shonin 1612 4 September 1680
22 Nisshun Shonin 1637 29 October 1691
23 Nikkei Shonin 1648 14 November 1707
24 Nichi-ei Shonin 1650 24 February 1715
25 Nichiyu Shonin 1669 28 December 1729
26 Nichikan Shonin 7 August 1665 19 August 1726
27 Nichiyo Shonin 1670 4 June 1723
28 Nissho Shonin 1681 25 August 1734
29 Nitto Shonin 3 March 1689 1 December 1737
30 Nitchu Shonin 1687 11 October 1743
31 Nichi-in Shonin 17 October 1687 14 June 1769
32 Nikkyo Shonin 1704 12 August 1757
33 Nichigen Shonin 15 August 1711 26 February 1778
34 Nisshin Shonin 1714 26 July 1765
35 Nichi-on Shonin 1716 3 July 1774
36 Nikken Shonin 1717 3 October 1791
37 Nippo Shonin 23 January 1731 26 May 1803
38 Nittai Shonin 1731 20 February 1785
39 Nichijun Shonin 1736 30 July 1801
40 Nichinin Shonin 1747 25 August 1795
41 Nichimon Shonin 1751 14 August 1796
42 Nichigon Shonin 1748 11 July 1797
43 Nisso Shonin 1759 3 December 1805
44 Nissen Shonin 1760 7 January 1822
45 Nichirei Shonin Unrecorded 8 May 1808
46 Nitcho Shonin 1766 27 January 1817
47 Nisshu Shonin 1769 22 September 1816
48 Nichiryo Shonin 18 February 1771 29 May 1851
49 Nisso Shonin 1773 8 May 1830
50 Nichijo Shonin 1795 1 May 1836
51 Nichi-ei Shonin 1798 9 July 1877
52 Nichiden Shonin 25 August 1817 24 June 1890
53 Nichijo Shonin 11 October 1831 25 June 1892
54 Nichi-in Shonin 16 March 1829 2 June 1880
55 Nippu Shonin 5 February 1835 4 March 1919
56 Nichi-o Shonin 1848 15 June 1922
57 Nissho Shonin 24 May 1865 26 January 1928
58 Nitchu Shonin 18 December 1861 18 August 1923
59 Nichiko Shonin 24 February 1867 23 November 1957
60 Nichikai Shonin 23 August 1873 21 November 1943
61 Nichiryu Shonin 10 August 1874 24 March 1947
62 Nikkyo Shonin 18 September 1869 17 June 1945
63 Nichiman Shonin 5 March 1873 7 January 1951
64 Nissho Shonin 24 September 1879 14 October 1957
65 Nichijun Shonin 10 October 1898 17 November 1959
66 Nittatsu Shonin 15 April 1902 22 July 1979
67 Nikken Shonin 19 December 1922 20 September 2019
68 Nichinyo Shonin 25 February 1935 Current High Priest (Incumbent)
  • The dates denote the date of death of each high priest.

Expelled lay and priestly groups[edit]

In chronological order, the following groups were previously associated with Nichiren Shoshu, later expelled from the Buddhist sect, respectively in years 1974 (Kenshokai), 1980 (Shoshinkai), and 1991 (Soka Gakkai):

Kenshokai (顕正会) — (1974)[edit]

In 1974, a lay group called Myōshinkō from the Myokoji Temple in Shinagawa ward in 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 was the true and permanent national sanctuary of the Dai Gohonzon as mandated by Nichiren, even without the conversion of Emperor Showa.[citation needed]. The group was known for being brazen in confronting Soka Gakkai and being confrontational with the late Nittatsu Shonin, resulting in a lawsuit against him amidst public protest. They are known for reciting two Hiki-Daimoku and one regular, a developed practice that has unknown origins. The group is highly devoted to the Dai Gohonzon enshrined at Taisekiji even without the support or affiliation of Nichiren Shōshū.

The group later changed its name to Fuji Taisekiji Kenshōkai. Kenshōkai has been described as one of the fastest growing denominations of Buddhism in Japan.[3]

Shōshinkai (正信会) — (1980)[edit]

In 1980, a group of Nichiren Shōshū priests and lay supporters called Shōshinkai (English: Correct Faith Group) were expelled from the Head Temple by 67th High Priest Nikken Shonin for questioning the legitimacy of the new head abbot Nikken and for criticising Soka Gakkai's influence on temple affairs.[citation needed] At the time, Soka Gakkai supported Nikken's claim to be the rightful successor of Nittatsu Hosoi as high priest. Shōshinkai continues to refer to itself as the true Nichiren Shōshū. Shōshinkai later founded a dissident association of Nichiren Shoshu priests seeking reformation and began transcribing their own creative version of the Gohonzon rather than taking a transcribed copy from one of the lineage of Nichiren Shōshū high priests.[4][5]

Soka Gakkai (創価学会) — (1991)[edit]

The former building of Dai-Kyakuden built by the Soka Gakkai, (English: Grand Reception Hall), built in 1 March 1959, expanded in the year 1964 and demolished in September 1995. Circa photo, 19 August 1993.

Nichiren Shōshū formerly chartered Soka Gakkai and Soka Gakkai International (SGI) as lay organizations[citation needed], which it excommunicated on 28 November 1991[6][7] due to doctrinal disputes over the roles of the priesthood as sole custodians and arbiters of Buddhist doctrine.[citation needed]

Soka Gakkai had emerged as a lay organization affiliated with one of the temples located in the Taiseki-ji land complex, founded by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who was converted by Sokei Mitani, the principal of Mejiro Kenshin Commercial High School to Nichiren Shoshu on 4 June 1928.[8] Makiguchi took his Buddhist vows in the Jozai-Ji temple in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.[citation needed] The organization grew under second president Jōsei Toda, and continued to base its teachings on Nichiren Shōshū until the development of doctrinal conflicts with the third Soka Gakkai President, Daisaku Ikeda.

As early as 1956, such doctrinal conflicts simmered, evident by the alleged declaration of second president of Soka Gakkai, Josei Toda to the 65th High Priest Nichijun Shonin during the reconstruction of Myoden-ji Temple, claiming the organizational leadership no longer upheld Nichiren Shoshu doctrines.[9]

On 10 May 1974, the Vice-President of Soka Gakkai, Hiroshi Hojo, 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".[citation needed] In response, High Priest Nittatsu Hosoi refused the proposal to create a board committee that would overlook temple affairs and its bookkeeping 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.

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.[10][11]: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 a memorial owing to the Soka Gakkai funds, although the building was also funded by Nichiren Shōshū members, Kempon Hokke Shu members, and relatives of Temple priesthood.[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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Among other issues contended are whether laypersons can receive Buddhist offerings or Gokuyo, the conducting of Urabon and Higan-E rituals by Soka Gakkai leaders without Nichiren Shoshu priests officiating the ceremonies. Most significant dispute which arose between Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai were the several woodcarved gohonzons utilized by Ikeda in their own headquarters.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] In later years, the following gohonzons transcribed into wood platform were:[citation needed]

List of paper Gohonzons transcribed by Soka Gakkai into wood[citation needed]
Designated Location Date of Gohonzon Authorising High Priest Status
Soka Gakkai Tokyo Headquarters 19 May 1951 64th H.P. Nissho Shonin Granted[12]
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. Other issues of contention were the overtaking of the Higan and funeral ceremonies by Soka Gakkai leaders without the officiation of Nichiren Shoshu priests, culminated by the 35th anniversary speech of Daisaku Ikeda deemed highly vulgar to the dignity of the priesthood. Ultimately, the 67th High Priest Nikken Shonin expelled the Soka Gakkai and its senior leaders on 28 November 1991.

In September 1993, the Soka Gakkai officially manufactured its own version of the Honzon scroll for widespread Gohonzon distribution, citing the refusal of Nichiren Shoshu to grant the expelled organization any more Gohonzons 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. It was first publicly issued on 3 October 1993 and is composed of one single piece and is printed with peony and Fenghuang phoenix background.[13][citation needed]

Accordingly, aside from the Gohonzon transcription of 26th High Priest Nichikan Shonin used for ordinary propagation, the last remaining Joju wooden Taisekiji Gohonzon is a transcription by 64th High Priest Setsu Mizutani Nissho Shonin which is enshrined in the Dai-Sei-Do Hall of Soka Gakkai in Shinanomachi area, Shinjuku, Tokyo, the main headquarters today of Soka Gakkai International.

Various modern changes continued to occur within the practices of Soka Gakkai, deemed to be unacceptable by Nichiren Shoshu, to which namely the following but are not limited to:

  • 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").[14]
  • 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.[15]
  • 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[16]
  • The removal of Hiki-Daimoku used to enunciate slowly the Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō[14]
  • Altering the Morning Gongyo and Evening Gongyo to be both same in formula.[17]
  • The former legal claim that the Head Temple must surrender the Dai Gohonzon mandala to the Soka Gakkai organization due to the financed cost to build the Shohondo building (English: True Main Hall) as collateral compensation, a charge dismissed by the Japanese court on the grounds of “internal affairs” of no court interferences.
  • The redefinition of the Sangha to denote laypersons, rather than its traditional label solely for the order of the temple priesthood.

Opposing views[edit]

The Syo-hondo building (English: True Main Hall) of the Taiseki-ji temple. Constructed in September 1972, demolished in April 1998. Circa photo, December 1979.

Criticisms of Nichiren Shoshu are 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.[18]

Former practitioners from the older Nichiren Shoshu of America, an older precedent of Soka Gakkai, cite the orthodox beliefs of Nichiren Shoshu that great emphasis in religious piety and religious ceremonies that prohibit tolerance for other religious cultures and values under an atmosphere of orthodoxy.[citation needed] Chief among this is the prohibition of members to attend other religious venues, the purchase of buddhist religious articles outside of the Taisekiji vicinity.[citation needed] Most significant is the alleged monopoly of Nichiren Buddhism through the devotional Tozan pilgrimages to the Dai Gohonzon, alleging it to be a forgery, unsubstantiated by historical provenance, stolen and hostaged, or outright commercialized.[19][20]

The opinion of academic researchers such as American author Daniel Alfred Metraux,[21] claims the issue of doctrinal authority as the central point of the conflict:

“The (Nichiren Shoshu) 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.”[22][23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Transfer Ceremony from 67th High Priest Nikken Shonin to 68th High Priest Nichinyo Shonin". 16 December 2005.
  2. ^ Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha Limited, Tokyo 1991, ISBN 4-7674-2015-6
  3. ^ Stone, Jacqueline (2012). "The Sin of "Slandering the True Dharma"". Sins and Sinners: Perspectives from Asian Religions. Brill. p. 147. ISBN 978-9004229464.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ 日蓮正宗(にちれんしょうしゅう) -
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Current location: Dai-Sei-Do Hall, SGI Tokyo Headquarters, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.
  13. ^
  14. ^ a b The Liturgy of Soka Gakkai, Revised edition 2016, Gongyo portion.
  15. ^
  16. ^ 14 November 2014, SGI President - Minoru Harada, Seikyo Shimbun Publications., Page 6. -
  17. ^ The Liturgy of Soka Gakkai, Revised edition 2016, Gongyo portion. Morning and Evening Gongyo are now completely identical with no differentiation.
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ Clarke, Peter B.; Somers, Jeffrey (2013-10-18). Japanese New Religions in the West. ISBN 9781134241385.
  21. ^
  22. ^ 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
  23. ^ 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]