Nichiren Shōshū

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Nichiren Shōshū (日蓮正宗?) is a branch of Nichiren Buddhism based on the teachings of the 13th-century Japanese monk Nichiren (1222–1282). Nichiren Shōshū claims Nichiren as its founder through his disciple Nikkō (1246–1333), the founder of the school's Head Temple Taiseki-ji. It has adherents throughout the world, with the largest concentrations in Indonesia and Japan[1] and many more in Taiwan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Ghana, the Philippines, Europe, and North, Central, and South America.


The Hōandō (奉安堂) at Taiseki-ji (2009). Taiseki-ji is the head temple for Nichiren Shōshū.

Nichiren Shōshū is a school of 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". Unlike other Mahayana Buddhist practices, Nichiren expounded the Lotus Sutra and chanting Nam-myōhō-renge-kyō as a way for anyone to obtain Enlightenment.

Nichiren Shōshū has over 700 local temples and temple-like facilities in Japan. Additionally, there are 22 overseas temples - six in the United States, nine in Taiwan, two in Indonesia - as well as temples in Brazil, France, Ghana, Singapore, Philippines and Spain. There are 10 propagation centers - two propagation centers in South Korea as well as others in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Panama, and Taiwan.[2] In 2002 Nichiren Shōshū had approximately 350,000 believers in Japan and approximately 600,000 in other countries.[1]

Nichiren Shōshū claims a direct lineage of successive High Priests from Nikkō which is called Kechimyaku, 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. This direct transmission of the Law is set forth in Nichiren's "The Law that Nichiren Propagated throughout His Life," (Nichiren ichigo guho fuzoku sho) and "Ikegami Transfer Document" (Minobusan-fuzoku-sho).[3] and the 106 Articles [4]

Nichiren Shōshū is currently led by the Sixty-Eighth High Priest, Nichinyo Shōnin (1935–). Nichiren Shōshū priests distinguish themselves from those of most other schools by wearing only white and grey 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 Era, Nichiren Shōshū priests, like those of many other Japanese Buddhist sects, have been permitted to marry.

Believers are organized in temple-based congregations known as Hokkekō. 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.

Basic doctrines[edit]

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. For example, 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).

Nichiren Shōshū 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 "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."[5][6]

Nichiren Shōshū teaches that Nichiren Daishōnin is the True Buddha[5] and that his Dharma, or Mystic Law (Myōhō: mystic in the sense of profound, sublime, or unfathomable), is the True Buddha's ultimate teaching. Nichiren Shōshū's belief of Nichiren Daishōnin being the True Buddha is its reason for referring to him as Nichiren Daishōnin ("Great Sage Nichiren").


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.

Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō is called the Daimoku (題目: "the prayer of the Nichiren sect"[7]), 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.

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.

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.

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.

Dai Gohonzon[edit]

Early photo of the Dai Gohonzon at Taiseki-ji

The Dai Gohonzon, which is a mandala inscribed with Sanskrit and Chinese characters on a plank of Japanese camphorwood, is the supreme object of veneration for the Shōshū school. The Shōshū school believes Nichiren inscribed it on October 12, 1279.

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

The Dai Gohonzon is enshrined at Taiseki-ji within the Grand Main Temple at the foot of Mount Fuji, which is the headquarters of the Shōshū school.

Object of worship[edit]

Transcriptions of the Dai Gohonzon, made by successive High Priests of Nichiren Shōshū, are called gohonzon[8] (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.

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, about 7” by 15”. 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.

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. 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 of the gohonzon is prohibited to believers.

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. Personal gohonzons are enshrined in a butsudan (altar). Home altars generally include a candle, a bell, incense, a vessel containing water and an offering of fresh evergreens and fruit.

High priests[edit]

  • 1st Nichiren Daishonin October 13, 1282
  • 2nd Nikko Shonin February 7, 1333
  • 3rd Nichimoku Shonin November 15, 1333
  • 4th Nichido Shonin February 26, 1341
  • 5th Nichigyo Shonin August 13, 1369
  • 6th Nichiji Shonin June 4, 1406
  • 7th Nichi a Shonin March 10, 1407
  • 8th Nichi-ei Shonin August 4, 1419
  • 9th Nichiu Shonin September 29, 1482
  • 10th Nichijo Shonin November 20, 1472
  • 11th Nittei Shonin April 7, 1472
  • 12th Nitchin Shonin June 24, 1527
  • 13th Nichi-in Shonin July 6, 1589
  • 14th Nisshu Shonin August 17, 1617
  • 15th Nissho Shonin April 7, 1622
  • 16th Nichiju Shonin February 21, 1632
  • 17th Nissei Shonin November 5, 1638
  • 18th Nichi-ei Shonin March 7, 1683
  • 19th Nisshun Shonin November 12, 1669
  • 20th Nitten Shonin September 21, 1686
  • 21st Nichinin Shonin September 4, 1680
  • 22nd Nisshun Shonin October 29, 1691
  • 23rd Nikkei Shonin November 14, 1707
  • 24th Nichi-ei Shonin February 24, 1715
  • 25th Nichiyu Shonin December 28, 1729
  • 26th Nichikan Shonin August 19, 1726
  • 27th Nichiyo Shonin June 4, 1723
  • 28th Nissho Shonin August 25, 1734
  • 29th Nitto Shonin December 1, 1737
  • 30th Nitchu Shonin October 11, 1743
  • 31st Nichi-in Shonin June 14, 1769
  • 32nd Nikkyo Shonin August 12, 1757
  • 33rd Nichigen Shonin February 26, 1778
  • 34th Nisshin Shonin July 26, 1765
  • 35th Nichi-on Shonin July 3, 1774
  • 36th Nikken Shonin October 3, 1791
  • 37th Nippo Shonin May 26, 1803
  • 38th Nittai Shonin February 20, 1785
  • 39th Nichijun Shonin July 30, 1801
  • 40th Nichinin Shonin August 25, 1795
  • 41st Nichimon Shonin August 14, 1796
  • 42nd Nichigon Shonin July 11, 1797
  • 43rd Nisso Shonin December 3, 1805
  • 44th Nissen Shonin January 7, 1822
  • 45th Nichirei Shonin May 8, 1808
  • 46th Nitcho Shonin January 27, 1817
  • 47th Nisshu Shonin September 22, 1816
  • 48th Nichiryo Shonin May 29, 1851
  • 49th Nisso Shonin May 8, 1830
  • 50th Nichijo Shonin May 1, 1836
  • 51st Nichi-ei Shonin July 9, 1877
  • 52nd Nichiden Shonin June 24, 1890
  • 53rd Nichijo Shonin June 25, 1892
  • 54th Nichi-in Shonin June 2, 1880
  • 55th Nippu Shonin March 4, 1919
  • 56th Nichi-o Shonin June 15, 1922
  • 57th Nissho Shonin  ???
  • 58th Nitchu Shonin August 18, 1923
  • 59th Nichiko Shonin November 23, 1957
  • 60th Nichikai Shonin November 21, 1943
  • 61st Nichiryu Shonin March 24, 1947
  • 62nd Nikkyo Shonin June 17, 1945
  • 63rd Nichiman Shonin January 7, 1951
  • 64th Nissho Shonin October 14, 1957
  • 65th Nichijun Shonin November 17, 1959
  • 66th Nittatsu Shonin July 22, 1979
  • 67th Nikken Shonin Current Retired High Priest
  • 68th Nichinyo Shonin Current High Priest
  • The dates denote the date of death of each high priest.


In 1974, a lay group called Myōshinkō was expelled from Shōshū after holding a public protest against Soka Gakkai. This group later changed its name to Fuji Taiseki-ji Kenshōkai, reflecting its devotion to the Gohonzon at Taiseki-ji even without the support of Nichiren Shōshū. Kenshōkai is described as one of the fastest growing denominations of Buddhism in Japan.[9]

In 1980, a group of Nichiren Shōshū priests and supporters called Shōshinkai 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.

Sōka Gakkai[edit]

After WWII, under the leadership of Sōka Gakkai second president Jōsei Toda, Sōka Gakkai emerged as a lay organization affiliated with and based on the teachings of Nichiren Shōshū. Later development between the two organizations, however, revealed a sequence of doctrinal conflicts, one of which led to the resignation of Daisaku Ikeda, the third president of Sōka Gakkai, in 1979 from his post.[10]

These and other conflicts resulted in a complete 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.[11][12] In 1997, Nichiren Shoshu excommunicated all SGI members. Outside observers like Ian McLaughlin regard the dispute as being a process where after the "schism with Nichiren Shōshū, the Aum assassination attempts, 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 apotheosizing its Honorary President". [13]:69

Other observers view the issue of "authority" as the central point of the conflict: "The priesthood claims that it is the sole custodian of religious authority and dogma, while the Soka Gakkai leadership argues that the sacred 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 priest”.[14] Ian Reader, on the other hand, saw "corrupt and scandalous behavior on both sides."[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Nichiren Shoshu Myokan-ko official website
  2. ^ Nichiren Shoshu Temples
  3. ^ The Doctrines and Practices of Nichiren Shoshu
  4. ^ Doctrines and Practices of Nichiren Shoshu Chapter 29
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ The Lotus Sutra translation by Burton Watson ISBN 978-0231081610
  7. ^ Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha Limited, Tokyo 1991, ISBN 4-7674-2015-6
  8. ^ Gohonzon by Nittatsu Shonin
  9. ^ Stone, Jacqueline (2012). "The Sin of "Slandering the True Dharma"". Sins and Sinners: Perspectives from Asian Religions. Brill. p. 147. ISBN 9004229469. 
  10. ^ Daisaku Ikeda biography
  11. ^ Sōka Gakkai point of view
  12. ^ Nichiren Shōshū point of view
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ Reader, Ian. "Review of "A Time to Chant" by Wilson and Dobbelaere". Japanese Journal of Religious Studies

Further reading[edit]



  • 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]