Who Is Nichiren and What Is the Nichiren School? 

whit is nichiren buddhism

In this 1835 print, Life of Nichiren: A Vision of Prayer on the Waves, Utagawa Kuniyoshi depicts a scene from Nichiren’s biography where the sacred daimoku appears at sea. | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Henry L. Phillips Collection

Dating back to medieval Japan, the Nichiren school of Buddhism is now practiced by millions of people around the world. Spreading around the same time as Zen and Pure Land Buddhism, Nichiren was distinct in its emphasis on “faith in action,” empowering individual change through spiritual faith. 

The heart of Nichiren Buddhism is the practice of chanting the daimoku, the sacred title of the Lotus Sutra (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo), which is believed to contain the entire dharma within itself and to lead the practitioner to Buddhahood. This reflects the fundamental belief in Nichiren Buddhism that enlightenment is available to all beings, and that one can attain Buddhahood in this lifetime.

In American popular culture, singer Tina Turner has helped bring attention to Nichiren Buddhism, crediting her chanting practice with helping her to overcome the obstacles in her life. 

Click through Deck 4 to learn more about the history and teachings of Nichiren Buddhism. 

Discover Level 2, Deck 4: 

What is Nichiren Buddhism? The tradition is based on the teachings of the Japanese Buddhist priest Nichiren, who believed that the Lotus Sutra contained all other Buddhist teachings.

Who was Nichiren? Nichiren Daishonin believed in the unity of faith and social action, and was a fierce devotee of the Lotus Sutra

What do Nichiren Buddhists practice? The main practice of Nichiren Buddhism is the daimoku—chanting the sacred title of the Lotus Sutra. 

What is the daimoku (namu-myoho-renge-kyo)? The daimoku is believed to embody the fundamental nature of the cosmos. Practitioners chant it as a way to change their karma, overcoming obstacles to success or happiness.

Attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime Going against early Buddhist texts, the radical promise of the Lotus Sutra is the notion that anyone can achieve enlightenment in this lifetime. 

The infinite life span of the Buddha: Chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra, “The Life Span of the Thus Come One,” is chanted twice daily by Nichiren Buddhists during gongyo practice.

What are the ten worlds? In the Nichiren Buddhist cosmology, there are ten worlds through which beings are constantly moving.

What is the Soka Gakkai? SGI (Soka Gakkai International) is the largest, most influential sect of Nichiren Buddhism in the world today. 

What is the purpose of Nichiren discussion groups? Soka Gakkai members meet to dialogue over life’s problems, bringing a practical and communal focus to the teachings. 


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