Nichiren Shōshū

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Turu no maru (No background and black color drawing).svg
日 蓮 正 宗
Nichiren Shoshu True Buddhism
Hoan-do of Taiseki-ji in 2009-11.jpg
Taisekiji Head Temple, Fujinomiya, Japan
Classification Nichiren Buddhism
Scripture Lotus Sutra
Gosho writings of Nichiren
TheologyHonmonji Buddhism
High PriestNichi Nyo Shonin
Liturgy“The Liturgy of Nichiren Shoshu”
HeadquartersTaiseki-ji Sohonzan
Founder Nichiren Daishonin
Origin4 May 1253
Minobu, Yamanashi (June 2), later transferred to Taisekiji (1290)
MembersOver 800,000 (as of January 2021)[ citation needed ]
Official website English Website of Nichiren Shoshu
LogoRounded crane

Nichiren Shōshū (日蓮正宗, English: "The Orthodox School of Nichiren") is a branch of Nichiren Buddhism based on the teachings of the 13th-century Japanese Buddhist priest Nichiren (1222–1282), claiming him as its founder through his senior disciple Nikko Shonin (1246–1333), the founder of Head Temple Taiseki-ji, near Mount Fuji. The lay adherents of the sect are called Hokkeko members. The Enichizan Myohoji Temple in Los Angeles, California serves as the temple headquarters within the United States.


The sect is known for rejecting the various forms of Buddhism taught by Shakyamuni Buddha as incomplete, expired and heretical for the Third Age of Buddhism. Instead, the sect is based on the teachings of Nichiren and the chanting of “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo” along with reciting curated portions of the Lotus Sutra. [1] [2]

The object worshipped by its believers is the Dai Gohonzon while its religious symbol is the rounded crane bird. Both its leadership and adherents claim their practice is the only "True Buddhism" in the Universe and ascribe the honorific title to Nichiren, as the "Sacred Original "True" Buddha" (御本仏, Go-Honbutsu) and the Dai-Shonin (大聖人, "Great Holy Teacher") while maintaining that the sole legitimate successor to both his ministry and legacy is Nikko Shonin alone and the successive high priests of the sect, lead by the current 68th High Priest, Hayase Myo—e Ajari Nichinyo Shonin, who ascended to the position on 15 December 2005.[ citation needed ]


The round crane used as the official logo of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. Spherical Crane Bird.png
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, the branch of Taisekiji Temple, indicating the general naming of sects at the time, though not united, and then divided in different localized traditions. After the Meiji restoration, it was given its own distinct name as “Nichiren Shoshu” in 1912 by the Emperor Taisho due to its long-standing refusal to conjoin with other Nichiren Shu sects. 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 claim to physically embody the spirit of Nichiren in both wooden form and Sumi ink.

Unlike other Mahayana Buddhist practices, Nichiren championed the Lotus Sutra as the only valid Buddhist practice and while chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the only way for anyone to obtain Buddhahood regardless of one's position in life, condition of circumstances, gender and occupational role as well as not necessarily waiting to be reborn into another future life existence. [3]

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 800,000+ registered members.[ citation needed ]

Nichiren Shōshū claims a direct lineage (Yuijo Ichinen Kechimyaku Sojo) of successive High Priests from Nikko Shonin, who they believe was originally chosen by Nichiren to carry on the propagation of his Buddhist practice in the Three Ages of Buddhism, a claim that other Nichiren Buddhist sects assert as well, such as Nichiren-shū but rejected by others. [4] Nichiren Shōshū claims this lineage is accorded to them through the following Nichiren documents (copies existing, the original documents lost in time) :[ citation needed ]

  1. “The Dharma that Nichiren propagated throughout his Life” (日蓮一期弘法付属書, Nichiren ichigo Guho—Fuzo—Kusho)
  2. “The Succession Document of Ikegami” (池上相承書, Ikegami Sojo-sho)
  3. The “106 Article (points)” of Nichiren Shōshū (百六箇抄, 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.[ citation needed ]

By the imperial “Daijo-kan” Decree # 133 of the Emperor Meiji since 1872, Nichiren Shōshū priests, like other Japanese Buddhist sects as well as other former traditionalist “celibate” lifestyles such as artisans and Geisha et cetera, have been permitted to marry.

Accordingly, the sect does not impose any regulations of Buddhist morality on gender or marital relationships, poverty or wealthy lifestyles, ranging from personal habits or vices, divorce, abortion, sartorial or dietary choices including the consumption of vegetables versus meat, dairy or alcohol, et cetera.

The sect also vehemently rejects monetary and material donations from non-members who are not registered or affiliated with a local branch temple, citing claims of Karmic impurity from non-believers and those who belong to other religions. Accordingly, the offertory fee to register as a new member is strongly forbidden to be paid for by a fellow Hokkeko believer, except under rare circumstances of extreme poverty or dire homelessness.

The sect categorizes three forms of donations for its registered believers:

  1. The pro-active sharing of its religious practice to non-believers through chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and Shakubuku.
  2. The offertory of food and monetary donations to sustain the local temple and its priests.
  3. The ancient Asian practice of gaining Buddhist merit (Japanese: 廻向, Eko) by providing free labor services (cleaning, volunteer work) for the temple.

The lay member organization of the sect, “Hokkeko—Rengo—Kai” is headquartered at the Grand Hodo-in Temple in Toshima, Tokyo, Japan.

List of venerated Buddhist scriptures

The current High Priest of the sect, Nichinyo Shonin, during a Buddhist lecture after the Ushitora Gongyo in 2007. Nichinyo Shonin in 2007.jpg
The current High Priest of the sect, Nichinyo Shonin, during a Buddhist lecture after the Ushitora Gongyo in 2007.

The following articles are highly venerated within the sect:

To a lesser extent, the following articles are revered as secondary or minor Buddhist scriptures:


The Lotus Sutra is the core basis of teachings revered by the Hokkeko sect. A Buddhist sutra book of the Chapter 2 (Skillful methods), from the Japanese Edo period. Big Fang Bian Pin Di Er Accordion Book of Hokekyou or Lotus Sutra printed in Edo Era 28cm Fa Hua Jing Zhe riBen Jiang Hu Qi Kan Ben 01.jpg
The Lotus Sutra is the core basis of teachings revered by the Hokkeko sect. A Buddhist sutra book of the Chapter 2 (Skillful methods), from the Japanese Edo period.

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.[ citation needed ] Services are usually officiated by a priest, but lay leaders sometimes fill in when no priest is available.[ citation needed ] 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) in a rounded shape (Tsuru-no-Maru). Another symbol is the eight wheel of Noble Eightfold Path called Rimbo (Treasure Ring) 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 ]

Religious doctrines

Interpretation of Buddhist cosmology

Buddhist Juzu prayer beads with white cords and balls, the only color and format permitted within Nichiren Shoshu practice. Set of Nichiren Shoshu Juzu Prayer Beads.jpg
Buddhist Juzu prayer beads with white cords and balls, the only color and format permitted within Nichiren Shoshu practice.

Nichiren Shōshū doctrine extends the Tiantai classification of the Buddhist sutras into the following:

  1. Five periods of time + eight categories (五時八教, Goji-hakkyō)
  2. The theory of 3,000 interpenetrating realms within a single life-moment (一念三千, Ichinen Sanzen)
  3. Its world view of the Three Truths (三諦, San Tai).

The doctrine of “Buddhist Slander”

The sect vehemently rejects all forms of religious interfaith practices as both evil and heretical, referring to any syncretism as “Slander” (謗 法, Ho—bo) against the Dharma taught by the founder Nichiren. [5] It further maintains that directly supporting other religions outside the sect gains negative Karma and brings grave punishment, disasters and suffering.

Expired teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha

The sect claims that Shakyamuni's myriad forms of Buddhism have now lost its salvific power to gain Buddhahood for the modern age. In addition, the school claims that Nichiren was fulfilling an eschatological prophecy made by Shakyamuni Buddha in the Chapter 21 of the Lotus Sutra regarding the Three Ages of Buddhism which states:[ 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”.” — Chapter 21: The Mystical Powers of Tathagata Buddha.[ citation needed ]

Interpretation of the Three Buddhist Jewels

  1. Buddha — Nichiren Shōshū teaches that Nichiren is the “True Original Buddha ” for the modern times corresponding to the Third Buddhist Age and on for all eternity.
  2. Dharma — The Dharma is referred to by the sect as “Mystic Law”, referring to the ultimate teachings of Nichiren, crystallized in Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō . The sect further teaches that this Mystic Law is the internal enlightenment of Nichiren himself called “Naisho” (内 証) and is the “Original True Buddha” from an infinite, mystical timeless point in the Universe (久遠元初, “Kuon—Ganjo”). Furthermore, the sect teaches that this sacred enlightenment is physically embodied within the Dai-Gohonzon wooden mandala and was left for the posterity of future generations. The same definition of Dharma is accorded to its authorized, transcribed copies called “Gohonzon” that is loaned by the sect to its followers.
  3. Sangha — The Sangha refers to the collective of Nichiren Shōshū priests who serve to teach, protect and preserve the doctrines and dogmas of Nichiren Shōshū.

Accordingly, the sect teaches that the Three Jewels of Buddhism are a single, inseparable entity that equally shares the internal enlightenment of Nichiren. More specifically, the sect teaches that the Buddha and the Dharma are perpetrated and upheld by the Sangha priesthood (Heisei Shinpen).

The “Three Great Secret Laws”

According to the doctrinal beliefs of Nichiren Shoshu, Nichiren instituted the mastery of three spiritual disciplines:[ citation needed ]

  1. Precepts — upholding the Buddhist vows (“Jukai”) of daily Buddhist practice
  2. Meditation — purifying the mind through chanting “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo” (“Shodai”)
  3. Wisdom — upholding the teachings of religion through the office of the Head Temple (“Kaidan”)

Nichiren Shoshu teaches that Nichiren revealed the Three Great Secret Laws which matches the three above:[ citation needed ]

  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.

On the Lotus Sūtra

The Lotus Sutra is the core basis of the teachings of the sect, and divides the book into two parts:

The sect teach that a significant difference between the two lies with the standpoint of who is preaching them. The Theoretical Teachings (Chapters 1–14) are preached by Shakyamuni Buddha who reached Buddhahood in Bodhgaya, India. On the other hand, Shakyamuni declares in the Essential Teachings (Chapters 15–22) that his enlightenment in India was only temporal, and that he in fact already attained Buddhahood in a mysterious, timeless point in the Universe.

As result of these interpretations of the Tendai school and Nichiren schools of thought, all the provisional Buddhas, such as Amida Nyorai, Dainichi Nyorai, and Yakushi Nyorai, were integrated into one single original Buddha.

Another doctrine taught by the sect is that the Chapter 2 of the Lotus Sutra does not reveal the cause or “seed” of enlightenment gained by Shakyamuni Buddha. Rather, this secret was revealed in the Chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra by Ākāśagarbha (“Heavenly Jewel”) Bodhisattva to Nichiren and his latter claim to the expressed public recitation of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo through an alleged deeper understanding of the Buddhist text.

Furthermore, the sect teaches that:


Offerings of fruit on a Butsudan altar. Oferendas Budistas.JPG
Offerings of fruit on a Butsudan altar.

Several ceremonies are conducted within Nichiren Shoshu, some as memorials for lauded figures, others in commemoration or celebration of momentous events, as well as life-cycle event ceremonies for individuals including conversion to Buddhism, marriages and funerals.[ citation needed ] 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 reborn once again.[ citation needed ] Nichiren Shoshu claims this tradition from the Chapter 21 of the Lotus Sutra where Shakyamuni Buddha passes his vow to the Visistacaritra Bodhisattva and his "infinite followers" along with the merits of the Seven Jewels of the Treasure Tower.[ citation needed ]

Former members which have not been active are allowed to receive the Kankai or reaffirmation vows.

Two Japanese artisans making Juzu Buddhist prayer beads used in the Nichiren Shoshu school. The ordinary five strand in white cords, tasseled version for priests. Dated 1 September 1914, from the collection of Elstner Hilton. Making Prayer Beads (Juzu) in Japan (1914 by Elstner Hilton).jpg
Two Japanese artisans making Juzu Buddhist prayer beads used in the Nichiren Shoshu school. The ordinary five strand in white cords, tasseled version for priests. Dated 1 September 1914, from the collection of Elstner Hilton.

Donations to a Nichiren Shōshū temple is highly regarded as private 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 ]

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 ]

Interpretation of Buddhahood

A Tokudo, or graduation ceremony at the Mutsubo building in Taisekiji. Nichiren Shoshu High Priest.png
A Tokudo, or graduation ceremony at the Mutsubo building in Taisekiji.

The sect teaches that personal enlightenment can be achieved in one's present life form existence (即身成仏, Sokushin Jobutsu). The repetitive chanting of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is central and primary to their practice. Accordingly, the sect maintains that only by chanting these words to their object of worship (Jp, Hon—zon) that a human person (the minimal level of existence, and excluding animals, insects or insentient beings) is believed to change or eradicate the accumulation of negative Karma and ultimately achieve both ethereal happiness and enlightenment. In this process of achieving benefits, obstacles overcome or personal wishes granted, the individual chooses to lead others to an enlightened state of being.[ citation needed ]

The phrase Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō is referred by the sect as the Daimoku (題目: "title") of the revered text, the Lotus Sutra. This stems from their belief that it is composed of Nam and the Japanese title of the Lotus Sutra, Myōhō-Renge-Kyō, as revealed by the founder Nichiren for widespread propagation consisting of the following components (termed “Powers of the Mystic Law”):

  1. The believer's practice (Gyō—riki: power of practice)
  2. Faith (Shin—riki: power of faith)
  3. Invoking the power of the Buddha (Butsu—Riki)
  4. Then coupled with the power of the Dharma inherent in the Gohonzon (Ho—riki).

This four-part combination of physical practice and religious faith are claimed to eradicate negative forms of Karma, attract positive new Karma and transcend to a happier and higher life status.

The current version of its daily practice consists of performing Gon-Gyo , the curated recitations of the Lotus Sutra and chanting its revered words (Shodai). It consists of the prose section of Chapter 2 of the Lotus Sutra and the prose and versicle portion of Chapter 16 along with the five designated prayers for both rising and resting of the believer (Usually categorised as Morning and Evening).

This regimented practice when shared with non-believers (Jigyo—Keta) is regarded by the sect as the quintessential essence (called "True Cause") for gaining the life state of Buddhahood. Furthermore, it teaches that this secret was revealed by the Buddhist god Ākāśagarbha at a large open garden during the training years of Nichiren prior to his death execution and revelation of enlightenment at Shichirigahama beach.

Object of Worship

Fenghuangs on the Taiseki-ji main entrance of the Dai-Gohonzon sanctuary. Fenghuang of Hoan-do of Taiseki-ji.jpg
Fenghuangs on the Taiseki-ji main entrance of the Dai-Gohonzon sanctuary.

The Dai Gohonzon (also called: 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 as the only object of worshipped by believers. The sect claims that Nichiren inscribed it on 12 October 1279 (Japanese: Koan).[ citation needed ]

The sect claims the ninpō-ikka or "Unity of the Person and the Buddhist Dharma" as one entity and the Dai Gohonzon is revered as the personification of Nichiren himself. Every Nichiren Shōshū temple and household possesses a gohonzon , or transcription of the Dai Gohonzon rendered by its successive High Priests.[ citation needed ]

The Dai Gohonzon is enshrined at the Hoando worship hall [6] within the Taiseki-ji Grand Main Temple complex grounds at the foot of Mount Fuji. The temple priesthood will only expose the image for constant public veneration once the conversion of the Emperor of Japan and Kosen-rufu is achieved, maintaining the beliefs of Nichiren Shōshū as the primary religion in the world by Japanese imperial decree.[ citation needed ] Unlike the other Gohonzons enshrined at the Head Temple, it is not enshrined with shikimi branches nor Taiko drums.[ citation needed ]

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 transcribed by one of the successive High Priests.[ citation needed ]

Hokkeko followers can make a request to receive a personal gohonzon to their local temple chief priest. These gohonzons are ritually—consecrated facsimiles printed on paper using a traditional method 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 ]

List of High Priests

The 65th High Priest Nichijun Shonin officiating the Gongyo prayers in October 1959 at the Jozai-ji temple in Ikebukuro, Toshima, Japan. Jouzaiji junshigoshinshu.jpg
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 ]
RankHigh PriestDate of BirthDate of Death
1Nichiren Daishonin16 February 122213 October 1282
2 Nikko Shonin 8 March 12467 February 1333
3 Nichimoku Shonin 28 April 126015 November 1333
4Nichido Shonin128326 February 1341
5Nichigyo ShoninUnrecorded13 August 1369
6Nichiji ShoninUnrecorded4 June 1406
7Nichi a ShoninUnrecorded10 March 1407
8Nichi-ei Shonin7 November 13534 August 1419
9Nichiu Shonin16 April 140229 September 1482
10Nichijo ShoninUnrecorded20 November 1472
11Nittei ShoninUnrecorded7 April 1472
12Nitchin Shonin146924 June 1527
13Nichi-in Shonin15186 July 1589
14Nisshu Shonin155517 August 1617
15Nissho Shonin15627 April 1622
16Nichiju Shonin156721 February 1632
17Nissei Shonin16005 November 1683
18Nichi-ei Shonin3 March 15947 March 1638
19Nisshun Shonin161012 November 1669
20Nitten Shonin161121 September 1686
21Nichinin Shonin16124 September 1680
22Nisshun Shonin163729 October 1691
23Nikkei Shonin164814 November 1707
24Nichi-ei Shonin165024 February 1715
25Nichiyu Shonin166928 December 1729
26Nichikan Shonin7 August 166519 August 1726
27Nichiyo Shonin16704 June 1723
28Nissho Shonin168125 August 1734
29Nitto Shonin3 March 16891 December 1737
30Nitchu Shonin168711 October 1743
31Nichi-in Shonin17 October 168714 June 1769
32Nikkyo Shonin170412 August 1757
33Nichigen Shonin15 August 171126 February 1778
34Nisshin Shonin171426 July 1765
35Nichi-on Shonin17163 July 1774
36Nikken Shonin17173 October 1791
37Nippo Shonin23 January 173126 May 1803
38Nittai Shonin173120 February 1785
39Nichijun Shonin173630 July 1801
40Nichinin Shonin174725 August 1795
41Nichimon Shonin175114 August 1796
42Nichigon Shonin174811 July 1797
43Nisso Shonin17593 December 1805
44Nissen Shonin17607 January 1822
45Nichirei ShoninUnrecorded8 May 1808
46Nitcho Shonin176627 January 1817
47Nisshu Shonin176922 September 1816
48Nichiryo Shonin18 February 177129 May 1851
49Nisso Shonin17738 May 1830
50Nichijo Shonin17951 May 1836
51Nichi-ei Shonin17989 July 1877
52Nichiden Shonin25 August 181724 June 1890
53Nichijo Shonin11 October 183125 June 1892
54Nichi-in Shonin16 March 18292 June 1880
55Nippu Shonin5 February 18354 March 1919
56Nichi-o Shonin184815 June 1922
57Nissho Shonin24 May 186526 January 1928
58Nitchu Shonin18 December 186118 August 1923
59Nichiko Shonin24 February 186723 November 1957
60Nichikai Shonin23 August 187321 November 1943
61Nichiryu Shonin10 August 187424 March 1947
62Nikkyo Shonin18 September 186917 June 1945
63Nichiman Shonin5 March 18737 January 1951
64Nissho Shonin24 September 187914 October 1957
65Nichijun Shonin10 October 189817 November 1959
66 Nittatsu Shonin 15 April 190222 July 1979
67 Nikken Shonin 19 December 1922(resigned on 16 December 2005)
20 September 2019
68 Nichinyo Shonin 25 February 1935Current High Priest (Incumbent)
since 16 December 2005

Expelled lay and priestly groups

The following groups, which had been associated with Nichiren Shoshu, were expelled in the years 1974 (Kenshokai), 1980 (Shoshinkai), and 1991 (Soka Gakkai).

Kenshokai (顕正会, Clear and Orthodox Group), 1974

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 religious conversion of Emperor Showa.[ citation needed ] The group was known for being brazen in confronting Soka Gakkai and former High Priest Nittatsu Shonin, resulting in a lawsuit against him amidst public protest.

The group later changed its corporation name to Fuji Taisekiji Kenshōkai. Kenshōkai has been described as one of the fastest growing denominations of Buddhism in Japan. [7] The Kenshokai sometimes uses an enlarged, variant copy of the Dai Gohonzon image from the year 1728 by Nichikan Shonin, the 26th High Priest of Head Temple Taisekiji, along with contemporary ones issued by the Taisekiji Head Temple. These Gohonzon images uses the exact same brown ornamental border sourced and used by Nichiren Shoshu. To date, Kenshokai operates as a lay Buddhist group affiliated with the Head Temple.

Shōshinkai (正信会, Orthodox Faith Group), 1980

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 version of the Gohonzon rather than taking a transcribed copy from one of the Nichiren Shōshū high priests. Most of them have aged or deceased, and their temples have since reverted to Nichiren Shoshu administration after their death, having been replaced with younger priests affiliated with the Head Temple Taiseki-ji. Some of these older priests have also joined other Nichiren sects or made their own, such as the case in Taiwan. [8] [9]

Soka Gakkai (創価学会, Value Creation Society Group), 1991

The former building of Dai-Kyakuden donated by members of the Soka Gakkai, (English: Grand Reception Hall), built on 1 March 1959, expanded in 1964 and demolished in September 1995. Photo circa 19 August 1993. Reception Hall of Taiseki-ji in 1993.jpg
The former building of Dai-Kyakuden donated by members of the Soka Gakkai, (English: Grand Reception Hall), built on 1 March 1959, expanded in 1964 and demolished in September 1995. Photo circa 19 August 1993.

Nichiren Shōshū excommunicated the Soka Gakkai and the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) on 28 November 1991. [10] [11]

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 Meijiro Kenshin Junior and Senior High School to Nichiren Shoshu on 4 June 1928.[ 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 and Soka Gakkai International 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. [12]

On 10 May 1974, the Vice-President of Soka Gakkai, Hiroshi Hojo, submitted a written report to Daisaku Ikeda proposing a schism with Nichiren Shōshū, using the 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 oversee 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 Abe.[ citation needed ]

These and other conflicts 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 from the 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.[ citation needed ]

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 Soka Gakkai International members. [13] [14] :69


The Shohondo hall of the Taiseki-ji temple. Constructed in 1972, demolished in 1998. Syohondo.jpg
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. [15]

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.[ citation needed ] Chief among this is the prohibition of members to attend other religious venues, the purchase of buddhist religious articles outside of its local Temple branches or the Taisekiji vicinity.[ citation needed ] Most significant is the alleged monopoly of Nichiren Buddhism through the devotional Tozan pilgrimages to the Dai Gohonzon. [16] 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. [17]

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, though both the temple priesthood and Tsunesaburo Makiguchi in his writings at the time did lend support for the world war effort as dictated by the Japanese Emperor. The first talisman dedicated to the solar goddess Amaterasu-Omikami enshrined at the Dai-Kyakuden Hall was installed by the Japanese Imperial Army. [18]

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.[ citation needed ]

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”. [19]


See also

Related Research Articles

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  1. "He (Shakyamuni Buddha) also revealed that his teachings would retain the capacity to enlighten future generations of believers for only a limited period of time, gradually losing their efficacy as the benightedness of mankind increased. He foretold that by 2000 years following his death his teachings would be like an out of date medical prescription for a patient whose disease had turned far more serious. Shakyamuni predicted that at that time another greater Buddha would be born who, after overcoming severe persecutions, would reveal the true cause of original enlightenment. This person (Nichiren Daishonin) would be the incarnation of the eternal True Buddha and sow the seed of enlightenment in the lives of all beings."
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