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Nichiren-shū (日蓮宗: "Nichiren School") is the name of several Nichiren Buddhist schools that go back to Nichiren's original disciples. It is less well known internationally than Nichiren Shōshū. Internationally the term "Nichiren-shu" usually refers to the Kuon-ji line.
Nichiren-shū does not accept Nichiren Shōshū's claim that Nichiren designated Nikkō his sole successor, though Nikkō lineages are a part of the Nichiren-shū confederation of lineages. Doctrinally, Nichiren-shū states that the Buddha to take refuge in is the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha of the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren is regarded as the appearance in this world of Superior Practice Bodhisattva who is given the mission in chapter 21 of the Lotus Sutra to uphold the true Dharma in the age after the historical Shakyamuni Buddha's passing.
Overview of Nichiren-shū
Nichiren-shū regards Nichiren as a Bodhisattva and not as a Buddha as Nichiren Shōshū does. Consequently, it does not regard other sects of Buddhism as false by default. Instead, Nichiren is seen as the votary of the Lotus Sutra fulfilling its prophecy in acting as the appearance of Bodhisattva Jōgyō ("Superior Practice"), who leads all bodhisattvas in propagating the Lotus Sutra. Shakyamuni Buddha is regarded as the Eternal Buddha as preached in the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren-shū places Nichiren in a high position as the messenger of the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha or Original Buddha, but does not regard him as more important than Shakyamuni. The Original Buddha occupies the central role in Nichiren-shū; Nichiren—referred to as Nichiren Shōnin ("Saint Nichiren")—is the saint who refocused attention on Shakyamuni by rebuking other Buddhist schools for solely emphasizing other buddhas or esoteric practices or for neglecting or deriding the Lotus Sutra.
This can be seen in the emphasis of training in Nichiren-shū. The Lotus Sutra is paramount in study and in practice, and Nichiren's writings—called Gosho (御書) or Goibun (御遺文)—are seen as commentaries or guides to the doctrines of Buddhism. They include the Five Major Writings of Nichiren in which he establish doctrine, belief, and practice, as well as many pastoral letters he wrote to his followers.
Nichiren wrote frequently, and readers can verify or correct their understanding of the doctrines of Nichiren Buddhism through his surviving works. Unlike Nichiren Shōshū, Nichiren-shū is far more selective about which Gosho it deems authentic. Many Gosho that are accepted by these two schools are not accepted as genuine by Nichiren-shū on grounds that scholars have not verified their authenticity. This does not mean those gosho or alleged oral transmissions (like the Ongi Kuden) are rejected, but it does mean that they are viewed as secondary to authenticated materials and it is admitted that while they might have pastoral value they can not be definitively asserted as Nichiren's own teaching.
Another difference of Nichiren-shū is the positioning in its doctrine and practices of the Odaimoku (the mantra Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō) and of the mandala or Gohonzon. Nichiren-shū views these as the summit of the Dharma, but does not ignore other Buddhist practices. Forms of silent meditation (shōdai-gyō), artistic copying of the Odaimoku (shakyō), and the study of fundamental Buddhist concepts such as the Four Noble Truths and Taking Refuge are used as supporting practices in Nichiren-shū.
The calligraphic mandalas used by Nichiren-shū members are either prints of one of Nichiren's extant mandalas, or they are inscribed by Nichiren-shū clergy. All fully ordained Nichiren-shū ministers are able to inscribe and consecrate mandalas, but in practice few of them do. They usually bestow a copy of a Nichiren inscribed mandala, called the Shutei Gohonzon<--Shutei しゅてい, or shūtei しゅうてい??-->, upon their members. Nichiren-shū also does not accept the Dai-Gohonzon of Nichiren Shōshū, as it believes there is no evidence that Nichiren created any wooden mandala or asked anyone to do so on his behalf. There is certainly no evidence that Nichiren ever designated any mandala as having more importance than the others or as being in any way necessary for practice.
In Japanese society, Nichiren-shū is more mainstream than Nichiren Shōshū in that it continues to have relationships with non-Nichiren Buddhist traditions. It is a confederation of the lineages of all those disciples of Nichiren who left lineages and its temples include Kuon-ji on Mt. Minobu (身延山, where Nichiren lived in seclusion and where he asked to be buried) and Ikegami Honmonji (where Nichiren died) and its temples have many of Nichiren’s most important personal artifacts and writings (which are considered national treasures in Japan) in their safekeeping. Nichiren-shū has recently begun to ordain non-Japanese ministers and to expand its presence in the West.
- Nichiren Buddhist International Center
- Nichiren-shū Yahoo group moderated by one of the North American Nichiren-shū ministers
- Copy of a Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren
- Website of one of Nichiren-shū's North American ministers
- Nichiren Buddhist Sangha of Greater New England
- Nichiren-shū in Italy and Europe, website predominantly in Italian, also in English, French and Spanish
- Nichiren-shū in the UK