Introduction to Nichiren Buddhism

Brief History of Buddhism

Nichiren Buddhism  originated with the teachings of Shakamuni, also called Gautama Buddha, and Siddhartha, who lived about 2500 years ago. Nichiren Buddhism falls into one of the two major branches of Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism.  This branch espouses Bodhisattva practice as the means of enlightenment of both self and others. The other branch of Buddhism, Hinayana Buddhism, aims at personal enlightenment. [1]

Your Buddha Nature

Shakamuni became enlightened as a young man and for the next 50 years he taught his followers the Dharma and the Law through many thousand sutras, as he traveled throughout India.[2]

At the end of his teaching life he gave them what he felt was his highest teaching, the Lotus Sutra, where he taught that all people have the Buddha nature, an enlightened level of life within, encompassing a state of freedom, unshakable happiness, tremendous life force and a deep wisdom. He stated that all of his teachings prior to the Lotus Sutra should be regarded as provisional.

Nichiren Daishonin, The Founder of this Practice

Buddhism then traveled from India, through Tibet, to China, Korea and then into Japan.  Over the 1900 years since Shakamuni, the teachings had become increasingly misunderstood and splintered.

Nichiren Daishonin, a Buddhist a 13th century monk studied all of the Buddhist teachings for many years trying to understand the essence of Buddhism.  Ultimately, he found that the core of the teaching was the Lotus Sutra. The name of the Lotus Sutra translated into Japanese is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

Nichiren took the practice a step forward beyond Shakamuni.  Where Shakamuni described the state of enlightenment, Nichiren developed a chant, Nam- myoho- renge- kyo, which allows each person to tap and enliven that level of life, to bring that life force and wisdom out into everyday life.

Bring Your Life into Harmony with the Rhythms of the Universe

Buddhism teaches that the workings of the universe are the expression of a single principle or Law, expressed as Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

Anyone who chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, can align their life with the rhythms of this universal law. When in harmony with this law, you can unlock your hidden potential and achieve harmony with the environment.

This means daily life will work well. You will never be deadlocked and will be able to transform obstacles, blocks and suffering in life into sources of growth and fulfillment. You will find that this practice is entirely practical and you can use it to address any issue in your daily life.  It is a practice of personal empowerment.

The goal of daily practice is to achieve fulfillment in every aspect of life and to become unshakably happy.

The Practice

The primary practice, taught by Nichiren, is the chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, which is repeated over and over.  You chant to activate your Buddha Nature in everyday life.

Gongyo, the secondary practice, includes the chant plus the recitation of two chapters of the Lotus Sutra.  The whole thing takes about fifteen minutes and is done twice a day.

You can hear both daimoku and gongyo on www.sgi-usa.org.  Go to search and enter ‘Daimoku or gongyo’ in two search boxes, to hear an auditory tape of the chant and the recitation of the two books of the Lotus Sutra.

The Gohonzon

Practitioners chant in front of a mandala written on a scroll. It is called a Gohonzon.  A Gohonzon in a practitioners home would be about two feet high with a blue green and gold background and inscribed with ancient Chinese and Sanskrit characters. It is hung in a rectangular wooden housing. Doors open in the front so the Gohonzon can be seen while chanting.

The characters, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo/ Nichiren are written down the center, and represent your enlightened nature. Written around Nam-myoho-renge- kyo are the names of Bodhisattvas and Buddhas which represent the kind of life conditions you live internally every day of your life.

When you chant and pray in front of the Gohonzon, you are not praying to something outside of yourself.  The Gohonzon acts as a mirror and allows each person to reflect deeply on his or her life.

If you want to learn more about the Gohonzon go to www.sgi-usa.org.

The SGI

The Soka Gakkai International is our Buddhist organization.

The sole purpose of the SGI is to help the members become happy.

The home of the SGI is in Japan and it is established in 192 countries. All but the most major centers are handled by volunteers. Through the SGI organization you can find a sponsor, someone to help you learn the practice, and can find meetings, and study groups. To find a group close to you, go to www.sgi-usa.org/ Find Us and enter your zip code.


[1] Dictionary of Buddhist terms and concepts, p. 251

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Introduction to
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