Feb 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Nichiren Daishonin

Nichiren Daishonin (1222-1282) was born on February 16, 1222 , a Japanese monk and the son of a poor fisherman, Nichiren became a monk in the Tendai school. 

He was born in Kominato, which today lies in the Japanese prefecture of Chiba. He began his formal Buddhist study at the Seichoji Temple at eleven, where he eventually became a priest. It was at the Seichoji Temple that he first came to believe in the pre-eminence of the Lotus Sutra. On April 28, 1253, he declared his intention to preach the Lotus Sutra and Nam Myoho Renge Kyo as the true Buddhism. At the same time he changed his name from Rencho to Nichi-ren. "Nichi" means "sun", and "ren" means "Lotus".

Nichiren's independent studies led him to conclude that the Lotus Sutra contained the only true way to salvation and that chanting the phrase namu myoho renge kyo ("salutation to the Lotus Sutra") is the way to attain enlightenment. Nichiren also taught that his time, characterized by political unrest, was the period of degeneration (or age of "latter dharma," known as mappo) that was predicted in the Lotus Sutra. During this time, it was believed that only bodhisattvas could ensure the purity of Buddhist doctrine, and Nichiren identified himself as the incarnation of a bodhisattva whose mission was to spread the true teachings of the Lotus Sutra in Japan.

Nichiren sharply criticized other forms of Buddhism and taught that natural disasters and invasions would result if Japan did not turn to the Lotus Sutra. He sharply criticized Shingon, Pure Land, and Zen Buddhism, leading to two exiles and near execution. Nichiren and his followers believe he was saved from execution by miraculous intervention. Nichiren's personal communications and writings to his followers (called "Honorable Writings", or "Gosho") detail his view of the correct form of practice for the "Latter Day of the Law" (mappo), and many are preserved to this day.


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