The Nichiren Sect (日蓮宗)
The Nichiren sect is a Buddhist sect founded by Nichiren in the Kamakura period. It is also called the Hokke sect.
In a narrow sense, today it refers to 'Religious Corporation Nichiren sect,' the largest sect among the sects saying Nichiren was their founder. The Sohonzan (head temple) of the Nichiren sect is Kuon-ji Temple located on Mt. Minobu and the Shumuin (propagation hall) is in Ikegami Honmon-ji Temple (Ikegami, Ota Ward, Tokyo Prefecture). It is the union of sects, and consists of 57 temples of Sohonzan (the head temple of the upper rank), Daihonzan (the head temples of the middle rank) and Honzan (the head temples of the lower rank).
It is the largest sect among the various Nichiren sects which includes various monryu (school of a sect) having different doctrines such as 'the school of Shaka Honbutsu-ron (the idea Shakya-muni is the True Buddha) and Icchi-ha (the idea the thought of shakumon and honmon is the same),' 'the school of Shaka Honbutsu-ron and Shoretsu-ha (the idea the thought of honmon is better than shakumon)' and 'the school of Shuso Honbutsu-ron (the idea Nichiren is the True Buddha) and Shoretsu-ha.'
It has 5,200 temples and 3,300,000 believers.
It developed from Kyoso Hanjaku (the evaluation of sutras) by Priest Zhiyi in China, who said that the secret of Buddhism had been taught by Shakya-muni existed in Hokke-kyo (Saddharmapundariika-sutra, the Lotus Sutra). It is based on "Myohorenge-kyo" (Saddharmapundariika-sutra, Miaofa Lianhua-jing, the Lotus Sutra) which was translated by Kumaraju (Kumaarajiiva).
Nichiren taught the idea that any unenlightened person kept 'bussho' (the Buddhist nature) in the inside of him and once he performed a Buddhist practice (called 'gyo') of chanting the Nichiren chant 'Nam Myohorenge-kyo' (called 'shodai'), 'bussho' would appear on the outside of him.
After the death of the founder Nichiren, the differences of the thoughts about honbutsu (the true Buddha) and of the thoughts about the relative merit of the early part and the latter part of "Myohorenge-kyo" made branch groups which is roughly divided into three schools.
It refers to Kuon Jitsujo Honshi Shakyamuni butsu.
Icchi school and Shoretsu school
Nijuhachi-bon (twenty-eight chapters) forming Myohorenge-kyo are divided into two part; the early part is called 'Shakumon' (the Trace Gate) and the latter part is called 'Honmon' (the Source Gate). Shoretsu school considers that the secret of Hokke-kyo exists in Honmon, while Icchi school insists that the whole Nijuhachi-bon should be treated as a unit.
Today some temples belong to the Nichiren sect including one Sozan (Sohonzan), fourteen Reiseki-jiin (temples having holy relic including seven Daihonzan and seven Honzan) and fourty-two Yuisho-jiin (temples of a long history including fourty-two Honzan) accept such schools.
After executing Haibutsu-kishaku (a movement to abolish Buddhism) soon after the Meiji restoration, the Meiji government announced 'Isshu Ichikanncho-sei' (the system of one chief abbot in one sect) to each Buddhist sect, and ordered them to form an integrated religious community. So in 1872 the schools and sects originated from Nichiren established the Nichiren sect. In 1874 this Nichiren sect was split into Nichirenshu Icchi-ha (Icchi school of the Nichiren sect) and Nichirenshu Shoretsu-ha (Shoretsu school of the Nichiren sect) because of the difference of the dharma. In 1876, the Icchi school changed the name into the Nichiren sect and was reorganized as an integrated religious community of 'the Icchi school which regards Shakya-muni as honbutsu' including the Niko school and the Nichijo school.
In 1941 the government ordered in the name of the state of emergency that the religions and sects having the same founder of religion or the same founder of sect or the same dharma should be consolidated. Against the background of such situation, the three sects including the Kenpon-hokke sect (the Nichiju school) which was 'the Shoretsu school saying Shakya-muni was honbutsu,' the Honmon sect (the Nikko school) which was 'the Shoretsu school saying Nichiren was honbutsu,' and the Nichiren sect formally dissolved each sect and merged on an equal footing (the merger of three schools). As a result, a new Nichiren sect was established including many schools and various thoughts which had been formed in the Kamakura period.
After the end of World War II, 'the pressure which had forced the integration' disappeared, and some head temples and branch temples which belonged to the former Kenpon-hokke sect and the former the Honmon sect left the Nichiren sect to become independent temples. However, some temples have been keeping their original dharma without leaving the Nichiren sect; the followings are such temples; the reformist Honzan (head temple of the lower rank) of the former Kenpon-hokke sect including Myokoku-ji Temple, Honko-ji Temple, Genmyo-ji Temple and Myoritsu-ji Temple and their branch temples; the Daihonzan of the former Honmon sect, Omosu Honmon-ji Temple, and the Honzan of the same sect including Koizumi Kuon-ji Temple and Yanase Jitsujo-ji Temple and their branch temples.
The influence of Tendai Doctrine on Nichiren
The term 'bussho' is not found in Myohorenge-kyo. It can be thought that this is because Chinese Tendai sect (Tiantai-zong) incorporated the Nehan sect (Niepan-zong) which was based on "Daihatsu Nehan-gyo" (Daban Niepan-jing, the Nirvana Sutra), one of Mahayana Sutra of the middle period, in which the term 'bussho' (仏性foxing) appeared for the first time.
The Thought on Hokke-kyo
It is believed that since Nichiren had studied at Enryaku-ji Temple located on Mt. Hiei which had been established by Saicho, the founder of the Tendai sect originated from Chinese Tendai sect, Nichiren emphasized Hokke-kyo.
Originally, Buddhism was based on a huge amount of Buddhist scriptures in which the teaching of Shakya-muni, the founder of the religion, was written by his disciples after his death. Generally, it is very difficult to read all of them and understood all the meaning correctly. Considering the social situation that too many sects were founded in China, it was natural that 'which Buddhist scripture was the most important in Buddhism' had gradually become the sole biggest problem among Buddhist. For a long time researched Buddhist scriptures, Great Priest Zhiyi of Tiantai concluded that Hokke-kyo ('sad dharma pundarika sutra' in Sanskrit which means 'right dharma, white lotus flower') was the supreme teaching which Shakya-muni had reached at the age of over 70. Especially, he considered that "Myohorenge-kyo" ("Miaofa Lianhua-jing" commonly translated as "the Lotus Sutra") which was said to have been translated into Chinese by Kumaraju (Kumaarajiiva) was the best translation.
It is generally thought that since being affected by such idea of Priest Zhiyi of Tiantai, Nichiren regarded Hokke-kyo (Myohorenge-kyo) as the supreme Buddhist scripture. At the same time, based on the mental aspect of Nichiren, it is considered that since he found the life of the ascetic described in Hokke-kyo and his own life was the same, he became aware of being 'Jogyo Bosatsu' (the head of 'Honge-jiyu Bosatsu,' Bodhisattva who had to assist Shakya-muni in the mission) (called 'Jogyo Ojo').
Under the present religious system of the Nichiren sect, temples are classified into Sozan, Reiseki-jiin, Yuisho-jiin and Ippan-jiin (common temples). Jikaku (status of a Buddhist temple), which was originated from Honmatsu-seido (the government-enforced main-branch temple system) in the Edo period, was dissolved in 1941 and does not exist now. However, the religious system of the Nichiren sect prescribes that each temple can use the title of Sohonzan or Daihonzan or Honzan.
Sozan' is Kuon-ji Temple located on Mt. Minobu (which is considered to be the sacred mountain where Nichiren as a god lives) where Nichiren's remains were buried by his will, and Kanju (the head priest) of Sozan is called 'Hoshu.'
Reiseki-jiin' is the important site of Nichiren and 'Yuisho-jiin' has a distinguished history in the history of the sect, and both head priests (legal representative board) are called 'Kanju' (in Nakayama Hokkekyo-ji Temple, the head priest is called 'Denshu').
Sozan, Reiseki-jiin and Yuisho-jiin organize 'the Nichiren Sect Head Temples Association of Japan.'
The president is Nisso UCHINO (hoen of Cho-shi) the Hoshu of Kuon-ji Temple on Mt. Minobu, and the chairman is Nikkan NAGAKURA (hoen of Cho-shi) the Kanju of Hongaku-ji Temple on Mt. Myogon, and the office is temporarily located in Komatsubara Kyonin-ji Temple at present.
Shumuin Propagation Hall
Ikegami Honmon-ji Temple (Ota Ward, Tokyo Prefecture)
Nihon Fukushi University
Joen-ji Temple Nichiren Buddhism Research Institute
Missionary Institute and Newspaper Company
The National Association of Shuhoshi Meetings of the Nichiren Sect
(Ikegami, Ota Ward, Tokyo Prefecture)
Minobu Jinkyo Hospital
Rissho Medical Clinic