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Nichiren School of Japan
(Watson, et. al)

  • Buddhism spread to Japan from Korea in middle of sixth century AD, began to gain acceptance in 741 AD with State patronage courtesy of Emperor Shomu. He ordered establishment of temples in every province.
  • only major school of Buddhism to be founded in Japan
  • Nichiren (1222-1282) was forceful preacher of Dhamma, teachings take form of letters to his followers,
  • No direct contact contact with India. Relied on Chinese exegetical texts.
  • Chih-i (538-597) of the T'ien-t'ai School worked out a very elaborate system for rationalizing the contradictions in the Mahayana Canon
    • Five Periods: (jap: goji)
      1. Kegon period - Buddha expounded teaching after enlightenment
      2. Agon period - period of Agon sutras, Hinayana sutras expounded
      3. Hodo period - such sutras as Amida, Dainichi and Vimalakirti taught
      4. Hannya period - Hannya sutras or "Wisdom" sutras preached
      5. Hokke Nehan period - 8 yr. period where Lotus and Nirvana Sutras expounded
    • Eight Teachings: (jap: hakkyo)
      • four of doctrine (keho no shikyo)
      1. The tripitaka teaching (zokyo)
      2. connecting teachings (tsugyo) - introductory mahayana teachings on for those in states of shomon, engaku, and bodhisattva
      3. Specific teaching - (bekkyo) higher level specifically for bodhisattva; three truths discussed but still as separate
      4. Perfect teaching (engyo) - true mahayana taught to all on the basis that anyone can attain Buddhahood
      • four of method
      1. The sudden teaching (tonkyo) - expounded directly on B's enlightenment without giving preparatory knowlege to disciples
      2. the gradual teaching (zenkyo) - taught in progressive stages
      3. The Secret teaching (himitsukyo) - listeners unaware each recieved different benefit according to their capacity
      4. The Indeterminate teaching (fujo-kyo) - listeners knowingly recieved different benefit
  • T'ien T'ai and Japanese couterpart Tendai (founded by Saicho (767-822) aka the great teacher Dengyo) thus organize the sutras by this system from lesser to greater
  • Thus, Nichiren on this basis places the Lotus Sutra as the highest
  • "six sects of Nara" are the earliest schools of Jap. Buddhism, in the capital city of 710-94. Some hinayana, some mahayana, all philosophically abstruse
  • Shingon sect introduced from China, referred to as Esoteric School, by Kukai (774-835) (Grt. Tchr Kobo) both schools emphasized enlightenment in this very lifetime
  • the End of the Law (Dhamma) aka Mappo was calculated to have begun in 1052; the first, middle stages having passed, increased formalism, etc, etc... It was believed that in the late Heian and Kamakura (1185-1333) period the moral decline and ineffectiveness of the dhamma had begun.
  • Solution to this was presented, from China, as Pure-Land (amidist) buddhism (following Shinran?) which involves praying to Amida Buddha to lead people to the "Western Paradise." Practicioners urged to meditate on Amida Buddha (Namo Amida butsu)
  • Older centers of religion: Mount Hiei.
  • Tendai priest Honen (1133-1212) started formal Jodo sect (pure-land sect) preaching exclusive reliance on the nembutsu
  • Ch'an introduced in late 12th early 13th cent. Little store in scholarship, but by following what the buddha did... zazen under a master [?].
  • Enter Nichiren, who taught that in the troubled times of the Latter Day of the Law, study Lotus, yes, but instead of reading, expounding, copying, etc the Sutra, embracing it with utmost sincereity and faith was all that was needed. He said The chinese title of the sutra, pronounced in japanese (Myoho-renge-kyo) was the entire embodiment and truth of the sutra. Thus:


  • proponents of this school, of course were persecuted and assaulted; newly arisen Warrior class was taking power from courtly nobility, militancy was talk of the day... Emphasis became to find the "one true path" and discard all others. Honen said only amida buddha, Zen said only meditation, Nichiren said only Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Thus the stage was set for total loss of focus.


  • born low cast in Kominato in present day Chiba Prefecture, studied chinese at nearby Sheicho-ji, worshiped a statue of Bodhisattva Kokuzo.
  • in 1247 went to Mount Hiei, center of Tendai sect and later Mount Koya, center of shingon sect for pilgrimage and study.
  • In 1253, returned to Seicho-ji and was practically run out of town from heretical beliefs when he recited nam..kyo in the presence of his teachers as the result of his pilgrimage, having decide the Lotus sutra was preeminent...
  • Move to Kamakura, started attracting followers, openly attacking pure-land and zen for failure to honor the lotus sutra.
  • went to consult buddhist canon housed at Jisso-ji in Iwamoto, (Shizuoka province today), went to study in 1258 to confirm natural disasters of the day were result of not following "correct law."
  • Banished in 1261 to Izu penninsula
  • In 1268 Mongols sent a letter to Kamakura demanding they acknowlege fealty to Khubilai Khan. They ultimately attacked in 1274, monsoon destroyed most of their forces, they recovered on Korean peninsula, and retried in 1281; again a monsoon wrecked many ships. Fighting off the onslaught did eventually bring about the collapse of Kamakura shogunate in 1333.
  • Was almost beheaded by the gov't, and allegedly spared by some "strange meteorological phenomenon that lit up the sky." This apparently was a turning point in his life.
  • He was repeatedly ignored by gov't throughout his life, and retired in his final years to Mount Minobu in the provice of Kai, in present day Yamanashi. Went to a hotsprings in Hitachi hoping to recover health, and died mid-route in Ikegami, in present day Tokyo...
  • Survived by 400 letters, known collectively as Gosho or "writings"
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