Buddhism A–Z
What is Nichiren Buddhism?
Nichiren Calming the Stormy Sea at Tsunoda in Exile to Sado Island by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1835–36, Japan, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

What is Nichiren Buddhism?

Nichiren Buddhism is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism rooted in the teachings of the thirteenth-century Japanese priest, Nichiren. 

Nichiren Buddhism can be broadly divided into two factions that differ fundamentally in their interpretation of Nichiren. One school, Nichirenshu, reveres him as a bodhisattva and great teacher, while the other, Nichiren Shoshu, considers him an actual Buddha heralding a new era.

Central to Nichiren Buddhism is the practice of chanting the daimoku, or the Japanese pronunciation of the title of the Lotus Sutra‚ Nam Myoho Renge Kyo—and the veneration of the gohonzon (Japanese, “object of devotion”), a sacred calligraphy in homage to the daimoku that displayed prominently in temples and homes.

Who Was Nichiren Daishonin?

Nichiren Daishonin (1222-1282) was a prominent Japanese Buddhist priest during the Kamakura period. He was uniquely devoted to the Lotus Sutra, which he believed represented the ultimate teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha and the exclusive path to enlightenment. Nichiren’s interpretation of the Lotus Sutra revolved around its sixteenth chapter, “The Life Span of the Thus Come One,” emphasizing the practice of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo as the superior method.

Toward the end of his life, Nichiren resided in Mount Minobu in Yamanashi prefecture, where he gathered followers and wrote and refined his teachings. Nichiren eventually fell ill and, on his way to seek treatment in 1282, he stopped in Ikegami and passed away. His legacy endures through his teachings, writings, and the religious movement he inspired, which continues to influence Japanese Buddhism and culture.

Beliefs & Practice

Nichiren Buddhists center their beliefs on the Lotus Sutra, asserting that all individuals inherently possess buddhanature, and are thus capable of achieving enlightenment in their current lifetime. Buddhism’s fundamental practice involves chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo before the gohonzon

Nichiren promoted practicing Buddhism through one’s actions, emphasizing that both spiritual and material aspects of life are interconnected.  Nichiren viewed his disciples as the “bodhisattvas of the earth” responsible for spreading the correct teaching and creating a peaceful and just society. He believed that enlightenment extended beyond inner life, requiring real-world transformation.

Related Reading


What is the Gohonzon?

In Nichiren Shu Buddhism, the gohonzon is a calligraphic scroll that can guide Buddhist practitioners toward enlightenment.

What is Nichiren Shu?

Along with Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu, Nichiren Shu is one of the largest sects of the Nichiren school of Buddhism. A Nichiren Shu priest explains the tradition’s roots, practices, and basic teachings.

Buddhism A–Z

Explore essential Buddhist terms, concepts, and traditions.