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The Gosho - Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin
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        What is Nichiren Buddhism?

Who was Nichiren?

Nichiren was a 13th-century Japanese priest whose philosophy centered around the final teaching of the first historically recognized Buddha (known as Siddhartha Gautama, and also as Shakyamuni Buddha). This teaching, called the Lotus Sutra, declares that all living beings have the potential to attain enlightenment or Buddhahood.

Enlightenment is an awakening to the true nature of life, including the profound realization of the interconnectedness of all things — the inseparable relationship between the individual and the environment and the ability of each human being to powerfully influence both. This realization leads the individual to assume personal responsibility for his or her own condition of life and for that of the environment.

This responsibility is furthered by an understanding of the simultaneity of cause and effect. Each thought, word and deed has an immediate effect both on the individual and on his or her environment.

What is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo?

Nichiren taught that all of the benefits of the wisdom contained in the Lotus Sutra can be made manifest in our lives by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the title of the sutra prefixed by the Sanskrit word 'nam', meaning 'devotion'. Chanting these words and excerpts from the Lotus Sutra is the core of this Buddhist practice, supported by the propagation of teachings (or shakubuku) and study. Pursuing activities equally for the benefit of oneself and of others is the cornerstone of Nichiren Buddhism.

What is the Gohonzon?

Nichiren Daishonin inscribed the fundamental object of respect, the Gohonzon. The object, in the form of a scroll, depicts, in Chinese characters, the law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and the life of Nichiren, as well as protective influences. Down the center are the characters Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and Nichiren's signature. This indicates the oneness of Person and Law — that the condition of Buddhahood is a potential within and can be manifested by all people. SGI members enshrine a replica of the Gohonzon in their homes as a focal point for their daily practice. The Gohonzon's power derives from a person's faith — the Gohonzon functions as a spiritual mirror. Sitting in front of the Gohonzon and chanting, a person is able to recognize and reveal his or her own Buddha nature, the creative essence of life.

What is the Gosho?

Nichiren Daishonin was persecuted throughout his life by the Japanese government and by religious powers, who considered his revolutionary teachings (which asserted, for instance,the absolute equality of men and women and the potential of all people, without exception, to attain the state of Buddhahood in this lifetime) to be a grave threat to the status quo and thereby to their continued authority. Nevertheless, the letters he wrote to his followers, often under the most dire conditions of hardship and physical privation, illustrate that even in the midst of the greatest challenge he was able to realize the great beauty of life and feel joy and compassion for others. These letters and treatises, more than 400 of which remain today, are collected in English as The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, and are the primary study material for SGI members.

What is Gongyo?

The Japanese word gongyo literally means "assiduous practice." Generally speaking it means to recite Buddhist sutras in front of an object of worship. The practice of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism is to recite Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and part of the second "Hoben" and the entire sixteenth "Juryo" chapters of the Lotus Sutra in front of the Gohonzon. This is the fundamental practice of Nichiren Buddhism, performed morning and evening.

What is SGI?

SGI (=Soka Gakkai International) is the organization of lay practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism around the world. The goal SGI members try to achieve is to manifest Buddhahood, or enlightenment, in their lives, which will tap their creative potential as individuals and, in so doing, create thriving and peaceful families, workplaces and communities. The eventual goal is, through the gradual "human revolution" of the individual, to create a ripple effect of peace and prosperity in societies throughout the world.

Until the 1930's the followers of Nichiren (known as the Hokkeko Sect) were a relatively small group of lay believers, led by the priesthood of the Fuji School (Nichiren Shoshu). In 1930, a lay organization was founded by educator Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. During World War II, Makiguchi was imprisoned for refusing to compromise his religious beliefs and resisting pressure from the Japanese government to accept the state Shinto religion, which was used to unify the public in support of the war. He died in prison in 1944. His successor, Josei Toda, was also imprisoned, but survived to help lead the postwar growth of the Soka Gakkai ("Value Creation Society") from a handful of members to more than 750,000 households by the time of his death in 1958. The third President, Daisaku Ikeda, has guided the movement to its present day strength of 10 million members in Japan, and approximately 2 million members in approximately 190 countries and territories around the world. The international organization, SGI, was formally established in 1975.

In 1991 the SGI organization separated from the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood.

Credits: Most of the input for this page was derived from the SGI-USA website.

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