Nichiren Buddhism

Nichiren Buddhism, also known as the Lotus Sect, is one of the few prominent exclusionist sects of Buddhism in Japanese history. Established by Nichiren in the 13th century, the sect teaches that the three aspects of the Buddha - the Historical Buddha Shakamuni, the Universal Buddha Dainichi, and the Buddha of Compassion Amida - are inseparable, and accuses the chief competing sects of each emphasizing one over the other two, thus committing "the inexcusable crime of mutilating [the] Buddha's perfect body."[1] Thus, while other sects of Buddhism have historically been generally accepting of syncretic association with Shinto, and rarely if ever fought one another over theological debates (only over political and economic power), Nichiren Buddhism stands apart as one of the few prominent sects to actively accuse others of heresy.

The Lotus Sect is also unusual in asserting the holy infallibility of text, a concept familiar to the Judeo-Christian tradition but not quite so strongly emphasized in most other Buddhist sects. According to the tenets of Nichiren Buddhism, the Lotus Sutra is itself perfect, not only in what it has to say, but on a level beyond that, a perfect sacred creation. Thus, while adherents of the Pure Land chant namu Amida butsu, declaring their faith in Amida and calling upon Amida to save them, a central practice for adherents of Nichiren Buddhism is to chant namu myôhô rengekyô, declaring their faith in the Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren Buddhism is also a particularly nationalistic sect, holding (at least originally, during Nichiren's lifetime) to the belief that calamities such as the Mongol Invasions were visited upon Japan because of the country's adherence to false teachings, and that it was the prayers of Nichiren and his followers in particular which brought the kamikaze (divine winds) which drive the Mongols away. Further, since Nichiren Buddhism sees itself as the truest, or only, correct form of Buddhism, it sees Japan as being the site of the rebirth of the greatest, truest, form of Buddhism, and the place from which this true form of Buddhism will spread to the rest of the world, to replace the degraded and false Buddhisms dominant in China and Korea.


  • William Theodore de Bary, Sources of Japanese Tradition, vol 1, Second Edition, Columbia University Press (2001), 284.
  1. de Bary, 292-293. Specifically, Esoteric Buddhism emphasizes Dainichi, Pure Land Buddhism Amida, and Zen the teachings of the historical Buddha.