Nichiren (日蓮; born as Zennichimaro (善日麿), Dharma name: Rencho - 16 February 1222 – 13 October 1282) was a Japanese Buddhist priest who lived during the Kamakura period (1185–1333) and developed the teachings that are now considered Nichiren Buddhism, a branch school of Mahayana Buddhism. Nichiren was highly controversial in his day and was known for preaching that the Lotus Sutra alone contains the highest truth of Buddhist teachings and represents the effective teaching for the Third Age of Buddhism. He declared that social and political peace are dependent on the quality of the belief system that is upheld in a nation. He advocated the repeated recitation of the Sutra's title, Nam(u)-myoho-renge-kyo. In addition, he held that the historical Shakyamuni Buddha was the manifestation of a Buddha-nature that is equally accessible to all. He insisted that those who claim to be believers of the Sutra must propagate it even in the face of persecution. Nichiren was a prolific writer and his biography, temperament, and the evolution of his thinking has been primarily gleaned from his own writings. He launched his teachings in 1253, advocating an exclusive return to the Lotus Sutra as based on its original Tendai interpretations. His 1260 treatise Risshō Ankoku Ron (立正安国論) (On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land) argued that a nation that embraces the Lotus Sutra will experience peace and prosperity whereas rulers who support inferior religious teachings invite disorder and disaster into their realms. In a 1264 essay, he stated that the title of the Lotus Sutra, "Nam(u)-myoho-renge-kyo," encompasses all Buddhist teachings and its recitation leads to enlightenment. As a result of his adamant stance, he experienced severe persecution imposed by the Kamakura Shogunate and consequently began to see himself as "bodily reading the Lotus Sutra (Jpn. Hokke shikidoku)." In some of his writings during a second exile (1271-1274) he began to identify himself with the key Lotus Sutra characters Sadāparibhūta and Visistacaritra and saw himself in the role of leading a vast outpouring of Bodhisattvas of the Earth. In 1274, after his two predictions of foreign invasion and political strife were seemingly actualized by the first attempted Mongol invasion of Japan along with an unsuccessful coup within the Hōjō clan, Nichiren was pardoned by the Shogunate authorities and his advice was sought but not heeded. The Risshō Ankoku Ron in which he first predicted foreign invasion and civil disorder is now considered by Japanese historians to be a literary classic illustrating the apprehensions of that period. After his death, in 1358 he was bestowed the title Nichiren Dai-Bosatsu (日蓮大菩薩) (Great Bodhisattva Nichiren) by Emperor Go-Kōgon and in 1922 the title Risshō Daishi (立正大師) (Great Teacher of Rectification) was conferred posthumously by imperial edict. Nichiren remains a controversial figure among scholars who cast him as either a fervent nationalist or a social reformer with a transnational religious vision. Critical scholars have used words such as intolerant, nationalistic, militaristic, and self-righteous to portray him. On the other hand, Nichiren has been presented as a revolutionary, a classic reformer, and as a prophet. Nichiren is often compared to other religious figures who shared similar rebellious and revolutionary drives to reform degeneration in their respective societies or schools. Today, Nichiren Buddhism includes traditional temple schools such as the confederation of Nichiren-shū and Nichiren Shōshū temples, as well as modern lay movements such as Soka Gakkai, Risshō Kōsei Kai, Reiyūkai, Kenshōkai, Honmon Butsuryū-shū, Kempon Hokke, and Shōshinkai. Each group has varying views of Nichiren's teachings with interpretations of Nichiren's identity ranging from the reincarnation of bodhisattva Visistacaritra to the primordial or "true" (本仏: Honbutsu) Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.


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