Nichiren and the Lotus Sūtra
Jacquiline Stone
Princeton University

I: Nichiren: Historical Background and Early Career

  1. Nichiren and Kamakura Buddhism

  2. Read: Osumi; Matsunaga, pp. 1-10, 137-69; Major Writings of Nichiren Daishōnin: "On Attaining Buddhahood" (vol. 1), "The Hōben and Juryō Chapters" (vol. 6). 

  3. The Risshō ankoku ron

  4. Read: Risshō ankoku ron (in Yampolsky)
Question for discussion: What social, historical and other factors contributed to the rise of the new Kamakura Buddhism? In what ways did Nichiren's response differ from that of the Pure Land Buddhist teachers? How was his conviction that the Pure Land is immanent in this world related to his Risshō ankoku ron?

II: Nichiren: Later Career and Teachings

Class session one: Nichiren's later career

Read: "On Various Actions of the Priest Nichiren" (in Yampolsky)

Class session two: Faith, practice and enlightenment in Nichiren's thought

Read: P. Ingram, "Nichiren's Three Secrets"; Major Writings: "On the Treasure Tower," "Letter from Sado," "Happiness in this World," "Letter to Jakunichi-bō," "The Gift of Rice," "New Year's Gosho" (all in vol. 1).

Question for discussion: Discuss Nichiren's teaching of attaining Buddhahood through having faith in the Lotus Sūtra and chanting its title. What does "attaining Buddhahood" seem to have meant for him?

III: Later Developments in the Nichiren Tradition: Buddhism and the State

Class session one: The Fuju Fuse Controversy

Read: A. Matsunaga, pp. 169-181; Jeffrey Hunter, chap. 3 ("Nichiō's Life and Writings")

Class session two: The Lotus Sūtra and Japanese Nationalism

Read: Murakami, pp. 19-32, 54-58; E. Lee, "Nichiren and Nationalism."

Question for discussion: Based on this week's readings, discuss how Nichiren's teaching has been interpreted to provide widely differing understandings of the relationship of Buddhism to secular authority. What were the historical factors at work in each case?

IV: Nichiren Buddhist Peace Movements

Class session one: The Peace Activism of Nipponzan Myōhōji

Read: H. Kim, "Fujii Nichidatsu's Tangyō Raihai"; Fujii Nichidatsu, Buddhism for World Peace, pp. 24-27, 44-65, 99-112, 146-51, 172-82, 255-59, 278-83.

Class session two: Peace Movements in Lotus-Related New Religions: Risshō Kōsei Kai [or Sōka Gakkai]

Read: H.N. McFarland, The Rush Hour of the Gods, pp. 173-93; N. Niwano, A Buddhist Approach to Peace, chaps. 2 and 3; "Bodhisattva: Way of Peace" (video, Hartley Film Foundation). [Or, for Sōka Gakkai:] D. Metraux, "The Sōka Gakkai's Search for the Realization of the World of Risshō Ankoku"; D. Ikeda, "A New Human Culture," A Lasting Peace, vol. 2, pp. 16-35.

Question for discussion: Discuss the syncretism of Nichiren Buddhism and Gandhi's teaching of nonviolence in the thought of Fujii Nichidatsu. How do the peace activities of Nipponzan Myōhōji differ from those of the lay organization Risshō Kōsei Kai (or Sōka Gakkai)?

Suggested Paper Topics

(Please feel free to use other sources in addition to those suggested here, including Nichiren's own writings.)

1. Compare and contrast Nichiren with other founders of the "new Kamakura Buddhism." What issues were they most concerned with, and how did they respond to them?

Read: Osumi; Habito; Stone.

2. Discuss Nichiren's idea of the Final Dharma age (mappo). How did it differ from that of other Kamakura Buddhist teachers, and in what ways was it similar?

Read: Stone; Dollarhide ("History and Time in Nichiren's Senji-sho"); Senji-sho (in Yampolsky or Dollarhide's translation).

3. Discuss the relationship of the religious and the political in Nichiren's thought.

Read: Yampolsky (Rissho ankoku ron); Kodera; Shinohara; Rodd, chap. 1.

4. Discuss how Nichiren drew from the Lotus Sūtra a sense of personal mission in the face of persecution. What did the two bodhisattvas, Never Disparaging and Superior Conduct, represent for him?

Read: Jaffe; "Letter from Sado," "Letter to Jakunichi-bo"

(Major Writings, vol. 1).

5. Discuss Nichiren's teaching of the Three Great Secret Dharmas. How does this structure represent a synthesis of existing forms of Buddhist thought and practice?

Read: Matsunaga, pp. 161-64; Ingram; Del Campana; Rodd, chap. 2.

6. What was Nichiren's attitude toward the native Japanese deities (kami) and other indigenous religious practices?

Read: Osumi; Matsunaga; Kodera; "The Hoben and Juryo Chapters" (Major Writings, vol. 6).

7. What were the ethical issues at stake in the fuju fuse controversy? What were the implications of this controversy for the relationship between Buddhism and the state? How did Nichio draw on the teachings and example of Nichiren to support his defiance of the ruler's command?

Read: J. Hunter, The Fuju Fuse Controversy in Nichiren Buddhism.

8. Compare the approach to world peace of the two Lotus-based new religions Rissho Kosei Kai and Soka Gakkai. What are the similarities and significant differences, especially with regard to their interpretation of the Lotus Sūtra and Nichiren's teaching?

Read: McFarland; Niwano; Metraux; Ikeda.

9. Discuss how Nichiren's idea of rissho ankoku has been interpreted by both militant nationalists and by members of the postwar Buddhist peace movements. What historical factors have influenced these interpretations?

Read: Lee; Tanabe; Fujii; Niwano; Ikeda.

Bibliography for Syllabus

Nichiren and His Tradition

Del Campana, Pier P. "Sandaihiho-sho: An Essay on the Three Great Mysteries," Monumenta Nipponica 26, nos. 1 and 2 (1971): 205-24.

Dollarhide, Kenneth. "History and Time in Nichiren's Senji sho." Religion 12 (1983):233-45.

Dollarhide, Kenneth. Nichiren's Senji-sho: An Essay on The Selection of the Proper Time. New York and Toronto: Edwin Mellen, 1982.

Habito, Reuben L. F. "The New Buddhism of Kamakura and the Doctrine of Innate Enlightenment." Pacific World 7 (1991): 26-35.

Hunter, Jeffrey Robert, The Fuju Fuse Controversy In Nichiren Buddhism: The Debate between Busshoin Nichio and Jakushoin Nichiken (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1989).

Ingram, Paul O. "Nichiren's Three Secrets." Numen 24-3 (1977): 207-22.

Jaffe, Paul D. "Rising from the Lotus: Two Bodhisattvas from the Lotus Sūtra as a Psychodynamic Paradigm for Nichiren." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 13-1 (March 1986): 81-105.

Kodera, Takashi James. "Nichiren and His Nationalistic Eschatology." Religious Studies 15 (March 1979): 41-53.

The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin. 6 vols. to date. Tokyo: Nichiren Shoshu International Center, 1979-1990.

Matsunaga, Alicia and Daigan. Foundation of Japanese Buddhism. vol. 2: The Mass Movement. Los Angeles and Tokyo: Buddhist Books International, 1976.

Osumi Kazuo. "Buddhism in the Kamakura Period." The Cambridge History of Japan. Vol.3 : Medieval Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Pp. 544-82.

Rodd, Laurel Rasplica. Nichiren: Selected Writings. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1980.

Shinohara, Koichi. "Religion and the Political Order in Nichiren's Buddhism." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 8/3-4 (Sept./Dec. 1981): 225-35.

Stone, Jackie. "Seeking Enlightenment in the Last Age: Mappo Thought in Kamakura Buddhism." Eastern Buddhist 18-1 (Spring 1985): 28-56) and 18-2 (Autumn 1985): 35-64.

Yampolsky, Philip B. Selected Writings of Nichiren. New York: Columbia University Press, 1990.

Nichiren Buddhism and Japanese Nationalism

Allam, Cheryl M. "The Nichiren and Catholic Confrontation with Japanese Nationalism." Buddhist-Christian Studies 10 (1990): 35-84.

Lee, Edwin B. "Nichiren and Nationalism: The Religious Patriotism of Tanaka Chigaku." Monumenta Nipponica 20-1 (1975):19-35.

Murakami Shigeyoshi. Japanese Religion in the Modern Century. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1908. Chaps. 2 and 5.

Tanabe, George J. "Tanaka Chigaku: The Lotus Sūtra and the Body Politic." In G. Tanabe, ed. The Lotus Sūtra in Japanese Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1989.

Woodard, William P. "The Wartime Persecution of Nichiren Buddhism." Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan. Third series, vol. 7 (Nov. 1959): 99-122.

Nichiren Buddhist Peace Movements

Fujii Nichidatsu. Buddhism for World Peace. Tokyo: Japan-Bharat Savodaya Mitra Sangha, 1980.

Ikeda Daisaku. A Lasting Peace, 2 vols. (New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1987).

Kim, Ha Poong. "Fujii Nichidatsu's Tangyo Raihai: Bodhisattva Practice for the Nuclear Age." Cross Currents (Summer 1986): 193-203.

McFarland, Horace Neil. The Rush Hour of the Gods: A Study of New Religions in Japan. New York: MacMillan Co., 1967.

Metraux, Daniel A. "The Soka Gakkai's Search for the Realization of the World of Rissho Ankoku." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 13-1 (March 1986); 32-61.

Metraux, Daniel A. The History and Theology of the Soka Gakkai: A Japanese New Religion. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1988.

Niwano Nikkyo. A Buddhist Approach to Peace. Tokyo: Kosei Publishing Co., 1977.

Supplementary Bibliography

Anesaki Masaharu. Nichiren, the Buddhist Prophet. Boston: Harvard University Press, 1916; reprint ed., Glouster, MA: Peter Smith, 1966.

Jaffe, Paul. "On Nichiren's Aprropriation of the Truth." Osaki gakuho 141 (June 1986): 1-10.

Lai, Whalen. "Seno'o Giro and the Dilemma of Modern Buddhism: Leftist Prophet of the Lotus Sūtra." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 11-1 (March 1984): 7-41.

Large, Stephen S. "Buddhism, Socialism, and Protest in Prewar Japan: The Career of Seno-o Giro." Modern Asian Studies 21-1 (1987): 153-71.

Montgomery, Daniel B. Fire in the Lotus: The Dynamic Buddhism of Nichiren. London: Harper-Collins, 1991.

Naylor, B. Christina. "Buddhas or Bitches? Nichiren's Attitude to Women." Religious Traditions 11 (1988): 63-76.

Naylor, Christina. "Nichiren, Imperialism and the Peace Movement." Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 18-1 (March 1991): 51-78.

Petzold, Bruno. Buddhist Prophet Nichiren: A Lotus in the Sun. Tokyo: Hokke Janaru, 1978.

Rodd. Laurel Rasplica. "Nichiren's Teachings to Women." Selected Papers in Asian Studies, new series, no. 5. Western Conference of the Association for Asian Studies.

Satomi Kishio. Discovery of Japanese Idealism. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trubner &;Co., 1924.

Satomi Kishio. Japanese Civilization, Its Significance and Realization: Nichirenism and the Japanese National Principles. New York: E. P. Dutton &;Co., 1924.

Stone, Jacqueline. "Chanting the August Title of the Lotus S?tra: Daimoku Practices in Classical and Medieval Japan" (forthcoming).

Stone, Jacqueline. "Millenarianism and the Lotus Sūtra in Japan" (forthcoming).

Stone, Jacqueline. "Original Enlightenment Thought in the Nichiren Tradition" [translations]. (Forthcoming in the Lopez/Princeton anthology?)

Stone, Jacqueline. "Rissho Ankoku Revisted: An Inquiry into Nichiren's Alleged Nationalism" (forthcoming).

Tanaka Chigaku. What is Nippon Kokutai? Introduction to Nipponese National Principles. Tokyo: Shishio Bunka, 1935-36.

Uchimura Kanzo. "Saint Nichiren." Representative Men of Japan.