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Wave and Mt. Fuji by Hokusai
Nichiren Daishonin, the Eternal Buddha, was born on the 16th
day of the second month in the year 1222 in a fishing village on
the pacific coast in Chiba, a prefecture in eastern Japan. As he
said in his own words: "In this life I was born into poverty of
humble parentage, I grew up in the house of a
candala."
(
Candala is the lowest class of the Indian caste system. Its
members are fisherman, jailers, slaughterers and other
followers of "unclean" trades.) In this it can be seen that, unlike
many of the saints and scholars in history, Nichiren Daishonin
was open about his humble birth and poor lineage. Moreover, it
is this background of poverty which must be remembered
when studying the teachings of the Daishonin. For the truth of
all things - the universe and the realm of Buddhism as
perceived by Buddha - is something which is to be granted
equally to all living things without question of form, wealth,
status or abililty. It is taught that all peoples, living creatures
and phenomena are equal before the Eternal Buddha and the
laws of Buddhism. In addition to this concept of absolute
equality, from the very start the Buddhism of Nichiren
Daishonin is based on the doctrine of salvation for all.

At the age of 12 Nichiren Daishonin entered the monastery of
Seicho-ji on Mount Kiyosumi near his home. His studies began
with the fundamentals of Buddhism and a general course of
study. At the age of 16 he was ordained and began his training
as a priest. At this time he personally vowed that he would
endeavor to become the leading scholar of his day. To attain
this the Daishonin devoted himself wholeheartedly to studying
the
Mahayana Buddhism that was followed in India, China,
Japan and northeast Asia.

From the age of 16 to the age of 32, in order to study all aspects of
Buddhism, Nichiren Daishonin traveled to Kyoto and Nara and other
religious centers in Japan, dedicating himself to the study and practice of
Mahayana Buddhism. Through this effort he gradually became convinced
that the true religion of the Indian sage,
Shakyamuni Buddha, was
contained in the
Lotus Sutra (Saddharma-pundarika-sutra) and
so realized that all aspects of Buddhism can be found united
within this text. Nichiren attained this understanding on the
28th day of the fourth month in the year 1253. From then on,
despite the wave of religious persecution to which he was
subsequently subjected, the Daishonin strove to put into
practice the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren Daishonin, having read all of the Buddhist texts,
decided that the Lotus Sutra, with its laws for complete
salvation and its doctrine of absolute mercy (a doctrine which
teaches that all living things may be granted a way of life the
same as that of Buddha) was the principle scripture of the
Buddhism of Shakyamuni. However, there is a great difference
between the Lotus Sutra of Shakyamni and the Lotus Sutra as
taught by Nichiren. This is because the Lotus Sutra itself has
two purposes: One is to enable those with a relationship to
Shakyamuni, living in the Middle Day of the Law (see sermon
on
true religion) to seek enlightenment through the study and
practice of this text. The second is to prophesy that in the age
of the extinction of the law, or the Latter Day of the Law (see
essay on true religion) when salvation cannot be reached
through the basic teachings of Shakyamuni, the Eternal Buddha
will come forth to re-establish the basic truths of Buddhism for
the salvation of all living things.

By the time Nichiren Daishonin came a long the power of
Shakyamuni's Buddhism to save mankind had expired.
Daishonin came to realize that the true essence of the Lotus
Sutra resided in its title Myoho-renge-kyo. And by intoning the
chant Namu-myoho-renge-kyo eternal peace and happiness
could be attained for all living things. As prophesied in the
Lotus Sutra of Shakyamuni, Nichiren Daishonin appeared in
the Latter Day of the Law to reveal and explain for us the
fundamentals of Buddhism, and thereby open the path for all
us to realize
Buddhahood.