Nichiren Buddhism (Japanese: Hokke-shū 法華宗) is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism based on the teachings of the 13th century Japanese priest Nichiren (1222–1282) and is one of the so-called "Kamakura Buddhism" schools. Its spirit and teachings are gleaned from some 300 extant letters and treatises written by Nichiren.
Within Nichiren Buddhism there are two major divisions which fundamentally differ over whether Nichiren should be regarded as a bodhisattva and great teacher or the actual Buddha of a new era. Several of Japan's New Religious Movements are Nichiren-inspired lay groups.
Nichiren Buddhism focuses on the Lotus Sutra doctrine that all people have an innate Buddha-nature and are therefore inherently capable of attaining enlightenment in their current form and present lifetime. Nichiren proposed a classification system that ranks the quality of religions and various Nichiren schools can be either accommodating or vigorously opposed to any other forms of Buddhism or religious beliefs.
Generally, there are two essential emphases in the practice of Nichiren Buddhism. First is the chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo which Nichiren believers contend has extraordinary power. Second is the Gohonzon, a calligraphy which is prominently displayed in the home or temple altars of Nichiren believers. The gohonzon used in Nichiren Buddhism is composed of the names of key bodhisattvas and Buddhas in the Lotus Sutra as well as Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo written in large characters down the center.
Nichiren left to his followers the mandate to widely propagate the Gohonzon and Daimoku in order to secure the peace and prosperity of society.
Traditional Nichiren Buddhist temple groups are commonly associated with Nichiren Shoshu and varying Nichiren Shu schools, while modern 21st century lay groups vary such as Soka Gakkai, Kenshokai, Shoshinkai, Risshō Kōsei Kai, Honmon Butsuryū-shū are also known.
Nichiren Buddhism is based on the Lotus Sutra. Common to most lineages of Nichiren Buddhism is the chanting of Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō or Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, and veneration of the Gohonzon. The definition of Gohonzon varies between the Nichiren schools.
Nichiren Buddhism expounds the doctrine of the Ten Worlds of life, the Ten Factors of existence, the principle of The Three Thousand Realms in a single moment of life and the teachings of The Three Proofs for verification of the validity of teachings. Most of these teachings are shared and identical in most schools and groups of Nichiren Buddhism. However, different interpretations are found for the doctrine of the "Three Great Secret Dharmas", called also "The Three Great Secret Laws", and Three Jewels.