In the centuries-long history of Buddhism In Japan, no missionary, no priest, no teacher of Sakyamuni Buddha’s Dharma has ever had a greater effect upon that religion than the man who became known as Nichiren (Nichiren Shonin) and no religious leader has, perhaps, been more misunderstood – especially in the English-speaking world. Western writers often describe him as “combative,” “over-zealous,” “obstinate,” “arrogant,” and “fanatical,” failing to realize that such adjectives certainly do not describe a leader who was capable of creating a sincere belief, a deep love, and an undying devotion within his followers. Nichiren did all that – and more.
It possible that, in our time, we have become so used to following our political and religious leaders in an unthinking manner, or so used to living with a feeling of futility in a world of bureaucratic red-tape, that we find it difficult to believe that a sane man is capable of speaking out against political inefficiency and religious intolerance. Nichiren did all that – and more.
If he were “combative,” “overzealous,” “obstinate,” “arrogant,” and “fanatical,” he was so only in his actions toward the wealthy aristocracy, and toward those government officials, those religious leaders of his time, who were far-removed from any concern with the common man. With the humble, the meek, the poor, and the sorrowful, he was a man of unlimited compassion – a man capable of the deepest and tenderest love. And how we need such men in our own time!
It is my sincere hope that, through these pages, the reader will come to understand Nichiren as the man he really was: a scholar of great learning, a teacher of great ability, and a man of great compassion.
Salt lake City, Ljtah