Nichiren (nĭchˈərən) [key] [Jap., = sun lotus], 1222–82, Japanese Buddhist priest, founder of Nichiren Buddhism. Of humble birth, Nichiren (whose given name was Zennichimaro) early became a monk, and traveled to many temples in search of true Buddhism. In 1253, convinced that contemporary Buddhism was inadequate for a degenerate age, he proclaimed faith in the Lotus Sutra as the only means of salvation. Conflict with both religious and civil authorities marked the remainder of his life. He condemned Zen Buddhism for stressing extrascriptural transmission, Pure Land Buddhism for devaluing the present lifetime, and civil authorities for supporting "false religions." His uncompromising evangelism led to several periods in exile as well as great mass appeal, which continues to this day (see Soka Gakkai).
See M. Kanko, The Nichiren Sect (1958); A. Masaharu, Nichiren the Buddhist Prophet (1966); T. Yutaka, Nichiren (1970); P. B. Yampolsky, ed., Selected Writings of Nichiren (1990).