The Importance of Historical Accuracy in Assessing the Claims of Nichiren


  • B. Christina Naylor


It has been claimed that "the timeless truths of Buddhism" are more important than its historicity. In this paper I am not discussing the general validity of this claim. I am concerned only with its validity in relation to Nichiren Buddhism, particularly as expressed by members of the "True" Sect of Nichiren (Nichiren and its lay movement, S6ka Gakkai. In the Translator's Note to the English edition of The Living Buddha, by Ikeda Daisaku (third President of Soka Gakkai from 1960) we find this statement:

Religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam lay great stress upon certain unique historical events or personages, and as a consequence are vitally concerned with the question of historicity. Buddhism however, emphasises the Dharma, or body of religious truth itself, rather than the particular time, place or person by whom it was preached. What is important, as Mr Ikeda himself notes, is not the distinction between historical truth and legend in the accounts of Sakyamuni's life but the degree to which both fact and legend embody the timeless truths of Buddhism and are meaningful to us today.