Are you looking to make sense of life and for something that gives purpose and hope? We are here to listen, journey together and help you live out your truth as a Buddhist.
If you’re already a follower and practising Buddhist, find out more about joining Rissho Kosei-kai here.
If you’re seeking truth and enlightenment and want to learn more, let us share our story.
Rissho Kosei-kai was founded in Japan in 1938 and is a global non-monastic Buddhist movement of 300 branches across 22 countries and regions. Established in Oxford in 1994, RKUK is its representative body in the UK.
The founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni, attained the Supreme Perfect Awakening in India. It was a private, non-verbal connection so he shared his awakening in various forms of teachings according to the disciples’ abilities to understand. This led to the development of many denominations and practices in Buddhism.
Mahayana (Great Vehicle) Buddhism emerged to revive the founder Shakyamuni’s spirit and this is the dominant religion in many countries around the world, particularly in China, Japan, Vietnam and Mongolia.
After followers tried to walk a mile in Buddha Shakyamuni’s shoes they defined the true nature of Buddhism as the liberation of all living beings. They called themselves ‘bodhisattvas’, using Shakyamuni’s name before he attained Buddhahood.
Among Mahayana Buddhist scriptures, RK’s primary one is the Lotus Sutra, which is revered as ‘the king of sutras’. While previous Mahayana sutras denounced the sectarian Buddhist schools as Hinayana (Lesser Vehicle), the Lotus Sutra assumes a conciliatory attitude that all the teachings can be the paths to attain Buddhahood (known as Ekayana or One Vehicle).
As members of RK, we aspire to develop ourselves through the bodhisattva practice, applying its spirit in our homes, workplaces and local communities—to attain a more peaceful world. Whether on our doorstep or internationally, we join hands with the followers of all faiths and people from all walks of life to take part in various activities that promote world peace and reconciliation.
Dating back 2,500 years, Shakyamuni Buddha was born as a prince of the Shakya clan in India. When he was 29 years old, he renounced his personal and home life and life within mainstream society to free himself from attachments to others and commitments to worldly goals – this was to emancipate from the sufferings of birth, ageing, illness and death. After six years of ascetic practice (including self-discipline and abstinence), he attained the Supreme Perfect Awakening (a higher state of consciousness and enlightenment that gave clarity of vision about what it means to be human). Buddha devoted himself to sharing these truths for 45 years until he passed away at the age of 80.
Buddhism spread all over India mainly due to the emperor Ashoka taking refuge in it in the 3rd century BC. This rapid growth gave rise to differences in the interpretation of precepts and teachings among his disciples, which had separated into two schools of thought—the traditional and the progressive. Even today, more sects and doctrines are still emerging.
In the age of sectarian Buddhism (when things were viewed in a more literal and polarised way), the interpretation of teachings may have been thorough, but they lost the original vitality of Buddhism and became elitist and removed from the lives of ordinary people. Mahayana Buddhism evolved to revive the original spirit of Buddhism—that of liberating all living beings as Shakyamuni Buddha did.
When shared in China, Buddhist scriptures were randomly combined with the Mahayana and Hinayana movements and then translated. Their historical backgrounds and contexts were written by the disciples over centuries and in many places, and this lead to some contradictions and a lack of systematic ordering of texts. Because of this, all the sutras (ancient texts) were regarded as those that Shakyamuni had directly taught during his lifetime and they were systematically categorised. In this systematic interpretation, Agama sutras (early Buddhist scriptures) were placed as of lesser important while the Lotus Sutra took central place. Because Chinese Buddhism was largely academic and saw the rise of meditation and precepts, it became exclusive to monks practising in the seclusion of monasteries.
In the 6th century, this interpretation was introduced to Japan and Mahayana Buddhism spread locally as it had support from the rulers. In the 12th and 13th centuries, some great practitioners developed profound philosophies after they embraced the fact that the most significant role of Buddhism was the liberation of ordinary people. Their teachings were easy for ordinary villagers to believe and practise. The spirit of this movement in Japan mirrored Mahayana Buddhism’s rise in India. The Japanese Buddhist priest Nichiren (1222-1282) widely interpreted and shared the mature ideas of the Lotus Sutra with ordinary people, believing that a buddha-nature is something everyone can have.
The founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, Rev Nikkyo Niwano (1906-99) learnt and walked among different religions and interpretations of Buddhism seeking the law that can liberate all people. He was certain that the Lotus Sutra was the universal truth and that its teachings liberated all living beings—applicable anytime, anywhere and providing a life of purpose and happiness. Niwano said that his encounter with the Lotus Sutra made a deep impression and at a level not previously experienced. This encounter saw the beginnings of RK in 1938.
After Ceylon became a part of the British Empire, an active area of research was the early Buddhist scriptures. The Pali Text Society in London in 1881 had a significant impact on history and made the original texts and their translations accessible. It was established to promote the Buddhist scriptures and protect the Pali language in which they were written. In the Mahayana tradition, most Pali texts were destroyed after they were translated into Chinese. Other translations and interpretations such as Japanese and Korean were based on these Chinese translations for centuries.
Based on this modern philological analysis in Japan, Mahayana Buddhism was getting criticised that it did not follow Shakyamuni’s direct teachings.
In this historical context, RK was founded with the Lotus Sutra as its core scripture. Many scholars, including Pali specialists, had come to founder Nikkyo Niwano and RK with the expectation of a Buddhist movement gathering steam from a grassroots level.
We can think of RK as a modern path to buddhahood (known as the One Vehicle movement) as if the birth of the Lotus Sutra had played the conciliatory role in the conflict between sectorial Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism in ancient India.
There is much brokenness in our world today—conflict, poverty, illness, human rights violations and environmental issues. Since its foundation, all RK members are working towards refining themselves and trying to be a light in society as a bodhisattva—to give others the hope of a better world.
RK spotlights the suffering of the world through collective engagement in interreligious cooperation through such activities as Religions for Peace (RfP) and the International Association of Religious Freedom (IARF) as well as practical activities such as the Donate-a-meal Movement in partnership with UN agencies and civil societies. These are modern-day challenges that we can take part in as we work towards attaining buddhahood (One Vehicle – a school of thought that harmonises Buddhists traditions and sects and various religions and non-religious communities to lead them to a common future).
As bodhisattvas, we are committed to bringing about a more peaceful world by revering everyone’s buddha-nature. We can visualise this reality of suffering as like a beautiful lotus flower that is rooted in a muddy pond.
Our goal is to see a world without exclusion and discrimination where all people are liberated.
Originating in Japan, Rissho Kosei-kai has spread to North and South America, East Asia, South Asia, Africa and Europe. We wish as many people as possible to know a good way to live as human beings according to the Lotus Sutra and make true happiness their own. Working together towards this shared vision, RK’s worldwide communities are progressing and developing according to the respective cultures and traditions.
RK in the UK’s history dates back to when the IARF international office moved to Oxford in 1994. RKUK was born from interfaith movements seeking for peace. Since then, we have shared the faith and mission through engagement with many people across the UK and Northern Ireland.
In 2020, in the middle of incredible world changes and the whirlwind impact of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic hitting British society, we still dared to open our new Buddhist centre, called the London Centre. Now, more than ever, we believe that if people can find the true purpose of life with the Lotus Sutra, we are certain our world and communities will become more cheerful, kinder and warm-hearted.
We hope that, through Buddhism, a wave of optimism and enlightenment may flourish in the UK and extend to Europe, bringing peace and solace to troubled and anxious hearts and minds. With this wish, RKUK is walking a path to the Buddha Way rightly and honestly.