The Nipponzan Myohoji, commonly referred to as Kolkata’s Japanese Buddhist Temple, offers a tranquil space to visitors. It’s essentially hidden in plain sight; the type of sanctuary you’d blow right by unless you knew to stop and look inside.
Traced back to the late 1930s, this monastery hosts a few followers of Nipponzan Myohoji, a pacifist Japanese religious movement. It’s a relatively new movement—it only arose in the early to mid 1920s— and derives from a 13th-century branch of Buddhism called Nichiren Buddhism.
Its followers believe the Lotus Sutra illuminates the path to enlightenment. They hold peace walks and pilgrimages around the world.
In Kolkata, their white temple is a place for quiet reflection and contemplation. It’s a beautiful spot, where the stress of the city seems to melt away. The compound houses a white building containing statues of the Buddha as well as a pillar with two lions flanking it. Behind the temple are small quarters where a few devotees and the head monk stay.
When you enter the peaceful temple, you’ll likely hear chants of “Na – Mu – Myo – Ho – Ren – Ge – Kyo.” The chant is also written in some places on the temple itself. Visitors from diverse backgrounds are welcome to join in the prayers, which occurred daily at 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. The monks, open to curious visitors, often answers any question one might have.