Filed in Nichiren

Understanding Nichiren Buddhism

A collection of articles from Tricycle

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While Tricycle is a nonsectarian and independent publication, most of our content reflects a perspective of what might be called meditation-oriented Buddhism. Most of our readers and contributors know Buddhism primarily in terms of the meditation traditions of Zen, Vipassana, or Vajrayana as they have been presented to a Western audience. Indeed, it is probably not an exaggeration to say that, for many of our readers, approaches to Buddhism, such as Nichiren, that are not based on a practice of quiet, focused sitting meditation are, other than in name, scarcely recognizable as Buddhist at all.

Over the years, we have become increasingly convinced of the importance of promoting a richer and more inclusive dialogue among different Buddhist communities. This is not always an easy thing. Among Western convert Buddhists, there has always been a sharp division, exacerbated by prejudice and misunderstanding, between Nichiren Buddhists and those pursuing approaches based on quiet sitting. Meditation-oriented Buddhists often think of Nichiren Buddhists (if they think of them at all) with little real knowledge and even with condescension. The same is true in how they view Pure Land Buddhists. We can do better, and we should.

In this special section, we have selected, with an eye toward variety, some of the articles on Nichiren Buddhism published in Tricycle over the years. We hope that by gathering these articles in one place and making them freely available, our Buddhist conversation will be broadened and that we can, all of us, more fully know ourselves in knowing one another.

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dhruvthukral's picture

lovely post :)
I will recommend this post for rest of the viewers nam myoho renge kyo benefits

feyindie60's picture

At 35, when I began practicing Nichiren Buddhism formally in 1985, I found lots of resistance from my friends who practiced Tibetan Buddhism. I was cast aside from conversations.. I was following a path that began when I was two. I saw the Buddha at Kamakura when I was living in Japan and a connection was made.

There were no opportunities for discussion except for the groups that the Japanese wives of American servicemen put together. I went to many inspiring rallies with Soka Gakkai members. By the way, I am a tall blue eyed Irish girl. I stood out in a crowd of Japanese, but only I noticed, they didn't.
As I grew older, I left the youth groups and began practice on my own. Following internal problems with the priesthood, I have chosen to study the Lotus Sutra on my own.. I have studied with teachers, but would never follow just one. I was delighted to find Tricycle where it all came together.
As a student of religious studies early on, I found Buddhism to be the spiritual practice that called to me. All the discussions have been useful to my world view.
I realize Nichiren had the view of his world only. But I have enjoyed his words and the essence of his teachings. In the end, we pass these teachings on by our actions, thoughts, and words. I am a modern woman whose presence was not welcome in the inner sanctum of the boy's club. Nichiren dispensed with all that nonsense and talked about the real things that matter in life. The Lotus Sutra was the most important sutra written in my mind, for it speaks to freedom.
Written in a time of serfdom,slavery,and nobles, Nichiren suffered for his beliefs that everyone is capable of being a Buddha.
There are many of you who will continue to debate whatever you want about Nichiren. He has been a great teacher in my life. I hope you take time to read some of his letters, explore his life. Also read some Daisaku Ikeda works. "The Flower of Chinese Buddhism" is a nice history of the flow of Buddhism and the T'ien-t'ai School and the Lotus Sutra. I, myself, continue to take great delight in the flow of Buddhist thought that is being translated more and more. We are blessed that the world is getting closer and closer!

dhruvthukral's picture

Dont listen to anyone...BELIEVE ME
Nichiren Buddhism is just awsome
by http://lifeofnichiren.com/

Dominic Gomez's picture

Thanks for this, feyindie. Always a delight to hear about the universality of the Law.

kv83108's picture

Whoa, that's quite a thread running. I just want to thank those at Tricycle for publishing these articles on Nichiren Buddism. I would like to read more!!!

tapn2it2win's picture

....may we all have a wonderful breakthrough in our personal lives!

tapn2it2win's picture

This is the first time I have read these discussions.

I read the above article:
Faith in Revolution: An interview with Daisuku Ikeda". Please go to that article. It really is a beautiful explanation of Nichiren Buddhism and captures Nichiren's true intent.

The biased and ignorant comments of Nichiren practioners that you folks have been talking about is exactly WHY the chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo (practice for oneself) and teaching others and helping others to practice (practice for others) is so crucial. This is what helps practioners to embark on their journey of Human Revolution that Mr. Ikeda talks about in the interview.

There are those who start out new in this practice who are unaware of just how "steeped in the Three Poisons" they really are: 3 poisons of Greed, Anger, & Ignorance or stupidity. But as they practice & chant, & study, and help others to learn about practicing, they come to these realizations on their own and begin to purify their lives and transform their inner lives by tapping into their innate Buddha Nature.

Actually, our society & planet promotes the 3 Poisons and has been doing so since the beginning of civilization. So many suffer needlessly, and I must say, that our world is in desperate need of Buddhism!
ANY type of Buddhism that will bring people closer to their own self empowerment, seeing their own Buddha Nature, and living Lovingkindness & Compassion for all!

To me, it is pointless to FOCUS on our "differences" when we all have the Buddha Nature! I feel that it is time for all of us to come together- no matter what "brand" we practice, the INTENT is the same. We all know what this world would be like if everyone embraced Buddhist thought. Can you imagine what the Middle Eastern countries would be like?

As with any practioner of ANY religion, we all have known some to be "clueless" that they "don't have a clue to the fact that they don't have a clue" about the true nature of their own lives. Every church and religious order has these kinds of people. The zealots always beat the loudest drums!

Our workplace is a perfect example of clueless and toxic insecure people that we, as Buddhist practioners have to face everyday. We vow to ourselves to "bring the Buddha to work", while others bring the "donuts to work." ... this is the arena where our personal journey of inner transformation takes place as practicing Buddhists.

Nichiren Buddhism teaches that we learn about about ourselves through relationships with others. That although we want to think that the problem lies with the other person, "out there", it always boils down to our own personal reflection and introspection of what is going on in between our ears. The solution is always "within". It is very empowering.

As with ANY religion, there will always be the dogmatic, anal types (Fear), the arrogant & condescending & condemning anything and anyone who embraces another teaching (Anger), those who are hungry spirits "clinging" to "proving" their points to others (Greed). These folks are missing the basic premise of Buddhism: Compassion & Removing Suffering (the spirit of a true Boddhisattva) These people are missing the point.

Chanting is like polishing the mirror so that we may see ourselves CLEARLY as we truly are! Perhaps intolerant, unwilling to accept anything that is different from what they know.

What Daisaku Ikeda explained about Nichiren is truly amazing & remarkable for a "revolutionary" in 13th century feudalistic Japan. When Nichiren encouraged his followers,there was no discrimination in terms of class or gender - he emphasized that Buddhahood exists in ALL human beings. He opened the eyes of his disciples to their own empowerment, and really pissed off the Government officials by doing so.

He taught them that women who devoted themselves to this essence of the Lotus Sutra,or the chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, would definitely attain enlightenment! What a radical departure from the ignorance of that time period in Japan!

He was considered a "subversive" and a threat to the status quo and was constantly in danger of being beheaded and exiled. Exiled he was.... and on the way to being beheaded at Tatsunokuchi Beach, a luminous object (comet?) streaked across the night sky, terrifying the soldiers to the point that they were so badly shaken they could not carry out the execution.

He was chanting the Daimoku at that time and his entire being was completely in rhythm with the protective forces of the Universe at that precise moment! Not superstition... just his enlightened life condition eliciting protection from the natural laws of the universe with perfect timing.

This historical incident is a perfect example of Nichiren's teaching of the "oneness of person and environment" (two but not two) that the environment responds to our life condition and the contents of our mind. Nichiren was a living example of "Boddhisattva Never Disparaging".

When Daisaku Ikeda was giving some examples of "human revolution", the revolution within takes place in people as they go out into the "saha" world where the three poisons of Greed, Anger, and Ignorance bombard us at almost every turn in society and in the workplace.

When these "poisons" are turned into medicine" as a result of a sincere, consistent practice of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo for ourselves AND for OTHERS, which is the Boddhisattva WAY, the gradual process of "human revolution" blossoms like a Lotus Flower in the Murky Swamp. The Lotus Flower cannot bloom in clean, clear water- and neither can we! A beautiful metaphor of Buddhist Practice!

"Awakening to the Dignity Inherent in Life" a personal experience of an abused, self destructive & violent young man with no respect for himself or others, is one of the most powerful examples of "human revolution" I have read thus far. I think of Mr. Ikeda's example of the singing caged bird.

This young man states in his experience:

"I felt a sense of harmony with everything around me, like I had tapped into my Buddha Nature and that my true self was compassion and love. My life itself was Nam Myoho Renge Kyo".

The article appeared in Living Buddhism , page 6 of July 2012 issue. There is an amazing photo of this tatooed man sitting in front of a colorful painting he created with the "light" of hope and compassion and lovingkindness emanating from his eyes!

Check it out! It is a lesson to us all that no person is a lost cause or a hopeless case... that we ALL possess the Buddha Nature within us. It is the compassion we cultivate within our own "inner" lives that will without fail, help us fulfill our purpose of removing suffering as a Boddhisattva of the earth.

illarraza's picture

Time , Circumstance, and Teachings: The Kempon Hokke’s Struggle with the Soka Gakkai and the Nichiren Shoshu

Nichiren had Nembutsu, Zen, Ritsu, True Word, and Tendai [Mikkyo] with whom to contend. Our struggle with the Nichiren Shoshu and the Soka Gakkai is even more profound and serious. The most perverse sect at the time of Nichiren was arguably Tendai [Mikkyo] which mixed Lotus Sutra Buddhism and Shingon. Today, we have a similar problem but NST and SGI are more dangerous than Tendai because they mix the Essential Teachings of the Lotus Sutra with Shingon [rather than the Theoretical Teachings and Shingon, as in Mikkyo]. They are more cunning and clever than Jikaku, Enchin, and Annen. Lamanism and secret oral transmissions are not Nichiren Daishonin’s Lotus Sutra teachings period. Our main struggle today is with these two aberrant sects. They praise the Lotus Sutra but destroy its intent and many people are confused and led into the evil paths. Nichiren says extreme evil is most difficult to perceive and like radiation, we can not see, smell, touch, hear, or taste extreme evil [because it is so disguised] . Only with a tool such as a geiger counter can we perceive radiation or through witnessing the effects of exposure. Only through the Scripture of the Wonderful Law, the writings of Nichiren, and the disastrous effects of the NST and SGI faith, can we perceive the devastation of these false teachings.

Makiguchi and Toda were ignorant. They were unaware of the extent and gravity of Nichiren Shoshu's slander. They devoted themselves to the Nichiren Shoshu teachings at the expense of the purity of the Lotus Sutra and the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. They misunderstood Buddhism. Their views and that of SGI are antithetical to the Lotus Sutra, their vision wisps of smoke or a dream within a dream. Their teachings result in an ever greater accumulation of suffering as demonstrated by the untoward events in heaven and on earth. The Soka Gakkai was born in 1931. By 1945 Japan was completely devastated. This will happen in the future also, unless the SGI is disbanded.

SGI asserts, “In essence, Toda revitalized Buddhism based upon his new interpretations of the Lotus Sutra and applied it to devastated, war-torn Japan.” Actually, Toda revitalized the heretical teachings of Taisekaji. His interpretations derive from Nichikan’s Exegesis. Proof is Toda’s slanderous Lecture On The Sutra, where up is down, east is west and right is wrong. Were it not for the Soka Gakkai and the slanderous Taisekaji teachings [which destroy the intent of the Lotus Sutra], there never would have been a devastated war-torn Japan. Their teachings, like the True Word [Shingon] teachings, are devoid of literal, theoretical, and actual proof while the teachings of the Original Buddha Shakyamuni and Nichiren Daishonin are endowed with all three and affirmed by all Buddhas throughout the past, present. and future.

The SGI teaches that we shouldn’t read or follow The Lotus Sutra or Nichiren Daishonin literally, even though Nichiren read the Lotus Sutra with his very body. Yet, they claim:

“Toda also read the Lotus Sutra with his life. While he was imprisoned during W.W.II, he struggled to understand the meaning of the word “Buddha.” He contemplated and chanted with intense concentration and finally came to the realization that the concept of “Buddha” in the Lotus Sutra signified “life.” In other words, Toda also found a new, profound meaning of the Lotus Sutra. This awakening gave a new, modern meaning to Buddhism. Buddhism, which for centuries had been a funeral conducting religion, was reborn as a life philosophy. In jail, Toda also had a glimpse of his past: he saw that he was attending the Ceremony in the Air. Based upon these two awakenings, he reformed the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (Value-Creating Educators Society; a lay organization for educators which had practiced Nichiren’s Buddhism), which was destroyed during W.W.II by the militaristic Japanese government. He renamed it Soka Gakkai (Value-Creating Society) with the spirit of including all common people, and started his task of reconstructing the society by giving lectures about the Lotus Sutra. Since he saw that he himself emerged from the earth during the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, his interpretation of the Lotus Sutra was very realistic and his explanations were filled with absolute confidence.”

Likening Buddha to life was completely mistaken in light of the Lotus Sutra and Gosho. All that lives is destined to die. Life is marked by transience, suffering, impurity, and selfishness. The Original Buddha is eternal, joyful, pure, and selfless. The Buddha transcends life [and death]. Ikeda’s transgressions are far worse because of the principle of intent. He knows all too well the true and eternal principles of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Daishonin but persists in transmitting SGI’s [and Taisekaji's] distorted teachings. How many more untoward events in heaven and on earth will we have to experience because of Daisaku Ikeda’s transgressions? If Daisaku Ikeda and SGI continue to destroy and distort the teachings and fool the people, many more and severe sufferings will beset the people

President Toda taught in his Lecture on the Sutra:

“With this silent prayer, we express our sincere thanks to the Second High Priest Nikko Shonin, the founder of Head temple Taisekiji. Hossui-shabyo: Hossui is the Law or Buddhism metaphorically compared to clean water. Shabyo means “transfer. Now suppose here are two glasses, one of which is filled with water. The water is transferred from one glass into the other. The quality of the water remains unchanged through this transfer even though the shapes of the glasses may differ. Simililarly, the Hossui of Nichiren Daishonin was handed down from Nikko Shonin to Third High Priest Nichimoku Shonin. However, its geneuine purity was not changed in the least. This solemn tradition has been strictly maintained by the successive high priests of Nichiren Shoshu.

YUIGA YOGA: This means that the life of Nikko Shonin equals that of Nichiren Daishonin. A Gohonzon called the “Tobi” (Flying) Mandala” is enshrined at Butsugenji Temple in Sendai City in Northeast Japan. It was inscribed co-operatively by the Daishonin and His immediate successor Nikko Shonin. This fact evidences what yuiga yoga signifies.” –Josei Toda as quoted in: From “Lectures on the Sutra” Third Edition, 1968 Seikyo Press.

Please note that no where in the Lotus Sutra or the writings of Nichiren Daishonin, can we find the concepts or words, YUIGA YOGA but in Tendai/Shingon esotericism, this is a core principle. Central to Lamanism, an offshoot of Shingon, are the Four Treasures and the most important Treasure is the Treasure of the Guru. The other Three Treasures are subsumed within the Treasure of the Guru. This is known as Guru Yoga. The same goes for the SGI, whether it is implicit or implied. When SGI members or leaders chant Namu Myoho renge kyo, they are revering their Sensei. While they chant Namu Myoho renge kyo with their voices, they chant Namu Sensei in their hearts.

Makiguchi and Toda read the Lotus Sutra according to the distorted teachings of the Taisekaji priests who adopted the two related Zen and Shingon concepts respectively: The Transfer of the Water of the Law; and Yuiga Yoga or the Oneness of living Master and Disciple. The SGI has adopted these distorted Zen and Shingon viewpoints, in contrast to the Lotus Sutra and writings of Nichiren Daishonin which state, “This Sutra”.

More proof of SGI’s transgressions are Daisaku Ikeda’s teachings that mirror those of his deluded Sensei, JoseiToda. Ikeda once taught, “The basis of Nichiren Shoshu is the Lifeblood recieved only by a single person. To faithfully follow the High Priest of the bequethal of the Lifeblood is the correct way for priests and laybelievers. If one is mistaken about this single point, then everything will become insane.” And now he declares, “Following the Three Presidents of the Soka Gakkai is the basis of the Lifeblood of faith”

Doctor Daisaku Ikeda, ironically, was born into a household whose ancestors reside in Mitsugonin, a temple of the Shingon sect. It is a slanderous place which was established in accordance with Shingon formalities.

The Shingon patriarch, the Learned Doctor Shan-wu-wei too, despite his wisdom and strong practice, was mistaken about the teachings of Buddhism. Shan wu-wei was persecuted. Christ too was persecuted and his teachings are far less insidious than Shan-wu-wei’s, Makiguchi’s, and Ikeda’s. Their teachings resemble little the teachings of the Original Buddha Shakyamuni’s [Lotus Sutra] and Nichiren Daishonin’s. Visions and “visionaries”, not firmly grounded in the teachings of the Original Buddha Shakyamuni and the Daishonin, reside in the realm of delusion.

“Since 1960, at the time when Ikeda was inaugurated as the President of the Soka Gakkai, he has been emphasizing the concept of “Human Revolution”, which is the reformation of each person’s inner world. In other words, “From Outside to Inside” has been his motto. In 1995, Ikeda started lecturing about the Lotus Sutra. Two serialized articles are being published in Soka Gakkai’s publications, a dialogue in Daibyaku Renge (monthly magazine) and a lecture in Seikyo Shimbun (daily newspaper). Each article is translated into different languages and is now being studied throughout the world.”

There is nothing to change. Buddhood is ours to reveal through faith. How can you change beginingless Buddhahood? How can you change the beginingless Bodhisattva or beginningless Hell realm? The Bodhisattvas of the Earth will reveal the truth of Ikeda and refute his slander.

Someone stated:

“I feel a new direction in his articles. Although “Human Life” is always the central theme, a new emphasis seems to be “From Inside to Outside,” more specifically, “How can we change the “Outside World” based upon the changes in our “Internal World?” Ikeda discussed this theme with M. Gorbachev in their dialogue. He talked about Rissho (Establishing the true teaching, namely, “Inner” reformation or “Religious Value”) and Ankoku (Securing peace, namely, “Outer” reformation or “Secular Value”). He believes, “Rissho is the starting point for Ankoku, and Rissho is completed with Ankoku.”

There is nothing to change. We reveal the beginningless Buddhahood by chanting Namu Myoho renge kyo and propagating the teaching. Simultaneously the beginningless Buddhahood of the land will emerge and become apparent. Nichiren Daishonin teaches,

“Concerning the passage in the Lotus Sutra that you quoted, “He [the Buddha] has rooted out evil from among the phenomena,” here the Buddha is referring to a teaching from one of the earlier sutras. But when you take a closer look at the sutra, it is clear that the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds is being explained. For, in the same sutra, this passage is found: “The Buddhas wish to open the door of Buddha wisdom to all living beings.” T’ien-t’ai comments on this passage as follows: “If people do not possess innate Buddha wisdom, how could the Buddha say he wanted to open it? One must understand that Buddha wisdom is inherent in all human beings.”41 The Great Teacher Chang-an concludes, “How could people open the door to and realize their Buddha wisdom if it did not exist within them? How could a person show the poor woman her treasure repository if the treasure repository did not exist?” — The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind.

It is not change [Human Revolution] that brings about Buddhahood, it is observing the mind and seeing what we already possess since time without beginiing. The Three Realms of Ichinen Sanzen [Three Thousand Realms in a Moment of Existence] also demonstrates that the Realm of the Masses of the Beings and the Realm of the Environment possess the World of Buddhahood. One can not change that which is changeless. One perceives and reveals Buddhahood through faith in and practice of the Lotus Sutra, as taught by Nichiren Daishonin.

SGI teaches, “Toda established the foundation of the propagation of Buddhism in Japan based upon his interpretation of the Lotus Sutra. Similarly, Ikeda is now solidifying the foundation of the world propagation of Buddhism based upon his interpretation of the Lotus Sutra.” Actually, as clearly demonstrated above, their teachings have more in common with Zen and Shingon than with the Lotus Sutra and the teachings of Nichiren Daishonion. It is a stretch to even call their teachings, “Buddhism”, let alone "Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism".

Toda and Ikeda would have us believe that the Soka philosophy, based on the Taisekaji teachings, is superior to the Lotus Sutra which they assert, “has lost its power in Mappo”. Shan-wu-wei too declared the True Word teachings superior to the Lotus Sutra by virtue of Mudras.

Nichiren Shonin states:

“The Buddhist doctrines preached by scholars these days are regarded by most people as gentle words, truthful words, but in fact they are all harsh words and deceptive words. I say this because they are at variance with the Lotus Sutra, which embodies the Buddha’s true intention.”(The Learned Shan-wu-wei).

In the SGI, all praise is heaped on the successive presidents of the SGI and not even a mustard seed of praise is afforded the Original Buddha Shakyamuni. On the contrary, Shakyamuni is slandered as a cast-off or husk Buddha. Contrast this with the Daishonin’s words:

“Shakyamuni Buddha, our father and mother, who is endowed with the three virtues of sovereign, teacher and parent, is the very one who encourages us, the people driven out by all other Buddha, saying, “I alone can save them.” The debt of gratitude we owe him is deeper than the ocean, weightier than the earth, vaster than the sky. Though we were to pluck out our two eyes and place them before him as an offering until there were more eyes there than stars in the sky, though we were to strip off our skins and spread them out by the hundreds of thousands of ten thousands until they blanketed the ceiling of heaven, though we were to give him our tears as offerings of water and present him with flowers for the space of a hundred billion kalpas, though we were to offer him our flesh and blood for innumerable kalpas, until our flesh piled up like mountains and our blood overflowed like vast seas, we could never repay a fraction of the debt we owe to this Buddha!” (MW vol. 4, The Learned Doctor Shan-wu-wei)

and

“However, later seeking and entering the deep cave, you see a single hermitage. The voices of the reading and reciting of the Hokekyo echo against blue heaven and the words of discussing the doctrine of the One Vehicle are heard in the midst of the mountains. Informing [them, of your presence and requesting] admittance, you enter the chamber, place your mother’s bones before the Master of Teachings Lord Shakya, cast your five limbs to the ground, press your palms together, and opening your two eyes, look up to the Holy Face: joy overflows your body and the pain of your heart suddenly ceases.”(On forgetting Ones Copy Of The Lotus Sutra, NOPPA Translation)

Taking a central place in the Daishonin’s teachings is that Lord Shakyamuni is Parent,Teacher and Sovereign. To deny this aspect of the teachings is to be no better than Shan-wu-wei. Since Daisaku Ikeda degrades the Eternal Lord Buddha Shakyamuni, he will meet the same fate as Shan-wu-wei.

Outlining the Three Treasures, the Daishonin writes,

“The Sutra is the Hokkekyo, the foremost Great Dharma of the Exoteric and Esoteric. The Buddha is the Buddha Shakya, the foremost supreme Buddha of the Buddhas. The Practicer resembles the Practicer of the Hokkekyo”(Letter to Lord Niita, STN, v. 2, 1752, no. 368). This Doctrine is clearly restated in Nikko’s writing, The Order of Spreading the Sutra in the Three Ages: “The Temple of the Hommon The disciple of Entrustment The Bodhisattva Jogyo Nichiren Daishonin.”Nichiju, the founder of the Kempon Hokke, states, “By no means should one differ from the Sutra and the Compilations and the Great Teacher’s commentaries of their fundemental intention”(The Record of Nichiun, p. 58)

Nichiren clearly states in Letter to Tonsured Layman Soya (Soya nyudo sho), “They entirely look up to groups of icchantikas and rely on them as leaders and, reverencing slanderers against the Dharma, make them national teachers (ie: Ikeda). Taking up the Classic Filial Piety of Confucius, they beat their parents’ heads and, while chanting the Lotus Sutra of Lord Shakya with their mouths, they go against the Master of teachings.” Nichiren, quoting Dengyo states, “Although they praise the Hokkekyo, on the contrary, they kill the heart of the Hokke.”

We have heard from SGI members that, because they chant and propagate the Daimoku, either irregardless of their beliefs or precisely because they embrace the Daishonin as the Original Buddha and Ikeda as their mentor, they are assured of attaining Buddhahood. Sometimes they restate the medieval Tientai doctrine that “I am already a Buddha”, citing inauthentic works or twisting the words of the authentic ones. I have heard them state, citing Reply to Lord Matsuno, that the Daimoku is the same regardless of who embraces it, like the gold possessed by a fool and that possessed by a wise man and that there is no distinction. They assert that this gives them the license to teach their [arbitrary] interpretation of the Lotus Sutra. However, the Daishonin repeatedly warns that, when one chants contrary to the heart of the Sutra, one is a devil. Denying the central position of the Original Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, is to have no faith in the Sutra and to slander it and its Supreme Votary, Nichiren

The Daishonin quotes the sixth patriarch of the Tientai in his Chu Hokekyo (Annotated Lotus Sutra), “If it is not the right object (or field), even though there is no falsehood, it will also not form seeds.” The field or object is none other than the Buddha of beginingless time, Shakyamuni who is one with the Law of Namu Myoho renge kyo.

“Priest Shan-wu-wei was once the king of Udyana in India. He renounced the throne, became a priest, and in the course of his Buddhist practice journeyed through more than fifty countries in India, finally mastering all the esoteric and exoteric teachings of Buddhism. Later he went to China and became the teacher of Emperor Hsuan-tsung. Every Shingon priest in both China and Japan has since become his disciple. Though he was such a respectable person, he died abruptly, tortured by Enma, the king of hell, although no one knows why.

Nichiren considers that this happened because Shan-wu-wei was at first a votary of the Lotus Sutra, but when he read the Dainichi Sutra, he declared it superior to the Lotus Sutra. Similarly, Shariputra, Maudgalyayana and the others were not doomed to wander through the evil paths for the period of sanzen-jintengo or gohyaku-jintengo because they had committed the ten evils or five cardinal sins. Nor was it because they had committed any of the eight rebellious acts. It was because they met someone who was an evil influence, and discarded the Lotus Sutra to take faith in the provisional teachings.

According to the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, “If one befriends an evil person, he will lose his mind.” “Mind”means the heart which believes in the Lotus Sutra, while “lose”means to betray one’s faith in the Lotus Sutra and follow some other sutras. The Lotus Sutra reads, “… but when they are given the medicine, they refuse to take it.” The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai also stated, 'Those who had lost their minds would not take the excellent medicine, even though it was given them. Lost in suffering, they fled to other countries.' Since this is so, the believers of the Lotus Sutra should fear those who plague their faith more than they fear bandits, burglars, midnight killers, tigers, wolves or lions — even more than invasion by the Mongols. This world is the province of the Devil of the Sixth Heaven.”(The Learned Doctor Shan-wu-wei)

Doctor Daisaku Ikeda’s passing will be marked by torment, as was that of the Tripitaka Master, the Learned Doctor Shan-wu-wei. One [Ikeda] reads the Lotus Sutra according to the distorted teachings of the Taisekaji priest Nichikan, Toda, and Makiguchi and the other [Shan-wu-wei], read the Lotus Sutra in the light of the Dainichi and other provisional sutras while adding the practice of Mudras. What a terrible fate Ikeda is sowing for himself and the members of the SGI.

mralexander99's picture

After reading this...(1-up-above).....The Whole thing sounds like "Star Wars" with a lot of big axes to grind and an affinity with hyperbole! Any description that is laden with words such as "superior", "inferior" and "equal" are all forms of conceit.
Awakening to "Dukkha" and it's release is the message of Mr. Gotama aka Shakyamuni, Siddhartha, The Buddha (The awakened one)... all this stuff about eternal Buddha , great teachers are a sideshow that colors our perception and may impede us on the journey that leads us on the continually evolving path that is borne from our experience and is engaged with the unfolding, unraveling, process known as the...."END of DUKKHA"...!

Dominic Gomez's picture

I hear ya, Bro'. Having practiced this Buddhism for 40 years I have only one word: sublime.

DaughterOZ's picture

Thank you for these articles on Nichiren Buddhism. When I first became a Buddhist, I used to practice at my local zendo. While I appreciated the serenity of zazen and the intellectual discourses or dharma talks afterwards, I couldn't help but feel a bit alienated by other practicing members. Everyone was white, upper middle class, mostly men, and had very different experiences and backgrounds from me. I am a mix-raced, Black American woman who was divorced with two children. Even after practicing with the group for another year, I still longed for a community that was inclusive of children and other backgrounds as well.

One day, I happened to talk to an ex-boyfriend about my Buddhist experiences, and he mentioned that he grew up in an SGI church and was a practicing Buddhist as a child. The following week, we went to their Sunday meeting and meditation. At first, I was a bit baffled by it all. It didn't feel like how I was taught Buddhism was supposed to be. Everyone was smiling, joyous, and chanting together gleefully. And yet, there was something VERY Buddhist about it: people from many different races and nationalities, from all economic backgrounds and walks of life were practicing the Dharma in a way I thought wasn't possible. I felt at home.

I have long since moved from my hometown and my Buddhist practice have fell to the way side since then. It wasn't until this year I began studying and practicing Nichiren Buddhism alone. I am thankful that Tricycle is presenting another Buddhist path that is accessible to all.

tapn2it2win's picture

Michelle, why be all alone practicing by yourself?

Unless you are living in the Outback or the boonies in Alaska, you most likely have other practicing SGI members in your town... Maybe even down the street from you, and even in your neighborhood!

Just go the SGI-USA website for the nearest Comunity Center in your area & drop by or call them to locate the nearest District Meeting where you can get re-connected and feel the joy of chanting Daimoku together with others! :-)

Dominic Gomez's picture

Hi Michelle. Here's an article Tricycle published a few years ago that I think speaks to your experience:
http://www.sgi-usa.org/newsandevents/newsroom/tricycle.pdf
You're spot on when you describe SGI as "VERY Buddhist". The buddha nature is, after all, universal as well as eternal.

DaughterOZ's picture

Thank you for the article!

Mat Osmond's picture

Great to hear Clark's impression of Nichiren - thanks.

And as you say, liberation doesn't mean much to me if it leaves us as imprisoned by habit and reaction within our day to day lives as before.
I respect both the practicality of Nichiren's approach, and its humaneness.

Mat

Mat Osmond's picture

Aldrisang asks: Does Nichiren lead to liberation, or does it not?

My first encounter with Buddhist practice was with Nichiren Shoshu, well over half a lifetime ago. After six intense months I broke off that involvement, and then spent seven years never quite setting Nichiren aside, as I found my faltering way within meditation-based practice. It wasn't until I encountered Trungpa Rinpoche's Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism that I could really walk away.

Does Nichiren's teaching liberate? My answer to that is that in those six months I saw it enable people in the teeth of profound suffering to turn their lives around, to harness the transformative power of volition, to realise the possibility of being helped simply by choosing to believe that help was there, waiting to be tapped into.

The experience of Nichiren's practice left me with a lifelong sense of the reciprocity of experience: we act, the cosmos responds, and if the patterns that occur between our actions and our experiences are not 'provable', thanks to encountering Nichiren's practice they remain to me, 29 years later, beyond any need of proof.

I wholly disagree with the narrative that my old Nichiren friends employed such phenomena to validate - I am no relativist - but I remember with real gratitude how this practice, and the deep friendships that it forged, led me gently out of the smoke-filled, toxic world of my adolescence, and showed me a wholly new kind of inspiration.

I think Nichiren's practice is worthy of great respect, and I acknowledge that the mode of practice to which I have gravitated is in fact something that works well for me - in part - because of the gentleness of my life-situation.

The business of chanting for cars and jobs...what often gets overlooked in sneering rejections of this form of spiritual materialism is that it works. I did and do reject it, not because I believe it's a delusion to think things can happen thus if you open yourself to it, but because using practice to get our own way in such things is not - as I was later taught - what religion is for.

Mat

Dominic Gomez's picture

Hi Mat. Aldrisang never responded to my question of what he believes liberation to be. But you point it out when you remember that people "turn their lives around (and) harness the transformative power of volition."

wtompepper's picture

I had always dismissed Nichiren as a lot of nonsense, because the only Nichiren Buddhists I ever met were quite literally and seriously chanting their one phrase over and over because their teacher had told them how many times they had to repeat it to get a new car or a new job. I thought, these people are crazy--they'd be better off buying a powerball ticket.

The argument here--including those who insist that Nichiren is not real Buddhism, and those who defend it, has prompted me to buy and start reading J. I. Stone's book on Medieval Japanese Buddhism; it is very interesting, a really well done book. But my point is, that I'd always rather see arguments where people state their opinion as if they actually think it is true, as if they really mean it. When we all have to "get along" and accept that "everyone's opinion is equally valid", there's never any interesting discussion, and nobody learns anything. At least here, I have learned that there is more to Nichiren than I thought, and it sounds interesting enough that I'll take the time to learn more.

Keep arguing, and always ignore the tyranny of relativism! Not all opinions are equally valid, and if you don't have to argue for yours, you may never be clear on what you really think.

illarraza's picture

When we stop arguing, the Buddha's Land will have been realized. Thanks for your input

map's picture

Most people don't understand the theory of Buddhism and this also includes the meditative sects as well as Nichiren Buddhism. One of the problems with this in Nichiren Buddhism is the Priests don't really teach the theory, which IS Buddhism BTW. They teach proselytizing, but not much of the basis and so there are a substantial number of Nichiren Buddhists that just don't have a clue that they are actual Buddhists. I really think the priests don't think we can even understand, so they don't teach Buddhism. There are some that do teach, but they are hard to find and if you don't speak Japanese then you're pretty much out there.

The theoretical foundations of Nichiren Buddhism come from Chi-Ih whose practice of Shikan meditation is a form of vipassana. It is Observation of the Mind and is closely related to older forms of Zen, but none that are in existence today. Nichiren Buddhism is a practice of chanting a Mantra or Dharani to a focal point which is actually based on Chi-Ih's Confessional Samadhi of the Lotus Sutra (the Gohonzon). It can be practiced from the basis of no understanding or great understanding and the benefit to the practitioner goes way beyond the expedient means that are associated with the SGI. It can be a form of Shikan meditation if the practitioner wants it to be, such as I practice.

You can read up on the theory at tientai.net if you want. It will blow your mind! I also just posted a relevant article on my own site that you can read if you want. http://ionbuddhism.org/buzz/index.php/articles/13-introduction-to-the-th...

illarraza's picture

Nichiren's disciples don't pick and choose Nichiren like a chinese buffet customer, 'I'll take the spare ribs but I don't like the salty fish." The few lines where Nichiren was sympathetic to the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings and the one passage where he acknowledged the exceedingly rarely to be used teaching method of introducing pre-Lotus Sutra teachings initially, are far outweighed by his numerous admonitions to abandon expedients. Here are two salient passages:

"In Tung-ch’un we read: “Question: While the Buddha was in the world, there were many who were resentful and jealous. But in the age after his passing, when someone preaches this [Lotus] sutra, why do so many oppose that person? Answer: It is said that good medicine tastes bitter. This sutra, which is like good medicine, dispels attachments to the five vehicles and establishes the one ultimate principle. It reproaches those in the ranks of ordinary beings and censures those in the ranks of sagehood, denies [provisional] Mahayana and refutes Hinayana. It speaks of the heavenly devils as poisonous insects and calls non-Buddhists demons. It censures those who cling to Hinayana teachings, calling them mean and impoverished, and it dismisses bodhisattvas as beginners in learning. For this reason, heavenly devils hate to listen to it, non-Buddhists find their ears offended, persons of the two vehicles are dumbfounded, and bodhisattvas flee in terror. That is why all these types of people try to make hindrances [for a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra]. The Buddha was not speaking nonsense when he declared that hatred and jealousy would abound.” -- The Opening of the Eyes

"In this age, the provisional teachings have turned into enemies of the true teaching. When the time is right to propagate the teaching of the one vehicle, the provisional teachings become enemies. When they are a source of confusion, they must be thoroughly refuted from the standpoint of the true teaching. Of the two types of practice, this is shakubuku, the practice of the Lotus Sutra. With good reason T’ient’ai stated, “The Lotus Sutra is the teaching of shakubuku, the refutation of the provisional doctrines.” -- On Practincg the Buddha's Teachings

"Now, in the Latter Day of the Law, who is carrying out the forceful practices of the Lotus Sutra in strict accordance with the Lotus Sutra? Suppose someone, no matter who, should unrelentingly proclaim that the Lotus Sutra alone can lead people to Buddhahood, and that all other sutras, far from enabling them to attain the way, only drive them into hell. Observe what happens should that person thus try to refute the teachers and the doctrines of all the other schools. The three powerful enemies will arise without fail."-- Ibid

Nichiren's teachings are in perfect accord with the Lotus Sutra:

“If I convert by a smaller vehicle
Even but one human being,
I shall fall into grudging
A thing that can not be.” (Lotus Sutra Chapter 2)

“In all the Buddha’s lands of the universe there is but one supreme vehicle, not two or three, and it excludes the provisional teachings of the Buddha.”(Ibid)

“Honestly discarding the provisional teachings, I will now expound the Supreme Way.”(ibid)

“The World-honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth.” (ibid)

“These nine divisions of my Law
Preached according to the [capacity] of all creatures
Are [but] the introduction of the Great-vehicle
Hence I preach this sutra.”(ibid)

“…desiring only to accept and embrace the sutra of the great vehicle and not accepting a single verse of the other sutras.” (Lotus Sutra Chapter 3)

“If I were to describe the punishments [that fall on persons who slander this sutra], I could exhaust a kalpa and never come to the end.” (ibid)

“If a person fails to have faith but instead slanders this sutra, immediately he will destroy all the seeds for becoming a Buddha in this world. . . . When his life comes to an end he will enter the Avichi hell.” (ibid)

“Suppose that someone coming from a land of famine should suddenly encounter a great king’s feast.” (Lotus Sutra Chapter 6)

“At that time the World-Honored One addressed Bodhisattva Medicine King, and through him the eighty thousand great men, saying: ‘Medicine King, do you see in this great assembly the immeasurable number of heavenly beings, dragon kings, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, mahoragas, human and nonhuman beings, as well as monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen, those who seek to become voicehearers, who seek to become pratyekabuddhas, or who seek the Buddha way? Upon these various kinds of beings who in the presence of the Buddha listen to one verse or one phrase of the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law and for a moment think of it with joy I will bestow on all of them a prophecy that they will attain supreme perfect enlightenment.” (Lotus Sutra Chapter 10)

“The scriptures I preach number in the countless millions. Among all those I have preached, now preach and will preach, this Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand.”(Ibid)

“I constantly expounded the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law alone.” (Lotus Sutra Chapter 12)

“Among all the Sutras it holds the highest place” (Chapter 14)

“At that time the Buddha addressed Emminent Conduct and the host of other Bodhisattvas: “The divine powers of buddhas are so infinite and boundless that they are beyond thought and expression. Even if I, by these divine powers, through infinite, boundless hundred thousand myriad kotis of asemkheya kalpas, for the sake of entailing it, were to declare the merits of this sutra, I should still be unable to reach the end of those [merits]. Essentially speaking, all the laws belonging to the Tathagata, all the mysterious, essential treasuries of the Tathagata, and the very profound conditions of the Tathagata, all are proclaimed, displayed, revealed, and expounded in this sutra.Therefore you should, after the extinction of the Tathagata, wholeheartedly receive and keep, read and recite, explain and copy, cultivate and practice it as the teaching. In whatever land, whether it be received and kept, read and recited, explained and copied cultivated and practiced as the teaching; whether in a place where a volume of the sutra is kept, or in a temple, or in a grove, or under a tree, or in a monastery, or in a lay devotee’s house, in a palace or a mountain, in a valley or in the wilderness, in all these places you must erect a caitya and make offerings.

Wherefore? You should know that [all] these spots are the thrones of enlightenment. On these [spots] the buddhas attain Perfect Enlightenment; on these [spots] the buddhas roll the wheel of the Law; on these [spots] the buddhas [enter] parinirvana.” (Lotus Sutra, Chapter 21)

“Just as Mount Sumeru is the highest among the various mountains , so this Lotus Sutra holds the highest position among all the sutras.”(Chapter 23)

“Amongst all the sutras preached by tathagatas it is the profoundest and greatest.” and “…, so it is also with this Law-Flower Sutra; amongst all the sutras it is the highest,” and “… it is the most illuminating.” and “…it is the most honorable.” and “…it is the king of all sutras.” and “…it is the father of of all the wise and holy men” and “…amongst all the sutras preached by tathagatas, bodhisattvas or preached by sravakas, it is the supreme.”(ibid)

“Star Constellation King Flower! This sutra is that which can save all the living; this sutra can deliver all the living from pain and sufferings; this sutra is able to greatly benefit all the living and fulfill their desires. Just as a clear, cool pool is able to satisfy all those who are thirsty, as the cold who obtain a fire [are satisfied], as the naked who find clothing, as [a caravan of] merchants who find a leader, as children who find their mother, as at a ferry one who catches the boat, as a sick man who finds a doctor, as in the darkness one who obtains a lamp, as a poor man who finds a jewel, …., so it is with this Law-Flower sutra; it is able to deliver all the living from all sufferings and all diseases, and is able to unloose all bonds of mortal life.”(ibid)

“Even the Buddha wisdom could never finish calculating their [benefits] extent.” (ibid)

“If in future ages there should be one who accepts and upholds, reads and recites this sutra,…his wishes shall not be in vain, and he will receive his reward of good fortune in his present life.”(Chapter 28)

melcher's picture

Ahh...I see...Buddhist Fundamentalism.

ANDREWCOOPER24's picture

Among the articles we've made available, there are two that I find especially helpful in providing historical perspective on the background of Nichiren's life and teachings. Nichiren based his teachings on faith in the Lotus Sutra, but the Lotus was also foundational for all of East Asian Buddhism. The interview with Princeton professor Jacqueline Stone (an eminent Buddhist scholar and one of only a few in Western academia with real expertise in Nichiren Buddhism) examines the Lotus Sutra, especially its place in the Kamakura Buddhism of Nichiren, Dogen, Shinran, and Honen--four of the most influential figures in shaping Japanese Buddhism and, by extension, Buddhism in North America. "A Greater Awakening" by Jan Nattier, an outstanding scholar as well, looks at the beginnings of the Lotus Sutra in India.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Thank you, Andrew. Keeping Buddhism in accurate historical context is a good cause.

DigitalVlad's picture

I have never recognised Nitirenism as a true branch of Buddhism and I can't do it now. Since the basic rule of a true desciple of Buddha is to tell Dharma where you see Dharma, equally it means to tell the non-Dharma where there is no Dharma. Nitiren made a greatest mistake when decided to make Dharma easier to comprehend by illiteral people he pulled up just 1 poem of his time and threw away all other.

safwan's picture

Attilabarcellos;
You kindly asked whether "a monk, able and allowed to start a lineage, or only a declared master, following the buddhist rules?" - But "allowed" by whom? Buddhahood is not a result of being a monk. If you arrive to an achievement, say find a powerful and effective medicine, then it is only natural to share it with others. Nichiren set the criterion of "Actual Proof" to verify whether a practice is effective or not. Nichiren Buddhism is non-hierarchial, it is about the reality of actions of compassion and wisdom, not about declared masters.

As for: " When the focus become the humanity, as it seems to be in Nichiren, how this can relate to equanimity, in a harmonic way?". On the individual's level: Humanity - in the doctrine of the Ten Worlds - (the spectrum of the mind in various states from Hell to Buddhahood) - Humanity is the world of Tranquility, Equanimity, Reason and Harmony and Composure. On the level of one's interconnectedness with the shared consciousness - the focus on Humanity manifests the Buddhist truth of Oneness of Self, Others and the Environment. There is no equanimity without recognising one's existence as one with humanity. Nichiren said: "The sufferings of all human beings are the sufferings of one person: myself, Nichiren".

Let me share my mind here regading this: "I don't sympathize with the behavior of saying that all the precedent teachings are "wrong" or limited, because Buddha, with the three turns of the dharma wheel, taught to different kinds of people, because every person needs a different antidote to his or her state of ignorance".
I'm surprised! There are no "different Dharmas". The Buddhanature is what unifies all people. And from what you kindly mentioned: it is apparent that the Pre-Lotus teachings were not complete, they were provisional, valid for one group but not for all etc...Teachings that are limited to a certain level are not absolute but useful to arrive later to the absolute or the universal.
Nichiren did not say that pre-Lotus teachings are wrong. Again, he never said that the pre-Lotus teachings were wrong. It is not accurate to attribute to someone what he did not state.
He said that all of the Buddha's teachings are contained in the Lotus but are in it transformed into a harmonious Dharma way that made applicable to ALL people. A Universal Dhrama.

The Q. in Buddhism is not about right or wrong. It is about whether a teaching is complete and final that nothing can be added to it to make it universal, applicable to all, accessible to any and effectivly verifiable in this life time (not after death).

safwan's picture

Digitalvlad;
If I may rephrase your post above, I think you meant by "poem" the Lotus Sutra, which Nichiren considered as the final teaching of the Buddha. The Lotus Sutra combines all the previous sutras but adds more, the Universal Dharma, the Attainment of Buddhahood in one's form in this lifetime, the final triumph of Buddhism over evil through the declaration of future Enlightenment of Devadatta. Here is a short reference on the revolutionary aspects of the Sutra:http://www.sokahumanism.com/nichiren-buddhism/Lotus_Buddhism_Unique_Concepts.html

As for what you referred to as the "illiterate" and making the practice easy for all people to access, then: the Lotus starts with the Buddha's teaching to Shariputra : it is not by intellect one attains the Dharma way (but by compassion) and Nichiren refers to individuals who were not highly intellectuals or literate, and who attained the way. You see, Devadatta was a very clever and knowledgeable person who memorised countless teachings - but his ego drove him to try to kill Shakyamuni.

How one would know that a certain teaching is complete and final in leading humanity to Buddhahood? Acc. to Nichiren, a teaching can be judged as supreme (or highest in capacity) if it enable ALL people, literate and illiterate, mothers struggling with many kids as well as an individual in a quiet temple, good doers and evil oriented minds - to attain the Buddha way. Pre lotus teachings do not have a solution for evil-karma doers to transform their karma immediately. The most effective teaching is that which leads ALL human being to Buddhahood.

aldrisang's picture

Does Nichiren lead to liberation, or does it not? That is the only true test of whether it is a form of Buddhism. It does not even matter if the specific teachings or practices came from the Buddha, because he was merely a man who discovered what is already there. Anyone can do the same and there are (arguably) different ways to come to this realization.

Was Nichiren fully awakened, liberated? That alone would attest to whether Nichiren Buddhism is a path worthy of respect.

I don't have these answers, myself, but they are the right questions to ask.

attilabarcellos's picture

You're stating the right questions, in my opinion.

I don't have a lot of knowledge in the matter, so I wish to know somethings before choosing "a side" in this rich discussion (if exists a side to choose).
If someone could light them up, I would appreciate.

- Is a monk, able and allowed to start a lineage, or only a declared master, following the buddhist rules?

- When the focus become the humanity, as it seems to be in Nichiren, how this can relate to equanimity, in a harmonic way?

- I agree that only a fully realized sentient being could teach about the way to reaching that state.

And, answering Dominic's questions about liberation, even though I'm just about to define something indescribable, that might be the dissolution of all ego, the self, the "I" that clings, with his likes and dislikes.

Following this line, I don't sympathize with the behavior of saying that all the precedent teachings are "wrong" or limited, because Buddha, with the three turns of the dharma wheel, taught to different kinds of people, because every person needs a different antidote to his or her state of ignorance.

To summarize my question in this point, to judge something to be right or wrong isn't the mistake, itself?

Dominic Gomez's picture

What do you believe "liberation" to be a definition of? What is your notion of "fully awakened"?

Dominic Gomez's picture

A belief you are free to uphold, DigitalVlad. Especially in the United States.

safwan's picture

Very true, Dominic. I'd add to this that through the words and actions one can understand whether some individuals are following the Dharma or not. As I mentioned to the moderator earlier, the example of deleting my contribution on a Wikipedia page (about Nichiren's view on the Buddha nature) shows my entry was an action of supression of Nichiren's views, and this is contrary to the Buddha's instruction for "correct action".

Another example: The same happened also when I entered on Wikipedia : "The Lotus Sutra's teaching about the Four Noble Truths", citing a verse from chapter 3 (in which the Buddha introduced the Lotus Law surpassing the Four Noble Truths). This was also deleted. Whatever Lotis Sutra related or Nichiren referenced was unwelcome. But I decided to go ahead, and after lengthy discussions, I could put a small section with a short mention about this revolutionary subject in Buddhist doctrines. And this shows how Nichiren Buddhism is treated, almost gaged. Of course Wikipedia is not a reliable or official source of information, but if there is opposition to the Lotus Sutra's concepts even there, how much more would it be on other sources.

Dominic Gomez's picture

My observation is that science (including archaelogical scholars of Buddhism) can only stand on its own findings. A manuscript of the Lotus Sutra, discovered in 1931 in the Gilgit region (present day Pakistan) and dating from the 5th Century, was released in book form last month. It is considered the only Buddhist manuscript so far discovered in India (or what was once India).
As you know, the Lotus Sutra is one of the most revered Buddhist scriptures and represents the discourse delivered by Shakyamuni Buddha towards the end of his life. Buddhist archaelogy (and Wikipedia) will have to revise its position on Shakyamuni's lifetime of teachings to accurately reflect this recent find as well as others as yet uncovered.

safwan's picture

Dominic, I think Nichiren Buddhists also can develop their way of presenting their teachings. The Ten Worlds are eternal and we will always meet people who are skeptical, or even aggressive as it happened with Nichiren. The point is that the Lotus Sutra is not about intellectual understanding but putting humanity first, compassion, relieving suffering and imparting joy. I think if we put humanity first then it does not matter if we are understood or not, it is enough to have the capacity to maintain the Buddha's teachings regardless.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Thank you, Safwan. As Nichiren Daishonin writes, "The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha lies in his behavior as a human being." It is through people's words and actions that others come to understand the Law.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Misunderstanding of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo by other schools of Buddhism is not new, dating back to 1253. As well, disregard of the Lotus Sutra existed in 6th Century China. And nearly 3,000 years ago Buddhism itself wasn't easy for Brahmanists to comprehend.

safwan's picture

In a supportive tone, I see Tricycle a forum for heart to heart dialogue on the Dharma between all schools of Buddhism, meditaion or chanting based.

Being Nichiren Buddhist, I experienced - throughout many years - rejection on blogs belonging to meditative Buddhists who (in essence) say they got it all, & that Nichiren Buddhism is not Buddhism - as if they patented the Buddha for themselves.

I'll give here a practical example: an article of the Wikipedia about BuddhaNature included the views of many schools of Threvada and Mahayana temples. I ventured there to also enter : Nichiren Buddhism's view on the Buddhanature, and my entry was erased the next day (by other Buddhists editors of the page). On the Talk page I was asking whether this deletion and gaging other schools from freedom of expression - is a Buddhist behavior, and, so, later finally my short and concise entery (about the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren's view) was returned!

Contary to many misconceptions about Nichiren's tachings, a wealth of openness and flexible capacity can be found in his writings. For example he even said that various non-Buddhist sages and philosophers whose humanistic views were based on the happiness and security of ordinary people: “...the wisdom of such men contained at heart the wisdom of Buddhism” WND 1122.

One of the misconceptions is about Nichiren's focus on Humanity rather than on the Self-searched for through silent meditation (of isoltaionist practice). Openness to all hmanity with an easily accessible way of practice based on the energy of chanting, Nichiren Buddhism attracted a great diversity of individuals world wide.

safwan

nkaprisky's picture

Hi safwan

I agree with you, but I welcome (although not sure what you mean) the bracket '(of isolationist practice)', otherwise I would be tempted to argue that you also apply a misconception regarding silent meditation. I have been practising Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism for 12 years now, but I familiarised myself with buddhism well before that with soto zen. After 12 years of Nichiren's practise and after an intriguing experience which happened to me this year at work, I have come to understand better, appreciate and respect silent meditation in the soto zen tradition which I have restarted to practice. Now, I must point out that I also heard quite a certain number of unsavoury comments from Nichiren practitioners and even senior SGI leaders regarding silent meditation. Their comment is also based on ignorance, stereotyping silent meditation as passive and self-centered. This is not my experience of it in the soto zen tradition. But Zen was very criticised by Nichiren in his time and this does not help either in 2012. The reason being that there is not one zen tradition, and Dogen Zenji, a contemporary of Nichiren and the founder of soto zen also condemned, like Nichiren did, some corrupted or extreme monks in some other zen traditions at the time. Dogen was also holding the Lotus Sutra in high esteem by the way. The problem is that Nichiren did not specify which zen school he was refering too in his Gosho (letters/teachings), he just condemned zen. And you will not find the name of Dogen Zenji in the Gosho either. However, when today's practitioners of Nichiren Daishonin buddhism read and embrace his very harsh and well justified comments towards Zen among other sects of the time, they generalise and it leads to prejudice towards soto Zen practitioners whose practice come from Dogen Zenji...and the irony of the story is that if someone was making the same generalisation today by judging Nichiren Daishonin's buddhism by solely looking at Nikken Abbe's treatment of this buddhism, then that would not be fair either and misconceived as to what Nichiren Daishonin buddhism is all about.

So from being familiar of two different schools, my point is that sadly, there is misconception creating division based on ignorance in various traditions be it silent or vocal, and that's no good for the non-dualistic view of buddhism. Because at the end of the day, there is one universe and we are all part of it, my understanding is that this was the original point of buddhism...perhaps anything ending by 'ism' is the problem after all?

Dominic Gomez's picture

Hi nkaprisky. Good point regarding the original point of Buddhism, even more prescient as we move forward into its third millenium of existence throughout the world-at-large.

aldrisang's picture

As a moderator of an all-inclusive Buddhist forum, I can attest that the only problems its members experienced on the forum with Nichiren Buddhism were some of its practitioners proselytizing that the Lotus Sutra was the only true way to Buddhahood, that in effect (in fact stated outright) all other traditions were not true Buddhism and did not lead to Buddhahood. This seems to be the opposite of your experience, and it may well be that there are wrongs on every side.

Is this an issue with practitioners taking it too far? Rather than understanding Nichiren's teachings as being their way, they understand it as the only way?

What do you think? Might this be the reason for much of the hostility toward Nichiren Buddhism? This isn't to say anything against Nichiren, this is merely what has happened as the result of interaction between Buddhists of all traditions, and is the reason they experienced Nichiren in a negative way.

May all sentient beings find peace.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Nichiren made "the establishment" of his time nervous, like Occupiers shaking Wall Street up. In art it's called the shock of the new, i.e. unprecedented ways of seeing and experiencing life.

safwan's picture

I acknowledge the fact that emotionalism mixes with faith sometimes and disrupts the message. But this occurs for many practitioners of various traditions.

In 13th c Japan, Nichiren was explaining that the Lotus Sutra integrates all previous teachings scattered over uncountable sutras, and that it allows all people to attain Buddhahood as they are. In debates and writings he showed that Pre-Lotus teachings conditioned the enlightenment of women by rebirth as men, and offered no chance for Voice-Hearers and Devadattas, while in the Lotus all these categories were offered Buddhahood. The language of that time portrayed the Lotus as "superior" but in todays language Nichiren's message is that the Lotus has a "wider capacity", a vehicle that can carry all people to Buddhahood in this lifetime and without discrimination.

So when Nichiren Buddhist say: "The Lotus offers the only way" - this may sound too strict but essentially it is about compassion, and also about the freedom of expression regarding a Buddhist text, Lotus, acknowledged to be of a great value for humanity. This attitude does not exclude other schools of Buddhism. Anyone is of course free to practice, however, the goal may not be achieved in the way the Lotus impartially offers. Afterall, diversity exists even within Nichiren's sects themselves.

I'm not sure about now, but "Freedom of Expression" was never a tradition in the Japanese Buddhist society, and for expressing his right to speak about his teachings, Nichiren was beaten, was later sword attacked, had a cut on his forehead, his arm broken, his hut was latter burned, then he was twice exiled to islands were criminals were sent (and never came back because of harsh conditions), and finally was taken to be beheaded but escaped unharmed. These events are recorded in history and are known to all sides. Many Nichiren Buddhists in our time were threatened, attacked, vilified, accused unjustly, rumored and rejected as "non- Buddhist". I believe that an impartial forum like Tricycle can offer all schools the right to expression and to exercise maturity in communicating one’s views.

nkaprisky's picture

Hi safwan, again I agree with you in the form but when you say that the language of the time stating that the Lotus Sutra is 'superior' has now turned into the Lotus has a 'wider capacity' today, I wish it was like that in my experience or perhaps in your geographical area but sadly not in mine where most people take 13c discourse almost at face value (also note that when I started practising 12 years ago, on e of the prayers at the end of gongyo (AM/PM ceremony for those who don't practice) read 'I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nikko Shonin, The Great Teacher of the Propagation of True Buddhism' and the last bit 'The Great Teacher....' has since been removed but still! It was definitely in the air at one time not so long ago.

Nichiren's words are to be understood in the context of the time and still these were unlikely to be the carrier of non-dualistic effects in the future, hence perhaps the ongoing trouble that you mention to this day.

Nichiren's words were indeed extremely harsh and here is an example which is part of today's study material for its practitioners here in the UK:

" All the Nembutsu and Zen temples, such as Kencho-ji, Jufuku-ji, Gokuraku-ji, Daibutsu-den, Choraku-ji, should be burned to the ground, and their priests taken to Yui Beach [in Kamakura] to have their head cut off. If this is not done, then Japan is certain to be destroyed! (WND-1, p. 579).

He surely had a point regarding elements belonging to these schools at the time but his attitude, be it a Medieval one, is to me at odd with an understanding of the law of the universe whereby anything destructive is bound to eventually collapse or at best stagnate so why respond with so much aggressivity? Responding to violence with violence is pointless as we all know. Japan did get invaded by the Mongols but Japan is not mongolese today as we know and Nichiren did not get Hei No Saemon, the deputy chief of the army and police of the time that he was addressing here, to rally his cause. Nichiren eventually retreated to Mount Minobu at the end of his life because spitting flames was to no avail but attracting trouble to himself and his followers (some of them did get massacred) although his achievement was that he was confident, based on the strong faith demonstrated by his followers, that his teachings would survive him and they did but at what cost... By contrast, note that Bodhisatva Never Disparaging in the Lotus Sutra always bowed to people's budhahood regardless of these people attacking him with stone and stave, but eventually, they all rally to his teachings and became his disciples.

What I am trying to say here is that Nichiren had a great intention and his teachings are ground breaking but we need to bear in mind that like the rest of us, he was a human being with his flaws, an activist, culturally constructed by his time, and that's also fair enough. Nevertheless, in the light of the universal/phenomenal law of life, not sure that activism, although extremely courageous, always carries wisdom if at all. So perhaps, if people practice by taking Nichiren's words and action at face value, what is happening with Nichiren Daishonin today is proportionate to its cause (in intensity and nature) rooted in 13C Japan underneath and despite its modern forms? I wonder sometime? It is food for thought anyway....
And thanks again for this forum, it's very insightful.

safwan's picture

The idea that evil actions will end up by themself is not only naive by dangerous. You are of course free to "correct Nichiren's understanding" of the Law of the Universe as you mentioned here:

..."[his attitude] at odd with an understanding of the law of the universe whereby anything destructive is bound to eventually collapse or at best stagnate so why respond with so much aggressivity?

As you know, even in the secular world, if you r a witness to someone commiting a crime, burning a house, or similar - and do not interfere accordingly, you would be charged before the Law (the secular Law).

In the "Selection of the Time" - Nichiren agrees that "one who desires to understand Buddhism must first understand the Time". He also introduced the 5-Guides of propagation, in particular considering people's capacity, and the time. The time Nichiren lived in can be imagined through the historical writings of many scholars, showing the state of Animality, violence and disregard to human rights. Some Buddhist temples had armed monks. Armed monks? Buddhist armed monks ready to kill?

Well, a balanced view about Nichiren w o r d s - let me here emphasise "w o r d s" and which you criticised could also be understood in the perspective of the Time, you kindly suggested. At a Time when Buddhist priests had swords to behead others, and torches to burn others houses, Nichiren used his Freedom of Expression in words, reflecting the attitude of those who are like criminals roaming the place and threatening people. Beheading and burning houses was not introduced by Nichiren, but by those whom Nichiren criticised - to experience their own aggression on themselves.
A balanced view would distinguish between someone speaking and others attacking him with swords, several times, who burned his hut, beated him and tried to behead him. To blame Nichiren that he did not crawl before such arrogant criminals (and hence attracted their aggression) - this is not a balanced perspective. In fact Nichiren mentioned that some of his followers were telling him that he should tune down his views and were trying to trach him.

Please extract the message of Nichiren's instruction to his followers of abiding by non-violence in his words: " Even if others are clad in armor and instigate, my disciples should never do the same. If there are some who prepare for fighting in our group, please write to me immediately.” (On Persecution befaling the Buddha). He viewed Life as "Divine": " One day of life is more valuable than the treasures of major world system", “To deprive a being of life is to commit the gravest kind of sin”, and he considered peaceful debates or dialogue as the only avenue to resolve disputes: “When in public debate, although the teachings that you advocate are perfectly consistent with the truth, you should never on that account be impolite or abusive, or display a conceited attitude. Such conduct would be disgraceful. Order your thoughts, words and actions carefully and be prudent when you meet with others in debate”.

Thank you for the opportunity to exchange views on the subject. I do not frequently open Tricycle (maybe I should) - as I am following an online study course. What is important is to have a balanced view, needed in our daily life and high life force (which can be generated through chanting). To be like arm chair judges on history (we barely know about) is less practical than focusing on our reality, and more importantly it is how to attain the mind of wise perspective and efforts to benefit humanity, which is in a great sufferings.

nkaprisky's picture

First of, I am sorry if you interpret my comment as 'aggressive' as this was not my intention. I would also clarify that non resistance is not to be confused with 'passivity' or cowardice. In the face of injustice, non-resistance is often more powerful than resistance particularly if the opponent is far more powerful than ourselves. It is in this way that I was referring to the law of life. And I do not deny that Nichiren had words of wisdom as he had many as you mention above. However, his words of harness as I quoted, should very carefully remain in historical context, but sadly and perhaps despite himself, these words have such an impact today that they sometime hinder dialogue and tolerance between different buddhist traditions in particular. However, this problem is also prevalent in other religions. But for this reason, I feel that we may need to be simply mindful of this and humble and tolerant with each other. A friend practioner of Nichiren was telling me again the other day, that she was embarrassed if not ashamed when some other members turned their back to a guest to the practice who was mentioning that he was originally from a catholic tradition and that attending daimoku and the ceremony of gongyo made him renew with prayer in his own tradition. This should have been a great opportunity for exchange.

So although (and perhaps because) I really value Nichiren's teaching, I would like for this matter to see Nichiren followers (and I am talking in general terms here although this is my experience that this can pervade the 'movement') consider themselves simply as a tradition among others rather than a tradition above others.

Dominic Gomez's picture

In a conversation with a practitioner with 20 years more experience than me, the question came up of whether chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo was the only way to enlightenment. He tilted his head back in laughter and said "Of course not!" He then looked at me with a straight face and said, "It's the fastest."

safwan's picture

Judging Nichiren Buddhism is possible through discussing Nichiren's writings. For example: viewing the Bible can take place by examining its contents and by understanding Jesus' behaviour, but not by the shameful behaviour of some priests, or by generalising an observation of behaviour of some catholics.

The example of that ambigious sitaution and the reaction of a friend practitioner who felt ashamed (because of her perception of others' etc... ) - well, it is not a standard in anything.

Let's have a thought experiment, and ask Nichiren what he thinks about that event as you decribed it above.

Asking Nichiren, he would have said that: yes, that friend parctitioner was a silent observer of a wrong doing (or at least: she "perceived" a certain wrong doing of others). Being honest to her beliefs in the Buddha nature in all beings, she should have been ashamed of herself not because of others' behaviour but because of her own passive behaviour, sitting on a fence and just observing a nonNichiren behaviour towards a guest.

In any case there are 10.000 s of events and experiences of embracing humanity and interfaith dilaogue of SGI Buddhists which contradict the event you brought here!

Nichiren Buddhists were harshly criticised because they had dialogue with other people of different or of no religion, dialogue based on shared humanity. Nichiren taught that there are examples of people who were nonBuddhist but they followed the correct causes and could reach enlightenment by various ways. The myth that Nichiren Buddhism is exclusive is simply wrong (or is perceived so through behaviour of fanatics who do not understand the impartial nature of the Law of Cause and Effect):
http://www.sokahumanism.com/nichiren-buddhism/SGI_and_Religious_Fanatici...

Finally, no person - Nichiren follower or not - has to agree with whatever other "traditions" teach. Freedom of expressing one's views withn reason and conviction does not mean that one is above and others below. We all share life and the Ten Worlds equally.

Dominic Gomez's picture

It behooves the wise Buddhist to remain mindful that the Law accords with the times. Today's world is quite different than 13th century Japan. Strong metaphors used then to emphasize a point seem rather out of place now. But the struggle of people to become indestructibly happy in this lifetime (enlightened) remains. And the most effective means to bring forth that life-condition also remains: the chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

aldrisang's picture

Hear hear! =) We could only hope that practitioners from all traditions will mind their own practice, as the monastic orders of monks and nuns are taught to do. The laity is often not under the direct guidance of any teacher, but rather their own understanding and not much restraint. Long-time practitioners are wise enough to see that all roads lead to the same place and do not bother to preach their tradition (except within that tradition). We can all understand what it means to be unwise, to be young and naive and still be attached to our likes and dislikes, to think that ours is the only correct understanding. Ah youth!

safwan's picture

Hi Aldrisang, I don't see anything non-Buddhist in someone from a ceratin tradition asking a question and another answering. Dialogue in Buddhism is a worthy action if it is conducted with respect and maturity.

Also: We are naturally taught that the Buddhanature is universal. The division of monks - nuns - non-monks - non-nuns - youth - old practitioners....this has nothing to do with one's inner enlightenment and sharing Buddhism.