Foundations of Nichiren

Myokei Caine-Barrett, Shonin

Myokei Caine-Barrett, Shonin will be available to answer questions about this teaching all week (4/29-5/5). Post a question below and she will get back to you.

Watch our bonus video, Foundations of Nichiren: The Life of Nichiren Shonin, here.

Read Tricycle's special section on understanding Nichiren Buddhism here.


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Video

dhruvthukral's picture

Thank u for such a beautiful explanation of lotus sutra...keep on posting stuff like this thank u again
by http://lifeofnichiren.com/

safwan's picture

Myokei, I would like to offer my apology if you have perceived any of my expressions in this thread as harsh in any sense, I have respect to you, I treasure your buddhanature and broadmindedness and for this reason I invite you again for dialogue.

The subject at hand is about the most important matter in Buddhism: can an ordinary person become a Buddha? It is the most important matter in life: manifesting Buddhahood.

Nichiren writes: “Since childhood, I, Nichiren, have never prayed for the secular things of this life but single-mindedly sought to become a Buddha”
http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=839&m=3&q=since%20childhood

My question is whether Nichiren fulfilled his vow becoming a Buddha through his practice of the Lotus Sutra?

Dominic Gomez's picture

If I may interject, Safwan. Nichiren Daishonin at least recognized the lay believer Abutsu-bo as a Buddha when he wrote to him, "You may think you offered gifts to the treasure tower of the Thus Come One Many Treasures, but that is not so. You offered them to yourself. You, yourself, are a Thus Come One who is originally enlightened and endowed with the three bodies. You should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with this conviction."

safwan's picture

This is a wonderful passage, Dominic. The Treasure Tower - where Buddhahood resides - is our life itself as Nichiren teaches.
I think various Nichiren-based schools also recognise the value of this teaching. If I am not mistaken, differences occur from using definitions (of Bodhisattva and Buddha) in a sense which is slightly affected by pre-Lotus separations. Nevertheless all practitioners are respect worthy in their sincerity and dedication to the happiness of others.

safwan's picture

I also think that this subject which we are viewing (emerging as Buddha in one's current form) reveals a revolutionary teaching in Mahayana Buddhism.

Contrary to Shakyamuni's pre-Lotus teachings- which required accumulation of bodhisattva practice over many lifetimes, Nichiren cites from Tien-tai’s “Treaties on the Lotus Sutra” an explanation of how the practice of the Sutra enables ordinary people to complete the whole process of “maturing” and “harvesting” in this lifetime, leading to attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form -
: “...the bodhisattvas, by practicing the Law of the lotus, are - as a result - able to obtain [Buddhahood]. Thus we should understand that the cause [that is the bodhisattva] and the effect [that is the Buddha], are all the Law of the renge, or lotus”.
“A single mind, the entity of Myoho-renge, simultaneously brings to maturity both the blossom of cause and the calyx of effect. This concept is difficult to understand, but through the use of a metaphor, it can be made easy to understand. The teaching that fully sets forth this principle is called Myoho-renge-kyo”.

It is rather a revolutionary concept (attaining Buddhahood in one’s current form) that makes obsolete previous views of gradual attainment and separation by various stages of Bodhisattva. Practioners of Buddhism who are used to the teaching of gradual attainment of Buddhahood - often find Nichiren Buddhism difficult to accept.

marginal person's picture

"It is good to maintain life and further life. It is bad to damage and destroy life. And this ethic, profound and universal, has the significance of a religion. It is a religion." Albert Schweitzer.
I don"t understand the need for all the theorizing.. I don think it's truth we lack, it"s something else. Maybe Charity?

myokei's picture

I understand and hear you. And thank you for this quote by Albert Schweitzer. Perhaps we need compassion and wisdom--both to realize that each of us has a different capacities. The Eternal Sakyamuni understood this as is evidenced in Chapter 2 of the Lotus Sutra: "The purpose of the various teachings that the Buddhas expound according to the capacities of all living beings is difficult to understand. I also expound various teachings with innumerable expedients, that is to say, with stories of previous lives, parables, similes and discourses. [The purpose of the various teachings of the Buddhas is difficult to understand] because the Dharma cannot be understood by reasoning. Only the Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones, appear in the worlds only for one great purpose. . . . to open the gate to the insight of the Buddha to all living beings."

What I can say about theorizing is that it may sometimes be helpful to provide distance from one's confusion when dealing with an issue. Applying a theory may provide the space to step back from a problem and see it dispassionately, thus providing a means of reasoning out solution. Others find solutions and support in the poetry of words or the passion of the founder.

Just as Kanzeon appears in response to the world's cries in the form needed, the Dharma is presented to each of us in the manner which will best touch our lives.

marginal person's picture

My point was don't we all really know what needs to be done in this life? Throughout the world people come to consciousness after a night's rest and have another day in which to act. The question is will our acts enhance life on the planet or not ?
Theorizing about dogma is complicated but ultimately easy compared to the simplicity of acting consciously for the welfare of all life.
Even in this short comment, i realize i haven't been as clear as i would like to be. Also people will interpret my words in their own way. In fact "my own words " aren't even mine, since they were given to me.
I agree with those who say truth is made rather then discovered. Einstein described reality better then Newton but that doesn't doesn't mean the world speaks Einstein.
My comments are written in the spirit of inquiry.

myokei's picture

I agree with your comment that theorizing is easy compared to the simplicity of acting consciously for the welfare of all life.

Thanks for your pure spirit of inquiry.

myokei's picture

I agree with your comment that theorizing is easy compared to the simplicity of acting consciously for the welfare of all life.

Thanks for your pure spirit of inquiry.

myokei's picture

I agree with your comment that theorizing is easy compared to the simplicity of acting consciously for the welfare of all life.

Thanks for your pure spirit of inquiry.

marginal person's picture

Just as i wish to be free of suffering, may all beings be free of suffering.
Thank you.

Dominic Gomez's picture

The Buddhist philosophy of life empowers the individual to put into action what would otherwise be mere platitudes or bumper sticker phrases.

safwan's picture

Thank you Michael and Myokei for your comments on the subject. I agree with Myokei that both chanting and meditation are fundamentally equal in benefit. Many perceive chanting to be of greater practicality in bringing beneficial results.
Nichiren (who decalred a direct path to enlightenment through chanting the Dharma or the Law of the Lotus) had parcticed meditation for 20 yeras - before his decalration of chanting - in various temples and schools - but arrived to the insight that chanting can be a ptactice for revealing one's Buddha nature.

As for the origin of the Lotus Sutra: it is historically accepted the way Michael described. All sutras - as Myokei mentioned: all sutras were recorded after the Buddha's passing. How then to accept or attribute a sutra to Shakyamuni Buddha? The test is that the sutras' text or concepts must pass the criterion of coherence with the Three Dharma Seals ( http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=2314 ) which are the teaching of Impermanence, Non-EgoSelf and attaining Buddhahood.

The issue of authenticity of a Buddhist document (The Lotus Sutra) tends to express perhaps - the view that "Buddhism" is contained in other orders which do not accept the Lotus Sutra. The Sutra's text is revolutionary in comparison with its predecessor sutras.

Another matter is that we can also regard those who compiled the sutra and made it a reality - that they too were Buddhas. That's why they could convey images from the Buddha's mind so effectivelly that the Sutra is wildely known now world wide in the Mahayana school. Shakyamuni - of course is the Buddha and the most treasured, however Buddhahood is not reserved to Shakyamuni alone. Shakyamuni's mission was to manifest to humankind that a humanbeing can attain the highest life state: Buddhahood. But so can other humanbeings who got encouraged and inspired by the Buddha, they could also convey the mind of Buddhahood, becoming Buddhas.

myokei's picture

The version of the Lotus Sutra relied upon is the one by Senchu Murano. Other versions are acceptable; however, this version is the one used in Nichiren Shu. The 3rd edition is now available from University of Hawaii Press.

I noted an error during my talk--on Chapter 13--Rahula is Sakyamuni's son, Yashodara was his wife. My apologies!

safwan's picture

I would like to ask you, Rev. Myokei, about the principle of revealing Buddhahood in one's present form.

The Lotus Sutra presents the concept of oneness of cause (bodhisattva) and effect (Buddhahood) exemplified by the Lotus (Renge) where there is no separation between cause and effect. Another perspective is the Mutual Possession of the Ten Dhrama Worlds, where a person can manifest a state of BodhisattvaBuddha or BuddhaBodhisattva. A Buddha can appear as a Bodhisattva: Shakyamuni stated that he pacticed as a Bodhisattva in the past.

My question relates to how would these concepts fit in your vision about the person of the founder, Nichiren.

If Nichiren's life is called: Bodshisattva only state of life,
then it means that he failed in fully manifesting Buddhahood. How would anyone then attain Buddhahood (by following a method which did not help the Founder himself in becoming a Buddha, to deserve being called a Buddha?

myokei's picture

This is a question that often comes up, as it arises out of differing doctrinal considerations among the various Nichiren schools.

On one hand, I must accept Nichiren Shonin's experience based upon his own words--that he was a bodhisattva. On the other, I do not know that he did not fully manifest Buddhahood. What does it mean to fully manifest Buddhahood? If we consider the idea of mutual possession, does this mean that all of the other realms simply fall away when one manifests Buddhahood? I think not as nowhere is it indicated that upon manifesting Buddhahood one ceases to be human. For me, Buddhahood is awakening to the true nature of reality--which means to accept, view, live, realize, etc. reality 'as it is.'

My life as a woman of color means I often encounter folks who feel the need to marginalize my experience/existence arising out of either of these two conditions. The reality is that no matter their need to do so--it is not my issue, it is their issue. There is no reason for me to take it personally because I cannot change their minds. What I can do is manifest compassion arising out of realization based on the practice of engaging the buddha nature within. The fact that this occurs rather than the harm of the anger realm is a manifestation of that awakened nature.
The impact that this has on others may be beyond my knowledge, yet it does mean that these folks are able to change if the impact has any merit. Further, the reality is that I made the causes for this life under these conditions and I must find a way to manifest understanding and compassion for myself in navigating my own way--that this has led to deeper understanding and appreciation of my circumstances has changed the manner in which I show up in the world.

Over years of practice, I've come to think of Buddhahood as a process of 'mini' awakenings which gradually become more solidified within and ultimately become the foundation for the other realms and how they are manifested in life. Nichiren Shonin did arouse great compassion from within to illumine the world and to share the Dharma with all beings. He did so with great tenderness and sensitivity--he had the great ability to utilize everything in his life in service to the Three Treasures. He had an uncanny ability to understand the trajectory of his life and the things he needed to do in order to fulfill it. How can that be failure? Could these abilities/capabilities be those which one might ascribe to a Buddha?

Nichiren Shonin always pointed to and revered the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha and always referred to himself as Bodhisattva Jogyo--one who aspires for enlightenment. This example of aspiration means to always have a beginner's mind, always questioning, never being afraid to have doubts. Certainty is the death of faith--doubt is fuel for seeking, for clarifying, for joy. This to me indicates the path of growth, the path of lifelong enrichment and engagement.

It is not necessarily important whether Nichiren Shonin manifested Buddhahood or not. What is important is that he showed up as a model for how to follow the path--the path itself does not change, it is we who must do the changing.

I am grateful for your seeking mind and desire to know--this is a great capacity for any practitioner--it keeps us fresh, keeps us forever curious and ultimately leads to joy. This I know and firmly believe.

With deep bows

safwan's picture

Thank you very much for your reply.

I totally agree with what you stated: "For me, Buddhahood is awakening to the true nature of reality". Nichiren was awakened to the true nature of reality. He taught us about the true nature of reality - but he also lived it thoroughly in behaviour and action as well. This means he was a Buddha in action, according to your view.

As you kindly mentioned, Nichiren referred to his spirit is that of Bodhisattva Jogyo. But Jogyo means “True Self of the Buddha”. How can one manifesting the TrueSelf of Buddha - not be a Buddha?

The Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni stated (in Juryo chapter) that while he was always a Buddha – he practiced as a Bodhisattva (ga hon gyo bosatsu do) . In the Lotus Sutra the Bodhisattva and Buddha are inseparable and both constitute one state, the highest state of life - and that’s why the name Lotus indicates the Oneness of cause (Bodhisattva) and effect (Buddha). If we look at the Lotus Sutra from pre-Lotus perspectives, then yes: Bodhisattva is separate from Buddha.

As you mentioned, Nichiren expressed utmost respect for Shakyamuni, but he also stated that without Nichiren’s advent Shakyamuni would have been incorrect in his teaching of the Lotus. If Shakyamuni had no skill to make other people “equally Buddhas without any distinction” – then the case of Shakyamuni becomes an isolated occurrence in the history of humanity, and an irrelevant to ordinary people.

Nichiren Shu Prayer Book brings a wonderful proof of Nichiren being a Buddha in his statement:”I, Nichiren, vowed...to attain Buddhahood”. No one would say that Nichiren failed to materialise his vow becoming a Buddha. I think recognition of Nichiren’s Buddhahood is important to make sense of his teachings.

myokei's picture

Consider also that cause is also sravaka and pratyakebuddha and the effect can still be Buddhahood. Mutual possession means that each of the ten realms contains the other nine--and all these realms are inseparable, according to the Lotus Sutra. Through practice, faith and study, one can find a means of strengthening the realm of Buddha within all of the other nine realms--creating cause leading to Buddhahood.

That you have found a way to reconcile your question regarding whether Nichiren is a Buddha is wonderful. It is not a requirement for all of us to have the same mind about this issue. As I said in another response, doctrinal differences lead to different approaches and ways of considering questions.

Lotus Sutra Buddhism according to Nichiren is a big tent and the diversity therein is a good thing--again, each according to his/her capacity.

Gassho

safwan's picture

As you mentioned above: ”doctrinal differences lead to different approaches and ways of considering questions”. In the light of these words I can see that your approach to considering questions led you to say about my question: ” That you have found a way to reconcile your question regarding whether Nichiren is Buddhisattva - is wonderful”. I would not have made this praise as it would have been a way to only retreat from dialogue.

I agree with you that we do not have to have the same vision on various matters, but - through reason - we can confirm matters of facts. The fact that you do not believe that Nichiren was a Buddha equally means that: by following Nichiren you are not following the Buddha (but a Bodhisttva).

In a previous response you mentioned:
“It is not necessarily important whether Nichiren Shonin manifested Buddhahood or not”. But if Nichiren did not manifest Buddhahood, how any other like us today, who practice as he said, can manifest Buddhahood?
These are legitimate, factual and serious questions.

As for the enlightenment of the sravaka and pratyakebuddha vehicles - this is called (together with Bodhisattva) the Enlightenment of the Three Vehicles. However, the Lotus Sutra teaches - in the Hoben chapter - that the principle of the One Vehicle (Buddhahood) is the final teaching:

“This teaching that guides people to aspire to the Buddha's state of life rather than the three vehicles is called "the replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle" (Jpn kaisan ken'ichi). The replacement of the three vehicles with the one supreme vehicle is the central teaching of the first half, or theoretical teaching, of the Lotus Sutra”. (SGI Literature).
The One Supreme Vehicle of the Lotus Sutra enables one to become (or emerge) as a Buddha. Being so, one has only a single default state of Buddhahood - but which manifests itself in the Nine Worlds, mutuallty possessed.

Your view speaks about the direction from down up (or from the Nine Worlds to Buddhood). The other view in understanding the Sutra says: when you attain Buddhahood (through the Lotus) you have only one way to maniferst Buddhahood: just into the Nine Worlds. This means that a Buddha can express her or himself in any of the Nine Worlds.
Regards

myokei's picture

Safwan,
Based upon my personal and continuing study of the Lotus Sutra and what Nichiren himself said, it really does not matter whether Nichiren Shonin is a Buddha. I do not subscribe to SGI's doctrine of Nichiren as Buddha and no amount of dialogue will change that. If such belief supports you on your journey of faith, that's wonderful.

I wish you well on your journey.

safwan's picture

Myokei
Dialogue is what makes us expand our humanity. In dialogue we do not tend to "convince" others, but to exchange and explore various depths of doctrines, respecting each others beliefs. It is a benefit for both to expand our inner capacity to warmly embrace the buddha nature - the true humanity within us. Nichiren never refused dialogue. In fact most of his writings take the shape of dialogue or questions and answers.

The questions about Nichiren's Buddhahood are in fact about our own, and as such these questions will remain central within our life. Nichiren's ability to manifest Buddhahood is not a theoretical matter between various temples. It is exactly about manifesting Buddhahood by ordionary people, like yourself and myself and all others.Time may offer occassions for further insight for me, and for you on this or other related subjects.

It seems rather conflicting with the spirit of the Lotus Sutra that a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra, yourself, would ignore or avoid a question related to the Lotus Sutra. As I have kindly presented, the Hoben Chapter teaches the principle of the One Vehicle (Buddhahood) - transforming thus the understanding of the enlightenment of sravaka, pratyakebuddha and bodhisattva (in pre-Lotus Mahayana perception) into the One Supreme Vehicle of Buddhahood.

Pondering on the depth of this doctrine fills my mind with joy which I wish to share.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Thank you, Myokei. Can you now explain the Gohonzon, the object of devotion in Nichiren Buddhism?

myokei's picture

The Omandala Gohonzon is a depiction of the ceremony in the air as described in Chapter 11 of the Lotus Sutra. This is the scene of the tranismission of the Lotus Sutra to the bodhisattvas from underground, entrusting them with the task of spreading the teaching in the age of Mappo. Nichiren Shonin writes in the Kanjin Honzon Sho: "Suspended in the sky above the Eternal Buddha Sakyamuni's Saha World is a stupa of treasures, in which Sakyamuni Buddha and the Buddha of Many Treasures sit to the left and right of 'Myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo.' They are waited on by four bodhisattvas such as Jogyo [Superior Practice] representing the original disciples of the Eternal Buddha called out from underground. Four more bodhisattvas including Manjusri and Maitreya, take lower seats as followers, other great and minor bodhisattvas--those converted by the Buddha in the theoretical section and those who came from other lands--resemble numerous people sitting on the ground and looking up at court nobles. Also lined up on the ground are Buddhas in manifestation [funjin Buddhas] who gathered together from all the worlds in the universe in praise of the Buddha's preaching, representing provisional Buddhas in their respective lands." [Writings of Nichiren Shonin, Doctrine 2, p. 149]

Our daily service to the Omandala Gohonzon places us outside of space and time, allowing us to directly participate in the ceremony in the air.

The Omandala Gohonzon is just one of the five forms of Honzon acceptable within our tradition. The others are: [1] the Odaimoku--as an inscription or the eight volumes, or one volume or a single chapter of the Lotus Sutra; [2] Sakyamuni Buddha [3] the Buddha and Four Great Bodhisattvas, and [4] Odaimoku and Two Buddhas [Sakyamuni and Taho Buddhas].

Due to costs and space considerations [statuary is quite spendy], the most common form is the Omandala Gohonzon. A complete explanation of what is on the Shutei Omandala is found here http://nichirenscoffeehouse.net/ShuteiMandala/index.html. The Shutei Omandala is the one currently in use in Nichiren Shu.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Nichiren also writes: "Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This Gohonzon also is found only in the two characters for faith. This is what the sutra means when it states that one can 'gain entrance through faith alone.'"
Faith in the Gohonzon is not a way to "place us outside of space and time". That would be escaping from present reality and contrary to the Lotus Sutra.

myokei's picture

I evidently was not clear. The ceremony in the air is always ongoing--outside of our ordinary conceptions of time and space since most of us tend to think of time as linear progression and space as 'out there.' When we do service, we participate in that ceremony in the air--not as an escape but as active members. This is the Lotus Sutra in action in my opinion; however, I can well understand that others may have difficulty accepting this notion. The reality is that chanting allows one to fully engage the realm of Buddha. Nichiren Shonin also said something to the effect that when one chants the Lotus Sutra, one's mouth becomes the Buddha's mouth, when one touches it one's hands becomes the Buddha's hands [sorry I don't have the exact quote at the moment.] During service, that is--for me and other likeminded folk--a present reality.

Our interpretations of the passage you quote are quite different--as are the translations upon which we rely. "Do not try to obtain this honzon just anywhere, for it exists only in the flesh of those who have faith in the Lotus Sutra and who chant 'Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.' . . . All life is filled with hope. Somehow, for the sake of happiness in a future life, this dictum should be remembered. The most important practice is to chant 'Namu Myoho Renge Kyo' and to enter Buddhahood. True faith is thus the key, because the basis of Buddhism lies in the strength of one's faith, pure and simple."

There's a great deal more to this letter dealing with the mutual possession of the ten realms. Suffice to say that all phenomena mutally possess the ten realms according to the concept of ichinen sanzen.
Myoho refers to the dynamic and interdependent true nature of life in which everything exists through mutual support and transformation. If we accept this, honzon is as present within you as it is within me, as well as in existence outside of ourselves in the physical forms earlier described--in mutual support and transformation.

Hope that makes some sense.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Buddhism makes sense in its actualization as the daily activities of each human being. As Nichiren Daishonin writes, "When deluded, one is called an ordinary being, but when enlightened, one is called a Buddha. This is similar to a tarnished mirror that will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished. it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality. Arouse deep faith, and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo."
This guidance also explains how people become buddhas just as they are or reveal Buddhahood in one's present form (sokushin jobutsu).

myokei's picture

We don't have a disagreement fundamentally. We are obviously from different schools with differing doctrines and thus are not likely to agree. The dialogue can be informative if we put out hearts and minds into seeking to understand and then be understood. The point is to talk to each other rather than at each other.

Please write the Odaimoku. Several of Nichiren Shonin's writings make reference to the 'five or seven' characters of the Odaimoku. Nam is a way of pronouncing Na Mu, especially when chanting quickly. As spoken word, this is not a problem, but as a written form, it should be rendered correctly as seven characters so it can be understood in its entirety as Nichiren Shonin intended.

Gassho

Dominic Gomez's picture

I agree with the benefit of dialogue. My concern is clarifying for our readers the eternal Law of the universe implicit in the Lotus Sutra and through which all people can bring forth from within their lives genuine and indestructible happiness, otherwise known as Buddhahood.

indigomoonbc's picture

Thank you very much for this talk - I learned very much and feel encouraged in my practice..I would like to practice calligraphy - writing of sacred texts - and was wondering if this is something I can learn on my own - and if so, can you please guide me in where to start ? I am sure that it would be best to learn with a teacher to watch my progress however I do not know of anyone in our area that teaches. Thank you for your help ....and thank you again for your talk. May all beings have peace.

myokei's picture

While it is not so difficult to do this practice on your own, the ideal situation would be to learn how to do it--for the first time--with a teacher. If you are close to one of our temples, the priest there will be happy to show you how it is done. There is a bit of ritual to the practice of calligraphy which places one in the correct frame of mind for participating. If you are not able to do so at one of the temples, I can also recommend attending our weeklong practice intensive Aug. 2-9 in New Hampshire. Calligraphy practice is done daily during the retreat. If you cannot do either of these, feel free to contact me off list at nbstx@comcast.net and I will do what I can to help you with this lovely practice.

If you don't want the ritualized practice, then you may simply start copying in English--especially if you are familiar with italicized writing or are happy to do it in your own handwriting.

Don's picture

Thank You for sharing your knowledge. It is very helpful for all on our journey.

myokei's picture

You're quite welcome. I wish you well on your journey!

beatrice's picture

Thank you, Myokei, for your thorough explanation.
I found it interesting, and the first time I heard it, that the Buddha considered himself eternal which for me is equal to God. Since we are all buddhas we are the same. We are all divine sparks!
Interesting to always keep learning.
Namaste'

mralexander99's picture

Beautiful...Namo Amitabha Buddha...Namu Amida Butsu...OM Mani Padme Hum...these are a few of the reminders that came to me as I watched this video describing Nichiren Buddhism and it's purpose. So far as I can see "equality" in the abilities of those who practice and realize is permeated throughout the various schools i.e. Theravadan, Mahayana, Pure Land and Vajrayana. The term "Buddha Nature" is interesting because it is NOT ever mentioned in The Pali Canon and in the early development of the spread of The Buddha's Awakening, but seems to be a "skillful means" in the schools of Buddhism that came after the Theravadan schools.

myokei's picture

The ten suchnesses is just one expression of equality found in the Lotus Sutra. I believe that equality is addressed throughout the text in a manner which includes all living beings. It is further expressed in the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings which addresses teaching according to the capacity of those hearing.

I suppose buddha nature could be thought of as a 'skillful means'--I'll have to consider that further. A question could be raised that if one does not have the buddha nature, how does one achieve buddhahood [awakening/enlightenment]?

Thank you!

mralexander99's picture

The three marks of existence "Anicca", "Anata" and "Dukkha" (impermenance, not-self and suffering) are modes of experience available to us at all times...i.e. this is the song that the universe is singing.

"Have" and "Have Not" are traps to be free of. So, having "Buddha Nature" is a question that does not arise for me. Even though "Emptiness" is a highly misunderstood teaching that Nagarjuna went out of his way to clarify for his time and future generations --- penetrating into the meaning of "shunyata" is beneficial from an experiential stance more so than an intellectual position.

So, in other words, any vehicle that we humans use to recognize the "Dharmakaya" will bring about an insight into the 3 marks of existence and that is flavored with compassion and wisdom --- which for me is how I understand "Buddha Nature."

The "Fullness" of "Emptiness" is how I relate to "Buddha Nature" as it is spoken of by later schools of Buddhism. Since, the early schools that flourished 100 to 200 years after Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni never mentioned "Buddha Nature" in the Sutras of The Pali Canon or in the commentaries. Succinctly put --- Emptiness is itself Buddha Nature similar to "zero" in mathematics..."Zero" is the "nothing" (no-thing-ness) that is!

"You cannot see it with your eyes. You cannot hold it with your hands. You cannot smell it with your nose. You cannot hear it with your ears. You cannot taste it with your tongue. You cannot form it in your thoughts. HERE IT IS!"......Nyogen Senzaki

Metaphorically speaking, "There is NO such thing as an "enlightened being --- There is ONLY enlightened activity!"....Shunryu Suzuki

The enlightened activity is the skillful means of Buddha Nature.

Lastly, I don't think we "achieve" awakening-enlightenment but, uncover or re-discover our human awakened nature (That is not born, does not die is uncreated and not conditioned) that was always there and is always HERE NOW --- that The Buddha was pointing to!

Thank You very much for your sincere practice and eloquent discourse on The Nichiren School of Buddhist Teachings.

myokei's picture

Ah, the trap of language/semantics. No disagreement about the three marks of existence. Have/have not? Buddha nature or not? The language of our translations often presents difficulties when speaking to practitioners from other schools. This is the reason Buddhist practitioners should engage more in intrafaith dialogue. Understanding and approaches to practice come from differing doctrinal foundations and manner of practice. I am always reminded 'first seek to understand and then to be understood.'

Essentially, I think we are in some ways saying the same thing--all beings' [not just humans] fundamental nature is that of Buddha and to achieve awakening, IMHO, means to awaken from the illusion that we do not mutually possess Buddha nature in addition to the nine other realms of existence. Did understanding of the fundamental nature of all living beings exist in the earlier teachings of the Buddha? I would submit that it did--perhaps just in different language.

Thank you for such great food for thought--what a great way to engage other sincere and thoughtful practitioners. With deep bows to a friend in the dharma.

Michael Jaquish's picture

Very informative, thank you very much! It appears to me that this Sutra may simply be a presumed reflection or a compilation of some of the primary messages and instructions Siddhartha Gautama delivered, along with additional information, perhaps accumulated over several centuries by other practitioners. I cannot help but wonder however, if Siddhartha himself practiced these chants (or similar chants, perhaps)? Certainly he did not have access to these particular practices, or did he? I seem to picture him sitting quietly in meditation alone to attain enlightenment (freedom from all attachment to the material realm). Do you think this is the case, or do you believe he may have utilized other techniques as well?

For me, practice fundamentally involves meditation that is continued as a lifestyle with a form of 'walking meditation' of disciplined focused mindfulness that recognizes the connection we have with all beings when one is not on the cushion. I find that when I maintain this awareness, acceptance of all events and compassion for all beings naturally arises.

As an aside, I located some additional information on the web site; About.com...

The sutra's name in Sanskrit is Saddharma-pundarika Sutra, or "Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Law." It is a matter of faith in some schools of Buddhism that the sutra contains the words of the historical Buddha. However, most historians believe the sutra was written in the 1st or 2nd century CE, probably by more than one writer. A translation was made from Sanskrit to Chinese in 255 CE, and this is the earliest historical documentation of its existence.

As with so many of the Mahayana sutras, the original text of the Lotus Sutra is lost. The several early Chinese translations are the oldest versions of the sutra that remain to us. In particular, a translation into Chinese by the monk Kamarajiva in 406 CE is believed to be the most faithful to the original text. )

myokei's picture

Weren't all teachings within the Buddhist Canon compiled after Sakyamuni's passing? Many of us in the West tend to rely quite heavily on an academic or scholarly tradition of written word--perhaps to our detriment as it may make our view quite narrow. I suspect that much like other parts of the world, the oral tradition in India was sufficient to render a fairly consistent recounting of the Buddha's teachings. Somehow in all those councils, they had to have some level of confidence about the accuracy of what they were doing in compiling the Buddha's teachings.

I also believe we tend to limit the concept of meditation to include only silence; and, it is only through learning about other traditions that we can expand our understanding. We in the Nichiren Shu tradition think of chanting as a meditation practice while at the same time using periods of silence to prepare the 'ground' for chanting. As far as whether Sakyamuni utilized other techniques, I would surmise that it is likely because he tried various avenues to achieve enlightenment. Having done so, I think he would use whatever method would work to reach those who were hearing his teachings. In the Lotus Sutra, it mentions teaching the four truths to sravakas, the twelve causes to pratyakebuddhas, and the six paramitas to bodhisattvas--all teachings suitable for those to whom they were given [found in Chapter 1, Lotus Sutra].

With respect to enlightenment--I'm not certain I would define it as you have. I do not mean to suggest you are incorrect. I tend to think of it as understanding/knowing the reality of all things--one is truly awakened to that understanding and thus able to access deep, profound joy.

Your idea of practice is not fundamentally different from how we approach practice. Chanting opens one's heart/mind/body to the reality of all things providing us with the understanding of exactly where we are in a single moment, as well as providing us with the means of transforming ourselves to truly walk the path of the bodhisattva.

Thank you, Michael, for providing fuel for thought.

lilianacrts's picture

Thank you for such an indepth explanation and description of the Lotus Sutra!

myokei's picture

You are quite welcome.