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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Depending on the Buddha Dharma [written sutra]



In the present time, word of the sacred title of the Lotus Sutra
(Myoho Renge Kyo), is spreading throughout the western world under
the banner of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. However, this
propagation has illuminated and intensified a controversy that has
existed in Japan for hundreds of years. The controversy finds its
center in differing opinions about what status should be afforded to
Nichiren Daishonin in the record of Buddhist history. The Nichiren
Shoshu sect (NST) and their prior lay organization (SGI) have taken
the position that Nichiren Daishonin is the "true" (original and
eternal) Buddha.

Although, the issue is multifaceted in its complexity, their
assertion appears to fundamentally rest on the assumption that
because of Nichiren Daishonin's crystallization of doctrine and
practice and object of worship, and his greater proximity in
historical time, he is both the successor to and superior of
Shakymuni. This thinking runs counter to the more orthodox view that
Nichiren Daishonin was the patriarchal author of a landmark doctrine
for practicing the Lotus Sutra in the latter day of the law.

This orthodox view further holds that Shakyamuni is the father of
Buddhism and his essential teachings are the inspiration behind the
Buddha Dharma expounded in the Lotus Sutra. Therefore, from this
point of view, Shakyamuni is legitimately the original and eternal
Buddha regardless of the age in question.

The emergence of several different Nichiren based sects around the
world has caused a resurfacing of this controversy. The issues
surrounding this controversy are worth considering for several
reasons. First, consideration is warranted in the service of
insuring that Nichiren Daishonin's orthodox Buddhism establish
roots in this country that are strong, correct, and lasting. Second,
because the SGI-NST belief is an apparent heterodoxy relative to the
other Nichiren based sects. The cultural issues and political
events that spawned this heterodoxy in Japan several hundred years
ago, are unquestionably complex.(1)

Nevertheless, because of the rather exclusive initial influence of
SGI-NST, many of us lived with their view of things from the beginning 
of our practice. Hundreds of years and a half a planet removed, we were 
oblivious to the historical splintering that had occurred in Japan in the 
centuries after Nichiren Daishonin's death. With no accurate historical 
information or alternative point of view to reflect upon, believing that 
Nichiren Daishonin is the true Buddha could eventually became as
natural as chanting Daimoku (Namu Myoho Renge Kyo). Considering these
things, the belief itself is unquestionably a learned habit of thought and
understanding. The central issue of concern pertains to how correct or 
incorrect this understanding actually is with regard to the true orthodoxy 
of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism.

The chanting of Daimoku alone is very strong medicine. Taking faith
in the Daimoku, although ignorant of its meaning, can still produce
very substantial benefit. In turn, Nichiren Daishonin's philosophy
and doctrine is also very strong and compelling stuff. What emanates
throughout his writings (gosho), is the spirit of an extraordinarily
dedicated, courages, vibrant, and very human person. A person who
was great in compassion and practical wisdom, totally dedicated to
his mission, the welfare of his followers, the people of his country,
and the world. Many of us first encountered the Daimoku and Nichiren
Daishonin's teachings during times of great personal trouble and
need. The Daimoku, as Nichiren Daishonin taught, had the effect of
liberating us from much of the suffering imposed by our karma laden
life problems.

Thus, encountering the Daimoku and Nichiren Daishonin's teachings
had the effect of setting our lives straighter on course then they
had ever been before. In those dark hours of despair and
uncertainty, the wisdom of his teachings were like the steadying
hand of a loving parent. He gave us the courage to endure and press
on with certainty and purpose where nothing else had. For this, he
has our admiration, our reverence, and enduring gratitude. Yet, herein
lies the potential crux of understanding with regard to original
causes. For many, the understanding may have been something like
this, "It was the wisdom of Nichiren Daishonin and his prescription
to chant the Daimoku that liberated me, not Shakyamuni. It was
Nichiren Daishonin's teachings that I followed, not the Lotus Sutra.
Therefore, Nichiren Daishonin is the true Buddha, not Shakyamuni."
In simple terms, the magnitude of Nichiren Daishonin's enlightenment,
relative to our own, can itself give rise to misleading views. In
turn, these misleading views can exploit thought and understanding in
many subtle ways.

Overcoming this kind of exploitation, I believe, entails a process
of apprehending the true import of Nichiren Daishonen's Buddhism in
both its historical and transcendent aspects. This is an important
issue regardless of whether one's interest in Nichiren Daishonin's
Buddhism originated with the SGI movement or not. It is important
because correctly understanding Nichiren Daishonin's historical and
doctrinal role is essential to the state of one's own belief and
and understanding as a follower and practitioner of his Buddhism.
The series of three discourses that follow are dedicated to this end.
In Nichiren Daishonin's time, some two thousand years after Lord
Shakyamuni's passing, the cumulative documented record of Sutras,
supporting commentaries, and alternative meditation on Buddhas and
deities had grown to huge proportions. Indeed, the Buddhist cannon
had grown so large and complex that even accomplished scholars
risked getting hopelessly confused beneath the load. The reason for
this, is that many of the sutras and commentaries emphasize some
specialized aspect of the Buddha Dharma or otherwise conflict with
one another in terms of the doctrines, artifacts, and practices they

Consequently, it can be very difficult to discern which among the
various teachings are authentic or counterfeit, which among the
authentic are only provisional (temporary or expedient teaching, a
partial truth), and which are true (a complete or essential teaching,
suited to the needs of all people). Nichiren Daishonin's life work was
dedicated to sorting out the differences among the various teachings
and making the central (true, pure) Buddha Dharma again accessible to
the people. His success in this difficult endeavor was the product of
the reasonableness, clarity, and decisiveness of what he taught.
His success can also be measured by the fact that even after hundreds
of years, his teachings continue to grow in popularity. However, his
revelations about the true pure teachings of Buddhism caused a
perturbation throughout the entire sphere of popular religion as it
existed in Japan during his time. Seven hundred years later the more
universal importance of these revelations has not diminished.
In the Lotus Sutra, which is the essential sutra of Nichiren
Daishonin's faith, Shakyamuni repeatedly instructs us that, "this
sutra is difficult to understand and difficult to accept". Nichiren
Daishonin's insight and literary skills were such that he could
expound on matters of doctrine and practice with clarity and
simplicity. This made it possible for a broad spectrum of people
from grass roots voice hearers to dedicated scholars to gain benefit
from his teachings. Moreover, his gosho writings possess a timeless
wisdom of encouragement that we common people can comprehend and
relate to in spite of being weighted down by the gravity of our own
needs, desires, and the demands of worldly life. He advocated
the essential practice of the Lotus Sutra in a way that could be
embraced with regularity, thus giving us a tangible device to
cultivate our faith in spite of the worldly nature of our lives.
In contrast, the practice of Buddhism expounded in the text of the
Lotus Sutra reflects a very impeccable and demanding ideal of 
personal volition, life style, conduct, and selflessness. Indeed, some
people might become, intimidated by the committment entailed.
Because of this, the Lotus Sutra might seem at first to be cold,
distant, and impersonal when contrasted with the warm, earthy,
humanistic exposition embodied in Nichiren Daishonin's gosho.
Compared to the Lotus Sutra's highly ascetic description of the
enlightened life, Nichiren Daishonin's treatment of the matter
seems so much more attainable. Having provided this very accessible 
and beneficial prescription, how could Nichiren Daishonin possibly be 
other than the true Buddha? This is indeed a profound question and 
therefore one deserving of careful consideration.

In accordance with the central philosophy of the Lotus Sutra,
Nichiren Daishonin taught that Buddhahood (enlightenment) is an
inherent potentiality in each one of us. Further, the Buddhist
record suggests that many people throughout history have attained
enlightenment in greater or lesser degrees. Therefore, enlightenment
is an event that can occur in varying amounts from small to great,
and from momentary to non-regressive. In the light of these
distinctions, how then should the notion of "original" or "eternal"
Buddhahood be understood? By historical definition, the original
Buddha is the actual founder of the Buddhist faith, or Shakyamuni of
ancient India. By transcendent definition, the original and eternal
Buddha is the one who has been fully enlightened or fully awakened
since time without beginning. According to the liturgy of the Lotus
Sutra, that person was no other than the Shakyamuni revealed in the
16th or Juryo chapter. From this perspective, Shakyamuni is the
true Buddha in both the historical and the transcendent sense of the
word. Buddhahood is further characterized as being perfectly
awakened to and perfectly one with the great mystic Dharma. As a
votary of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishonin's position was that
the Buddha Dharma expounded in the Lotus Sutra (Myoho Renge Kyo), is
the true pure teaching and the essential medicine that Shakyamuni
ultimately prescribed to guide all people to enlightenment.
According to conventions identified in Nichiren Daishonin's gosho,
Buddhahood is characterized as manifesting itself in two forms:
provisional and true. A provisional Buddha is one who reveals only
some specific aspect or function of the Dharma, whereas a true Buddha
is one who reveals the Dharma in its entirety. In the "theoretical"
chapters of the Lotus Sutra, personages such as Shakyamuni and Taho 
are presented as provisional Buddhas. However, in the 16th Juryo
chapter, Shakyamuni clearly and unquestionably identifies his life
and teachings with the original Buddha, the illuminated one who has
been active in the universe and world since time without beginning.
In regard to this, Nichiren Daishonin wrote:

"The Juryo chapter reads: 'The time is limitless and boundless -- a
hundred, thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand nayuta aeons --
since I in fact attained Buddhahood.' Present within our lives is
the Lord Shakyamuni who obtained the three enlightened properties of
life before gohyaku-jintengo, the original Buddha since time without
beginning ........ The Great Teacher Miao-lo declares: 'You should
realize that our life and its environment are the entity of ichinen
sanzen. When we attain Buddhahood, according to this principle, our
life pervades the entire universe both physically and spiritually. '" (2)

Clearly, Nichiren Daishonin viewed Shakyamuni of the 16th chapter as
the eternal Tathagata, the original benefactor and votary of the
Buddha Dharma. Therefore, from the orthodox standpoint of Nichiren
Daishonin's Buddhism, Shakyamuni of the 16th chapter is also the true
object of worship. In regard to this, Nichiren Daishonin stated:

"Had an object of worship of Lord Shakyamuni who attained
enlightenment countless aeons before and his attendants ever been
made during the Former and Middle Days, it would have been like the
sun appearing at night or the moon shining by day...... Now that we
have entered the Latter Day, an object of worship should be made of
the true Buddha flanked by his original attendants, since this is
the most appropriate time according to the Buddha's golden words.
Because this age corresponds to the predicted time, the Bodhisattvas
of the Earth will soon appear and establish an object of worship of
the four bodhisattvas. " (3)

Still, someone unconvinced may suggest, "Your thesis may be correct
so far as it goes. Shakyamuni was unquestionably the true Buddha for
his place in historical time. But, this is some three thousand years
later and only seven hundred years ago Nichiren Daishonin emerged to
expound the essential practice of Daimoku. As you have quoted, the
true object of worship is comprised of the four bodhisattvas and
didn't Nichiren Daishonin declare himself to be a reincarnation of
Jogyo who was the leader among these bodhisattvas? Also, you said
it yourself, the Lotus Sutra is difficult reading while Nichiren
Daishonin's Gosho is more accommodating. Furthermore, Nichiren 
prominently inscribed his seal on the Gohonzon and therefore linked 
himself to the Buddha Dharma. Don't these things suggest that Nichiren 
Daishonin is the true Buddha of the latter day of the law?"

Nichiren Daishonin often used the method of creating imaginary
dialogues to address critical issues when he could not directly face
his audience on the floor of debate. So, in borrowing from this, the
questions above might be answered in the following way. "I can see
that your sense of respect for Nichiren Daishonin and his great
accomplishment is very deep and I share that with you. However, I
believe, it would be more correct to say that seven hundred years ago
Nichiren Daishonin emerged to further expound and elucidate the
essential practice of Myoho Renge Kyo. The process of translating
Lord Shakyamuni's essential Dharma teachings down to the central
practice of Daimoku, took over two thousand years and involved the
life work of all votaries of the Lotus Sutra that preceded Nichiren
Daishonin. Nichiren Daishonin did not invent the Daimoku. (4)

However, he was the first to broadly advocate its use as the
essential practice of the Lotus Sutra. Like all votaries before
him, Nichiren Daishonin revered the Lotus Sutra above all other
scriptures and made it the basis of his doctrine and dedicated his
life to fulfilling both its prophecy and dispensing its prescription.
Therefore, it would seem that any fair sense of respect or
indebtedness to him should include careful examination of what the
text of Lotus Sutra contains, what Nichiren Daishonin had to say
about the Lotus Sutra, about Shakyamuni, and what Nichiren Daishonin
had to say about himself."

It is true that Nichiren Daishonin declared his life to be closely
aligned with the predicted mission of bodhisattva Jogyo. Bodhisattva
Jogyo was one of Shakyamuni's principle bodhisattva attendants.
Nevertheless, it must be remembered that Shakyamuni had four
principle bodhisattva attendants, not just one. The four
bodhisattvas of the earth who take a place with Shakyamuni, are
considered to 'signify the four virtues of the Buddha's life: true
self, eternity, purity, and happiness'.( 5)

However, because each of these bodhisattvas represents only
one of the virtues (aspect or function) of the Buddha's life, anyone
of them alone is provisional by definition. Nevertheless, Daishonin's
frequent references to Jogyo and his landmark inscription of Gohonzon
are decisive characteristics of his Buddhism. In regard to this, Nichiren
Daishonin wrote:

"Then how can there be any doubt that I, Nichiren, am the teacher of
the Lotus Sutra? In other words, I almost resemble "the envoy of the
Thus Come One"; I am carrying out "the Thus Come One's work." I have
propagated the five characters of the daimoku which were entrusted to
Bodhisattva Jogyo when the two Buddhas [Shakyamuni and Taho] were
seated together within the jeweled stupa.(6) Does this not indicate
that I am an envoy of Bodhisattva Jogyo?"(7)

In the gosho, "The Selection of the Time", which Nichiren Daishonin
subtitled as "Nichiren, disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha", the
following statement is found.

"......Shakyamuni Buddha also extended his tongue, which is incapable
of telling falsehoods, until it reached the Akanishtha Heaven, saying
that in the fifth five-hundred- year period after his passing, when
the entire body of Buddhist doctrine would be about to disappear,
Bodhisattva Jogyo would come forward with the five characters of
Myoho-renge- kyo and administer them as good medicine to those
afflicted with white leprosy -- those persons of incorrigible
disbelief and those who slander the Law. And he charged Bonten,
Taishaku, the gods of the sun and moon, the Four Heavenly Kings and
the dragon deities to act as that bodhisattva' s protectors." (8)
and elsewhere

"The text of the sutra clearly states that at this time, Bodhisattva
Jogyo will make his advent and bestow the five characters of Nam-
myoho-renge- kyo upon all the people of Japan. It also makes clear
that he will face exile and execution. I, Nichiren, am like the
emissary of Bodhisattva Jogyo, because I am spreading this
doctrine.... ..The Jinriki chapter states: "Just as the light of the
sun and moon illuminates all obscurity, this person will practice
among the people and dispel the darkness of all beings." In this
passage, in the statement, "this person will practice among the
people," to whom do you think "this person" refers? I believe that it
must indicate the person who is the reincarnation of Bodhisattva

Judging from the literal import of these and other quotations,
Nichiren Daishonin clearly defined himself as a follower of the
Tathagata, but more specifically, the metaphorical if not literal
reincarnation of bodhisattva Jogyo. The most notable thing about
this, is that the rather explicit association with bodhisattva Jogyo,
unambiguously classified Nichiren Daishonin as a disciple of the true
Buddha rather than the true Buddha himself.

To further clarify, the whole issue needs to be considered in 
light of the doctrine of the three treasures: the Buddha, the
Dharma, and the Sangha. The term "Sangha" refers to the order of
disciples and followers of the Buddha. In Chapter 15 of the Lotus
Sutra, the bodhisattvas of the earth are described as Shakyamuni's
most ancient disciples, who had been under his training since the
indescribably remote past .(10) Therefore, the four bodhisattvas of
the earth metaphorically constitute the original sangha of the
original Buddha.(11) Considering these things, what significance should
or shouldn't be ascribed to Nichiren Daishonin's prominent seal at
the bottom of Gohonzon? 

In the "The True Object of Worship", Nichiren Daishonin describes 
Gohonzon as follows:

"In the air above the saha world [which the Buddha of the essential
teaching identified as the pure and eternal land], Namu-myoho-renge-
kyo appears in the center of the Jeweled Stupa (5) with Shakyamuni
and Taho Buddhas seated to the right and left, and the Four
Bodhisattvas of the Earth, led by Jogyo, flank them. Around them are
Monju, Miroku and the other followers of the Four Bodhisattvas. All
the other bodhisattvas, whether they are disciples of the Buddha of
the theoretical teaching or of the Buddhas of the other worlds, take
their seats further below, like commoners kneeling on the ground in
the presence of nobles and high ministers. The Buddhas who gathered
from the other worlds in the ten directions of the universe all
remain on the ground, showing that they are only manifestations of
the eternal Buddha and that their lands are transient, not eternal
and unchanging." (3)

Given this description and the position of  Nichiren Daishonin's seal at the very bottom of the Gohonzon [beneath the lowest and most provisional of the followers of Shakyamuni and his four principle bodhisattva attendants, below the votaries prior to and during the Middle Day of the Law, and even below the representatives of the six lower worlds] one might equally and erroneously attribute to Nichiren a position wholly unworthy of the Supreme  Votary of the Lotus Sutra. 

Therefore, to define Nichiren Daishonin as true Buddha is like calling 
the moon's reflection on the water the moon itself or believing that 
the heavens rotate around the earth rather than the earth upon its axis. 
Undoubtedly, the issues of function are complex and everything inscribed 
on Gohonzon is rich and many sided in meaning. This notwithstanding, the 
position of Nichiren Daishonin's seal at the bottom of Gohonzon could be 
seen as symbolically representing the perennial bodhisattva of the earth, 
the sangha leader preaching the Buddha Dharma in the saha world; or
variously, the embodiment of the latter day disciple kneeling on the
ground, chanting Daimoku in veneration and observance of the Dharma
body of the eternal Buddha Shakyamuni. Therefore the essential
relationship of Nichiren Daishonin to Lord Shakyamuni, is originally
and eternally one of disciple to master. Even in Nichiren Daishonin's 
transcendent aspect as bodhisattva Jogyo, Nichiren Daishonin's relation-
ship to Lord Shakyamuni is still one of disciple to master.


Even so, our protagonist might respond, "I must admit I have little
defense against Nichiren Daishonin's own words or the evidence of
Gohonzon. Again, however, the Lotus Sutra is difficult to understand
and accept and therefore also Shakyamuni. If there are people that
can be liberated by the belief that Nichiren Daishonin is the true
Buddha, then haven't the true intentions of Shakyamuni been well
served? In other words, isn't it possible that because of their past
karma, that some people are unable to take faith in Shakyamuni and
the Lotus Sutra but can take faith in Nichiren Daishonin and the

Your question is searching and has some broad implications that need
to be considered. As Nichiren Daishonin taught, propagation of the
Dharma must be in accordance with the time, the teaching, and the
country (8). Of course, the essential problem of having the
Buddha's true Dharma confused with inferior doctrines and
philosophies is the same throughout the world. Nevertheless, because
of differences in cultural circumstances, the confusion is masked
behind a different composition of philosophies, and ideologies in
each country. Therefore, we must attempt to understand what is best
for the growth of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism in this country.
With this in mind, I would answer your question by asking you to
consider the matter in the following way. In the 16th chapter of the
Lotus Sutra, the Tathagata employs the parable of the excellent
physician who attempts to administer medicine to his children after
they were infected with poison.

"Those among the various children who have not lost their minds see
that this excellent medicine is good in both color and fragrance and
at once swallow this, their illness is completely eliminated and they
are cured. As to the remainder who have lost their minds, although
on seeing their father coming they also rejoice and make inquiries
and request him to heal their illness, yet when he gives them the
medicine, they are unwilling to swallow it. What is the reason? It
was because since the influence of poison has penetrated deeply and
has made them lose their original minds they said to themselves about
thismedicine with good color and fragrance that it is not beautiful."

And later:

"I ever know the masses of beings proceeding on the way and not
proceeding on the way; according to what will save them, I preach for
them all kinds of Dharmas. I myself ever form this thought: by what
shall I cause the masses of beings to be able to enter the supreme
way and rapidly achieve the Buddha body?" (12)

In accordance with this, Nichiren Daishonin's ultimate aim was to
bring all people to direct faith in the pure Buddha Dharma of Lotus
Sutra itself. Any expedient that does not ultimately lead to this
end is not in accordance with what he taught. The notion that
Nichiren Daishonin is the true Buddha, is a heterodoxy that
originated in Japan several centuries ago among a small faction of
his followers long after his passing. (1) This fact should be taken
into careful consideration. A prevalent theme throughout Nichiren
Daishonin's writings is that eventual enlightenment can be assured by
the invocation of Daimoku alone. Undoubtedly, some benefit can be
gained by accepting Nichiren Daishonin as the true Buddha, provided
that this investment in faith leads to the actual chanting of
Daimoku. However, what of those people who cannot be won to the
Daimoku by such a subterfuge? This latter kind of people may very
well be the majority in this country. Shakyamuni of India, the
historical Buddha, also called Gautama, is rather commonly known
throughout the literate world as the original Buddha. This prior
information is the original cause that motivates many people to be
attracted to and seek out the devices of Buddhist practice. So,
what of these people, having a-priori cultivated respect for Lord
Shakyamuni, only to have that respect crushed off by the SGI
sentiment? Because of this, how many people have rejected the
Daimoku and Nichiren Daishonin before they hardly begin or never
attempted at all? And what of those people who after years of
practice realize the truth when examining the literal meaning of the
Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Daishonin's major writings uncorrupted by
the agenda laden interpretations of the SGI movement? What
potential difficulties can ensue after having become deeply bonded to
the subterfuge by years of community affiliation, friendship, and
even family? In other words, among those who were taught from the
beginning that Nichiren Daishonin is the true Buddha, how many of
them would have been better off believing from the onset that
Shakyamuni is the true Buddha? In turn, how many people were driven
away from the onset because no respect for the Buddha land of
Shakyamuni could be found?

The protagonist replies, "........ these questions raise difficult
issues and consequently do not lend themselves to easy answers. It
may not be very satisfying, but no one ever said it would always be
easy, certainly not Nichiren Daishonin. Earthly desires and
delusions are nirvana and the sufferings of life and death are
enlightenment. Matters of belief and understanding reside there as
well. Regardless, your answers have not yet adequately satisfied
some of my deeper concerns. As we have discussed, the Lotus Sutra is
difficult to understand and difficult to accept. How can the
majority of people be expected to directly read and study the Lotus
Sutra and usefully gain benefit from it? Further, we can both agree
that Nichiren Daishonin's contribution to doctrine and practice is
great indeed. As a matter of strategic concern, don't you fear that
the benefits of his contribution will be lost to posterity and the
spread of Namu Myoho Renge Kyo blunted if Nichiren Daishonin is not
endowed with the status of true Buddha?"

In response to the last part of your question, please consider the
following things. The latter day of the law (mappo), is defined as
the age of decline when the true Dharma is confused with inferior
teachings and consequently lost. For this reason, sowing the seed of
the true Buddha Dharma (Myoho Renge Kyo) has particular emphasis in
the practice of Nichiren Daishonen's faith. The term "shakubuku" has
been inextricably linked to the propagation movement. The term
shakubuku has multiple meanings. I understand that in one sense it
means, 'to crush or subdue', but in another sense it means 'to refute
heretical views'. It is sometimes hard to see the forest when
standing close to the trees. Considering this, I may ask in return,
isn't it actually possible that the successful propagation of Myoho
Renge Kyo has been compromised by the lack of universality of the
expedient you employ? Representing Nichiren Daishonin as the true
Buddha can easily cause some people to see him as just another
radical cult hero, a subversive fad, rather than as a legitimate
Buddhist master. If we are going to confuse the status of key
personages like Shakyamuni and Nichiren Daishonin, then how much
easier is it to misrepresent the status of others, thus leaving
Nichiren Daishonin's orthodox Buddhism and the propagation movement
open to exploitation and corruption? It is difficult to estimate
just how much damage this kind of phenomena has done to the
credibility of both Nichiren Daishonen and Namu Myoho Renge Kyo
itself. In any event, I think you must admit that the stand you
take creates very substantial limitations regarding to who among >the
populace that the seed of Daimoku can successfully be propagated.
As to the issue of the majority of people benefiting from direct
study of the Lotus Sutra, I must answer at considerable length.
First, I suspect that most of those who claim that the Lotus Sutra is
too difficult to study, also carry a similar attitude towards
Nichiren Daishonin's gosho. These are the kind of people who would
rather depend on what their leaders prescribe than bend to the effort
of studying the source documents themselves. With little exception,
basic literacy is rather universal condition in this country. There
is also a clear difference between what is difficult and what is
truly impossible. The Lotus Sutra admonishes us that in the age of
mappo we should depend upon the Buddha Dharma (the written sutra)
rather than on the words of others. And Nichiren Daishonin himself
admonished that we should "listen to the golden words of the Buddha,
not what others have to say". (13) Undoubtedly, Nichiren Daishonin's
Buddhism opens and closes with the Daimoku, it is the soul and
essence of the practice that he expounded. Without assiduous
return to Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, the rest of the elements of faith,
practice, and study are like the different parts of the lotus plant
severed from its root. Even so, Nichiren Daishonin wouldn't have
stressed the assiduous recitation of the Hoben and Juryo chapters had
he wanted us to chant Daimoku only. That is, he intended that we
become well acquainted with the heart of the Lotus Sutra, both in
sound-rhythm and in literal meaning.

There is very substantial practical justification for being attendant
upon literal meaning. As most of us first experienced, substantial
benefit can be achieved just by taking faith in the chanting of
Daimoku. However, to continue without study, is to base Daimoku on
the devices of one's karma laden past experience and insight alone,
rather than having that insight mediated by the written guidance of
the Buddha Dharma itself. After a certain point, progress in faith
and understanding is much slower without study into the literal
meaning of the Buddha Dharma. The lack of such study also makes
people vulnerable to the misleading views and guidance of others.
Nichiren Daishonin undeniably believed that the Lotus Sutra did fit
the capacities of the people of the latter day. The whole theorem
of the thing was that some two thousand years after the Buddha's
passing, the people were indeed ready for the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren
Daishonin, wouldn't have advocated the sacred title of the Lotus
Sutra as the central practice if he hadn't believed this. In so
doing, he strictly defined what was the essence, what was the heart,
and what was the body of the text of the Lotus Sutra. Now, some
three thousand years after the Buddha's passing, the Lotus Sutra
fits the capacities of the people just as well if not better. To
venture an analogy, when Albert Einstein first published his theory
of relativity, there wasn't anyone else on the planet that could
understand what he was talking about. Then, after a while, two or
three other physicists of his time got it figured out and then after
a while a few more caught on. Now, even less than a century after
his startling revelations, it would be difficult to earn a degree in
the physical sciences without having a basic handle on Einstein's
theory. Although, few people on the street (including myself) could
tell you much, there is hardly anyone in the modern world who hasn't
at least heard of Einstein and his revolutionary theory of
relativity. The technological and industrial edifice of modern
civilization is predominantly based on the older Newtonian physics
(14). However, the seed of relativity theory has been planted and is
inexorably working its way into the depths of the collective
and thus gradually altering our practical understanding of the
physical universe. It would be safe to predict that civilization of
one or two thousand years from now will be incalculably different as
a consequence. It is difficult to significantly change the
consciousness of an entire species of living being. As a species,
we have resided on the plateau of civilization for only five or ten
thousand years at best. In the life of the planet and our race, a
few thousand years can hardly be counted as a period of huge
extent. The true pure Buddha Dharma shares something in common
with relativity theory insofar as human kind as a whole has been a
long time in preparation to receive it. Thepredicted ten thousand years
of the latter age of the law marks a time when both the widespread
need and the capacity for the Buddha Dharma enjoys an extraordinary

The Daimoku is the seed practice, but knowledge of the heart and
eventually the body of the Lotus Sutra is necessary in order that the
seed develop good roots and produce a well formed plant. In
the "Opening of the Eyes", Nichiren Daishonin quoted Miao-lo as
having concluded, 'if one fails to become acquainted with the Buddha
of the Juryo chapter, one is no more than a talented animal who does
not even know what lands his father presides over.' (13) Yes, the
Lotus Sutra it is difficult to understand, but so are many classical
works when read for the first time. Those who suggest that the
Lotus Sutra is too difficult to be worth the reading are seriously in

I can anticipate your next question, "not all people are bookworms,
just how much reading and study must be done do to satisfy the
practice?" Of course, the essential answer is, "just one phrase,
'Namu Myoho Renge Kyo'". However, this one phrase is very deep in
meaning and the study of it, is consequentlya life long journey.
This journey can be greatly aided if time is taken to consult the
written Buddha Dharma of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Daishonin's
gosho. Nichiren Daishonin expressed a very focused and economical
stand on the prescribed scope of study when he wrote:

"'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,' and 'Honestly discarding the provisional teachings, I
will expound the Supreme Law,' and 'Never accept even a single phrase
from the other sutras.' Thus, ever since that time, the supreme
vehicle of the Mystic Law has been the only teaching profound enough
to enable all people to attain Buddhahood.' " (15)

Judging from this passage, it should be clear that Nichiren Daishonin
did not expect us to master the entire Buddhist cannon in order to do
justice to his faith. Study of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren
Daishonin's supporting gosho, are the central liturgical articles of
faith. Undoubtedly, first readings are difficult because there are
many unfamiliar terms and unusual styles of literary expression.
However, with repeated effort, the task of comprehension eventually
becomes easier. Although, huge in substance of meaning, the Lotus
Sutra is not a particularly long book. In turn, the entire
collection of Nichiren Daishonin's writings is a rather modest
holding, and his major writings constitute only a fraction of this
(16). Therefore, it is not an unreasonable expectation that the
majority of people gain direct familiarity with the contents of
both. As familiarity deepens, the Lotus Sutra is almost certain to
show itself to actually have excellent "color and fragrance". The
Lotus Sutra is the master plan that Nichiren Daishonin's faith rests
upon. One would be remiss in claiming to be his follower if he or
she didn't endeavor to build studied acquaintance with its content.
Unquestionably, it is the same imperative with the study of Nichiren
Daishonin's gosho, which serves as doctrinal guide for interpreting
and practicing the Lotus Sutra in the latter day. However, this is
only part of an answer to the complex question that is at the heart
of this discussion.


It is said that one of the sacred titles of the Buddha is "the world
honored one". In the present age, there is hardly anywhere in the
literate hemisphere that one or another of the Buddha's titles is not
known. If he is not known as Shakyamuni, then he is known as
Gautama, or the "awakened one", or the historical Buddha, or simply
the Buddha. Moreover, there is no historical personage in the
larger Buddhist world culture that is more universally acknowledged
than Shakyamuni or any Mahayana sutra more highly revered than the
Lotus. Although, relatively few western people know much about the
essentials, it would be difficult to have any knowledge of world
religions and philosophies and not have heard of the middle way

The severe austerities that Gautama underwent in his quest to
discover, understand, and elucidate the fundamental causes and cures
of suffering, were an unprecedented display of courage, discipline,
and dedication. Moreover, after enlightenment, the social and
cultural austerities he endured to ensure the integrity of his
ministry and the purity of his teachings were a profound testament to
the strength of his faith (17). The diamond hard body of practical
and philosophical wisdom he fashioned in ancient India, left an
extraordinarily influential imprint on the very record of
civilization. Three thousand years later, the impact of his
historical turning of the wheel of the law, still reverberates across
the waters of human consciousness. His essential teachings have
inspired and guided seekers of the way ever since. His teachings
inspired his immediate disciples, his life and teachings were the
inspiration behind the Lotus Sutra, he inspired all the bodhisattvas
of the former and middle days of the law, he inspired Nagajuna, T'ien-
t'ai, Miao-lo, Dengyo and Nichiren Daishonin. Without the seed of Shakyamuni's original enlightenment, the accomplishments
of all these others, including Nichiren Daishonin, would be
practically less than dust. How could anyone reasonably doubt that
Shakyamuni is the Tathagata, the original parent, teacher, and
sovereign of the Buddha land, the world honored one? To deny this is
to literally cut oneself off from the life blood of the Buddhist

The life and legend of Shakyamuni reflects a very high ideal of human
existence. It reflects a standard of successful altruistic living
which is of history changing impact. This ideal speaks to both the
individual and the collective, even though embracing its full measure
seems far beyond either the desire or the capacity of us ordinary
people. However, that is not a bad thing, we need not turn away in
fear because it is neither our capacity nor our personal role in the
scheme of things to duplicate the details of Shakyamuni's personal
life or otherwise match his historical fame. The Lotus Sutra teaches
that we are all equal in our potentiality for enlightenment. However,
in matters of faith and wisdom, it is a very rare that anyone
succeeds in coming even near the historical and legendary stature
that Shakyamuni obtained. Indeed, Shakyamuni lived the life that he
did in order to produce a decisive legacy for the ages. The
wonderful thing, is that Shakyamuni's life was one that was lived
long for the standard of his time, and one lived with extraordinarily
impeccable intent and success. As a testimony to the most profound
teachings of Shakyamuni, the Lotus Sutra expounds the essential
causes and effects that lead to the universal eradication of
suffering. From this standpoint, it is an absolute certainty that
anyone can find something within its pages that is worth study and
reflection. If we have no ideals to regularly observe that are
clearly beyond our measure, than no possibility of beneficial
advancement in our own lives or in the life of the race is
conceivable. Such is the Lotus Sutra, the quintessential Buddhist
masterpiece of philosophical and cosmological writing, the crown
jewel of the Mahayana.

You say that you fear that Nichiren Daishonin's great contribution
will be lost if he is not endowed with the status of the true Buddha.
The sages tell us that, "those who do not learn the lessons of
history are bound to repeat them." I therefore suggest that you
should fear the loss of Shakyamuni's legacy every bit as much. This
is sometimes the hardest thing to understand, but the essential
diamond hard nature of Shakyamuni's original enlightenment cannot be
improved upon, it can only be studied and emulated. Nichiren
Daishonin's orthodox Buddhism and his own faith rests upon the legacy
of Shakyamuni's original enlightenment. What a shame it would be to
have the original antecedents of the Buddhist faith annihilated from
the memory of the race. To loose the jewel of wisdom and insight
that Shakyamuni crafted, would be on a par with loosing the gifts of
tool making and written language, like being relegated to the status
of wild animals in the wilderness who never learned who their own
parents were. If anything, the world suffers from lack of sufficient
knowledge about the life and teachings of Lord Shakyamuni. It should
therefore be clear that Nichiren Daishonin had very deep and far
reaching justification for defining the true object of worship as he
did. As followers of Nichiren Daishonin, we should endeavor to
cultivate respect in the manner that he prescribed.

Nevertheless, we are still left with the central issue of this
discussion. That is, "if Nichiren Daishonin is not the true Buddha,
then who indeed is he and how should we represent him?"
Historically, we know that Nichiren Daishonin was a Buddhist
priest, a disciple of Shakyamuni, a Daimoku master, a mandala maker
of extraordinary accomplishment, and the foremost votary of the
Lotus Sutra in the latter age of the law. The unique character of
his accomplishment was punctuated by the prescription of Namu Myoho
Renge Kyo as the essential practice, clarification of the true
object of worship, inscription of Gohonzon, and the formulation of
landmark doctrinal standard for interpreting and practicing the Lotus
Sutra. At the heart of it, he distilled the most essential
teachings of Buddhism down into a formula of faith, practice, and
study that common people like ourselves could regularly embrace
while continuing to build and live ordinary lives. This was indeed
an accomplishment of extraordinarily great insight, wisdom, and
compassion. The product of an enlightened life lived in the service
of the Eternal Buddha and the people of the earth. As a votary of
the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishonin's life vow was to practice,
expound, and propagate its teachings as the essential prescription
to overcome the karmic effects of slander and to extinguish

By historical precedent, a Buddha is a sage who has achieved a state
of perfect illumination from practicing the teachings of the original
Buddha Shakyamuni. In regard to the matter, Nichiren Daishonin wrote:

"Although not worthy of the honor, Nichiren was nevertheless the
first to spread the Mystic Law entrusted to Bodhisattva Jogyo for
propagation in the Latter Day of the Law. I Nichiren was also
the first to inscribe the Gohonzon, which is the embodiment of the
Buddha from the remote past as revealed in the Juryo chapter of the
essential teaching, of Taho Buddha who appeared when the Hoto chapter
of the theoretical teaching was preached, and the Bodhisattvas of the
Earth who emerged with the Yujutsu chapter. No matter how people may
hate Nichiren, they cannot possibly alter the fact of his enlightenment. "(2)

In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni vowed to make everyone equal to
himself in terms of the benefits of the enlightenment that he himself
obtained. Unquestionably, Nichiren Daishonin's own enlightenment is
an historically decisive instance of the fulfillment of Lord
Shakyamuni's promise. As the Buddha's disciple, Nichiren Daishonin's
enlightenment was the product of the original Buddha's most profound
teachings as they had been preserved and illuminated through the
succession of votaries of the Lotus Sutra to the time of Nichiren
Daishonin's appearance at the beginning of the latter age. Nichiren
Daishonen's Buddhism is orthodox Mahayana Buddhism refined and
expounded in accordance with the essential prescription of that

The labor of successfully establishing Nichiren Daishonin's orthodox
Buddhism in this country, is a process of correctly establishing its
status relative to the original teachings of Lord Shakyamuni. Many
of us in this country began our journey as followers and
practitioners of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism based on the belief
that he is the true Buddha. As an expedient for centering on the
essential practice, this initial shaping of belief and understanding
was not really so incorrect as it could have been. This is
particularly so considering the myriad of less worthy personages and
teachings that one's faith could be invested in. It is also true
that because of this investment in Nichiren as True Buddha,
ironically, more people have ended up ascribing less significance to
Nichiren Daishonin than would be expected. Despite elevating Nichiren
to true Buddha status fewer and fewer people seem to have respect for
the Nichiren Lotus Sutra Buddhism. *Imagine, there are a group of
vociferous supporters of the vice president who claim that joe Biden
and not Barack Obama is the true head of state. Through no fault of
his own, joe biden being a loyal follower of president Obama, in the
mind of the vast majority of the people, his status has become that
of usurper. The people will in the end, turn away from Joe Biden, his
power and influence to support the president will be diminished and
people may even begin to harbor doubts about the programs of the
president and the Law of the land.*

The issue can also be looked at from the standpoint of the three
virtues of sovereign, teacher, and parent. The true orthodox stand
of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism specifies that the only personage
that legitimately possesses all three virtues is Lord Shakyamuni the
master of teachings. (18)(19) Nevertheless, anyone who takes
Nichiren's Daishonin's orthodox Buddhism seriously, will have some
functional tendency to ascribe these virtues to him. (2) However,
such an ascription can only hold orthodox validity when it is
understood that Lord Shakyamuni is Nichiren Daishonin's sovereign
lord and therefore the true sovereign, parent, and teacher of our
faith. The term "Daishonin" means "great teacher". Therefore, the
correct orthodox endowment of Nichiren Daishonin is with the virtue
of teacher of Lord Shakyamuni's Buddha Dharma. Failure to be
observant of this relationship between Lord Shakyamuni and Nichiren
Daishonin is tantamount to denying the true cause underlying Nichiren
Daishonin's own enlightenment. The original vow to bring all people
to enlightenment was Lord Shakyamuni's. In turn, all the Buddha's,
bodhisattvas, and guardian deities that attended the ceremony in the
sky, made their vows to Lord Shakyamuni. It was also to Lord
Shakyamuni that Nichiren Daishonin made his vow to propagate the
Lotus Sutra in the latter age. In Nichiren Daishonin's true orthodox
Buddhism, Lord Shakyamuni of the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra is
the original and eternal Buddha and therefore the original benefactor
of the Buddha Dharma, Myoho Renge Kyo.

As Lord Shakyamuni's disciple and emissary, Nichiren Daishonin's life
work was in the service of guiding all people to enlightenment
through the profound teachings of Myoho Renge Kyo. The most
fundamental linguistic identity of "Myoho Renge Kyo", is the actual
title of the written scripture of Lotus Sutra itself. Consequently,
the phrase "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo" should clearly imply being
attendant upon both the Daimoku and the Dharma teachings expounded
within. In the final analysis, the very essence of Nichiren
Daishonin's faith, is the Buddha Dharma originally expounded by the
eternal Buddha Lord Shakyamuni. This Dharma is mirrored in the
depths of Gohonzon and in the depths of the written scripture of the
Lotus Sutra itself. A new Daimoku movement is emerging in this
country that is anchored in this original and eternal Buddhism of
Lord Shakyamuni. This movement is based on the true meaning of
Nichiren Daishonin's faith as it has been restored, preserved, and
taught by the succession of true followers since Nichiren
Daishonin's own time. The lineage of this succession is
exemplified by Nichiju Shonin, who founded the Kempon Hokke sect
of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism many centuries ago in Japan. (1)
It is through the vehicle of this movement that the people of this
country now have both the alternative and the opportunity to learn
and practice the Buddhism of Namu Myoho Renge Kyo as Nichiren
Daishonin truly intended.

So now, the present discourse has gone full circle to where it
began. Who then is Nichiren Daishonin? Of course, in the final
analysis, I can only speak for myself as Nichiren Daishonin's gosho
is the true doctrinal authority, not what I have to say.

Nevertheless, at least for me, under the original and eternal
sovereignty and parenthood of Lord Shakyamuni, Nichiren Daishonin is
my historical teacher and sangha leader in this latter day of the
law. He is the founder and patriarchal elder of the orthodox
Mahayana Buddhism that I practice. His gosho teachings are most
excellent. As Daishonen, he is the authority on how the Lotus Sutra
should be interpreted and how the essential practices of Buddhism
should be performed in this latter age. As lay follower and
practitioner of the Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, I endeavor to be
attendant upon the oneness of the true Buddha and true Dharma
revealed in the teachings of the Lotus Sutra of Shakyamuni as
Nichiren Daishonin prescribed.

"A passage from the Lotus Sutra reads, ' though one had found a
ship to make the crossing.' This 'ship' might be described as
follows: The Lord Buddha, a shipbuilder of infinitely profound
wisdom, gathered the lumber of the four tastes and eight teachings,
planed it by honestly discarding the provisional teachings, cut and
assembled the planks, using both right and wrong, and completed the
craft by driving home the spikes of the one, supreme teaching. Thus
he launched the ship upon the sea of suffering. Unfurling the sails
of the three thousand conditions on the mast of the Middle Way
doctrine, driven by the fair wind of 'all phenomena reveal the true
entity,' the vessel surges ahead, carrying all believers who can
enter Buddhahood by their pure faith. Shakyamuni Buddha is the
helmsman, Taho Buddha mans the sails, and the four Bodhisattvas led
by Jogyo strain in unison at the creaking oars. This is the ship
in 'a ship to make the crossing,' the vessel of Myoho-renge- kyo.
Those who board it are the disciples and followers of Nichiren.
Believe this wholeheartedly. " (20)


References and Notes:
(1) Kempon Hokke Bukkokukai Manual For New Believers, Hokke Kai
International, Eugene, OR, 1997.
(2) Nichiren Daishonin, "The True Entity of Life", Volume I, NSIC,
(3) Nichiren Daishonin, "The True Object of Worship - Kanjin no
Honzon Sho", Volume I, NSIC, 1979.
(4) Note: The term "Daimoku" means "title of a Sutra". The Hokke
Gengi, which is one of major works of Tien-T'ai, is said to have
expounded the premise that the essence of the entire Lotus Sutra is
expressed in the title. The Hokke Gengi is further said to provide
exhaustive interpretation of each of the five characters of Myo-ho-
ren-ge-kyo. It is unfortunate that no English translations of the
major works of Tien-T'ai have yet been made available.
(5) Dictionary of Buddhist Terms and Concepts, NSIC, 1983.
(6) Note: the actual wording of this translation had it as
the "treasure tower" in reference to the apparition in the sky
described in the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. However, various
other English translations of the Lotus Sutra have this chapter
titled as the, "Jeweled Stupa", or "Precious Stupa", or
just "Stupa" or "Shrine". Therefore, the term "Stupa" was
considered more faithful to the original meaning.
(7) Nichiren Daishonin, "Earthly Desires Are Enlightenment" , Volume
NSIC, 1979.
(8) Nichiren Daishonin, "The Selection of the Time", Volume III,
NSIC, 1985.
(9) Nichiren Daishonin, "This Person Will Practice Among The
Volume VI, 1993.
(10) Hurvitz, Leon. "Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine
Dharma", Translated from the Chinese of Kummarajiva, Columbia
University Press,
New York, 1979.
(11) Kubota, Rev, Tetsujo; H.G. Lamont (translator) , "A Talk on
Daishonin Shonin's Object of Worship", Sankibo Buddhist Book Store
LTD. Tokyo, Japan1994.
(12) Kubota, Rev. Tetsujo; H.G. Lamont (translator) , "The Essential
Services of the Kempon Hokke Sect", Kempon Hokke Bukkoku Kai,
Japan, 1995.
(13) Nichiren Daishonin Daishonin, "The Opening of the Eyes, Part
II", Volume II, NSIC,1984.
(14) Note: It is interesting to observe that the older "Newtonian"
physics is viewed as a special instance of general relativity. This
is somewhat analogous to the Buddhist concept of a provisional
teaching, which is characterized as an expedient understanding or
partial truth. It would be incorrect to define the
physics of Einstein as a complete truth. Nevertheless, it
constitutes a more
complete truth about physical reality than Newtonian physics alone.
(15) Nichiren Daishonin, "On Practicing the Buddha's Teachings" -
Shugyo Sho", Volume I, NSIC, 1979.
(16 ) Note: Parallel to the division between true and provisional
teachings, Nichiren Daishonin's gosho is made up of both major and
minor writings. His major writings are characterized as those that
elucidate the foundation of his orthodox Buddhism and were written
for general dissemination. In contrast, his "minor" writings are
characterized as those that were specifically written for a
particular person, an expedient medicine to deal with a unique
ailment or
> problem and therefore not necessarily applicable to all people.
(17) Lotus Sutra, Chapter 14, or Chapter 13 in the Kern Translation.
(18) Nichiren Daishonin, "The Teaching in Accordance with the
Buddha's Own Mind", Volume 7, NSIC, 1994.
(19) Nichiren Daishonin, "On Prayer", Volume 7, NSIC, 1994.
(20) Nichiren Daishonin, "A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering,"
Quotation extracted from "Kempon Hokke Bukkokukai Manual for new
Believers", October, 1997.
*Added by me*

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