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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Nichiren on "Namu"

"I DO not build Buddhist halls or pagodas, I do not carry out almsgiving. The only thing I hold precious is my life, and this I have offered to the Lotus Sutra.

The Buddhas of the three existences of past, present, and future, when they were still ordinary mortals, all offered their lives to the Lotus Sutra and thus were able to become Buddhas.

For this reason, the names of all the various Buddhas are prefixed by the word namu. Namu is a word of the language of India, and in this country it means “to dedicate one’s life.” Explaining the term “to dedicate one’s life,” T’ien-t’ai says it means “to single-mindedly dedicate one’s life.” By offering their lives to the Lotus Sutra, they became Buddhas. And now I, Nichiren, am offering my life to the Lotus Sutra . . ." -- On Namu


  1. Please notice that SGI, unlike Nichiren, builds Buddhist halls and carries out almsgiving.

  2. Does this mean that all the structures built for worship are unnecessary and almsgiving is also unnecessary even though Nichiren received alms for his survival

  3. Question: For practitioners in the Latter Day of the Law, who have just aroused the aspiration for enlightenment, what types of practice are restricted?
    Answer: Such persons are restricted from practicing almsgiving, the keeping of the precepts, and the others of the five pāramitās, and are directed to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo exclusively. This practice corresponds to the capacity of persons at the stages of “producing even a single moment of belief and understanding” and “rejoicing on hearing the Lotus Sutra.” It represents the true intention of the Lotus Sutra.

    Question: I have never before heard such an assertion. It astonishes my mind and makes me wonder if my ears have not deceived me. Please clearly cite some passages of scriptural proof and kindly explain.
    Answer: The sutra says, “[Such persons] need not for my sake erect towers and temples or build monks’ quarters or make the four kinds of offerings to the community of monks.” This passage from the sutra makes it quite clear that practitioners who have just aroused the aspiration for enlightenment are restricted from almsgiving, the keeping of the precepts, and the others of the five pāramitās.
    Question: The passage you have just quoted restricts us only from erecting temples or towers, or providing for the community of monks. It says nothing about the keeping of the various precepts and the other practices.
    Answer: The passage mentions only the first of the five pāramitās, that of almsgiving, and skips mention of the other four.

    Question: How do we know this?
    Answer: Because a subsequent passage, in describing the fourth stage of practice, goes on to say, “How much more is this true of those who are able to embrace this sutra and at the same time dispense alms, keep the precepts... !” The sutra passages clearly indicate that persons at the first, second, and third stages of practice are restricted from practicing almsgiving, the keeping of the precepts, and the others of the five pāramitās. Only when they reach the fourth stage of practice,15 are they permitted to observe them. And because such practices are permitted only at this later stage, we may know that, for persons in the initial stages, they are restricted.

    Question: The sutra passages you have just quoted seem to support your argument. But can you offer any passages from the treatises or commentaries?
    Answer: What commentaries would you like me to cite? Are you referring to the treatises by the four ranks of sages of India, or to works written by Buddhist teachers of China and Japan? In either case, it amounts to rejecting the root and searching among the branches, seeking the shadow apart from the form, or forgetting the source and prizing only the stream. You would ignore a sutra passage that is perfectly clear and instead seek an answer in the treatises and commentaries. But if there should be some later commentary that contradicts the original sutra passage, would you then cast aside the sutra and follow the commentary?
    Nevertheless, I will comply with your wishes and cite some passages. In volume nine of The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra it is stated: “There is a danger that a beginner will be led astray by subordinate concerns, and that this will interfere with the primary practice. The beginner should directly give all his attention to embracing this sutra; that is the highest type of offering. If one sets aside formal practices but maintains the principle, then the benefits will be many and far-reaching.”



  4. In this passage of commentary, “subordinate concerns” refers to the five pāramitās. If the beginner tries to practice the five pāramitās at the same time that he embraces the Lotus Sutra, that may work to obstruct his primary practice, which is faith. Such a person will be like a small ship that is loaded with wealth and treasure and sets out to cross the sea. Both the ship and the treasure will sink. And the words “should directly give all his attention to embracing this sutra” do not refer to the sutra as a whole. They mean that one should embrace the daimoku, or title, of the sutra exclusively and not mix it with other passages. Even recitation of the entire sutra is not permitted. How much less are the five pāramitās!

    To “set aside formal practices but maintain the principle” means that one should set aside the keeping of the precepts and the other formal practices [of the five pāramitās] and embrace the principle of the daimoku exclusively. When the commentary says that “the benefits will be many and far-reaching,” it implies that, if the beginner should attempt to carry out various other practices and the daimoku at the same time, then all benefit will be completely lost.
    Words and Phrases continues: “Question: If what you say is true, then upholding the Lotus Sutra is the foremost among all the precepts. Why, then [in describing the fourth stage of practice], does the Lotus Sutra speak about ‘one who can keep the precepts’? Answer: This is done in order to make clear by contrast what is needed at the initial stages. One should not criticize persons at the initial stages for failing to observe requirements that pertain only to the later stages.”16
    The scholars of today, ignoring this passage of commentary, would place ignorant people of the latter age in the same category as the two sages Nan-yüeh and T’ien-t’ai—a most grievous error!

    Miao-lo further clarifies the matter as follows: “Question: If that is so, then is there no need to construct actual towers to house the Buddha’s relics, and is there no need to formally keep the precepts? And further, is there no need to provide alms for monks who carry out the formal practices [of the six pāramitās]?”17

    The Great Teacher Dengyō declared, “I have forthwith cast aside the two hundred and fifty precepts!”18 And the Great Teacher Dengyō was not the only one to do so. Nyohō and Dōchū,19 who were disciples of Ganjin, as well as the priests of the seven major temples of Nara, all in like manner cast them aside. Moreover, the Great Teacher Dengyō left this warning for future ages: “If in the Latter Day of the Law there should be persons who keep the precepts, that would be something rare and strange, like a tiger in the marketplace. Who could possibly believe it?”

    1. So it says that in the fourth stage we keep the precepts and do almsgiving but Dengyo and Tientai say there is no need to observe them. Is that right

  5. so much for that lying, coward, phony priest tsuchiya.

  6. It makes me wonder that the destruction of religious buildings for worship during the communist revolution in China and Russia were on line with Dengyo Tien Tai and Nichiren who quotes them in agreement

  7. Can't wait for the Wheel Turning King Bodhisattva of the Earth to demolish all of SGI's buildings.

  8. The SGI will try to sell them off before that happens