2. The Characteristics of HBS:
The teachings of the HBS are based on the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Shonin's Teachings. HBS is referred to as a Nichiren related religious sect but, historically, it is a sect founded by Nissen Shonin (Nagamatsu Seifu) in the latter part of the Edo period (1857).
The consensus of Japanese Buddhist scholars is that Nissen Shonin revived Nichiren Shonin's spirit and the Lotus Sutra during the religious reform period that began in the latter part of the Edo period through the early part of the Meiji Era.
HBS strictly abides by the guiding principles set forth by Nissen Shonin's teachings (Goshinan, Gokyoka) in conducting their daily religious activities. An explanation will not be made in depth now as it is complicated and difficult to comprehend. Therefore, only several of Nissen Shonin's teachings will be enumerated.
Religion to attain nirvana:
Meritorious acts and results or meritorious acts and comfort are the basic doctrines of Buddhism. A person who does not pursue religious practices called In (cause), will not be able to attain nirvana. The true intent of religious practices advocated by Nichiren Shonin and the Lotus Sutra teachings began to deteriorate gradually with the introduction of the Tokugawa fuedal goverment's Parishioner System about 400 years ago. This system was promulgated to suppress Christianity and to control and regulate religious practices. Affiliation to temples were based on the place of residence. The priests of temples were assured of a stable livelihood based on this system. Consequently, the priests lost their interest in teaching religion and focused their attention primarily to holding perfunctory services for the deceased and funeral related activities.
Nissen Shonin who revived the teachings of Nichiren Shonin and Nichiryu Shonin, who lived during the early part of the Muromachi Era (about 600 years ago), became deeply convinced that the Honmon Happon was a special teaching for the Mappo period. The Honmon Happon are the teaching of the 8 chapters (Chapters 15 through Chapters 22 of the Lotus Sutra). The Honmon Happon is the most important stance of HBS. That is to chant the Odaimoku by oneself and to spread it to others. Nissen Shonin, himself, chanted the Odaimoku and entered into the religion of the Hokkeshu (a Nichiren sect) founded by Nichiryu Shonin. Nissen Shonin later became a priest.
The Hokke sect of that time, however, like many other religious sects which took advantage of the parishioners system, had already lost their basic role of spreading the teaching of Buddhism. They merely attended to holding ceremonies for the deceased and funeral services to justify their existence. The priests believed that the deceased could attain Buddhahood vicariously through the rite held by reciting the Lotus Sutra.
Nissen Shonin said;“People can comfort the soul of the deceased, but to attain nirvana requires a different dimension. The belief that one can attain nirvana without direct contribution to Buddhist cause is in direct conflict with Nichiren Shonin's teachings and distorts the true principles of Buddhism", Nissen Shonin carried on his enlightenment activities despite the criticism of other priests who had relied on the parishioners system.
The controversy over the practice of religious services to attain nirvana was called “Kaiku Ronso" and “Sanzu Jofu Ronso". A difference in the beliefs caused Nissen Shonin to part from the Hokkeshu. The development of the event was discussed for many years. Among HBS's various teaching characteristics, conducting religious practices is a very important aspect to attain nirvana. In the words of Nissen Shonin, “One can recieve benefits through religious participation. Trying to receive benefits without conducting religious practices goes against the teaching of the Buddhas in the past, present and future", and “One can not take material goods with him to the other world. Gold and silver are not necessary in Jakko (In Buddhism, the land of the tranquil light, which means Heaven). Only our merits (virtues) can be taken with us".
Chanting only the Odaimoku:
The basic practices of HBS is chanting the “Odaimoku".
Buddhist practices are achieved through the body, speech and mind. The use of the bodily organs to utter words, think and feel is also a practice. These are considered as behavioral actions.
From ancient times, the sutra of Hokekyo, the Lotus Sutra, was considered as “King of Sutras". It was revered by many people. However, there was a lack of uniformity in how the Lotus Sutra was practiced. This was because there were so many ways to pursue the body, mouth and mind practices contained in the Lotus Sutra. To roughly explain it, the practices were divided into two, one for the elite and the other for the commoners.
Nichiren Shonin, who came into being during the Kamakura Era (750 years ago), felt that people born in the Mappo period were mediocre individuals, lacking in the ability to practice religion. Therefore, he felt that more emphasis should be placed on a more simple task of practice by the mouth, the chanting of the Odaimoku, Namumyohorengekyo.
No matter what type of practice it may be, the aim of Buddhist practices is “Tenmei Kaigo" (to attain enlightenment), to wash away perplexities and impurities and to raise one's soul to the level of Buddha through meritorious acts.
This is known as “Kanjin" (introspection into one's mind-essence). Through repeated chanting of the Odaimoku merits of Kanjin will be recieved in the soul. HBS, which adheres to Nichiren Shonin's teachings, is a sect that engages in this practice.
Buddhism maintains that souls can be divided into three levels;the conscious mind, the Manashiki and the Arayashiki. The five senses are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling. The conscious mind functions in unison with the five senses. The Manashiki is a deeper soul than the conscious mind. It is a subconscious mind that one cnnnot see. (Sigmund Freud's theory of the unconscious perhaps fits this category). Then, there is a deeper soul than Manashiki known as the Arayashiki. The Arayashiki stores and registers all that one experiences in his lifetime. Moreover, the Arayashiki, which is said to be the inheritance of karmas continues to exist even after death. The stored past experiences are carried into the future world.
The experiences and behaviours are referred as “shuji" (seeds) in Buddhism. The seeds stored in the Arayashiki have the function to shape one's destiny. In other words, these seeds can build one's destiny and function as a spiritually motivated energy.
At any rate, our behaviors by the body, speech, and mind become seeds which are sowed into the Arayashiki. Consequently, if one acts with malice or makes derogatory remarks, these polluted seeds are planted as bad seeds into the Arayashiki and they will function in shaping your destiny in a bad way. These bad seeds are called “zaisho" (sins). The aim of Buddhism is to prevent these sins from entering the soul and eradicate the sinful seeds planted in the Arayashiki. How can this be done? Other potent and powerful filtering seeds are needed for planting in the Arayashiki. Nichiren Shonin said, “Amber attracts dust, magnet draws iron. Our misdeeds are like the dust and iron. The Odaimoku is like the amber and magnet. Keep that in mind and chant “Namumyohorengekyo". Accomplishing meritorious acts and chanting of the Odaimoku are the methods to plant the powerful seeds required to eradicate the bad seeds.
Today, there are many Nichiren associated sects which do not chant the Odaimoku. They merely recite the Sutra. Among these sects, HBS is a sect which carries out the will (teachings) of Nichiren Shonin and chants the Odaimoku. Nichiren Shonin said, “When entering into the Mappo period, there is no need for other teachings and recitation of the Lotus Sutra. Only the chanting of Namumyohorengekyo is required. Do not mix other teachings with the Odaimoku. Also, reciting other teachings will not be tolerated".
One of the essential characteristics of HBS is that it does not revere any other scriptures or images except mandalas with the Odaimoku.
As mentioned before, the Lotus Sutra is the most respected sutra. The first reason is, Shotoku Taishi, in the introduction of his book, wrote, “the sutra called the Lotus Sutra includes all goodness to attain enlightenment, and is a pasture of abundant crops to gain enlightenment and is a religious medicine that transforms life expectancy into eternal life":Shotoku Taishi continued,
“Shakyamuni Buddha appeared in this world to explain the Lotus Sutra to the people and give them a reason to acquire various goods for enlightenment. He wanted them to recieve a matchless re]igious merits.
As stated, the Lotus Sutra contains all of Buddha Shakyamuni's teachings. It unified and incorporated the sutras of others in which Buddhas, Bodhisattavas and guardian kings of heaven appear and elaborated on their basic teachings. Because the Lotus Sutra was such a consolidated and synthetic sutra, that its teachings could not stabilize it's goal and they began to take on a free and uninhibited form. If every Buddha were to be included, to the recitation of the name of Buddha Amida could be considered practicing the Lotus Sutra, and in the same way to revere the scripture of Kanzeon Bodhisattva is also the Lotus Sutra, to make a vow to Kishimojin is also considered the practice of the Lotus Sutra. This trend became a generally accepted idea from the Heian period.
Nichiren Shonin said;“Buddhas are children. The Lotus Sutra is the parent. Buddhas are the body. The Lotus Sutra is a soul" (Honzon Mondo Sho). “The Lotus Sutra is the parent. Buddhist body is created"(Jussho-sho). Therefore, revere the Odaimoku of the Lotus Sutra.
Since there are some technical words used above, an allegory is given below for clarification.
The Odaimoku mandala of the Lotus Sutra is like a large tree. Buddhas, future buddhas and others are the many parts that comprise the tree, like the branches and leaves. To display Buddhist images etc in front of the Odaimoku mandara and to pray is like breaking off the branches. Those branches which are broken from the tree will soon wither and die.
The scripture written by Nichiren Shonin contains the names of the various buddhas to the right and left of the Odaimoku mandala written in the center. Nichiren Shonin designated this mandala to be the object of worship.
In compliance with the scripture of Nichiren Shonin, the Nichiren sects initially revered the Odaimoku mandala. As time passed, some Nichiren related sects diverged and began to display objects of guardian kings of heaven, such as Daikokuten, Kishimojin, Taishakuten and others. This led to the origination of different Nichiren religious sects.
Nissen Shonin, the founder of HBS, felt that those Nichiren sects were in direct conflict with the true intent of religion taught by Nichiren Shonin. He proposed that the only scripture to be revered was the Odaimoku mandala, and forbade his followers to worship other objects.
In view of Nissen Shonin's strict posture, HBS was denounced by other sects to be narrow-minded and too strict.
To those criticism, Nissen Shonin responded, “A faithful wife cannot look after two husbands. A worrior cannot serve two lords". The basic law contains thousands of laws, so HBS cannot have two objects of worship. The Lotus Sutra stated, `ashes are not of concern and there is no need to worship a cinerary urn'. Nichiren Shonin said, “I am not narrow minded. I am only faithful to the Lotus Sutra. The soul of Buddha is included in the Odaimoku. Uphold the Lotus Sutra and ignore the others. To shun the soul of the Lotus Sutra is to deprive one of recieving special favors".
Importance of manifest Evidence:
Nichiren Shonin used three kind of evidences to judge the superiority of the law of Buddhism: reason (logical substantiation), scriptual evidence (documents of Buddhist teachings, and manifest evidence (proven evidence). He mainly emphasized the manifest evidence by stating that religious laws are not limited to reason or documents. Manifest evidence is more important than reasoning or documents.
Nissen Shonin wanted positive missionary work to be undertaken and by doing such work, manifest evidence can be seen in the forms of the sick being cured from an illness or the poor being freed from poverty.
Nissen Shonin's activities generated criticism from priests of other sects because they felt that his line of missionary work that advocated inexplicable phenomenon was inappropriate for the present world thinking. Nissen Shonin, however, replied, “There are many people who feel that there is no heaven or hell in this Mappo period. The intellectuals feel that to pray to God or Buddha are shameful and they do not feel the importance of afterlife. Therefore, if one can experience the phenomenon as a result of one's missionary work, then ordinary people may partake in religion in the future":Thus, Nissen Shonin continued to preach and emphasize the existence of inexplicable phenomenon which one can receive through fervent missionary work.
HBS advocates that through fervent praying and chanting of the Odaimoku, one can receive favorable results.
Benefits as manifest evidence that one can recieve through chanting the Odaimoku are not the sole objective of HBS. As Nissen Shonin said;“The divine favor in this world is for the aspiration after enlightenment". As such, it is to become aware of the Odaimoku and the evidence of reality and take the opportunity to further deepen one's religious activities"
What then is higher level of the faith? Based on the Lotus Sutra. We should recommended it to others and its religious merits be shared with them. To help people through the Odaimoku is the true help. To engage in such activities is the path to attain Buddhahood.
The teaching characteristics and originality of HBS are:
1. Religion for nirvana.
2. Devoted wholly to chanting the Odaimoku.
3. True religion for purification.
4. Importance of receiving inexplicable benefits.
5. Individual participation in enlightenment activities.
The above teachings are also based upon the will and real intentions of Nichiren Shonin.