Nissen Shonin (1817~1890) founder of Honmon Butsuryu Shu (HBS) was admired as “a pioneer of popularized Buddhism” in the latter half of the Tokugawa period says Prof. Shigeyoshi Murakami a Buddhist scholar.
However, Nissen Shonin considered himself as a restorer of the teachings of Nichiren Shonin and Nichiryu Shonin. He wrote, “the messenger of Buddha Shakyamuni was the Great Religious master, Nichiren Shonin. The messenger of Nichiren Shonin was the Great Religious master, Nichiryu Shonin, whose messenger is me, Nissen. It was Nichiryu Shonin that reestablished the Lotus School, so, I’m nothing but the one who is restoring the teaching of Nichiryu Shonin. Since the correct teaching has been transmitted to me, so I am undoubtedly the messenger of Shakyamuni Tathagata.”
What he set out to do was not only to revive the doctrines of Nichiren Shonin and Nichiryu Shonin but also revive them in a practical way through his missionary work. In this paper, I give an outline of Nichiryu Shonin’s activities and doctrines and then how Nissen Shonin tried to revive them in an era of confusion and at a turning point from the Edo (Tokugawa) period to the Meiji period, around middle of the 19th century focusing on his missionary work.
The Succession from Nichiren Shonin to Nichiryu Shonin and on to Nissen Shonin.
The Position of Nichiryu Shonin in the Nichiren Buddhism
Nichiryu Shonin was born on October 14, 1385 in Toyama Prefecture, about a century after Nichiren Shonin’s death.
It is said that Nichiryu Shonin was ordained as a priest at the age of 14, in 1402. He entered Myohonji Temple one of the temples of the Nichiren sect in Kyoto and learned the basic doctrines of Nichiren Shonin from his uncles, Nichizon Shonin and Nichido.
Before giving an outline of Nichiryu’s missionary work and his writings, I will present a general view of the details of Nichiren Buddhism in Kyoto from the beginning of the propagation and the circumstances of the era when Nichiryu Shonin was active.
The pioneer who spread the Nichiren Shonin’s teachings in Kyoto was Nichizo Shonin. He was a disciple of Nichiren Shonin and after Nichiren Shonin’s death, he became a disciple of Nichiro Shonin who was one of six senior disciples of Nichiren Shonin.
Twelve years after Nichiren Shonin’s death, Nichizo Shonin moved to Kyoto from Kamakura and devoted himself to spreading the teachings of Nichiren Shonin, and gradually he received support from among the people in Kyoto and built a foundation for propagation.
However, incidents of jealousy increased as his followers began to grow which constituted a menace to the Tendai Shu sect and other sects.
The sects began a revolt against Nichizo Shonin by claiming that he was spreading the evil teachings of Nichiren. There were incidents of Nichizo Shonin being apprehended and evicted from Kyoto on several occasions.
Nichizo Shonin was not discouraged by the continuous calamities which confronted him. Instead, he continued to engage himself in spreading of the teachings of Nichiren Shonin in Kyoto. In 1321, he built Myokenji Temple in Kyoto and twelve years later it was designated as a special temple dedicated to praying for the emperor.
In the latter half of the 14th century, the Muromachi Shogunate was formed after the conflict between the Northern and the Southern Courts. The centre of political activity was moved from Kamakura to Kyoto again.
After this, groups of Nichiren Buddhism entered Kyoto actively competing with each others and in this way Nichiren Buddhism was welcomed by the citizens of Kyoto who were engaged in commerce and industry.
On the surface, Nichiren Buddhism temples made great progress. However, their activities gradually deviated from the true intention of Nichiren Shonin both in their missionary work and their interpretation of doctrines. With regard to missionary work, Nichiren Shonin stated “No matter what great good deed one may perform, even if he reads and transcribes the entirety of the Lotus Sutra a thousand or ten thousand times or masters the meditation to perceive ichinen sanzen, should he but fail to denounce the enemies of the Lotus Sutra, he will be unable to attain the Way.”
-Letter to Hyoeshichiro Nanjo ST 321-
“In this age when the true and provisional teachings are completely confused, it would be equally very strange if one secluded oneself in mountain forests and performed the comfortable practices of shoju without attacking the enemies of the Lotus Sutra, and such a person would lose the time for practicing the Lotus Sutra.”
-Nyosetsu Syugyo sho ST 736-
Although Nichiren Shonin provided that Shakubuku, that is having people submit to the true teachings of Buddhism with mercy and compassion for others, is of great importance for followers of the Lotus Sutra; however, many priests belonging to Nichiren Buddhism in Kyoto lost a desire to propagate the teachings and adjusted to popular taste and also displayed greed and wanted to get greed for power and reputation.
With regards to the interpretation of Nichiren Shonin’s doctrines, many priests belonging to Nichiren sects were influenced by the theory of Tendai Hongaku (traditional Tendai doctrine, also known as the original state of enlightenment), they assented to the ideas that all existence and teachings are non-dual like good and evil, and they adopted a compromising position on their way of learning the doctrines.
As to the interpretation of the Primordial teaching portion (Honmon) and the Provisional teaching portion (Shakumon) of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Shonin clearly stated definitely that “The Primordial teaching portion and the provisional teaching portion are as different as water from fire or as heaven from earth. For instance, the difference is far greater that that between the sutras expounded in the period prior to the expounding of the Lotus Sutra and the Lotus Sutra itself”.
-Reply to Nyudo Toki, ST 1518-
After Nichiren Shonin’s death, many of his followers began to assert that the two divisions of the Lotus Sutra are identical.
According to the doctrine of the Tendai Shu sect, the Primordial teaching portion and Provisional teaching portion are identical in spiritual value. But according to Nichiren Shonin’s doctrine, there is all the difference between the Honmon Division and Shakumon Division. The Honmon Division is regarded as being superior to the Shakumon Division because the Buddha in the provisional teaching portion is the Buddha who attained enlightment under the Bodhi Tree as the historical Buddha, while the Buddha in the Primordial teaching portion is the Shakamuni Buddha in the remote past as the Primordial Buddha, so the seed of Buddhahood is expounded only in the primordial teaching portion, the Honmon Division.
That was Nichiren Shonin’s view.
In addition, as the time passed, the various Nichiren sects diverged and began to display many kinds of statues of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and gods in front of the Gohonzon Mandala. Even though Nichiren Shonin had stated “In this age of degeneration of the Dharma (Mappo Period), which object of worship should one select? The Odaimoku (NamuMyohoRengeKyo) should be the object of worship”. -Honzonmondo Sho, ST 1573-
Shortly after Nichiryu Shonin entered Myohonji Temple, a priest named Gatsumyo, a former court noble, was appointed head priest of the temple. Shortly thereafter, the atmosphere and mood of temple began to deteriorate as stated above.
Nichiryu Shonin together with Nichizon and Nichido repeatedly remonstrated Gatsumyo for his actions and wrong views, but to no avail.
Instead, Gatsumyo became infuriated and retaliated. Unable to withstand Gatsumyo’s behavior, Nichiryu Shonin left the temple.
Nichiryu Shonin decided to make a pilgrimage through central Japan to spread the true teachings of Nichiren Shonin, building many temples during this period.
He also wrote many letters and texts to explain the correct meaning of what Nichiren Shonin had expounded. Nichiryu Shonin, through his writings, pointed out the true intentions of Nichiren Shonin’s teachings. “How should a correct interpretation of Buddhist scriptures be given? It is to realize that the Buddhist mission was entrusted to Bodhisattva Jogyo in the primordial eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra. In other words, we should understand that the Buddhist mission is to plant in the minds of all beings the seed of the Fine Dharma, the genuine cause of Buddhahood in the Mappo period. Through such an interpretation, the true intention of the Lotus Sutra is clearly and completely understood. This Buddhist mission would explain the appearances of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas as well as Buddha Shakyamuni in the Saha World. This is the essential point of the Kanjin Honzon Sho.”
-Shijo Sho by Nichiryu Shonin- 767
Nissen Shonin and HBS
Nissen Shonin (his honorific names are Kaidou Shonin and Daison Shi) was born in 1817 in Kyoto. The family he was born into ran a successful fancy goods store and had produced many men of culture and talent. He received a good education in calligraphy, poetry, art and literature in a good family background. At age nine, his achievements as a painter and a calligrapher were recorded in the “Heian Jinbutsushi” a publication which introduced famous cultural personalities of that time in Kyoto. He was also a brilliant scholar. At the age of 24, he lectured the court nobles on “Genji Monogatari” (a masterpiece of Japanese prose literature, written in the early 11th century by Murasaki Shikibu and considered the first great novel in the world of literature) in the Chigusaden Hall of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto.
However, when he was 25, an incident changed his life. His mother died. This was a great shock to him and he was deeply sad. He became very interested in Buddhism after the loss of his mother. He then began his study of Buddhism. He visited many temples and priests to learn the doctrines and teachings of many sects such as Zen Shu sect, Tendai Shu sect, Shingon Shu sect and Jyodo Shu sect.
Based on his research, Nissen Shonin concluded that the most valuable and greatest sutra among the many sutras was the Lotus Sutra (Hokekyo), and he was convinced that the person who had faithfully spread its teachings was Nichiren Shonin. However, there were some different sects of Nichiren Buddhism and each sect had its own way of practicing Buddhism and its own doctrines. This situation annoyed him. Among those sect Nissen Shonin finally concluded that only sect which faithfully preached the true teachings of Nichiren Shonin was the Honmon Hokke Shu sect which had been revived by Nichiryu Shonin.
In 1845, at age 28, Nissen Shonin became a follower of Honmon Hokke Shu sect, and faithfully applied himself to the teaching of the sect.
In 1848, Nissen Shonin was ordained a priest at the age of 31 by his master, Nichiyo Shonin of the Ryusenji Temple in Awaji Island, Hyogo Prefecture.
Nissen Shonin became a priest with determined to learn the true teachings of Nichiren Shonin. However, Nissen Shonin’s spirit became extremely oppressed as time passed, and he suffered from deep disappointment, because the Honmon Hokke Shu began to deviate from spreading the true teachings of Nichiren Shonin and Nichiryu Shonin. It had forgotten its fundamental mission of Buddhism, which was to save and guide people. Instead it began to engage itself only in conducting funeral services for the deceased and praying for merit-transference. It refrained from regularly chanting the Odaimoku, NamuMyohoRengeKyo, as stipulated by Nichiren Shonin and Nichiryu Shonin.
Since Nissen Shonin had observed the misguided workings of the internal affairs of Honmon Hokke Shu, he wanted to correct its wrongdoings. He wanted to restore the Honmon Hokke Shu to its original true state, and he aggressively attempted to persuade the eminent officials of the sect by offering advice and making proposals, but to no avail. They refused to listen to him. Instead, they turned against him and harassed him with continuous spiritual arguments.
Due to derogatory comments made against him by the priests, Nissen Shonin became disgusted with Honmon Hokke Shu, and decided to spread the teachings of Nichiren and Nichiryu Shonin faithfully himself.
Nissen Shonin founded HBS on January 12, 1857 at the home of Asahichi Tanigawa, a follower residing in Kyoto. At this time, there were only four or five other followers in attendance.
He sated, “As early as seven years after the decease of Nichiren Shonin there appeared different views as to whether the primordial and provisional divisions of the Lotus Sutra were equal to each other or the primordial division is superior to the provisional division. When this religious controversy heated up, Nichiryu Shonin appeared and pointed out the falsity of conventional Buddhism, thus reestablishing the true religious sect based on the primordial eight chapters of the Lotus sutra in accordance with Nichiren Shonin’s intention. If things had kept on like that, the followers of our sect would have been happier chanting and practicing in accordance with the teaching of both Nichiren Shonin and Nichiryu Shonin. On the contrary, it was not long before some began to say that living beings in the realm of animals such as dogs and cats could become buddhas with their present bodies by force of merit-transference, which is a fallacious argument because becoming a Buddha with one’s present body is made possible only in the realm of animals. The prospect of reformation in the confused Buddhist circles was still far from certain. Thereupon I finally arrived at a definite decision and founded the Honmon Butsuryu Sangha on the twelfth of January in the fourth year of Ansei (1857) at the residence of Asahichi Tanikawa (Happon-do) in order to restore the righteousness of our sect. I don’t hesitate to say positively that the righteousness our sect was made crystal clear through Buddha Shakyamuni’s scriptures, Great Master Tendai’s elucidation, and the writings and instructions of both Nichiren Shonin and Nichiryu Shonin. This is exactly how I have founded the Butsuryu Sangha.”
-Honmon Butsuryu-ko Koki no Raiyu-807
“At the age of 32, Nissen received religious instruction from Nichiyo Shonin whom I looked up to as my preceptor. Nichiyo Shonin was the head priest of Ryusen Kyoji temple in Tsukui, Awaji Island (Hyogo Prefecture). Then I thoroughly investigated the real situation of the Lotus School and found that it was so terrible as the priests had lost moral sense and their spirit as priests. I was completely at a loss what to say. It was exactly because of this that I founded the Butsuryu Sangha, denouncing the injustices done by many schools of the Nichiren sect.”
-Honmon Butsuryu-ko Koki no Raiyu-809
“How deplorable it is that Buddha Shakyamuni’s teaching (spirit or true intention) has been obscured and lost! There is no one but Nissen and his followers who could restore the correct teaching. I would like to be born a thousand times in this world and do my best from life to life in order to restore Buddhism.”
“The disciples of this sect are not permitted to establish a new sect according to there selfish view. By establishing the Butsuryu Sangha, I am merely taking over the Honmon Butsuryu Shu which Nichiren Shonin founded according to the Buddha’s teaching. I am a disciple of Nichiren Shonin.”
There were many oppressions against Nissen Shonin even after HBS was founded. Incidents of jealousy increased as HBS began to grow.
There were incidents of Nissen Shonin being apprehended, imprisoned and evicted. Continuous calamities confronted him. However, he continued to engage himself in the spreading of the Lotus Sutra and the teachings of Nichiren Shonin in his home ground in Kyoto. HBS gradually began to spread into other areas, such as Shiga, Osaka, and Hyogo prefectures.
On the 17th of July in the 23rd year of Meiji (1890) he passed away at the age of 74 years old.
The instructions Nissen Shonin left behind were complied into a complete collection and 35 books from the collection have so far been published.
As stated above, HBS was founded by Nissen Shonin. However, Nissen Shonin believed that it should be understand that Honmon Butsuryu Shu was established by Buddha himself and its teaching was propagated by Nichiren Shonin. Though the organization was founded in 1857 by Nissen Shonin, he instructed that he and his disciples did not establish any religious sect but organized HBS in order to propagate the Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Rengekyo, entrusted to Jyogyo (Visistacaritra) Bodhisattva, which was Nichiren Shonin’s long cherished desire.
Nissen Shonin chose the name, Honmon Butsuryu Shu based on the ideals of Nichiren Shonin.
Nichiren Shonin stated in his writing “Hokke Shoshin Jyobutsu Syo”, “Question: Of the eight sects, the nine sects of the ten sects, which is the true sect founded by Shakyamuni Buddha?
Answer: The Hokke (Lotus) sect is the sect founded by Shakyamuni. We know this because of the statement that, of all the sutras he had preached, now preach and would preach in the future, the Lotus Sutra was foremost. These words were spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha himself. Therefore (the sect based on) the Lotus Sutra is known as the Buddha-founded sect, Butsuryu Shu and is also called the Hokke sect.
Nichiryu Shonin stated that, our Honmon Butsuryu Shu was established during the period of the Last Dharma beginning 2000 years after the Buddha’s passing away, and is the fundamental religion which can develop various sutras and doctrines as the occasion demands. From this point of view, it follows that the Lotus School was established by Buddha Shakyamuni, that is, the Buddha representing ‘effect’ and Bodhisattva Jogyo, that is, the Buddha representing ‘cause’. (the word ‘Butsu’ in Butsuryu means Buddha and ‘ryu’ means to establish in Japanese). That is why the sect called Butsuryu Shu.”
-Gukyo Sho- written by Nichiryu Shonin-
“At the beginning of the Hokke-Shu Naisho Buppo Kechimyaku Sho or The Transmission of the Buddhist Teaching Realized Inertly by the Lotus School, Nichiren Shonin said that the sects spreading NamuMyohoRengeKyo are the true religious sects which were established by the Buddha Shakyamuni, and gave grounds for designating them Butsuryu-Shu. Buddha Shakyamuni in the remote past expounded Buddhism and established the Butsuryu Shu. He appears in various forms in this world in order to save people in the future everlastingly and make clear what the Butsuryu Shu is for.”
-Shijo Sho-written by Nichiryu Shonin -
“The Lotus School which was named after the title of the sutra means the Butsuryu Shu if it is seen from the standpoint of the Buddha who established it. In a broad sense, it is the religious sect which was established by all sorts of buddhas and bodhisattvas. Some may ask why it is not called Nichiren Shu. This is because Nichiren Shu means the religious sect which has been spreading the Fine Dharma merely during the limited period of the Last Dharma after the Buddha’s decease. The name Nichiren Shu can not represent the fundamental characteristics of the eternal religious sect existing forever through the three periods, that is, the remote past, the present period of the Last Dharma, and the future. The name Nichiren just refers to the aspect of his appearance in the realm of man and not to his other aspect of Bodhisattva Jogyo, even though Nichiren Shonin’s previous incarnation was Bodhisattva Jogyo. Unlike Butsuryu Shu, Nichiren Shu is incapable of representing the true religion because it has not been in existence throughout in the tree periods. That is why the true religion is Butsuryu Shu and not Nichiren Shu.
-Nijo Sho written by Nichiryu Shonin-
An Outline of Nichiryu Shonin’s Doctrine
In this chapter, I give an outline of Nichiryu Shonin’s doctrine. He systematized Nichiren Shonin’s writings, enormous volume, into more than 300 books. Among these books, his major writings are follows. Shijyo Sho, Jyusan Mondo Sho, Ichijyo Sho, Shishin Jyo, Kaishakukenpon Syuyo Jyu, Rokusoku Shiki, Goji Shikyo Myomoku Kenmon.
Most of his writing are on doctrine regarding Nichiren Buddhism. Through his writings, we understand his serious feeling as a seeker after truth and an indomitable desire to spread Nichiren Shonin’s true intention and pure sincere wish to protect the fine Dharma.
The writings of Nichiren Shonin which Nichiryu Shonin attached importance to elucidate the doctrine of Nichiren Buddhism. They are as follows;
Kanjin Honzon Sho, Treatise of the True Object of worship in Contemplation. (ST page 702)
Nyosetsu Shugyo Sho, Practice in strict Accordance with the Buddha’s teaching. (ST page 731)
Shishingohon Sho, The Treatise of the Four Stages of Faith and Five Stages of Practice. (ST page 1294)
Honzon Mondo Sho, A summary of Questions and Answers Concerning the Object of Worship. (ST page 1573)
Kaimoku Sho, The opening of Ones Eyes to the Lotus Sutra. (ST page 535)
Hoon jo, On Repaying Depts of Gratitude. (ST page 1192)
Senji Sho, Selecting the Right Time. (ST page 1003)
Shugokokka Ron (ST page 89)
Jibyo-sho, Reply to Toki Nyudo. (ST page 1517)
Hokke Shuyo Sho (ST 810)
Soya Nyudo Moto Gosho (ST 895)
Ichidai Shyokyo Taii (ST page 57)
Hokke Daimoku Sho (ST page 391)
Jussho Sho (ST page 488)
Hokke Shu Naisho Gonjitsu Imoku (ST page 691)
Totaigi Sho, The Entity of the Mystic Law (ST page 757)
Rissho kanjo (ST page844)
Among these Nichiren Shonin’s writings, Nichiryu Shonin especially regarded Kanjin Honzon Sho, Nyosetsu Shugyo Sho, and Shishin Gohon Sho, these three treatises, as the most important writings of all the writings of Nichiren Shonin.
He stated, “Great Master Tendai and Great Master Myoraku had set up the Provisional School of the Lotus Sutra, but the spirit of the Lotus Sutra which these two masters of old times had enshrined in their hearts and had not talked about was revealed by Nichiren Shonin in his three books, that is, Kanjin Honzon Sho, Shishin Gohon Sho, and Nyosetsu Shugyo Sho. These three books clearly explain that what is most important is the religious practice based on chanting the Daimoku, and to preach the easy practice which allows human beings attain enlightenment by the first and probably the last scriptural power, and declare that the Fine Dharma plants the Buddha seed in the minds of the most ordinary people and enables them to attain Buddhahood.”
-GojoSho-written by Nichiryu Shonin-819
Through those writings of Nichiren Shonin, The doctorial conclusion of Nichiryu Shonin’s study was that the Odaimoku which was entrusted to Bodhisattva Jyogyo (Visistacaritra) in the Primordial eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra to plant in the minds of all living beings the seed, the genuine cause of Buddhahood should be chanted with pure faith single-mindedly as our main practice.
Now, I would like to point out the specific characteristics of Nichiryu Shonin’s doctrine through the phrases, “Revealed in The Primordial Eight Chapters” (Honmon Happon Shoken)”, Entrusted to Boddhisattva Jyogyo” (Jyogyo Shoden ), “Plant in the minds of living beings the seed, the genuine cause of Buddhahood” (Honin Geshu) and to follow up with the writings of Nichiryu Shonin.
In Nichiryu Shonin’s view of the Eight Chapters he placed emphasis and esteem on the eight chapters 15 to 22 of the Essential Section (Honmon) of the Lotus Sutra and compared them to a clear mirror for the people of the Last Dharma Period (Mappo) to provide the true practice to the world. The reason that Nichiryu Shonin’s placed emphasis the eight chapters of Essential Section (Honmon Happon) was based on the instructions of Nichiren Shonin as follows.
“This truth was not revealed in the fourteen chapters of the provisional teaching portion of the Lotus Sutra, probable because the time was not yet ripe even in the Lotus Sutra. The Buddha did not even entrust the sacred five syllables NamuMyohRengeKyo, the quintessence of the primordial teaching portion of the Lotus Sutra, to such great Bodhisattvas as Manjusri or Bhaisajyaraja, not to mention the lesser Bodhisattvas, until after he had summoned Bodhisattvas of a thousand worlds welling up out of the earth and revealed to them the primordial eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra.”
(Kanjin Honzon Sho)
Shyakyamuni Buddha’s aim was to provide the teachings of the Lotus Sutra for the attainment of enlightenment to his disciples. But he also intended to provide the teachings to the world of the Mappo Period (The Period of the Last Dharma).
Nichiren Shonin considered that among the 28 chapters the Lotus Sutra, Chapter 15 to 22 are considered the most important teachings for us.
The reason Nichiren Shonin places emphasis and esteem on the eight chapters is because they expounded how the religion should be practiced and upheld by the people born in the Mappo period.
A brief summary of what was elucidated in those eight; Essential Section chapters is as follows:
Chapter 15 illustrated dramatically the burden placed on Jyogyo Bodhisattva and other Bodhisattvas to circulate and spread its teachings to the people of the Mappo Period.
Chapter 16 revealed Shakyamuni Buddha to be the Eternal Buddha, and the Odaimoku he preached to contain the merits of enlightenment of the Eternal Buddha.
Chapter 17, 18 and 19 elucidated that practitioners should place faith in the religion and abide by the methods of practices to gain virtuous deeds and good fortunes.
Chapter 20 elucidated that Bodhisattva Never Disparaging (Fukyo Bosatsu) should be a model for Lotus Sutra practitioners in the Mappo Period.
Chapter 21 and 22 elucidated that the Eternal Buddha entrusted Jyogyo Bodhisattva and other Boddhisattvas to propagate the Odaimoku and spread its teachings into the minds of the people of the Mappo Period.
The aforementioned are a synopsis of the circumstances and developments of the eight essential chapters.
After Nichiren Shonin’s death, some Nichiren related sects gradually began to consider the teachings of the Provisional Section and the Essential Sections of the Lotus Sutra on an equal basis, and some considered Chapter 16 the only important chapter.
After the death of Nichiren Shonin some priests began to equally emphasize the importance of the Provisional and Essential Sections of the Lotus Sutra. The reason is that, a part of Nichiren Shonin’s doctrine was generally based on Great Master Tendai’s writings. And because the priests of Nichiren related sects were required to have some knowledge of Great Master Tendai’s doctrines, they visited Tendai Shu’s Temple and studied his teachings. And through this influence, some priests considered the Provisional and Essential Sections equally important.
After gaining some background knowledge of Great Master Tendai’s teachings, there were some priests who began to advocate the relative importance of both the Provisional and Essential Sections of the Lotus Sutra.
Since the Tendai Shu sect was extremely influential, the priests may have just wanted to flatter themselves. In any case, Nichiren Shonin stated: “The difference of the Essential Section compared to the Provisional Section is like water from fire and heaven from earth. There is a great difference between the Theoretical Section and the Essential Section. To advocate that those two sections are equal is a hindrance to the Essential Section. The Tendai Shu sect preaches the Provisional Section of the Lotus Sutra only. Because the teachings of the Theoretical Section were spread to the people in the period before Mappo. During that period, only that section was necessary. There are some Nichiren sects (for example, Nichiren Shoshu or Sokagakkai) that only expound the teachings of the latter half of Chapter 15, the entire Chapter 16, on the first half of Chapter 17. They stress Chapter 16 only. It is true that Chapter 16 contains the Eternal Buddha’s practices to gain religious merits and to attain the state of enlightenment. There is no doubt that Chapter 16 is important within the 28 chapters of the Lotus Sutra, but to advocate Chapter 16 only is the teaching for the people during age of Buddha Shakamuni.
Chapter 16 elucidated the Eternal Buddha’s law of the “Three Thousand Realms Contained in one Thought (Ichinen Sanzen)”. (Ichinen means a life for one instant or a life of exceedingly short period of time, and Sanzen means all phenomena in this world are included in both our thought for one instant and even in a minute grain of sand). Thus, if it were not included among the eight essential chapters, it would not be a beneficial teaching for the Mappo Period.
I shall give an example, Chapter 16 is similar to an excellent ingredient for nourishment. However, common people of the Mappo Period are unable to grasp even a small portion of enlightenment on their own. In other words, we are infants from the standpoint of religion, unable to take nourishment by ourselves. Therefore, the Buddha, like a cook, prepared the food that even a child could digest, and entrusted it to Jyogyo Bodhisattva to deliver it to the children of the Mappo Period. This is the process of the eight chapter’s teachings.
The theory of Chapter 16 was a teaching that enlightened the people of the Shakyaumuni Buddha’s period to harvest the seed of enlightenment. On the other hand, the Odaimoku is the seed of enlightenment to be sowed in the Mappo Period for the people to receive its merits. The teachings of Chapter 15 through 22 explicitly emphasized the planting of the seed of the Odaimoku in the Mappo Period.
Nichiren Shonin stated, “The Essential Section’s eight chapters are teachings for the people of the Mappo Period to sow the seeds of Buddhahood. The latter half of Chapter 16 and the first half of Chapter 17 were teachings of harvesting the seed of enlightenment during Shakyamuni Buddha’s lifetime. And, for the benefit of the common people in the Mappo Period, the Eternal Buddha wrapped the Law of “Ichinen Sanzen” and the merits of enlightenment into the Odaimoku and entrusted it to Jyogyo Bodhisattva to spread it among the people of the Mappo Period”.
Due to Buddha’s entrustment of the Odaimoku and the true teachings of the Dharma to Jyogyo Bodhisattva, we, the children people in the Mappo Period, are able to attain the merits of the Odaimoku by just chanting it.
So that is why Nichiren Shonin stated in his writing Kanjin Honzon Sho that “such a sublime Sacred Object, Namumyohorengekyo, was never revealed by Buddha Shakyamuni during the forty plus years of his life as a preacher, and even during the eight years that he taught his teachings consisted of only the primordial eight chapters.
Nichiren Shonin also considered that the Odaimoku which is revealed in the eight chapters is the seed to be planted in the minds of all living beings as the genuine cause of Buddhahood. The seeds of Buddhahood are planted in the mind by chanting the Odaimoku faithfully. This is referred to as “to plant in the minds of all living beings the seeds of Buddhahood” (Honnin Geshu) because this seed is the primordial seed of the Bodhisattva’s path that the Buddha Shakyamuni in the remote past had practiced in order to attain enlightenment.
So the merits of the attainment of Buddhahood are inherent in the Odaimoku, Namumyohorengekyo, as the seed. That is why, Nichiren Shonin highly considered the Odaimoku, Honnin Geshu, planting in the minds of all beings the seed, the genuine cause of Buddhahood.
Nichiryu Shonin stated, “How should a correct interpretation of Buddhist scriptures be given? It is to realize that the Buddhist mission was entrusted to Bodhisattva Jogyo in the primordial eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra. To put it another way, we should understand that the Buddhist mission is to plant in the minds of us, all beings, the seed of the Fine Dharma, the genuine cause of Buddhahood, after the Buddha’s decease. By interpreting it like this, the true intention of the Lotus Sutra is clearly and completely understood. This Buddhist mission is the only reason that would describe the appearances of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas as well as Buddha Shakyamuni in the Saha World. The essential point of Kanjin Honzon Sho is nothing but this.”
Nichiryu Shonin’s view of attaining Buddhood
As mentioned above, Nichiryu Shonin considered that chanting the Odaimoku faithfully without any doubt is the real path to and state of Buddhahood (Jyobutsu) for the people in period of the Last Dharma (Mappo) based on the teachings of Nichiren Shonin, especially, Shishin Gohon Sho.
In Shishin Gohon Sho written at the age of 56 in April in the third year of Kenji (1277) at Mt. Minobu, Nichiren Shonin gave the directions of how to practice the Lotus Sutra, on the basis of the teaching of Shishin Gohon expounded in Chapter 17 Discrimination of Merits of the Lotus Sutra.
Nichiren Shonin provided in the treatise, Shishin Gohon Sho, that
“The “Single Moment’s Faith and Understanding” and “Rejoicing Upon First Hearing of the Lotus Sutra” is the starting point of the “Four Stages of Faith and Five Stages of Practice”. This teaching is elucidated in “Discrimination of Merits, Chapter 17 of the Lotus Sutra.
The “Four Stages of Faith” was the practice during Shakyamuni Buddha’s lifetime for those who embraced the Lotus Sutra. The “Five Stages of Practice is the practice for believers to follow after Shakyamuni Buddha’s death. Following is a chart on the “Four Stages of Faith and Five Stages of Practice”:
Four Stages of Faith
Stage 1: Ichinen Shinge A Single Moment’s Faith &Understanding
Stage 2: Ryakuge Gonshu- Understanding the Sutra
Stage 3: Koi Tasetsu-Spreading the Teachings
Stage 4: Jinshin Kanjyo- Observance of Truth with Deep Faith
Five Stages of Practice
Stage 1: Shozuiki- Rejoicing Upon First Hearing the Teachings of the Lotus Sutra
Stage 2: Dokuju- To Read & Recite the Sutra
Stage 3: Seppo- To Expound the Sutra to Others.
Stage 4: Kengyo Rokudo- To embrace and Practice the Sutra
Stage 5: Shogyo Rokudo- To Perfect One’s Six Pamamitas
Nichiren Shonin stated that “within the first stages of the “Four Stages of Faith” and the “Five Stage of Practice” are the “casket containing merits of enlightenment of the one hundred worlds and thousand factors and three thousand realms in a single life’s moment (Ichinen Sanzen) and it is the gate from which all buddhas of ten directions and three existence emerged”
During Nichiren Shonin’s life time the priests of Tendai Hokke Sect censured followers of Nichiren Shonin. They claimed that the followers of Nichiren Shonin were only chanting the Odaimoku and not abiding by the three practices of Buddhism- the precept, meditation, and wisdom.
In response, Nichiren Shonin wrote the “Treatise on the Four Stages of Faith and Five Stages of Practice”
The three types of learning are standard practices to be followed by one who is aspiring to engage in Buddhism. But, there are five other fundamental precepts established in Buddhism for priests. They are, not to kill, not to steal, not to commit unlawful sexual intercourse, not to lie, and not to drink intoxicants, and approximately 250 other practices. The core of Buddhist rule on moral practice was meditation in a regulated environment. The purpose was to realize a higher level of spiritual development. Thus, abiding by the rules of moral conduct was supposed to be an indispensable condition to attain enlightenment.
However, Nichiren Shonin, in the “Four Stages of Faith and Five Stages of Practice”, sublimated the three orthodox types of learning.
Nichiren Shonin refuted that concept. He stated “in the Period of the Last Dharma, there are no precepts”. Nichiren Shonin’s contention was that people in the period of the Last Dharma did not have the ability to attain Buddha enlightenment through the power of oneself. Nichiren Shonin wanted to point out that there was another path to attain enlightenment, but the people who could not understand his true intention just disregarded it. Naturally, priests who attached importance to the Buddhist precepts rebelled against Nichiren Shonin.
The pattern of rapprochement to observation, to meditation and to wisdom were the practices of the remote past when various Buddhas attempted to have former practitioners, who disengaged themselves from the religion to once again return to it. That practice is not applicable to people in the period of the Last Dharma because they have not as yet been exposed to Buddhism. The “Theory of the Four Stages of Faith and Five Stages of Practice” is the manuscript that describes the path to attain enlightenment without abiding by Buddhist precepts. The quintessence of the primordial teaching is the sacred words “Namumyohorengekyo”, which includes all merits of Buddha. By upholding and chanting the Odaimoku, one is taking part in and preserving the precepts derived from the power of the Eternal Buddha and not by the power of oneself. Thus, there is no need to rely on Buddhist precepts. A precept is a non-entity in this world. It does not mean it is unwanted, but there is no necessity to uphold it. The precept that the original Buddha is providing to non-competent people with the power of a great teaching from the stage of sowing Buddha seeds to the stage of harvest is a mistaken expression. It is just the reverse. It is to receive support from the Gohonzon through faith and reverence.
Chanting the Odaimoku is the way of faith of Jyogyo Bodhisattva that was delegated to Nichiren Shonin, the rebirth of Jyogyo Bodhisattva, to spread the teachings of the Eternal Buddha in this world of the Last Dharma. Consequently, there is no need to turn your soul to other religions. Not chanting the Odaimoku and placing emphasis on other religion is a violation. Not believing the Odaimoku and the teachings of the Lotus Sutra is disparaging the Dharma. To correct that disorder is repentance. By not undoing those stances, one can understand Nichiren Shonin’s intention to unravel it by way of the “Four Stages of Faith and Five Stages of Practice”.
Nichiren Shonin stated that all three types of learning are included in chanting of the Odaimoku, as clarified in the “Four Stages of Faith and Five Stages of Practice”. Why then do such theories exist? To describe it in few words, the purpose of Buddhism is to attain enlightenment. Enlightenment is correcting our delusions and warding off anger in order to become a Buddha. That is, cutting off the soul of greed, the soul of anger, and the soul of stupidity. It is to obtain the truth in one’s soul in this universe and to observe oneself’s honesty without exaggeration.
The religion that Nichiren Shonin left us is to discontinue the soul of doubt and to create an unadulterated environment in order to again Buddhahood. It was to disregard religions that proclaimed enlightenment that could be attained through one’s own effort. Nichiren Shonin stated that the condition to attain enlightenment could be found in the “Third Judgment of Three Kinds of Doctrinal Aspect”. The practice of the primordial past that the Eternal Buddha delegated to Jyogyo Bodhisattva was the condition of enlightenment.
There are three kinds of judgments on the doctrine of the Lotus Sutra, which are known as “Sanju Kyoso” (theories originated by Great Master Tendai). HBS’s teaching is based on the third judgment, the teachings of the Eternal Buddha in the remote past. The Eternal Buddha, who completed the esoteric practices, known as the genuine cause of Buddhahood, arrived at the world of enlightenment known as the effect of Buddhahood. The Eternal Buddha, Shakyamuni, who acquired the two merits of “Honnin Myo and Honga Myo”, summoned Jogyo Bodhisattva, and gave him lessons on the remote past and wrapped the two merits into the Odaimoku and, thereafter, the Eternal Buddha instructed Jogyo Bodhisattva to spread the teachings of the remote past as the law of planting the seeds of Buddhahood into the minds of mankind in the remote past.
Among the people who had received the seeds of Buddhahood were some who faithfully believed in the religion and there were those who become disparaged and had gone astray. These people who fell by the wayside were people who only tried to understand religion by logic rather than by faith.
The state of religion that Jogyo Boddhisattava wanted to bestow on mankind, in lieu of the Eternal Buddha, was only the teachings of the eight chapters, 15 through 22, of the Lotus Sutra, which he received from the Eternal Buddha. They were teachings to be faithful to the Odaimoku, to chant it and to spread its merits to others as the religion of the remote past.
As elucidated, the Four Stages of Faith and the Five Stages of Practice, which are considered to be the most important documents, are a condition of mind and enlightenment. An obedient practice is to reverently chant the Odaimoku and refrain from using one’s mind. Nichiren Shonin stated: “When we revere the Law of Myohorengekyo, the essence of our own life, and chant Namumyohorengekyo, we simultaneously manifest the Buddha nature, both in ourselves and in the world around us”. People who became dispirited and moved away are those who disagreed with the teachings of Honmon and confided, instead, in the teachings of Shakumon. These people will fall into the delusionary world of the six lower stages of existence. However, the Eternal Buddha who possessed a soul of benevolence, once again attempts to have those people return to the state of the original religion of the remote past.
To lead people to return to the state of the original religion of the remote past begins with the Eternal Buddha appearing in the form of Daitsu Buddha in the age of three thousand dust-atom kalpas. Between the period of Daitsu Buddha until the period of the appearance of Shakyamuni Buddha, the Eternal Buddha transformed his figure into various Buddhas and preached his teachings to guide and lead mankind to return to the original religious teachings of the remote past. These were the teachings preached by various Buddhas.
Soon after Shakyamuni in the teachings of Honmon, which he revealed in Chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra, “The Life Span of the Tathagata”, that he was the Eternal Buddha who attained enlightenment in the remote past, and, we mankind, had received his teachings of planting Buddha seeds of the remote past. Mankind, who had heard the teachings contained in Chapter 16, exclaimed, “Ah, so”, and proclaimed that they understood it. This juncture was known as the fruition stage of the planted Buddha seeds, or “Datsu”. However, this fruition is not, as yet, considered enlightenment. The fruition was nothing more than a stage of mind. Enlightenment is returning to the original teachings of “Kuon”, the remote past. That is attainment of enlightenment.
The theory of the eight chapters-15 through 22- of the Lotus Sutra is to return, once again, to the stage of the original religious practices of the remote past. Why is it the eight chapters? Because Jogyo Boddhisattva was exposed only to the teachings of those eight chapters. The conditions of enlightenment elucidated in those eight chapters are of the First Stage of the Four Stages of Faith and Five Stages of Practice. In other words, it is the practice of producing a moment’s faith, understanding, and rejoicing. To put it simply, it is impossible to attain enlightenment through one’s own efforts alone.
I would like to elaborate on the relationship of Buddha nature and Buddha seeds from Nichiryu Shonin’s viewpoint. Our souls contain Buddha nature, and the Odaimoku is Buddha seeds. It is commonly said that the relationship between Buddha nature and Buddha seeds is as follows: Buddha nature is commonly referred to as the sleeping soul. It is like an unpolished, dull diamond stone. A blow to the soul must be given to awaken it. The Odaimoku will awaken it. It must then be polished. The process of polishing is looked upon as enlightenment. However, it is not so from the viewpoint of Nichiryu Shonin. If the Odaimoku is a mere tool to awaken the sleeping soul and to polish Buddha nature, there may be other ways to achieve the same results. Maybe an elite practitioner can devise other tools to awaken Buddha nature and polish it. But this is a wrong idea.
On the theory of planting Buddha seeds into the minds, we do not consider the Odaimoku a mere tool. The Odaimoku we chant contains the merits of cause and effect of the Eternal Buddha. Enlightenment cannot be attained unless one sows Buddha seeds by chanting the Odaimoku. In other words, one should not rely on Buddha nature, but must emphasize that the Odaimoku is the core practice of planting Buddha seeds. There is no substitute for Buddha seeds other than chanting the Odaimoku.
What does Nichiryu Shonin’s doctrine which said that practitioners can instantly become Jogyo Boddhisattva; becoming a Buddha with one’s present body. It means that practitioners participating in the religion granted to us by Jogyo Bosatsu became a family of Jogyo Boddhisattva, who is the manifestation of the primordial Eternal Buddha.
Why is Jogyo Boddhisattva an instantaneous Buddha? An instantaneous Buddha means to become a Buddha for the genuine cause of Buddhahood. For example, people are transported across a large river by a boat from one shore to the other. In this instance, the boatman is transporting people from the Saha World and dropping them off in the Buddha Land. The boatman, once again, returns to the Saha World with an empty boat. This act of repeated practices is the way of Buddha and is the true form of enlightenment. In other words, chanting the Odaimoku by oneself and recommending the practices of the way of Buddha to others are enlightenment and the moment to moment practices of building merits of Buddhahood are indications of instantaneous enlightenment. So, enlightenment is not only the result of practice, but practice itself through chanting the Odaimoku.
Nichiryu Shonin’s view of Gohonzon (The object of worship)
The Ichinen Sanzen Theory of Nichiryu Shonin isn’t the only factor. Rather, everything is based on Ji or active. For example, Ji no Ichinen Sanzen, Ji no Honzon, Ji no Goriyaku.
The Ji no Honzon is the active Object of Worship of the Ten Worlds, the ten realms of living beings. Nichiren Shonin inscribed the Odaimoku in the center of the Mandala, which is flanked by Shakyamuni Buddha on the right of it and Taho Nyorai on the left. The names of Future Buddhas and Guardian Kings of Heaven are also inscribed on the Mandala. The Mandala illustrates that all Buddhas, Future Buddhas and Guardian Kings of Heaven are all gathered together on the First Stage of the Four Stages of Faith and Five Stages of Practice as faithful beginners are in the state of faith, understanding, and rejoicing. They are all facing the Odaimoku and chanting Namumyohorengekyo.
In the case of the Nichiren Shu sects, they maintain that the scripture is not Namumyohorengekyo but Myohorengekyo and “Namu” is just a prefix added to Myohorengekyo inscribed in the center of the Gohonzon which is the Gohonzon of the Odaimoku, and not the Scripture of Myohorengekyo. To define it in another way, the Mandala itself is chanting the Odaimoku. The Mandala itself is active. Both the Mandara and the practitioners are chanting the Odaimoku in unison. The Buddhas, Future Buddhas and Guardian Kings of Heaven are all gathered together on the First Stage of the Four Stages of Faith and Five Stages of Practice known as faithful beginners who are chanting the Odaimoku together. This aspect is the Mandala of the Ten Worlds. This is the condition of Ji no Gohonzon.
The One Session of Fine Congregation, (Myoko Ichiza), which was edited by Nissen Shonin states: “May all the saints to be invoked from the ten worlds, who leave their position as saints and recite as faithful beginners the sacred syllables, Namumyohorengekyo, intensify the light of their wisdom, be adorned with the pleasure of the Buddha, become one with the Buddha mind and embrace us with compassion.”
This is the form of the original religion of the Eternal Buddha. It is an example for us to follow. To accept this religious form of practices is indeed the substance of planting the seeds of Buddhahood. Facing the Ji no Gohonzon and chanting Namumyohorengekyo is Ji no Ichinen Sanzen and by doing so, we enter into the Gohonzon and accomplish the Honnin Myo no Jobutsu and Ji no Jobutsu, and, thus, can receive the Ji no Goriyaku (Merits). This is Nichiryu Shonin’s theory of planting into the minds of all living beings, the genuine cause of Buddhahood.
There is an expression, “Kyochi Myogo”, the object and subject being united as one. What is HBS’s stand on the relationship of “Kyo”, the object and “Chi”, the subject?
The Scripture, which is revered by priests and practitioners, generally is the mirror, an object. The priests and the practitioners who worship the Gohonzon by chanting the Odaimoku are the subject. According to Tendai Shu sect’s logic, the law of society embodied in the souls are the mirror, the object, and the persons who are observing are the subject. However, it is just the opposite HBS’s concept. The Gohonzon is the subject and we, the practitioners. Who practice the religion are the object. The Gohonzon emits rays of light toward us. The various Buddhas, Future Buddhas, and the Guardian Kings of Heaven who are our saviours embodied in the Gohonzon are subject. In other words, according to Nichiryu Shonin’s teachings, the Theories on the Scripture, Enlightenment, Practices and Emancipation were all based on the teachings of the eight chapters-15 through 22- of the Lotus Sutra producing a single moment’s faith of understanding and rejoicing by chanting the Odaimoku in unison by the practitioners.
Nissen Shonin’s way of practices and propagation
As I mentioned before, Nissen Shonin struggled to realize the true intention of Nichiren Shonin through the guide of Nichiryu Shonin like a pilot of a boat. Finally, he believed that “The messenger of Buddha Shakyamuni was the great teacher Nichiren Shonin. The messenger of Nichiren Shonin, Nichiryu Shonin, whose messenger is Nissen. It was Nichiryu Shonin who reestablished the Lotus School, so, I’m nothing but the one who is restoring the teaching of Nichiryu Shonin. Since the correct teaching has been transmitted to me Nissen, so aren’t I undoubtedly the messenger of Shakyamuni Tathagata?
Nissen Shonin was an intuitive, shrewd person endowed with a strong and individualistic character. Nissen Shonin also had a self-conceited pride of being the successor to Nichiryu Shonin and Nichiren Shonin, messengers of Buddha.
Nissen Shonin was also an intelligent and understanding person, who was interested in creating civil advancements, and even after passing the age of 70, he did not loose his free and open-mindedness trait, a trait usually exhibited by literary scholars. Nissen Shonin portrayed himself as a man-about-town by claiming, “I am an ignorant snob”, a statement he often used. Nissen considered the spreading of the teachings of Nichiren Shonin as his first priority in everything he did. His natural talents were useful in developing new approaches to preach the teachings in simple and easy comprehensible language. He used many parables and illustrations to explain how one can live in the Mappo Period.
Improving The Teachings of HBS
Nissen Shonin wrote approximately 3,400 Kyokas (instructive verses) and Haiku (17-syllable poems). He also utilized various ancient Japanese classics and other literary styles such as Imayo (essays), shi (poems), yokyo-ku (ballads), komori-uta (lullabies), karuta ( a card game), nagauta, jiuta, yoshikono, dodoitsu, as formats to expound the teachings.
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 feudal government’s Buddhist parishioner system (Danka Seido) about 400 years ago. This system was promulgated to suppress Christianity and to control and regulate religious practices. Affiliation to temples was based on one’s 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), because deeply convinced that the Honmon Happon was a special teaching for the Mappo Period. The Honmon Happon are the teachings of the 8 chapters (Chapters 15 ~ 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 Hokke Shu sect (a Nichiren sect) founded by Nichiryu Shonin. Nissen Shonin later became a priest.
The Hokke sect of the time, however, like many other religious sects which took advantage of the parishioner system, had already lost its basic role of spreading the teaching of Buddhism. Sects of the time 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 thought 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 the 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 parishioner system.
Nissen Shonin stated that on examination of Buddhist teaching, the essence of Buddhism is to show the substance of the human mind and to awaken people to its true form, from which various teachings are all developed and constructed. This is the Honmon Butsuryu Shu’s way of teaching, which discards encyclopedic knowledge and adopts the learning of the quintessence. Moreover this is beneficial to living people. So-called “Funeral Buddhism” which gives all its energies to funeral rites and memorial services for the dead is not the true intention of Buddhism. Though it is an important duty to hold memorial services for one’s ancestors and benefactors, the true intention of Buddhism is to teach the living.
Chanting only the Odaimoku
The basic practice of HBS is chanting the “Odaimoku”.
Buddhist practices are achieved thought the body, speech and mind. The use of the bodily organs to utter words, think and feel is also a practice. They are considered as behavioral actions.
From ancient times, the sutra Hokekyo, or the Lotus Sutra, was considered as the “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 explain it roughly, 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 elite religious practices. Therefore, he felt that more emphasis should be placed on the more simple task of practice by the mouth, that is 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 the soul will receive the merits of Kanjin.
Nissen Shonin stated that by chanting Namumyohorengekyo which is revealed in the primordial eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra, entrusted to the Bodhisattva Jogyo and plants in the minds of all living beings the seed, the genuine cause of Buddhahood, one will produce all kinds of merit. If one listens to the chanting voice for even a moment, one can surely attain the Buddhist way. How much more so will it be if you feel grateful for the Odaimoku. One thought of faith will lead you to attain the Buddha-land. The Buddha’s enlightenment is attained by chanting the Odaimoku. As a result, the three poisons (greed, anger, stupidity) with which our hearts have been stained are eradicated, and the five sins (to kill, to steal, to satisfy lust, to tell lies, to use indecent language) which have been accumulated since the past and are now lurking within ourselves will be eliminated through a moment’s thought of faith when chanting the Odaimoku. Ordinary men as they are will be given the Buddha’s merits. Nichiren Shonin said that practitioners of the Lotus Sutra would be ale to become a Buddha without extinguishing evil passions and eliminating the five desires. How fortunate we are!
Today, there are many Nichiren associated sects which do not chant the Odaimoku. They merely recite the sutras. 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 sutras will not be tolerated”.
Nissen Shonin also stated that those who have no knowledge of the reason simply regard Namumyohorengekyo as the title of a sutra, but that is wrong. Namumyohorengekyo is neither the characters nor the meaning which the characters suggest. It is the original entity and soul on which the Lotus Sutra, composed of 69,384 characters in 8 scrolls, is produced and developed. Therefore it is called the profound secret principles enshrined deep in the heart of the writings of the sutra. Namumyohorengekyo is none other than the Buddha’s enlightenment or his life. Isn’t it a matter for deep satisfaction that you can listen to such a precious teaching as this, having obtained a human body. Casting away your self-pride and prejudice, you should exclusively chant Namumyohorengekyo which was entrusted to Bodhisattva Jogyo.
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 one of his books 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 people and give them a reason to acquire enlightenment. He wanted them to receive matchless religious merits.
As stated, the Lotus Sutra contains all of Buddha Shakyamuni’s teachings. It unified and incorporated the sutras of others in which Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and guardian kings of heaven appear and elaborated on their basic teachings. Because the Lotus Sutra was such a consolidated and synthetic sutra, its teachings could not stabilize it’s goal began to take on a free and uninhibited from. If every Buddha were to be included, the recitation of the name of Buddha Amida could be considered practicing the Lotus Sutra, and in the same way to revering the scripture of Kanzeon Bodhisattva could also be considered revering the Lotus Sutra, to make a vow to Kishimojin would also be 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 Fine Dharma is the parent. Buddhas are the body. The Fine Dharma is a soul” (Honzon Mondo Sho). “The Fine Dharma 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 mandala and to pray to them 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. Nichiren Shonin designated this mandala the object of worship.
In compliance with the teachings of Nichiren Shonin, 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 Daimokuten, 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 the religion taught by Nichiren Shonin. He proposed that the only object 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 as narrow-minded and too strict.
To this criticism, Nissen Shonin responded, “A faithful wife cannot look after two husbands. A warrior 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 receiving special favors”.
Nissen Shonin stated that since a person can attain his or her dignity through Buddhist law, Buddhist law is far more important than buddhas and bodhisattvas. This is the reason why the Honmon Butsuryu Shu worships the Fine Dharma, the cause of all the buddhas, as the Sacred Object. HBS does not worship any one buddha. In comparison with the Fine Dharma, even the Buddha with eternal glorious decorations of meritorious acts is not comparable. Because the Dharma one believes and upholds is so precious, the believer becomes a person of noble character who will in return purify the defiled world. It is aptly said that even the Primordial Buddha in the remote past did not give his name as Buddha but entrusted the Fine Dharma to Bodhisattva Jogyo in order to save this world. The Fine Dharma is the only seed that enables people to attain Buddhahood. This is exactly what Nichiren Shonin said. He said that the Buddhist teaching of Lotus Sutra expounds how to perform the practice based on chanting the Odaimoku, but scholars of other sects have no knowledge of this, that the ordinary people in the Mappo period must worship the Odaimoku as the Sacred Object.
Nichiren Shonin set the quintessence before everything and said that the Fine Dharma is the quintessence for the attainment of Buddhahood. On examination of Nichiren Shonin’s thoughts after his period of his exile in Sado Island through his writings, I have understood that the Sacred Object of Worship should be the Odaimoku, the Sole and Most Precious Dharma that includes everything, so I created the Sacred Object of Worship by writing “Namumyohorengekyo” which is revealed in the Primordial Eight Chapters of the Lotus Sutra is entrusted to the Bodhisattva Jogyo and plants in the minds of all living beings the seed, the genuine cause of Buddhaood “with the phrase” the Greatest Entity of the Three Most Important”. Those who received this object of worship but did not understand the reason criticized it saying that the Odaimoku alone does not make the Object of Worship and it could hardly be called the Mandala including all the ten realms when one of them is missing, since none of the Four Heavenly Kings such as Tamonten is described in this Object of Worship. Nichiren Shonin, however, translated the Mandala as an accumulation of merits and said that the Mandala is the aspect representing all the merits accumulated in Namumyohorengekyo. It is also written in Deep Meaning of the Lotus Sutra written by Great Master Tendai that Namumyohorengekyo is the Entity of one Thought of the Primordial Buddha and contains all the merits of enlightenment called Ichinen Sanzen or Three Thousand Realms in a Moment’s Thought. Therefore ordinary people in the evil period of the Last Dharma must worship the Odaimoku as the Sacred Object of Worship. This is why it is called the greatest Mandala that ever existed after Buddha Shakyamuni’s passing away.
Importance of manifest evidence:
Nichiren Shonin used three kind of evidence to judge the superiority of the law of Buddhism: reason (logical substantiation), scriptural evidence (documents of Buddhist teachings, and manifest evidence (proven evidence). He mainly emphasized manifest evidence by stating that religious laws are not limited to reason of 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 is shameful and they do no 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.
The benefits as manifest evidence that one can receive 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 a higher level of the faith? It is the faith based on the Lotus Sutra. We should recommended it to others and share its religious merits with them. To help people through the Odaimoku is true help. To engage in such activities is the path to attain Buddhahood.