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Nichiren Buddhism

Friday, June 15th, 2012

Nichiren was a Buddhist monk and priest who was also known as Zennichi, Zenshobo Rencho, Rissho Daishi, Nichiren Daishonin and Zennichimaro. He was a purist as he thought that all of Buddhism should be reduced and centered on the Lotus Sutra or Myoho-Renge-Kyo apart from all other texts including the variant forms or expressions of Buddhism which according to him were not legitimate avenues of Buddhist thought or practice. Nevertheless He did not accept all of the Sutra Saddharmapundarika as he disregarded the original 14 verses known as the trace or Shakumon in favor of observing the teachings of the last 14 chapters known as origin or Honmon which has become a position of debate among his followers today. Also his philosophy was not completely unique as he adopted many of the ideas of the Tiantai/Tendai sect which he had been ordained under and then applied or adapted to his own principles as redefining rather than reforming what would become known as  the movement of  Nichiren-kei sho shūha or Nichiren Buddhism. Furthermore there may also be some influences from his study of Pure Land Buddhism which shares similar practices as relating to their vocalizations and visualizations.

Anyway his motivation in becoming a ring leader of this new group was a result of having religious ideations as being the reincarnation of several Bodhisattva along with his personal mission of attempting to influence his society as addressing the problems within his particular culture and time as dictated by the local and current events that were taking place in Japan. He perceived this era as the fulfillment of the end times or latter days of the law which was defined as being a decline or deterioration of the Dharma which was known according to the eschatological time period of mappo or mafo as described in the Diamond and Lotus Sutra. Of course he wasn’t the only one who had a personal viewpoint to this time period as the Pure Land Buddhists also gave their interpretation and application to the signs of the time as well which calls to question which one was right if either.

Perhaps Nichiren who is also regarded as Shonin(Saint or Sage) or Daishōnin (Great Sage) thought he was somehow restoring Buddhism to its original intent or pristine state and yet ironically this form of Mahayana Buddhism is really non-traditional to begin with as its belief system is contrary to the origination of orthodox  Buddhism which more closely resembles the atheistic philosophy of Theravada. Even the Lotus Sutra itself though quite ancient is really syncretistic and the whole idea of the Buddha as being eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, creator, destroyer, re-creator of all worlds are concepts borrowed from Hinduism and carried over into Mahayana Buddhism along with the idea of a universal salvation for everyone combined with the potential of buddhahood. Furthermore the Lotus Sutra compared to other Mahayana sutras has  uniquely predicted that mappo or mafo would be characterized as a time in which Buddhism from that point forward and beyond would flourish and yet Buddhism as a whole, though quite large, still only reflects a small following among these Nichiren groups in regards to having any kind of universal impact on the world population. Therefore it is an overstatement and exaggerated claim especially if one adopts the view that the Lotus Sutra along with Nichiren himself are to be regarded as the means to the ends in bringing about the cause and effect of  facilitating salvation for the world.  Nichiren also tries to substantiate his prophetic claims of exclusivity towards the Lotus Sutra as applying it to the effects of negligence which was meted out through the Mongol invasion. Even though his preaching did bring about the effect of motivating the masses to a wake up call at the onset of these attacks nonetheless it didn’t result in bringing salvation to the nation by eliminating the degeneration of their societal ills. Maybe you reason that this was because all of Japan did not respond to this prophetic call at which point this salvation only becomes theoretically possible thus practically speaking it is not attainable nor is it essentially true as it failed to convert everybody then and it still falls short of converting everyone today. If it can’t happen at this opportune time in history with the supposed savior of the world in a small scale microcosm of the world on this island then how will it prove to be efficacious to the rest of the whole world?

Anyway upon the demise of Nichiren he had six senior disciples or successors who were Nissho, Nichiro, Niko, Nitcho, Nichiji and Nikko which widened the application of his teaching especially that of Nikko whose radical ideas completely severed him from the  other Nichiren Shu sects. Also these differences would be furthered altered resulting in sub-sects and non-traditional schools which seems to challenge the true form of Buddhism as advocated by Nichiren who adamantly opposed other variant views in maintaining, establishing and preserving a solidarity or particularism  of thought.

Yet for all his laborious contributions and the subsequent adversity that Nichiren suffered; it seems somewhat in vain as his original principles are debated on how and to what extent they should be understood and applied. He taught to follow one path and I am sure he didn’t intend that his teachings should mean different things for different people in having several different applications. Remarkably these groups can’t even agree on the person of Nichiren himself let alone other doctrinal nuances.For instance some believe him to be a Buddhist reformer and priest or the Bodhisattva Superior Practices/Visistacaritra Bodhisattva/Jogyo Bosatsu while others give him a more elevated position which came from the influence of Nikko as being the True/Original Shakyamuni Buddha or the Buddha of the latter days of the law which is believed among the Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai sects.

Some combine syncretistic values of which he was trying to eliminate such as the worship or veneration of ancestral spirits as practiced among Rissho Kosei Kai (society for establishing righteousness and friendly relations) and Reiyukai(association of the friend of the spirit). Objectively, if Nichiren’s solution was to overcome the turmoil of society in respect to conflicts, internal strife and confusion within Mahayana schools of his time then how is this any different then what is going on today, 700 years latter, amongst it various branches as they are rivals in doctrine and rituals. His followers and movement are no closer to bringing about an age of peace, justice and prosperity then Nichiren was and so what hope is there among adherents today who can’t even find complete agreement amongst themselves let alone transform the world with their ideas and beliefs.

Another point of contention is the controversial way in which he attempted to gain   converts by the methodology of Shakubuku which was a means of trying to influence and engage people by invoking anger and hatred as he often refuted others publicly and vociferously. Ironically Nichiren criticized other Buddhist schools for their manipulations of the populace for political and religious control and yet I see no difference in his efforts to do the same.

Nevertheless this was intended to get a person to think and reevaluate their belief systems which was an extreme approach or departure from classical Buddhism which takes a softer approach in handling or dealing with people in a more agreeable fashion which is even contrary to the instruction of the Lotus Sutra which supports the ideals of charity, forbearance, humiliation, compassion and a tender heart. Presumptuously Nichiren must have thought that the end somehow justifies the means as desperate times require desperate measures. Yet how can his actions contradict or violate the mannerisms of this sacred text which he so greatly defends as truth thus it calls to question either his philosophy of belief or the inherent value of this Sutra itself or both. This may be what led to the extreme approach of Soka Gakkai who believes in the militant and nationalistic efforts of supporting the idea of forced conversions along with the renunciation and destruction of all different faiths or religions.

Other varying views among the practitioners of this movement are their different approaches to Gohonzon and the Daimoku as a means to becoming one with the eternal buddha in reaching enlightenment. To begin with Nichiren ruled out the worship of Buddha’s image as a statue or painting, which some still adhere today, as being antiquitus in being replaced through the devotion of another piece of iconic art which he developed in the form of the mandala, also used among Hindus, which has become the Gohonzon and is essentially a focal point of attention for these sects as well; so much so that this visible representation or symbolic reference as a wall hanging seems to become the main reality itself as being the chief object of veneration  which has replaced the devotion of the Buddha figurine in favor of honoring the enshrinement of the imagery of an ornate scroll by bowing before this sculptured wood carving or papier mache god. Additionally this is accompanied by speaking to this fixture with a chant or  mantra known as the o-daimoku/daimoku or shudai(title) which is a repeated recitation of the mantra Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō/Namu Myoho Renge Kyo(honor and devote oneself to the wonderful law of the lotus sutra or glory to the sutra of the lotus of the supreme law)  as a prayer of praise along with reciting varying aspects of the Lotus Sutra either once or twice a day in their gongyo services.

The sense of honor and respect for the mandala as a symbol diagram, ritual drawing or  calligraphic inscription of the daimoku along with the displaying of the names of the various buddha’s, bodhisattvas and hierarchal deities are inscriptively portrayed as the object of adoration in assigning such  personal characteristics and qualities by referring to it as the savior of mankind, source of all divine help, source of eternal good fortune, full devotion, source of happiness, ultimate source of heaven and purifies believer as to forgive sins or remove bad karma, answers prayer and is omnipotent, a universal force that controls the devotees life so much that if it is mistreated then it will have an impending effect upon the individual. I wonder how this could apply since the designer of the mandala who was Nichiren was persecuted for his beliefs. Anyway this mandala is no different than the superstitious claims of other religious cultures which find magical power for living through the use of charms, relics and amulets and therefore this man made object somehow mysteriously or mystically controls the persons whole life. Yet this seems contrary to what Nichiren seems to be communicating as merely representing a pantheistic worldview of a buddah nature as being a part of the whole by which we are essentially the ultimate reality as we need not look any further than ourselves in seeing ourselves as a reflection in the mirror of the Gohonzon. So if the Gohonzon is the ultimate source of truth and reality regarding this practice and exercise of worship then essentially a person is really only talking to themselves as god and therefore it becomes a hollow practice as we have no need to differentiate ourselves from all these other religious figures and characters since they are us and we are them.

Needless to say perhaps some people have discerned the flaw in this whole idea of me, myself and I  as being the ultimate reality which isn’t satisfactory for others as they innately sense that there is something or somebody which is beyond and apart from themselves having a strong desire and inclination to recognize a transcendent person that supersedes their frailties, weaknesses and failures as seeing their true state of existence or condition not in some kind of illusory existence but as they really are as being a legitimately contingent or dependent entity who recognizes a sense of otherness with a need to trust in a supreme being apart from themselves.

In moving one, Nichiren Shoshu or True Nichiren sect, preaches a feel good prosperity message of health and wealth which sounds more like some type of self help program which does not need religion as a vehicle to captivate and reinforce it’s delusional power of confession and positive thinking in promoting the idea of sowing and reaping  the benefits as supposedly manifesting itself in purifying ones life, maintaining both spiritual and physical health, bringing joy and happiness to one’s family, enrichment to life, transforms all misfortunes into good fortune, achievement of  true happiness,  individual wishes are answered, overcoming the basic universal sufferings of being born, old age, sickness and death as well as the doubts and disillusionment’s that plague mankind, renewal, great wisdom, and even material wealth.

Therefore this repeated procedure can have a brainwashing effect as one convinces themselves through self deception and just like the fanatic cohorts of the charismatic Hitler they were mesmerized by his propaganda speeches as they were allured to his verbal technique of saying something loud enough and long enough so that these people really believed the lie of his message as truth so I think it is also possible that as people are fascinated with Nichiren’s teaching that it is the tendency of human nature to agree to matters which they find attractive even though it may be unreasonable or incoherent. Nichiren himself testifies that the benefit of having faith in the Gohonzon is validated by the effect it has on people to recognize their inherent buddha nature but it is a category mistake to associate this as a rationale approach to truth by jumping the bridge of faith and in reality all this may really indicate is that this procedure works or is successful in producing a degree of believability. Nichiren also claims that the real world can be transformed into a paradise or buddha land and that pain and suffering is just an imaginary hindrance to the true perception of how things really are which I believe is a irrational statement which has not basis in reality and does not correlate to his own standards of verification but nonetheless has resulted in others taking action either through pacifism or conflict as being involved in social/ humanitarian institutions or political/military nationalism to advance this message and even though they may have common objective goals towards conversion their ability to produce results does not mean that either one of them is more correct but rather it simply shows that people realtively have a preference or choice. Therefore I think that Nichiren’s principles of cause and effect is unreasonable in its neglect to validate a relationship between absolute truth and pragmatism.

Which brings me to my next point of discussing his system which he established to be a philosophical approach to validate religious claims. Which based on his own critique as a valid means of identifying and testing truth; fails it’s own test in living up to a standard especially as he deals with metaphysical principles and propositions which lacks the ability to be tested so as to confirm through reason and empiricism. According to Nichiren his principles or criteria must include:


Reason and documentary proof as fact

Reason should be consistent lacking in contradiction.

The proof of reason is dependent upon the principle of cause and effect.

Most importantly if it cannot be demonstrated to be proven in the actual world then it   should be discarded.


In retrospect to its his own standards I believe the historical records of this movement has failed to live up to the hype of it own promises. In giving him the benefit of the doubt I wouldn’t even go so far to say that his propositions are even plausible based on these premises and therefore according to his own criteria he has ended up criticizing himself. Nichiren’s reason are just unreasonable and discredits his claims which should be consequently rejected.


Romans 2:1

2 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.


In summary Nichiren’s life was not consistent with his beliefs and actions which is a commentary against his philosophical writings such as his view in the illusion of pain and suffering even though he underwent treatments for his ailments. Of course this did not heal him and he died an untimely death at the age of 60 which conflicts with some of these sects who believe that this process is a remedy for long life and thus it goes without saying that if Nichiren could not obtain it then what hope is there for you? Furthermore he also endured persecution and suffering and if he could not achieve the outcome of his philosophical position then what guarantees you that you will somehow manage to escape pain and suffering?

Also if he were an enlightened individual who was unaware on whether or not he could be healed through the therapeutic effects of a hot spring, which he was not, then what confidence do you have in his words for knowing ultimate truth. Realistically the end of his life depicts a mere man who had endorsed and supported a fallacy by propagating fraudulent claims about reality which he was unable to substantiate and I would simply challenge you to revaluate your position as to being open to other possibilities such as a religion which does represent a person and savior who did impact the entire world and that person is Christ.

Lastly I hope this post has awakened you to think seriously or critically about this belief system especially since it deals with eternal matters. Some things to consider, calls to question the reality of this spiritual program; such as inquiring if a person has to continue these practices or procedures once they think they have attained enlightenment? If you believe you have to continue these rituals in order to maintain a cognizant reality of buddhahood then are you really operating in faith or fear which may be an indication that deep down in the depth of your heart that you are really doubting your experience. If you have not obtained it yet then will you ever get it? If you really are not sure but feel committed to practice it anyway then what kind of assurance is there in enlightenment as hoping and betting in the darkness of the unknown? So are you able to have complete confidence in knowing that you are enlightened and does your life confirm and testify to that reality or is their a real inward sense in which your mind has convicted you of being fearfully lost but not knowing what to do?

In closing I may have said some hard and difficult things but it was never meant to be intentionally abusive as to invoke feelings of hatred and anger. I apologize if I have needlessly offended you by overstating my case its just that I would like to challenge you to consider other possibilities and though I am a stranger my motivation and intention is altruistic as a fellow human who cares enough for your eternal salvation in taking the time to write this post and if you are interested then I would like to share with you my personal testimony and all I would ask you to do is to  be openminded when read it and then simply pray in your own words asking God to reveal or confirm to you the truth  in such a manner so as to know Jesus in a real and tangible way as Lord and Savior.

Finally Jesus may seem to go against the flow of your cultural beliefs as being on a different path but regardless He has addressed both practically and eternally the issues that affect our day to day lives. Conclusively the witness of the bible and the words of Jesus do not portray the world as some imaginary potential paradise waiting to be mysteriously discovered through some mystical experience but as a world which is filled with real problems and real people which can only be restored through his mediatorial  benefits which presently occurs as He transforms hearts and minds culminating in the futuristic promise of a renovated universe in bringing about an age of love, joy and peace as prefaced with a new heavens and a new earth apart from the reality of this present age which contains the causal agents of evil and its effectual consequences of pain and suffering.


Mt 11:28-30

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.



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Nichiren Buddhism Resources