A lot of people love to talk about compassion and peace regarding home, foreign and domestic affairs. But did not have the compassion and peace in mind, then how will the true compassion and peace be formed?

所有的人,都爱说的范围是:国内,国外与家庭的慈悲与和平。但是反过来内心却没有慈悲与和平的想法,那么,真正的慈悲与和平怎样能形成的呢?

About me

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Tampines, Singapore
One day I will be good enough to teach and propagate the Buddha's Dhrama to all suffering beings and lead by good examples.

"All that we are is the result of what we have thought." The Buddha.

"..Religion without Science is Blind, Science without religion is crippled." Albert Einstein 1879-1955

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The Story of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva - 觀世音菩薩的故事

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is also known as Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva or Guan Yin Bodhisattva. He is the attendant accompanying Amitabha Buddha on his left hand side. On his right hand side is Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva (Vajrapani).

Long time before Avalokitesvara became a Bodhisattva, he was a virgin named "Baoyi" in one life. He had a friend named "Baoshang". How they became Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva? Why have they vowed? How will their land be look like after they become Buddha? The answers are in this cartoon.

This cartoon is based on a story recorded in VYAKARANA OF AVALOKITASVARA BODHISATTVA SUTRA.




Save Flood Victims (1/8)




Save Fire Victims (2/8)




Save Windstorm Victims(3/8)




Save Victims from Shackles (4/8)




Save Victims from Evil Spirits (5/8)




Save Sentient Beings in all Kinds of Avatars (6/8)




Prince Buxuan (7/8)




The Virgin Vow(8/8)



Namu Myo Ho Renge Kyo
Namo Buddhaya
Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattvaya










The Thought of Buddha Before His Enlightenment


"Then I thought: Why, being myself subject to birth, ageing, sickness,death, sorrow and defilement, do I seek after what is also subject to these things?

suppose, being myself subject to these things, seeing danger in them, I seek after the unborn, unageing, unailing, deathless, sorrowless, undefiled supreme libration from bondage - NIRVANA?"

 
:The Thought we should Hold to Motivate us towards Enlightenment.

Namu Myo Ho Renge Kyo
Namo Buddhaya
Namo Dharmaya
Namo Sanghaya

The Chanting of Lotus Sutra - Chapter 25 in Chinese (妙法莲华经 观世音菩萨普门品 第二十五)



Namu Myo Ho Renge Kyo
Namo Buddhaya
Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattvaya

Friday, 26 November 2010

Om Mani Padme Hum sung by Imee Ooi



Namu Myo Ho Renge Kyo
Namo Buddhaya
Om Mani Padme Hum

Avalokitesvara 觀世音菩薩


Avalokiteśvara (Sanskrit: अवलोकितेश्वर lit. "Lord who looks down") is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. He is one of the more widely revered bodhisattvas in mainstream Mahayana Buddhism.

The original name for this bodhisattva was Avalokitasvara. The Chinese name for Avalokitasvara is Guānshìyīn Púsà (觀世音菩薩), which is a translation of the earlier name "Avalokitasvara Bodhisattva." This bodhisattva is variably depicted as male or female, and may also be referred to simply as Guānyīn in certain contexts.

In Sanskrit, Avalokitesvara is also referred to as Padmapāni ("Holder of the Lotus") or Lokeśvara ("Lord of the World"). In Tibetan, Avalokiteśvara is known as Chenrezig, སྤྱན་རས་གཟིགས་ (Wylie: spyan ras gzigs), and is said to be incarnated in the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa and other high lamas.

Etymology

The name Avalokiteśvara is made of the following parts: the verbal prefix ava, which means "down"; lokita, a past participle of the verb lok ("to notice, behold, observe"), here used in an active sense (an occasional irregularity of Sanskrit grammar); and finally īśvara, "lord", "ruler", "sovereign" or "master". In accordance with sandhi (Sanskrit rules of sound combination), a+iśvara becomes eśvara. Combined, the parts mean "lord who gazes down (at the world)". The word loka ("world") is absent from the name, but the phrase is implied.

It was initially thought that the Chinese mis-transliterated the word Avalokiteśvara as Avalokitasvara which explained why Xuanzang translated it as Guānzìzài (Ch. 觀自在) instead of Guānyīn (Ch. 觀音). However, according to recent research, the original form was indeed Avalokitasvara with the ending a-svara ("sound, noise"), which means "sound perceiver", literally "he who looks down upon sound" (i.e., the cries of sentient beings who need his help; a-svara can be glossed as ahr-svara, "sound of lamentation"). This is the exact equivalent of the Chinese translation Guānyīn. This etymology was furthered in the Chinese by the tendency of some Chinese translators, notably Kumarajiva, to use the variant Guānshìyīn (Ch. 觀世音), literally "he who perceives the world's lamentations" -- wherein lok was read as simultaneously meaning both "to look" and "world" (Skt. loka; Ch. 世, shì). This name was later supplanted by the form containing the ending -īśvara, which does not occur in Sanskrit before the seventh century. The original form Avalokitasvara already appears in Sanskrit fragments of the fifth century.

The original meaning of the name fits the Buddhist understanding of the role of a bodhisattva. The reinterpretation presenting him as an īśvara shows a strong influence of Śaivism, as the term īśvara was usually connected to the Hindu notion of Śiva as a creator god and ruler of the world. Some attributes of such a god were transmitted to the bodhisattva, but the mainstream of those who venerated Avalokiteśvara upheld the Buddhist rejection of the doctrine of any creator god.

An etymology of the Tibetan name Chenrezig is chen (eye), re (continuity) and zig (to look). This gives the meaning of one who always looks upon all beings (with the eye of compassion).


Khorwa Tongdruk (a eight years old boy)
a manifestation of Avalokitesvara

Origin

Mahāyāna account

According to Mahāyāna doctrine, Avalokiteśvara is the bodhisattva who has made a great vow to assist sentient beings in times of difficulty, and to postpone his own Buddhahood until he has assisted every being on Earth in achieving Nirvāṇa. Mahāyāna sūtras associated with Avalokiteśvara include the following:

Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra (Lotus Sūtra)
Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra
Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya Sūtra (Heart Sūtra)
Mahākaruṇā Dhāranī Sūtra (Nīlakaṇṭha Dhāraṇī)
Avalokiteśvara Ekādaśamukha Dhāraṇī Sūtra
Cundī Dhāraṇī Sūtra

The Lotus Sūtra (Skt. Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra) is generally accepted to be the earliest literature teaching about the doctrines of Avalokiteśvara. These are found in the Lotus Sūtra chapter 25, The Universal Gateway of Avalokitasvara Bodhisattva (Ch. 觀世音菩薩普門品). This chapter is devoted to Avalokitasvara, describing him as a compassionate bodhisattva who hears the cries of sentient beings, and who works tirelessly to help those who call upon his name. A total of 33 different manifestations of Avalokitasvara are described, including female manifestations, all to suit the minds of various beings. The chapter consists of both a prose and a verse section. This earliest source often circulates separately as its own sūtra, called the Avalokitasvara Sūtra (Ch. 觀世音經), and is commonly recited or chanted at Buddhist temples in East Asia.

When the Chinese monk Faxian traveled to Mathura in India around 400 CE, he wrote about monks presenting offerings to Avalokiteśvara. When Xuanzang traveled to India in the 7th century, he provided eyewitness accounts of Avalokiteśvara statues being venerated by devotees of all walks of life, from kings, to monks, to laypeople. Avalokiteśvara remained popular in India until the 12th century when Muslim invaders conquered the land and destroyed Buddhist monasteries.

 
Cundi
Mother Goddess Avalokitesvara
準提菩薩

In Chinese Buddhism and the Sinosphere, practices for an 18-armed form of Avalokiteśvara called Cundī are very popular. These practices have their basis in early Indian Esoteric Buddhism. Cundī is also referred to as "Cundī Buddha-Mother" or "Cundī Bhagavatī." The popularity of Cundī is attested by the three extant translations of the Cundī Dhāraṇī Sūtra from Sanskrit to Chinese, made from the end of the seventh century to the beginning of the eighth century. In late imperial China, these early traditions of Esoteric Buddhism are known to have been still thriving in Buddhist communities. Robert Gimello has also observed that in these communities, the esoteric practices of Cundī were extremely popular among both the populace and the elite.

In the Tiantai school, six forms of Avalokiteśvara are defined. Each of the bodhisattva's six qualities are said to break the hindrances respectively of the six realms of existence: hell-beings, pretas, animals, humans, asuras, and devas. These six qualities are listed below.

1.Great compassion
2.Great loving-kindness
3.Lion-courage
4.Universal light
5.Leader of devas and human beings
6.The great omnipresent Brahman


Amoghapasa
Holder of the Infallible Lasso
不空羂索观音


Tibetan account


In the Tibetan tradition, Avalokiteśvara is seen as arising from two sources. One is the relative source, where in a previous eon (kalpa) a devoted, compassionate Buddhist monk became a bodhisattva, transformed in the present kalpa into Avalokiteśvara. That is not in conflict, however, with the ultimate source, which is Avalokiteśvara as the universal manifestation of compassion. The bodhisattva is viewed as the anthropomorphised vehicle for the actual deity, serving to bring about a better understanding of Avalokiteśvara to humankind.

Seven forms of Avalokiteśvara in Tibetan Buddhism:

1.Amoghapāśa: not empty (or unerring) net, or lasso.
2.Vara-sahasrabhuja-locana / Sahasrabhujasahasranetra: 1000-hand and 1000-eye,
3.Hayagriva: with the head of a horse
4.Ekadasamukha: with 11 faces
5.Cundī
6.Cintamani-cakra: wheel of sovereign power
7.Arya Lokiteśvara: the Holy sovereign beholder of the world (loka), a translation of īśvara, means "ruler" or "sovereign", holy one.

Theravada account

In Sri Lanka, Avalokiteśvara is still venerated as Natha-deva, and his image is sometimes mistaken for that of the bodhisattva Maitreya.

Although mainstream Theravada does not worship any of the Mahayana bodhisattvas, Avalokiteśvara is popularly worshiped in Burma, where she is called Lokanat, and Thailand, where she is called Lokesvara.


Ekadasamukha
Eleven Faced Avalokitesvara
十一面观音
Modern scholarship

Western scholars have not reached a consensus on the origin of the reverence for Avalokiteśvara. Some have suggested that Avalokiteśvara, along with many other supernatural beings in Buddhism, was a borrowing or absorption by Mahayana Buddhism of one or more Hindu deities, in particular Shiva or Vishnu (though the reason for this suggestion is because the current name of the bodhisattva not the original one.)

The Japanese scholar Shu Hikosaka on the basis of his study of Buddhist scriptures, ancient Tamil literary sources, as well as field survey, proposes the hypothesis that, the ancient mount Potalaka, the residence of Avalokiteśvara described in the Gandavyuha Sutra and Xuanzang’s Records, is the real mountain Potikai or Potiyil situated at Ambasamudram in Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu. Shu also says that mount Potiyil/Potalaka has been a sacred place for the people of South India from time immemorial. With the spread of Buddhism in the region beginning at the time of the great king Aśoka in the third century B.C.E., it became a holy place also for Buddhists who gradually became dominant as a number of their hermits settled there. The local people, though, mainly remained followers of the Hindu religion. The mixed Hindu-Buddhist cult culminated in the formation of the figure of Avalokiteśvara.

In Theravada, Lokeśvara, "the lord, ruler or sovereign beholder of the world", name of a Buddha; probably a development of the idea of Brahmā, Vishnu or Śiva as lokanātha, "lord of worlds". In Indo-China especially it refers to Avalokiteśvara, whose image or face, in masculine form, is frequently seen, e.g., at Angkor. A Buddha under whom Amitābha, in a previous existence, entered into the ascetic life and made his forty-eight vows.


Hayagriva
Horse Headed Avalokitesvara
马头明王
Mantras and dhāraṇīs

Mahāyāna Buddhism relates Avalokiteśvara to the six-syllable mantra:

oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ

Due to his association with this mantra, in Tibetan Buddhism Avalokiteśvara is also called Shadakshari, which means "Lord of the Six Syllables." Recitation of this mantra along with prayer beads, is the most popular religious practice in Tibetan Buddhism. The connection between this famous mantra and Avalokiteśvara occurs for the first time in the Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra. This text is first dated to around the late 4th century CE to the early 5th century CE. In this sūtra, a bodhisattva is told by the Buddha that recitation of this mantra while focusing on the sound can lead to the attainment of eight hundred samādhis. The Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra also features the first appearance of the Cundī Dhāraṇī, which occurs at the end of the sūtra text. After the bodhisattva finally attains samādhi with the mantra "oṃ maṇipadme hūṃ," he is then able to observe 77 koṭīs of fully-enlightened buddhas replying in one voice with the Cundī Dhāraṇī:

namaḥ saptānāṃ samyaksaṃbuddha koṭīnāṃ tadyathā
oṃ cale cule cundī svāhā

In Shingon Buddhism, the mantra for Avalokiteśvara is:

oṃ arolik svāhā

The Mahākaruṇā Dhāraṇī (Great Compassion Dhāraṇī), also called the Nīlakaṇṭha Dhāraṇī, is an 82-syllable dhāraṇī for Avalokiteśvara


Sahasra-bhuja Sahasra-netra
Thousand-Armed, Thousand-Eyed Avalokitesvara
千手千眼观音
Thousand-armed Avalokiteśvara

One prominent Buddhist story tells of Avalokiteśvara vowing never to rest until he had freed all sentient beings from samsara. Despite strenuous effort, he realizes that still many unhappy beings were yet to be saved. After struggling to comprehend the needs of so many, his head splits into eleven pieces. Amitabha Buddha, seeing his plight, gives him eleven heads with which to hear the cries of the suffering. Upon hearing these cries and comprehending them, Avalokiteśvara attempts to reach out to all those who needed aid, but found that his two arms shattered into pieces. Once more, Amitabha Buddha comes to his aid and invests him with a thousand arms with which to aid the suffering multitudes.

The Bao'en Temple located in northwestern Sichuan province, China has an outstanding wooden image of the thousand armed Avalokiteśvara, an example of Ming Dynasty decorative sculpture.



Tibetan Buddhist beliefs concerning Chenrezig

Avalokiteśvara is an important deity in Tibetan Buddhism, and is regarded in the Vajrayana teachings as a Buddha. In the Mahayana teachings he is in general regarded as a high-level Bodhisattva. The Dalai Lama is considered by the Gelugpa sect and many other Tibetan Buddhists to be the primary earthly manifestation of Chenrezig. The Karmapa is considered by the Karma Kagyu sect to be Chenrezig's primary manifestation. It is said that Padmasambhava prophesied that Avalokiteśvara will manifest himself in the Tulku lineages of the Dalai Lamas and the Karmapas. Another Tibetan source explains that Buddha Amithaba gave to one of his two main disciples, Avalokiteśvara, the task to take upon himself the burden of caring for Tibet. That is why he has manifested himself not only as spiritual teachers in Tibet but also in the form of kings (like Trisong Detsen) or ministers.

Other manifestations popular in Tibet include Sahasra-bhuja (a form with a thousand arms) and Ekādaśamukha (a form with eleven faces).

In Tibetan Buddhism, Tara came into existence from a single tear shed by Chenrezig. When the tear fell to the ground it created a lake, and a lotus opening in the lake revealed Tara. In another version of this story, Tara emerges from the heart of Chenrezig. In either version, it is Chenrezig's outpouring of compassion which manifests Tara as a being.

Avalokiteśvara has an extraordinarily large number of manifestations in different forms (including wisdom goddesses (vidyaas) directly associated with him in images and texts).


 




Namu Myo Ho Renge Kyo
Namo Buddhaya
Om Mani Padme Hum




Click to listen to the chanting of The Great Compassion Heart Dharani Mantra

Click to listen to The Lotus Sutra Chapter 25 : The Universal Gateway of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva in Chinese

Click to listen to The Lotus Sutra Chapter 25 : The Universal Gateway of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva in Japanese

Click to watch The Story of Avalokitesvara in animation

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Great Compassionate Heart Dharani Mantra sung by Ani Choying Drolma




Thousand-Handed and Thousand-Eyed 
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva's Vast, Perfect, Unimpeded, 
Great-Compassionate Heart Dharani Mantra


NAMO RATNA TRAYAYA, NAMAH ARYA JNANA SAGARA, VAIROCANA VYUHA RAJAYA, TATHAGATAYA, ARHATE, SAMYAKSAM BUDDHAYA, NAMAH SARVA TATHAGATEBHYAH, ARHATEBHYAH, SAMYAKSAM BUDDHEBHYAH, NAMAH ARYA AVALOKITE SHVARAYA, BODHISATTVAYA, MAHASATTVAYA, MAHAKARUNIKAYA,

TADYATHA, OM DHARA DHARA, DHIRI DHIRI, DHURU DHURU, ITTI VATTE, CALE CALE, PRACALE PRACALE, KUSUME, KUSUMEVARE, ILI MILI, CITI JVALAM, APANAYE SVAHA




Namu Myo Ho Renge Kyo
Namo Buddhaya
Om Mani Padme Hum


P.S
You can hear the full song in my player on the top right hand side of my blog. Enjoy!!!

Buddhist Activities on Nov. 2010


The 14th Thegchen(Tiktsa) Rinpoche will be bestowing the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara(4 arm Cherenzig or Guan yin) empowerment on 20-11-2010(Saturday) and Yellow Jambala (The Deity of Wealth) empowerment on 21-11-2010(Sunday) respectively, 8pm at Golden Landmark Towers, #09-04.


Contact person: Ah Mu. tel: 67342585.

"Empowerment" session in Vajrayana(Tibetan) Buddhism can only be conducted by a qualified Guru. When you have received the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara(Guan Yin) empowerment for example, you are given the permission to practice, the Guru during the session will introduce you to a more profound way of practicing, introducing you to the Deity, thus, you will be more closer to the Deity and likewise, the Deity will also be closer to you. When you recite the mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum", the blessings will be more effective from then on as compare to a person who never received the empowerment.


Yellow Jambala



Yellow Jambala is an arhat during the Buddha's time, as he was protecting the Buddha by using his own body, his head was injured and the Buddha promised whoever offers water offering to Jambala to relieve his head injury. Jambala will grant the blessing of wealth. If anyone has trouble with finance or anything, one can chant his mantra and he will come and help. But one must have a bodhi mind and practice Buddhism properly to attain his blessings. One can also gain wealth, wisdom, intelligence and at last! Attain Buddha hood!. Yellow Jambhala sits on a lotus, sun and moon disk. He holds a mongoose in his left hand and from its mouth spews forth precious jewels.




A Brief Introduction of the reincarnated Thegchen (Tiktsa) Rinpoche,

the Precious 14th Thegchen YangSi, Ngawang Thegchen Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche

At Tibet and in the Langchen region of Kangsi is the Tsunda Monastery ( Ngongar Dechen Ling ). This old monastery’s Abbot is the Venerable Thegchen Tulku, the 14th Reincarnated Tulku, Ngawang Thegchen Chokyi Nyima. Rinpoche is known to be reincarnation of the Indian Mahasiddha, Krishnapa or The Black One (Tibetan: Nagpopa), which is one of the 84 Mahasiddhas.

Nagpopa's lst reincarnation was Kunga Panji, he took birth into Khampa Langse family which is well known dedicating his whole life practicing the Buddha Dharma. During that time though there were large monastery but at Kangchen Lhase and Jinla region there were numerous nomad tentage and Rinpoche has blessed them in their mindstream with essence nectar of Buddha Dharma. Afterwhich, Rinpoche procceded to the Weizhang region to pay great devotion to the Chenrezig incarnation - Venerable Kunga Nyingpo and follows his practice including receiving several empowerment and innumerable lineage transmission.

Upon returning to Langchen, Thegchen Rinpoche concentrate on benefiting the Buddha Dharma on all the sentient beings through the various Buddha’s activities. Since that period until, already they have 14th such reincarnation ( those records showed only there are fourteen reincarnation, however those loss count or not recorded reincarnated lineage holder may accounted to additional 20 of them ). The line of reincarnated tulkus all greatly contributed to the various profound Buddha Dharma activities. The 8th Reincarnation Thegchen Tulku is well known to have longevity lifespan of 125 years old including with black hair and white beard.

Tiksa Tulku is Imperial Teacher to the NangQian Ruler and was bestowed with a high “dharma throne”. During the Yuan Dynasty, Drogon Chogyal Phakpa bestowed upon Tiksa Tulku with a “Dharma Hat”, crown ornaments, throne’s embroidery and other dharma items. Embroidery Imperial Decrees entrustment for safe travel passage for Tiksa Tulku and all authority and local to provide all needs and not allow to cause any difficulties to him. The authoritative of the decrees was indeed beyond our normal expression.

The 13th Thegchen, Jamyang Chenker after passing in nirvana and took reincarnation as the 14th Thegchen, Ngawang Thegchen Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, born in 1956 at Khampa region amongst the Dege region. Father is Dorjee Wangyal, mother is Chewang Dolma.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Words of Wisdom 3

The wheel of Dharma turns only as steadily

as your diligent practice of the Dharma. – Stonepeace



Namu Myo Ho Renge Kyo
Namo Buddhaya

The Latter Day of the Law

The Latter Day of the Law, is one of the Three Ages of Buddhism. Mappō or Mofa (末法 Cn: mòfǎ; Jp: mappō), which is also translated as the Age of Dharma Decline, is the "degenerate" Third Age of Buddhism. Traditionally, this Age is supposed to begin 2,000 years after Shakyamuni Buddha's passing and lasts for "10,000 years". (The first two Ages are the Age of Right Dharma (正法 Cn: zhèngfǎ; Jp: shōbō), followed by the Age of Semblance Dharma (像法 Cn: xiàngfǎ; Jp: zōbō). During this degenerate third age, it is believed that people will be unable to attain enlightenment through the word of Sakyamuni Buddha, and society will become morally corrupted. In Buddhist thought, during the Age of Dharma Decline the teachings of the Buddha will still be correct, but people will no longer be capable of following them. Buddhist temporal cosmology assumes a cyclical pattern of ages, and even when the current Buddha's teachings fall into disregard, a new Buddha will be born and ensure the continuity of Buddhism. Ksitigarbha is known for his vow to take responsibility for the instruction of all beings in the six worlds, in the era between the death of Gautama (Shakyamuni) Buddha and the rise of Maitreya Buddha.

Namu Myo Ho Renge Kyo
Namo Buddhaya

The Three Ages of Buddhism

The Three Ages of Buddhism are three divisions of time following the historical Buddha's passing: the Former Day of the Law (正法 Cn: zhèngfǎ; Jp: shōbō), the first thousand years (or 500 years), when the Dharma is practised very seriously and accurately, when Enlightenment is often attained; the Middle Day of the Law (像法 Cn: xiàngfǎ; Jp: zōhō), the second thousand years (or 500 years) when forms and rituals representing the Dharma are embraced more than learning and realising its essence, leading to less attaining Enlightenment; and the Latter Day of the Law (末法 Cn: mòfǎ; Jp: mappō), which is to last for 10,000 years becomes increasingly diluted and corrupted with non-Dharma elements, leading to rare attaining of Enlightenment, while moral chaos proliferate.

The three periods are significant to Mahayana adherents, particularly those who hold the Lotus Sutra in high regard; e.g., Tiantai (Tendai) and Nichiren Buddhists, who believe that different Buddhist teachings are valid (i.e., able to lead practitioners to enlightenment) in each period due to the different capacity to accept a teaching (機根 Cn: jīgēn; Jp: kikon) of the people born in each respective period.

Further, in the Mahasamnipata Sutra, the three periods are further divided into five five-hundred year periods (五五百歳 Cn: wǔ wǔbǎi; Jp: go no gohyaku sai), the fifth and last of which was prophesied to be when the Buddhism of Sakyamuni would lose all power of salvation and a new Buddha would appear to save the people. This time period would be characterized by unrest, strife, famine, and other, natural disasters.

The three periods and the five five-hundred year periods are described in the Sutra of the Great Assembly (大集經 Cn: dàjí; Jp: Daishutu-kyō, Daijuku-kyō, Daijikkyō, or Daishukkyō). Descriptions of the three periods also appear in other sutras, some of which ascribe different lengths of time to them (although most agree that Mappō will last for “10,000” years, though rather than a concrete figure, this merely signifies a long period of time).


*Mahasamnipata Sutra = Sutra of the Great Assembly

Namu Myo Ho Renge Kyo
Namo Bhuddhaya

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Nichiren Shu

Nichiren Shu (日蓮宗: "Nichiren School") is the oldest of the Nichiren Buddhist sects. It is smaller and less well known internationally than Nichiren Shoshu or Soka Gakkai.


Nichiren Shu does not accept Nichiren Shoshu's claim that Nichiren designated Nikkō his successor. Doctrinally, Nichiren Shu states that Shakyamuni is the Buddha and Nichiren is merely his priest, not his divine reincarnation.

Overview of Nichiren Shu


Nichiren Shu does not regard Nichiren as a Buddha as Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai do. Instead, Nichiren is seen as the votary of the Lotus Sutra fulfilling its prophecy in acting as the incarnation of Jōgyō ("Superior Practice") Bodhisattva, who leads all bodhisattvas in propagating the Lotus Sutra. Shakyamuni Buddha is regarded as the Eternal Buddha as preached in the 16th chapter of Lotus Sutra. Nichiren Shu places Nichiren in a high position as the messenger of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, but does not regard him as more important than Shakyamuni. Shakyamuni Buddha occupies the central role in Nichiren Shu; Nichiren—referred to as Nichiren Shōnin ("Saint Nichiren")—is the saint who refocused attention on Shakyamuni by rebuking other Buddhist schools for solely emphasizing other buddhas or esoteric practices.


This can be seen in the emphasis of training in Nichiren Shu. The Lotus Sutra is paramount in study and in practice, and Nichiren's writings—called Gosho (御書) or Goibun (御遺文)—are seen as commentaries or guides to the doctrines of Buddhism. They include the Five Major Writings of Nichiren in which he establish doctrine, belief, and practice, as well as many pastoral letters he wrote to his followers.

Nichiren wrote frequently, and readers can verify or correct their understanding of the doctrines of Nichiren Buddhism through his surviving works. Unlike Nichiren Shoshu or Soka Gakkai, Nichiren Shu is far more selective about which Gosho it deems authentic. Many Gosho that are accepted by these two schools are not accepted as genuine by Nichiren Shu on grounds that scholars have not verified their authenticity.


Another difference of Nichiren Shu is the positioning in its doctrine and practices of the Odaimoku (the mantra Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō) and of the Mandala or Gohonzon. Nichiren Shu views these as the summit of the Dharma, but does not ignore other Buddhist practices. Forms of silent meditation (shōdai-gyō), artistic copying of the Odaimoku (shakyō), and the study of fundamental Buddhist concepts such as the Four Noble Truths and Taking Refuge survive in Nichiren Shu.

The Mandalas used by Nichiren Shu believers are often inscribed or based on Nichiren's own works, but not by the high priest as is the case in Nichiren Shoshu. Nichiren Shu also does not accept the Dai-Gohonzon of Nichiren Shoshu, as it believes there is no evidence that Nichiren created any wooden Mandala or asked any one to do so on his behalf.

In Japanese society, Nichiren Shu is more mainstream than Nichiren Shoshu or Soka Gakkai in that it continues to have relationships with non-Nichiren Buddhist traditions. It also is the oldest of the Nichiren traditions and has access to Mt. Minobu (身延山: where Nichiren lived in seclusion and where he requested to be buried) and many of Nichiren’s most important personal artifacts. Though Soka Gakkai’s energetic evangelization allowed it to become the largest Nichiren Buddhist group in North America, Nichiren Shu has recently begun to ordain non-Japanese priests and to expand its presence in the West.

Soka Gakai

Soka Gakkai International (創価学会インターナショナル; also, SGI) is the international umbrella organization for Soka Gakkai-affiliated lay organizations in over 190 countries. SGI has over 12 million members, who practice Soka Gakkai's particular form of Nichiren Buddhism. SGI's Japan-based parent, Soka Gakkai, was formed in 1930 and is closely associated with the New Komeito, an influential Japanese political party. SGI itself was founded in 1975 and characterizes itself and its constituent organizations as a support network for practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism. SGI members, seeking to change society for the better by applying their religious beliefs to daily life, are actively engaged in numerous community-based programs to promote cultural exchange and understanding among peoples as well as activities to propagate the Buddhism their practice.


Critics cite overzealous propagation efforts, harassment of persons who leave the organization, and overdone aggrandizement of the SGI leadership as negative aspects of school. The organizations have been collectively or individually criticized at by the media, intellectuals, and politicians in several countries and at various times for some of their actions and policies, and at least one European government has accused Soka Gakkai of engaging in cult-like practices.

History


Soka Gakkai was founded as the Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai (lit. "Value-Creation Education Society") on November 18, 1930 by Japanese educator Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and his colleague Josei Toda. Makiguchi sought to reform Japan's militaristic education system into a more humanistic one that would support the full development and potential of Japan's youth. His ideas on education, and his theory of value-creation (sōka), are explored in his 1930 work Sōka Kyōikugaku Taikei (The Theory of Value-Creating Pedagogy). In Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, he found a religious philosophy that reflected his educational theories, which led to the establishment of the Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai. Eventually, the focus of the organization began to shift, as Makiguchi came to the conclusion that the practice of Nichiren Shoshu itself could allow each individual develop the potential within, which he had hoped education alone would achieve. However, Makiguchi and Toda's thinking was in direct conflict with the goals of the state. When the Japanese government more rigorously enforced Shinto's position as the state religion (State Shinto) with the enactment of the Religious Organizations Law of 1939, a move designed to impose stricter governmental controls over religions (Engaged Buddhism, p. 383), and began to demand that all citizens enshrine Shinto talismans in their homes (Buddhism in the Modern World, p. 204). Makiguchi, Toda, and 18 other Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai members resisted, refusing the talismans. For refusing to cooperate with the Japanese militarist government by compromising their religious beliefs, the two educators were sent to prison. Makiguchi died there at age 72; Toda was later released and, after World War II, re-built the organization, renaming it Sōka Gakkai to reflect the extension of its membership beyond educators only. Over the years, the Soka Gakkai experienced a period of rapid growth in Japan. An organization, Nichiren Shoshu of America (NSA, later also called Nichiren Shoshu Academy, Nichirenshoshu Sokagakkai of America, and finally Soka Gakkai International – USA) was formally organized in the United States on October 13, 1960. Today, Soka Gakkai International and Nichiren Shoshu have parted ways. SGI now has a membership of anywhere from 100,000 to 300,000 practitioners in the United States (Barrett, p. 303). Soka Gakkai International (SGI) was founded in 1975 as the International Buddhist League to act as the international leadership of national Soka Gakkai organizations.

From the 13th Century until the 20th Century, Nichiren Buddhism was practiced almost exclusively in Japan. Soka Gakkai emerged as the largest lay organization of Nichiren Buddhist practitioners and today, Soka Gakkai membership accounts for nearly 10 percent of Japan's population (Engaged Buddhism, p. 386).

When religious freedom took hold in Japan following World War II, Soka Gakkai began to spread Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, initially across the country, then eventually across the globe, as practitioners relocated from Japan and as non-Japanese practitioners returned to their home countries, taking the practice with them. In response, Soka Gakkai began to develop a program of international outreach to help support these members, as it had been supporting members in Japan. In 1960, Daisaku Ikeda, then third president of Soka Gakkai, made a journey that took him from Japan to the United States, Brazil and Canada. During this trip he met practitioners in each of these countries and began laying the foundation for what would later become Soka Gakkai International. In 1975, SGI was formally founded, with Daisaku Ikeda as its president. Since then, constituent organizations have been formed in 79 of the 190 countries where there were practitioners.

Since SGI was initially affiliated with Nichiren Shoshu, this is the school continues to be associated with SGI. However, SGI and Nichiren Shoshu are becoming more and more distinct. SGI's primary purpose is to provide a supporting organization for its practitioners. On its website, SGI defines its purpose as follows:

For SGI members, Buddhism is a practical philosophy of individual empowerment and inner transformation that enables people to develop themselves and take responsibility for their lives. As lay believers and engaged Buddhists, SGI members strive in their everyday lives to develop the ability to live with confidence, to create value in any circumstances and to contribute to the well-being of friends, family and community. The promotion of peace, culture and education is central to SGI's activities.


SGI has been guided by Daisaku Ikeda since the death of Second President Josei Toda in 1958. A disciple of President Toda, Ikeda succeeded him in 1960 as Soka Gakkai president and became president of the larger Soka Gakkai International upon its creation in 1975. Ikeda is, however, a controversial figure in Japan. For example, when he challenged the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood on doctrinal grounds, his challenge was considered to be an act of heresy, particularly by a priesthood that viewed and asserted itself as the ultimate authority in Nichiren Shoshu doctrine. As a consequence, he stepped down as Soka Gakkai president in November 1979. According to Nichiren Shoshu followers, he did so to apologize for his organization's deviations from Nichiren Shoshu doctrine, by which, they claim, Soka Gakkai was bound at the time to observe by its rules of incorporation. Others suggest that it was the action of a man who did not want to be responsible for creating a rift among the practitioners. Regardless of the rationale, however, a division between the followers of Nichiren Shoshu, and those who aligned themselves with Ikeda's positions, did occur, and continues to be a source of controversy and disagreement amongst practitioners. Shortly after he stepped down, he became honorary chairman of Soka Gakkai in part as a response to Soka Gakkai members' dissatisfaction with his vacating of the presidency. As of December 2005 Ikeda remains honorary chairman of Soka Gakkai and president of SGI. The current official leader of the organization is Einosuke Akiya.



Doctrine


Nichiren Daishonin (1222–1282), was a Japanese Buddhist sage who, having studied the entirety of Shakyamuni's teachings, and the commentaries of the leading Buddhist scholars of the day, proclaimed that the Lotus Sutra was Shakyamuni Buddha's ultimate teachings and that, in Shakyamuni's own words, it was the one true teaching. Nichiren declared that the title of the Lotus Sutra, Myoho-Renge-Kyo, crystallized the essence of the sutra and that therefore the invocation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enabled a practitioner to embrace the entirety of the teaching and to thereby manifest the life-condition of Buddhahood. Shakyamuni had revealed in the Lotus Sutra that every individual possesses this life-condition, albeit as a latent Buddha nature. Nichiren Daishonin taught that the essence of the Lotus Sutra was that all men and women, regardless of social class, are inherently endowed with this Buddha nature and could therefore attain Buddhahood. In Japanese, Nichiren Daishonin is written 日蓮大聖人. "Nichiren" is a name he chose for himself when he embarked on spreading his teaching on April 28, 1253. It literally means "Sun Lotus". The word "Daishonin" is an honorific title meaning "great holy man" for he is believed to be the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.

Nichiren taught that by chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon (御本尊)—a mandala he inscribed with Chinese and Sanskrit characters representing the enlightened life of the True Buddha—anyone can bring forth her or his inherent Buddha nature and become enlightened. Unlike other forms of Buddhism, Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism taught that Buddhahood is not a static state of being, but exists in mutual possession of other states of being (referred to as the Ten Worlds). This concept is better known as ichinen sanzen, the Three Thousand Realms in a Single Moment of Life. Therefore, practitioners believe that Buddhism must be practiced not in a spiritual land or a mystic state, but in each person's daily life. This is experienced as the result of continuous effort to engage one's highest life condition, or Buddha nature, to overcome the inevitable obstacles and struggles we all face. In so doing, one establishes an unshakeable state of happiness characterized by peace, wisdom, and compassion, and this ultimately permeates every aspect of one's life. In accord with the Buddhist concept of esho funi, the oneness of person and environment, each individual has the power to then positively affect the environment around him or her. SGI practitioners call this process a "human revolution." Nichiren Daishonin argued that when and if human beings fully embraced his teachings, the peace they would develop within would eventually be reflected in the environment as peace in society at large.

Practice


The basic practice of SGI members is based on faith, practice, and study. Faith entails chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo daily and reciting gongyo (the Expedient Means and Life Span Chapters of the Lotus Sutra), which takes about 5 minutes. Practice involves chanting as described above, plus participation in the community and sharing Buddhist practice with others. Study is the dedication of some part of ones life to the reading of important Buddhist teachings, most important among them the study of the collected writings of Nichiren Daishonin, called gosho. Many gosho have recently been compiled in a single English volume titled The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin. These translations are based on a Japanese volume called Nichiren Daishonin Gosho Zenshu (The complete works of Nichiren Daishonin), which was compiled by 59th Nichiren Shoshu High Priest Nichiko Hori and published by Soka Gakkai in 1952. Translations are available in, or are being undertaken into, other languages as well. Additional reading materials include the Lotus Sutra, the writings of Daisaku Ikeda and other writers and scholars of the Lotus Sutra and of Nichiren Buddhism. The weekly newspaper The World Tribune and the monthly Buddhist journal Living Buddhism provide inspiration, encouragement, and informative articles geared to deepen readers' understanding of Nichiren Buddhist concepts and practices.

Followers of Soka Gakkai and SGI believe that chanting energizes and refreshes the practitioner both spiritually and mentally, leaving him or her happier, wiser, more compassionate, more productive, and more prosperous in all areas of their lives. Chanting is also believed to have a positive impact on the world at large, for as each individual develops him- or herself, he or she becomes a happier, more productive, more compassionate and wiser person, and this in turn will affect the lives of others as well.

Soka Gakkai and SGI's other constituent organizations hold regular grassroots gatherings known as discussion meetings. Available on a monthly basis, they are usually held in members' homes. Important events, monthly World Peace Prayers (Kosen Rufu Gongyo), commemorative meetings, and monthly study meetings are usually held in SGI community centers (larger centers are usually called culture centers).

SGI Charter


Soka Gakkai's official charter is as follows:

Purposes and Principles

1. SGI shall contribute to peace, culture and education for the happiness and welfare of all humanity based on Buddhist respect for the sanctity of life.

2. SGI, based on the ideal of world citizenship, shall safeguard fundamental human rights and not discriminate against any individual on any grounds.

3. SGI shall respect and protect the freedom of religion and religious expression.

4. SGI shall promote an understanding of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism through grass-roots exchange, thereby contributing to individual happiness.

5. SGI shall, through its constituent organizations, encourage its members to contribute toward the prosperity of their respective societies as good citizens.

6. SGI shall respect the independence and autonomy of its constituent organizations in accordance with the conditions prevailing in each country.

7. SGI shall, based on the Buddhist spirit of tolerance, respect other religions, engage in dialogue and work together with them toward the resolution of fundamental issues concerning humanity.

8. SGI shall respect cultural diversity and promote cultural exchange, thereby creating an international society of mutual understanding and harmony.

9. SGI shall promote, based on the Buddhist ideal of symbiosis, the protection of nature and the environment.

10. SGI shall contribute to the promotion of education, in pursuit of truth as well as the development of scholarship, to enable all people to cultivate their individual character and enjoy fulfilling and happy lives.

Criticism


In spite of their declared mission for peace, culture and education, the SGI and Soka Gakkai are also a focus of criticism and controversy. Soka Gakkai, the Japanese organization, has a reputation for involvement in Japan's political arena. Though officially the two are separate, it is closely affiliated with the New Clean Government Party (also known as the New Komeito Party), a major political party in Japan. Though SGI and New Komeito both publicly deny any relationship, and declare that they are separate organizations, accusations that Soka Gakkai in effect controls New Komeito persist and the public perception remains strong.


Soka Gakkai and Soka Gakkai International are perceived by some critics to be a cult or a cult-like group. Their concerns are that Soka Gakkai places an emphasis on recruitment, that it demonizes perceived opponents, and that it uses phobia indoctrination and peer pressure. Some critics also assert that the organization emphasizes dependence on the organization for spiritual advancement. Another point of contention concerns SGI's application of the mentor–disciple concept.

According to SGI, the mentor-and-disciple relationship is a very important aspect of living a full life, for every human being; detractors see SGI's version of the mentor–disciple relationship as a cult of personality for its intense focus on SGI President Ikeda. SGI defenders argue that in most cultures, and for most human beings, the idea of looking to those who have come before us, and finding a person who one can feel a kinship with, that one may look to as an example for how to live one's life, for guidance, encouragement, and support, is a common part of human development, and that there establishing a lasting relationship with such an individual is an important part of life.

SGI members attribute this view to the mentor–disciple relationship of Nichiren Buddhism, which they describe as the central pillar upon which the practice and the organization have developed: Shakyamuni was the mentor to Nichiren; Nichiren, the mentor to his disciples; and they, mentors to future practitioners. Makiguchi took Nichiren as a mentor in his life, while Toda took Makiguchi as his. Ikeda continued the tradition with Toda as his mentor, and now members throughout the world have chosen Ikeda, along with Toda, Makiguchi, Nichiren, and Shakyamuni, to be their mentors.

To those suspicious of Ikeda and SGI, this relationship is viewed as symptomatic of a cult of personality. Critics also question the authority and authenticity of Ikeda's writings. The use of the familial term sensei ("teacher") to refer to Ikeda is looked upon with suspicion and considered to be symbolic and further evidence of a cult of personality focused on Ikeda. Many Nichiren Buddhists, SGI members, and non-practicing people around the world view Ikeda and his life as a great example of how to use the practice in their own lives. He is viewed as an inspiration and an example of the power of one person to have a substantial positive effect on our world. For many members, Ikeda, as well as Shakyamuni, Nichiren, Makiguchi, Toda, and a host of other like minded philosophers, and thinkers around the world, are taken as models for how one may build their own lives around ideas of peace, culture, and education, and within all levels of their lives—family, work, friends, and society at large.

Critics of SGI and Ikeda are suspicious of the way he is considered by members to be a living embodiment of the power of the practice of SGI Buddhism. They assert that members are pressured to view Ikeda as their mentor in life. They are also suspicious and distrustful of the idea of mentor-disciple relationships, and question the motivation behind SGI's application of the concept.

There is controversy about the degree of religious tolerance practiced by Soka Gakkai members. Official materials state all other religions, including other Buddhist denominations, are viewed as valuable in as much as they are able to support the happiness, empowerment, and development of all people. Religious tolerance and a deep respect for culture are strongly emphasized in the organization. (See the .)

Furthermore, the Soka Gakkai has maintained a position in support of religious freedom, based on the firm understanding that it is absolutely necessary for each individual to have the freedom and the ability to engage in his or her own spiritual quest in order to develop spiritual maturity—both within the individual, and within society. Without religious freedom, human beings—and consequently the religious institutions that serve them—are denied and restricted in their own spiritual development. For example, one may point to the evolution in thinking within various religious institutions as indicative of spiritual evolution at the societal level. Nichiren Buddhism is a humanistic religion, based on Lotus Sutra, which espouses that every human being has the potential for enlightenment, regardless of race, ethnicity, social or economic status, sexual orientation, gender, or any other distinction. Over the years, in pluralistic societies with religious freedom, we can see that other religions have grown to become more humanistic in their approach as well.

On the other hand, in nations in which there is little religious freedom, one can see stagnation in individual spiritual development, as well as the stifling of religious institutional development. This leads to a spiritual stagnation of the society as a whole. Clearly, religious freedom is a necessary condition for spiritual evolution. While Nichiren Buddhists and SGI maintain that the end result of such a spiritual quest will eventually lead to spiritual practices which are in accord with the Lotus Sutra, they are not in favor of forcing the religion on anyone.

SGI members attribute the criticism of intolerance to a misunderstanding of one of Nichiren Daishonin's most important treatises, the ("On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land").

Written by Nichiren Daishonin in 13th-century Japan, the document argued doctrine with other Buddhist leaders of the time. His thesis was that if they professed to follow the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, they must also consider and adhere to his admonitions from his ultimate teaching, the Lotus Sutra. He called their attention to Shakyamuni's admonitions and remonstrated with them, pleading that they consider the teaching and reform their way of practice to reflect Shakyamuni's original intent. Contrary to the perception of many critics, Nichiren did not call for an end to other religions with the replacement of his own; he sought for other schools to re-examine their own practices in light of Shakyamuni's the Lotus Sutra and to bring their practices into accord with it.

In this treatise, Nichiren Daishonin argues that the government and religious institutions of the day had become corrupt and were failing to uphold the essential teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha through their failure to support the development of the people. In this way they were, in Buddhist terms, creating bad karma that was causing the country and the people to suffer. Observing the conditions of his day, a time in medieval Japan filled with all manner of environmental disasters, war, and disease—conditions described in the Lotus Sutra—he concluded that unless these institutions reformed, they and the country would continue to endure all manner of calamity and suffering.

This was a bold statement that earned him the wrath of many religious and governmental authorities. SGI argues that his goal was not the abolishment of other religions, but rather an urgent appeal for religious and governmental authorities to "clean up their act."

Excommunication


The fundamental practice of Soka Gakkai and SGI members is derived from Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, a form of Nichiren Buddhism. However, due to a number of ongoing issues and disputes that existed between the current high priest and the leadership of Soka Gakkai, Nichiren Shoshu's high priest excommunicated Soka Gakkai and SGI, and later SGI President Daisaku Ikeda in 1992. At that time, Soka Gakkai was a lay organization closely affiliated with Nichiren Shoshu.

The conflict from which this move stemmed had been growing throughout the late 1980s and especially during 1990, but its roots can be traced back to the very beginning of their relationship, in the 1930s. A turning point seems to have centered around the early 1970s when the Shōhondō ("Grand Main Hall"), a building in the Nichiren Shoshu Head Temple Taiseki-ji) compound, was being erected at the request of then-Soka Gakkai President Daisaku Ikeda, and with the financial support of Soka Gakkai and SGI membership. The priesthood felt that Soka Gakkai had begun deviating from Nichiren Shoshu teachings and began to admonish its leaders to uphold the school's doctrines and practices in matters of faith. The priesthood believed that Soka Gakkai was trying to gain effective control over the priesthood, and rising friction and resentment on both sides came to a peak in the late 1970s. To some, the split seemed imminent.

From the perspective of the priesthood and its supporters, it appeared that most of the Soka Gakkai membership was ready to side with the priesthood, and they attribute to this the Soka Gakkai leadership's eventual backing down and apologizing to the priesthood and a subsequent vow to never again deviate from Nichiren Shoshu teachings. This took place at a leaders meeting at Taiseki-ji on November 7, 1978. On April 24, 1979, Ikeda stepped down as Soka Gakkai president to take responsibility, and the high priest (66th High Priest Nittatsu) decided to give the organization a chance to redeem itself.

From then on, Soka Gakkai officially upheld its promises, but it is said that in private, debate continued amongst members. There are said to have been frequent criticisms of the priesthood and followers of the priesthood were said to have been discouraged from associating with the temples. From the perspective of the priesthood, towards the end of 1990, Soka Gakkai's leadership again displayed open hostility towards the priesthood. This is said to have led to a heated exchange of documents demanding clarification of the other party's intentions. At the end of 1990, and effective from January 1, 1991, the priesthood stripped all top lay leaders, including Ikeda, of their leadership positions in the direct Nichiren Shoshu lay hierarchy; the move seems to have been meant to be a warning that Nichiren Shoshu was serious.

The priesthood frequently reminded Soka Gakkai leaders of their earlier promises and urged them to cease from challenging the role of the priesthood, but, according to Nichiren Shoshu reports, Soka Gakkai leaders continued to ratchet up their rhetoric, and the priesthood responded in kind. Each party blamed the other as initiator of the attacks. A final warning from the priesthood came in October 1991, but was rejected. It was followed by a public document on November 7 urging Soka Gakkai to voluntarily disband. Finally, on November 28, 1979, Nichiren Shoshu declared that it was dissociating itself from the Soka Gakkai and SGI organizations, effectively excommunicating the Soka Gakkai and SGI. Soka Gakkai Honorary Chairman and SGI President Ikeda was first personally excommunicated (removed from the Nichiren Shoshu believers roster) on August 11, 1992.

The ensuing years were marked by internal efforts to dissuade Soka Gakkai members from joining the temples, attempts to tempt Soka Gakkai members to join the temples, and counter-attempts to get those who did to leave. Numerous lawsuits have been filed by both parties charging everything from sexual improprieties to defamation of character and demanding everything from the return of previously made donations to apologies. As of November 2005, 172 lawsuits have closed and five are still in the courts.

In 1999, High Priest Nikken had the Shōhondō ("Grand Main Hall") demolished on the ground that it had been built and donated for what he termed ulterior motives instead of as an expression of faith, and he had it replaced with a building that the priesthood felt was more in line with its interpretation of its significance. Other ferroconcrete temple buildings that had been partially or wholly built and donated by Soka Gakkai, foremost among them the Grand Reception Hall, were also replaced with ones of more traditional design. And a large number of sakura (cherry blossom) trees, also donated by Soka Gakkai members, were also cut down to make way for an open plaza.

Soka Gakkai and SGI are now separate organizations, totally independent of Nichiren Shoshu.

Nichiren Shoshu

Nichiren Shōshū (日蓮正宗) is a branch of Nichiren Buddhism based on the teachings of the 13th century Japanese monk Nichiren (1222–1282). Nichiren Shōshū claims Nichiren as its founder through his disciple Nikkō (1246–1333), the founder of the school's Head Temple Taiseki-ji. It has adherents throughout the world, with the largest concentrations in Indonesia and Japan and many more in Taiwan; South Korea; North, Central, and South America; the Philippines; Europe; and Ghana.


Overview


Nichiren Shoshu means the correct (or orthodox) school of Nichiren. According to adherents, shortly before his passing Nichiren designated his disciple Nikkō as his sole successor in two documents, the Nichiren Ichigo Guhō Fuzoku-sho ("Document entrusting the Law Nichiren propagated throughout his lifetime of teaching"; also called the Minobu sōjō: "Succession document Minobu") dated September 1282, and the Minobu-zan Fuzoku-sho ("Document entrusting Mt. Minobu"; also called the Ikegami sōjō: "Succession document Ikegami") dated October 13, 1282. In the former, Nichiren entrusted the Law (i.e., Dharma) of his lifetime of teaching, and the embodiment of that Law, the Dai-Gohonzon to Nikkō, closing with the words "Sequence of the lineage of succession: Nichiren–Nikkō." In the latter, Nichiren named Nikkō chief priest of Kuonji, his temple at Mt. Minobu, and admonished his followers—priest and lay alike—to observe this appointment, in effect entrusting the leadership of his disciples to Nikkō. As the school that stems from Nikkō and his followers, Nichiren Shoshu considers itself the true school of Nichiren Buddhism.

Nichiren Shoshu has over 700 local temples and temple-like facilities in Japan, nearly a dozen in the Americas, and several in Europe, Africa, and Asia outside Japan. Its head temple, Taiseki-ji, is located on the lower slopes of Mt. Fuji and is visited constantly by pilgrims from around the world. The school denomination Nichiren as its founder and his immediate disciple Nikkō as its defining patriarch, positioning him as primus inter pares among its high priests.

Nichiren Shoshu is currently led by High Priest Nichinyo Hayase (1935–), in the school's tradition the 68th in an unbroken lineage of succession (kechimyaku, "lifeblood" or "Heritage of the Law") that began with Nichiren. Nichiren Shoshu priests distinguish themselves from those of most other schools in that they wear only white and gray robes and a white surplus, believing this to be exactly as Nichiren himself did. Nichiren Shoshu priests may marry and most have families.

The Nichiren Shoshu faithful are organized in temple-based congregations known as Hokkeko. Most attend services at a local temple, or in private homes when no temple is nearby, at least once a month. Services are usually officiated by a priest, but lay leaders sometimes fill in when no priest is available. When they gather, believers frequently study Nichiren Shoshu teachings, particularly the writings of Nichiren, called Gosho.

Believers and their local priests cooperate in propagating the Nichiren Shoshu religion, exchange experiences, and lend one another support in times of personal crisis. Religious study is generally led by the priest, and congregations are usually loosely organized, though specifics differ from temple to temple and region to region.

Doctrines and practice


Much of Nichiren Shoshu's underlying teachings are, overtly, extensions of Tendai (Cn: Tiantai) thought, including much of its worldview and its rationale for criticism of Buddhist schools that do not consider the Lotus Sutra to be Buddhism's highest teaching. For example, Nichiren Shoshu doctrine adopts or extends Tendai's classification of the Buddhist sutras into five time periods and eight categories (goji-hakkyō), its theory of 3000 interpenetrating realms within a single life-moment (Ichinen Sanzen), and its view of the Three Truths (Santai). Because of these similarities, as well as space considerations, this article will confine itself to discussion of the hows and whys of Nichiren Shoshu's central doctrine: How it views Nichiren and his lifetime of teaching, and why its believers practice the way they do.

View of Nichiren's lifetime of teaching


Nichiren Shoshu holds that in revealing and propagating his teachings, Nichiren was fulfilling the mission of his advent according to a prophecy made by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni (Siddhartha Gautama; 563?–483?BC). Sakyamuni foretold that the True Buddha (Kuon Ganjo no go-hombutsu; see also Eternal Buddha) would appear in the "fifth five hundred-year period following the passing of Sakyamuni", at the beginning of a later age called Mappō, and spread the ultimate Buddhist teaching (Honmon, or the "true" teaching) to enable the people of that age to attain enlightenment, as by then his own teachings (Shakumon, or the "provisional" teaching) would have lost their power to do so.

In this way, Nichiren Shoshu believes that Nichiren is the True Buddha and that his Dharma, or Mystic Law (Myōhō: mystic in the sense of profound, sublime, or unfathomable), is the True Buddha's ultimate teaching. Nichiren Shoshu's recognition of Nichiren as the True Buddha is its reason for referring to him as Nichiren Daishōnin ("Great Sage Nichiren"), in contrast to the Nichiren Shōnin ("Sage" or "Saint" Nichiren) appellation used by other schools, most of which contend that Nichiren was merely a great priest or saint.

Object of veneration


Nichiren Shoshu Buddhists believe that personal enlightenment can be achieved in one's present form and lifetime (sokushin jōbutsu). Central to their practice is chanting Nam-Myōhō-Renge-Kyō to the object of veneration, called a Gohonzon.

Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is called the daimoku ("title") since it comprises Nam and the Japanese title of the Lotus Sutra, Myōhō-Renge-Kyō. It can be understood as a sort of invocation meaning "I submit myself (or "dedicate my life") to the Mystic Law of Cause and Effect." The believer's practice (gyōriki: power of practice) and faith (shinriki: power of faith) are believed to call forth the power of the Buddha (butsuriki) and the power of the Law inherent in the Gohonzon (hōriki) to expiate the believer's negative causes (some people call it "negative karma") and bring forth a higher life condition, a process called zaishō shōmetsu: "eradicating sins and their resulting impediments".

The Dai-Gohonzon


Defining the Gohonzon is a little more complicated. Nichiren Shoshu's fundamental object of veneration (the honzon; note that some refer to it as an object of worship) is called the Dai-Gohonzon ("great" or "supreme" object of veneration). The Dai-Gohonzon is essentially a mandala purportedly inscribed in by Nichiren in Chinese and Sanskrit characters on October 12, 1279. The most important part of the inscription is the line down its center, which reads Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo Nichiren. This signifies that the Law of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and the Buddha who proclaimed it (Nichiren) are one; i.e., two facets of a single entity (ninpō ikka: "oneness of the person and the Dharma"). Hence the Dai-Gohonzon is revered as the very entity of Nichiren and his enlightenment, and every Nichiren Shoshu temple and household possesses a transcription of it.

The Dai-Gohonzon is enshrined in a sanctuary (kaidan; often called an "ordination platform" in other Buddhist schools) at Taiseki-ji. The sanctuary is both the place where a Gohonzon is enshrined and that where worship services (see Practice, below) take place.

The Dai-Gohonzon, its sanctuary, and the Law of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo are collectively called the San Dai Hihō (Three Great Hidden, or Secret, Laws) as their existence is believed to have been "hidden" between the lines of Sakyamuni's Lotus Sutra and therefore remained secret until Nichiren revealed them. Singly, they are called, respectively, Honmon no Honzon, Honmon no Kaidan, and Honmon no Daimoku, where honmon may be understood to mean "of the ultimate, or 'True', Teaching". They come together in the Dai-Gohonzon, which is called Honmon Kaidan no Dai-Gohonzon ("the Great Object of Veneration of the Sanctuary of the True Teaching") and is believed to embody them collectively as facets of itself. The Dai-Gohonzon is thus revered as the ultimate object of veneration—ultimate because, like no other, it opens up the possibility for all people, and enables all those who worship it, to attain enlightenment, making it the culmination of Nichiren's lifetime of teaching (Ichi Dai Hihō: the One Great Secret Law).

Transcriptions of the Dai-Gohonzon


The transcriptions of the Dai-Gohonzon are called, simply, Gohonzon (go is an honorific prefix indicating respect). Most transcriptions in temples are on wood tablets into which the inscription is carved (the tablets are coated with black urushi and the characters, gilted), while most of those in homes are in the form of a paper scroll. Although Gohonzon enshrined in temples and similar facilities are personally inscribed by the high priest, those in private homes can be either personally inscribed or printed using traditional wood-block printing. Personally inscribed Gohonzon are bestowed upon believers of long standing or in recognition of major accomplishments in faith and have a dedication on the far right naming the recipient. Printed Gohonzon have the dedication "for the recipient" on them. Regardless of their type, all Gohonzon have been consecrated by one of the successive high priests of Nichiren Shoshu in a ceremony conducted in the Dai-Gohonzon's sanctuary, and all have the same power provided that one believes in the Three Treasures as defined by Nichiren Shoshu. A Nichiren Shoshu priest, acting as proxy for the high priest, bestows the Gohonzon on new believers upon their initiation into the faith at a local temple.

Positioning of the Dai-Gohonzon and further differences with other Nichiren schools


The significance of the Dai-Gohonzon (and its constituent facets) in Nichiren Shoshu is that it is regarded by the school as the penultimate Buddhist teaching revealed by the True Buddha, which also makes it the purpose of Nichiren's advent. Altogether, this interpretation of Nichiren's appearance in this world and the meaning of his lifetime of teaching, is the core-most tenet of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. As well as being the point on which the school differs most from other Nichiren schools, it is also the starting point for almost all other differences, including Nikkō's reason for forsaking Mt. Minobu and the other Nichiren schools' reason for disputing Nikkō's legitimacy as Nichiren's successor.

A handy example of derivative differences might be that of the interpretation of the Three Treasures, an important concept common to all forms of Buddhism. Called sambō or sampō in Japanese, the Three Treasures are the Buddha (butsu: he who reveals the Law), the Law (hō: Dharma or "body of teachings"), and the Priest (sō: he who receives from the Buddha, maintains the purity of, and transmits the Law). Nichiren Shoshu differentiates itself from other Nichiren schools in that it regards Nichiren himself as the Treasure of the Buddha; the Mystic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the Treasure of the Law; and Nikko, as primus inter pares among its successive high priests, as the Treasure of the Priest. The other Nichiren schools define another Buddha (usually Sakyamuni) as the Treasure of the Buddha, and Nichiren as the Treasure of the Priest. Nichiren Shoshu considers the Law of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, and by extension the Dai-Gohonzon (i.e., the embodiment of that law), to be the Treasure of the Law, whereas other schools go only as far as defining Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo (i.e., just the invocation) as the Treasure of the Law.

Another important difference arises again out of this last one: Nichiren Shoshu permits worship of only the Dai-Gohonzon (and its transcriptions) because the school sees it as the embodiment of the Treasure of the Law, whereas other schools are often ambivalent on their object of worship, sometimes changing it and even allowing worship of statues or collections of statues and paying homage to various Buddhist and Shinto deities.

Specific doubts about the Dai-Gohonzon's authenticity



Several schools and critics contend that while Nichiren's own writings provide ample evidence that he inscribed several Gohonzon, they supply no evidence to support the notion that he inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon. This alternative perspective is put forth in the "No known documentary evidence by Nichiren that he inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon" entry in the article on Nichiren.

Practice


The daily practice of Nichiren Shoshu believers consists of affirming and renewing their faith by performing gongyō twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. Gongyo is a prayer service—Nichiren Shoshu's form of meditation—that entails reciting certain sections of the Lotus Sutra, held to be Sakyamuni Buddha's highest and most profound teaching, and chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon while focusing on the Chinese character myō ("mystic") at its center. This practice, particularly when shared with others, is regarded as the True Cause for attaining the tranquil condition of enlightened life that allows believers to experience and enjoy more meaningfully fulfilled lives and to confidently confront and overcome the challenges of everyday life.


The logic behind this is that through thoughts, words, and deeds, every being creates causes, and every cause has an effect. Good causes produce positive effects; bad causes, negative ones (see karma). This law of causality is the universal principle underlying all visible and invisible phenomena and events in daily life. Nichiren Shoshu believers strive to elevate their life condition by acting in accordance with this law in their day-to-day lives and by sharing their faith with others, believing their Buddhist practice to be the ultimate good cause for effecting changes in life and attaining enlightenment.

Friction and split with Soka Gakkai


The Japanese based religious group Soka Gakkai has been affiliated with Nichiren Shoshu teachings, since its beginnings, in the 1930s. Today, Soka Gakkai's teachings share many aspects with those of Nichiren Shoshu. However, in the mid 1970s, differences arose between the two organizations. From the perspective of Nichiren Shoshu, they centered around different interpretations over some Nichiren Shoshu beliefs. According to Nichiren Shoshu, they felt that Soka Gakkai was even introducing newly formulated doctrines of its own. Eventually the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood stripped Daisaku Ikeda of his presidency in the lay organization, and excommunicated him -- some say this includes all Soka Gakkai members, while others disagree -- 1991.

On the other hand, Soka Gakkai asserts that when Daisaku Ikeda challenged the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood on doctinal grounds, his challenge was considered by some to be an act of "blasphemy" against the preisthood, which viewed itself and asserted itself as the ultimate authority in Nichiren Buddhism. According to Soka Gakkai, as a consequence, Ikeda stepped down as Soka Gakkai president in November 1979. According to Nichiren Shoshu followers, he did so to "apologize for his organization's deviations from Nichiren Shoshu doctrine, which at the time Soka Gakkai was bound by its rules of incorporation to observe." Others suggest that his was the action of a man who did not want to be responsible for creating a rift among the practitioners.

Regardless of the rationale, however, a division between the followers of Nichiren Shoshu, and those who aligned themselves with the Soka Gakkai, did occur, and continues to be a source of controversy and disagreement amongst practitioners to this day.

Shortly after he stepped down, he was named honorary chairman of Soka Gakkai, in part as a response to practitioners' dissatisfaction with the treatment of Daisaku Ikeda. He remains president of SGI to this day. The two are now organizationally and doctrinally separate. It remains to be seen whether this will be a permanent or temporary split.

With the resurfacing in 1990 of the split between Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai, then the largest lay organization affiliated with the school, a number of controversies erupted about the behavior and attitude of the priesthood. In the mid 1990s a number of priests, citing a desire to reform the school, left Nichiren Shoshu. Aligning themselves with Soka Gakkai, they alleged that the priesthood had become abusive and tyrannical and had strayed from the true teachings of Nichiren.

Controversy involving the priesthood


Almost all controversies involving the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood that have been raised over the past several decades, including those concerning the high priest personally, stem from allegations raised in Soka Gakkai publications. Despite numerous lawsuits, however, no court in Japan or the United States has established the veracity of any of the allegations.

Soka Gakkai claims that many Hokkeko members left their temples in the wake of these controversies and aligned themselves with it, alleging that they too had become targets of abuse by the priesthood. However, large numbers of Soka Gakkai members, deciding themselves to remain Nichiren Shoshu believers, also left Soka Soka Gakkai. Of these, many felt the latter had deliberately provoked the split in retaliation for the priesthood's calls for Soka Gakkai to roll back activities and renounce newly formulated religious concepts that they and the priesthood believed incompatible with traditional Nichiren Shoshu teachings and practice. Objectionable activities included encouraging electioneering (for Komeito) under the notion that it was a facet of Buddhist practice, and the collection of massive monetary donations as offerings; concepts deemed incompatible include a cult of personality focusing on Soka Gakkai's supreme leader, certain aspects of Soka Gakkai's interpretation of humanism, and Soka Gakkai's negation of the priesthood's role in maintaining the faith and looking after the faithful.

Accusations against the high priest


Previous High Priest Nikken Abe was accused of having been involved in an altercation with a Seattle, Washington, prostitute in the early morning hours of March 20, 1963, over payment for services rendered. In 1992, when this issue was brought to light in Soka Gakkai publications, High Priest Nikken released a statement in which he stated that the accusation, made by one Ms. Hiroe Clow, was an "utterly groundless lie, a fabrication." In reaction, Ms. Clow sued High Priest Nikken and one other defendant in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California, claiming that he had defamed her with his statement. On November 23, 1993, the judge handed down a ruling dismissing Clow’s suit. He found that it ran contrary to the spirit of fair play and substantive justice to allow the courts of the State of California to have jurisdiction over the case. He also concluded that:

1. The plaintiff was a mere nominal one; the true beneficiary of the suit was Soka Gakkai;


2. The lawsuit was a part, as well as the culmination, of 50 or so suits filed by Soka Gakkai in an attempt to depose High Priest Nikken Abe after it had been excommunicated;

3. The suit was a deliberate attempt by Soka Gakkai to bait Nikken Abe by repeatedly publishing provocative articles in its organ newspapers, articles that were run under lurid headlines and demanded a response from him.

Soka Gakkai never revealed the substance of this decision to its Japanese members, who were told (through the organization's media) that the case had been dismissed on a legal technicality. A further suit, naming High Priest Nikken and three other defendants, was also filed in Los Angeles, but this one had an outcome favorable to the defendants: the judge stayed some claims and dismissed the rest on November 21, 1994. The Los Angeles Court of Appeals rejected an appeal in its entirety, with the presiding judge naming Soka Gakkai as real beneficiary of the suits, affirming the lower courts' decisions: "In the unusual circumstances it is fair to say that plaintiff is a 'nominal' plaintiff and the 'ultimate beneficiary of the suit' is a nonresident (Soka)", clearly showing that the California Courts saw these as nuisance suits and abuses of the California justice system. Clow and the Soka Gakkai appealed once again, but the Supreme Court of California rejected their petition, and they ultimately had to abandoned their until-then much advertised idea of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.


In the meantime, the venue of the legal battle over the veracity of what had become known as the Seattle Incident (among Soka Gakkai members) and the Clow Incident (among people on the Nichiren Shoshu side), and who was liable for defaming whom, moved to Japan.

Another libel suit was filed in December 1993, this time in Tokyo District Court, against High Priest Nikken, followed quickly by a countersuit filed by Nichiren Shoshu (these two suits were later integrated into a single suit because of the high degree of evidentiary and other overlap). Court proceedings continued until 1996 when a former Seattle police officer testified. This officer claimed to be the one who had been called to the scene of the alleged 1963 incident. But his testimony and its content could only be termed amazing—for example, it was characterized by a phenomenal degree of coincidence with the version of events given by High Priest Nikken's original accuser, despite the passage of over 30 years and the lack of any evidence that he had ever spoken to others about the incident during those 30 years. Interesting also was the incredible degree of detail with which he was able to recall what happened during a distant, routine night of patrolling a beat, not to mention that police records indicated that he was neither on duty that night, nor had he been assigned to the area where the incident was supposed to have occurred. It also transpired that this former police officer had been receiving $4,000 a month from a Soka Gakkai attorney for his services as a private investigator from January 1995 forward, and a number affidavits from fellow officers, both former and active, indicated that the witness's testimony was untenable on numerous points, including ones of contemporary police procedure.

Meanwhile, Hiroe Clow passed away suddenly (and amid claims of dubious circumstances, though the cited cause of death was cancer), right before she was to be cross-examined in the Tokyo court.

The suit ran for several years, with so many claims, counterclaims, and attempts to impeach the credibility of evidence that unraveling the whole affair became nearly impossible. The judges presiding over the case eventually urged the parties to settle on grounds that further arguments would only exhaust the parties' resources and serve the interests of neither. In these circumstances, and given that a party that refuses when a Japanese judge has urged settlement will usually fare unfavorably, both Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu agreed to settle. One condition of the January 2002 settlement was that neither would pursue the matter any further in its publications or other media. Specifically, under the settlement agreement Soka Gakkai is prohibited from publishing any further accusations about the incident, though Nichiren Shoshu is permitted to continue denying that the alleged incident ever took place. Thus the Court never recognized the veracity of the accusations against High Priest Nikken.

Other lawsuits and outcomes


All in all, Soka Gakkai or Soka Gakkai members (acting as private persons) filed over 130 lawsuits in Japanese courts against Nichiren Shoshu, the high priest, local Nichiren Shoshu temples, or their resident priests between 1991 and 2001. The numerous defamation suits aside, most of these were over disputes concerning cemeteries and burial rites or the return of offerings Soka Gakkai members had made in the past.

For its part, Nichiren Shoshu also instigated 39 suits against Soka Gakkai, its officers, and other allies between 1992 and 2004. Here, outside of counter suits in conjunction with the aforementioned Seattle/Clow Incident suits, the focus was usually on return of property (temples) on which priests who had allied themselves with Soka Gakkai were squatting or for injunctions against parties who were harassing Nichiren Shoshu priests or temples.

As of November 1, 2005, a total of 177 suits had been filed in Japanese courts and final decisions reached in 172. Of these 172, 34 ended in court-recommended settlements, 22 in decisions favorable to Soka Gakkai, and 116 in decisions or withdrawals favorable to Nichiren Shoshu (source: Daibyakuhō, the Hokkekō organ newspaper; November 1, 2005).

Dedication


Due to this merits,
May I soon,
Attain the enlightened state of Guru Buddha,
That I may be able to librate all sentient beings from their suffering.

May the precious bodhi mind, Not yet been born in me, will arise and grow.
May the birth have no decline, and will increase forever more.

Namu Myo Ho Renge Kyo
Namo Buddhaya
Namo Dharmaya
Namo Sanghaya