Nichiren Buddhism

As I was reading the chapter on Nichiren Buddhism and its founder, I feel it is the highest peak of transformation of Buddhism. Firstly, it was taught by a lay devotee who rejected all buddhist scriptures including fundamental teachings of four noble truths, noble eightfold path, three characteristics of existence and so on. Instead, he promoted only to chant "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" twice daily because it contain all dharma to attain Buddhahood. On top of that, he influenced government to eliminate other Buddhist groups by harmful action because he believed that they are fake Buddhist groups. To me, his view is distorted and opposite of Buddhist principle of lovingkindness and open-mindedness which can really harm the pure teachings of the Buddha. It reminded me of an incident took place in Sri Lanka where a layman claimed to be a "Maitreya Buddha" who will be the next Buddha according to Buddhist chronology and there was a group of monk who believed him and followed him wherever he went.

In modern days, this form of Buddhism has taken roots in Western world and have seen particularly African American communities are embracing it. I have heard news of celebrities converting to this form of Buddhism because they find solace in chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. If this form of Buddhism promotes peace and harmony within and surroundings, I have no objection because Buddhism promotes compassion.

The meaning of Myoh-renge-kyo

In brief, myo of myoho means “wonderful” or “mystic,” and ho means “law,” “principle,” “teaching” or “phenomena.” Together, myoho is translated as “Wonderful Law” or “Mystic Law.” Nichiren Daishonin says: “Myo stands for the Dharma nature or enlightenment, while ho represents darkness or ignorance. Together myoho expresses the idea that ignorance and the Dharma nature are a single entity”. Myoho, then, expresses both the enlightened nature of a Buddha and the deluded nature of an ordinary person, and the fact that they are essentially one.

bhantekirti2019's picture

Thank you !

Thank you for taking time to explain what the phrase means. I had the difficult of understanding of how one can become enlightened just by chanting and repeating it. According to Tripitaka, one has to practice mainly three things - morality, meditation and wisdom. If that chanting leads a practitioner to cultivate them, then it goes in accordance with the Buddha's instruction. In Dhammapada, Buddha said one may chanting the scripture thousand times but does not practice it, that individual won't realize Dharma. On the other hand, one may chants few times but practice accordingly, that person will realize enlightenment. After all, the three poisons of the mind have to be eradicated in order to experience awakening or Buddha nature. That is possible when one practices the noble eight fold path in daily life.

Soka Gakkai

The Soka Gakkai (“Society for the Creation of Value,” or “Value Creation Society,”) is the largest, most influential sect of Nichiren Buddhism in the world today (and one of the most controversial contemporary Buddhist organizations.) The society originated in 1930 in Japan as a lay Buddhist educational movement that respected the dignity of children and championed their right to an education that served them as individuals, rather than merely as servants of the state. Its founder, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, was arrested during World War II for opposing the Japanese military regime and died in prison as a result of malnutrition and harsh interrogation.

While studying the Lotus Sutra in prison, Makiguchi’s disciple Josei Toda experienced a radical conversion experience, after which he reinterpreted the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism to bring them in line with the needs of modern people. The Soka Gakkai grew rapidly under his leadership after World War II, quickly becoming the largest lay Buddhist movement in Japan. The society retained its interest in education but quickly expanded its mission to include championing the rights of the poor, the sick, and the disenfranchised and, most significantly, opposing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Daisaku Ikeda assumed leadership of the Soka Gakkai after Toda’s death in 1958. Honoring the final wishes of his mentor that he disseminate the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism throughout the world, Ikeda founded Soka Gakkai International (SGI) in 1960. Since then, the movement has developed a strong secular identity that has allowed it to spread easily outside Japan. With some 12 million members in 192 countries and territories, the SGI is the world’s largest lay Buddhist movement.

Wong Fook Ming's picture

Many Nichiren Schools

There are many lineages originated from Nichiren Daishonin. Not only the Soka Gakkai, others includes Nichiren Shu, Nichiren Soshu, Rissho Koseikai, Reiyukai, Nipponzan-Myohoji etc.

During Nichiren's time, traditional Buddhist groups were out of touch with the masses in general, many of the sects were serving the powerful clans and the royalties. He was a reformer, or someone who advocate humanistic Buddhism at that time. Thus, there were some conflicts with other schools at that time. However, the Soka Gakkai groups are working well with other Buddhist schools in the last twenty years.
Nichiren practices were simplified to suit the masses. The Abidharma explanation is based on the doctrine of 'Suchness' or 'Bhutathata', seeing things as there are. And the doctrine from Zhiyi of Tiantai schools 'Three Thousand Realms in a Single Thought'. It means that any single thought can transform the beings in any of the three thousand realms. Enlightened realm is the Buddha realm, that are liberated from the cycle of samsara. By transforming the thought to the Buddha's qualities. Nichiren uses the invocation of the Lotus Sutra as a skillful means for the purification practices to transform a person into the Enlightened realm. The Gohonzon is the Mandala, also the reflection of oneself.

The consciousness of 'Alayavijnana' that stored the karma seeds needs to be purified to manifest the Buddhanature. Thus, it explains that by invocation of the mantra to purify the karma seeds, many bad karmas will be eradicated as it cease to ripe. One will not be reborn into the lower realms.

Accepting the conditions here and now and transforming the inner greed, hatred, delusion into compassion, loving kindness and generosity through the invocations and practising Boddhisatva ideals of encouraging others to practices and other social engaged works..Buddha realm is here and now.

It is not easy for nominal Buddhists to understand Nichiren, as many people asked how can one become enlighten by chanting the title of the Sutra only or how can one eradicate bad karmas to improve their current conditions. Some foundations in Yogacara and Tiantai teachings will able one to explore his innovative skillful means. By the way, Nichiren was well educated scholar monk.