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Basic Introduction to Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism

Myosenji Temple holds regular Introduction to Buddhism meetings. These meetings are open to the public and all are welcome.

BUDDHISM

The word “Buddha” is an honorific title meaning “enlightened one” and is bestowed upon a person who has perfectly fused his subjective wisdom with the objective reality of life. A Buddha perceives that all phenomena ultimately are the expression of one mystic entity or law permeating all existence and that this mystic law is one with the Buddha’s life itself. A Buddha’s life manifests boundless joy, vitality and good fortune in each moment.

The teachings of a Buddha are called the Dharma or Law because his enlightened words reveal his wisdom which is one with the essence of all life and nature. Buddhism is the teaching which enables common mortals to fuse their minds with that of the Buddha and experience the hidden treasure of wisdom and virtue within their own existences as well. In the eye of the Buddha, all beings and the lands in which they live manifest the life of Buddha.

HISTORICAL BUDDHA

The first Buddha to make his appearance on earth was Siddhartha Gautama, an Indian prince of the Shakya clan born approximately 3000 years ago. Commonly called Shakyamuni or sage of the Shakyas, he renounced his throne at the age of nineteen and embarked on a religious quest for the answer to life’s most fundamental question: how can human beings find and keep true happiness in this transient world filled with delusion and suffering.

At the age of thirty, while deep in meditation, Shakyamuni had a profound awakening or re-awakening to his true identity as a Buddha endowed with the unparalleled law which is the teacher and eye of all Buddhas. The remaining fifty years of his life were dedicated to sharing his insight with the throngs of followers who flocked to receive the teaching of the “Enlightened One”. The wisdom he had attained was initially far beyond the capacity of common men and women to understand, so for the next forty-two years he cultivated the wisdom and state of life of his followers until they were ready to receive the teaching which he had cherished from the start. During the remaining eight years of his life he fulfilled the purpose of his advent by preaching what came to be known as the Lotus Sutra. Harvesting the results of his preparatory teachings, Shakyamuni finally enabled his disciples to know and understand the eternal true nature of their own lives. He also revealed that his teachings would retain the capacity to enlighten future generations of believers for only a limited period of time, gradually losing their efficacy as the benightedness of mankind increased. He foretold that by 2000 years following his death his teachings would be like an out of date medical prescription for a patient whose disease had turned far more serious. Shakyamuni predicted that at that time another greater Buddha would be born who, after overcoming severe persecutions, would reveal the true cause of original enlightenment. This person would be the incarnation of the eternal true Buddha and sow the seed of enlightenment in the lives of all beings. With the spread of the true Buddha’s teaching, the earth would eventually become a tranquil and bountiful “Buddha’s Land” where individuals, society and nature itself manifest the full potential of life.

TRUE BUDDHA’S ADVENT

Nichiren Daishonin was born the son of a fisherman on Feb. 16, 1222 in the village of Kominato on the Pacific coast of Japan. Because of very auspicious circumstances at the time of his birth his parents rejoiced when at the age of 12 he decided to enter a Buddhist temple near his village. After receiving the tonsure at the age of 16, he traveled to the Kyoto and Kamakura areas visiting the major temples and centers of Buddhist study. He investigated all the existing sects and their teachings concluding that the Lotus Sutra is indeed the highest among Shakyamuni’s sutras. He also learned that the leaders of the existing sects had only a superficial understanding of the sutra’s meaning and had no inkling of the profound truth hidden within its depths. Only he was enlightened to the entity of the mystic law the words of the Lotus Sutra described. The corrupt state of the temples and priests exactly matched the description in Shakyamuni’s predictions.

Realizing that he himself was the very one of whom the sutras spoke, Nichiren Daishonin determined to take on the awesome challenge of confronting the entrenched, established sects and religious authorities. Calling upon the people of his age and the future to take faith in the wonderful mystic law of the Lotus Sutra, he boldly declared the founding of his true Buddhism on April 28, 1253. He taught that the practice which perfectly accords with the times and the capacity of the people is the chanting of the invocation “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo”. Beginning with this declaration, Nichiren Daishonin struggled unceasingly to propagate the heart of the Lotus Sutra, the profound law which he cherished in the depths of his life. True to the sutra’s predictions, he endured and overcame persecutions unprecedented in the history of Buddhism, including two exiles and an attempt by the military government to execute him. Fulfilling his life’s mission on October 12, 1279 with the establishment of the True Object of Worship manifesting the totality of the enlightenment of the True Buddha and the cause for enlightenment of all mankind, Nichiren Daishonin peacefully passed away on October 13, 1282.

THE NICHIREN SHOSHU RELIGION

The religion of Nichiren Shoshu can lead anyone, regardless of nationality, gender, age, intelligence or any other qualifying characteristic to enlightenment in this lifetime. Based on cause and effect, believers attain enlightenment through sincere effort in the three essentials of “faith”, “practice” and “study.”

“Faith” in Nichiren Shoshu means practicing True Buddhism with confidence that it will lead us to enlightenment. Our goal is to steadily build our faith day by day through actual experience, eventually attaining a doubt free mind. Because Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism possesses the highest truth and practice appropriate for this age, doubt free faith leads directly to enlightenment.

“Practice” is a characteristic of Buddhism which is new to some people in the West. Practice is the means by which we put into action the conviction of our faith and make real in our own daily lives, theories and concepts learned through study.

“Study” means to read the writings of Nichiren Daishonin and the High Priest with faith, continually seeking to better know the True Buddha’s mind and spirit. Attending lectures at the temple also exposes our seeking minds to the Buddha’s wisdom.

NAM-MYOHO-RENGE-KYO

The primary practice in Nichiren Shoshu is to chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo (Daimoku) as we face the true object of worship (Gohonzon). Nichiren Daishonin established this practice as the cause to directly manifest our inherent potential for Buddhahood. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is the name, entity, quality, function and teaching at the true entity that is the essence of all phenomena and as such is virtually impossible to explain in a simple way. Nevertheless, a superficial translation could be rendered, “Fusion with the mystic entity of all phenomena simultaneously manifesting cause and effect.” According to the True Buddha’s teachings a person who chants the Daimoku with profound faith will immediately begin to receive the beneficial influence of the Buddha’s wisdom and compassion. Naturally, a lifetime of causes based on beliefs contrary to Buddhism is not completely reversed in one day, but from the first day the Buddhist path is entered, arrival at the ultimate destination of indestructible happiness is assured. Along the way, many “benefits” of Buddhist practice, both conspicuous and inconspicuous, will appear bringing encouragement and joy to the believer and his family and friends.

As a secondary practice, a portion of the second and the entire sixteenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra are recited. Together, recitation of the sutra and Daimoku chanting constitute the daily practice of Nichiren Shoshu believers and result in the purification at one’s life which, in time, produces far reaching effects in all aspects of a person’s existence.

THE GOHONZON

The object of worship of Nichiren Shoshu is the enlightened life of the founder, Nichiren Daishonin. While he was alive, his disciples and believers were able to directly receive the beneficial influence of the mystic power and wisdom of the True Buddha. In order to save his disciples and believers who would take faith after his passing, the Daishonin infused his enlightened life into the object of worship known as the Dai-Gohonzon, thereby establishing the cause for the universal propagation of True Buddhism and the securing of peace throughout the world. All Gohonzons enshrined in temples and homes of believers are transcriptions of the Dai-Gohonzon and derive their power from it.

The physical form of the Gohonzon consists of planks of wood or sheets of paper onto which are inscribed Chinese and Sanskrit characters infused with the life of the True Buddha. Down the center of the Gohonzon, “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo Nichiren” is inscribed manifesting the entity of the oneness of the Person, (the True Buddha) and the Law, (Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo). Arrayed around this central inscription of the Mystic Law are characters expressing the Ten Worlds of the Original Buddha’s life. Therefore, when we are seated before the Gohonzon we should realize that we are in the presence of the True Buddha and observing the true entity of all phenomena.

Our devotion to the Buddha expressed through our sincere chanting of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is the means by which we can fuse our lives with the life of the Buddha. While in this state of fusion, the powers of the Buddha and the Law permeate our existence, purifying our minds, extinguishing our evil karma and planting seeds of wisdom, compassion and virtue in our lives.

Having established the correct object of worship and the correct way of faith and practice to manifest the Gohonzon’s beneficial power within the lives of believers, the Daishonin transferred the living entity of his inner enlightenment to his sole successor, the second high priest, Nikko Shonin. This specific transmission to one and only one person is the basis upon which each successive high priest transcribes the Gohonzons which are bestowed upon disciples and believers of succeeding generations. This unbroken flow of the Buddha’s life between master and disciple is the means by which the Daishonin’s enlightenment will remain in the world to save all mankind throughout eternity.

HEAD TEMPLE TAISEKI-JI

Standing at the base of majestic Mount Fuji, Nichiren Shoshu Head Temple Taiseki-ji is the center and focus of faith for believers all over the world. For it is here that the Dai-Gohonzon is enshrined and the successive high priests teach disciples and believers the orthodox faith of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. To make a pilgrimage to Taiseki-ji to worship the Dai-Gohonzon and to receive an audience with the high priest is the heartfelt wish of all believers and is the fundamental cause to transform one’s unhappy destiny into a new and fortunate future.

Taiseki-ji more than 700 years history is the source for over 700 branch temples spread throughout the world. Local believers participate in Temple activities and receive the Gohonzon and instruction in faith directly from their local Chief Priest. In this way, the orthodox teachings of Nichiren Shoshu will, in time, reach all people.