Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism/Part 4

By: John Ankerberg, John Weldon; ©2000
Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism teaches that an omnipresent and ultimately impersonal “essential life” flows throughout the totality of the universe, both animate and inanimate.

Practice and Teaching –In Search of “Benefits”

Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism teaches that an omnipresent and ultimately impersonal “essential life” flows throughout the totality of the universe, both animate and inanimate. This life, however, assumes different forms. For example, in man, the life essence has manifested itself as consciousness, emotions, and other mental capacities. In trees, rocks, air, water, and so forth, the life essence is present, but latent, or dormant.

One conclusion we may draw from this teaching is that in terms of their true nature, man and the universe are ultimately one: their inner nature is identical, despite any differences in outward form. However, NS claims, until we practice the teachings of Nichiren Shoshu, this unity is neither realized nor appropriated, and “spiritual” benefits cannot be acquired until this occurs.

By chanting “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (again, the magical invocation which is believed to summarize and internalize the essence of the Lotus Sutra), one’s individual nature is brought into harmony with the “essential life” of the universe. Eventually, the highest expression of essential life, the Buddha nature (which is dormant in the inner self), is brought to the surface. The individual nature becomes united to the Buddha nature, the result allegedly being new spiritual power, self-renewal, greater wisdom and vitality–and not the least, material wealth.

In order to achieve this state of Buddhahood, each morning and night the NS member kneels, chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and recites sections from the Lotus Sutra. This ritual is performed before the Gohonzon, a small alter comprised of a Buddhist mandala. This mandala is a sacred piece of paper. It contains the sacred chant written vertically in the center and the name of Nichiren, around which are written the names of various Buddhist “gods” which are mentioned in the Lotus Sutra, including a “demon god.” (In NS, Buddhist “gods” and “demons” are not, officially, personal spirits, but positive and negative life functions.)

The daily ritual worship is termed gongyo, and consists of three aspects: the first (as noted) involves kneeling before the Gohonzon and reciting passages from the Lotus Sutra. This constitutes a mystical, not intellectual, endeavor. The second aspect of gongyo is chanting the daimoku: Nam-myoho-renge-kyo while rubbing a string of Juzu (prayer beads). Daimoku is also done throughout the day, and is the most important form of gongyo. The third aspect involves five prayers: prayers of gratitude to (1) various deities, (2) the Gohonzon and (3) Nichiren; (4) a prayer to fulfill one’s wishes; and (5) a prayer to the dead.

The Sutra passages are recited five times in the morning and three times in the evening. Chanting is performed until one “feels satisfied,” which may last many hours, producing something of a hypnotic or trance-like effect. One individual claimed to have chanted 12 million daimoku which, purportedly, led her into spirit contact. She claimed that “she directly met Nichiren Daishonin and received his guidance.”[1]

The emphasis on materialism and the element of personal power are the most obvious attractions of Nichiren Shoshu. Chanting is believed to bring “benefits” (answered “prayer”) in the form of acquiring possessions, money, health, and even control over one’s own personal circumstances and those of others. By chanting, one can allegedly acquire anything one desires: “Through faith in the Gohonzon he can fulfill any wish and control his environment….”[2]

The philosophy underlying this idea is probably of little concern to most followers, who are satisfied to simply be “receiving benefits.” Nevertheless, it is integral to NS theology. According to President Daisaku Ikeda, “There is a single, underlying rhythm which controls the constant shifting of nature and the play of her interlocking harmonies–a fundamental law which also moves and supports human life. Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism defines it as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo….”[3]

Nam means the consecration of one’s entire being into believing in the Gohonzon and all it represents.

Myoho is the supreme law of the universe, its natural working principle: “Buddhism interprets nature itself as the great life. There is no such god outside the great universe. The great universe itself is mysterious (Myo), and yet has a strict law (ho) in itself. Therefore, it should be termed Myoho, i.e., the Mystic Law.”[4]

Renge refers to the lotus flower and represents karma, interpreted as the “simultaneous nature of cause and effect.” Chanting is the highest possible cause, resulting in the natural effect of answered “prayer” or benefits.

Kyo is the “sound or vibration within the universe.” The sound and rhythm of the chant places one into harmony with the stream of life.[5]

By chanting, therefore, one allegedly brings one’s self into harmony with the laws of the universe and the fundamental flow of life. As one becomes united with the universe, “behavior will become synonymous with Mystic Law which leads to eternal happiness.”[6] The objects of our desires are now capable of “flowing” naturally to us; hence, regular practice allows us to achieve our desires and thereby produces happiness. According to President Ikeda, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo “is the origin of everything.”[7] Therefore, “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the essence of all life and the rhythm of the universe itself. Life can never be apart from Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and yet, because we have forgotten this, we have come out of rhythm with life itself. When we chant, we enter back into that basic rhythm and once again have the potential for indestructible happiness….[because] our life force will permeate the universe and the Buddha nature will emerge within ourselves, enabling us to fulfill our wishes.”[8]

Notes

  1. “Twelve Million Daemoku,” World Tribune, 31 August, 1970, p. 7.
  2. Ibid., 1 July, 1970, p. 7.
  3. Daisaku Ikeda, “Be Envoys of Peace for a Troubled Age,” NSA Quarterly, Winter 1976, p. 42.
  4. Daisaku Ikeda, “Be Envoys of Peace for a Troubled Age,” NSA Quarterly, Winter 1976, p. 42.
  5. NSA Quarterly, Spring 1973, pp. 59-60.
  6. Daisaku Ikeda, Lectures on Buddhism, Vol. IV, (Tokyo: The Seikyo Press, 1969), p. 119.
  7. Daisaku Ikeda, “Life’s Ultimate Fulfillment,” NSA Quarterly, Fall 1975, p. 68.
  8. NSA Quarterly, Spring 1973, pp. 59-60.

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