Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism/Part 7

By: John Ankerberg, John Weldon; ©2000
In Nichiren Shoshu, virtually everything rests upon the claim to have the true interpretation of the Lotus Sutra, their principal Scripture.

The Lotus Sutra NSA Credibility, and Mystical Hermeneutics


In Nichiren Shoshu, virtually everything rests upon the claim to have the true interpretation of the Lotus Sutra, their principal Scripture. If this cannot be objectively substantiated, Nichiren Shoshu is invalidated as to its basic claims. Nichiren Shoshu then becomes culpable for teaching its members a false religion, even by Buddhist standards, and must be considered fraudulent on this basis alone, other grounds notwithstanding.

The date of this Buddhist Sutra must be our first concern, for if it was not written ca. 900 B.C., (four full centuries before the Buddha!) NS has a very serious problem. Characteristically, there is no consensus on when the LotusSutra, one of the most revered of Mahayana texts, was written, but it could not have been written 900B.C. This may be why Ikeda writes, “just how the Lotus Sutra came into being is a question involving a number of historical riddles….”[1] Scholars are, however, generally certain that it is a later Buddhist document and probably composed over a period of several centuries. M.A. Ehman states, “Some passages of the sutra may antedate the Christian era, but the entire text could not have been completed much before A.D. 200.”[2] Above we cited Yale historian Kenneth Scott Latourette who argued, “[Nichiren] was mistaken in his conviction that the Lotus Sutra contained the primitive Buddhism. As a matter of fact it was a late production, an expression of a form of Buddhism that would scarcely have been recognized by Gautama, or if recognized would have been repudiated.”[3]

According to a standard modern Sanskrit translation by Kern, the Lotus Sutra was in existence before 250 A.D., and he believes the earlier portions (Chapters 1-20, 27) date “some centuries earlier.”[4] Its first known commentary was penned around 550-600 A.D.[5] Hence, it would seem nearly impossible to stretch its origin to 500 B.C. (the generally accepted date of Buddha), let alone to 900 B.C., the date NS maintains it was written. How could a clearly Buddhist document be written 400 years before the Buddha was born? Yet this 900 B.C. date must be true for NS claims to be valid. Why?

Nichiren declared he was the fulfillment of a prophecy in the Sutra predicting a coming Buddha who would return 2000 years after Gautama’s death. Two thousand years after Gautama’s death is 1517 A.D. , 300 years after Nichiren was born in 1222 A.D.. So, the only way the prophecy can be fulfilled in Nichiren, is for Buddha and the Lotus sutra to have existed ca. 900 B.C. Nichiren, then, was not only in error in believing the sutra was written by Buddha, he was in error in thinking that he was the fulfillment of its alleged prophecy.[6] Brannen states, “The sutra is obviously a treatise written to defend the worship of Gautama as the primordial Buddha which had developed in Mahayana Buddhism and to justify the origin of the Mahayana school.”[7]

Regardless, besides difficulty with the text itself (its time of composition and degree of corruption), there is a serious problem with its content. Since the Sutra is contradictory, NS divides it into two parts: the “theoretical teaching” (the first half) and the “essential teaching” (the last half). As Kirimura acknowledged when comparing the seventh and sixteenth chapters, “clearly the teaching of these two chapters of the Sutra are contradictory.”[8] As we will document in our next section, the Sutra not only contradicts itself, but some important NS doctrines are absent. This forces NS into a subjective, mystical heremeneutic in order to allegedly “expound” the text “accurately.” The fact that the text itself is incapable of objective or uniform interpretation calls into question both Daishonin’s interpretation of the Sutra and modern Nichiren Shoshu’s interpretation of Daishonin.[9] Consider the following statement in the forward to Josei Toda’s commentary on Chapters 2 and 16 of the Lotus Sutra titled Lectures on the Sutra (1984 rev. ed.). In essence, it is asserted that the study of the Sutra is not made in order to comprehend the text itself, but to understand that the true essence of the Buddha’s teachings can only become meaningful through chanting to the Gohonzon. “The study of the Lotus Sutra in Nichiren Shoshu is not undertaken as an intellectual exercise merely with the goal of comprehending ancient writings and teachings. Rather, it pursues the essence of the Buddhist teachings–an essence which comes alive through the practice of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, i.e., the recitation of gongyo to the Gohonzon.”[10]

That NS should rest its claims for religious truth upon a mystical approach to a corrupted and contradictory text is not surprising, but neither is it conducive to the constant assertions of NS regarding its scientific objectivity and its claim to have uncovered “Buddhist truth.” Kern points out that even the Buddhist scribes seemed not to care for their scripture: “In general, it may be said that all the known copies of the Saddharma-pundarika [the lotus sutra] are written with a want of care, little in harmony with the holy character of the book.”[11]

This is one reason NS relies so heavily on its mystical approach toward chanting, i.e., that the essence and benefits (“knowledge”) of the Sutra are in fact absorbed through the invocation, not the study of the text itself. Obviously then, problems relative to a corrupted text become less relevant. Nevertheless, on the basis of objective textual data that does exist, one cannot logically maintain that the historic Buddha penned the Sutra, nor can one argue that the Sutra is capable of uniform interpretation. Further, as we will see, neither Nichiren Shoshu nor Nichiren Daishonin could have interpreted it accurately. The simple fact is that there is no “true” or “accurate” interpretation.

Having now introduced this important topic, we shall proceed to a more in-depth analysis.

The Mythological Nature of the Sutra and its Mystical Interpretation

Being a pagan, mythological text, the Sutra is full of vast numbers of gods, demons, bodhisattvas, giantesses, goblins, garudas (bird gods), great serpents, and other mythological creatures. We find worship endorsed for “thirty hundred thousands myrads of kotis (kotis = tens of millions) of Buddhas,” i.e., an infinite number. Further, the eternal Buddha states, “after my complete extinction” he will send “gods and goblins in great number” to the proclaimers of the Lotus Sutra.[12]

Two examples of the mythical content will help us understand the difficulty the Lotus Sutra offers for any religion based on it. (These are taken from Chapters 7 and 20, respectively.) This will also illustrate its lack of practical application to the believer,[13] and again indicate the necessity for a mystical approach in allegedly absorbing its teachings through chanting:

…the great Brahma-angels in the fifty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of spheres mounted all together their own divine aerial cars, took with them divine bags, as large a mount Sumeru [the largest mountain of all, located in the center of the earth], with celestial flowers….until they arrived at the western quarter….[and saw the Lord Buddha] seated on the royal throne at the foot of the tree of enlightenment, surrounded and attended by gods, Nagaas [serpent deities], goblins, Gandharvas [half man-half bird creatures], demons, Garudas, Kinnaras, great serpents, men and beings not human….[14]
Thereupon the Lord Sakyamuni [Gautama Buddha]…and the wholly extinct Lord Prabhutaratna…commenced smiling to one another, and from their opened mouths stretched out their tongues, so that with their tongues they reached the Brahma-world [nearly an infinite distance away], and from those two tongues issued many hundred thousand myriads of kotis of rays.
From each of those rays issued many hundred thousand disciples, with gold coloured bodies and possessed of the thirty-two characteristic signs of a great man, and seated on thrones consisting of the interior of lotuses. Those Bodhisattvas spread in all directions in hundred thousands of worlds, and while on every side stationed in the sky preached the law. Just as the Lord Sakyamuni…produced a miracle of magic by his tongue, so, too…[did the others].[15]

Naturally, the only way a religion claiming strict allegiance to science can deal with the extensive myth and supernaturalism of the Sutra, is through the demythologizing of the text. No matter how fantastic a given scene, it can always be said to describe some particular “aspect” of human life. Exactly which aspect is anybody’s guess, however NS trusts in Nichiren’s views and in the official interpretation of him. Nevertheless, an appeal to (1) figurative language or (2) Buddha’s cryptic teaching methods offers little solution to the problem of knowing what the original authors meant, or how to apply their teaching today. This is why we find numerous contradictory interpretations and numerous competing Nichiren sects.[16] It then becomes clear that NS does not have the correct interpretation of the Lotus Sutra, simply because there is none. Ikeda quotes even the Buddha himself as saying in Chapter 10, stanza 15, of the Sutra: “The Sutras which I have expounded number in the countless millions, those I have expounded in the past, those I expound now, and those I shall expound in the future. But among all those, this Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand.”[17][18]

Objective understanding is therefore impossible. The Sutra can mean anything to anyone and becomes useless as an authoritative standard for doctrine or practice. In a “Reply to Myoho-ama,” Nichiren declared that those “who can explain the meaning of the Lotus Sutra and clearly answer questions concerning it” are as rare as “those who are able to kick the entire galaxy away like a ball.”[19] Indeed, perhaps this is why he said in the same letter that if you chant the daimoku and do nothing else, you are reading the Sutra correctly! But, should potential converts accept that a mystical practice will allow them to “read” a text correctly? : “if you ceaselessly chant Daimoku, you will be continually reading the Lotus Sutra.”[20] As Ikeda states, “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the Lotus Sutra and everything it means.”[21] In other words, simply by chanting one “properly” interprets the Sutra. But how can this approach be a satisfying one for those who are allegedly a scientific, rationally minded people? And if the Sutra cannot be properly interpreted, what happens to the religion based on it? Nichiren Daishonin put all his trust in his interpretation of the Lotus Sutra. But his followers historically have offered their own conflicting interpretations. Who can know Nichiren Daishonin’s interpretation of the Sutra was correct? In light of the many conflicting Nichiren sects, how can the NS disciple know if the NS interpretation of Nichiren’s writings is really the true one?

Consider only a few examples of the differences between NS and the Lotus Sutra. First, NS defines the ultimate law as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; it also propounds the crucial doctrine of ichinen sanzen ( the theory of 3,000 worlds in each moment) and other teachings–yet it admits these teachings are neither mentioned nor defined in the Lotus Sutra.[22] Second, it maintains an antisupernatural approach which is totally repudiated by the Sutra itself.

In other words, even though Nichiren and NS claim they are the guardians of the true interpretation of the Sutra, the Sutra itself rejects some of their key beliefs. NS literature claims that such doctrines are present but they are hidden from profane eyes. Thus, such doctrines exist in the “unwritten truth behind the letter.”[23] Even so, given a written document, how is an unwritten truth acceptable as orthodox doctrine? By occult meditation.

The doctrines of the Sutra “are not always written in language plain enough for all to comprehend,” hence it was only through “long hours of contemplation” that even Tendai was able “to identify the principles hidden within the Sutra.”[24] Nichiren himself first learned how to interpret it “correctly” by deep meditation. Thus the preface to The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Vol. II declares, “in it the timeless principles of Buddhism are clarified from the standpoint of the Daishonin’s enlightenment….”[25] Josei Toda, the second president, was to no ones surprise, hopelessly confused about Buddhism and the Sutra. Who was the Buddha? What does the Lotus Sutra mean? He repeatedly asked himself these questions during his time in prison. Eventually, only after hundreds of thousands of daimoku (chants) and “long, deep meditation,” did he realize who the Buddha was.[26] The answer to the second question was also received mystically.

Later on, another crucial question struck him. What is the truth of the Lotus Sutra? And he devoted his entire being to pondering on this until he had chanted on a million and eight hundred thousand daimoku. In mid-November 1944, while chanting daimoku, he found himself in the air worshipping the Dai-Gohonzon together with innumerable others. Returning to reality, he found himself again in the cold prison. Overjoyed, he began to read the Lotus Sutra which had been too difficult for him to understand until that time. However, now he could comprehend it as easily and accurately as if he had picked up a notebook he himself had written long ago.[27]

Although Toda and Ikeda (his pupil) both claimed to be able to interpret the Sutra “easily and accurately,” interpretations originating from altered states of consciousness are hardly reliable. A number of examples from Lectures on the Sutra and Fundamentals of Buddhism illustrate this.[28] When Sakyamuni allegedly states in the Sutra that “once Taho practiced the bodhisattva austerities”–this is interpreted by NS to mean “that at one time he practiced this Law–Nam-myoho-renge-kyo–to attain enlightenment.”[29] In another part of the Sutra, bodhisattvas spring from the earth. The “earth” is interpreted variously as “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,” the “essential life,” and as the philosophy and cultures of the various continents.[30]

Another passage in the Sutra reads, “This efficacious medicine I now leave here for you to take. Do not fear that you will not be cured.” According to NS the “proper” interpretation is that “the medicine” is the Gohonzon; “I now leave here” is the kaidan or place of worship; and “for you to take” means chanting daimoku.[31] But again, none of these key NS doctrines are actually written in the Lotus Sutra and NS admits as much: “the Three Great Secret Laws [Gohonzon, daimoku, kaidan]. . . .are called secret because neither Sakyamuni nor his successors in India and China ever revealed them. Nichiren Daishonin was the first.”[32] Again, on what basis does NS lay claim to finding “true” Buddhism in the Lotus Sutra?

“The Ceremony in the Air” is a key event recorded in the text. This discusses a vital assembly convened by the gods to spread the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. How does NS interpret it? In Chapter 11, there is the appearance of the Treasure Tower (half the size of the world), which rises from the interior of the earth and ascends into the sky. Taho Buddha announces from the tower that all of Sakyamuni’s (Gautama’s) teachings are true. Sakyamuni then summons all the Buddhas in the universe, seats himself alongside Taho, and through his occult powers transports the entire assembly into the air. There, in “The Ceremony in the Air,” he preaches about spreading the teachings of the Sutra. NS interprets this as supporting its doctrines. Thus, when Sakyamuni and Taho Buddha were in the Treasure Tower together this is seen as a lesson on the three characteristics, or phases, of the Buddha. The former (Sakyamuni) represented the subject (the wisdom to know reality), the latter (Taho Buddha) the object (reality itself). “That they sat beside each other signifies the unity of subject and object,”[33] one being the Buddha nature inherent in our lives, the other the wisdom to realize it. All the other Buddhas present represent “merciful functions arising from the combination of the two,” and “the gathering of all these Buddhas. . .signifies that the life of the Eternal Buddha of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo [Nichiren] is endowed with the three phases.”[34] Of course, the list is endless for other possible interpretations. Elsewhere we find that it is the Treasure Tower which is variously interpreted as Nan-myoho-renge-kyo, as the Gohonzon, as one’s own life, as Buddhahood, etc.–but “The Ceremony in the Air” is given the same interpretations and is also said to “signify the principle of Kyochi myogo, ‘the oneness of subjective enlightenment and objective verification.'”[35] In the following quotation, note that the “true” meaning of the Sutra is found only through the unconscious mind: “As Bodhisattvas of the Earth, however, we have all attended the eternal ceremony [in the air] in which the Lotus Sutra was taught, and that experience is indelibly recorded in the deepest realms of our unconsciousness [sic]. It is therefore in the depths of our lives, in the realm of the unconscious mind, where we grasp the meaning of the Lotus Sutra.”[36]

In A Reply to Lord Nanjo, Nichiren told Nanjo, “Try to come see me at the earliest possible occasion. I am awaiting you here.” NS argues, “This statement should be interpreted today to mean that the Dai-Gohonzon is anxiously awaiting all the people of the earth to come and worship.”[37] NS claims it is a rational religion, but is it?

We have labored to arrive at this point to introduce a key apologetic of NS. According to George Williams, director of NS, NS proves it is the true religion by three tests. Writing in NSA Seminars: An Introduction to True Buddhism, he argues the true religion must have 1) literal proof — a reliable, written scripture; 2) theoretical proof — the true interpretation of that scripture; evidence that no changes have been made in original doctrines, and that scriptures harmony with science and logic; 3) actual proof — the experience of chanting and receiving benefits.[38]

Our earlier discussions have shown that the available evidence requires a disproof of the first two tests. The Lotus Sutra is not reliable, nor has it been accurately transmitted. NS has not always interpreted it in harmony with Nichiren and there have been substantial doctoral changes made. Further, as we will proceed to show, NS theory is anything but logical or scientific. Nevertheless, William proceeds to declare, “the Buddhist teachings state, ‘if their use neither document nor logic, one should not believe.’ Who can disagree with this rational attitude?”[39] A good point.

Again, in the first chapter of the Lotus Sutra, we find the Buddha sitting on the Vulture Peak surrounded by 1,200 monks with occult powers, 6,000 nuns, 80,000 Bodhisattvas, 80,000 gods (including the sun, moon and wind gods), millions of Gandharvas and an infinite number of demons and other beings.[40] The Buddha enters a trance state, celestial flowers gently fall and cover the assembly and “the Buddha field” shakes in six different ways. A ray issues from the circle of hair between the eyebrows of Buddha extending over 1,800,000 Buddha fields. This causes all beings everywhere to become visible and hear the message preached by the Buddha.

The Seikyo Times comments upon this chapter and the rest of the Sutra.[41] Significantly, the article does not declare the events were myth, to the contrary:Just imagine–hundreds of thousands of people gathered on top of a rocky mountain peak! The Eagle [vulture] Peak still exists in India, but it seems far too small to accommodate such a vast host. . .yet the Buddha had the attention of everyone present and his words appear to have reached them all. . . .The appearance of this [treasure] tower, which was about half the size of the earth itself, must have absolutely astounded the people gathered there.

Such an analysis comes from the same group which adamantly preaches that “true religion” must have the above three proofs, one proof being:

If the literature is not rational, logical and scientific, it cannot be a basic teaching for modern people who have acquired the scientific way of thinking and living. . . .The history of Buddhism can be cited as an example proving that Buddhism is scientific. No evidence can be found of struggle between it and science throughout its long history, as often occurred in the history of Christianity. Superstitious and unscientific doctrines contradict scientific logic and cause strife.[42]

Yet this very quotation states, “How about Christianity? . . .who can believe such unscientific nonsense?!”

Nevertheless, the commentary in Seikyo Times goes on to ask a crucial question of the above event. Under the heading “Setting the Chart for Science,”[!] we find:

:Is it reality or illusion? Whoever reads the Lotus Sutra will face this question, since the story goes so far from what we think of as common sense. Assemblies of hundreds of thousands of people, the appearance of the 500-yujun-high Treasure Tower, the emergence of as many Bodhisattvas of the Earth as the sands of the Ganges–these all are staggering to the imagination. However, they are not mere illusions or grandiose tales.[43]Some scholars criticize the Lotus Sutra as being a product of the unique imagination of the Indian people. It is easy to reach this conclusion, but to discover what the ancient Indians desired to tell with this sutra is not easy at all. Criticism such as that mentioned above only shows the arrogant reliance some contemporaries have on the current limits of science and rational thought. Yet modern thought is not automatically more correct. Our first requirement is to view this sutra with an open mind. With a seeking attitude, the living story of the Lotus Sutra becomes meaningful.[44]

Hence, in the above quote we see: (1) an admission that the Sutra goes beyond the bounds of common sense, (2) openness to the possibility of a literal interpretation, (3) the admission that the Sutra’s intent and purpose is obscure, (4) a possible denial of rationality and modern science when it opposes the Sutra, and (5) the necessity of an “open mind” and a “seeking attitude” for the Sutra to have any real meaning.

The article goes on to admit of the Sutra, that many readers “. . . may still find it difficult to grasp its actual relationship to our daily lives.”[45] Yet Ikeda states, “if one cannot apply the teachings of the text in one’s daily life . . .then one’s understanding of the Sutra is valueless.”[46] (Unfortunately, some disciples historically took the “relationship” quite literally. In Chapter 23, the Sutra contains examples of bodhisattvas igniting themselves and burning for thousands of years, illuminating the galaxy. Murata comments: “In ancient China, some devotees took these allegories literally and burned their fingers or arms and even incarcerated themselves in drastic affirmation of their faith and to early followers of the Lotus Sutra in Japan, such acts of devotion were thought more important than the intellectual comprehension of the sutra.”[47]

Unfortunately, the NS disciple has the same problem with the founder of their religion that they have with their scripture. In reading The Gosho Reference, Vol. 1, the NS translation and commentary on 34 of Nichiren’s letters (over half incompletely translated), we find that according to the normal reading of the text there is often an ambiguous interpretation, and that Nichiren had the same difficulties in interpreting the Sutra as everyone else.[48][49] Also, Nichiren views himself as no more than a common mortal and in what he called “his most important teachings” (“The True Nature of Life”), even he expressed doubts about his own Buddhist mission.[50]

Nevertheless, Nichiren claimed that only the Lotus Sutra was valid and that only his interpretation was true. But NS declares that only their interpretation of Nichiren is correct , even though they proceed to distort him. For example, it is clear that Nichiren’s worldview was thirteenth century magical and polytheistic, not twentieth century rational and scientific. In “Reply to Kyo’o-dono,” he declares he is praying to Nitten and Gatten (the sun and moon gods), “each and every moment of the day.”[51] To interpret his writings solely in light of twentieth century science (the gods being “natural functions of the universe”), distorts his writings and offers ideas that Nichiren could never have intended. We could cite many examples, e.g., in “A Reply to Lord Ueno,” “The Proof of the Lotus Sutra” and elsewhere, he clearly believes in spirits as personal entities. He says of King Asoka, “He even kept spirits in his service.”[52] Demons, too, are clearly personal spirits.[53] In the NS commentary following these sections, however, the demons are spoken of as impersonal concepts. Elsewhere Nichiren sees heaven as a place and gods as spirits, but Ikeda maintains that Heaven is “nature” and the gods’ “life itself.”[54] Another commentator admits that some Sutras state, “. . .hell is found under the ground”; yet he goes on to state, “This may be interpreted to mean that it is such an extremely oppressed condition of life that one feels as if he were sinking into the depths of the earth.”[55]

Modern leaders offer no solution to the dilemmas they face. For many years, NS disciples have continued to trust these spiritual guides. But their own leaders do not even trust Nichiren. In an embarrassing statement , Nichiren declared that his followers were to believe in the Lotus sutra “exactly as it teaches,” and accept that “the entire Lotus Sutra is true.”[56] So how is it that even President Ikeda admitted the Lotus Sutra contains “fables?” Why did he declare of “The Ceremony in the Air” that “it is difficult to believe. . .it is too unrealistic to be true.”? Why did he admit that the Lotus Sutra contained “the element of the fantastic and irrational.”?[57] Does he have the same faith in the Sutra as Nichiren, and if not, what of those he leads?

Although Nichiren did interpret at least part of the Sutra symbolically (The Treasure Tower represented the true Buddhist and was the daimoku), in “Reply to Lord Nanjo” he stated, “If there should be any falsity in the Sutra whatsoever, what is there [left] in which one can believe?”[58] This is the point. Daishonin maintained, “. . .there can be not the least falsity in the Lotus Sutra. . . .”[59] But did even Nichiren believe that the body of a bodhisattva “continued blazing for twelve thousand years without ceasing to burn,” lighting up the whole galaxy?[60] Apparently so. For moderns, the accepted method for sidestepping such difficulties is to either ignore the text, or to claim only the truly enlightened will understand. As Ikeda argued, “. . .unless one to some extent is able to enter the realm of the enlightenment of a Buddha, he can hardly hope to grasp its truths.”[61] Thus, understanding the Sutra “from a literary point of view” is fruitless; unless one chants daimoku, all the study in the world of the Sutra is valueless for comprehending it.[62] Ikeda says, “It is useless to ask whether any such miraculous phenomenon actually took place at the time when Sakyamuni was preaching the Lotus Sutra, nor would there be any point to such a question. The important message. . .is that Buddha world is present within the life force of every single person….”[63]

So, why is his interpretation valid? How can we say the Buddha’s preaching or teaching was real, when the miracle in which the preaching occurred was not? Perhaps it is relevant to note that Chris Roman, an associate editor of Seikyo Times, admits that if we apply the same method of interpretation to the Bible (that they apply to the Sutra), “it becomes apparent that [the Christian] God is inherent in nature itself, a force eternal, working to maintain harmony between all its various existences and reacting on the basis of a fundamental law of cause and effect.”[64] Again, this is exactly the point. Once we remove the Bible from its history, culture and context, it becomes a useless document. In the same manner, NS has removed the Sutra from its cultural environment and twisted it to conform to the modern, “scientific” worldview of NS,–and it has become a useless document. Editor Roman goes on to deny any validity to a magical ceremony that actually took place in the sky at some historical point in time. However, when a person chants daimoku, “he is attesting to the truth of The Ceremony in the Air within his own life,” that 3,000 conditions exist in his life at every moment. Thus, “. . .only when we understand the proper way of reading the Lotus Sutra can we come to grasp its profound view of life. . . .In other words the Lotus Sutra contains a detailed analysis of what life is.”[65]

But how does any believer know this? How can the NS believer chant daily when the chant does not even exist in ones scripture? For NS perhaps the most crucial “doctrine” is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It is as central to NS as Christ is to Christianity. But we do not find this term or its meaning mentioned anywhere in the Lotus Sutra. What if Jesus Christ were not mentioned anywhere in the New Testament? Would there be a Christianity? “In what part of the Lotus Sutra did Sakyamuni clarify this law? Even if we peruse the Sutra over and over again, we are unable to know what the law is.”[66] And, “For some untold reasons, Sakyamuni did not define the law as Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, but gave somewhat abstract explanations in what was later called the Lotus Sutra.”[67] Clearly, the “law” was not there until Nichiren supplied the new interpretation, because the law was hidden “beneath the Letter.”[68] Nichiren, who entered the scene at least a thousand years after the Sutra was written, was the first to “clarify the entity of life” as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, despite the fact that the Lotus Sutra is believed to be the Buddha’s “highest” teachings, and therefore should have been “clarified” when he first composed it. In the January 1979 Seikyo Times, Yasuji Kirimura admits, “There is one essential point which we might think should have been revealed, but which was in actuality omitted”; and he laments, “There can be no such vital omission, however. Simply, the Sutra does not state it explicitly.”[69] One might think that such a fact would cause one to doubt Nichiren’s wisdom in selecting the Lotus Sutra as the “true” teaching of Buddhism, if not NS altogether. However, rather than admit that Nichiren was in error, we discover that the truth is really there after all, but it is “between the lines” and “beneath the letter.” After all, since Nichiren is the true Eternal Buddha, only he could show us what it really means: “Incidentally, to think that Nichiren Daishonin delved into the Lotus Sutra and therein found the ultimate law is a mistake [because it is not there]. Actually, no one except the Daishonin could clarify what The Ceremony in the Air expresses. From his enlightenment to the ultimate law, the Daishonin shed new light upon the Lotus sutra….The true purpose of this great Sutra was revealed and fulfilled for the first and last time by Nichiren Daishonin.”[70]

Further, as noted, the central doctrine of ichenen sanzen is also absent from the Sutra. Brannen points out, “The teaching of the ichinen sanzen is not made explicit in the basic doctrine of the Lotus Sutra. It was Tendai Daishi [a predecessor to Nichiren] who discovered the truth, but Nichiren alone was able to. . .interpret the unwritten truth behind the letter.”[71]

The Seikyo Times of January 1979 states: “The doctrine of ichinen sanzen is found only in one place, hidden in the depths of the Juryo chapter [16] of the Lotus Sutra”[72] but Lectures on the Sutra states: “The Juryo chapter does not necessarily reveal the ‘eternity of life’ however.”[73]

What we have, then, is a religion made of whole cloth. NS doctrine is “kept in secret in the depths” of the chapters and found “between the lines.”[74] NS doctrine, according to Nichiren, is “hidden truth. . .which lies beneath the letter.”[75]

Just as the Buddha did not really compose the Lotus Sutra, the Lotus Sutra does not really contain the doctrines of Nichiren Shoshu. Of course, even these issues are academic for if, as NS teaches, the Buddha “guided the masses by various fables” for 42 years, on what basis can we be certain his last few years of alleged teaching in the Lotus Sutra was any different?[76] Is not “his” Sutra little more than “various fables?”


Since precious little of objective reality is left us here, perhaps it is not surprising Nichiren finally concluded the Lotus Sutra itself was unimportant!

This teaching (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) was not propagated in the Former and Middle days of the Law because it incapacitates other sutras. Now, in the Latter Day of The Law, neither the Lotus or the other sutras are useful (i.e., valid).[77] Only Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is beneficial.[78]

The above quote is found in “A Reply to Lord Ueno.”[79][80] In it Nichiren refers to both Sakyamuni and the Lotus Sutra. Note Ikeda’s interpretation (Ikeda himself was guided by the High Priest of NS, Nittatsu Hosoi): “Whenever the Daishonin refers to the Lotus Sutra as the teaching to spread in the Latter Day, he means the essence of the sutra [not found in it], Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Thus devotion to Sakyamuni and the Lotus Sutra means ‘devotion to Nichiren Daishonin and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.'”[81]

Nichiren Daishonin claimed to find the true teachings of the Buddha in the Lotus Sutra. Besides being wrong on this most crucial point, he even misinterpreted the Sutra and made it declare doctrines absent from the text itself–as have his followers. In that the entire NS religion is based upon Daishonin’s erroneous claims and interpretation, the credibility of NS is eroded, indeed, crushed. The Lotus Sutra, Nichiren’s interpretation of it and the NS interpretation of both the Sutra and Nichiren, present insurmountable difficulties for NSA.

All that remains is a 4 word chant.


  1. Daisaku Ikeda, “Guidance Summary,” Seikyo Tmes, Nov. 1978, p. 21.
  2. A. Ehman, “The Saddharmapundarika–Sutra” in Prebish ed., p. 102, cf. Murata, p. 24.
  3. Kenneth Scott Latourette, Introducing Buddhism, (New York: Friendship Press, 1956), p. 38.
  4. H. Kern (trans.), Saddharma-Pundarika or the Lotus of the True Law (New York: Dover Press, 1963), p. 22.
  5. Ibid., p. xxii.
  6. Nichiren Daishonin, “Letter to Myomitsu Shonin,” in Williams, p. 70. Nichiren claims he was born 2,220 years after Sakyamuni’s death.
  7. Brannen, p. 66.
  8. Kirimura,p. 104.
  9. Brannen, pp. 66-70; Thomsen, pp. 87-88.
  10. Nichiren Shoshu International Center Editorial Department, Lectures on the Sutra, Revised Edition 1984, pp. XIV-XV.
  11. Kern, p. xxxix.
  12. Ibid., pp. 145, 225.
  13. The problem is recognized though not dealt with; cf. Seiko Times, Nov. 1978, p. 22, and July 1975, p. 40; Lectures on the Sutra, p. 22.
  14. Ibid., pp. 161-162.
  15. Ibid., pp. 364-365.
  16. Thomsen, p. 82; Brannen; Seikyo Times, Jan. 1979, p. 14.
  17. Kern’s translation reads,”…is apt to meet with no acceptance with everybody, to find no belief with everybody.” (p. 219)
  18. Daisaku Ikeda, “Guidance Summary,” Seikyo Times, Nov. 1978, p. 22.
  19. Nichiren Daishonin, “Reply to Myoho-ama” in The Gosho Reference, Williams, p. 96.
  20. Ibid., pp. 97-99.
  21. Ikeda, Buddhism The Living Philosophy, p. 56, emphasis added.
  22. “The Opening of the eyes,” Seikyo Times, Jan. 1979, pp. 14; Yasuji Kirimura, “Nichiren Daishonin’s Life,” Seikyo Times, Jan. 1979, p. 51; cf. Brannen, p. 70.
  23. Brannen, p. 70, cf. “Contradictions” and below, emphasis added.
  24. Seikyo Times, Lectures on the Sutra, p. 17; cf. p. 171.
  25. The Gosho Translation Committee, The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. II (Tokyo: Nichiren Shoshu International Center, 1982), p. vii., emphasis added.
  26. Kirimura, p. 169.
  27. Ibid., pp. 169-170.
  28. The Seikyo Times, Lectures on the Sutra (Tokyo: Nichiren Shoshu International Center, 1978), pp. 167-168; Kirimura pp. 96, 97, 106, 107, 93, 119.
  29. Lectures on the Sutra, 1978, pp. 167-168.
  30. Kirimura, pp. 96-97.
  31. Ibid., pp. 119-120.
  32. Ibid., p. 119.
  33. Ibid., p. 106.
  34. Ibid., pp. 106-107.
  35. Ibid., pp. 92-93.
  36. Lectures on the Sutra, p. 23, emphasis added.
  37. “Tozan–Pilgrimage to Mankind’s Home,” Seikyo Times, Oct. 1971, p. 55.
  38. NSA Seminars: An Introduction to True Buddhism (World Tribune Press, 1974, pp. 51-54.
  39. Ibid.
  40. Kern, ch 1; cf., “Mankind’s Eternal Heritage,” Seikyo Times, July 1975, pp. 38-40 and “The Proof of the Lotus Sutra,” Seikyo Times, Nov. 1978, p. 11.
  41. “Mankind’s Eternal Heritage,” Seikyo Times, July 1975, pp. 38-39.
  42. Seikyo Press, The Soka Gakkai, pp. 78-79.
  43. Yet the Seikyo Times, Jan. 1979, states: “. . .these cannot be considered historical facts” (p. 58).
  44. “Mankind’s Eternal Heritage,” Seikyo Times, July 1975, p. 40.
  45. Ibid.
  46. Daisaku Ikeda, “Guidance Summary,” Seikyo Times, Nov. 1978, p. 22.
  47. /Murata, p. 28.
  48. There are some 300 explanatory notes for 34 short letters.
  49. e.g., Williams, The Gosho Reference, pp. 55, 66, 69, 78-81, 90-100, 105, 123, 146, 212, etc.
  50. Ibid., pp. 70, 89-91.
  51. Nichiren Daishonin, “Reply to Kyo’o-don” in Williams, p. 52, cf. 54-55.
  52. Nichiren Daishonin, “Reply to Lord Ueno,” in Williams, p. 121.
  53. Nichiren Daishonin, “The Proof of the Lotus Sutra,” Seikyo Times, Sept. 1975, pp. 55-57; also NSA Quarterly, Sum. 1974, pp. 46-48; Seikyo Times, Nov. 1978, p. 11; Soka Gakkai, pp. 94, 149.
  54. Daisaku Ikeda, “Religion is Man’s Fundamental Force to Humanize Culture,” Seikyo Times, Jan. 1972, p. 21.
  55. “Theory of Ten Worlds,” Seikyo Times, Apr. 1971, p. 58.
  56. “The Proof of the Lotus Sutra, Seikyo Times, Nov. 1978, p. 11; “Gosho for Practice,” Seikyo Times, Jan. 1975, p. 58.
  57. Chris Roman, “Buddhism and the Western-Philosophical Tradition” (4), Seikyo Times, Nov. 1978, pp. 43, cf., p. 22; Ikeda, Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life II, p. 16.
  58. Nichiren Daishonin, “Reply to Lord Nanjo,” in The Gosho Reference, Williams, p. 119.
  59. Ibid.
  60. Kern, ch. 22.
  61. Daisaku Ikeda, “Guidance Summary,” Seikyo Times, Nov. 1978, p. 22.
  62. Ibid.
  63. Daisaku Ikeda, “The Spirit of the Mahayana Buddhists,” Seikyo Times, Dec. 1978, p. 22.
  64. Chris Roman, Seikyo Times, Nov. 1978, p. 43.
  65. Ibid., p. 44.
  66. “The Lotus Sutra’s Intention,” Seikyo Times, Dec. 1978, p. 47; cf., Nov. 1978, p. 6.
  67. “The Lotus Sutra’s Intention,” Seikyo Times, Dec. 1978, p. 47; cf., Nov. 1978, p. 6.
  68. Brannen, p. 70; “The Opening of the eyes,” Seikyo Times, Jan. 1979, pp. 14, cf., p. 51.
  69. “Nichiren Daishonin’s Life,” Seikyo Times, January 1979, p. 51.
  70. “The Lotus Sutra’s Intention,” Dec. 1978, p. 48, emphasis added; cf., July 1975, p. 49, Apr. 1971, p. 60.
  71. Brannen, p. 70.
  72. “The Opening of the Eyes,” Seikyo Times, January 1979, p. 14.
  73. Seikyo Times, Lectures on the Sutra, p. 28, emphasis added.
  74. Takashi Harashima, “Faith and Study,” Seikyo Times, Nov. 1978, p. 6.
  75. Brannon, p. 70 (see p. 173), citing Nichiren’s Hon’inmyosho, from Nakamura, Bukkyo Tehodoke (Hosoi Seido: Tokyo, 1959), p. 159; cf. The Gosko Reference, Vol. 1, forward; Brannon, p. 146.
  76. Seikyo Press, The Soka Gakkai, p. 74.
  77. Ikeda translates “useful” as “valid” in The True Object of Worship, Part 1, p. 5.
  78. “Applying Faith in Society,” Seikyo Times, Nov. 1978, p. 39; See Ikeda, The True Object of Worship Part I, p. 5, from “Reply to Lord Uno.”
  79. The Gosho Reference does not contain this statement. See Note 177.
  80. “Questions and Answers on the Practice of Faith,” NSA Quarterly, Fall 1975, p. 77.
  81. Ikeda, The True Object of Worship Part I, (Santa Monica: World Tribune Press, 1977), p. 5.

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