One of the most important and widely practiced forms of Japanese Buddhism, Nichiren Shu is also one of the least known outside of Japan. The few books available in the West are either college-level texts or direct translations of works that assume some prior knowledge of this uniquely Japanese school of Buddhism.
Awakening to the Lotus finally explains Nichiren Shu in terms that everyone from the most basic beginner to those with previous experience of Nichiren Buddhist schools can understand. Examining the foundation, the teaching, the practice, and the beliefs of Nichiren Shu, this book can serve both as a handbook for those just beginning to practice Buddhism and as an information resource for those who simply want to learn more about this fascinating school.
Beginning with the basics of general Buddhism, Awakening to the Lotus quickly focuses in on the specific doctrines and teachings of Nichiren Shu. Ceremonies, special events, personal practice, the Lotus Sutra, and the teachings of the founder of the school, Nichiren Shonin, are all covered fully in easy to understand language.
The teachings which had come before Buddhism, Confucianism and Brahmanism, provided a basic moral framework for society. Hinayana Buddhism had introduced the beginning of Buddhist philosophy. Pre-Lotus Sutra Mahāyāna Buddhism had introduced the selfless ethics of the Bodhisattva. However, though Nichiren Shonin’s ethics were based on these systems, Open Your Eyes to the Lotus Teaching also provided a means of comparison between all of the systems. Each of the previous teachings showed only a portion of the truth; they were incomplete in themselves. Only the Lotus Sutra is complete; we can find ethical truths in other systems only when they are viewed through the lens of the Lotus Sutra.
Because Nichiren Shonin has had the great compassion to teach the Lotus Sutra in the Declining Age of the Dharma, the transmission of the Three Great Hidden Dharmas will extend beyond the Declining Age of the Dharma into the endless future.
This Buddha had sixteen sons, who upon hearing of their father’s enlightenment, renounced their positions and joined him as disciples. They along with all of the heavenly kings asked that Buddha to expound the Dharma and bring peace to all suffering beings. They said, “May the merits we have accumulated by this offering be distributed among all living beings, may we and all living beings together attain the enlightenment of the Buddha.” This teaches the core of the Great Vehicle, that enlightenment is not individual but universal salvation.
Each of us possesses a gem of priceless value. We have the wisdom of the Buddha within our hearts, but we are not aware of it. This wisdom is the Buddha-nature, the potential to become a Buddha. Because of our deluded state we are unaware of our Buddha-nature and fail to make any effort to develop it.
The main point of the Lotus Sutra is this: all Buddhas, whatever names they may use, are temporary manifestations of this Eternal Buddha. He appears in other forms in order to lead people to enightenment. However, these Buddhas are limited. They are provisional, only a reflection of the true form of the Eternal Buddha Sakyamuni in a given time and place.
The Lotus Sutra’s teaching of the Eternal Buddha brings together all of the aspects of the Buddha: the Truth, the person, and enlightened action.
We can see this complete figure of the Buddha when we faithfully devote ourselves to him. Faith in this case means devoting our actions and our thoughts to the Buddha’s way as expressed in his teaching in the Lotus Sutra. The physical body of the Buddha no longer exists since his body passed away, so the direct object of our devotion should be his teachings in the form of the Lotus Sutra. This sutra is the spirit of the Buddha and, since the Buddha’s death, his physical manifestation. Respecting and making offerings to the sutra is exactly the same as respecting and making offerings to the Buddha himself.
Since the Original Buddha is eternal, this world, where the Buddha lives, is also eternal. It can never be destroyed. However, ordinary people, deluded by worldly desires and unable to see with the eyes of the Buddha, think that this world is a defiled land, one which will burn away in the future. We see grief, pain and fear wherever we look. To us this is the “real world.” But our Buddha-nature can be realized in this defiled world. To enlightened eyes, the real world is revealed as a glorious Pure Land where all beings can attain Buddhahood.