Category Archives: Lotus Seeds

Lotus Seeds: The Essence of Nichiren Shu Buddhism

Lotus Seeds bookcoverFrom the NBIC website

Almost 2500 years ago, the Buddha taught a way to relieve the suffering of all beings in the universe. In the thirteenth century, a Japanese monk named Nichiren proposed a reform of Buddhism to make the Buddha’s teaching and enlightenment once again accessible to all mankind without discrimination. His efforts led to the founding of the Nichiren Shu School of Buddhism.

This book makes the Buddha’s and Nichiren’s teachings accessible for us today. Lotus Seeds fills the gap of information for those seeking an English-language explanation of the foundation and essential teachings of Nichiren Shu.

Find out how to apply the principles of Nichiren Shu within your own life and join the practitioners of this unique form of Buddhism worldwide on making the world a better place. Plant Lotus Seeds in your life today.

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Six Perfections and the Eightfold Path

The awakened qualities which we develop through our practice are known as the Six Perfections (in Sanskrit, paramitas). The Six Perfections enable us to do the work of a bodhisattva. They are generosity, discipline, patience, energy, meditation, and wisdom.

These Six Perfections are a restatement of the Eightfold Path.

Six Perfections and Eightfold Path

The real difference between the Six Perfections and the Eightfold Path is the addition of generosity and patience, although these are implied by right intentions. By including these two perfections as separate items, it makes explicit the fact that we are not really following the Eightfold Path unless we are generous and patient with others. In this way, the Six Perfections underscore the compassionate dimension that is integral to Mahayana Buddhism.

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Four Bodhisattva Vows

A bodhisattva is a person who has reached a high level of spiritual maturity and has realized that his or her awakening depends upon the awakening of others. Seeing the suffering of others, a bodhisattva works to assist them to free themselves from suffering and then attain awakening. This intention is expressed in the “Four Bodhisattva Vows.” These vows are a part of the Nichiren Shu daily practice.

Sentient beings are innumerable.
I vow to save them all.

Our defilements are inexhaustible.
I vow to quench them all.

The Buddha’s teachings are immeasurable.
I vow to know them all.

The Way of the Buddha is unexcelled.
I vow to attain the Path Sublime.

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We’re All in the Same Boat

The bodhisattvas are as concerned about relieving the suffering of others as they are about relieving their own. One might even say they know we are all in the same boat, the Great Vehicle of the Mahayana, which takes all people to the other shore of perfect and complete awakening. Thus, the advancement of the individual is impossible without the advancement of all.

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The Delusion of a Separate Self

In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha states that he actually teaches only bodhisattvas. This means that even the voice-hearers who follow the Four Noble Truths or those who contemplate Dependent Origination are not authentic followers of the Buddha until they have the compassionate heart of a bodhisattva. Thus, it is not enough to simply follow the Eightfold Path. One must also follow it with the spirit of compassionate concern for others. The bodhisattvas do not practice only for their own benefit, they practice for the sake of all beings. This is because they are deeply aware of the interdependent nature of all things. That is, they realize that no one is disconnected from the whole. Therefore, the notion of a self-liberation apart from others is just another symptom of the delusion of a separate self.

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Shakyamuni Buddha’s Vision

The Mahayana sutras may not be the literal words of Shakyamuni Buddha, but they are in complete harmony with the Three Seals of the Dharma. Therefore, they are recognized as the Buddha’s own teaching. Through their use of myth and poetry to convey the true spirit of the Buddha’s teachings that lie within the words, thed Mahayana sutras may actually be better guides to the true intention or the historical Buddha than those sutras that only attempt to record actual events and discourses. For this reason, we can trust that the Mahayana sutras, and the Lotus Sutra in particular, are authentic expressions of Shakyamuni Buddha’s vision.

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The Mahayana Nirvana

In Mahayana teachings, Nirvana is characterized as “pure” because it is free of the defilements of greed, hatred, delusion, pride, and self-doubt; as “blissful” because it is free of suffering; as “eternal” because it is free of impermanence; and as the “true self” because it is free of the false idea of a self. Essentially, the seal of Nirvana is the seal of nonclinging and freedom from all attachments, limitations, and false, self-serving views. It is not a thing that we can create through our own efforts, receive from others, or have in the way we might possess an object or have an experience. It is the true nature of reality which we awaken to through taking faith in the Buddha’s teachings and upholding them in our lives.

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The Seal of Nirvana

The seal of Nirvana describes the state of true happiness that comes to those who have extinguished the flames of greed, hatred, and delusion. Once we stop clinging to those things that are unable to provide us with true happiness, we will finally be free to experience the true peace of Nirvana. This peace transcends anything we have ever known or even imagined since such things are characterized by impermanence, selflessness, and unsatisfactoriness.

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The Three Marks

The first two seals – impermanence and selflessness – with the addition of “unsatisfactoriness,” are known as the “Three Marks,” which the Buddha used to describe the real nature of all things. He described things in this way so that his followers could free themselves from attachments which cannot bring real happiness. The logic behind the marks of impermanence, selflessness, and unsatisfactoriness is as follows: All things, which appear and disappear in accordance with the law of cause and effect, are impermanent. If all the things that make up our life are impermanent and depend upon causes and conditions, then none of them should be clung to as the basis of a secure self. In other words, we cannot find eternal life and happiness by depending upon anything that is impermanent – and therefore undependable – including our own body and mind. If everything, including our body and mind, is impermanent and unable to provide the basis for an unchanging and independent self, then nothing can be called a truly satisfactory source of happiness or of eternal life. All things are therefore unsatisfactory.

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Three Seals of the Dharma

It is important to understand that the Mahayana sutras are not meant to be literal records of actual sermons by the historical Shakyamuni Buddha. Nevertheless, they are recognized by Mahayana Buddhists as the “word” of the Buddha. This is because they conform to the “Three Seals or the Dharma.” The Three Seals of the Dharma refer to impermanence, selflessness, and the perfect peace of Nirvana. Traditionally, these three seals summarize the core insight of Shakyamuni Buddha. Any teaching that is consistent with them can be considered an authentic teaching of the Buddha.

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Striving to Become Buddhas

Mahayana Buddhism teaches that the Buddha actually has three bodies: a historical body; an ideal body, which can only be seen by bodhisattvas; and a transcendent universal body, which is ultimate reality itself. In its highest form, Mahayana Buddhism teaches that we all have Buddha-nature and that we should all strive to become Buddhas ourselves.

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