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Questions and Answers on Nichiren Buddhism

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From the Preface by Senchu Murano
Senchu Murano

Nichiren Buddhism is one of the most outstanding religions in Japan. It is a collective name for all the Daimoku-chanting denominations: Nichiren Shu, Nichiren Shoshu, Nichiren Honshu, Kempon Hokke Shu, Hokke Shu Jimmon Ryu, Hokke Shu Hommon Ryu, Hokke Shu Shimmon Ryu, Hommon Hokke Shu, Hommon Butsuryu Shu, Nichiren Shu Fujufuse Ha, Fujufuse Nichiren Komon Shu, and many new religions whose names end with “Kai”. Although all these organizations are independent of each other administratively, they are one in that they center around the personality of the founder Nichiren (1222-1282).

Born as son of a petty officer of a manor in the Province of Awa (Chiba-ken), Nichiren studied at the Hieizan Buddhist Institute under the patronage of the owner of the manor. He was a good writer. He had a vast knowledge of the history of Japan, China, and the neighboring countries including Western Turkistan. He contributed to the study of the history of Japan by recording several events which were not described in any documents other than Nichiren’s writings. He was persecuted oftentimes because he bitterly criticized the chanting of the Nembutsu. But he was loved and respected by commoners. Within a few years after the proclamation of his new faith, he collected votaries numerous enough to make the Government careful of his faithful followers, who were misconstrued as dissidents to the Government.

Nichiren attempted to restore the dignity of Sakyamuni Buddha, who was almost forgotten under the popularity of other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas such as Amida, Dainichi, Yakushi, Kannon, and so forth. According to the Lotus Sutra, Shakamuni is the Original Buddha, all the other Buddhas being his emanations. Shakamuni also is the Eternal Buddha, who is still now expounding the Dharma to save us.

I have had many chances to make contact with my friends overseas. They ask me many questions. Some of the questions are not asked in Japan because we take the matters just for granted. Thanks to the questioners abroad, I could re-study many things to prepare for my answers. The Lotus Sutra begins with the question asked by Maitreya Bodhisattva. There are many Maitreyas in the world. We must listen to them, understand what they want to know, and study the points in the light of the Lotus Sutra and the Gosho of Nichiren.

Here I have collected some questions and answers on Nichiren Buddhism from the letters exchanged between various persons abroad and myself. I shall be very glad if this collection will be able to conduce to the right understanding of Nichiren Buddhism.

Senchu Murano
Kamakura, Japan

Questioners (Alphabetical order)

  • Simon Continente, Faithful Follower of Nichiren Shonin in England.
  • Stephanie Maltz, Faithful Follower of Nichiren Shonin in the U.S.
  • Daniel B. Montgomery, Author of Fire in the Lotus: The Dynamic Buddhism of Nichiren (London, 1991 ).
  • Senkei K. Pieters, Nichiren Buddhist Temple Hokkeji, Moorslede, Belgium.

Only portions of the book will be posted here. A PDF copy of the entire book can be downloaded here.

Book Quotes

Book List

The Future Life

Pieters (May 23, 1996)
What happens to a person who is not a Nichiren believer when he dies?

Murano (June 6, 1996)
He will be sent to an evil region. But if his friends chant the Daimoku for his salvation, he will be saved from there, and sent to the Buddha world.

Pieters (May 23, 1996)
What happens to us Nichiren Buddhists when we die?

Murano (June 6, 1996)
We can join the Sangha accompanying the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha, who is expounding the Wonderful Dharma on Mt. Sacred Eagle in the Purified Saha World. The Buddha says in the Lotus Sutra (Second edition of Murano’s The Lotus Sutra, pp. 246-247) “When they see me seemingly pass away, make offerings to my sariras, adore me, admire me, become devout, upright and gentle, and wish to see me with all their hearts at the cost of their lives, I reappear on Mt. Sacred Eagle with my Sangha….”

We can enjoy peaceful and eternal life in the Purified Saha World when we die.

Questions and Answers on Nichiren Buddhism

Dharma Defined

Montgomery (September 17, 1986)
The word dharma is, indeed, full of problems. An article in the Abington Dictionary of Living Religions (a very good book, by the way) says: “Dharma: Hindu, Buddhist, and Japanese—Skt.; literally ‘that which is established; law’ (dhr—’support, bear’). Righteousness or duty; ‘law’ in the broadest sense, including natural order as well as the details of human propriety and personal, ethical norma. No other term in traditional Indian religious thought is more important, more complex in the variety of its technical usages from system to system, and therefore more difficult to translate simply than dharmas. In its most embracing sense, it describes proper order and defines and enjoins the principles of conduct to maintain it. Especially for Hindus and Buddhists dharma is, then, often equivalent to what is commonly meant by ‘religion.’ ”

The word came into use in English after World War II (“dharma bums and beat zen”) and is now found in most English dictionaries. In other words, it is now an assimilated English word, like so many other thousands of foreign words which have worked their way into the language. For this reason, and because it is so rich in meanings, I would agree with Professor Iida: the word should be left alone, any “translation” can give only a partial meaning

A good example of the problems of translating this word is in the Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms by Soothill and Hodous. Soothill gives one set of translations in the body of the text. After Soothill died, Hodous completely rejected his colleague’s version and wrote a correction: “Ho Dharma: (1) thing, object, appearance; (2) characteristic, attribute, predicate; (3) the substantial bearer of the substratum of the simple element of conscious life; (4) element of conscious life; (5) nirvana, i. e. dharma parexcellence; (6) the absolute, the frilly real; (7) the teaching, the religion of Buddha.”

It is interesting to note that Hodous avoids the word “law” altogether, although Soothill had used it as one possible meaning.

In the Translator’s Note of the Lotus Sutra, #4, you list the exceptions to Sanskrit words translated into Chinese. Among them is “Sutra, which is an accepted English word.” True, but I think that “dharma” is just as accepted and perhaps wider known. To me, the term “Wonderful Dharma” is much more exciting than “Wonderful Law” since “Law” has such a negative sense to it. It reminds me of policeman and lawyers.

Murano (November 26, 1986)
I quite agree with you on the use of the Sanskrit original of the Dharma without rendering it to any English word. I thought that the law was well accepted in English because Kern rendered the Lotus Sutra as the Lotus of the True Law. We Japanese, who always see Dharma translated as Ho, while the other two of the Triratna: Buddha and Sangha, are not translated, feel that Dharma must be translated in any way. The fact that the “Law” is a one-syllable word just as Ho allures us to its acceptance because the transliteration of Buddha (Butsu or But or Bup) and Sangha (So) are also one-syllable words. Bup-po-so, not Butsu-dharma-so, sounds good to our ears.

We have the Japanese word daruma, which has nothing to do with the Dharma of the Buddha although it comes from dharma etymologically. Daruma is a contraction of Bodhidharma (Bodaidaruma), the name of the alleged founder of the Chinese Zen Buddhism, who came from South India to the Shorinji Temple in North China in 520 or 587. Legend says that he stayed there for nine years, facing the wall, sitting in meditation. He wished to go back to India. He reached Yu-men in South China, where he died in 528 or 536.

We have a doll called daruma. The doll has no limbs because, according to the legend, his limbs rotted away while he sat for nine years. The doll has a weight at the bottom so that it can rise after it tumbles. To be able to rise shows good luck, so the daruma-doll is made as a symbol of good luck.

Questions and Answers on Nichiren Buddhism

Nichiren’s Mandala and Esoteric Buddhism

Montgomery (June 28, 1985)
It says in the Kan-fugen-gyo, “Sakyamuni Buddha is called “Vairocana-Who-Pervades-All-Places….” Did Nichiren use the name of Vairocana to designate the Eternal Buddha? It says in the English Buddhist Dictionary by Soothill, “A of Avam is Vairocana’s germ word in the Garbha-dhatu; vam, that in the Vajra-dhatu. Hence, avam includes both. A-vam-ramham-kham is the highest formula in the Shingon sect. It represents all the elements. It represents not only the corporeal parts of Vairocana but also his Dharma-kaya. A-vi-ra-hum-kham, the five syllables of the spell of Vairocana represent the five elements.” Kukai writes extensively on hum. He breaks it down to haum. Nichiren was thoroughly familiar with the complexities of esotericism. Perhaps he wanted to write one mandala which would supersede both the mandalas of esotericism.

Murano (August 18, 1985)
Vairocana literally means “a thing which shines.” It primarily meant the sun, and then the Buddha. It says in the Kan-fugen-gyo, Sakyamuni Buddha is called Vairocana, the One Who Pervades All Places. The abode of the Buddha called Eternally Tranquil Light.” Nichiren never used Vairocana as an epithet of the Buddha because the Shingon Sect identifies Vairocana with Mahavairocana.

Nichiren did not worship Ragaraja or Acalanatha. He even criticized Acalanatha-worship in the Kito-sho. Acalanatha by no means represents Vajradhatu. Ragaraja does not represent Garbha-dhatu, either. In Nichiren’s time, Acalanatha-worship was popular among the Taimitsu Esoteric Buddhists while Ragaraja-worship was popular among the Tomitsu Esoteric Buddhists. It seems that Nichiren put their bijas, which are not mentioned in the Lotus Sutra, to show that both Taimitsu and Tomitsu are under the umbrella of the Myoho-renge-kyo. Nichiren never intended to unite the two mandalas of the Shingon Sect.

Questions and Answers on Nichiren Buddhism

Ongi-kuden and Onko-kikigaki

Montgomery (February 6, 1986)
Are the Ongi-kuden and the Onko-kikigaki of any value or not?

Murano (February 24, 1986)
Recent investigations have reached the conclusion that the Ongikuden was written by a priest of the Nikko Monryu during the Muromachi Period (1392-1467). It stresses the importance of the Hongaku-shiso (the philosophy of original enlightenment). The Hongaku-shiso was naturalistic optimism, which flourished in those days of national disintegregation. The logic favored by the philosophers was, roughly speaking, we have the Buddha-nature; we are Buddhas in essence; we are already Buddhas; we do not have to practice anything. Thus, secularism was justified. The purpose of Buddhism became just to enjoy speculation by arbitrary self-will, ignoring the study of texts. Bold equations were endlessly created, such as “we are Buddhas,” “illusions are enlightenment,” “this world is the Buddha-land,” “one is three,” “three are one” etc., etc. These equations are fascinating, but produce no value. The Hongaku-shiso was advocated by the Medieval Age Tendai (Chuko Tendai), and many Nichiren Buddhists were also attracted to this philosophy. Even today, the impact of this philosophy is still found in the terminology of the liturgy of Nichiren Buddhism. The Onko-kikigaki was written probably by someone connected with the Itchi-ha, who attempted to cope with the Ongi-kuden, also during the Muromachi Period.

Questions and Answers on Nichiren Buddhism

Dai Mandala Gohonzon

Pieters (March 20, 1995)
Please explain the Dai Mandala Gohonzon.

Murano (July 20, 1995)
Sakyamuni Buddha did what he had never done before at the beginning of Chapter XI of the Lotus Sutra. He produced innumerable Replica Buddhas of his own from himself, told them to expound what he was going to expound from that moment, and dispatched them to the worlds of the ten quarters: the four quarters, the four intermediate quarters, zenith, and nadir. After he saw them having reached their assigned worlds, Sakyamuni Buddha expounded the teaching of the One Vehicle, that is the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma. Obedient to their Original Buddha, his Replica-Buddhas expounded the same teaching throughout the universe and as a result the universal validity of the Wonderful Dharma was revealed.

Prabhutaratna (Taho), a past Buddha of a world located far to the east, rejoiced at seeing all this. You should bear in mind that a past Buddha, who had already entered Parinirvana, can see, hear, speak, and let his Stupa move at his will. When Prabhutaratna entered Parinirvana, his disciples enshrined him in his stupa, and shut the door of the stupa. Since then Prabhutaratna had been sitting in meditation in his Stupa with no disciple attendants. He had wished to expound the Wonderful Dharma by himself during his lifetime, but refrained from it because he thought that the Wonderful Dharma should be expounded by a Buddha whose emanations be the Buddhas of the worlds of the ten quarters to show the universal validity of the Dharma. Prabhutaratna himself had not such Replica Buddhas, so he had waited for the advent of such a Buddha for so long a time.

Overjoyed with Sakyamuni’s expounding the Wonderful Dharma, Prabhutaratna caused his Stupa to travel westwards through the skies of innumerable worlds. The Stupa reached the sky below the Saha-world, passed the world from underneath, and stayed in the sky just above Mt. Sacred Eagle, where Sakyamuni Buddha was expounding the Wonderfill Dharma.

Thereupon Prabhutaratna turned his Stupa towards Sakyamuni, and praised him from within the stupa. The congregation were astonished to hear the voice of a Buddha from within the Stupa staying in the sky. They asked Sakyamuni, “Who is in the stupa?” Sakyamuni said that Prabhutaratna was therein. They asked Sakyamuni to open the door of the Stupa so that they could see Prabhutaratna. Sakyamuni said that Prabhutaratna had made a vow to open the door of his Stupa only when the expounder of the Wonderful Dharma would summon all his emanations to the front of his stupa. The congregation begged Sakyamuni to do so.

Thereupon Sakyamuni issued rays of light from himself to all directions. The light served as a sign of call-up. By the order of their Original Buddha, all the Buddhas of the worlds of the ten quarters came to Mt. Sacred Eagle. Seeing this, Sakyamuni went up to the sky and opened the door of the stupa. Prabhutaratna made a half-seat on his right, and invited Sakyamuni into his stupa. Sakyamuni sat by the right side of Prabhutaratna. It was taken for granted in India that the left seat is upper than the right one. Prabhutaratna took the upper seat because a past Buddha is senior to a present Buddha. Prabhutaratna did not yet know that Sakyamuni was older than he because Chapter XVI of the Lotus Sutra was not yet expounded. Sakyamuni took the lower seat with a smile.

The congregation wished to be in the sky high enough to accompany the two Buddhas. Reading their minds, Sakyamuni Buddha raised them up in the sky, and put them in the position of attendants. All the other Buddhas remained sitting on the ground.

Thereupon Sakyamuni addressed the congregation that his Parinirvana day was drawing near, and that he was going to transmit the Wonderful Dharma to someone. Hearing this, many Bodhisattvas appealed to him for the transmission. Sakyamuni refused their appeal, however, saying that there were proper persons for that. And he issued rays of light from himself as a sign of call-up.

All of a sudden the earth quaked and cracked, and innumerable Bodhisattvas came from underground. To the astonishment of the congregation, those Bodhisattvas exchanged greetings with Sakyamuni Buddha. How strange! The congregation had never heard of them. Sakyamuni addressed the congregation, “I am older than any other Buddhas. All the Buddhas of the past, present and future are my emanations. Those Bodhisattvas who have arrived from underground are my disciples.” Here it is revealed that the One Vehicle, that is the Wonderful Dharma, is universally valid not only spatially but also temporally.

Seeing all this, Prabhutaratna was shocked. He felt ashamed of his ignorance of the fact that the Buddha sitting next to him was his Original Buddha. He tried to change the seats, but Sakyamuni checked him, saying, “You are now the State Guest of the World-State of the Eternal Sakyamuni. You are now representing all the Buddhas of the past, present and future.” Prabhutaratna understood Sakyamuni, and remained at his seat, motionless.

The Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha is no one else than the Historical Sakyamuni Buddha. Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became a Buddha. He was called Sakyamuni because he the muni (sage) of the Sakya Clan. He had a bilthday and Parinirvana day. All this is a historical fact. But the same Buddha announced in Chapter XVI of the Lotus Sutra that he is eternal. He says that he appeared in this world as the Historical Buddha in order to save all living beings. The Eternal Sakyamuni is the same of the Historical Sakyamuni in his eternity. The Historical Sakyamuni is the name of the Eternal Sakyamuni in his historicity. To separate the Eternal Sakyamuni from the Historical Sakyamuni will destroy Buddhism. The fundamental teaching of Buddhism is that a human became a Buddha and that a Buddha was once a man. Christ worshiped God; Mohammed, Allah. But the Buddha worshiped no one but himself in his eternity.

You can become a Buddha provided that you are forever a disciple-Bodhisattva of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha in faith just as Nichiren is forever a disciple-Bodhisattva of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha in faith. You will be allowed to join the Samgha under the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha, who is still now expounding the Wonderful Dharma on Mt. Sacred Eagle. Jodo Buddhism puts Amitabha above Sakyamuni Buddha. Shingon Buddhism establishes Mahavairocana as the Eternal Buddha, not Sakyamuni as that.

You can buy a Buddha-statue and worship it as that of the Eternal Sakyamuni. But how can you tell others that the statue is that of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha? Something must be done to characterize it. Nichiren always carried a small statue of the Buddha with him, and worshiped it. He sometimes advised others to make a set of five statues: the Buddha and the four leading Bodhisattvas to characterize the Etemal Sakyamuni Buddha. But to understand the meaning of this set of statues needs an elaborate study of the Lotus Sutra. Various Buddhist sects are busy arranging the statues of Buddhas and other Buddhist deities on the altar according to the tenets of the sects. A Buddha accompanied by Avalokitesvara and Samantabhadra is Amitabha Buddha. A Buddha attended by Surya and Candra is Bhaisajyaguru Buddha. A Buddha attended by the four Bodhisattvas is what Buddha? This is a topic of quiz: Who am I? Scholastic complicacies weakened Japanese Buddhism.

People are clever. They just call Buddhas and Buddhist deities “Nonosama” invariably and collectively, and chant the Nembutsu in front of any temple, disregarding the sect difference. What is more interesting to note is that no sect except Nichiren rejects the Nembutsu-chanting before their temples. They make flattering excuses. Tendai identifies the Buddha of Chapter XVI of the Lotus Sutra with Amitabha Buddha although such an identification is not mentioned in the sutra. Shingon enlists Sakyamuni Buddha in the four Buddhas under Mahavairocana. Zen sects do not care at all, saying that freedom is Zen.

Nichiren finally gave up idolizing the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha. Instead, he ideographically described the World of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha as his residence, and recommended it for worship. To worship the world of the Buddha means to worship the Buddha in his right position. The “Imperial Palace” alludes to the Emperor. The “White House” stands for the President. This description of the World of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha is called Gohonzon or the Great Mandala.

The fundamental idea of the Great Mandala was revealed in his Kanjin-honzon-sho, which he wrote three months before the description of the Great Mandala. It runs:

There is a Stupa of treasures in the sky above the Saha World of the Original Teacher. In the Stupa of Treasures is enshrined [the core of the sutra, that is, the five characters:] Myoho Renge Kyo. By either side of the Myoho Renge Kyo sit Sakyamuni Buddha and Prabhutaratna Buddha. Sakyamuni, the World-honored One, is accompanied by the Four Bodhisattvas headed by Visistacaritra. The four Bodhisattvas: Manjusri, Maitreya, [Samantabhadra and Bhaisajyaraja] sit on lower seats as the attendants on Sakyamuni Buddha. All the other Bodhisattvas, major or minor, who are either the disciples of the Historical Sakyamuni or the Bodhisattvas having come from other worlds, look up at the Buddha just as the subjects of a king sit on the ground and look up at nobles and dignitaries beside the throne. The Buddhas of the worlds of the ten quarters sit on the ground to show that they are emanations of Sakyamuni Buddha and that their worlds are manifestations of the world of Sakyamuni Buddha.

Here we see that the Daimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, is made visible, and that the visible Daimoku is used as the symbol of the World of the Etemal Sakyamuni Buddha. A symbol represents a thing. A national emblem is the symbol of a country. It represents anything and everything of the country. Without the Olympic flag, the games cannot be called Olympic. The army of the Emperor Gokogon was defeated, but the Emperor was saved because he had his Royal Standard.

When the Daimoku, which is the name of the Dharma by itself, is used as the symbol of the World of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha, it represents not only the Dharma but also the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha and his Samgha residing in that world. In other words, the Daimoku as the symbol represents the Three Treasures of the Lotus Sutra.

The adoption of the Daimoku as the symbol was a great success because it can never be mistaken for the Nembutsu, and because Sakyamuni Buddha mentioned therein can never be mistaken for any other Buddha than the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha.

But here we have a problem. The names of Sakyamuni and Prabhutaratna are put side-by-side. This juxtaposition reduces the dignity of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha greatly. He looks like one of the two pages serving a tablet on which the Daimoku is inscribed. There is another problem. If we write the Great Mandala according to the description given in the Kanjin-honzon-sho literally, we should put all the Bodhisattvas under Sakyamuni because they are his disciples. Therefore, the right (when we face the Mandala) column of the Mandala under Prabhutaratna would be blank because Prabhutaratna Buddha has no disciple-attendants. In order to keep the balance of the writing, Nichiren moved some Bodhisattvas from the left column to the right one to impress us as though Prabhutaratna had his own disciples. This reinforcement of the right column causes more reduction of the dignity of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha.

In order to recover the seemingly lost dignity of the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha, some Nichiren Buddhists once again recommend the worship of the set of One-Buddha-Four-Bodhisattvas statues. But this set of statues fatally lacks the existence of the Daimoku, which is the life of Nichiren Buddhism. We must say that, without the Daimoku, the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha would become homeless.

Questions and Answers on Nichiren Buddhism

Dharma Worship

Continente (January 16, 1996)
What does Nichiren Shonin actually mean when he says,”Namu Myoho Renge Kyo is the True Buddha. Sakyamuni and Taho are his functions. I have read this in a Gosho translated as the “True Entity of Life.”

Murano (February 16, 1996)
This is the translation of part of the Shoho-jisso-sho. One can define the Buddha from three angles.

  1. The Buddha is the one who attained enlightenment by performing the Bodhisattva practices. From this definition, we call him Sambhoga-kaya or the Body of Reward.
  2. The wisdom of the Buddha is the Dharma itself. From this definition, we call him Dharma-kaya or the Body of the Dharma.
  3. The Buddha is the one who manifests himself in various forms to save people from suffering. From this definition, we call him Nirmana-kaya or the Body of Manifestation. These three aspects of the Buddha are called Tri-kaya or the Three Bodies of the Buddha.

If the Buddha of the Juryo Chapter speaks by employing the terminology of the Tri-kaya, he would say:

“I performed the Bodhisattva practices and attained enlightenment, that is to say, I obtained my Sambhoga-kaya. It was a long time ago, in the remotest past, not forty and some years ago as you think. When I became the Buddha, there was no other Buddha than I. All the other Buddhas of the worlds of the ten quarters in the past, present and future are my emanations. I am the Original Buddha of them all. I, the Buddha, who am speaking to you now, am the Nirmana-kaya of the Original Buddha. The Original Buddha should be called Sakyamuni because Sakyamuni is my name. I have no other name than Sakyamuni. I am the Historical Sakyamuni Buddha, the Nirmana-kaya of the Original Sakyamuni Buddha, who is my Sambhoga-kaya. I expound the Dharma. The Dharma is universal in space, eternal in time. My wisdom is the Dharma itself. I shall pass away soon, but the Dharma will remain because it is eternal. I shall remain forever in my Dharma-kaya. I am the Eternal Buddha. To wit, I am the Original and Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha. You can call me simply the Etemal Buddha.”

Here we see that the Tri-kaya is told of in regard to the singular person of Sakyamuni Buddha. The expression “three bodies” was used figuratively to show the three virtues of the Buddha: practice, wisdom and compassion. But once the word kaya was used, the meaning of the word as a physical existence overwhelmed the figurative use of the word, and the Buddha of the Three-Bodies-in-One came to erroneously disintegrate into three independent Buddhas to destroy the supremacy of Sakyamuni Buddha.

Shingon Buddhism made the Dharma-kaya independent, and established Dharma-kaya Tathagata (Buddha) called Mahavairocana. According to Shingon Buddhism, Mahavairocana (Dainichi) Tathagata (Nyorai) is the Original Buddha, who is accompanied by four Buddhas, Sakyamuni being only one of the four.

You quote “Myoho Renge Kyo is the True Buddha…” from the translation of the True Entity of Life. The original word of “True Buddha” in the text is Hombutsu. Hombutsu should be translated as the Original Buddha, not as the True Buddha. We have no idea of “True Buddha” in Buddhism. But “True Buddha” is suitable to the Taisekiji theology because they say that Sakyamuni is a discarded, junk Buddha. Used cars can sell again, but junk cannot. They call Sakyamuni Datsubutsu. Datsu means to emancipate from suffering, but they interpret it as ‘to cast off the skin.” They say, “Sakyamuni is now out of use. He is just like the cast-off skin of a snake. He is a discarded junk Buddha. Nichiren is the Tilte Buddha.”

Amitabha Buddhism separated the Sambhoga-kaya from the Buddha of the Three-Bodies-in-One. According to Amitabha Buddhism, Amitabha Buddha is like God; Sakyamuni, like Christ. Amitabha Buddhism has some elements similar to the teachings of Christianity.

The fundamental teaching of Buddhism is that the Buddha was once a man, and that anyone can become a Buddha. You can become a Buddha. But wait. Since you are assured of your Buddhahood, you should be satisfied with that assurance. Nichiren was humble. He was satisfied with the post of the leader of the Samgha of the Lotus Sutra. He was glad to serve the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha as a member of the Samgha. He would not like to be called Buddha at all. You should join the Samgha, look up at your Compassionate Buddha, and serve him with your leader, Nichiren Shonin.

Maltz (March 7, 1996)
Thank you for your sending me a copy of your answer to the question by Mr. Continente. It cleared up the most important point in understanding Buddhism. It is that the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha is not different from the Historical Sakyamuni Buddha. I thought that the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha was somehow a transcendent Original Buddha who surpassed the Historical Sakyamuni Buddha in some mystical way even though the manifestation looks different to the human mind. When Westerners try to grasp Buddhism, they often fall into the patterns that are associated with previous Christian ideas. So, “transcendence” is more of a Christian concept.

Questions and Answers on Nichiren Buddhism

Truth and Law

Montgomery (July 24, 1986)
What would you say about saying, “the highest Truth,” instead of the highest Law? I know this raises a lot of questions, so I will not pursue it further. “Truth,” to the modern ear, is something absolutely sacred and inviolable; a law, on the other hand, can be broken. In the Christian New Testament, the Law is always inferior to the Truth.

Murano (August 31, 1988)
I follow the example of the Four Noble Truths, and interpret a truth as a countable common noun, and treat the Law as the collective name for the various truths. This may be different from the usage of the Christian concepts.

Questions and Answers on Nichiren Buddhism

One Million Daimoku

Maltz (September 6, 1996)
Jeffrey Hunter wrote a long thesis on the founder of the Fujufuse Sect, Busshoin Nichio (1565-1630). Nichio wrote the Goengi (Fortuitous vow) in 1608. It is a companion book to another, written earlier by Nichio, entitled Shodai Kambotsu Sho (Encouraging the chanting of the title of the Lotus Sutra). The Goengi is a vow to recite the Daimoku one million times. What do you know about this book? I am curious to understand what the significance of chanting one million daimoku was to Nichio.

Murano (October 26, 1996)
Chanting the Nembutsu one million times was recorded in Japan at the beginning of the eleventh century. Tens of men and women get together and chant every day for one week makes one million chantings. It was not so difficult as we imagine. Chionji of the Jodo Sect in Kyoto is nicknamed Hyakumanben (One Million Times) because the chief priest of the temple officiated at the Hyakumanben Ceremony at the Imperial Court in 1473. Chanting the Nembutsu or Daimoku one million times was not regarded as a special practice in the time of Nichio.

Questions and Answers on Nichiren Buddhism

Tolerance and Intolerance

Pieters (May 23, 1996)
Nichiren was intolerant towards the other Buddhists. Buddhists should be tolerant and gentle towards others. Why was Nichiren so intolerant?

Murano (June 6, 1996)
Nichiren was intolerant only towards the Buddhists who ignored the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha and slandered the Lotus Sutra in which the eternity of Sakyamuni Buddha is expounded. Very few worshiped the Eternal Sakyamuni Buddha in the time of Nichiren. Even the adherents of the Tendai Sect worshiped the Buddhas other than Sakyamuni. Nichiren criticized the Tendai Sect of the day. Therefore, Nichiren was thought to be intolerant towards everybody. He was gentle towards the people who did not know of the Lotus Sutra. He kindly taught them with smiles and humor.

Questions and Answers on Nichiren Buddhism

Pancasila (The Five Precepts)

Pieters (May 23, 1996)
Some say that Nichiren priests do not keep precepts; therefore, they cannot be called real Buddhists. What do you think of this?

Murano (June 6, 1996)
Very few of us are vegetarians. Vegetarianism is conceived in Japan differently from that in India. I visited India and saw that there were two kinds of restaurants: vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Vegetarianism in India allows the use of eggs and milk products while Japanese vegetarianism means food of plant origin only. There is a large Soto Zen temple called Sojiji in Yokohama. When the World Fellowship of Buddhists’ Conference was held in Tokyo in 1952, many Theravada bhikkhus put up at Sojiji and were treated with vegetarian dishes without eggs and milk products. Worse still, Theravada formalism prohibits taking food in the afternoon. They take their full day volume of food by noon. Japanese temples, however, do not have such a food supplying system. They complained of food shortage. A Theravada bhikkhu told me, “We are a pitiable minority.”

Abandoning celibacy is a trend of Japanese Buddhism, although some lamas and Korean priests marry. Some Japanese priests are celibates. Nipponzan Myohoji priests do not marry. Two Nichiren priests in Kamakura are celibates. The chief priest of Myogyoji at Baraki, Chibaken, does not marry. Some Japanese Zen priests are celibates. The late chief priest of Komyoji Temple of the Jodo Sect in Kamakura did not marry.

I think that the most interesting thing to the Buddhists outside Japan is that most of the Japanese priests are in laymen’s attire in their everyday life. Theravada bhikkhus, lamas and Chinese priests wear priestly robes for 24 hours a day. Some new religion Buddhist priests in Korea wear laymen’s attire, but all the other Korean priests are in priestly robes. On the contrary, most of the Japanese priests wear priestly robes only during ceremony. Many Japanese priests work outside temples in laymen’s appearance. They work as school teachers, city office clerks or business company employees. When working outside temples, priests do not mind being treated as laymen. One who has been initiated into priesthood should be called Reverend even before he is ordained, but it is suitable for him to be called Mister when he works outside his temple.

Questions and Answers on Nichiren Buddhism