What is Nichiren Shu ?
Nichiren Shu is a Buddhist Order that was founded more than 750 years ago. “Nichiren” is the name of the founder. “Shu” simply means “Order.” Nichiren Shu’s mission is to propagate the essential truth of Buddhism according to the teaching of the revered priest Nichiren.
Nichiren Shonin lived in Japan from 1222-1282. The name “Nichiren” means “Sun Lotus,” and he was given the title “Shonin,” which means “revered priest.” Nichiren Shonin taught that the Lotus Sutra represents the genuine teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, the savior of the world.
We believe that Nichiren Shonin was a messenger of the Buddha guiding us to cultivate our Buddha nature, inherent in all beings, to live life based on the eternal truth preached by the Buddha.
We vow to the Buddha and Nichiren Shonin that we will strive to propagate peace within ourselves and throughout the world by disseminating the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. Our belief in this teaching is affirmed by our chanting of the Odaimoku, “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.” Namu means “adoration,” Myoho Renge Kyo is the Japanese name for the Lotus Sutra.
Minobusan Kuonji Temple, established by Nichiren Shonin in 1274, is the Head Temple of Nichiren Shu. It is the most sacred place of worship for followers of Nichiren Shu. The administrative headquarters of the order, which governs more than 5,000 temples, is located in Tokyo.
What is Buddhism ?
Buddhism is the universal teaching of enlightenment to the true nature of life based upon the law of cause and effect (karma). Karma simply means that phenomena appear and disappear as a result of causes and conditions.
This means that what we are today is a result of what we have thought and done in the past, and what we do in the future is a result of what we think and do in the present.
Through ignorance of lkarma, people trap themselves in a vicious circle of suffering, pursuing objectives that can never bring lasting satisfaction.
Nichiren Shu provides a path that enables all people to overcome suffering, lead happy lives and help others do the same through practicing the essential teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha found in the Lotus Sutra.
Who is Shakyamuni Buddha ?
The historical Buddha was born in 463 B.C. as Siddharta Gautama, a prince in a small tribal kingdom of the Shakya clan in southern Nepal. Becoming dissatisfied with palace life, Siddharta renounced his life as a prince and become a wandering ascetic dedicated to finding the answer to suffering itself.
For six years, Siddharta lived a life of severe self-denial and discipline. He hoped these practices would give him the insight he needed to find his answers. After six years, his body so weakened and close to death, he was no closer to his goal than when he started. He realized that self-denial was as much of a hindrance to achieve self-awakening as self-indulgence.
Regaining his health, he went to the base of a fig tree and sat in deep meditation. He cleared away all distractions in his mind and awoke to the ultimate reality. He became a Buddha or “Awakened One.” From that point on, he was called Shakyamuni Buddha: the sage of the Shakya clan.
Out of his compassion, he set out to share his insight. For the next 42 years, the Buddha traveled throughout India teaching people according to their ability to understand.
Gradually, he raised their level of understanding to the point where they were ready to receive his highest teaching, the Lotus Sutra. The Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra for the last eight years of his life. He passed away peacefully in a grove of sala trees in the year 383 B.C.
Teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha
The Buddha appeared in this world to purify all beings by having them open the treasure of Buddha Wisdom, which they are unaware of possessing within themselves.
His goal was to free all people from suffering, and his awakening was the realization of effective means for teaching everybody the path to awakening.
Cause and Effect
The law of cause and effect is central to understanding the Buddha’s insight.
The Buddha taught that what we are today is the result of what we have thought and done in the past, and what we will be in the future is a result of what we think and do in the present. As the Dhammapada says,
“What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: Our life is the creation of our mind. If a man speaks or acts with a pure mind, joy follows him like a shadow.”
The Buddha was aware that the process of cause and effect extends beyond a single lifetime. What we will become in future lifetimes will be determined by what we do in the present.
Four Noble Truths
The Four Noble Truths are the fundamental teachings of the Buddha, a straightforward application of the law of cause and effect.
THE LOTUS SUTRA
The Lotus Sutra is one of the most important sutras in Mahayana Buddhism and was likely written down between 100 B.C. and 200 A.D. Already well known in India, the sutra became more famous and influential when it was translated into Chinese by Kumarajiva in the year 406. After Chih-i founded the T’ien-T’ai School in China, based on the teaching expounded by this sutra in the sixth century, it was considered one of the canonical sutras of Chinese Buddhism. After the T’ien-T’ai School of China was introduced to Japan by Saicho and became the Tendai Sect, the Lotus Sutra became loved as literature among the people.
The sutra is named the Lotus Sutra because the lotus symbolized the oneness of cause and effect, specifically the cause of aspiring to enlightenment (Buddhahood) and the effect of attaining it, since the lotus is a flower that blooms and seeds at the same time. It also symbolizes the purity of Buddhahood, blooming in the midst of our ordinary lives just as the lotus blossoms in muddy pond water.
The Teachings of the Lotus Sutra
The Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Sutra is that all living beings, whether they realize it or not, have the capacity to become enlightened. Everyone, without exception, can unlock the perfect wisdom and great compassion that reside in the depths of life. The Lotus Sutra also teaches that the life of a Buddha transcends our ordinary way of thinking and is beyond birth and death.
Shakyamuni Buddha himself is in actuality the Eternal Buddha who is always present in our lives, leading us to the realization of our own innate Buddhahood.
Who is Nichiren Shonin?
Nichiren Shonin, the founder of Nichiren Shu, was born on February 16, 1222 in Kominato, in what is now Chiba Prefecture in Japan. At the age of eleven, his parents sent him to a monastery to study. From an early age, he began to wonder why there were so many schools of Buddhism, while the Buddhism expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha was but one. He was ordained as a priest at Seichoji Temple at the young age of 15. After considerable study at the centers of Buddhist scholarship, Nichiren Shonin concluded that the Lotus Sutra indeed represented the perfect culmination of the true teaching of the Buddha.
Nichiren Shonin found that he was ready to embark on his plan of reformation with the proclamation of his new gospel. He made his grand declaration in the early morning as the sun broke through the morning haze at Seichoji on the small mountain of Asahi-ga-mori. He chanted the Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. This was Nichiren’s proclamation of his gospel to heaven and earth with the all-illuminating sun as his witness. The date was April 28, 1253.
Writing the Rissho Ankoku Ron
Soon after that, he went to Kamakura, the seat of the Shogun, and began preaching the Lotus Sutra. Discord prevailed among the governing clans with widespread rumors predicting tremendous civil unrest. In addition, the nation was suffering from a series of typhoons, floods, and earthquakes, along with famine and rampant plague, and fear-provoking comet sightings. All of these occurrences drove the people into panic.
Teachings of Nichiren Shonin
Nichiren Shonin provided all people with a way to understand and put into practice the true spirit of Shakyamuni’s teachings. He taught three basic principles based on the essential truths of the Lotus Sutra called the Three Great Hidden Dharmas, and a simple yet profound practice based on those principals.
The Three Great Hidden Dharmas are:
The Essential Focus of Reverence (Gohonzon)
The Lotus Sutra teaches that Shakyamuni Buddha is none other than the embodiment of the Eternal Buddha: the timeless Buddha nature in which all life participates and which all beings are destined to realize as their own true nature. The Gohonzon depicts this insight through the use of Chinese calligraphy and represents the all encompassing life of the Eternal Buddha, not an object or thing.
The Sacred Title
The name of the Lotus Sutra is “Myoho Renge Kyo” which is the essence of the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha. When the word “Namu,” meaning “devotion” is added, it becomes “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo” or “Devotion to the Wonderful Truth of the Lotus Flower Teaching.” Because the Odaimoku embodies the essence of the Lotus Sutra, it contains all of the qualities of Buddhahood. This means that by the merit of the five characters, Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo, we can attain Buddhahood by reciting the Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.
The Precept Platform (Kaidan)
The Precept Platform is considered any place where one chants the Odaimoku, thereby basing one’s life upon the true spirit of Sakyamuni Buddha’s teachings. Traditionally, the Kaidan was the place where one made formal vows to follow the precepts of Buddhism as a member of the clergy. Nichiren Shonin, however, universalized the concept of the Kaidan so that all people could uphold the essential teaching and practice of the Lotus Sutra at all times through chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.
In order to put these three principles or Three Great Hidden Dharmas into practice, Nichiren Buddhists regularly recite selections from the Lotus Sutra and chant the Odaimoku in the presence of the Gohonzon. In doing this, we remind ourselves that the Eternal Buddha is continuously transferring the Dharma to us so that every moment is an awakening to the Truth.
By faithfully following this teaching and practice, Nichiren Buddhists are able to make the cause that will enable them to manifest the perfect wisdom and great compassion of the Buddha in all circumstances and transform not only their lives but even the lives of others, so that this world can cease to be a world of suffering and become a pure land of peace and tranquility.