|Tendai||Nichirenism||Six Priests||Fuji School||Literal Issues||Issues in General||Lotus Sutra|
|Dengyo Daishi||Nichiren Daishonin||Niko Shonin||Nichimoku||Apocryphal||Esotericism||Issues in General|
|Jikaku Daishi||Nikko Shonin||Nissho Shonin||Nichiren Shoshu||Gosho||"Temple Issue"|
|Kobo Daishi||Nichikan.html||Makiguchi||Soka Gakkai||Disputed Gosho||"Making it personal"|
|Toda||Ikeda||Nittatsu Shonin||Nikken||Hojo||Reverend Tono|
This is the index page to my "Issues in Buddhism" webpages. This section is mostly focused on examining various issues of interest to Nichiren Buddhists and to people interested in religion in general. For a summary of these issues visit this page issues.html, for more detail follow each link listed below:
|Sign Guestbook||Newest Changes:|
|View Guestbook||See logs for most recent changes||Back to page on Buddhism: index.html||Back to home page|
How can religion which is meant to liberate and "save" humans from misery, be such a cause for misery?
I first started thinking about this when I was a child, and this led me to seek answers outside of my childhood Christianity. I thought I'd come up with the answer when I first got started practicing Nichiren Buddhism. Nichiren seems to have asked the same question. He found his answers in the Lotus Sutra. I joined a group of Nichiren Buddhists called NSA and happilly tried to save the world. I soon found out that Buddhists were plagued with all the same faults as everybody else. My "one true sect" was full of people succeptable to the same sorts of foibles and mistakes as everyone else. In 1979, our President Ikeda resigned his position in the Gakkai as a result of troubles I knew nothing about (See prior.html) and then again in 1991 another conflict broke out between the priests and the Gakkai (see temple.html. At first I bought the arguments as to why these things were breaking out. I could see how Fundamental darkness could manifest itself in the priests as the Three Powerful Enemies. But the initially reasonable arguments of the Sokagakkai became more and more personal with time and more and more of the Japanese Leaders kept pushing for us to see President Ikeda as a universal mentor, almost a Buddha, and I began to see that the Gakkai was trying to develop it's own mythology based on a Japanese theory of Mentor/Disciple that bore little resemblance to what Nichiren had taught. Before the split Ikeda lectured on the Gosho. Afterwards, his disciples lectured using Ikeda as a direct source (For more on this follow the embedded links. I realized that they too were manifestations of the same kind of thinking that they criticized in Nichiren Shoshu. This made me sad until I realized that it just proved just how universal these issues are.
On further study, I began to realize that they weren't just the issues of one sect of Buddhism. I saw parallels and similar problems in all the major religions of the world. Once again, I found myself re-examining my beliefs looking again at what is true and false, not just about Buddhism, but about Religion in general. I began to see that Nichiren's guidance and interpretation of the Lotus Sutra is applicable universally, but has to be differentiated from his specific guidances which were designed for Japan. With that I was able to drop my sorrow and take solace in the words of the Nirvana Sutra found in this passage from the Gosho:
"Rely on the Law and not upon persons. Rely on the meaning [of the teaching] and not upon the words. Rely on wisdom and not upon discriminative thinking. Rely on sutras that are complete and final and not on those that are not complete and final."
The Lotus Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra and Nichiren's interpretation of them, have given me a more universal perspective on the meaning of Religion and of it's warnings about the "Three Powerful Enemies" and other obstacles to human happiness. Even a religion that seemed as perfect as my Nichiren Shoshu Sokagakkai could find itself involved in interminable internal fighting and arguments; Nichiren Shoshu arguing with the members of The SGI. These issues are larger and more universal than simply heretics of one school and the other having the "only true teachings. They are bigger than could be solved by a simple minded transfer of allegience from one faith to another.
Nichiren Buddhism teaches a critical approach to religion that is universal and illuminating. It is an approach that is neither the simple minded equation of all things, nor the rejection of differing views. This approach is based on the notions of dependent origination, the universality of "truth" and the difficulty of people apprehending that truth without some kind of help. The Lotus Sutra teaches wisdom through faith. that I could use more generally and universally once I saw it from a broader perspective.
From reading extensively I've concluded that the reason that the world is a mess is that the "three poisons" of stupidity, greed/hunger, and anger/hate, map to stupid people who trust greedy teachers who either fawn on and follow twisted masters, or twist teachings out of attachment to magical thinking, delusions, anger, or because such teachings are advantageous to them. Thus, getting in the way of truth are the "People of the Lie" as a great writer M. Scott Peck, calls them. In that book he focuses on the source of evil as the act of focusing on evil itself. In Buddhism we identify the source of evil as "The Three Powerful Enemies." Ultimately both sources identify the same thing. For more on this visit my essays on the subject at TPEndI.htm
I put together this Site initially to explore various issues in Nichiren Buddhism and how they relate to the General Society. There is little in the way of fancy graphics, but instead I'm seeking to "transmit" a few general ideas, and more important a different "lovingly critical" approach to exploring religious issues and gaining religious insight.
The issues faced within Nichiren Buddhism are universal. You find similar fights within and between most of the traditions of mankind. All religions wrestle with issues of faith and faithlessness, ignorant and superstitious literalism versus hypocrisy and "apostasy".
All religions make their base in many stories told by imperfect human beings and accumulated, transmitted and edited over years of changing environments. Nichiren Buddhism offers a perspective that is universal, when seen that way, because it is based on the mighty teachings of the Lotus Sutra. In this modern world, when so many bedrock beliefs have proven founded on fiction, a new way has to be adopted to look at religious fiction and religious truth. It is no more appropriate to discard written texts than it is to misinterpret them or insist that they are "Gods Truth" and infallible. Rather each text is a transmission of the spiritual insight of it's subject, authors, and editors. For issues about religion and texts visit this literal.html.
Some of that wisdom is "general" wisdom and so is absolutely true abstractly. Other wisdom is more specific, and the truth of such "specific" wisdom is always a matter of "it depends." Wisdom is often a transmission geared to a specific time and place. If you don't understand the basic principles of these factors it is easy to misunderstand Buddhism. At the same time, part of the understanding that this entails is a humbleness based on the realization that none of us "gets it right" without help from lots of people, and that the subject is beyond our limited minds to grasp and so really is a matter of the realm of faith. This is the message of the opening chapters of the Lotus Sutra. The Buddha, God, (the ultimate higher power/spiritual wisdom/ great truth) transmits to us limited human beings all the time. But we are limited in our ability to recieve or comprehend those transmissions. We can only receive ultimate enlightenment through our faith. At the same time, that should be a comforting realization.
In the past people either turned away from their heritages seeking new ones, or stopped trying to use reason at all to understand their religious faith. The result of unreason is all to apparant. By insisting that a text be taken as literally the word of Buddha or the word of God, without acknowledging the human authorities involved in it's transmission and composition, teachers and adherents actually undermine the wonderful subtext of such works. The result has been deserved disgust with these manifold heritages. But turning to Capitalism, Communism, willfully ignorant behavior, defaulting to materialism, athieism, hedonism, epicurianism, moral relativism, or confused "new ageism." or fanatic embrace of often faulty "fundamentalism was no better. In fact these things made the world all the more chaotic and inchoate.
Kierkegaard insisted that people either believe or not believe in Christianity. In his book either/or he insisted that there was no middle way for them. Yet I see the same three forces of ignorance/stupidity, greed/hunger, and anger/arrogance, as involved in either rejection or literalminded acceptance of any tradition. The bible is not a perfect book because it is the message of the great higher power transmitted through very fallible people. In his and our insistance on making all choices "either/or" as Kierkegaard insisted we miss the third alternative, "neither/neither" and "yes but not entire." In essence, the world seems to face the choices as "either/or" when they are really "neither/nor" and "yes/but." Each tradition has teachings of value and teachings that need to be weighed for their wisdom and with wisdom. Each tradition has many stories, which seemed true enough to their story tellers, and were told for a purpose. And these stories include "legends", "myths" and other stories told for their allegorical "midrash" content and not for their literal content.
And beyond that we need to look at other traditions and learn from them. I really believe that when the Judeo-Christian tradition honestly embraces Buddhist teachings that that will usher in the "messianic age" and that when all religion sheds it's attachment to chauvinism, magical thinking, esotericism and superstition, that will be the rebirth of a better and happier human condition. An honest examination of the roots of Christianity, Gnosticism, Kaballah and some Moslem teachings show that these different religions are related, interpolated, have borrowed and influenced each other in the past, and would be better off honestly learning from each other in the present day. Some believe that Christianity derived from Gnostic teachings, and if you look at them they have an almost identical content to the Buddhism being taught at the same time they were. If we look at present day teachings, we can see how Jewish Mystics transmitted their ideas to Christian and Moslem mystics, and how ideas have similarilly been exchanged the entire time. We also see that many truths are a matter of language, that many issues are a matter of people reifying abstracts or getting mystical, allegorical or metaphorical truths confused with reality.
When we look at these things we find that the more mystical and metaphysical the understanding of teachers, the more they start to sound alike. Explaining the ineffable is a difficult matter. Yet it has to be done in a unifying matter. That it isn't is the work of "fundamental darkness" and not of a literal Satan or Devil. That it isn't is an outgrowth of the same three poisons that people everywhere have to deal with; hunger, stupidity and anger. Wisdom is reigning in these things. Religion is for that purpose. It is to bind us together as communities, together within our lives, and together with our gross environment.
Truth is Universal. The heretics of yesterday are todays Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, and Moslems. Today's heretics may be tomorrows orthodox. If there is a Supreme Being, that Supreme being must be seeking enlightenment or already enlightened. Even if there isn't a literal supreme being, there is such a thing as "divine" even if it exists "only" in our minds. If that is so than the ultimate identity of religion has to be when "Westerners" begin to wake up to reality. That entails an embrace of at least some Buddhist ideas and practices.
The core issue that I've come to apprecitate derives from the central issue around which the origin of Nichiren Buddhism was framed. The founder of Nichiren Buddhism lived in a Japan where people were very devoutly Buddhist, and yet calamity after calamity wracked their country. The very first treatise, the Rissho Ankoku Ron which Nichiren sent off to the Government of Japan in 1253 making the case that the cause of the misery of the people of his day was their "slander of the Dharma." His case was that:
"To be sure, Buddhist halls stand rooftop to rooftop and sutra storehouses are ranged eave to eave. Priests are as numerous as bamboo plants and rushes, monks as common as rice and hemp seedlings. The temples and priests have been honored from centuries past, and every day respect is paid them anew. But the monks and priests today are fawning and devious, and they confuse the people and lead them astray. The ruler and his subjects lack understanding and fail to distinguish between the heretical and the correct."
What he had discovered was that many of the most popular teachings of his day in Japan had "faulty" roots. He identified that with "slander of the Dharma" or slighting the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. Since the Lotus Sutra, essentially predicts our times, his critiques of the religions of his day stand as great examples of what we now would call "literary criticism. He felt that The misery of Japan was caused by the rise of the "Three Powerful Enemies" from within Buddhism. I'm seeing that these are generalizations of forces within all of us and all religious traditions. For more on this visit my webpage on the subject The Three Powerful Enemies and I.
Nichiren made the case for the supremacy of the Lotus Sutra and for the value of chanting it's title; "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo," but I believe the value of this work goes beyond being the seed for yet another sect or religion. His insight was based on problems that continue to this day, and are far more universal. His disciples have since then founded a school of Buddhism based on the Lotus Sutra, and they have acquired a reputation for being severe critics of other forms of Buddhism, and because of the resulting habits of thought, of each other. But the message of the Rissho Ankoku Ron goes beyond yet another round of narrow sectarianism and cuts to the heart of religion itself. Nichiren wasn't trying to continue this sad pattern of confusing people and "leading them astray." He was trying to break that cycle. If we want to see a peaceful world, we need to really think about the question, "Can I distinguish between heretical and correct?" To me the "heretical" is simply that which "lies" to us about life and our roles in it. No authority can tell us what is true or not, and indeed, authority should rest on whether what teachers say resonates with the truth within us. Neither ancient authorities should rule us, nor should we disregard them.
If we take an honest and valient approach to religion, then we begin to see the deep truth of the Lotus Sutra and the meaning of the Buddha's discussion of "Upaya" (Skillful means) and the notion that there are not "Three Vehicles" but only one. The result of not understanding Nichiren's teachings correctly is conflict and continuing misery. The result of breaking these misunderstandings is that we can transcend such conflict and misery and maybe actually reach "Annokutara Sanmyaku Sanbodai." (Complete and comprehensive enlightenment).
For more on the Lotus Sutra this link to the Lotus Sutra at "http://www.geocities.com/chris_holte/Buddhism/LotusSutra/index.html"
The apparent source of religious conflict always appears to revolve around questions of literal, theoretical and actual proof. Most religious conflict has it's basis in Fundamental Darkness. The apparent conflict is usually over Texts or doctrines, but in actually usually are really over "turf", "house", and other "human conflicts." The real source of religious conflict is anger/fear, stupidity/ignorance/arrogance and greed/hunger. It only appears to be over which text is superior to what other or which doctrine is superior to another. The way that such conflict enters religious and political discourse is through the way that people interpret religion.
Most religions personify fundamental darkness as "Satan" or as literal forces or "beings" but the truth is that if fundamental darkness had such a personality it would be far easier to defeat. Instead fundamental darkness is far more universal, bound up in human nature, and requires an enduring inward battle along with any "external battle" to defeat.
Fundamental darkness is so universal, that it manifests in even the best of us, and when it doesn't do that, it manifests in followers, family and friends so that what is "received" from teachers isn't transmitted truly to future generations.
The purpose of texts is to give people the wisdom-tools to defeat fundamental darkness. Unfortunately the power of this "enemy" is so great that instead many texts become agents of repression and fear rather than sources of liberation. How people interpret texts is one problem. How they are literal or patriarchal in their interpretations is another. And finally how texts come into existence and become "canonized" is itself a problem. All through history "elites" of priests or others have arrogated to themselves claims to wisdom and enlightenment that they have sometimes committed to writings and othertimes insisted that they possessed in some "esoteric" fashion.
The founder of Buddhism, Shakyamuni, observed the conditions of the world. He noted that people suffer from four sufferings whether they are high or low, rich or poor and he wanted to understand suffering (four sufferings"1). As a result his religious questings (and those of Buddhism) asked different questions and arrived at different answers from most religions. Most religions have sought to understand "God" and mans relationship with God. Buddhism is concerned with Suffering, sees the ultimate cause of Suffering in Avidya (or fundamental darkness) and seeks to break this cause. Shakyamuni preached oral teachings that were later collected by his disciples and much later written down. His disciples, prefaced each Sutra by the words "Thus I heard" certifying their veracity. He didn't tell people to be obedient to him, but, instead to follow the Dharma instead. His enlightenment was timeless and still speaks to us in this day and age. His disciples often wrote down their own inspiration, and among some of them, seem to have "seen" this same Shakyamuni teaching teachings that were radically innovative from what came before them. They referred to the earlier teachings as "Hinayana" or "lesser wheel.
Buddhism and Religion in general religion are informed by the "insights" of teachers, sometimes called "prophets," "swamis," "arahants" or "Bodhisattvas." These prophets each had a unique realization, which they expressed with their limited language and/or metaphorical skills. The "divine" talks to man, and the Judeo-Christians named this divine God. Buddhists named this divine source the "Buddha" and this divine realization of the "truth" Enlightenment. For members of the Judeo Christian Tradition, an ineffable and indescribable "God" gave man a "law" or "Torah." This law was written into a Book (Bible) so that mankind could follow it. For Buddhists, a very human "Shakyamuni" woke up to this same "realization" within him. In the one tradition God spoke to man through the prophets and sages, in the other, the divine revealed itself to man through Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Arhats. The Hebrew word "Torah" has a similar sense to "Dharma" (both mean "law" and refer to written sacralized teachings) so really the two sets of traditions are arrising from the same ultimate truths.
Shakyamuni described the problem of religion as being like blind men trying to describe an elephant. One thinks the ear is a parasol, another thinks the nose is a snake, another thinks the tail is a fly whisk, and still another is wondering why things are so disgusting. So it is with religious understanding. How we frame the questions determines how we see the answers. On this website, I'm trying to frame questions and provide enough answers so that people can ask themselves the right questions. If we ask the right questions we can get better answers.
Life is like this "World Elephant," and Buddhism is about "awakening" to the nature of that "World Elephant" and to our true "being." Only presumptious people would claim that the elephant's tail was the whole and complete truth without first having examined the elephant's "trunk". Yet many people have done that, and their disciples have insisted that the world is exactly as they said it was. Nichiren warned about people misusing their practice of Buddhism for selfish reasons in the Gosho "Hero of the world." You can see my essay on the subject at Awarning.html and more on this subject at issues.html.
There are many issues within religion that have arrisen from people's misinterpretations of these divine truths. Ultimatly the main reason they don't get resolved is that people, in this day and age are often: "fawning and devious, and they confuse the people and lead them astray." When the Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra he first taught (in the Muryogi Sutra) "I am now discarding provisional means and revealing the truth." In actuality, this was probably the teaching of disciples years later, yet the principle is true. We learn Buddhism and religious understanding in layered experiences. When we see the "World Elephant" from afar, that is a sort of "ephiphany" and we see the general outlines but not the detail. When we live as part of the world Elephant, we aren't always aware of more than the details of the specific place and time we are in. Because of our perspective, it is easy to forget about high purposes In Buddhism the admonition to "follow the Dharma" has often been subverted by people who have claimed (or had claimed for them) the notion that they were so perfect that they were identical to the Dharma and so it was "okay" (even necessarilly) to follow them literally. In the Judeo-Christian religions some teachers have appropriated for themselves the image of God so that they have claimed to be the very image of God to the world. The former notion violates the Buddhist Rule to "Follow Dharma", the later notion violates the commandment to "make no image" of "God" (the Divine). Because of that there are parrallel issues between the two streams of human thought. This website was originally created focusing on Buddhist issues generally and Nichiren issues specifically, but I hope to focus on more universal issues as well as it developes.
With regard to Buddhism, since nobody can (or at least should) dictate entirely what it means to "follow the Dharma" and nobody or group is "perfect" nor should it be, the result is that there are always issues of debate between Buddhists. They can demonstrate what is superior and what is inferior, but that doesn't mean that folks will listen to them or follow their recommendations, nor that people will always agree on what those things mean. These issues are ancient, such as how much to be influenced by the "material world" or whether one lineage or group of ideas is better than another. Many of them require an understanding of the "context" and origins of teachings, past and present. Some of these issues are as modern as the internet. The general issues of importance within this website are issues related to Buddhism in General and Nichiren Buddhism in particular.
The Nichiren schools have traditionally referred to themselves as the Hokke Shu or "Hokke Sect" and that is presently represented by more than 20 or so major sects: Nichiren Shoshu, Nichiren Shu, Honmon Butsuryu Shu, Kempon Hokke, and now the Sokagakkai. There are also tiny groups of note such as Nichidatsu Fujii's group, Nipponzan Myohoji. There are also a few lay based "new age" sects based loosely on his teachings such as the "Reiyukai", "Rissho Koseikei"(also This page), and "Seikai Kyuseikyo". or by some recognings that same Sokagakkai USA I'm part of. Don Ross, a former Gakkai member, has a link to most of these organizations at his website: http://nichirenscoffeehouse.tripod.com/.
The general issues of Nichiren Buddhism include issues of authenticity of source texts, doctrinal issues around how to interpret those texts and the oral traditions surrounding them, and issues related to political disputes between various groups of followers of Nichiren. Some of the various Major Writings of the Founder (Gosho) have been questioned by scholars. (see literal.html). Likewise the central object of worship of Nichiren Shoshu has been questioned on similar issues of authenticity (See daigoh.html). Related to these issues of authenticity are doctrinal disputes regarding notions of "Original Enlightenment"(Hongaku-Shiso), claims as to the relative place of Nichiren in the Buddhist teachings (see truebuddha.html for more on this). Finally, these in turn are related to claims of "lineage" by Nichiren Shoshu and by other schools of Nichiren Buddhism.
Nichiren Shoshu claims to be a correct lineage of True Buddhism handed down from Nichiren, through Nikko Shonin and so forth on to the current High Priest, Nikken Shonin. I like the idea of lineage but there are mistaken notions attached to the subject by NST I can't stomach. That 750 year old lineage came into conflict with it's laygroup when it tried to extend the concept of lineage into the notion that the high priest was infallible and that priests should be reverenced regardless of their behavior. The resulting conflict came into the open in 1991, resulting in the "excommunication" of the entire of the lay organization. I deal with this subject at length at this link:temple.html. For the issues that I think concern NST itself, I have provided this link:nstissue.html
The Sokagakkai started as an educational society with loose links to Nichiren Shoshu (For more see sokagakkai.html). It was founded by Tsunesuburu Makiguchi and developed into a broad Buddhist Movement under the leadership of Josei Toda and his successor President Ikeda, Hojo and Akiya. These developments involved a problematical relationship with the religion and that relationship led to the aforementioned split. In the USA the organization was first known as "NSA" until it was renamed into SGI-USA. To read more about the dispute between the Sokagakkai and it's relationship with Nichiren Shoshu please follow the link: "temple.html"
Certainty versus Dharma
The NSA organization was very certain in it's Nichiren Shoshu derived beliefs in the power of the Dai-Gohonzon and of practicing as taught byNichiren Shoshu. That is one reason why this "split" has had such acrimony and "on-shitsu". Another reason is that the split involved what looked like a personal dispute between two top leaders both claiming an authority beyond reasonable question. The old NSA was a very authoritarian, top down organization run by a very dedicated but "old line" Mr. Williams. The "new" Sokagakkai is supposed to be implementing notions of "bottom up" structure, but is still a "top down" organization run from Japan. Our teacher, President Ikeda has always promoted dialogue but lately it seems that changing those characteristics is proving a major battle, maybe an impossible dream. For more on this subject visit: this link: IRGissues.html
I believe that most of the problems we are facing are really the work of the "Three Powerful Enemies" which are the forces of negativity which work from within and without to prevent us from achieving happiness or anything lastingly positive. I don't believe that those forces rightly should be used in a "demonizing" manner. But there are circumstances where people can become "people of lies". It it is always far easier to label "others" as enemies than to seek and destroy the influence of fundamental darkness on our own hearts. For more on this please follow this link: issues.html
- The four sufferings are birth, growth, sickness or old age and death
- The Nirvana Sutra declares, "Rely on the dharma, not on the man; rely on the chi, not on the shiki." "Rely on the dharma" in this passage means [to rely on] the eternal dharma preached in the Lotus-Nirvana Sutras. "Rely not on the man" means [not to rely on] those who do not believe in the Lotus-Nirvana Sutras. Those who do not have faith in the Lotus Sutra, even Buddhas and bodhisattvas, are not teachers reliable for us [in the Latter Age], not to mention commentators, translators and teachers [after the extinction of the Buddha who do not believe in the Lotus-Nirvana Sutras. "Rely on the chi" means to rely on [the wisdom of] the Buddha. "Rely not on the shiki" means [not to rely on the opinions of] bodhisattvas in the highest stage and below. Shugo Kokka-run (Noppa Translation, page 38)(This quote is courtesy of Bruce Maltz, but is also found in many places in Nichiren's Gosho such as this one in the "How those Initially Aspiring to the way can achieve Buddhahood" and the Opening of the Eyes Gosho). I also have a variation the "Literal issues.html" page.
.•°•. Lotus Sutra Net
[ Ring Hub ]
[ Ring Master ]
[ << Prev | Next >> ]
[ << Prev 5 | Next 5 >> ]
[ Featured Site ]
[ Random | Skip ]
All branches, leaves and flowers of Buddhism are welcome
in this large interfaith WebRing. Add your site now!
A web page with links to various views of these issues:http://dmoz.org/Society/Religion_and_Spirituality/Buddhism/Nichiren/
Jacqueline I. Stone has been "eye opening" in her research, expecially in her Doctoral Thesis, but also in the book "Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism.".