This is a chart designed to show the differences between the
religious teachings propagated by America's most well-known sects of
This chart is currently under construction, so please be careful not to trip over the mess.
Be sure to scroll to the right to see everyone's answers!
Where there isn't an answer, it's because we couldn't find one from that organization. The more members and wealth an organization has, the more prolific they tend to be. That being the case, it's easier to find answers from SGI, the largest and wealthiest Nichiren Buddhist organization, followed by Nichiren Shoshu and so forth. Answers to any unanswered questions are welcomed.
Purposes of This Chart
NBAA isn't about organizationalism. We're not out to get people to join NBAA, although we admittedly could use some help propagating Buddhism. The real intent behind creating a chart like this is to point out what's possible in an individual's Buddhist practice:
1. First, it's possible to practice a correct form of Buddhism, one that leads to Buddhahood, without being a member of SGI or Nichiren Shoshu.
we hope that people might see that even if an organization has an answer to a question that could be deemed technically correct, there may still be a better answer available that is more reasonable or would be a surer or quicker path to Buddhahood or a path to a higher or stronger level of Buddhahood, if you will.
3. While we hope that the reader will think that our perspectives on Buddhism both make the most sense and are the most encouraging to one's practice to become a Buddha in this lifetime, we realize that for some strange reason people may not always see things our way. As one reads the answers provided for the different organizations, one may think
the answer for organization A is the best for one question while thinking that organization B answered the next question better. So the chart provides for individuals a sort of range of options of possible answers to questions about Nichiren Buddhism that they may choose between for their own practice.
4. This chart has acted, and we hope will continue to act, as a sort of dialog between the organizations. An organization's leaders may theoretically, on reading the answers another organization provided, choose to change their teachings or merely the way they explain their teachings to be clearer or to encourage a more direct path to enlightenment for their own members.
What is the primary function of the organization, its mission or purpose for existence?
The first article on our charter is first on purpose. All other points exist in support to article 1, which is,"The Goal Is Enlightenment. We declare that each and every individual who practices in strict accordance with the Lotus Sutra will quickly attain enlightenment." NBAA Charter
As stated on SGI's charter, and reinforced in the charter preamble and the points on the rest of the charter, "SGI shall contribute to peace, culture and education for the happiness and welfare of all humanity based on Buddhist respect for the sanctity of life." SGI Charter
Chant to the Gohonzon, believe exclusively in the Lotus Sutra, believe in and follow Shakyamuni of the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, teach others to do likewise, practice religious refutation.
From their website, "The ultimate goals are the attainment of enlightenment by the individual and, through widely spreading true Buddhism, the establishment of a purified and peaceful world where all people can enjoy happy lives together."
From their website: "We vow to the Buddha and Nichiren Shonin that we will strive to engender peace within ourselves and throughout the world by disseminating the teaching expounded in the Lotus Sutra."
When making decisions about which Nichiren organization one ought to support, if any, what is the most important thing one ought to consider?
No matter whether it's Buddhism or non-Buddhism or an entire religion or just an aspect of it, the only matter to be considered is whether the teaching in question will lead each individual practitioner toward Buddhahood or away from it. It's all about the individual's attainment of Buddhahood.
SGI's published stance is that they're the only organization that propagates the true spirit of Nichiren, usually going on to incorrectly identify some personal mission they claim Nichiren had, such as world peace or the answering of people's prayers the world over. That stance, that SGI correctly follows Nichiren's spirit, is pretty easily felled in debate, since we have thousands of pages Nichiren's writings, providing us with ample explanations, clarifications, and expansions of thought. When they are defeated in a debate about doctrine, when all parties realize they have no choice but to admit that SGI is not in fact following either the intent or the teachings of Nichiren, that knowledge doesn't convince a single SGI member to leave SGI. Furthermore, it's rare to hear an SGI member use that as argument in the first place, either for why they themselves are SGI members or even as a tactic to convert other Nichiren Buddhists to SGI. It therefore is obviously not the true reason SGI members employ, or suggest one employ, in choosing an organization. So to properly answer this question for SGI, rather than quoting their untrue and unadopted published stance, we have instead used the best arguments we've heard from SGI members in various debates.
(The word "best" is not meant to imply any level of agreement or that we feel that the arguments listed here aren't inferior to, more shallow than, or a misunderstanding of the profound philosophy of Buddhism, or that they aren't in some senses misleading about SGI's true nature. It just means that they're the best we've heard from SGI members, as compared with responses like "you're just jealous of President Ikeda")
Here are the actual answers:
Of the three proofs of Buddhism, actual proof is the most important.
Do you get visible benefit from your practice. Do you see positive changes in your life? Do miraculous things happen to you? For instance, if you need money to pay your bills, your aunt might think it's your birthday and send you money out of the blue. If things like this are happening to you, then you know you're already in the correct organization and need not look elsewhere.
One also ought to consider whether the organization has accomplished kosen-rufu, which is to get as many people in the world to chant as possible, fulfilling Nichiren's mission in life. So the size of the organization is the most important thing. And more than that, its size is the evidence, the "actual proof," of its correctness and sincerity. SGI, with 12 million members in 193 countries, is the only organization that has fulfilled this mission on Nichiren's behalf. Actual proof means conspicuous benefit. If other organizations were correct, they would manifest conspicuous benefit, such as converting more people. Besides that, as the largest organization in the world, SGI will be the one to carry the message of Nichiren Buddhism into the future. If one is to support the future of Nichiren Buddhism, they will support SGI.
As an example, here is a quote from an SGI member making that point:
"President Ikeda is correct teacher of Nichiren Daishonin's teaching in the contemporary world. The most obvious fact in this regard is that he and the members, Bodhisattvas of the Earth one and all, have spread the Gohonzon, the embodiment of Nichiren's life, to 192 countries and territories around the world with literally millions, millions of members showing tremendous actual proof of benefit in their lives and spreading waves of peace around the world. This cannot be denied, even by the most prolific propagandists. In fact, the SGI organization represents a great hope to leading intellectuals, scholars, and leaders throughout the world. To slander President Ikeda and this harmonious body of practitioners of the true teaching, comprised of over 12 million Buddha's and bodhisattvas, is tantamount to becoming the enemy of Nichiren Daishonin the Buddha of the Latter Day and all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the universe. The gravity of this sin is beyond imagination."
~ Mark Koral
Does the organization you belong to respect the individual? The sanctity of life? The Buddhahood inherent in all people?
Does the organization you belong to dedicate itself to world peace? To the environment? To education?
President Ikeda is the only one in modern times to have offered his life for Buddhism and faced persecution as the result.
That he triumphed over the persecution is additional actual proof of the validity of his teachings.
Although I may not agree with SGI, President Ikeda is my mentor.
I get encouragement from reading President Ikeda's guidance.
We are far more concerned about quality and preserving the correct teachings than we are with numbers. The spread of the true teachings will last as long as the Latter Day, for ten thousand years and more and the number of faithful believers, according to Nichiren [at least for the foreseeable future], will be less than the amount of dirt that can fit on a fingernail.
"Twenty-sixth High Priest Nichikan Shonin teaches in 'The Meaning Hidden in the Depths' (Montei hichin-sho): 'It is because Mt. Fuji is the origin of kosen-rufu. What is meant by the origin? It is the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching.' (Six-Volume Writings, p. 68) This guidance clearly teaches that embracing the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching, enshrined at Head Temple Taisekiji, leads to kosen-rufu. Sixty-sixth High Priest Nittatsu Shonin admonished the Gakkai for its deviation in the following way: 'If a doctrine other than the teachings of Nichiren Shoshu is propagated throughout the entire world, it cannot be regarded as kosen-rufu.'
(Dai-Nichiren, August 1974, p. 20)
The very mission of propagating the Daishonin’s Buddhism sits on the shoulders of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and laity alone.
How should one focus as they chant?
Specifically the teaching of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, which encompasses many things. Namu, for instance, is a determination, and attached to this phrase it's the vow of a Buddha. It's "At all times I think to myself: How can I cause living beings to gain entry into the unsurpassed way?" (LS, ch 16), or "At the start I took a vow hoping to make all persons equal to me without any distinction between us" (LS, Ch2), or "My wish is that all of my disciples make a great vow...offer your life for the Lotus Sutra." (Nichiren, WND 1003) Another aspect that Nichiren points out is the observation of the "mind" or the existence of the 3000 Realms in a Single Moment of Life, or, put another way, seeing the condition of Buddhahood within in the present moment, at the moment of chanting daimoku, which is contained in both theory and actuality, in both action and in principle, in the phrase Namu-myoho-renge-kyo.
Our response to the Prosperity Buddhism propagated by SGI, we'd point out that
in the second and sixteenth chapters of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni says in many ways and places that the path to enlightenment is through being single-mindedly focused on seeing the Buddha and/or leading others to enlightenment. He also derides those who think only of their desires, saying that they will never attain enlightenment. "...blinding themselves with greed and infatuation,their vision so impaired they can see nothing. They do not seek the Buddha, with his great might, or the Law that can end their sufferings,but enter deeply into erroneous views, hoping to shed suffering through greater suffering." (LS, ch2) "Their desires are the cause whereby they fall into the three evil paths revolving wheel-like through the six realms of existence" (LS, ch2) You should never berate yourself for not being able to concentrate or for focusing on anything less than Buddhahood, your desires or whatever. On the other hand, intentionally focusing on desires or mundane-life goals, or instructing others to intentionally focus on their desires, or instructing them in how to more "correctly" focus on their desires (as in making concrete goals or writing lists to aid in the process) during a meditative state, as is induced through chanting, is contrary to what we're trying to accomplish with our practice of Buddhism, and such a teaching is, in our opinion, a contradiction of Buddhist theory and doctrine, not to mention contrary to a modern scientific understanding of how the human brain works if the goal is to attain enlightenment. "Since childhood, I, Nichiren, have never prayed for the secular things in this life but have single-mindedly sought to become a Buddha." (Nichiren, 839)
Problems, goals, desires, determinations, problems that friends are having, world peace, human happiness, kosen-rufu..
"It's natural for prayers to centre on your own desires and dreams. By chanting very naturally, without affectation or reservation, for what you seek most of all you'll gradually come to develop a higher and more expansive life-condition. Of course, it's perfectly fine as well to chant with the resolve to become a bigger-hearted person or for the welfare of your friends and for kosen-rufu - the happiness and flourishing of all humankind."
~Daisaku Ikeda, Conversations with Youth
"In praying to the Gohonzon, we should drop all pretense and just be ourselves, offering sincere prayers for the realization of all our desires. By so doing, we can elevate our life-condition and strengthen our life force to the point where we start sensing what to do about each of our specific goals. In the final analysis, we should first decide that we are going to win before we chant. This strong determination coupled with our chanting enables us to summon forth the appropriate wisdom to deal with any of the inevitable difficulties we will encounter on the way toward achieving our goals. With this resolution, something positive will start welling up from within our lives through chanting. Worry should not be the basis of our prayer, as this can undermine the power of chanting. Rather we should resolve to win first, so that through each daimoku we chant we are tapping every human quality necessary for our victory."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, pp. 250–251
"SGI members are encouraged to make their prayers specific, concrete and focused on the real-life problems, hopes and concerns they confront. Nichiren Buddhism stresses the inseparability of "earthly desires" and enlightenment. Nichiren states that it is by burning the "firewood" of our desires -- through the act of prayer -- that we are able to bring forth the flame of renewed energy and the light of our inner wisdom."
~ January 2001 SGI Quarterly
The Daishonin states in the Letter to Gijo-bo: “The Jigage, the verse
section of the chapter (in the Lotus Sutra) states, single-mindedly
yearning to see the Buddha, I do not begrudge my life.” This inner
core itself is the Buddha of limitless joy and the original Buddha of
the Three Properties. Moment by moment our behavior must solely
be ‘single-mindedly yearning to see the Buddha, I do not begrudge
my life.’This clarifies the direct path to grasp the Buddha nature as a
common mortal. The correct ichinen of shodai [chanting daimoku to the Gohonzon] is 'single-mindedly
yearning to see the Buddha, I do not begrudge my life.' In The True
Object of Worship, Nichiren Daishonin said: 'Kanjin means to observe
one’s own heart and mind and to find the Ten Worlds within it.'
(Major Writings, Vol. 1, pg. 49)" ~ nst.org, Shodai
When we common mortals, living in the illusion of the six lower
worlds’, chant only to have our desires fulfilled, we are engaged in
the practice of prayer. The ichinen of prayer and the ichinen of faith
are totally different, like night and day. The original purpose of
chanting daimoku to the Gohonzon is Kyochi-myogo with the
Gohonzon which activates one’s Buddha nature; this is what is meant
by the Daishonin when he refers to “Kanjin no Honzon” (The object of
worship to observe one’s heart and mine). However, it must be
emphasized that it is not wrong to pray about your problems or for
what you want and need. Ultimately, these explanations regarding
the differences between the practice of prayer and the practice of
faith are guidelines to help us to have a correct spirit and concentrate to the fullest when we chant daimoku or recite the sutra
to the Gohonzon.
When one is chanting daimoku verbally and one’s ichinen is only to
fulfill one’s own desires (to the point that one cannot concentrate in
his offering of the daimoku to the Gohonzon), then one is deeply
embedded in the illusion of the six lower worlds. That is totally different from “yearning to see the Buddha.”
What portions of the sutra do you recommend people recite as part of their practice of gongyo?
We recite the entire 2nd and 16th chapters of the Lotus Sutra, both prose and verse. We encourage people to do it in English using Burton Watson's translation or their native language, unless that person understands Sino-Japanese like Nichiren and his disciples did.
SGI members recite what in English is the first page of the 23 page second chapter of the Lotus Sutra and the verse section of chapter 16. It is required that all members recite these passages exclusively in Sino-Japanese, as Nichiren did,and not in their own language. If asked about it, they point out that anyone can read (though not recite) the translation if they wish.
Nichiren Shoshu members recite the first page of the second chapter of the Lotus Sutra and all of chapter 16. All members are required to recite the passages in Sino-Japanese, as Nichiren did.
Nichiren Shu recites the first page of the second chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the entire 16th chapter, and some of the teachings of the Nichiren Shu school. They may choose additionally to recite other chapters of the Lotus Sutra or the entire sutra in parts over the course of days. Gongyo can be performed in either Sino-Japanese or your own language.
How does chanting work?
You have to start by defining what is meant by the word "work." We define it as "results in the attainment of Buddhahood." And then you have to define Buddhahood.
At one time in history, say thousands of years ago, it may have been a mystery how this sort of thing worked. But today we know quite a lot about it. At one time it was believed that the brain was static, that after a certain age, that was it, that was the way your brain was for the rest of your life. But we now know that our brains are shaped throughout our lives by our experiences and the things we ourselves think. Everything you experience shapes your brain. And everything you think shapes your brain. The more you think something, and the more intently you focus on it, the more powerful the effect. Meditation, prayer, any sort of intense cognitive activity like that has a super powerful effect on the way you reshape your brain. This may sound disappointing to those who want to believe there is some supernatural force at work, and it may be hard for such people to accept this, but this is what science has discovered, and it will ultimately be the way humanity views this process in the future.
Given the above principle, what we argue is that there are two aspects to attaining Buddhahood. One is practice and the other philosophy. Meditation sends the practitioner into an altered state of consciousness in which the philosophy upon which one is meditating can have a deeper, more subtle, and more profound impact than it otherwise would by simply pondering the philosophy without meditation. That being the case, it's critically important that the philosophy behind the meditation isn't wrong. And the more profound the philosophy is, the better the philosophy is, the more of a positive impact we can have on our minds. Our practice of chanting Namu-myoho-renge-kyo contains within it arguably the most profound philosophy on the planet. Plus, mantra meditation (what we do) has been shown in studies to be more powerful and effective than other forms of meditation on numerous scales. "Stopping meditation," like Mindfulness Meditation, which asks us to stop our thoughts, rests on the assumption that when you stop thought, Buddhahood will naturally simply pop into you. In Nichiren Buddhism, we're not simply stopping distracting discursive thought, but we're also zeroing in on what Buddhahood is all about through our chanting of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. We don't just sit back and wait for something called Buddhahood to pop into us. We actively construct the condition of Buddhahood within us.
I say this in such a way that it sounds modern, but really most of these ideas (minus the reference to the way the brain works and modern neuroscientific research) actually originated from the gosho but somehow got lost somewhere along the way in the practice and teachings of some Buddhists. Nichiren felt that there ought to be some way for people to base their meditative practice on the Lotus Sutra, rather than the other sutras that even Lotus Sutra Buddhists were basing their meditation on. That's how he came up with the idea to chant Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. So to him, too, the philosophy on which one meditated mattered as much as the act of meditating.
That doesn't explain the spooky kind of phenomenon we seem to experience when we chant a lot, like people treating us better for no apparent reason or things magically going our way that never went our way before. Normally when Nichiren Buddhists talk about chanting "working," that's what they're talking about.
The thing about that is that, with the exception of Protection Buddhism (chanting for people to not die), there is no record of Shakyamuni or Nichiren claiming that things would miraculously go well for us when we chant. To our knowledge, despite being destitute and living in a hand-built hut in the woods, he never chanted for money or better living circumstances. He never even says anything about chanting for the emperor to listen to him (and if he did, it obviously didn't work) or for people to convert. He talks about wanting them to convert, and being certain that they would eventually see the reason in his arguments, but he doesn't say anything about chanting for that to happen. The same holds true for Shakyamuni. It's not really part of our Buddhist heritage, so it's not a principle we really have to defend or explain or even teach. In fact, maybe it's something we shouldn't teach people, since, even if it's true, it distracts people from the main goal, which is becoming a Buddha.
As to those who nonetheless see this sort of thing happening when they chant a lot, there is no understood mechanism by which this might occur. However, there is one very interesting experiment that seems like the most scientific and controlled experiment on the subject out there so far. It was done by Dean Radin, Senior Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. He found that experienced meditators were able to alter the activity of photons through meditation. Other experiments prior to his had tried and failed to show results, but Radin theorized that only experienced meditators had the sort of strength of mind, if you will, to pull it off. And that's exactly what he found. The meditators could do it, whereas the non-meditators couldn't. This experiment seems to be telling us in no uncertain terms that indeed our minds do have some kind of control over the external world, but only if we know how to properly use them. How this is possible and to what extent we can change the world around us via this method is still in question.
What is Buddhahood?
It's a life condition, like the other of the nine worlds, like sadness or anger or tranquility, only it's an exceptionally rare life condition due to the amount of effort it takes to attain it. Like the other nine worlds, it is a temporary subjective experience that one has. One doesn't become a Buddha and then remain that way forever. No one is born a Buddha, either. One must make the right kinds of causes to become a Buddha. One can be a Buddha one minute and not a Buddha the next minute. So on the one hand, you may not be able to become a Buddha permanently no matter what, but on the other hand, you can become a Buddha instantly if you make the right kinds of causes. In other words, it's a condition that one experiences one moment at a time, or in a single moment of life, just like the other nine worlds.
This is Nichiren's point of view, and it's a drastically different viewpoint from the old way of approaching Buddhahood. The old way was to hero-worship, to look to a wonderful Buddha person and hope to become like that in some other lifetime. But Nichiren denied that and said that Buddhahood is within us. The same Buddha nature displayed by Shakyamuni is within us as well. And it's not just attainable in some distant, misty future. It's attainable right here and right now. In this way Nichiren took Buddhism out of the theoretical realm and into the actual realm. This theory says, basically, if you aren't attaining Buddhahood through your practice of Buddhism, right here, right now, you need to either change your practice or change your religion, because what you're doing isn't working.
Even though Nichiren viewed Buddhahood differently than anyone ever had, even his own disciples have a hard time seeing Buddhahood as anything other than some perfect, idealized person, like Shakyamuni or Nichiren or someone else. And then they have to make Shakyamuni or Nichiren or that other person into the idealized person they want them to be. Once they've idealized those other people, those "Buddhas," they can't possibly conceive of themselves becoming Buddhas, because they know that they aren't perfect. After all, they know themselves. It's really a shame. As it says in the Lotus Sutra, "People of small wisdom delight in a small Law, unable to believe that they themselves could become Buddhas." That is so true.
So what is it that we're actually talking about, this tenth world of Buddhahood? We would think that anyone who has ever chanted seriously, for hours a day for several weeks, once they get past the belief that Buddhahood refers to perfection in a person, will be able to see that they have already experienced the condition themselves, but just never realized it. For those of you who have practiced seriously, it would be more accurate to self-reflect than to read a description, because no description of a subjective experience will be as true as the experience itself. .
Speaking of that, we hear people say things like how great it was to be in the brass band or kotekitai in NSA. Think about that for a minute. It wasn't that the brass band or kotekitai was all that wonderful. So you were in a band. Those of you who say that surely would agree that what was so great wasn't being in a band. It was your life condition from chanting daimoku, exerting yourself for kosen rufu, and being surrounded by the energy of an entire group of other Buddhas. That, friends, is Buddhahood.
It's an ineffible condition. As a subjective experience, it's impossible to describe to one who has never experienced it. But we can say some things about it. For one thing, you notice that you are a changed person. You don't act the way you would otherwise act. You don't respond to people in the same way. You're a better person. You have more energy and vitality, more hope. You see the world differently and more positively. You also take on a glow about you. you become physically more attractive. You're happier. You begin to deeply concern yourself with the plight of other people. Where you once maybe only chanted for yourself, you begin to chant in earnest for others and actually hope it works. Then, because you're so damned happy, you wish beyond all wishes that everyone could be this happy. You see how much happier you are and how much better of a person you are, and you realize that this is the key to human happiness and flourishing. This, getting other people to see this, becomes your mission in life. You would trade your ordinary, mundane life to take up this mission. And then, in that instant, you're a Buddha.
"The Buddhas wish to open the door of Buddha wisdom to all living beings, to allow them to attain purity. That is why they appear in the world. They wish to show the Buddha wisdom to living beings, and therefore they appear in the world." (Lotus Sutra, "Expedient Means")
Stance on Teachers
Do you believe following a mentor/priest/teacher
is part of the path to enlightenment?
No, we teach a principle that Nichiren repeated to "rely on the Law, and not upon persons." That meant to him that people should adhere to and apply correct teachings rather than follow teachers. And more than that, he explained that we should follow those teachings that are the best, and discard those that are inferior. "Rely on sutras that are complete and final and not on those that are not complete and final." (WND, 692) So we translate this as teaching people to follow those teachings that lead to Buddhahood while discarding those that mislead people or distract them from attaining Buddhahood. This is how you know whether to follow a particular teaching or not. Does it lead to Buddhahood or not? We also say that no human's every sentence is a teaching that leads to Buddhahood. For instance, Nichiren played Go (a game played in Japan). That doesn't mean we should all play Go.
SGI makes a couple of arguments against our advice to rely on the Law:
SGI Point 1. Everyone needs someone to teach them Buddhism. Answer: Yes, that is true in the initial phases of practice. However, as will be explained in this reply, the mentor-disciple relationship, a concept SGI claims is an essential aspect of Buddhist practice, doesn't refer to rudimentary instruction for beginners. After convincing a person to take up Buddhism, teaching them the basic philosophy of Buddhism (ten worlds, karma, Middle Way, three proofs, etc) which doesn't take more than at most two or three years if they're serious students,
and encouraging them to chant diligently until they experience Buddhahood, there is nothing more that you need to do as a teacher. In other words, once they attain Buddhahood, they no longer need a teacher. From then on, they can study Buddhism on their own and determine for themselves whether to incorporate a teaching into their practice or not. If they have become a Buddha, they have taken a vow to dedicate their lives to Buddhism, at that point they are the equals of every Buddha that has ever come and gone, and most certainly no longer need a teacher. They are the teacher. SGI claims that the mentor and disciple, when they share the same vow, are equals. So they are not basing their argument on the teaching that the mentor is a Buddha whereas the disciple is not. The disciple is supposedly also a Buddha, or at least the equal of the mentor, according to the theory. When it comes to the initial learning phase that I described above, where those new to Buddhism must learn basic Buddhist principles, this is not what SGI is talking about when they talk about a mentor. SGI claims that the mentor-disciple relationship is a deep, philosophical Buddhist teaching that takes years to fully comprehend and incorporate into your life. The problem with us, they claim, is that while we may have taken the vows of a Buddha, we have not yet understood the deepest principle in Buddhism, that of mentor and disciple. Also, it is true that most SGI members themselves reject the whole teaching of the mentor-disciple relationship for the first few years of their practice. Then, even after adopting the theory, some people still have to be convinced to accept President Ikeda as their mentor. This means that the mentor-disciple relationship as they teach it is targeted at experienced Buddhists, who, if SGI's teachings lead to Buddhahood, by all rights ought to already be Buddhas by the time they adopt the mentor-disciple relationship. It begs the question, if it's true that adopting a mentor is a requirement to learn Buddhism, how do their members practice Buddhism for the first few years of their practice prior to "understanding" the mentor-disciple relationship?
SGI Point 2. Following the Law the way we teach it, as they have derogatorily remarked, doesn't mean anything. It's an abstract concept. Answer: Yes and no. Yes, following the Law is about finding what works to lead to Buddhahood. Because Buddhahood is a rare, subjective experience, telling someone to follow those teachings that lead to Buddhahood can seem vague to a person who has never experienced Buddhahood. This is why we agree that people do need help initially getting to Buddhahood so that they can have the experience of Buddhahood and know what they're attempting to achieve and ultimately teach to others before venturing out on their own. In that sense it can seem sort of abstract. But also, it must be understood that SGI teaches Buddhism in a sort of theistic way. The term "Law" is taught as a vague abstraction. It can be a stand-in for God. We don't teach or understand Buddhism that way. As we understand it, "Law" means a canonical religious teaching, a text, such as the Bible, employed by a religion to instruct adherents on the tenets of the religion. In our religion, it refers to: the text of the Lotus Sutra and the main point, which is the single-vehicle path or the teaching that Buddhahood is a potential condition of life like sadness or anger, that all people possess; the writings of Nichiren that explain the single-vehicle path more clearly, concretely and with a particular perspective (that's why we're Nichiren Buddhists and not strictly Lotus Sutra Buddhists); and the teaching of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. So according to us, and to Nichiren himself, "follow the Law" means to follow those teachings described above. "Even when great bodhisattvas [teach]..., if they do not do so with the sutra text in hand, then one should not heed them." (WND 109 & 263) This topic was discussed in several of Nichiren's writings, and we think he was so clear about what he meant by the phrase and the meaning of the word "Law," that only one intentionally wanting to misunderstand it for some other reason could do so. Following the Law, or finding the teachings that lead us to Buddhahood, doesn't involve following a person. It only involves studying those teachings and becoming familiar with what they have to do with us attaining enlightenment, both philosophically and experientially. Plus we teach people to employ the three proofs, which can be used to evaluate any religious teaching on the planet. If SGI believes in the three proofs, then it should be able to see that there is no need for a mentor. Just use the three proofs.
The only way one Buddha could be the one-way instructor to another Buddha is in the case where one Buddha's teachings, the "mentor" as SGI calls it, are considered the ultimate teachings through which people can attain the highest form of enlightenment ever achieved by any person -- the complete and final teachings, such as is the case with the Lotus Sutra or Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. In other words, they are the teachings that other Buddhas point to as the current best source of their own knowledge and wisdom until such time as another Buddha comes along and sets down a better doctrine. That would mean that the teachings of SGI's current President, Daisaku Ikeda, the mentor for SGI members, is on a par with Shakyamuni and Nichiren. If that were the case, we might be having a different discussion, but we of NBAA believe his teachings are not only inferior to those of the other teachers but that they go so far as to actually be misleading, "misleading" meaning that the more closely the teachings are followed, the less likely the adherent is to become a Buddha.
"Buddhism is a teaching
of mentor and disciple, expounding as it does the oneness of the
Buddha (mentor) and living beings (disciples). The Lotus Sutra is
the great path that provides the underpinnings for the solemn principle
of mentor and disciple - a path that, when this principle is faithfully
followed, leads to our eternal development as human beings."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, World Tribune, 06/25/99, pg. 7
"Oneness of mentor and disciple exists
when one practices exactly as the mentor teaches. This is the Lotus
Sutra. This is what it means to 'practice the Buddha's teaching.'
This is the true meaning of 'This is what I heard.'
The word 'thus' that starts the Lotus Sutra expounds the oneness
of mentor and disciple. It is when we start to take action with
the goal of realizing this state of 'oneness' that we are able to
'depart' from the fundamental darkness in our own lives. We 'depart'
from the sickness of earthly desires and delusions, and the sun
of Buddhahood brilliantly rises within us. This is the significance
of the final word of the Lotus Sutra, 'departed.'
The twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra passionately
call on us to take action based on the oneness of mentor and disciple."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, Living Buddhism, September 2000, page 43
"Nikko Shonin, the Daishonin's successor,
emphasized that the mentor-disciple relationship is essential to
one's Buddhist practice." ~ Saito, Living Buddhism, October
2000, pg. 40-41
received the teaching directly from the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren's
writings, as can we."
"It is explained about the strong spirit of adoring the Buddha such as saying 'You should devote your body and life.' It is not adoration to the letter of wonderful Dharma or the truth of universe. Also, it is not a quibble such as saying 'That is to say, the Buddha is Buddha-nature of mine.' You should adore the eternal Buddha forever. You should have a strong spirit that desires to see the Buddha. Although you cannot see the living body of Buddha by the naked eye, the immortal Buddha is here anytime. As Nichiren shonin emphasizes that only the Buddha Shakyamuni is a lord, a teacher and a parent for us, it is really necessary for religions to have sentiments to a man of character. Although there are persons who proudly lecture on the law of truth, or who insist on that your disease will be cured by chanting mantra or something, those thoughts are small parts of Buddhism. Keeping a notion to a man of character is the most important on religion. Being deeply moved by the lord's dignity, teacher's enlightenment and parent’s compassion, we can possess wonderful human virtues. Those minds work on the relationship between married persons, the relationship between friends and so on. We are deeply moved by the personality, not the truth. If you seek only the truth, it won't be the true religion. Therefore, it is urging the necessity of adoring the eternal Buddha. The deep emotion to personality is surely necessary for the religion. The Buddha Shakyamuni himself teaches the most important thing of religion here. "With your whole heart, desire to see the Buddha" is very important mind on the faith. On the other hand, although there is a phrase saying 'We will not spare even our lives, we treasure only the unsurpassed way,' the content of the unsurpassed way is the relationship between the eternal Buddha and people who have the Buddha-nature, after all. For example, when you say 'I love my country,' it means that you love persons after all. You love great persons who led the country, not the land of the country or the form of the country."
~ Sinyou Tsuchiya, Kempon Hokke Shu Priest
"In Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, it is self evident that we revere the successive High Priests as the treasure of the priesthood. The Sacred Writings of Nichiren Shoshu states the following: 'When transcribing the Gohonzon, you must write “signature mark of Nichiren” and “transfer of the Heritage of the Law from generation to generation.” The master states, “It is a profound secret that all the successive High Priests must also be revered as Nichiren."'(Seiten, p. 379) Twenty-sixth High Priest Nichikan Shonin states the following in his Six-Volume Writings:
'Nam-butsu, Nam-ho, Nam-so [in the school of Nichiren] means…we must embrace the Second High Priest Nikko Shonin, the great leader who propagates the Life Span chapter of the Essential Teaching of the Lotus Sutra, the leader of the priesthood throughout the ten thousand years of the Latter Day of the Law, and the founder of the Head Temple who inherited the Heritage of the Law. We must embrace the Third High Priest Nichimoku Shonin, the master of the seat of the Law of the entire world, and likewise, the successive High Priests.' (Six-Volume Writings, p. 225) High Priest Nichiin Shonin wrote the following:
'Each successive High Priest after Nikko Shonin also inherited the Heritage of the Law. From the perspective of the Buddha’s inner realization, they are the treasure of the Buddha. From the aspect of manifested external function, they are the treasure of the priesthood.' (Letter of High Priest Nichiin Shonin,
stored at Myokiji Temple in Kanazawa Prefecture)
Based on this profound guidance, it is clear that the successive High Priests inherit the Lifeblood Heritage of the Law from Nichiren Daishonin. They represent the treasure of the priesthood fully integrated with the treasure of the Buddha and the treasure of the Law. "
~ Nichiren Shoshu website
"In Nichiren Shu we inherit the Dharma directly from the scrolls
the Lotus Sutra. That is what the Ven. Ryusho Matsuda, my sensei,
told me. The ministers are trained and educated to help people
directly practice the Lotus Sutra for themselves."
~ Rev. Ryuei Michael McCormick
Do your silent prayers include devotional prayers to your organization or its leaders?
We don't perform silent prayers.
Yes. There is a prayer for the eternal development of the organization as well as a prayer for the current president of SGI, Daisaku Ikeda, and the two prior presidents of the organization.
Yes. Neither the current high priest, nor Nichiren Shoshu is mentioned by name, but there is a prayer for all of the successive high priests "who have inherited and correctly handed down the Living Essence."
Do you keep pictures, drawings, or statues of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, deities, mythical beings, or other personifications of the condition of Buddhahood in or around your altar?
No, this is actually one thing that is strictly forbidden, by which we mean that there is a rule against it in our membership guidelines. One can chant with us and attend meetings, but one cannot be a member of NBAA if it is discovered that they keep these sorts of objects in or around their butsudan (altar) area, within view while chanting.
Why so strict about it? 1. People tend to idolize, revere and worship images of people that they place in their altar areas. We don't want our members worshiping anyone, but rather relying on the Law instead. We teach people to follow Nichiren's teachings, for instance, but if one were to see him stray from the Law, even that teaching would have to be discarded. We're very strict about this. 2. Entering a meditative state reduces one's defenses, and that opens us up to unscrupulous people gaining access to our psyches. 3. People personify concepts to make them easier to understand and embrace intellectually. But the personified concept is not the true meaning of it. It's a crutch. We want people to reach beyond crutches and learn Buddhism correctly so that they can properly transmit it to others. 4. Some sects feel it is okay to place a statue of Nichiren in front of their Gohonzon. We feel that this is disrespectful of the Gohonzon, in a sense implying that Nichiren is the primary object of devotion while the Gohonzon is behind him.
Sometimes. SGI members sometimes keep pictures of their mentor, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, on or next to their altars. SGI community centers have occasionally been known to hang pictures of President Ikeda next to their altars as well. The previous two SGI Presidents can also sometimes be found hanging on the walls of SGI community centers, though the other two men are less commonly found in a member's home. It's more likely that a member will display multiple pictures of President Ikeda, instead.
Images, statues or pictures of Nichiren and Shakyamuni are discouraged and are never seen in community centers, much less near the altar area.
"Normally, if one has a Gohonzon, we chant to that, we do however make sure that the nothing is placed before the Gohonzon so that we have a clear view on it.
Obviously, if we have a wallmounted Gohonzon it's okay to place a Buddha Statue underneath it, again, as long as the Gohonzon is not obstructed."
~ Richard Huigen
No. Nichiren Shoshu's official website instructs members not to place pictures near the butsudan. Images and statues of Shakyamuni and Nichiren are also not permitted.
Yes. Statues of Nichiren placed directly in front of the Gohonzon is a common element found on Nichiren Shu altars. Statues of Shakyamuni can also be found.
Is it necessary for members of your organization to get guidance?
No. We don't talk about guidance at all. The point of Buddhism is to attain Buddhahood, not be specifically instructed on how to live your life. To that end, we teach people to practice (chant, do gongyo, teach Buddhism) and to study to be able to guide their practice correctly, to understand the philosophy and why they chant.
Yes. You should get guidance any time you have a personal problem or you disagree with something going on in the organization.
Advanced/Dedicated Practitioner Instruction
Do you encourage serious practitioners to devote energy to secular goals or activities as part of their practice of Buddhism?
No. A life-saving doctor devotes as much time and energy to medicine as possible. A skilled musician plays his instrument every day. A best-selling writer writes and rewrites until he gets his words perfect and he becomes easily able to articulate even the most difficult ideas to express. We are masters of Buddhism, charged with its purity and its spread, responsible for the enlightenment of each person who requests to learn Buddhism from us. Like a good doctor who would not be half-hearted in understanding the illnesses of his patients, concerning himself more with writing Peace Proposals to the United Nations than finding cures for diseases, as Buddhists, we should not be half-hearted in practicing or teaching Buddhism. Buddhists make up only 7% of the world's population, even fewer are Nichiren Buddhists. We are few right now, and this is our mission. This is the wrong time to sit idly by waiting for kosen-rufu to magically envelope the world. If we miss this opportunity, the perfect moment for us to exert ourselves for the most noble cause in human history will have passed. We have to do it. Now. Or this religion is in danger of being lost altogether or usurped and warped by unscrupulous individuals.
It would be nice if we had unlimited amounts of time, energy and resources to commit ourselves to every cause on the planet, but it's not that way. We have to make choices with our time. We each have to choose what is most important to us and where we can have the most positive impact. We believe that complete elimination of suffering is only achievable through the attainment of Buddhahood, which can only happen by means of assiduous and correct Buddhist practice. Therefore other secular interests, however well-intended, are of lesser interest and an aside rather than the main point. It requires a considerable amount of effort to attain enlightenment, we are a long way off from kosen-rufu, few people are dedicated to teaching others how to attain enlightenment, Nichiren Buddhism is on the brink of extinction (as always), many people around the world continue to suffer in the six lower realms without any clue as to how to resolve it or even that it's possible, and one has no time in this life to waste on less important matters than this. Secular activities are certainly not any part of the mission of NBAA, and actually run counter to point 5 in NBAA's charter, which is about this very point. As for individual members leading their own personal lives, they can of course do whatever they wish. If other volunteer activities begin to interfere with an individual's practice to a degree that that person isn't able to maintain Buddhahood in their own lives or isn't able to teach others how to do so, we would recommend that that person scale back on the lesser activities and commit oneself to the greater goal of achieving Buddhahood and teaching others how to attain Buddhahood as well.
In a "Conversation Between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man," a story about an unenlightened man encountering gradually more and more profound teachings in his journey to find the truth, the unenlightened man encounters a follower of Ryokan, the Chief Priest of the True Word Precepts school of Buddhism, a rival Buddhist sect. Ryokan's follower converts the unenlightened man to the True Word Precepts school by using the following argument: "If you wish to quickly free yourself from the sufferings of birth and death, then you should observe the five precepts and the two hundred and fifty precepts, deepen your compassion for others, refrain from killing any living thing, and, like the Honorable Ryōkan, engage in building roads and bridges. This is the finest of all teachings. Are you prepared to embrace it?"
After having been converted by that teacher, the unenlightened man encountered another teacher, a better teacher, who asked him what his religious views were. The unenlightened man answered, "Although I know I can never equal the Honorable Ryōkan, I have determined to do all I can to repair roads that are in poor condition and to build bridges over rivers that are too deep for wading."
This seems to us like satire. In this writing, Nichiren was making fun of them, using a combination of ridicule and serious argument to point out some of the absurdities of the opposing religions of his day. But you know the saying "many a true word is spoken in jest"? The man's answer, while seemingly absurd when phrased in this way, probably wasn't that far from reality. We see people believing in some very similar sorts of notions even today, even, oddly, among Nichiren Buddhists.
When the unenlightened man tells the new teacher that he believes in building roads and bridges, the new, better teacher replies, "Your concern for the way would seem to be admirable, but your approach is foolish. The doctrine you have just described to me is the lowly teaching of the Hinayana."
SGI members are encouraged to support the United Nations, environmental causes, the King-Gandhi-Ikeda exhibit, campaigns against violence, and other secular activities. These are not considered separate or in addition to your practice of Buddhism but are part and parcel to it. You should of course also dedicate yourself to SGI activities, but it should be understood that secular activities are part of your activities for Buddhism and are in no way separate. Time devoted to those kinds of activities is time devoted to Buddhism.
"SGI members are active in contributing to their local communities and see the ultimate aim of Buddhism and the SGI as the creation of a just, sustainable and peaceful world. SGI groups all over the world undertake projects suitable to the local situation and culture. This could be through cleaning a local park, holding a discussion on women's role in building peace, or showing an awareness-raising exhibition in a library. SGI focuses its education efforts on the themes of peace and disarmament, sustainable development and human rights. SGI's social engagement can also be seen in the day-to-day activities of individual SGI members who are contributing to the betterment of their communities, families and workplaces. SGI believes that the United Nations, for all its flaws, is a vital organ for international cooperation which enables issues to be tackled on a global level. To help amplify the message of the UN, SGI has initiated public education programs in support of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World and the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development."
~ SGI website
Even in the secular teachings we see the road to hell is paved with noble intentions. Sincerity, caring and kindness is not enough. Also required are the correct teachings and doctrines of Buddhism. This is the foundation for constructing a life of Joy, Purity, Noble Self, and Eternal Self taught by Nichiren Daishonin.... The Daishonin subsequently states [in Repaying Debts of Gratitude]: '.... Mastering Buddhism, however, remains impossible without enough time to absorb it. And if you are to have enough time to study, it is
impossible to obey one's parents, masters and sovereign. Those who aim at attaining Buddhahood cannot afford to be obedient to parents masters and sovereign until they reach the ultimate way to cut the chain of birth and
' 'Time to absorb it' is impossible with the many counterproductive and worthless activities of the SGI which do not afford one the time to absorb Buddhism. If we are to absorb Buddhism, we should not obey even our parents, teachers and sovereigns, let alone our friends, or those who would take away our precious time to master Buddhism and attain Buddhahood. We "cannot afford to be obedient" to those who distract us from our great vow. President Ikeda and the SGI would have us spend our precious time on World Tribune promotion, leaders meetings, statistics, "study" meetings, reading the Human Revolution, the New Human Revolution, the Newest Human Revolution, the many writings of Ikeda, and reading the World Tribune. This is at the expense of reading the Lotus Sutra, the Gosho, the Nirvana Sutra, the provisional sutras and other religious and important secular works (in order to convert the provisional Buddhists and non-Buddhists and to "protect what the Buddha has entrusted to us" which is the Lotus Sutra and the authentic teachings of Nichiren Daishonin). After we have mastered Buddhism and obtained Buddhahood, then and only then can we be said to be obedient to our parents, sovereign, and masters.
The Daishonin shows us the virtue of abandoning those who would hinder our attainment of Buddhahood.
~ Mark Rogow
No. They don't oppose it, but they also don't encourage their own members to run out and join a bunch of secular organizations, either.
Are there situations in which you think serious practitioners of Buddhism don't have to chant?
When you're physically unable.
"Setting daimoku targets can be useful, but when you’re tired or sleepy and are just mumbling in a half-unconscious daze, then it's better to stop and go to bed. After you’ve rested, you'll be able to chant with concentration and energy again.... If you’re running late for school and don’t have time, there’s no need to be anxious about missing gongyo. In such cases, for example, if your mothers are practicing and are chanting for you, their prayers will protect you. More importantly, as long as you have sincere faith in the Gohonzon, the fortune you have accumulated will stay with you."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, Discussions on Youth
"Accordingly, you do not necessarily have to recite the sutra as you usually do in gongyo, if, for example, you are sick. If, as a result of forcing yourself to do a complete gongyo at such times, your condition should worsen, then, rather than increasing your benefit, it may in fact have the opposite effect of destroying your joy in faith and thus generating negative value."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, Lectures on the Hoben and Juryo Chapters, 1996
Do you encourage a fanatical practice of Buddhism?
Yes. We encourage people to practice with the spirit of offering their lives as Nichiren and the Lotus Sutra both teach. "single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha not hesitating even if it costs them their lives" (LS, ch 16) "Life flashes by in but a moment. No matter how many terrible enemies you may encounter, banish all fears and never think of backsliding." (Nichiren, WND p. 395)
You should be reasonable in your personal practice, not spending so much time chanting that you can't devote yourself to other activities in life. You should focus on creating a happy family, doing well on your job, becoming respected in society, and contributing in some way to greater pursuits, such as world peace. It's also good to have a hobby or two as well. Be careful with any sort of fanaticism that you don't get carried away by dogmatism and thinking that your own religious views are superior to the views of others.
"If a religion is worthy of the name, and if it can respond to the needs of contemporary times, it should nurture in its followers the spiritual base for becoming good citizens of the world."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, For the Sake of Peace
"Faith and daily life, faith and work these are not separate things. They are one and the same. To think of them as separate faith is faith, and work is work is theoretical faith. Based on the recognition that work and faith are the same, we should put one hundred percent of our energy into our jobs and one hundred percent into faith, too. When we resolve to do this, we enter the path of victory in life. Faith means to show irrefutable proof of victory amid the realities of society and in our own daily lives."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, For Today and Tomorrow, Daily Encouragement, p 175
"There are instances where an organizational unit formally conducts a '10-hour daimoku campaign' or the like. While there is nothing wrong with an activity of this kind, if it is voluntarily undertaken by two or three willing people, difficulties arise when an attempt is made to impose such a rigid regimen equally on many people."
~Daisaku Ikeda, November 8, 2013 WT
"Carrying on in such a way [chanting 10 hours a day and/or boasting about how much you chant] can easily give rise to various misunderstandings among those around you. A person who has such an attitude may be viewed by neighbors as something of a fanatic."
~Daisaku Ikeda, November 8, 2013 WT
"So great is the benefit of chanting daimoku. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo even once produces tremendous benefit, eternal benefit. This is the essence of our faith. We should have great confidence in this point..... For instance, from time to time, I hear of people chanting eight or 10 hours in a single day. I bow my head to the intensity and earnestness of faith of these members. If, however, they neglect their responsibilities and commitments and just chant away, they cannot be said to be practicing in accord with the principle 'faith manifests itself in daily life.' You must not allow your daily life to fall by the wayside or cause others, including members of your family, suffering and inconvenience because of your many hours of chanting." ~Daisaku Ikeda, November 8, 2013 WT
"I hope each of you will realize success in your respective fields, fully recognizing that success means not giving up halfway but resolutely pursuing the path you have chosen. To this end, it is also important that you realize that the place where you work is a place for forging your character and growing as a human being. By extension, therefore, it is a place for your Buddhist practice, a place for practicing your faith. When you view things from this angle, all your complaints will disappear."
~ Daisaku Ikeda,
For Today and Tomorrow, Daily Encouragement, pg 283
"The greatest happiness is found by applying yourself with confidence and wisdom in your workplace as an exemplary member of society, working hard for the sake of a fulfilling life and the well-being of your family. A person who does so is a victor in life. Aspiring to devote oneself to a humanistic cause, to upholding human rights and spreading the ideals of Buddhism out of a desire to work for people's happiness and welfare is a truly laudable ambition. That does not mean, however, that you cannot contribute to peace unless you're in some special profession. Of course, while I highly commend anyone who wishes to work for the United Nations or become a volunteer worker overseas, there are many people striving for peace right now in their own humble fields of specialty. The important thing is to be proud of your work and your capacity and to live true to yourself. Activity is another name for happiness. What's important is that you give free and unfettered play to your unique talents, that you live with the full radiance of your being. This is what it means to be truly alive."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, Discussions on Youth
What is the amount you recommend serious practitioners of Buddhism chant?
It depends on the individual and how serious of a Buddhist we're talking. But the answer is more than an hour a day for serious Buddhists. We generally encourage 30 minutes per day for new people in two 15 minute segments or as much as they can do. If they've adopted the fanatical attitude toward their practice described above and they're really serious about attaining enlightenment RIGHT NOW, then two to three hours a day including gongyo (recitation of parts of the Lotus Sutra, as discussed below). Anyone who is willing to offer their lives ought to be willing to chant however much it takes to become a Buddha in this lifetime. Two hours a day may not be maintainable at all times or every single day, for instance, you may have an emergency one day, but it's a good general target to strive toward as often as you can.
"When people first start to practice often they begin by chanting for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. The most important thing is to try to make this a regular part of one's daily routine, if possible, morning and evening."
~ SGI website
"Like earning a $100 note is better than earning $10 note. The important thing in prayer is that we become happy, therefore there is no hard and fast rule about having to chant a certain number of hours. The important thing is that you should enjoy doing chanting."
~Daisaku Ikeda (November 8, 2013 WT)
The most important thing is to chant as sincerely and as much daimoku as possible to the point that you feel satisfied.
Of course, the more Odaimoku you chant, the more merit you accumulate and the greater benefit you receive. But some people abuse this by saying, "If you do not chant Odaimoku 100 times or 1,000 times everyday, you will fall into hell." There is no authority to prove such a statement, and on the contrary, such a ridiculous statement perplexes people who have pure faith in the Buddha and Nichiren Shonin. As long as your time permits, please try to chant Odaimoku from the bottom of your heart.
Do you ever discourage members from chanting "too much" or being "fanatical" in their practice of Buddhism?
If one cares at all about the enlightenment of the individual in question, then one would NEVER discourage as strong of a practice of Buddhism from the person as he or she is willing and able to commit. Besides, it's understood and accepted by society, even among the atheist community, for Buddhists to go on retreat and meditate for 10-12 hours a day. For instance, the Dalai Lama has said that he meditates 4-5 hours a day. Deepak Chopra meditates two hours a day. Sam Harris, atheist author, encourages people to go on meditation retreats in which they meditate for 10-12 hours every day for weeks at a time. Given our history and our founder's guidance, Nichiren Buddhists should be the most bold, the most courageous of all Buddhists, in advocating for a practice of Buddhism that leads people to enlightenment in actuality, not theory. And we should be the most compassionate and supportive when people try to implement such a practice and stand by them, saying to them "Yes! Do it! Don't listen to the opinions of rest of the world. Become a Buddha today!!! I've got your back on this!" If our own members can't become Buddhas through our support, teaching, and encouragement, then who can?
The whole point of our mission as Buddhists is to teach people how to attain something significantly different (Buddhahood) through chanting. This is a state of mind, emotion, and being that is entirely out of the ordinary, different from anything that can be experienced by any other means, be it activities for world peace doing other kinds of good deeds or activities or even prayer to an external entity. We, as Buddhists, believe that the more one meditates, the deeper they go and the more changed they are by the experience. This change, this shift in consciousness, awareness and emotion is the goal of our religious practice. This inner change in the consciousness of people is the means by which we intend to change the world using Buddhism, not by doing more of the same things we've already been doing that haven't worked up until now (such as peace activism). If we lose sight of this, we've lost sight of the entire purpose of Buddhism, the reason for its existence.
Those who discourage others from doing what it takes (chanting hours) to attain this deep state of meditation, implying that it's beside the point, at best an extra, at worst a distraction from our lives, it seems to us have no faith whatsoever in the experience of Buddhahood, that it exists or matters. Therefore they don't even qualify as Buddhists in the same sense that one who doesn't worship a god can't be a theist. It's by definition. The name of the religion itself refers to the experience of Buddhahood. Believing in and aspiring toward Buddhahood is the essence, the main point, of Buddhism.
If they have no faith in Buddhahood, it stands to reason that they can't be Buddhas. How can you lack faith in the existence of a state of mind you're currently experiencing? If they aren't Buddhas, then it only makes sense that one shouldn't follow the teachings of such people, as those teachings obviously couldn't lead to Buddhahood.
"From time to time, I hear of people chanting eight or 10 hours in a single day. I bow my head to the intensity and earnestness of faith of these members. If, however, they neglect their responsibilities and commitments and just chant away, they cannot be said to be practicing in accord with the principle 'faith manifests itself in daily life.'... Nor should you go around boasting of the long hours you have chanted in a day. Carrying on in such a way can easily give rise to various misunderstandings among those around you. A person who has such an attitude may be viewed by neighbors as something of a fanatic."
~Daisaku Ikeda, November 8, 2013 WT
Propagation and Shakubuku (Religious Refutation)
Has religion been an agent of harm to society? What can be done to correct religiously-related problems?
In Buddhism, we believe in cause and effect. One way we create causes is through thought. Thought effects our words and our deeds. Thought is religion. For us, there can be no denying the powerful effect that religion has on our lives without denying the underlying premises of Buddhism itself.
"As a man believes, so he will act." ~ Sam Harris, The End of Faith
A bad religious teaching is one in which the closer one adheres to it, the more fundamentalist the practitioner is, the more problems will be caused by adherence to the teaching. If as the person divorces themselves more and more from the teaching, making up creative ways of interpreting the doctrine and cherry picking only those things they want to apply, their lives get better and they cause less harm to others, that, too, is a sign that that person is practicing a religious teaching that is worse than not practicing any religion at all. It's on the negative side of the neutral scale.
On the other side of the neutral scale, if the closer one adheres to the teaching, things get better and better, if the ultra-fundamentalist of that religion is one who, as an example, rather than stoning people to death actually protects life, then we can say that it's a good teaching.
This question is slanted in favor of the way society has always viewed suffering, as if it comes from outside of us. No matter the source of the suffering, Buddhism reveals to us that our own suffering can be overcome through our practice of Buddhism. Overcoming suffering doesn't refer to changing the circumstances that caused the suffering. It refers to changing the way we feel internally. We want to make clear that that is the primary focus of Buddhist practice. If you teach one person a method to make them Buddhas, you have helped at least one person. On the other hand, if your whole focus is on making the world a better place in an abstract sense, such as by parroting phrases like "world peace," even if that were to lead to the complete end of war, not a single person will have learned how to become Buddhas by that means. So although things like world peace, the advancement of medicine, ending poverty and such need to be resolved, so too do people need to learn how to become Buddhas. In our view, teaching people how to experience Buddhahood in their own lives isn't just on the list of important things; it's the most important thing. And that only happens through the propagation of Buddhism.
In Buddhism, there are different stages of enlightenment one can attain. The various stages of enlightenment are attained by employing various religious teachings. Some religious teachings don't lead to any sort of enlightenment but can actually make you or society worse off than you otherwise would have been.
For instance, Shakyamuni was a vocal opponent of the caste system, which he argued was caused by the Brahmanistic teaching of reincarnation. Rather than arguing that the Brahmans were using religion to oppress the people, he argued that the philosophy of reincarnation that they were teaching was itself wrong.
From the very beginning Shakyamuni had made it clear that he felt that there were very bad religious teachings, kind of bad religious teachings, kind of good religious teachings, good religious teachings, and very good religious teachings. In other words, each teaching fell on a scale in relation to other alternatives. A teaching that leads to a lower form of enlightenment might seem like a good teaching, but when compared to a teaching that leads to the highest kind of enlightenment, such as the Lotus Sutra, that teaching doesn't seem like such a good thing to practice anymore. That "good" teaching can be a cause of interference, preventing people from adopting the better teaching. When that happens, it becomes a bad thing, although not as obviously bad as the really bad teachings, such as the Brahmanism that was oppressing the people with its teaching of reincarnation.
So from this perspective, the way religions can harm individuals and society is by preventing people from experiencing the highest level of Buddhahood known to be attainable. The second way religions can harm society, when the teachings of the religion are more obviously destructive, is when they actively promote the infliction of suffering on others.
We live in a society in which the majority of the population embraces a religious doctrine that has two major, obvious flaws, even evident to non-Buddhists, who have never experienced Buddhahood. One is that its doctrine is considered divinely inspired, the word of a God. This means that it is at least in theory beyond debate, or even dialog, using human intellect. We can question what the message was that God meant to convey in the text but, once a conclusion is reached in the mind of an adherent as to what was meant, the message itself cannot be questioned. One cannot say, for instance, "Yeah, that's not right. God made a mistake there."
The second obvious problem with this text, the one that makes the first problem result in such utter horror for the people of the planet, is that the text itself is chock full of falsities about the nature of the world, violence, sexism, instructions to murder people for all sorts of reasons. Entire books have been written on the amount of violence and general barbarity and immorality that the supposed author has instructed his creation to inflict on others in this book.
"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."
~ Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion
"And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in a ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him withouth the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses."
~ Numbers 15:32-36
"They attacked Midian just as the Lord had commanded Moses, and they killed all the men. Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the people went to meet them outside the camp. But Moses was furious with all the military commanders who had returned from the battle. "Why have you let all the women live?" he demanded. "These are the very ones who followed Balaam's advice and caused the people of Israel to rebel against the Lord at Mount Peor. They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the Lord people. Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves."
~ Numbers 31:7-18
"When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them."
~ Deuteronomy 7:1-2
"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
~ Leviticus 20:13
"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto themm to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."
~ 1 Corintheans 14:34-35
"But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurpt authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression."
~ 1 Timothy 2:12-14
The above passages are just a tiny sampling of the morally reprehensible views of the Bible. To get a true picture of how depraved and ignorant the book is, you have to sit down and read it for yourself, not cherry-picking the least deranged portions, but starting at page one and working your way to the back.
There might have been cases where people have intentionally misinterpreted this text to justify war, murder, or oppression, but for the most part, the source of the problem has come from the writing itself, not from misinterpretations of it. It's only through new, creative interpretations that over time we've managed to eliminate from our daily lives many of the harms caused by religious persons correctly interpreting and attempting to faithfully adhere to the teachings contained in the text.
We can't support, make excuses for, and say nothing while bad religions run rampant. We have to speak out about this, to point out that there are differences in religions, and that those differences have real world effects on the lives of those who practice them, as well as the rest of us, as their faithful carry out those practices.
Until the Abrahamic religions that rule our world today are made impotent, taking their place on the shelves of academia together with Zoroastrianism, Paganism, and the religion of Ancient Egypt, where they're studied as curiosities of a bygone era, it will continue to inflict harm on society.
"Religion exists to enable people to live in peace. Why is it, then, that throughout history religion seems to have ignited conflict? This is and has always been a fundamental question for humanity.... While the issues involved are complex and we must be careful not to oversimplify them, 'religious conflicts' are in fact often expressions of political or economic discontent, or they have been contrived to reinforce the authority of the group in power. Religion is exploited in such cases to provide a 'great cause' that justifies the conflict, to fan the flames of hostility or to unify one's own side. Conflicts of this type undeniably have this aspect.... No matter how we may distort their words, can we imagine the founders of the world's great religions desired that people should slaughter each other? That cannot possibly be the case.... Each religion can be made a force for good or evil by the people who practice it."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, The World Is Yours to Change
"It is the younger generations who hold the key to creating peace. No one is born hating others. Prejudices and discriminatory attitudes are ingrained during the process of growing to adulthood, as young people are inculcated with a fear and hatred of "the other." I know this from experience, having spent my youth amidst the dark and violent pressures of a society dominated by militarism.... Since 9/11, much has been made of role religious belief plays as a factor in terrorism. But the real issue is that of exclusionary ideology and fanatic actions cloaking themselves in the language and symbols of religion. If we fail to appreciate this, and start looking askance at the practitioners of a particular faith, we will only deepen mistrust and further aggravate tensions. It goes without saying that any religion that justifies terrorism or war has undermined the spiritual basis for its own existence. I firmly believe that the mission of religion in the twenty-first century must be to contribute concretely to the peaceful coexistence of humankind. Religious faith can do this by fostering a truly global consciousness and restoring the bonds between human hearts. But it is only through dialogue that this potential can be realized. In an exchange I shared with Iranian-born peace scholar Majid Tehranian, he expressed this in the starkest terms: 'Without dialogue, we will have to walk in the darkness of self-righteousness. The time has come to look beyond questions of "friend or foe" and to learn to speak from the common ground of our shared humanity."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, The Japan Times on Sep. 11, 2003
"The twentieth century--in which ideology attained the status of an absolute value, and fanaticism of all kinds stirred storms of war and violence--offers painful testimony to the fact that the smallness and frailty of individuals make them act against that which is human, thwarting our attempts to be the protagonists in the creation of history."
- Ikeda, 2008 Peace Proposal
"To some extent any ideology embodies an orthodoxy or set way of understanding the world. While this can sometimes be a positive thing, at the same time orthodoxies can bind people’s thinking and judgment to a single, exclusive point of reference. There is an intrinsic danger that this tendency can get out of control and that abstract “isms” will come to hold thrall over real people. This can give rise to fanaticism, resulting in a situation in which human life is grotesquely devalued and death is glorified. In contrast to such orthodoxies, the most prominent feature of humanism is that it does not seek to impose norms of behavior. Rather, it places central stress on the free and spontaneous workings of the human spirit and on autonomous judgment and decision-making."
- Ikeda, 2005 Peace Proposal
What is the root cause of religious violence - violence perpetrated in the name of religion?
Although there are some insane people in the world who think God is speaking to them in their heads telling them to commit acts of harm against others or even themselves, when the violence is organized, that is not the same phenomenon. Whether it's burning witches or beheading journalists, generally when an organized group claim that they're committing a violent act because it was commanded by their religious text, an honest, sane, in context reading of that text bares out the truth of their claim. In other words, these are sincere people trying to live honestly by the religious doctrine they adhere to, and more than that, trying to truthfully live up to God's will. That being the case, in these particular cases, the violence is the result of the religious doctrine that those people adhere to. In a larger sense, because people have the ability to overcome their violent tendencies, all violence could be said to be the result of the religious doctrine they adhere to. Even those who claim to be non-religious are adhering to a doctrine of disbelief in the ability of people to change themselves through dedicated practice, so even they are adhering to a doctrine that ultimately results in violence through omission.
"Religion exists to enable people to live in peace. Why is it, then, that throughout history religion seems to have ignited conflict? This is and has always been a fundamental question for humanity.... While the issues involved are complex and we must be careful not to oversimplify them, 'religious conflicts' are in fact often expressions of political or economic discontent, or they have been contrived to reinforce the authority of the group in power. Religion is exploited in such cases to provide a "great cause" that justifies the conflict, to fan the flames of hostility or to unify one's own side. Conflicts of this type undeniably have this aspect.... No matter how we may distort their words, can we imagine the founders of the world's great religions desired that people should slaughter each other? That cannot possibly be the case.... Each religion can be made a force for good or evil by the people who practice it."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, The World Is Yours to Change
What is the biggest obstacle/enemy to the spread of Buddhism or the Buddhahood of the people today?
"I think we face an equal but much more sinister challenge from the left, in the shape of cultural relativism - the view that scientific truth is only one kind of truth and it is not to be especially privileged."
~Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist, best-selling author of The Selfish Gene (which revolutionized our understanding of genetics) and the The God Delusion
Progress results from debating ideas using reason and evidence. If you believe your idea is better than another idea, you present your case in support of your beliefs. This is the way science advances, and it's the way religion and all areas of thought ideally ought to advance.
"I hope to show that spirituality can be -- indeed, must be -- deeply rational, even as it elucidates the limits of reason.... It is time we realized that we need not be unreasonable to suffuse our lives with love, compassion, ecstasy, and awe; nor must we renounce all forms of spirituality or mysticism to be on good terms with reason."
~ Sam Harris, philosopher and neuroscientist, best-selling author of The End of Faith and Waking Up
"Buddhism is reason. Reason will win over your lord."
~Nichiren ("The Hero of the World," WND p. 839)
We live in the Latter Day of the Law, a time when people are too arrogant to seek out ideas that contradict their own and determine whether to keep or discard their previously-held beliefs. There have always been people who were too arrogant to change their minds when encountering a better way of thinking, but the Latter Day theory holds that in this time period that sort of mentality is more rampant than it ever was in the past. Postmodernism has created an environment where that is more true now than it ever has been in the past.
Some people argue that we don't live in Japan in the Middle Ages. That's right. We don't. The times are much worse now than they were then. The people are even more arrogant now than they were then. They're even more opposed to reason, logic and evidence than they were back then, particularly when it comes to religion. In Nichiren's time, they had religious debates, and sometimes people even converted on the spot when they were defeated. When was the last time anyone has seen that happen in modern times?
Today we have an even more insidious enemy of reason than Nichiren or Shakyamuni could have imagined would develop. That enemy is known as postmodernism, multiculturalism, or relativism, and its specific application to religion is called religious relativism.
As we see it, that cultural ideology is the biggest enemy of the spread of Buddhism, or the spread of any kind of reasonable and useful philosophy, today.
Postmodernism is a late twentieth century development in thinking, but it has swept its way across the planet relatively quickly. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines postmodernism this way: "Postmodernism as a philosophical movement is largely a reaction against the philosophical assumptions and values of the modern period of Western (specifically European) history—i.e., the period from about the time of the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries to the mid-20th century." It goes on to explain that postmodernists reject the following assumptions
"1. There is an objective natural reality, a reality whose existence and properties are logically independent of human beings—of their minds, their societies, their social practices, or their investigative techniques. Postmodernists dismiss this idea as a kind of naive realism. Such reality as there is, according to postmodernists, is a conceptual construct, an artifact of scientific practice and language."
"2. The descriptive and explanatory statements of scientists and historians can, in principle, be objectively true or false. The postmodern denial of this viewpoint—which follows from the rejection of an objective natural reality—is sometimes expressed by saying that there is no such thing as Truth."
"3. Through the use of reason and logic, and with the more specialized tools provided by science and technology, human beings are likely to change themselves and their societies for the better. It is reasonable to expect that future societies will be more humane, more just, more enlightened, and more prosperous than they are now."
So to a postmodernist, debating about objective measures of truth, like say "We have concrete evidence that this is true while this is false" is a wrong perspective. From their perspective, because we're biased by culture and nature and a bunch of other variables, we could no more know what's objectively true and what's objectively false about the world, if indeed there even is such a thing as true and false, than an ant might know what country its anthill is located in.
The natural outcropping of postmodernism when applied to religion is the belief that there is no such thing as a rational religion, nor could there ever be. Therefore all religions are essentially equal, either equally good or equally bad, but at base there's no real difference. That perspective is known as religious relativism. Say we were to develop a religion based on something like the scientific method, whereby the details may change but those changes are subject to evidence. This religion we just invented would be as rational as humans could make a religion, but to a religious relativist, it would be no better or worse than any other religion anyone has ever invented. Say we created another religion that was composed of nothing but stories about sea monsters. From a religious relativist's perspective, both of those religions should be considered to have equal standing.
Prior to postmodernism, Europe was undergoing the age of Enlightenment, also known as the Age of Reason. The Age of Enlightenment was the opposite of postmodernism. There was an assumption that there were objective truths to be known about the world, and we humans could determine those truths through reason. At that time there was a battle between religious dogma and reason. The religious dogma says that we can't debate using reason, because God is the ultimate possessor of knowledge. We must therefore defer to God.
Reason still has to battle that sort of religious dogma in some sectors, but the larger battle is with relativism. The battle now is with a society that is anti-reason. Relativism is far more insidious an enemy of reason than religious dogma ever has been. For one thing, it doesn't matter what religion you are, you can still be infected with it. So everyone can have it, regardless of religion. Another problem is that the people of the world have subconsciously adopted the philosophy of relativism without being fully aware that they have done so or conscious of how that philosophy must play out on our lives. They haven't consciously chosen this belief-system; it's simply ingrained into the culture. At least when anti-reason is religiously-based, it's confined to the adherents of that religion. If you could convert a person, if you could convince them that there isn't a God or that the Bible isn't the word of God, you could divorce them from the dogma that held them hostage. But with postmodernism, there's no religious ideology to break people away from, and they aren't even cognitively aware that they have a belief-system in place that a non-believer could try to convert them from.
Religious relativists don't believe in applying reason to religious debates. That being the case, bad religions, the worst religions, have free reign to flourish. Religious relativists don't apply critical analysis to their own religions. They actually reject the whole notion of applying critical analysis to religion. From their perspective, reason, logic, and evidence have no place in religion, and there is no such thing as objective truth. They can actually become angry if you begin to talk about what's objectively true and what's not in the context of a religious discussion.
With religious relativism running rampant in our culture, there can be no discussion whatsoever about whether one philosophy is better than another. There can be no discussion about whether something is true or false. There can be no comparison between good ideas and bad ideas. There is no room for applying reason to religion. There is no room for applying science or truth to religion. There is no room to compare religions. There is no room for debate. There is no room for conversion.
Here's how religious relativism works to support ignorance and dogma: There are people who adhere to religions that contain erroneous and harmful teachings. The closer one adheres to said teachings, the more they harm themselves and others. However, not all adherents of the teachings are fully faithful to its doctrines. These people are known as "moderates." The faithful adherents to the religion are not relativists. They generally believe that their religion is right, not for good reason but for something rather circular, like because it says so in the religious text itself. The religious text says its right, so the text is right. The moderates may or may not be relativists.
The faithful that are not relativists can be addressed on their own ground. The doctrines of their religion can be directly addressed using reason, whether the adherents use reason or not. Reason eventually breaks people down, not immediately but over time. The more we hear the arguments of others, the more they wear away at our internal defenses.
Relativists like to step in-between this process and attempt to disrupt it. The relativist often aren't even adherents to the religion they defend. They veer the conversation off-topic, away from the direct issues and problems of the religion and onto a debate about relativism, so that the problems with the specific religion in question can't be addressed to the actual believer anymore. They stand in on behalf of the believer, often times misrepresenting the believer's own views, but making a better argument for them by assuming they have a more evolved religious perspective than a real believer would.
Although they disagree with the tenets of the religion, they argue that the religion has some kind of value and should therefore be left alone. When faced with the doctrines of the religion, they insist that those parts of the doctrine are misinterpreted or taken out of context, though they themselves have never read the doctrines. When it's pointed out that a majority of the adherents support those "misinterpreted" doctrines, they insist that those particular people are crazy and point to the moderates who don't subscribe to (or often even know about) those parts of the doctrine. Meanwhile, they claim, the adherents of the religion get a lot out of the religion. They disregard any arguments that the adherents might get more out of another religion or even no religion, that the further one veers from the doctrine, the better off they are, or that the majority of the adherents do believe harmful things as the result of the harmful doctrine. When those things are pointed out, especially by means of evidence, such as poll results or similar or better claims of spiritual development from those of other religions, the relativist generally resorts to calling their opponent a bigot or criticizing both the religion they're attempting to defend and their opponent at the same time by saying that their opponent is no better than a religious believer in their certitude. At the same time, they will stick to their own beliefs about what other religions are about, beliefs that supports their relativist position, beliefs that they have acquired through is more true to them than poll results asking actual religious believers direct questions about what they think on a variety of controversial topics. They have surely acquired their understanding of the other religions in question through conversation with adherents of the religions -- casual, non-questioning, non-judgemental, non-probing conversations with a handful of believers who have the opportunity to spin their religious views to their advantage, emphasizing what they think would sound good to an outsider while hiding what would sound bad. That's not an honest way to judge a religion. It would be akin to a reporter not doing any investigative work at all and allowing a high-level politician say whatever they want to say, truth, lies, whatever, without being asked any in-depth questions about anything. (This chart is one attempt at representing the types of in-depth questions we would want to ask religious adherents of a religion, given a knowledge of their religious doctrines, in this case as it specifically applies to adherents of Nichiren Buddhism.)
They argue that, even if the religion had no value, simply arguing about religion is the problem caused by religion in the first place. Even atheists can't bypass their "logic," because they say that atheists, while not being religious, behave like religious people when they insist that they're right while religious people are wrong. So the harm relativists claim is caused by adherence to religion is rational debate itself. (Interestingly, a lot of people are atheists for the exact opposite reason -- that religious adherents don't use any sort of rational debate or discussion. They instead say things like, "God works in mysterious ways." and "You just have to have faith.") In this way, the relativist impedes rational debate, the use of reason, and the gradual wearing down of the religious adherent through constant questioning of their beliefs. The relativist doesn't think that there is any difference between using reason and evidence to make claims of true and false and using dogma ("my book says so," "or my imaginary god says so") to make such claims. To the relativist, all claims of true and false are equally distasteful and both truthfully and morally wrong. The relativist also fails to notice that when they argue on behalf of relativist views, they're doing the very thing they claim to detest, making judgements about the merit of an ideology, in this case relativism versus absolutism. Relativism then becomes an absolute, a claim of superiority, just like a religious claim of superiority. And in their case, we again have another truth claim that isn't based on reason or evidence, that is self-contradictory and only maintainable through emotional appeals. In other words, it's another bad ideology -- another ideology not founded on reason, actually opposed to reason, not a far cry from "because my divinely authored book says so," only this one defends all anti-reason religious positions.
Relativism is a friend to obfuscation. It's a friend to arrogance and prejudice. It's a friend to ignorance.
Relativism is an enemy of reason and science. It's an enemy of development toward a better society. It's an enemy of religious development. It's an enemy of the internal development of Buddhism toward a better philosophy, toward better versions of Buddhism. And it's an enemy of the relativist's ability to switch to a better, truer religion or to create a better, truer religion.
More than whether one religion can be compared to another religion as better or worse, we can't even compare one religious idea to another. How are we supposed to adopt better and better philosophies as a society if we don't believe that there is any such thing as a "better philosophy"?
If you believe that all religions are basically good and that they share the same core messages, you've been infected with religious relativism. If you think it doesn't matter what a person believes or what religion a person practices, you're a religious relativist. If you think debating religion only causes harm and suffering to people and society, you're a religious relativist. If you believe criticizing religion is tantamount to racism, you're a religious relativist. If you believe that war and violence are the result of an in-group/out-group or us-versus-them mentality, that the way to end war is to stop arguing about which ideas are better than others, you're a relativist.
That may seem like a good ideology to you, but remember where it comes from and where it leads. The source of the ideology is anti-reason and it prevents intellectual, societal, spiritual, and religious progress.
Let me first address the notion that relativism can stop war. The cause of war isn't in itself an in-group/out-group mentality. An in-group/out-group mentality can lead to war when one or the other group embraces ideologies and cultural dogmas that are accepting of, or outright defend, violent ideas and tendencies, like the Bible does, for instance. So if a culture embraces a violent belief-system, then they may repeatedly end up in war, because that's how they resolve problems. Or, another situation is where one or the other group believes, for some reason or another, that their own lives or livelihoods are at risk due to the beliefs of the other group. If Group A knows that Group B embraces a belief that Group A should be killed or imprisoned or some such thing, Group A might fight Group B if there is a threat that Group B is about to become dominant over Group A. So it's actually Group B's violent ideology that spurs Group A to war. A relativist ignores all of the underlying reasons the groups engage in violent behavior and instead focus in exclusively on the fact that the two groups disagree, despite there being numerous examples in society of groups that disagree, even argue, but don't physically fight each other.
Even if it were true that an in-group/out-group mentality led to war or violence in and of itself without the need for other factors to be at play, it would be impossible to solve this dilemma. Even relativists themselves can't avoid in-group/out-group thinking. To a relativist, those who embrace relativism are in the in-group. Those who oppose relativism make up the out-group. Relativists think of non-relativists as the evil scourge of the earth, spreading hatred and out-group hostility everywhere they go. Much like the people they despise, they too believe their views to be superior, although they wouldn't say so, because it would contradict their relativist stance. They think that if only everyone adopted the relativist philosophy, the world would be a better place.
All while claiming to stand on the side of peace, relativism actually protects false and violent ideologies from criticism and eventual demise. For instance, it ignores and pretends that Biblical messages like the following just don't even exist: Take the case of a woman who it turns out isn't a virgin when she marries, Deuteronomy tells us "then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die." Relativists, in ignoring the spread of such messages in the name of relativism, allow them to go on being propagated unabated.
Of course people no longer believe we ought to kill a woman if she's not a virgin, but in inquiring about this passage and others, such as the mandate to kill homosexuals, one Jehovah's Witness told us that at least we can see what acts God finds condemnable and try to avoid them (referring to women maintaining their virginity and men not having sex with other men). She was not at all aware that even that perspective is itself immoral.
There's also the issue that reading and re-reading a spiritual guide that condones so much violence and killing can't be a good influence on the subconscious minds of the people reading the book. If we Buddhists don't subscribe to the notion that our words influence us, then we're rejecting the theory of karma, of cause and effect, as well as the whole notion of chanting and reciting the sutras. Why even practice Buddhism if we don't believe in those things?
While claiming to oppose dogma, relativism actually creates a barrier of protection around every religious dogma on the planet, thus providing the ultimate support for every harmful ideology in existence. Never before in history has there been an ideology that provides defense and protection for every single bad religion all at the same time. So in a sense, relativism is an incredibly powerful and useful meme if the goal is to prevent progress toward a world with increasingly better ideologies upon which people base their lives.
"Religious moderation, insofar as it represents an attempt to hold on to what is still serviceable in orthodox religion, closes the door to more sophisticated approaches to spirituality, ethics, and the building of strong communities.... Rather than bring the full force of our creativity and rationality to bear on the problems of ethics, social cohesion, and even spiritual experience, moderates merely ask that we relax our standards of adherence to ancient superstitions and taboos...."
~ Sam Harris , philosopher and neuroscientist, best-selling author of The End of Faith and Waking Up
Reason and evidence themselves will not overcome the world's problems. We're not arguing that here. What we are arguing is that reason and evidence are a couple of the primary mechanisms by which we can combat false, harmful, violent, and otherwise bad ideas and replace those bad ideas with better ideas. And taking it even a step further than that, if we can bring ourselves to embrace the notion of the existence of not just good and bad ideas but better and better and better ideas, we can use evidence and reason to determine ever better ideas and create an ever better and better society.
"Show me a cultural relativist at thirty thousand feet and I’ll show you a hypocrite. Airplanes are built according to scientific principals and they work. They stay aloft and they get you to a chosen destination. Airplanes built to tribal or mythological specifications such as the dummy planes of the Cargo cults in jungle clearings or the bees-waxed wings of Icaraus don’t.... If you are flying to an international congress of anthropologists or literary critics, the reason you will probably get there - the reason you don't plummet into a ploughed field - is that a lot of Western scientifically trained engineers have got their sum right."~ Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden, evolutionary biologist, best-selling author of The Selfish Gene (which revolutionized our understanding of genetics) and the The God Delusion
"Postmodernism, the school of 'thought' that proclaimed 'There are no truths, only interpretations' has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for 'conversations' in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster."
~ Daniel Dennett, philosopher and cognitive scientist, best-selling author of Breaking the Spell
"Seriously, what are the principles of their theories, on what evidence are they based, what do they explain that wasn't already obvious, etc? These are fair requests for anyone to make. If they can't be met, then I'd suggest recourse to Hume's advice in similar circumstances: to the flames."~ Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, and political commentator, on Postmodernism
"But don't the postmodernists claim only to be 'playing games'? Isn't it the whole point of their philosophy that anything goes, there is no absolute truth, anything written has the same status as anything else, no point of view is privileged? Given their own standards of relative truth, isn't it rather unfair to take them to task for fooling around with word-games, and playing little jokes on readers? Perhaps, but one is then left wondering why their writings are so stupefyingly boring. Shouldn't games at least be entertaining."~ Richard Dawkins, Postmodernism Disrobed, evolutionary biologist, ,best-selling author of The Selfish Gene (which revolutionized our understanding of genetics) and the The God Delusion
“The Postmodernists' tyranny wears people down by boredom and semi-literate prose.”~ Christopher Hitchens, journalist, best-selling author of No One Left to Lie To and God Is Not Great
"Our primary task in our discourse with one another should be to identify those beliefs that seem least likely to survive another thousand years of human inquiry, or most likely to prevent it, and subject them to sustained criticism."~ Sam Harris, philosopher and neuroscientist, best-selling author of The End of Faith and Waking Up
"We must find our way to a time when faith, without evidence, disgraces anyone who would claim it."~ Sam Harris, philosopher and neuroscientist, best-selling author of The End of Faith and Waking Up
"It's the combination of narcissism and nihilism that really defines postmodernism, and that's another interview for another time, if you're interested in it."
~ Al Gore, former Vice President of the United States
"What you’re referring to is what’s called 'theory.' And when I said I’m not interested in theory, what I meant is, I’m not interested in posturing–using fancy terms like polysyllables and pretending you have a theory when you have no theory whatsoever. So there’s no theory in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find in all of the work you mentioned some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a twelve-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t. So I’m not interested in that kind of posturing. Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don’t see anything to what he’s saying. Jacques Lacan I actually knew. I kind of liked him. We had meetings every once in awhile. But quite frankly I thought he was a total charlatan. He was just posturing for the television cameras in the way many Paris intellectuals do. Why this is influential, I haven’t the slightest idea. I don’t see anything there that should be influential."
~Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, and political commentator, on Postmodernism
"All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated, and well-supported in logic and argument than others. So I was already familiar with and (I'm afraid) accepting of, the view that you couldn't apply the logic of physics to religion, that they were dealing with different types of "truth." (I now think this is baloney, but to continue…) What astonished me, however, was the realization that the arguments in favor of religious ideas were so feeble and silly next to the robust arguments of something as interpretive and opinionated as history. In fact they were embarrassingly childish. They were never subject to the kind of outright challenge which was the normal stock in trade of any other area of intellectual endeavor whatsoever. Why not? Because they wouldn't stand up to it."
~ Douglas Adams, comedy science fiction author, author of the best-selling book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
"[Science] rests on the premise that any idea is there to be attacked and if it withstands the attack, then it lives to fight another day and if it doesn't withstand the attack then down it goes. Religion doesn't seem to work like that; it has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. That's an idea we're so familiar with, whether we subscribe to it or not, that it's kind of odd to think what it actually means, because really what it means is 'Here is an idea or a notion that you're not allowed to say anything bad about; you're just not. Why not? Because you're not!' If somebody votes for a party that you don't agree with, you're free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument, but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down, you are free to have an argument about it, but if on the other hand somebody says, 'I mustn't move a light switch on a Saturday,' you say, 'Fine, I respect that.' The odd thing is, even as I am saying that, I am thinking, 'Is there an Orthodox Jew here who is going to be offended by the fact that I just said that?' but I wouldn't have thought, 'Maybe there's somebody from the left wing or somebody from the right wing or somebody who subscribes to this view or the other in economics,' when I was making the other points. I just think, 'Fine, we have different opinions.' But the moment I say something that has something to do with somebody's (I'm going to stick my neck out here and say irrational) beliefs, then we all become terribly protective and terribly defensive and say, 'No, we don't attack that; that's an irrational belief, but no, we respect it.' It's rather like, if you think back in terms of animal evolution, an animal that's grown an incredible carapace around it, such as a tortoise - that's a great survival strategy because nothing can get through it; or maybe like a poisonous fish that nothing will come close to, which therefore thrives by keeping away any challenges to what it is. In the case of an idea, if we think, 'Here is an idea that is protected by holiness or sanctity,' what does it mean? Why should it be that it's perfectly legitimate to support the Labour Party or the Conservative Party, Republicans or Democrats, this model of economics versus that, Macintosh instead of Windows, but to have an opinion about how the universe began, about who created the universe, no, that's holy? What does that mean? Why do we ring-fence that for any other reason other than that we've just got used to doing so? There's no other reason at all, it's just one of those things that crept into being, and once that loop gets going, it's very, very powerful. So we are used to not challenging religious ideas, but it's very interesting how much of a furor Richard creates when he does it! Everybody gets absolutely frantic about it because you're not allowed to say these things. Yet when you look at it rationally, there is no reason why those ideas shouldn't be as open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow between us that they shouldn't be."
~ Douglas Adams, comedy science fiction author, author of the best-selling book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
What are some other enemies of the spread of Buddhism?
All other non-Buddhist religions are the enemies of the spread of Buddhism. The two largest religions right now by far are Christianity and Islam, with the third largest religion, Hinduism, trailing way behind. They're our competition in the world of religion. They want to spread their religions; we want to spread our religion. We're competing with them in a war of ideas. The words "war" and "enemy" aren't meant to refer to the use of violence or force. You win wars of ideas with words. With commercials. With jingles. With emotional appeals. With debates. With acts of kindness. Whatever works to get people to adopt your ideas. In Buddhism, our strength as compared with other religions is reason. Our philosophy makes sense and complies with science. The Abrahamic religions have been largely debunked by science, are internally contradictory, and their doctrines are immoral. When it comes to reason, they're hanging on by a thread. Their strength is emotional appeal. God loves you. Or you'll burn in hell when you die if you don't believe in God. Unfortunately, emotional appeal works better on convincing the human brain than reason does. So although it seems like a strength to be on the side of reason, it's actually a disadvantage when it comes to the war of ideas.
All enemies of Buddhism, even relativism or post-modernism, are really the outcropping of the enemies inherent within us, which are greed, arrogance, and ignorance.
Arrogance is the belief that one already knows all about Buddhism or Buddhahood and has no need to continue to seek. This applies even to non-Buddhists who thinnk that because they understand the Abrahamic religions or whatever religion they were raised in, they can apply that understanding of religion to Buddhism and thereby know what Buddhism is already. And it applies to Buddhists who think they already know everything there is to know about Buddhism and therefore have no need to learn new or different things. This is about more than just knowledge. In fact, it's less about knowledge than it is about the Buddhahood within. The non-Buddhist has never experienced Buddhahood, thinks it's the same thing as grace from God, and therefore refuses to try chanting to find out if there's a difference. The Buddhist thinks they understand Buddhahood already, and refuses to chant more or to go deeper in their practice to find out if there are further depths they have yet to experience. Arrogance is closely tied together with laziness. Often people present themselves in an arrogant way, as if they already know what they don't know, because they just don't want to put out the effort that would be required to discover something new.
Ignorance refers to ignorance about the Buddha nature within. Because people are ignorant about the existence of Buddhahood and the path that leads there, they refuse to do what it takes to attain it, they won't follow the path.
What is shakubuku? How is it different from shoju?
Shakubuku means religious refutation, refuting erroneous or inferior beliefs. Shoju means to teach or even just practice without teaching without refuting erroneous religious teachings. The key difference lies in whether you refute erroneous teachings or simply ignore erroneous teachings.
"Nichiren Daishonin lived in a time and place in which the Buddhist teachings were being misinterpreted and distorted. He therefore described the practice for others using the Japanese term shakubuku, compassionately pointing out erroneous views that lead to unhappiness and teaching people the correct Buddhist view for attaining enlightenment. This approach is contrasted with shoju, a term describing propagation carried out gradually and gently without directly indicating others errors' and mistaken attachments."
~ SGI-USA 2014 Essentials Exam, Part I, p 9
"Since we are propagating the correct Law of Nichiren Daishonin, it is essential that we establish firm faith and recognize devils for what they are. Moreover, unlike shōju, shakubuku is the method of propagation for the Latter Day of the Law. The practice of shakubuku is to refute directly one’s erroneous beliefs based on the slander of heretical religions and doctrines, to teach one how dreadful the poison of the slander is, and to encourage one to embrace the true Law. Thus, there certainly is no easy way to conduct shakubuku."
~ Sixty-eighth High Priest Nichinyo Shonin, On the Occasion of the September Kōsen-rufu Shōdai Ceremony September 7, 2014, Reception Hall, Head Temple Taisekiji
What was Nichiren's stance on the practice of shakubuku?
He thought no one could become a Buddha unless they do shakubuku and that no Buddha would refrain from doing shakubuku.
"The Lotus Sutra is the teaching of shakubuku, the refutation of the provisional doctrines." (pg. 392)
“Although few people slander the Lotus Sutra with actual words of abuse, there are none who accept it. Some appear to accept the sutra, but their faith in it is not as deep as their faith in the Nembutsu or other teachings. And even those with profound faith do not reproach the enemies of the Lotus Sutra. However great good causes one may make, or even if one reads and copies the entirety of the Lotus Sutra a thousand or ten thousand times, or attains the way of perceiving three thousand realms in a single moment of life, if one fails to denounce the enemies of the Lotus Sutra, it will be impossible to attain the way.” (WND p. 78)
“The Great Teacher Nan-yueh has stated, ‘If one sees a foe of the Lotus Sutra and yet fails to censure him, one becomes a slanderer of the Law and will fall into the hell of incessant suffering.’ Even a man of great wisdom, if he sees such a person and fails to speak out, will fall into the depths of the hell of incessant suffering, and as long as that hell shall endure, he will never escape.” (pg. 1021-1022)
"But the men of the Tendai school [who do not refute misleading teachings] are all great enemies of the people. [As Chang-an has noted,] 'One who rids the offender of evil is acting as his parent.'" (pg. 287)
"In the same way, the renegade disciples say, 'Though the priest Nichiren is our teacher, he is too forceful. We will spread the Lotus Sutra in a more peaceful way.' In so asserting, they are being as ridiculous as fireflies laughing at the sun and moon, an anthill belittling Mount Hua, wells and brooks despising the river and the ocean, or a magpie mocking a phoenix." (pg. 306)
When did Nichiren feel was the right time and circumstances to do shakubuku?
Any time false teachings are widely recognized as being superior to or equal to true teachings. If true teachings are widely accepted as truth, but there is some slight error in people's thinking, then you can dispense with shakubuku and practice only shoju.
He furthermore explained that in non-Buddhist countries, one should use Buddhism to refute the non-Buddhists. But in Buddhist countries, one should use increasing levels of Buddhist doctrines to refute whatever level of Buddhist doctrine is being taught. The point wasn't that in non-Buddhist countries, we should teach people Hinayana Buddhism. His point was that once a country had learned Mahayana, you wouldn't go back to Hinayana. In other words, you always go forward, never backward. However, in all of that, it is pretty clear that refutation is to be used in non-Buddhist countries, and that the bulk of the energy be aimed at the lowest and most widespread teachings in the country. For instance, if Brahmanism, a non-Buddhist teaching, is widespread, while Hinayana Buddhism is only practiced by a few people or none at all, you'd want to take aim at Brahmanism, not Hinayana Buddhism. However, if Hinayana is most widespread in your country and no one practices Brahmanism, you wouldn't spend all of your time attacking Brahmanism, even though it's lower than Hinayana.
“In a country where non-Buddhist teachings have already spread, one should use Buddhism to refute them. For example, the Buddha appeared in India and defeated the non-Buddhists; Kashyapa Matanga and Chu Fa-lan went to China and called the Taoists to task; Prince Jogu was born in the country of Japan and put Moriya to the sword." (pg. 80)
“Shoju is to be practiced when throughout the entire country only the Lotus Sutra has spread, and when there is not even a single misguided teacher expounding erroneous doctrines…. But the time for shakubuku is very different from this. It is a time when many different sutras and teachings spring up here and there like so many orchids and chrysanthemums, when the various schools command a large following and enjoy renown, when truth and error stand shoulder to shoulder, and when Mahayana and Hinayana dispute which is superior. At such a time, one must set aside all other affairs and devote one’s attention to rebuking slander of the correct teaching. This is the practice of shakubuku.” (WND p. 126)
"The methods of shoju and shakubuku are also like this. When the correct teaching alone is propagated and there are no erroneous doctrines or misguided teachers, then one may enter the deep valleys and live in quiet contentment, devoting one’s time to reciting and copying the sutra and to the practice of meditation. This is like taking up a writing brush and inkstone when the world is at peace. But when there are provisional schools or slanderers of the correct teaching in the country, then it is time to set aside other matters and devote oneself to rebuking slander." (126 & 127)
"Therefore, we must look at the world today and consider whether ours is a country in which only the correct doctrine prevails, or a country in which erroneous doctrines flourish." (pg. 127)
"This passage from the Nirvana Sutra recounts the evil words that the various non-Buddhists spoke against Shakyamuni Buddha because he refuted the scriptures preached by their original teachers, the two deities and the three ascetics....In other words, persons who show no desire to hear or believe in the Lotus Sutra or who say that it does not match their capacity, though they may not actually slander it in so many words, are all to be regarded as persons of hatred and jealousy." (pg. 206)
"Our own age is not unlike theirs. The Taoists Ch’u and Fei of China, and Moriya in Japan, by relying on the major and minor deities of their respective countries, became enemies of Shakyamuni Buddha. There is a difference between the Taoists and Moriya on the one hand and our contemporary priests on the other in that the former preferred gods to a Buddha while the latter have replaced one Buddha with another. However, they are alike in that they all abandoned Shakyamuni Buddha." (pg. 838)
"But in ancient times, before the Buddhist teachings were introduced to this country, people knew nothing about either the Buddha or his teachings. It was only after the battle between Moriya and Prince Jogu that some people took faith in Buddhism, though others did not. The situation was similar in China. After Matanga had introduced Buddhism to China, he held a debate with the Taoists. When the Taoists were defeated in debate, then for the first time there were people who put their faith in Buddhism, though there were many more who did not." (pg 514)
"In a country where the Buddhist teachings have never been introduced, there of course will be none who are familiar with Buddhism. But in a country where Buddhism has already been introduced, there will be those who believe in the Buddhist teachings. Therefore, one must first learn what kind of Buddhist doctrines have already spread in a particular country before attempting to propagate Buddhism there. If the Hinayana and provisional Mahayana teachings have already spread, then one should by all means propagate the true Mahayana teaching. But if the true Mahayana teaching has already spread, then one must not propagate the Hinayana or provisional Mahayana teachings. One throws aside shards and rubble in order to pick up gold and gems, but one must not throw aside gold and gems in order to pick up shards and rubble." (p 50)
Nichiren meant for us to only refute misleading schools of Buddhism, not non-Buddhists. Since we largely don't live in a Buddhist world, we have no need for shakubuku except for use against other Buddhists, particularly Nichiren Buddhists, who teach the most misleading philosophy of all.
"[Nichiren] addresses the natures of the countries where the teachings are being propagated, saying, 'In the Latter Day of the Law, however, both shoju and shakubuku are to be used. This is because there are two kinds of countries, the country that is passively evil, and the kind that actively seeks to destroy the Law' ("The Opening of the Eyes," WND-I, p 285). He further explains: 'When the country is full of evil people without wisdom, then shoju is the primary method to be applied, as described in the "Peaceful Practices" chapter. But at a time when there are many people of perverse views who slander the Law, then shakubuku should come first, as described in the "Never Disparaging" chapter' (WND-I, p 285).... He identified the Latter Day of the Law as a time when slander of the Law is rampant and therefore as a time suited to shakubuku. But, in the passages cited above, he also taught that in countries where people don't actively slander the Mystic Law, propagation should be carried out without criticizing people's traditional religious beliefs.... Nichiren lived in a Buddhist country and in a time when confusion about the Buddhist teachings was rampant. Only by directly confronting that confusion and refuting error could he establish the correct and most effective teaching for transforming people's suffering in the Latter Day of the Law."
~ SGI-USA 2014 Essentials Exam, Part I, p 10
Setting aside Nichiren's opinion, do you think shakubuku should be employed as we spread Nichiren Buddhism in a modern, largely non-Buddhist world?
Yes. What does the world being non-Buddhist have to do with it? It's a propagation method that applies to any false ideology. We don't subscribe to force or violence as a means of conversion. However, we do believe that debate should be a part of the development of every intellectual endeavor in life, including religion.
Correcting an individual should be judged on a case-by-case basis. What we're talking about here is not that. What we're talking about is public debate of ideas, not berating individuals. We want to debate publically with the best minds out there. Why? Because people are freer to be open-minded and more likely to question their beliefs when they aren't the ones having to defend their beliefs, when the argument is aimed at someone besides themselves.
Additionally, you generally don't want to hold public debates with the dumbest parts of a religion. You want to pick the most influential and respected people you can get. Why? Because a more sophisticated, intelligent person is going to be the best representative of the beliefs of the other religion. If you win a debate against a stupid person, that won't count for much, since the audience won't have a chance to hear your arguments against their best arguments. They'll just think that although you won the debate, you didn't win it against their beliefs; you won it against the beliefs of the town idiot. The person speaking on behalf of the congregation should be at least as intelligent as the congregation itself, or the best representative of their views.
Of course, when we speak of "winning" a debate, there is no judge, and some may think you won while others will think the other side won. What we mean here by "winning" is winning in the mind of maybe one or two people of the opposing side. Usually these people are on the verge of conversion already, having listened to other arguments against their beliefs and had time to absorb and process them.
When people debate ideas, it gives good ideas an opportunity to win out and thrive. Good ideas love debate. Where there is no debate, bad ideas are free to flourish. Bad ideas hate debate. In fact, without debate the simplest ideas are more likely to flourish, because they're easier for people to quickly understand and adopt without having to put in too much thought.
Furthermore, debating ideas helps us, as Buddhists, adopt the most intellectually sound ideas and reject the least sound ideas. It helps keep bad ideas from other religions, or even from other sects of Buddhism, from infiltrating our own religion and driving it down. Ideally we'd just be intellectually honest people who want to practice the best religion, and debate would help us sort out the good ideas from the bad ones. But many people are not that honest with themselves or they just don't ponder the contradictions and weaknesses in their religions very much on their own. An added benefit of having to debate and defend a religion is that if we have to defend our ideas all of the time, we can't retain ideas that repeatedly lose in debate simply because it's personally embarrassing.
The one thing we should do better is, applying the strategy Nichiren describes wherein we use a better teaching to convert people from lesser to higher teachings, is that we should unite together as Nichiren Buddhists to spread Buddhism in a largely non-Buddhist world, rather than turning inward against each other. Some are improperly using the practice of shakubuku, turning the practice against ourselves, against Nichiren Buddhism, rather than aiming it at lesser teachings with the goal of increasing the level of religious development of humanity. This is a real problem, an evil of evils, in the world of Nichiren Buddhism. We don't have to agree, but we also don't have to spend the bulk of our energy attacking each other, rather than addressing the truly inferior philosophies that are out there. People are adhering to a book that tells them to kill people for working on the Sabbath, and Nichiren Buddhists are busying themselves arguing about whether Nichiren was better or Shakyamuni was better.
"With regard to religion, with its tragic legacy of fanaticism and intolerance, nothing is more vital than dialogue--dialogue that transcends dogmatism and is predicated on the exercise of reason and self-mastery."
~ Ikeda, 2008 peace proposal
"Since 9/11, much has been made of the role religious belief plays as a factor in terrorism. But the real issue is that of exclusionary ideology and fanatic actions cloaking themselves in the language and symbols of religion. If we fail to appreciate this, and start looking askance at the practitioners of a particular faith, we will only deepen mistrust and aggravate tensions."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, The Challenge of Building Peace, Japan Times, September 11, 2013
"Today we practice Buddhism in a global society, home to a wide variety of religious and ideological viewpoints. In many cultures, people's understanding of Buddhism is minimal, and few are strongly attached to erroneous Buddhist teachings. Rather than debating religious doctrine, we of the SGI spread Buddhism by engaging people in religious dialogue about the benefits of Buddhist practice [shoju], the process of human revolution, and the humane and empowering principles that underlie it."
~ SGI-USA Essentials Exam, Part I, p 10
"Our approach to the priests and teachings of Nichiren Shoshu, however, is the exception to this. Because they alone actively misrepresent and distort Nichiren's teachings and purposely promulgate baseless slander of the SGI, which correctly practices and spreads those teachings, it is important to directly address and correct their errors."
~ SGI-USA Essentials Exam, Part I, p 10
"If you cooperate with people who criticize true Buddhism, and if you do not correct people who believe in teachings other than the Daishonin’s true Law by saying 'What you believe in is not the true teaching,' then this is the same as committing slander. "
~ Nichiren Shoshu Myohoji Temple website, "What is slander?"
Do you ever say or imply that non-Buddhist teachings are the equals of Buddhism or ever praise them?
What?! No, of course not! That's absurd! Have you read the doctrines of those other religions and compared them with Buddhism? They're immoral. Barbaric. The theories upon which they're based defy reason and modern science. The philosophies are undeveloped. And what little spirituality in them is immature, seriously stunted, compared with Buddhist spirituality.
"The utter inability to ignore a person in pain--this fiery compassion encapsulates the spirit of Shakyamuni. I also believe that it was the spirit of Jesus Christ, and of the Prophet Muhammad. For they themselves hurried to the side of people in pain, extending to them the hand of hope; they shared in others' suffering, in their sorrows and tears. We must return to this love of humanity exemplified by the founders of the great faiths. And we must cause great rivers of love to wash over this Earth devastated by the burning winds of hatred. These were the sentiments which Dr. Shin Anzai and I discussed on many, many occasions. The late Dr. Anzai was a prominent religious scholar here in Japan. He was also renowned as a devout Catholic. Our religious beliefs may have been different, but our goal--peace--was the same."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, The World Is Yours to Change
"It’s not necessary that all people practice Buddhism or uphold the Lotus Sutra. Rather, the principle of establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land means establishing the ideals of human dignity and respect for the sanctity of life that are upheld in the Lotus Sutra as core values that move society. For that reason, the correct teaching of Buddhism becomes paramount in building an ideal society based on humanism."
~ SGI-USA Essentials Exam Part I
Do you ever conflate non-Buddhist teachings with Buddhist teachings?
We certainly hope not. That's on of the reasons for doing shakubuku. When one of us, one sect or another, begins mixing erroneous beliefs together with true beliefs, we need to point it out to each other.
“If, knowing the best path, one sees one’s parents or sovereign taking an evil path, can one fail to admonish them? If a fool, crazed with wine, is about to drink poison, can one, knowing this, not try to stop him? In the same way, if one understands the truth of the Buddhist teachings and knows the sufferings of [the worlds of hell, hunger and animality], can one fail to lament at seeing someone to whom one owes a debt of gratitude about to fall into the evil paths? Rather one should cast away one’s body and lay down one’s life in an effort to save such a person. One will never grow weary of admonishing him, nor will their be limits to one’s grief.” (WND p. 122-123)
"The Lotus Sutra teaches that Buddhism is inseparable
from society, that Buddhism embraces the secular world and that the true path leading all people to enlightenment exists in the reality of people’s everyday lives."
~ SGI-USA Essentials Exam Part I
"On a societal level, 'establishing the correct teaching' means establishing the concepts of human dignity and the sanctity of life as principles that support and move society."
~ Daisaku Ikeda
Do you refer to chanting as "prayer"?
No. The word prayer is generally understood to mean a request to an external force. Since we don't have any such practice, we don't like to confuse people, especially our own students, with terms that are generally meant to apply to theistic ideology.
When SGI prays silently during gongyo, those are called "Silent Prayers." SGI President Daisaku Ikeda also sometimes refers to daimoku as "prayer." Occasionally, when he uses the word, it's not clear whether he thinks his statements about "prayer" apply equally to non-Buddhists, like Christians, but there is no reason to think they don't, that he doesn't mean it that way, especially since he uses the same language when speaking to Christians.
"As in many Eastern spiritual practices, there is an emphasis on a specific physical form of prayer. For practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism this means the reciting of portions of the Lotus Sutra and the repeated chanting of the phrase "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo."
~ January 2001 SGI Quarterly
“Wisdom emerges through prayer. Victory emerges through wisdom.”
"Prayer is the effort to align the gears of our life with the movement of the universe. Our lives that have been passively embraced by the universe, now embrace the universe in turn, make the entire universe our ally, and fundamentally redirect our state of life in the direction of happiness."
Shodai (chanting of daimoku or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the
Gohonzon) is the essential practice in Nichiren Shoshu faith.
However, most people do the practice of prayer (thinking about what
they want or need, instead of concentrating on offering daimoku to
the Gohonzon) instead of the original shodai. There is confusion
about what is the difference between shodai and prayer. When one
chants daimoku to fulfill one’s own desire, he/she believes this to be
shodai. However, this is nothing but the practice of prayer.
Do you believe non-Buddhist teachings need
to be publicly refuted?
Do you believe Nichiren Buddhists of other
organizations need to be publicly refuted for committing acts of secular wrongdoing?
No. What's more important is whether the teachings they espouse lead the individual to Buddhahood. When it comes down to the person following the teachings of a Buddhist organization, in most cases, secular misdeeds do not hurt the people. However, adhering to an incorrect philosophy would injure the adherent greatly.
If there are problems with the philosophy an organization or person is espousing, that ought to be addressed. But it's in bad taste to attack a group or person on personal grounds. No one is perfect, nor are we claiming perfection as the result of our religious practice, so there's no valid religious reason for stooping to that level. If someone is currently committing a serious crime, stop them, report them, whatever. But mudslinging ought to be beneath us. We don't think it's a good idea to begin including judging people into our practice of Buddhism.
We all know, or ought to know, that there's the way others perceive us and the way we really are, and those are two different things. In fact, some people might perceive us one way while others might perceive us another way, and they can all still be wrong. They probably are wrong. Using character judgements about people to determine the truth or falsity of the philosophy they espouse isn't a valid way to determine a correct teaching. Imagine if people decided not to listen to Newton because he was a mean person.
This is even more true in the case of a Buddha than it is with anyone else.
A Buddha thinks about things in a radically different way and sees cause and effect playing out on a much larger scale than ordinary people do.
And, no, judging people is not one of the three proofs. It is not a way of determining "actual proof." First of all, in our religion, "actual proof" refers to the version of Buddhism that leads to the goal of Buddhism, which is Buddhahood. Buddhahood is visible only from within. It doesn't refer to a person's ability to follow codes of conduct. And even if it did, we'd have to define what those codes of conduct are specifically.
But in our form of Buddhism, precepts and commandments are considered inferior teachings. Say you have the commandment not to kill. What if someone is trying to kill you? Then should you kill them? What about genetics? Should their possibly psychopathic genes carry on by allowing them to live and potentially have more children while your compassionate, non-violent genes die with you just because you don't have the ability to kill someone like the psychopath does? Does that seem more moral in the long run? So you see that precepts just aren't capable of handling the complexities of life, and character judgements are worse, as they tend to also include personal bias.
So it's invalid in terms of Buddhist theory to base judgements about philosophy on the character of the people espousing it, and it's invalid in terms of logic and reason, too.
"It makes no difference if the practitioner himself is lacking in worth, defective in wisdom, impure in his person, and lacking in virtue derived from observing the precepts.... One does not throw away gold because the bag that holds it is dirty; one does not ignore the sandalwood trees because of the foul odor of the eranda trees around them; and one does not refuse to gather lotuses because the pond in the valley where they grow is not clean. If they ignore the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra, they will be going against their vow." ("On Prayer," WND p 345)
I hate to rant on and on, but because there are so many people that so ardently believe that the validity of a religion boils down to how nice of a person is teaching it, I feel it's necessary to hit this at every angle possible. So I'm going to make a few more points.
Whether he did have one or not, SGI's interest in the possible Nichiren Shoshu High Priest's vasectomy is a good example of one reason why it doesn't work to choose teachers based on their good or bad behavior. SGI spins the possibility of the high priest having had a vasectomy as evidence of his promiscuity. It could also be spun another way, as evidence that he didn't want to have any more children, and didn't want to make his wife endure the much more difficult and potentially harmful procedure of having a tubal ligation, or worse (for his wife, not to mention him and the world), risking pregnancy every time they have sex. From one perspective, he's a scoundrel who thinks of nothing but how many women he can have sex with. From the other perspective, he's a concerned and responsible husband. If he did do it, we don't know what his motive was in doing it.
Furthermore, that SGI chooses to focus on what Nichiren Shoshu priests did wrong in their secular lives makes one wonder if it isn't a diversionary tactic to avoid a debate about the more important issues about what the correct practice of Buddhism is that will lead their own members to Buddhahood. Whether the high priest had a vasectomy will not affect whether you attain Buddhahood. Even were he a sex fiend, that doesn't even tell us whether he attained Buddhahood if you understand the condition of Buddhahood as a subjective experience, rather than as a perfect person who does no wrong.
We're all adults here, right? We need to stop believing in Santa Claus. Even the Bible says it -- there aren't any such thing as non-sinners. That being the case, if one has to stop sinning to be a Buddha, there aren't any Buddhas now, nor have there ever been, nor could there ever be. And if that were the case, the next logical step would be to quit practicing Buddhism, because no one could ever achieve the promised goal of Buddhism.
In the Lotus Sutra, even Devedatta, who had previously attempted to kill Shakyamuni, attained enlightenment. This religion isn't about good and evil people or proper codes of conduct according to a particular society's social norms. It's just about people becoming happy and how we can each work to make that happen -- period. If you also happen to be a thief, it would be nice if you changed that, but the more important thing is whether you can become happy and lead your fellow prison inmates to become happy as well. Even you, a common mortal, a mere sinner, can be a Buddha -- while still sinning. And you must, because becoming a Buddha isn't going to eradicate your sinfulness.
Any person who claims or implies that he never commits any perceived secular wrongdoing, now that's the guy you had better watch out for. That's the guy trying to get you to worship him. He's a deceiver -- a liar. And if anyone claims that there is someone, maybe not themselves but a particular person they know of, who has never committed any secular wrongdoing, watch out for those people, too, because they're trying to get you to worship someone else. They're part of some herd of worshipers.
There are no perfect people in the world and to believe that there are perfect people sets us up to be duped by someone who can present a false image of goodness to the world and make the rest of us believe we are sinners beholden to this one angel. It's in the best interests of people who would want you to follow them to make you believe that he is perfect while you are a sinner. The message is that he's better than you, and you need to worship him.
We subscribe to the belief that most people, the vast majority of people, are generally good, that they try to do things for reasons that they at least think are good reasons, benevolent reasons. They may be misguided; they may be wrong; they may not always live up to their own ideals; but they're at least trying to be good people. That's why philosophy is so important, so much more important than finding a perfect person.
In the later kind of Buddhism, the kind we practice, precepts, rules of conduct, are considered useless. We don't adhere to them.
In Lotus Sutra Buddhism, the old understanding of the word Buddha, the understanding that it means a perfect person, was tossed out. In our version of Buddhism, "Buddha" is a condition of life, a state of mind, an emotional state of being, that can exist within the most secularly evil person. Becoming a Buddha therefore isn't about becoming some wonderful Superman who saves the planet and never commits a single wrong deed. It's about developing a state of unparalleled happiness within us and teaching others to do the same. That's the greatness of a Buddha -- that he teaches people how to become happy, not that he does no wrong ever.
Besides, life is very complicated. It's much more complicated than precepts or a belief in the existence of perfectly good people and perfectly evil people can absorb. An act that helps one person may injure another. Someone with an agenda, someone who is espousing a belief that there are wonderful people in the world and evil people in the world, can focus in on an enemy, try to make the enemy seem like an evil person, point out only where that enemy might have hurt a person through his actions, completely disregarding the fact that the enemy did it to help twelve other people. A deceiver and manipulator, who was intent on making themselves out to be some kind of saint, could have placed Shakyamuni himself into the category of an evil person and done a character assassination on him, slanted Shakyamuni's story to suit his agenda, to get everyone to follow the deceiver and regard Shakyamuni as an evil person. After all, Shakyamuni did leave his family and his social obligations to pursue the way.
We're not children who need our mommies and daddies to take care of us and tell us exactly what to do. We're adults, and we have to take responsibility for our own lives. We need to stop looking around for who the heroes and villains are and start looking at ourselves, within, and seek out philosophies and practices that are going to help us develop into the people we want to be and that will lead to happiness in our own lives.
As to proper "behavior," a term used by SGI, the behavior of a Buddha, the behavior Shakyamuni says in the Lotus Sutra was the behavior of a Buddha, and the behavior of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, was always concerned with the people's attainment of Buddhahood. That is the proper behavior of a Buddha. Sometimes when concerning ourselves with the enlightenment of people, we can appear to be acting against a secular understanding of what would be considered upstanding, decent behavior, again, like Shakyamuni leaving his palace and his family, which worked out best for the greater good of us all.
How do we know that that's what Nichiren meant? Because in his lifetime teachings, he never instructed his disciples to adopt precepts or behave a certain way, except very rarely making a couple of suggestions here and there with the intent of preventing his disciples from getting killed or demoted from their positions as the result of hostility toward them for being Nichiren Buddhists.
When it comes to how to practice Buddhism, Nichiren was clear that we chant, recite the sutra, and either do shakubuku or support others who do shakubuku. He never linked the correctness of a person's practice of Buddhism with a certain kind of behavior, with the one exception of teaching Buddhism and doing shakubuku. Plus, he was dismissive of the good deeds and practice of the precepts carried out by priests of other sects.
When Nichiren spoke of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging in his writings, he was always referring to the bodhisattva's inabilility to be swayed from teaching Buddhism despite attacks from enemies. Nichiren made it clear that from his perspective, the reason Never Disparaging was attacked was because he did religious refutation (shakubuku). Never Disparaging's behavior, then, was to do shakubuku no matter the peril that put him in.
In the one quote SGI managed to fish up to support their belief in character assassination, the letter in question was entirely about the danger that Shijo Kingo, one of Nichiren's main disciples, was in as the result of his unyielding practice of Nichiren Buddhism. Although that one paragraph in isolation could be interpreted to mean that Buddhists should be nice to people, to never disparage, the rest of Nichiren's writings, plus the contents of the Lotus Sutra itself, in which Shakyamuni describes what the behavior of a Buddha is, would contradict that perspective.
"At a time when there are many people of perverse views who slander the Law, then shakubuku should come first, as described in the 'Never Disparaging' chapter."
("Opening of the Eyes," WND p. 285)
"The Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones, simply teach and convert the bodhisattvas. All the things they do are at all times done for this one purpose. They simply wish to show the Buddha wisdom to living beings and enlighten them to it." (Lotus Sutra, "Expedient Means")
Yes. They have historically criticized the priests for minor secular misdeeds. They have even defamed one of the strongest, most-respected leaders in the history of their organization (George M Williams, who is responsible for the early development of SGI-USA, then NSA, to 500,000 members in less than a 30 year period) for undesired personality traits and personal faults to the point that their current membership around the world now thinks he was pure evil, not for any mistake in propagating Buddhism but merely for being a generally harsh person and for supposedly committing secular misdeeds acts that hurt the members so little that no even knows whether they happened or are just rumors invented as to excuse firing and silencing him.
For instance, although SGI doesn't believe in precepts and doesn't adhere to them themselves, they have continually criticized the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, which also doesn't subscribe to precepts, over matters such as the luxurious lifestyle of the high priest. They think the priests ought to live in poverty, like Nichiren did, while their own President is a multibillionaire who lives extravagantly himself.
The head of the SGI Study Department, Mikio Matsuoka, even went so far as to probe into whether the then high priest had had a vasectomy. The high priest denied having done so, but Matsuoka was skeptical.
SGI believes that a "Buddha" should act like a Buddha in their image of what that ought to be, which tends to be different for each person, as it would be, since we humans tend to forgive people when we like them and curse them for their failings when we don't like them.
"The heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the 'Never Disparaging' chapter. What does BodhisattvaNever Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being."
("The Three Kind of Treasure," WND p. 852)
Yes. At least at one time. At the beginning of the split between SGI and NST, they criticized President Ikeda for numerous major and minor secular misdeeds. They have toned down the rhetoric against SGI quite a bit these days, though, staying mostly on point about doctrinal errors, rather than slinging personal insults at its leader. And even then, they keep the criticisms to the bare minimum, especially when compared with the activity of SGI's Soka Spirit, a group dedicated to fighting "slander" ("slander" to SGI meaning anyone who disagrees with SGI or President Ikeda, but especially NST).
Slander in Buddhism doesn't have the same meaning as it does in our secular legal system. It does NOT mean lying about someone. In Buddhism, you could lie about someone and still not be committing slander. Or you could commit slander while speaking truthfully about a person.
Any time one attempts to somehow dissuade a person from attempting to attain Buddhahood in some way or another they are committing slander in the Buddhist sense of the word. When someone diminishes or belittles the condition of Buddhahood, implies or states that it doesn't exist, that it's not that great, that it's not much better than other conditions of life, than ordinary life, that sort of thing. Or when one states or implies that one cannot reach Buddhahood or should not try to reach it or that other things are more important.
A common teaching that we would consider slander is when people say or imply that everyone is a Buddha. That's kind of like saying that the condition of Buddhahood isn't anything special or different from the ordinary states of life we live in, and there's no point in striving to hard toward it, because you're already there. Of course that's not what they mean to be expressing, but that's how it comes out sounding to the non-Buddhist who doesn't understand that what is meant is simply that a Buddha isn't a God who walks on water and turns water into wine, not that Buddhahood isn't an extraordinary state worthy of vast amounts of effort to attain.
Another way people slander is to imply that other religious or secular activities lead to Buddhahood or are the result of attaining Buddhahood. Or to be complicit in the slander of others who believe that. The reason is because those activities obviously don't lead to Buddhahood and would veer people off the path of becoming a Buddha were they to engage in those activities rather than activities that actually lead to Buddhahood. For instance, giving the impression that even Buddhists, who are the experts on what Buddhahood is, believe that Jesus was a Buddha or an enlightened being, and that his teachings are the result of his enlightenment. Or that engaging in secular activities is a path to Buddhahood.
"Two very popular holidays in the West are Christmas and Hanukah. Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Hanukah is a Jewish holiday celebrating the rededication of the Second Temple. Nichiren Shoshu believers do not observe holidays such as these, which are festivals of other religions. Participating in holidays and ceremonies of other religions constitutes slander, since these are provisional teachings. These events may seem to be enjoyable, but we firmly should keep our promise to the Daishonin and be extremely cautious not to commit slander. Hokkeko believers with questions regarding slander should seek guidance from their chief priest."
~ Nichiren Shoshu Myohoji Temple website, "What is slander?"
Superstitious Elements of Nichiren Buddhism
Kempon Hokke Shu
Do you believe in reincarnation?
It depends on the definition. Humanity doesn't have any knowledge about what happens to an individual after they die, so to take a definitive stance on the matter seems dishonest. One can believe what they want on that subject. However, we would make clear that Buddhism absolutely does not teach the existence of an individual soul, whatever their beliefs regarding reincarnation. So to take a Buddhist view of reincarnation, one would still have to abandon the notion of the soul or of surviving individual traits or personalities. It's generally believed that only life condition survives death.
Whether one believes that they as individuals will reincarnate into another body is rather beside the point. In NBAA, since we teach the attainment of Buddhahood in this lifetime, we have no need to remark on whether future lifetimes exist or not.
Let it be known that this is not a matter of interpretation of the writings of Nichiren. We freely admit that Nichiren believed in reincarnation. We're openly disagreeing with Nichiren on this matter, or at least being open to the possibility that he could have been wrong on this one. Or not. Maybe he was right. We're just saying that we don't know, and someone's personal beliefs, even Nichiren's, is not adequate evidence upon which to base our beliefs.
We do teach the concept of rebirth, however, which is to say that the entire universe, of which we are a part and which is our true identity, is reborn every single moment. The person you were when you were five is dead now. That person, with that appearance, temperament, personality, way of viewing the world, pretty much everything about that person has long expired. That identity no longer exists. It's only because you have been reborn so many times since then that you are practically a completely different person than the five year-old you. In every moment you're reborn, and who you're reborn as, is the result of the karma you've created in the past combined with the karma you're creating at this moment. So you have a chance now to change who you will be reborn as in the next moment. This is does not answer the question of what happens after we die until we begin to view ourselves as part of the larger whole of the universe. People don't ask whether the cells in their toenails will be reborn as heart cells after they die or whether their heart cells will be reborn as brain cells (moving up the karmic ladder). We see our cells as part of us. We, as humans, are part of the universe, like cells in the body of the universe. Carl Sagan famously said, "We are a way for the cosmos to know itself." We are the brains of the cosmos. That's our mission as humans, should we choose to accept it. In the same vein that we're reborn in every moment, the universe is constantly being reborn as well. When we look at ourselves as part of the larger universe, we have to see that the karma of the universe's rebirths is changed by the causes we make. And for the sake of our larger selves, our universal selves, we need to be concerned with the karma we're creating as pieces of the universe.
Do you pray to gods, demons, or other external
spiritual entities as part of your practice?
The historical evidence that Nichiren even inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon is weak at best. Nichiren never mentions this, what is supposedly his most important creation, in any of his writings. And the notion that the Dai-Gohonzon has some kind of special power contradicts the explanation of the meaning and purpose of the Gohonzon, of any Gohonzon, as explained by Nichiren. So while all Gohonzons are worthy of reverence as Buddhas, we think that ascribing special powers to a particular Gohonzon isn't rational or consistent with the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism.
Do you believe that the natural world responds to our chanting or slander of Buddhism? In other words, are earthquakes the result of our slander of Buddhism? Or can we prevent them through chanting?
Probably not. But the world is a very strange place. You never know. There is a small amount of scientific research that shows links between the practice of deep meditation and the natural world, namely at the quantum level, not at the level of earthquakes or volcanoes. Until we know more, though, we'd strongly recommend using caution in blaming people for causing natural disasters. In other words, don't do it. It makes us sound insane, like Christians blaming Hurricane Katrina on the gay community in New Orleans.
Do you believe that society responds to a small group of people chanting?
There is some evidence that this happens. The question remains, though, how wide of an effect does it have and how strong is that effect. Much, much more research needs to be done on this before making claims about it. If this is a real phenomenon, then it isn't strictly related to the practice of Nichiren Buddhism. In fact, if any of these superstitious beliefs do turn out to be true, in every case it wouldn't be related exclusively to Nichiren Buddhism. As a religion competing in the world against other religions, we have to stand on the strength of our superior philosophy, our profound take on Buddhism, not on our ability to alter the world through the magical powers of chanting.
Do you believe in "faith healing"? Healing people via chanting?
There is definitely a mind/body connection, and any change in the mind is also going to affect the body and the health of the person. In that sense and in others, there is absolutely no doubt that meditation has a positive effect on the health of the individual practitioner. But what we're really talking about is something much more than lowering blood pressure or reducing the risk of cancer. What we're talking about in faith healing is more along the lines of curing stage IV cancer.
If faith healing is a real thing, it wouldn't be sectarian or exclusively related to a particular religion. What little research there is that bares out evidence for faith healing shows that it does appear to be stronger when certain types of cognitive practices are applied, meditation being one of those practices.
"Although there are persons who proudly lecture on the law of truth, or who insist on that your disease will be cured by chanting mantra or something, those thoughts are small parts of Buddhism. Keeping a notion to a man of character is the most important on religion. Being deeply moved by the lord's dignity, teacher's enlightenment and parent’s compassion, we can possess wonderful human virtues."
~ Sinyou Tsuchiya, Kempon Hokke Shu Priest
What's your stance on the Mystic Law?
It refers to the Middle Way and the Ten Factors of life, which isn't as mystic as people generally claim it is. People say that the "mystic" in Mystic Law means all of the things about life that are mysterious, that we don't understand. But actually that's not what it refers to at all, except that the Middle Way is so deep that 90% of even the people who study it probably can't understand it, and most people never even study it. It's a complex topic, but the answer lies in understanding the Ten Factors.
Do you believe that you get other non-health related benefits from chanting?
Maybe. Again undecided. If faith healing is possible, and altering the natural world is possible, and altering the mindset of human society is possible, then of course any sort of smaller change would certainly be possible.
None of this stuff is really the reason we practice Buddhism. If Buddhist practice does work for these other things, then great. If it doesn't, it really doesn't matter. The reason we practice Buddhism is to learn how to become happy no matter the circumstances. THAT is the promise of Buddhism. These other ideas came in later.
Kempon Hokke Shu
Do you teach equality of all people?
In what sense? In the sense of right to life? Yes. In the sense of abilities or life condition? No. People are not all star athletes and they aren't all Buddhas. People must strive to become Buddhas. They aren't all automatically Buddhas. They all have the potential to become Buddhas, in that sense they're equal, but as they haven't all tapped that potential, they aren't all equals.
Do you teach the equality of all members in your organization?
Speaking in the sense of Buddhahood only, once they attain Buddhahood, then yes. Before that, no.
Do you believe in democracy?
NBAA is structured on the principles of democracy. That has less to do with a belief in democracy than it does a belief in the equality of all Buddhas and a strong faith in the practice of Nichiren Buddhism to lead people to Buddhahood in actuality, not just theory.
Is there a method by which members of the organization can redress their grievances with the organization or with other members?
Yes. We have board meetings at which people can express their problems or concerns and request action by the board. If they have problems with a board member, voting members can vote said board member out of office.
Is there a method by which members can make changes to the fundamental organizational structure?
Yes. Depending on the issue at hand, they can change any part of the organizational structure by either a vote of the voting membership or a vote of the board of directors, which is itself a member-elected board.
Is there a method by which members can make changes to the religious instruction of the organization?
Yes. There is an education committee which any voting member can belong to and contribute to the educational materials for the organization.
Do members have any level of voting rights in the organization?
Yes. Some do. Every member has the right to obtain voting rights by completing pre-set requirements, which include meeting minimum practice and study standards.
Do the members ever fault the national or international level leaders when systemic issues arise?
Our organization isn't large enough for this kind of problem to even manifest. But we have an elected board of directors, and we don't teach idolatry or devotion to the organization, so we hope that between those things, we can avoid this kind of situation in the future.
What is the meaning in the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Juryo or Life Span chapter, of Shakyamuni's long life span?
For those who aren't familiar with the chapter, the main topic is about Shakyamuni's imminent death. Before discussing that, he starts out by explaining to the assembly of listeners that he didn't attain enlightenment in his currrent life under the Bodhi tree but an inconceivably long time ago. Then, speaking of his death. he explains that although it will appear that he is entering Nirvana (permanent death without rebirth), that is just an expedient means to inspire people to take up the practice of Buddhism and, for Buddhists, to practice it more passionately. In reality, his life span is incomprehensibly long, and he will always be there to teach any time or place that people are sincere and devout.
"When living beings have become truly faithful, honest and upright, gentle in intent, single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha, not hesitating even if it costs them their lives, then I and the assembly of monks appear together on Holy Eagle Peak." (LS, Ch 16)
We interpret the entire 16th chapter as an explanation of the nature and existence of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, or the eternal Buddha nature inherent within us all, within all life. In other words, Shakyamuni was not talking about his physical self as the historical man, Shakyamuni, but speaking on behalf of his Buddha nature, or Namu-myoho-renge-kyo.
Shakyamuni's attainment of enlightenment in the remote past refers to the Buddha nature, which means the potential to attain Buddhahood, that always exists within us, whether we choose to develop it or not. Buddhahood is an eternally existent potential condition within all life. The life span he's describing isn't mean to refer to a long, long time ago but to the infinite past. And his future life span is meant to refer to the infinite future. That is to say that it's not just a very long time but eternal.
There's a passage in the sutra that says, "if there are living beings in other lands who are reverent and sincere in their wish to believe, then among them too I will preach the unsurpassed way."
Some sects of Buddhism interpret that statement to mean that Shakyamuni will be born in other worlds to teach Buddhism to other beings. In other words, he travels around the universe teaching Buddhism to living beings everywhere. But that was not Nichiren's interpretation of the passage.
When Shakyamuni says that he'll be there whenever people "single-mindedly desire to see the Buddha," he doesn't mean single-mindedly desire to see him but single-mindedly desire to see the Buddha in themselves. And it's not him that will appear. He's not speaking of himself reincarnating in different lands. He's saying that Buddhahood will be revealed in the life of the person who single-mindedly desires to see it. Namu-myoho-renge-kyo will appear in the person who single-mindedly desires to see the Buddha, not hesitating even if it costs them their lives. That person will then become the Buddha in the form of the person. The person and the Law then become one. And that person, as a Buddha, will preach the unsurpassed way.
In other words, the "Life Span" chapter is describing our own potential to become Buddhas ourselves.
"Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and the Buddhas of the ten directions represent the world of Buddhahood within ourselves. By searching them out within us, we can receive the benefits of all these Buddhas. This is what is meant by the following passage: 'If one listens to them [the preachers of the Law] for even a moment, one will immediately attain supreme perfect enlightenment.' The 'Life Span' chapter reads, 'It has been immeasurable, boundless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas of kalpas since I in fact attained Buddhahood.' The Shakyamuni Buddha within our lives is the eternal Buddha since time without beginning, who obtained the three bodies more than numberless major world system dust particle kalpas ago."
Nichiren, "The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind in the Fifth Five-Hundred-Year Period After the Thus Come One's Passing," WND, p 365
In the following passage, which explains SGI's point of view on this topic, their viewpoints sound largely the same as NBAA's with the exception of one sentence, which is bolded in order to note the one difference.
"While accepting the eternity of the Buddha's life, some may question if this revelation has any significance for the lives of us ordinary people. Actually it has a very important bearing, for the Buddha who attained enlightenment in the remote past ultimately is none other than us, the ordinary people who embrace the Mystic Law. Nichiren Daishonin says, '"Thus Come One" [in the chapter's title] refers to all living beings' (Gosho Zenshu, p. 752). Eternity is not an attribute exclusively of the Buddha's life; it is the true aspect of the lives of all living beings. To clarify the eternity of life to which he has become enlightened, Shakyamuni reveals his true identity as the Buddha who attained enlightenment in the remote past and who eternally continues to guide the people. This is the literal teaching of the sutra, which explains eternity as an attribute of the Buddha's life acquired as a result of his having attained Buddhahood. Ultimately, however, this attribute of the Buddha's life is a function of the Mystic Law, the fundamental law of the universe. The eternal Mystic Law, spanning the three existences of past, present and future, blossoms like a lotus flower in people's lives; the true aspect of the Buddha is found in the ability to lead a pure and high-minded existence, and to emit the fragrance of compassion and shine with wisdom even amid painful circumstances. It is this function of the Mystic Law that is eternal. In other words, Myoho-renge-kyo is itself the true entity of the Buddha who attained enlightenment in the remote past. Shakyamuni and all Buddhas are functions of the Mystic Law. This is the teaching of the 'Life Span' chapter from the standpoint of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. Therefore, the Daishonin says, 'Myoho-renge-kyo actually is the true Buddha' (MW-I, 90). From this standpoint, he proclaims that the term 'Thus Come One' in the chapter's title means the 'Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Thus Come One,' or the Daishonin himself. The Daishonin further says, 'Now Nichiren and his followers who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are the original lord of the teaching of the "Life Span" chapter' (Gosho Zenshu, p. 753). The original Buddha thus plainly declares that we who accept and uphold Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are the subject of the 'Life Span' chapter. Each of us is the protagonist of the 'Life Span' chapter, a grand epic of the eternity of life."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, Lectures on the Hoben and Juryo Chapters of the Lotus Sutra
Kempon Hokke Shu seems to vacillate between the two views that the Life Span chapter is referring to our own Buddha nature and that it is referring to the historical personage of Shakyamuni.
"The Buddha Shakyamuni never passes away to nirvana, but performs extinction as an expedient for saving people. It is neither a lie nor a temporary death. It is the expedient Nirvana for saving people. Although the Tathagata, Buddha Shakyamuni, is always in this Saha world without being extinguished, he makes an appearance and a disappearance to save people. Making disappearance also becomes the best way for saving people. Even if the Tathagata manifests extinction, he has not been extinguished. He will appear in another world soon and saves people in there. In this way, the Tathagata is always active. When he manifests extinction, he is saving people in another world. And the extinction is for stimulating people's thirst for seeing the Buddha. Therefore, extinction and non-extinction, appearance and disappearance, all of them are for saving people. That is to say, the Tathagata has never taken a rest from saving people. It is a thundering mistake that those who cannot understand this meaning say that the Buddha Shakyamuni is useless anymore because he has already passed away at Kusinagara. It is a mistake that you think the Buddha Shakyamuni was Shijo Shogaku, who had become the Buddha as a result of ascetic practices. Also it is a mistake that you think the Buddha Shakyamuni was extinguished by the death. His extinction is the expedient Nirvana. It is not temporary Nirvana. He has been disappearing to save people. Although the Buddha Shakyamuni wants to be always at your side, if so, it is impossible to save you. Therefore, he has been disappearing temporarily, having warm compassion to you. You have to understand this significant meaning."
~ Sinyou Tsuchiya, Kempon Hokke Shu Priest
"The Tathagata as the real existence is eternal and immortal. There is neither birth nor extinction. However, the Buddha Shakyamuni shows birth and extinction to people. That is because people don't know that He passes into Nirvana as an expedient. Therefore, they see his extinction, and widely make offerings to his relics, nourishing affectionate longing and producing the mind of adoration. As the Buddha Shakyamuni had expected, they much respected his teachings than when he had been alive, building many stupas that contain Buddha's relics, keeping sutras with care. According to his purpose, people summoned up their feeling to admire the Buddha. If you adore the Buddha, making much of his words and making your mind gentle and pliant, and if you desire to see the Buddha even at the cost of your own life, the Buddha Shakyamuni appears together with his disciples at the Eagle Mountain. The Eagle Mountain is not the actual mountain in India where the Buddha Shakamuni preached the Lotus Sutra. It is the Spiritual Eagle Mountain where we can see the Buddha Shakyamuni and his teachings are expounded again, when your mind reached the highest point of adoring Him."
~ Sinyou Tsuchiya, Kempon Hokke Shu Priest
"In this paragraph, it is explained about the strong spirit of adoring the Buddha such as saying 'You should devote your body and life.' It is not adoration to the letter of wonderful Dharma or the truth of universe. Also, it is not a quibble such as saying 'That is to say, the Buddha is Buddha-nature of mine.' You should adore the eternal Buddha forever. You should have a strong spirit that desires to see the Buddha. Although you cannot see the living body of Buddha by the naked eye, the immortal Buddha is here anytime. As Nichiren shonin emphasizes that only the Buddha Shakyamuni is a lord, a teacher and a parent for us, it is really necessary for religions to have sentiments to a man of character. Although there are persons who proudly lecture on the law of truth, or who insist on that your disease will be cured by chanting mantra or something, those thoughts are small parts of Buddhism. Keeping a notion to a man of character is the most important on religion. Being deeply moved by the lord's dignity, teacher's enlightenment and parent’s compassion, we can possess wonderful human virtues. Those minds work on the relationship between married persons, the relationship between friends and so on. We are deeply moved by the personality, not the truth. If you seek only the truth, it won't be the true religion. Therefore, it is urging the necessity of adoring the eternal Buddha. The deep emotion to personality is surely necessary for the religion. The Buddha Shakyamuni himself teaches the most important thing of religion here. 'With your whole heart, desire to see the Buddha' is very important mind on the faith. On the other hand, although there is a phrase saying 'We will not spare even our lives, we treasure only the unsurpassed way,' the content of the unsurpassed way is the relationship between the eternal Buddha and people who have the Buddha-nature, after all. For example, when you say 'I love my country,' it means that you love persons after all. You love great persons who led the country, not the land of the country or the form of the country. "
~ Sinyou Tsuchiya, Kempon Hokke Shu Priest
What are the key points made by Nichiren in his thesis entitled the Rissho Ankoku Ron?
There were all kinds of problems taking place in Japan at the time. Famine, the plague, earthquakes. Nichiren believed that these things were all caused by the fact that the nation of Japan supported and adhered to erroneous philosophies. Based on Buddhist scriptures, he predicted that the country would further undergo foreign invasion and internal strife (civil war) if it didn't discard and abandon wrong teachings and take up the Lotus Sutra. His predictions of foreign invasion and internal strife both occurred, thus making him a well-known, and in some cases hated, figure in Japan for successfully denouncing the other prominent sects of Buddhism at the time.
The key thing to take from this writing is that Nichiren felt that erroneous, misleading, or even simply inferior philosophies are causes of harm and suffering to the people. Whether one adopts the view that the natural world, such as earthquakes, can be controlled by human activity or not, the connection between philosophy or ideology and human happiness or suffering is clear. Where a bad ideology is prevalent in society, people suffer (i.e. Nazism, Communism). Good ideologies, on the other hand, can help people (i.e. a belief in human rights). Religions, too, are ideologies that can help or harm or sometimes do both. We should seek to adhere to and support the best religions while discarding and opposing bad ones or comparatively inferior ones.
Although secular ideologies are the easiest to point to for non-Buddhists to make the point that there are better and worse ideologies, from a Buddhist perspective, those are inferior, shallow philosophies that don't fully take into account all of the aspects of cause and effect, namely the existence of the Buddha nature. Buddhism instead concerns itself with the true source of suffering, which is life condition or internal spiritual development. It would argue that the spiritual development of the people naturally leads to improvements in society. Whereas arguing for secular improvement without improving the spiritual condition of the people will be futile. So the most important thing to Nichiren, in this writing and over the course of his life, was attempting to convince people to adopt the highest Buddhist teaching, which means the Buddhist teaching that leads to the highest form of enlightenment, unsurpassed enlightenment. What he did not do when he made his prediction of foreign invasion and internal strife was to tell people that the way to prevent it was to adopt a philosophy of peace and non-violence.
Nichiren argues in this thesis that the best religion, the only one that actually leads to Buddhahood, is the practice of the Lotus Sutra. It's not as much that the other forms of Buddhism are that bad in the secular sense like has been the historical legacy of some religions, nothing like influencing people to burn witches or stone women to death for adultery, but that they're bad in the sense that they prevent people from practicing Lotus Sutra Buddhism, which is the best. For the sake of the people and the nation, he urges them all to discard the other religions that are preventing them from attaining the highest form of enlightenment and adopt Lotus Sutra Buddhism instead.
"On a societal level, 'establishing the correct teaching' means establishing the concepts of human dignity and the sanctity of life as principles that support and move society."
~ Daisaku Ikeda
"In his treatise 'On Establishing the Correct
Teaching for the Peace of the Land,' Nichiren Daishonin explains that when the people’s beliefs are firmly rooted in the correct Buddhist teaching, peace, security, happiness and prosperity will permeate society.... He wrote this treatise and remonstrated with the authorities in order to ease people's pain and agony. This, we can conclude, expresses his conviction that those who practice Buddhism must not merely seek their own enlightenment or happiness but, based on Buddhism's humanistic principles and spirit, should take action to solve the problems and issues facing humanity.
"Mahayana Buddhism strictly admonishes against the selfishness of remaining cloistered in religious tradition while ignoring the problems of society. The principle of establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land aims not only for the salvation of individuals but also for the transformation of society -- that is, the manifestation of the world of Buddhahood in the environment. The efforts of the SGI today toward global solutions on matters including peace, culture, education and human rights are grounded in the Nichiren Buddhist principle of establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.
"Nichiren is teaching that the key to creating peace in society lies in the heart of each person. Only through each person’s inner transformation, or human revolution, can true peace be achieved. By taking on and winning over such spiritual afflictions as suffering, anger, greed and the inability to respect ourselves and others, we can transform ourselves and the world in which we live into a pure and indestructible Buddha land. SGI President Ikeda explains, 'The essence of "establishing the correct teaching" lies in believing in the fundamental good that is the Lotus Sutra and in each individual establishing peace in their hearts' (The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings, vol. 1, p. 75).
"Buddhist teachings other than the Lotus Sutra tend to regard secular affairs as separate from Buddhism and the path to enlightenment as lying in a realm beyond the secular world. On the contrary, the Lotus Sutra teaches that Buddhism is inseparable
from society, that Buddhism embraces the secular world and that the true path leading all people to enlightenment exists in the reality of people’s everyday lives.
"It’s not necessary that all people practice Buddhism or uphold the Lotus Sutra. Rather, the principle of establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land means establishing the ideals of human dignity and respect for the sanctity of life that are upheld in the Lotus Sutra as core values that move society. For that reason, the correct teaching of Buddhism becomes paramount in building an ideal society based on humanism.
"Nichiren devoted his life to spreading and establishing a teaching that empowers people to fully develop their humanity and achieve enduring happiness. Today, SGI members share his mission: to live the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism, challenge our human revolution and spread Buddhist ideals through our interactions with others at work, at school, in our families and communities. The SGI collectively strives to promote peace, culture, education and human rights toward a positive transformation of society and the world. These efforts are based on the principle of establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land, grounded in the Buddhist ideals of compassion and humanism, and pursued with the faith that human beings and society can in fact change for the better."
~ SGI-USA Essentials Exam Part I, "On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land"
What are the 3 treasures?
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo 2. Buddha: The one inside every person who chants Namu-myoho-renge-kyo
(no different from the one described in the 16th chapter of
the Lotus Sutra) 3. Sangha: all those who are dedicated to the spread
of the teachings of Nichiren
What is the level of strictness you have
about receiving a Gohonzon?
Must pass basic study
exams, take vows to protect Gohonzon and practice throughout
your life. Must be practicing 3+ months.
Must be an SGI member, attend meetings
and receive SGI publications for 3+ months.
"The Gohonzon (Mandala #101)
is emailed to members to print, after 90 days, they may
sign the declaration of faith, and send the Gohonzon to
the main priest in Japan to perform the eye opening ceremony
(optional). I'm almost certain that they only allow members
to use Nichiren Gohonzons that were inscribed after 1278."
Must be a member of Nichiren Shoshu.
Must take vows to protect Gohonzon and practice throughout
your life. Must learn gongyo.
"As long they
have faith in the Eternal Shakyamuni, and practice exactly
as Nichiren taught, then anyone can attain enlightenment (because
we inherit the Law directly from the teachings)."
the 'Succession through the Scrolls of the Sutra' (kyogan
Sutra contains the Truth and Nichiren Daishonin is its true
expounder: wherever his
authentic teaching based on the Lotus Sutra is practiced as
it was preached, there
we find the true sect. No person, however virtuous, has authority
to overturn these
From the High Priest
and other priests through him to the disciples
Do you believe that there is one "good"
teacher on the planet for all of the people to follow, either
directly or indirectly (i.e. following the primary teacher directly
or following a person who is an envoy of the primary teacher)?
"They follow Nichiren, but emphasise
that he was Shakyamuni's envoy, hence Shakyamuni must be
Do you believe that all people (or at least
most people of normal mental capacity) are capable of reading,
practicing, and understanding (following) the gosho without
help from a mentor/priest/intermediary?
Do you believe that the definition of Buddhist
1. belonging to your organization
2. a natural unity among people who have dedicated themselves
to the spread of Nichiren Buddhism that occurs because they
are contributing to the same ends (whether they are intentionally
working with each other or not)
Do you teach that people who leave your
organization will not be able to practice Buddhism correctly
without it and will suffer as a result?
No. We hope that you'll want to stay with us and help us propagate Buddhism, but all you need to propagate Buddhism is diligent study of Nichiren, lots of daimoku, some courage, some compassion, some conviction, and tireless dedication to the enlightenment of others. These things aren't found in an organization. They're traits you develop yourself.
We don't ask people to join NBAA. They have to ask us. And we don't tell them not to leave. We do, however, warn people to be wary about SGI, in particular, pointing out places where they have grossly distorted the teaching of Buddhism, and strongly urging them not to be swayed into adhering to the teaching of the mentor-disciple relationship, that it has absolutely no foundation in the teachings of Buddhism
and is merely a ploy to get people to worship President Ikeda. We also tell people to always follow the Law, study the gosho diligently, always rely on their own experience of Buddhahood and trust in their own understanding of the teachings of Nichiren (who wrote hundreds of letters explaining his teachings to his own disciples, who he expected to be able to understand them), and never, ever follow a person or an organization. Never dedicate your life to an organization. Always offer your devotion to the Law itself, to the path to Buddhahood, to people becoming Buddhas. In contrast, President Ikeda quotes President Toda saying, "The Soka Gakkai is more important than my life."
"'The final fate of all traitors is a degrading story of suffering and ignominy,' said President Makiguchi with keen perception. What he says is absolutely true, as you have seen with your own eyes. President Toda also declared: 'To betray the Soka Gakkai is to betray the Daishonin. You’ll know what I mean, when you see the retribution they incur at the end of their lives.'”
~ Daisaku Ikeda ("The People Are Sovereign," World Tribune, Feb. 24, 2007)
"In the present day, we have the corrupt and degenerate priests of the Nikken sect. It’s important that we fight against such priests who try to block the way to happiness and destroy kosen-rufu, as well as those former Gakkai leaders who have abandoned their faith and turned against their fellow members.... It is despicable to betray one’s mentor, one’s fellow members, and one’s beliefs. Based on strong prayer, we must stand up with the firm resolve not to permit such abuses or betrayals.... No matter what fine appearances the crooked and corrupt may present to the world, their true nature is ultimately vile and base. They are devious, grasping, and self-serving. Don’t be deceived by them. You need to see them and their underhanded schemes for what they are."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, ("Embarking into a New Year with Hope and Joy," at the 25th Headquarters Leaders Meeting)
"Shannon Heimburg, President of NBAA: Build your own little kumi, han, then district without SGI. You are only responsible for becoming a Buddha and teaching others how to do that as well. If the organization you work with interferes with that mission, you need to get out. David Heimburg, Vice President of NBAA: Each of us need to take up the reigns of propagation of Buddhism. We cannot wait for organizations to change. Mark Koral, SGI leader and contributing writer for the World Tribune and Living Buddhism: In my opinion, anyone who follows the Heimburgs lead are headed for unhappiness and suffering. These types of folks who pretend as though they understand faith and Nichiren Buddhism trying to stir people away from the SGI, are the most deluded of all and function to prevent others from attaining Buddhahood. I hope everyone will practice and study diligently enough to clearly recognize these devilish functions for what they are." Click here to read the rest of what "the Heimburgs" said to instigate this kind of response
"Conversely, if we are continuously developing our Buddha nature, taking action with the wisdom we tap through chanting and thus courageous in our life-condition, then we are moving toward and becoming the type of person who can have all their prayers answered."
~ Ted Morino, World Tribune Editor in Chief
" Literature, music and drama are all to be found in our activities for faith-in our prayers, our challenges to develop ourselves through SGI activities and our efforts to educate others. All value is encompassed in these activities. This is the profound realm of Buddhism."
~ Daisaku Ikeda, for Today and Tomorrow: Daily Encouragement by Daisaku Ikeda, From the entry for April 16, 2033