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alt.religion.buddhism.nichiren FAQ

Newsgroups: alt.religion.buddhism.nichiren
Subject: ARBN FAQ
From: (Karma)
Date: 20 Apr 1995 01:09:47 GMT

The "official" alt.religion.buddhism.nichiren FAQ
--containing *general* information on Nichiren's Buddhism
--for sect-specific info watch for other FAQ's
--current as of 4/19/95
DISCLAIMER: This by no means a complete definition or analysis of 
Nichiren's Buddhism. Keeping in mind the ongoing debates between certain 
Nichiren sects, I have tried to be as diplomatic as possible concerning 
differing definitions of basic terms. If you feel any of the facts in 
this FAQ are in error, please Email your concerns to
Frequently Asked Questions about Nichiren's Buddhism
1. Who is Shakyamuni?
2. Who is Nichiren?
3. How do Nichiren Buddhists practice?
4. What are some of the basic principles/terms of Nichiren Buddhism?
5. How many sects of Nichiren's Buddhism are there?
6. What's the deal between Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai and the rest of
   the Nichiren sects?
7. How does one become a Nichiren Buddhist?
1. Who is Shakyamuni?
   Also referred to as Lord Shakya. The first recorded Buddha 
("Enlightened One") who lived about 3,000 years ago in India. He was a 
prince named Siddhartha Gautama who renounced his claim to the throne in 
order to embark on a religious life, because of a deep desire to solve 
the questions of the four sufferings (birth, old age, sickness and 
death). He is said to have achieved enlightenment at the age of 30. He 
passed on his enlightenment to as many as possible, at first using 
"expedient means" and "provisional" teachings (Sutras), culminating by 
revealing the true eternal nature of his enlightenment in the 16th 
chapter of the Lotus Sutra. He passed away at the age of 80. In Nichiren 
Shoshu and Soka Gakkai, Shakyamuni is considered to be the "cast off" or 
"discarded" Buddha, secondary to Nichiren.
2. Who is Nichiren?
   Nichiren Shonin (1222-1282)--also referred to as Nichiren "Daishonin" 
by two Nichiren sects (Nichiren Shoshu, and its former lay organization 
Soka Gakkai)--was a 13th century Buddhist monk who founded his own form 
of Buddhism based on the Lotus Sutra. "Nichi" means sun and "ren" means 
lotus flower. His teachings are comprised of many letters and essays 
written to various people, and called the Gosho (see below). During his 
lifetime he inscribed many Gohonzons (see below) which he bestowed on 
various people. Over 120 of Nichiren's Gohonzons are still extant. Two 
Nichiren sects, Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai, consider Nichiren to be 
the "True" or "Original" Buddha. Nichiren is considered (and himself 
claimed) to be the Bodhisattva Jogyo by all other sects of Nichiren. 
Bodhisattva Jogyo was entrusted by Shakyamuni with the propagation of the 
Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law (see below).
3. How do Nichiren Buddhists practice?
   The most basic practice is Gongyo and Daimoku (see below), which is 
performed in front of a Gohonzon (see below) which is enshrined in their 
home, and also study of the teachings of Shakyamuni (Lotus Sutra, see 
below) and Nichiren (Gosho, see below). The different Nichiren sects also 
have various other practices such as shakubuku (see below); performing 
compassionate acts and community service; and attending study meetings 
and other gatherings with their fellow Buddhists. 
4. What are some of the basic principles/terms of Nichiren Buddhism? (The 
following are by no means complete, just a simple glossary)
Bodhisattva: one who dedicates himself to compassionate acts and puts 
others before himself.
Bodhisattvas of the Earth: Innumerable beings who pledged in the Lotus 
Sutra to propagate the Mystic Law in the Latter Day of the Law. Nichiren 
is generally considered to be the Bodhisattva Jogyo.
Buddha: Buddha means "enlightened one" or "awakened one." One who has 
attained the highest level of enlightenment and escaped the four 
sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death.
Daimoku: The invocation of the title of the Lotus Sutra. 
"Namu-Myoho-renge-kyo" literally translates as "I devote my life to the 
Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra." Part of the daily practice of a Nichiren 
Buddhist. Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai primarily use 
"Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" in writing and in speech, although there is some 
evidence that the "u" is dropped incorrectly. The Nam/Namu issue is a 
much-debated subject at this time.
Four Sufferings: The endless cycle of birth, old age, sickness and death.
Gohonzon: The "object of worship" in Nichiren's Buddhism. Each Nichiren 
school provides Gohonzons for its members, the Gohonzons vary in 
specifics but generally are inscribed or printed paper scrolls. "Go" 
means "worthy of honor" and "honzon" means "object of fundamental 
respect." Down the center of each Gohonzon is inscribed, 
"Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, Nichiren." Only two sects, Nichiren Shoshu and 
Soka Gakkai, believe that there is a "master" Gohonzon called the 
"Dai-Gohonzon," from which all Gohonzon are derived. The "Dai-Gohonzon" 
is enshrined in Japan at Taisekiji, and it is a subject of much 
controversy and allegations of forgery at this time.
Gohyaku-jintengo: Immeasurably distant time in the past when Shakyamuni 
first attained enlightenment, as revealed for the first time in the Hoben 
(16th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
Gongyo: The daily prayers and practice of devotion for Nichiren 
Buddhists. Each Nichiren school's Gongyo practice varies, but generally 
the Hoben (2nd) and Juryo (16th) chapters of the Lotus Sutra are recited 
(chanted), then Daimoku is chanted for an unspecified length of time. 
Gongyo means "assiduous practice."
Gosho: Gosho means "writing worthy of great respect." In the case of 
Nichiren's Buddhism, the Gosho means the collected writings of Nichiren. 
There are various Gosho translations by various Nichiren sects. The 
"NSIC" (used by Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai) translations are 
currently tainted by allegations of forgery and mis-translation.
Ichinen Sanzen: One of the core teachings of Nichiren's Buddhism, it 
reveals that every life-moment (ichinen) possesses all three-thousand 
(sanzen) worlds. The formula for Ichinen Sanzen is as follows:
  10Ten Worlds (see below)
x 10  the "mutual possession" of the Ten Worlds
x 10  Ten Factors (see below)
x  3  Three Realms (see below)
= 3,000 Ichinen Sanzen
Karma: "Karma" means "action" in Sanskrit. The Law of cause and effect at 
work: one's past actions have shaped one's present reality, and one's 
present actions in turn determine one's future. Also considered as the 
general life-condition or destiny that each of us creates through 
thoughts, words and deeds.
Kosen-rufu: According to the doctrines of Nichiren Shoshu and Soka 
Gakkai, kosen-rufu means "peace, happiness and harmony for all humankind 
through the propagation of Nichiren's Buddhism." Kosen-rufu literally 
means to "widely declare and spread."
Ku: The concept of non-substantiality, emptiness, void, etc. The thought 
that phenomena have no fixed substance and do not exist independently of 
any other phenomena, leading to the impermanence of all things.
Kuon ganjo: Eternity, time without beginning or end. Also called the 
infinite past.
Latter Day of the Law (Mappo): Third of the three periods which the 
teachings of the Buddha pass through after his death. In Mappo, the 
teachings of the Buddha lose the power to lead people to enlightenment, 
because the people have lost their power to attain enlightenment through 
the teachings of the Buddha. (The power to attain enlightenment is 
regained through Nichiren's teachings and the Daimoku.) Mappo is said to 
last 10,000 years or more.
Lotus Sutra: Shakyamuni Buddha's ultimate teaching, expounded in the last 
years of his life. In it, the Buddha explains how the Lotus Sutra is 
superior to all other Sutras, that the previous Sutras were "provisional" 
and to be discarded. Also, the Buddha reveals in the 16th chapter the 
true nature of his enlightenment. The role of the Lotus Sutra in one's 
enlightenment is generally downplayed by Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai, 
but still highly revered by other Nichiren sects (as Nichiren revered it).
Nine consciousnesses:
1. Sight (1-5 denote the five senses)
2. Hearing
3. Smell
4. Taste
5. Touch
6. Mind (integrates the first five and forms judgments about them)
7. Mano-consciousness (abstract thought, awareness of self, etc.)
8. Alaya-consciousness (stores karmic effects and originates causes) 
9. Amala-consciousness (free of all karmic impurity, one's Buddha nature)
The Middle Way: The path between the extremes of self-mortification and 
self-indulgence. Also the path between the extremes of existence and 
Shakubuku: To propagate Nichiren's Buddhism by refuting another's 
erroneous ideas and leading him to the correct Buddhist teachings. 
(Versus shoju: to gradually lead others to the correct Buddhist teachings.)
Ten Factors (1-3 explain the reality of life, 4-9 analyze the functions 
and workings of life, 10 maintains them all in perfect harmony):
1. Appearance (the aspect of things which can be discerned from the outside)
2. Nature (the inherent disposition of things that can't be discerned 
from the outside)
3. Entity (the essence of life which permeates and integrate 1 & 2)
4. Power (life's inherent strength or energy to achieve something)
5. Influence (the movement or action produced when latent power is activated)
6. Internal cause (the cause latent in life formed through influence or 
7. Relation (the external cause which helps an internal cause produce its 
8. Latent effect (the effect produced in the depths of life when an 
internal cause is activated by relation)
9. Manifest effect (the concrete, perceivable result that emerges from 
internal cause and latent effect)
10. Their consistency from beginning to end (unifies the other 9 factors 
in every moment of life)
Ten Worlds (1-4 are the Four Evil Paths, 1-6 are the Six Paths, 7-10 are 
the Four Noble Worlds):
1. Hell (one is governed by the impulse to destroy both himself and others)
2. Hunger (one is dominated by insatiable desires for wealth, fame, 
pleasure, etc.)
3. Animality (one follows the pull of desires and instincts)
4. Anger (one is driven by the competitive spirit to dominate, often 
trampling the dignity of others)
5. Humanity (one is able to control his desires and impulses with reason)
6. Rapture (the state of joy one feels upon the *temporary* release of 
suffering, fulfillment of a desire or completion of a goal)
7. Learning (one attempts to realize life's truth through the teachings 
of others)
8. Realization (one attempts to realize life's truth through one's own 
9. Bodhisattva (one dedicates himself to compassionate acts and puts 
others before himself)
10. Buddhahood (one realizes the essence of his own life and escapes the 
four sufferings)
(Mutual possession of the Ten Worlds: each of the Ten Worlds contains the 
potential for all ten within itself. All common mortals of the nine lower 
worlds have the potential for Buddhahood; a Buddha retains the nine lower 
worlds and is not separate from common mortals.)
Three Great Secret Laws:
1. The true object of worship (the Gohonzon).
2. The invocation of the Daimoku.
3. The high sanctuary (to enshrine the Gohonzon).
Three Realms:
1. The realm of the five components (form, perception, conception, 
volition and consciousness).
2. The realm of living beings.
3. The realm of the environment of living beings.
Three Treasures:
1. The Buddha: the Eternal Shakyamuni of the Hoben (16th) Chapter of the 
Lotus Sutra
2. The Dharma (Law):  Namu-Myoho-renge-kyo
3. The Sangha: the community of believers of Shakyamuni, including Nichiren
   (Note: in Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai, the Three Treasures are 
defined as The Buddha [Nichiren], The Law [the "Dai-Gohonzon"], and The 
5. How many sects of Nichiren's Buddhism are there?
   According to "Fire in the Lotus" by Daniel Montgomery (1991 figures), 
there are 37 sects of Nichiren's Buddhism totaling over 30 million 
believers worldwide. Some claim to have derived from Nichiren himself. 
Nichiren Shoshu recently split into two sects, the second sect comprised 
of its former lay organization Soka Gakkai. Other major sects are: Kempon 
Hokke, Nichiren Shu, Reyukai and Rissho Kosei-Kai.
6. What's the deal between Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai and the rest 
of the Nichiren sects?
   That's a complex issue with no easy answer. For those not familiar, 
Nichiren Shoshu (NST) is a Nichiren sect based at the head temple 
(Taisekiji) in Japan, led by a "high priest" (currently Nikken). The 
priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu has been tainted by allegations of 
corruption and "broken lineage" for some time. Soka Gakkai (SGI) is 
Nichiren Shoshu's former lay organization, which has separated from the 
temple and is now basically a Nichiren sect of its own, led by Daisaku 
Ikeda. The SGI has also been embroiled in controversy, politics, and 
allegations of corruption for some time and has been accused of being 
nothing more than a religious "cult."
   Both sects have essentially the same doctrines. Of the 37 Nichiren 
sects, *only* NST and SGI practice certain doctrines, which are in 
general regarded as heretical by the other sects of Nichiren. These include:
(1) The doctrine of Nichiren being the "True Buddha" rather than 
Shakyamuni (of which Nichiren himself made no documented claim).
(2) The Daimoku (see above) as "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" rather than 
"Namu-myoho-renge-kyo" ... a seemingly semantic but rather vital 
distinction. For a more thorough study of the Nam/Namu issue, please 
Email to request the current research on the subject.
(3) The Three Treasures (see above) defined as the "Buddha (Nichiren), 
Law (the "Dai-Gohonzon") and Priesthood" rather than the "Buddha 
(Shakyamuni), Law (Namu-myoho-renge-kyo) and Sangha" The latter directly 
follows both Shakyamuni's and Nichiren's teachings, the origins of the 
former doctrine are uncertain.
(4) The belief in the "Dai-Gohonzon" as a "supreme" object of worship 
inscribed by Nichiren himself and being superior to all other Gohonzons. 
The "Dai-Gohonzon" is shrouded in mystery and allegations of forgery at 
this time, which have not yet been resolved due to Taisekiji's reluctance 
to allow close examination of the "ita mandala" for authenticity.
(5) The successive high priests of Taisekiji (Nichiren Shoshu) claim to 
have received some special "secret transmissions" from Nichiren directly 
to them, a doctrine that directly opposes both Shakyamuni's and 
Nichiren's teachings (direct heritage of the Law through faith in the 
Sutra/the Daimoku) and is only tenuously supported by the existence of 
two "transfer documents" that are at this time tainted by allegations of 
   At this time, the current debates between NST and SGI, and between 
those two sects and the rest of the sects of Nichiren, have not been 
resolved. The issue remains a complex one full of bitter emotions and 
disputes among NST and SGI members.
7. How does one become a Nichiren Buddhist?
   Each of the Nichiren sects has different ways of practicing Gongyo and 
Daimoku, different Gohonzons which it bestows upon believers, and 
different interpretations of the doctrine (Nichiren's teachings). It is 
left up to the individual to select which school, if any, they would like 
to belong to. Information on each school will be posted in a.r.b.n. from 
time to time. At its most basic level, one would simply need to have 
faith in, and practice and study of, Nichiren's teachings and the Lotus 
Sutra. Nichiren advocated in his writings that one should recite the 
Hoben and Juryo portions of the Lotus Sutra and chant the Daimoku daily, 
in addition to studying the Gosho and the Lotus Sutra. One may also 
obtain a Gohonzon (Object of Worship) through the Nichiren sect he or she 
If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in this 
newsgroup. From time to time more information will be posted, such as 
bibliographies and information on specific sects of Nichiren Buddhism. 
You may wish to write a FAQ that is specfic to your sect of Nichiren's 
Buddhism and post it in this newsgroup, please clearly label it as 
specific to your sect.

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