For the beginners...
First of all it should be mentioned that THIS is a Buddhist practice.
Well, there are many Buddhist traditions throughout the world.
Therefore HBS practices might feel like something alien in the first instance for a person who is more familiar with another Buddhist tradition. But let us make clear of this. HBS is nothing but Primordial Buddhism. (Please refer the text on the Name of HBS for the definition of HBS)
What is Primordial Buddhism then?
The word primordial means something fundamental in its original form. Thus Primordial Buddhist teachings are Fundamental teachings (Dharma) of the Buddha from the beginning of existence in its original formation. In other words, Primordial teachings are those teachings which all the Buddhas intended on preaching to common beings to guide them to their enlightenment. All the Buddhas share the common intention of leading all the beings to enlightenment and the bliss of happiness they enjoy in the enlightened state. Buddhas lead all the beings towards the enlightenment. Thereby Primordial teachings appear in order enlighten all the beings throughout the universe. HBS consider the eight chapters from 15th chapter to 22nd chapter of Lotus Sutra to be primordial teachings since they reveal the Buddha nature in all beings, something essential for the enlightenment of all beings.
In these primordial eight chapters of Lotus sutra (Sutra is the Buddhist term for a certain set of teachings preached by Buddha on a particular theme), Buddha has shown that the life of a Buddha is immeasurable. Actually this refers to the fact that Buddhas never extinct. Historical Buddhas such as Shakyamuni Gautama Buddha might pass away to extinction (attain Parinirvana), but the Primordail form of all Buddhas (Primordial Buddha) which is the Dharma it self will never extinct. As long as the Dharma exists, Primordial Buddha will exists. Therefore in HBS we venerate the living Primordial Buddha and the Dharma.
(To be continued....)
When you are asked by someone "What religion do you believe in?" or "What religious group do you belong to?"
you may reply, "Oh, I believe in Buddhism" or "I belong to HBS (Honmon Butsuryu Shu).
Then someone may ask you, "What kind of religion (tradition) is HBS?" You may be at a loss for an answer.
Based on the phrases in the Myoko Ichiza which are recited at HBS services, let us try to understand what kind of religion HBS is.
The Myoko Ichiza of the Honmon Butsuryu Shu is ritual formulas for Buddhist services. It was formulated by Nissen Shonin in June Meiji 11 (1878), 21 years after the foundation of HBS. The Myoko Ichiza consists of the Five Formulas of Penitence, Treatise on the Practices as Prescribed by the Tathagata, chapters of the Lotus Sutra, the Japanese readings of the Supernatural Powers of the Tathagata, the Homage Formula to the Buddha and the Saints, etc.
The Myoko Ichiza is the ritual formulas for HBS’s Buddhist services, but it is also for chanting and propagating the Odaimoku, as it contains the essentials of all the doctrines of HBS.
- 1. What kind of spiritual existence do we have exchange or sympathize with?
- 2. What are the purposes for exchange and sympathy?
- 3. How can we have exchange and sympathy?
The different points of view on the above three questions bring about the various kinds of religion and religious sects.
We HBS followers should clarify these three points with reference to Myoko Ichiza.
Please open the text at Kanjo Mon (Invocation of the Buddha and Saints).These phrases are part of Kanjin Honson Sho which was written by Nichiren Shonin.
HBS attaches great importance to The Treatise on the True Object of Worship, Treatise on the Practices as Prescribed by the Tathagata and Shi-shin-gohn-sho as the three principle practices prescribed by the Tathagata for HBS.
Particularly, The Treatise on the True Object of Worship is regarded as the priest’s best manual because the treatise has established what the true object of worship authenticated and authorized by the Buddha is, and also the way ordinary people should be able to attain Buddha-hood during the period of the Last Dharma.
In this writing, Nichiren Shonin wrote about the form of the Gohonzon (the Object of Worship) based on the teachings of the Primordial Eight Chapters of the Lotus Sutra that
Based on the teaching of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Shonin wrote NamuMyohoRengekyo, the Fine Dharma, in the center and wrote the names of Shakamuni Buddha, Bodhisattvas and the Guardian Kings of Heaven on the right side and left side of NamuMyohoRengekyo. These are the sacred objects of worship for HBS followers.
In other sects of Buddhism, particular statues or images of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas are usually adored as the objects of worship. But, in the case of HBS, based on the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Shonin, NamuMyohoRengekyo (the Odaimoku) is adored as the object of worship.
The Gohonzon of HBS contains all the laws of the universe which were enlightened by the Eternal Shakamuni Buddha and also the souls of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and the Guardian Kings of Heaven.
What are the purposes for exchange and sympathy?
The Sange Mon (Summary Formula of Penitence - Mushiirai Hobo Zaisho Shometsu) states,
One of the purposes of our faith is the elimination of Zaisho. Zaisho means ’hindrance produced by sinful karma or acts’. Sinful acts are planted in the Arayashiki as evil seeds, which function as an obstacle to having aspiration for enlightenment and strengthening one’s faith, and also function as the direct cause which produces various evil effects.
Hobo means disparaging the Dharma. Nissen Shonin stated that disparaging the Dharma means acting against the natural laws. Disparaging the Dharma is, in a broader sense, to act against natural order and reason. In our religion, however, it means not to believe and uphold the Sacred Object of the Lotus Sutra that possesses all the laws of the universe.
Penitence means the confession of one’s idleness and sins committed by disparaging the Dharma, and making a vow that one would never commit such a sin again.
There are other purposes of our faith. In the Ekomon (Transfer of Merits) of the Myoko Ichiza which says,
The most important and ultimate purpose if our faith, as HBS followers, is propagating the Fine Dharma throughout the world. Therefore, we recite the following vows in the Myoko Ichiza,
How can we have exchange and sympathy with the Gohonzon?
The most important practice for this is chanting the Odaimoku faithfully. Chanting the Odaimoku means chanting NamuMyohoRengekyo repeatedly. Why is chanting the Odaimoku practical and effective for having exchange and sympathy with the souls of the sacred existences? The Odaimoku is the most powerful DRANI (sacred word) which possess the energy of the enlightenment of the Buddha. So, when we chant the Odaimoku, the sacred sounds can easily sympathize with the souls of the sacred existences. By chanting the Odaimoku and listening to it carefully, the good seeds of Buddhahood are sowed in the Arayashiki, and the bad karma is eradicated. Simultaneously, the pure power of Buddha contained in the Odaimoku will build better karma which is stored in the Arayashiki. In this manner, the HBS faith purifies the body and soul.
Nichiren Shonin stated that wishes of practitioners of the Lotus Sutra will always be rewarded, but this is based on repeated chanting of the Odaimoku. And, by diligently chanting the Odaimoku in front of the Gohonzon, the spirits of the Buddha, Taho Buddha,, Bodhisattvas, Guardian Kings of Heaven and others will congregate together to protect you. This is analogous to water attracting fish and forests attracting birds.
I would like to explain about why various Buddhas appear in the Mahayana sutras.
Although Shakamuni Buddha was a great master, the people in his period thought of him only as the child of a king of a small territory in India who later entered the pursuit of religious truth and was awakened to the truth. No matter how brilliant and great a master he may have been, the people thought of him as just an ordinary human being. However, people’s image of him gradually changed. They started to realize that Shakamuni Buddha’s original sate was somewhere in a far away universe and was later born in this Saha world with the mission to save mankind from sufferings.
Shakamuni Buddha, himself, may have thought, "I attained enlightenment. But it was not enlightenment for me. The fundamental truth (Fine Dharma) us the ten directions of the world does not change whether it is in the past, present or future world. It is the same in the other celestial bodies as well. The Fine Dharma is eternal and never-changing. Therefore, a person who attains the Fine Dharma like me should be called Buddha. The enlightenment of a Buddha in a different world who is awakened to the Fine Dharma and spreads it, is the same as mine. There may have been an enlightened person before me, or an enlightened person may appear in the future world or in some far away worlds, but in short, the substance of enlightenment is the same in each case."
As such, the hypothesis is there are various Buddhas who appear in various worlds.
There is another reason. After the Buddha’s death, many Buddhists deplored that there was no longer a Buddha in this world, and gradually they longed for the appearance of another Buddha. Their earnest desire created the assumption of there being various Buddhas in other worlds. They thought that although there was no Buddha in this world, there were Buddhas in other worlds who continued to teach and save the people, so, we should pray to be reborn in the worlds where the other Buddhas existed. Such thoughts became one of the basic ideas of Mahayana Buddhism. Pure Land Buddhism sects are typical examples of such Mahayana Buddhism sects. They teach that if we recite the name of Amitabha Buddha who is believed to exist in Land of Paradise in the West, we can be reborn in such a place and be with Amitabha Buddha.
After Mahayana Buddhism was brought to Japan, Pure Land Buddhism became very popular. Many people recited the name of Amithaba Buddha – Namu Amida Butsu so that they might be reborn in the Land of Paradise. In opposition to such a trend, a Buddhist priest who emphasized ’back to Shakamuni Buddha!’ appeared. This was Nichiren Shonin.
He stated that the various Buddhas in the other worlds are the Buddhas for the existences in the other worlds. For us who are born in this Saha world, Shakamuni Buddha is the most important master. However, based on the teachings of Lotus Sutra which has been called the ’King Sutra’ among the Mahayana sutras, Shakamuni Buddha was not just a mere human being, or ordinary person. His original state was the eternal existence of the Primordial Buddha. Nichiren Shonin considered Shakamuni Buddha as he eternal existence of the real Buddha whom we should respect. However, when Nichiren Shonin wrote the Gohonzon, he did not write Eternal Primordial Shakamuni Buddha, but Namu Myoho Rengekyo.
What is the meaning of Namu Myoho Rengekyo ’?
Since Namu means ’to take refuge in the Buddha’ or ’to revere’, it is commonly said that Namu Myoho Rengekyo means to take refuge in the Myoho Rengekyo (The Lotus Sutra). In this case, however, Myoho Rengekyo is not just the title of the sutra but should be regarded as the fundamental truth of all the laws of the universe or the core life of the universe. Accordingly, it may be said that the truth enlightened by or through the Buddhas in the ten directions in the Fine Dharma is symbolized in Namu Myoho Rengekyo. In short, Namu Myoho Rengekyo is the essence or the substance of the enlightenment that the Buddhas attained and the was expounded in the Lotus Sutra by Shakamuni Buddha.
What kind of religion is Buddhism? What is the main goal for Buddhist practitioners? These are questions I am sometimes asked by people who are interested in Buddhism. I would like to answer these questions.
Generally speaking the goal of Buddhist practitioners is to eradicate their evil passions and to attain enlightenment. This is referred to as the salvation of Buddhism.
What are evil passions? What is the state of enlightenment?
Evil passions or BONNO in Japanese are mental functions which disturb and pollute the mind and body. They are divided into 108 different kinds, but there are 3 basic types of evil passions; greed, anger and stupidity. These three evil passions hurt and destroy one’s good deeds, so they are called the three poisons or SANDOKU.
Greed is the avaricious mind that seeks insatiably what one wants. ’I want more money.’ ’I want to be someone rolling in money.’ I want to live in a palace like a millionaire.’ I want this and that.’ ’I don’t want to give anything which belongs to be to anybody.’ ’I don’t want to part with any of my possessions.’ Such a mental condition is greed. Why is greed a poison for us?
Once we are blinded by strong greed, we can never be satisfied with the things we have because we have lost the sense of gratitude to others and cannot feel content. Greed grows once we have become blinded by the desire for possessions.
Anger is rage or hate towards those who act against our will. Once we are enslaved by anger, hatred or jealousy, we will always be dragged into feuds and will spend our life in turmoil always burning with anger.
Stupidity is a foolish mind unable to understand the laws to be followed by all beings. Once we have lost an objective view and are branded selfish with a perverse nature, we are ignored and have no one to talk to.
We ordinary people are affected greatly by the three poisons. So in MYOKO ICHIZA (One Session of the Fine Congregation) of HBS by Nissen Shonin states that, ’Looking back upon my life, I have been miserably afflicted by the force of the three poisons, my conduct being no different from that of cattle or sheep and my intelligence resembling that of a monkey.’
Though the first step of HBS faith is repentance for such evil passions, most people recite the above section of MYOKO ICHIZA as if it had nothing to do with their own life. We must think deeply about what this has to say.
What is the state of enlighment?
Perhaps nobody can explain this except someone who has already attained enlightenment. Who has attained enlightenment? Shakamuni Buddha has. A disciple asked him, ’What is the state of enlightenment?’ The Buddha answered, ’I could never explain it in words.’ He stated that enlightenment is a state which is impossible to translate into any language.
From ancient times Buddhist followers who wanted to attain enlightenment tried to engage in hard practices to eradicate evil passions and reach the state of enlightenment through their own efforts.
If this is the only way to enlightenment, then we ordinary people would have to be crossed off the list of those who could even attempt to reach enlightenment. Because we originally lack the ability to engage in such difficult practices and have no time to engage in them, we would have to give up the hope of attaining enlightenment.
Nichiren Shonin was one person who had doubts on this subject. After spending many years researching Buddhist texts, he arrived at an answer. Most Buddhist theories are very difficult to understand and the practices are too hard for ordinary people. It would almost like expecting an infant to complete a course in tough military training.
However, Shakamuni Buddha with his great mercy and compassion left teachings and practices for ordinary people in the Mappo period, the Last Dharma period. These are the teachings and practices based on the Primordial Eight Chapters of the Lotus Sutra. The following are from the teachings of Nichiren Shonin;
Question:’What kinds of practices are prohibited for practitioners at the level of the first stage of faith in the period of the Last Dharma?
Answer: ’Such practitioners are restricted to chanting the NamuMyohoRengeKyo solely instead of performing alms-giving, keeping precepts and the other five kinds of practices (paramitah). This practice is equivalent to the capacity of people at the stage of ’the single moment’s faith and understanding’ and ’rejoicing upon the first hearing of the Lotus Sutra.’ (Shishin Gohon Sho)
Showing profound compassion for those ignorant of the gem of the ichinen sanzen, the Buddha wrapped it within the five-character phrase [NamuMyohoRengeKyo], with which he then adorned the necks of those living in the Mappo period.’ (Kanjin Honson Sho)
’This truth was not revealed in the fourteen chapters of the provisional teaching portion of the Lotus Sutra, probably because the time was not yet ripe even in the Lotus Sutra. The Buddha did not even entrust the sacred five syllables NamuMyohoRengeKyo, quintessence of the primordial teaching portion of the Lotus Sutra, to such great bodhisattvas as Manjusri and Bhaisajyaraj, not to mention the lesser bodhisattvas, until he had summoned Bodhisattva Jyogyo and the other bodhisattvas welling up out of the earth and revealed to them the primordial eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra.’ (Kanjin Honzon Sho)
Based on the doctrines of Great Master Tendai, a human being has the capacity to sympathize with any existence. When we are awakened to the universal truth of the fundamental law that governs the universe, our mind sympathizes with the truth of the universe. This state of mind is considered Enlightenment.
From ancient times, many Buddhist practitioners engaged in various hard practices so that they could sympathize with the truth of the universe.
In the Large Vehicle (Mahayana) Buddhism, it is considered that not only the historical Shakamuni Buddha is the Buddha but also that the fundamental universal law is a kind of Buddha. This is called the Dharma body or Hosshin.
There is another kind of Buddha called the reward body or Hojin. A reward body becomes a Buddha as the result of his/her meritorious practices.
Nichiren Shonin considered that among the three bodies of the Buddha, the reward body should be the highest of them and the Dharma body a kind of attribute of the reward body.
What is a reward body? Nichiren Shonin was convinced that the Primordial Shakamuni Buddha who was revealed in chapter 16, "The Duration of the Life of the Tathagata" of the Lotus Sutra is the true reward body.
Nichiren Shonin believed that to be resonant and sympathize with the soul of the Eternal Buddha is the real state of enlightenment for us who were born in the Mappo period.
What should we do to be able to sympathize with the soul of the Eternal Buddha?
Nichiren Shonin’s contention was that the people born in the Mappo period do not have the ability to attain Buddha’s enlightenment through their own efforts. The quintessence of the primordial teaching of the Lotus Sutra, NamuMyohoRengeKyo, is the sacred phrase that contains all the merits of the Buddha. By chanting the Odaimoku (NamuMyohoRengeKyo) with joy, our voices sympathize with the soul of the Buddha through the Gohonzon.
Thus, Nichiren Shonin’s Buddhism rejects the use of religious practices to extinguish evil passions and to attain enlightenment thorough one’s own efforts, and emphasizes eradicating one’s doubt in the Odaimoku and stresses having pure faith in the Buddha to gain spiritual enlightenment.
HBS teaches that through chanting the Odaimoku, our minds can be become resonant and sympathize with soul of the Buddha and at same time Buddha seeds are sowed in our minds through listening to voices chanting the Odaimoku. This is the state of enlightenment.