The Nichiren Shu is a Buddhist Order founded by, Nichiren Shonin (1222-1282). He taught the doctrine that the Lotus Sutra represents the embodiment of the genuine teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
Our belief in this doctrine is affirmed by our chanting of the Odaimoku (Sacred Title) : "Na-mu Myo ho Ren ge Kyo," that is "Honor to the wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Sutra."
We believe that Nichiren Shonin was the votary of the Buddha who has guided us in cultivating our Buddha nature, a quality inherent in all beings, and establishing a way of life consonant with the eternal truths taught by the Buddha.
We vow to the Buddha and Nichiren Shonin that we will strive to engender peace within ourselves and throughout the world by practicing and disseminating the Dhama (teaching) expounded in the Lotus Sutra (Myoho Renge Kyo).
"The Buddha appeared in this world to purify all beings by having them open the treasury of the Buddha-wisdom which they are unaware of possessing within themselves. The Buddhas appeared in this world to show the Buddha-wisdom to them. The Buddhas appeared in this world to have them understand what the Buddha-wisdom is. The Buddhas have appeared in this world to lead them into the path of the Buddha-wisdom."
- LOTUS SUTRA - Chapter II
The Lotus Sutra is composed of twenty-eight chapters which the faithful believe "transmits the Dharma" representing the culmination of the essence of the teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha. The Dharma is transmitted in beautiful prose and verse in terms of humorous parables, allegories, metaphors, fantastic descriptions of supernatural visions and metaphysical discussion. This panoramic totality gives it dimensions of cosmic proportions in space and time. The variegated nature of the Lotus teachings is associated with Sakyamuni's inclination to exercise "tactfulness" and "expedience" to accommodate all manner of capacities and temperaments that exist among his listeners. Ultimately these different gateways lead to the Path.
Two broad themes reveal themselves in the Lotus Sutra. The first, developed over the first fourteen chapters, is the reality of intrinsic commonality that prevails in the nature of all human beings. Achieving Enlightenment consists of awakening the seed of Buddhahood in an individual.
The other broad theme, expounded over the remaining fourteen chapters is the eternalness of the Buddha. That the historical Sakyamuni Buddha, born and attaining enlightenment in India. was but a temporal form of the primeval Buddha who was enlightened in the remotest past and lives on eternally with no birth or death. Regardless of the age we live in the Buddha is always among us and points to the Path of Buddhahood.
"Practice and study to strengthen your faith. Without practice and study, Buddhism cannot exist. To practice and to study are caused by your faith. Follow these yourself and influence others to do the same. Even if only a word or a phrase, spread it to others."
Five Practices of the Dharma Teacher in the Lotus Sutra
In the Lotus Sutra, there are five kinds of practices that we should perform. They are
1. to receive and keep the Sutra in each one's body and mind
2. to read the Sutra with the eyes
3. to recite the Sutra
4. to explain the Sutra to others
5. to copy the Sutra.
In order to receive and keep the Lotus Sutra, you must have a heart to believe in the teaching. That fundamental heart is called "faith" (Shin) and "pray" (Nen). Having faith in the Lotus Sutra is that we take the teaching into our daily life and follow it. Therefore, we should not receive and keep the Sutra with a vague mind.
Reading the Sutra does not simply mean "reading" the letters of the Sutra but reading the Sutra with understanding. However, if you have read the Lotus Sutra, you may think that the Sutra is very difficult to understand. So some Nichiren-Shu temples hold study class on the Lotus Sutra to help you understand the Sutra more clearly. By participating in the class and listening to the minister's lectures, you will be able to understand the teachings of the Sutra that you didn't understand before.
Not only reading the Sutra with your eyes but reciting it with a loud voice is another practice. We usually recite chapter two (Hoben-pon) and chapter sixteen (Nyorai Juryo-hon) at temple services and at our daily family service in our homes. The reason why these two chapters are recited most often is the two chapters expound the most important teachings of the Lotus Sutra. Chapter 2 expounds that everyone is able to become a Buddha and chapter 16 expounds that Sakyamuni Buddha's life is eternal. But even if you recite other chapters of the Sutra besides chapters 2 and 16, it is also great reciting practice because every single letter of the Lotus Sutra is as valuable as the Buddha himself.
Next, when you achieve understanding of the Sutra, do not keep the merit in yourself only, but try to transfer what you learn from the Sutra to your family, friends and people around you. It is said in the Lotus Sutra that by being transferred one after another, the merit that the fiftieth person receives is as great as the first one receives.
And there is a practice of copying the Sutra. You may copy the Lotus Sutra in Kanji characters or in English. Nichiren Shu is promoting a practice of copying Odaimoku.
Odaimoku - practice of the Lotus Sutra in Mappo Period, Declining Latter Age of the Dharma.
Our founder, Nichiren Shonin aimed to save people living in this defiled time of Mappo, Declining Latter Age of the Dharma. He appealed to them to take a good medicine, Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. Odaimoku was left by the Eternal Buddha for people of the Mappo Period and was revealed by Nichiren Shonin from the bottom of the scriptures of the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren Shonin wrote in "Kanjin Honzon Sho,"
'All the good deeds and virtues of the Buddha Sakyamuni are manifested in the title of the Lotus Sutra, that is, in the five letters: "Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo." However sinful we may be, we shall be naturally endowed with all the deeds and virtues of the Buddha if we adhere to these five letters.'
He teaches us that the right practice in the Mappo Period is to keep and hold the Odaimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. By practicing so, we receive the greatest merit from the Buddha. Receiving and holding the Odaimoku is exactly equal to receiving and holding the Lotus Sutra, reciting the Odaimoku is equal to reciting the whole Lotus Sutra, and copying the Odaimoku is equal to copying the whole Lotus Sutra.
A question, "How many times should I chant the Odaimoku ?" is asked very often. 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. No matter how many times you chant the Odaimoku , when you chant with faith, admiring the Buddha, respecting Nichiren Shonin and appreciating everybody around you from the bottom of your heart, your merit is truly equal to the merit of the Lotus Sutra consisting of 8 volumes, 28 chapters, 69384 letters. As long as your time permits, please try to chant Odaimoku from the bottom of your heart.
Shodaigyo The practice of Odaimoku Chanting
At Nichiren Shu Temples a form of meditation called Shodaigyo is practiced on a regular basis along with other types of services. Shodaigyo is a practice of chanting Odaimoku. There are several styles of service in the Nichiren Shu, Shodaigyo is one of these styles. Please check with your local Temple for times and to learn this practice.
An example of a Shodaigyo service is as follows:
RAIHAI (a deep bow preparing oneself to receive the Buddha and his teachings)
DOJOKAN (Meditation on the Throne of Enlightenment)
HONMON SANKI (Taking refuge in the Three Treasures, Buddha, Dharma and Samgha represented here by Nichiren Shonin)
JOSHINGYO (a few minutes of silent meditation to cleanse and bring harmony to the Body and Mind)
SHOSHOGYO (Odaimoku chanting)
JINSHINGYO (a few minutes of silent meditation to reflect on the Odaimoku and the merits received)
PRAYER (dedication of the merits received to family, friends and all the beings of the universe)
BODHISATTVA VOW'S (Four great vows of Bodhisattva's)
RAIHAI (a deep bow in appreciation for the merits received and the chance to practice the Dharma)
Morning and evening services at home
The most important practice at your home is morning and evening services. At the morning service, let us pray to the Buddha and Nichiren Shonin for our family's safety and their best effort at work and school, doing good deeds following the Dharma and contributing to other people in the community. At evening service, let us show our appreciation for our family's safety on that day.
One example of family service procedure is as follows (This is the same basic format that may be used for regular services at your local Temple):
1. Invocation (Invitation to the Buddha, Dharma and Samgha to be present at this service)
2. Verses for Opening the Sutra
3. Lotus Sutra Ch. 2 Hoben-pon, Lotus Sutra Ch. 16 Juryo-hon (Jiga-ge) or other chapters from teh Lotus Sutra.
4. Chanting Odaimoku Namu Myo ho Ren ge Kyo
5. Lotus Sutra last part of Ch. 11 Hoto-ge (The difficulty in keeping this Sutra)
6. Prayer (Dedication)
7. Four Great Vows
Ch. 2 (Hoben-pon) and Ch. 16 (Juryo-hon) are recited the most frequently; however, you may recite Ch. 12 Daibadatta-hon, whole Ch. 16, Ch. 21 Jinriki-hon (whole or from "Shobukkusesha") or Ch. 25 Kannon-gyo. Furthermore, it is a great practice to recite the whole Lotus Sutra from the beginning little by little everyday. It is up to you which chapter to read.
The Lotus Sutra is recited in two ways, one is the original version (shindoku) and the other is English. You may recite following either version. NBIC has a CD for daily service at home with a booklet of the Japanese and English versions. The Yohon book gives the shindoku version of chanting of chapters 2, 12, 16, 21, 25, 26, 27 and 28.
This page is a short summary of Nichiren Shu. You can get a more in depth understanding of Nichiren Shu by reading, "Awakening to the Lotus" which goes over the fundamentals of Nichiren Buddhism and Nichiren Shu practice. It is available for purchase on the web from the NBIC.
To learn more about the lineage, branches and schools of Nichiren Buddhism click here.