||Shakyamuni is also referred to as Lord Shakya. The
first recorded Buddha ("Enlightened One") who lived about 3000 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 around the age of 80.
- who is the "Eternal Buddha"?
- the Eternal Buddha is Shakyamuni at the moment that he
revealed his eternal nature for the first time. this is told in the 16th chapter of the
Lotus Sutra. The Gohonzon (a scroll, the main Object of Worship in Nichiren Buddhism)
illustrates this "moment in time" when the Buddha revealed his eternal nature
and the truth of all things, entrusting them to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, during the
Ceremony in the Air.
- if Shakyamuni is the Eternal Buddha, why
did Nichiren place Shakyamuni beside the Daimoku on the Gohonzon?
- Shakyamuni Buddha and Taho Buddha flank the central
characters "Nam Mu Myoho Renge Kyo" on the Gohonzon, thus depicting their seats
at the Ceremony in the Air (from the Lotus Sutra). the Eternal Buddha is a separate, yet
not-separate, entity represented by the Daimoku. (Buddhism has a lot of concepts like
this! it's common to Eastern thought.) the Eternal Buddha is simply Shakyamuni at the
moment he revealed his eternal nature, and entrusted his Dharma to the Bodhisattvas of the
Earth at the Ceremony in the Air.
- don't trust me, trust Nichiren! here it is explained, in
his own words, from the Kanjin Honzon Sho (The True Object of Worship) Gosho:
"This truth is embodied in the Five Words, or rather
in the Seven Words, Na-mu-myo-ho-ren-ge-kyo, or 'The Most Honorable Lotus of the Perfect
Truth,' which also means 'Adoration be to the Lotus of the Perfect Truth' when taken as
the formula of invocation. The Five Words being the most profound teaching of the Buddha,
the Buddha did not entrust them even to the hitherto most respected Bodhisattvas ... not
to speak of the minor Bodhisattvas; instead, he transmitted them to the Bodhisattvas equal
to the dust-storms of one thousand worlds in numbers who appeared from the gaps of the
earth for the first time in the fifiteenth chapter of the [Lotus Sutra].
"The true object of worship should be the Buddha at
the moment of this transmission. The scene of the transmission is described in the
following way: In the sky above the Eternal Saha-world is seen the Prabhutaratna-stupa,
which is nothing but the representation of the Five Words. In this Stupa sits the Original
Buddha Sakyamuni on the right ... "
- then who is the "True Buddha"?
- nobody. it's a misleading term made up by the Taisekiji
branch of Nichiren Buddhism (Nichiren Shoshu, and by association, Soka Gakkai
International). the term is not used by Nichiren anywhere in the Gosho. it is not used by
any other branch of Nichiren Buddhism. there is no such thing as a "true
Buddha," either one is a Buddha or one isn't, there is no "false Buddha."
the Taisekiji branch believes that Nichiren is the "True Buddha," saying that
because he inscribed the Gohonzon, he must be superior to Shakyamuni, and therefore the
only "true" Buddha. They then discard Shakyamuni, which has the action of
discarding the Eternal Buddha, and thus invalidating their entire set of beliefs. in the
Lotus Sutra, the Buddha prophecied that this would happen during the period of the decline
of the Law, the Age of Mappo that we are living in now. those that heed the prophecy and
follow only the Eternal Buddha can be called true "votaries of the Lotus Sutra."
otherwise, it is called "slander."
|Simple reading of the Lotus Sutra and
Nichiren's writings shows that the Buddha revealed his own Eternal nature, and that
Nichiren (having studied the Lotus Sutra extensively and can thus be considered an expert
on it) revered Shakyamuni as both the "Eternal" and the "Original"
- why are these distinctions so important?
- if much of it is semantics, why is this such an important
issue? well, the Buddha himself made a very strong point that the Lotus Sutra is difficult
to believe and difficult to uphold. there will be people who either believe in it, or
don't. those that don't, are hindering their path to enlightenment. they're throwing
obstacles in their own way. Nichiren risked his very life to uphold the Lotus Sutra, he
didn't allow obstacles to sway him from his path. if one is devoting their life to a
Buddha that doesn't even exist, then obviously that's a big obstacle on one's path to
enlightenment! the entire concept of Buddhism is all about finding "the Middle
Path," the Truth, the Way of the Buddha.
- once you step off that path, can you call yourself a
Buddhist? no. you may like the philosophy, you may even like the practice. but if you're
knowingly deviating from the Buddha Way, you're committing slander and you're simply not a
Buddhist. if you're not knowingly slandering but just ignorant of the Truth, then
education is vital. it's my hope that i can help to educate those who sincerely
wish to follow the Middle Path.