English Section

      Buddhism Today 

Vietnamese Section


...... ... .  . .  .  .

along the middle path ... an exploration of fate and faith in the modern age

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" Buddha.
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.


Updated: 23-7-2001

Return to "Buddhism for Beginners"

Top of Page