In a world today, where the race to find oneself an exterior form of divinity seems endless (with countless laps, if i may add), Buddhism has helped me find my bearings.
Interestingly, a lot of people associate Buddhism with shaved heads and cool dark caves. Of the former: I’ve had folks pull my hair to their hearts’ content to see if i was wearing a wig… what are we looking at, an undercover monk who goes to college?
Sounds wrong on so many levels…
Buddhism the faith has had a long, winding history with supposedly small actions, decisions and belief systems (myriad!) that have shaped its present today. (Care for some Buddhism-inspired comics? Here :D)
the original proponent of true Buddhism, various individuals over the centuries picked up from where he left and went their own ways. While theoretically,
it is a win-win situation, what really happened was, over time their aspirations and individual schools of thought influenced what they preached. A direct consequence of this was I sat in the library trying to make sense of just HA-OW many interpretations one faith could have.
My librarian thought I’d turned into a gargoyle.
Oh, Mrs. Sharma. You innocent lady. Gargoylesaren’tprettaayyy!
Amongst these individuals was a Buddhist monk in the Kamakura period (1185-1333) in Japan called Zennichimaro who later named himself Nichiren Daishonin, where Nichi-ren translates into Sun Lotus.
He decided to skip all the layers there could be to preaching, frivolous ones, and decided to spread the words of Shakyamuni Buddha, no matter what it’d cost him. So he began teaching devotion to the Lotus Sutra entitled Myoho-Renge-Kyo in Japanese as the exclusive means to achieve enlightenment and the chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo as the essential practice of the teaching.
It is commonly referred to as ‘daimoku’ by practitioners.
Now, Nichiren found manipulations of the populace by other schools of Buddhism for religious and political clout disturbing, at the very least. He engaged in debates and discussions that ended up as ones, declaring that the Lotus Sutra was undeniably the path ahead.
He gained a small number of followers and eventually, this number ballooned to one big enough to poke the authorities in the eye.
Needless to say, all this hullabaloo gave Japanese authorities the heebie jeebies and prompted severe backlash; he was persecuted and exiled numerous times. His dwellings were burned down and attacked without notice (um, duh.) His disciples, consisting of lay believers who were mostly samurais weren’t spared either. So mentor and disciples struggled against a militarist government in Japanese society that was plagued by the thirst for power, manipulation and more power.
A number of his disciples provided him with all the help they could gather, helping him in his struggle to establish Buddhism in its true form and enable people across gender, caste, creed and religion to attain enlightenment. (Nope. There are no trees involved here. Although some shade would be heavenly, eh? )
Attempts at beheading him failed and he was banished to an island with harsh bone-cold winters; this is when he won a lot of converts too.
He wrote to his disciples fairly often and with much gratitude. It was later compiled into the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin.
Pardoned later(after 3 years at the island), he continued to write and inscribe mandalas for believers and followers. He died amongst his disciples.
Much much later, the practitioners of the philosophy sought to tread a different path than the priests, given how they now used the religion for its vested interests.
Today, Soka Gakkai International (value creating society, for the curious) is a worldwide network of millions of people across the world who practise Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, or simply, lay Buddhists ‘dedicated to a common vision of a better world through the empowerment of the individual and the promotion of peace, culture and education.’
It is a life philosophy: whatever religion or belief system you have always followed is not incongruent with your belief in the Lotus Sutra. You simply bow to the law of cause and effect.
- Is Nichiren Daishonin the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law?
- Nichiren Buddhism – Live a Happier Life
- from The Swords of Good and Evil, pp. 451-453, Writings of Nichiren
- Article published in Japan’s Seikyo Shimbun
- Old Japan – Traditions, Festivals & Rituals – October
- Make Good Causes and Face Your Problems Head On
- “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.”
- BBC News – India: Rare Buddhist manuscript Lotus Sutra to be released