Nichiren Buddhism Term Paper

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Buddhism takes different forms in different situations, and several of these have been adapted to the American context. Nichiren Buddhism developed from the teachings of Nichiren (1222-1282), and his disciples were divided into two denominations, Nichiren-shu and Nichiren Shoshu. Soka Gakkai stands as a lay organization within Nichiren Shoshu. It began in the 1930s, and it brought Nichiren to America. The first chapter of Soka Gakkai in America was founded in 1960 in California and soon changed its name to Nichiren Shoshu of America, later Nichiren Shoshu Academy. It grew at a remarkable rate in the 1960s so that it could claim 200,000 members by 1970, predominantly non-Asian-Americans. The number of active members may be much lower, but the movement has been influential, especially among young people and in the entertainment industry, as people are attracted to its colorful rallies and its claims for the power of chanting. Buddhism for many has an ethereal meditative image, but this image does not fit Nichiren Shoshu meetings where young people chant the Daimoku over and over at a rapid pace, as an observer notes:

The feeling was overwhelmingly of a modern, streamlined Buddhism for the rock 'n' roll era -- but one which produced in its own way an inner confidence and joy corresponding to the inner peace of older meditative varieties (Ellwood, 1994, p. 236).

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Two other modern Nichiren movements that have made headway in America are Rissho Kosei Kai and Reiyukai, and both emphasize Buddhism for the laity along with group counseling activities; both are also predominantly Asian-American in membership (Ellwood, 1994, pp. 235-236).

Siddhartha Guatama was the man who became the Buddha. He is identified as the historical Buddha. Some see him as a Buddha, not the Buddha (Prebish, 1994, p. 10). He indeed learned from an earlier Buddha. In the Dhammapada, the wisdom of Buddha is presented in a series of precepts and maxims. The Buddha therein states,

Of paths the Eightfold is the best; of truths the Four Noble Truths are the best; of all states Detachment is the best; of men the Seeing One (Buddha) is the foremost (Dhammapada, 1996, p. 109).

Term Paper on Nichiren Buddhism Assignment

The Buddha suggests in fact that this is the only path, for "there is no other path that leads to purity of insight" (Dhammapada, 1996, p. 109).

Ordination in the Buddhist context means initiation into the Buddhist Order, or Sangha, which occurs in the presence of witnesses, or members of the Sangha. There are two kinds of Buddhist Order. The first is the lower, or pabbajj, by which a man becomes a smanera or novice; the second is the higher, or upasampad, by which a novice becomes a monk, or bhikku. The ceremony by which the novice becomes a monk varies from country to country and may vary according to whether the novice had the intention of remaining in Order for several months or years or for a few days only, as for the three to seven day period on the occasion of a relative's cremation. The ceremony for the admission of a novice who intends to become a monk is formal. The candidate is brought before a chapter of at least ten monks, headed by an abbot of senior monk of at least ten years standing. The candidate takes part in the set form for ordaining novices and monks. The ceremony is held in the sanctuary (vihra). The candidate kneels, asks for admission as a novice, and hands two yellow robes to the abbot. The first is the lower robe, or sarong (antravsaka), and the second the upper robe, or uttarsangha. The upper robe is not the sanghti, which is worn only by the monks. The handing of the robes to the abbot reminds the candidate of the impermanence and frailty of the human body which they are to cover. The abbot formally presents these robes to the candidate. The candidate retires to put the robes on, and as he does so he recites a formula to remind himself that these robes are worn to protect him against the cold and heat, against flies and insects, and to cover his nakedness. He is to wear them in all humility and to do so for practical reasons and not for ornament or vanity. He returns to the abbot and makes obeisance, asking to have administered to him the three Refuges and the ten Precepts. Once he receives them, he repeats them sentence by sentence, makes obeisance, asks forgiveness by his brethren, and declares his wish to share any merit he has gained with his brethren. The smanera spends time in a monastery learning the life of the Sangha, helping with daily chores, and accompanying a monk on his alms round. He does not attend the twice-monthly recitation of the Patimokkha, for this is attended only by monks (Ling, 1972, pp. 200-201).

Once a novice seeks higher ordination as a monk, he must first go through form for the ordering of a novice again, followed by the further and longer ceremony for the Order. During this, the candidate must be able to answer a list of questions concerning his status and condition, such as whether he is free from disease, debt, military service, and so on). The candidate is presented by one of his two tutors, and now his three robes are presented along with the candidate's new alms-bowl, which he will use as a bhikku for receiving food from pay people each day. Ordinations are held at any time of the year except the three months of Vassa, and a favorite time is just before Vassa because it is Vassa period alone which is reckoned in counting the years of service as a monk (Ling, 1972, p. 202).

Buddhism spawned numerous sects, and the only one of these sects named after its founder is Nichiren Buddhism. He lived from 1222-1282 and studied at the Tendai monastery on Mt. Hiei. Unsatisfied with traditional Buddhist methods, he came to believe that the truth of Buddhism was embodied in the Lotus Sutra and that salvation could be attained by reciting the name of the Lotus Sutra with the words "Nam Myohl-Renge Kyl," meaning "Hail to the Scripture of the Lotus of the True Teaching," while gazing at a diagram or daimoku:

He had a strongly nationalistic streak in his nature and was intolerant of other forms of Buddhism, and his life was marked by conflict with civil authorities and other Buddhists (Cook, 1994, pp. 225-226).

One analyst notes how the teaching of the Buddha "has been interpreted in terms of nationalism, socialism, and postwar peace movements; and how his understanding of Japan's place in the medieval Buddhist cosmos has been redefined in light of modern national concerns," also considering "the challenge posed to his contemporary followers by the need to balance Nichiren's exclusive truth claim against modern pluralistic sensibilities" (Heine, 2003, p. 8).

Soka Gakkai is a lay organization within Nichiren Shoshu. This group formed in the 1930s, and it brought Nichiren to America. The first chapter of Soka Gakkai in America was founded in 1960 in California and soon changed its name to Nichiren Shoshu of America, later Nichiren Shoshu Academy. It grew at a remarkable rate in the 1960s so that it could claim 200,000 members by 1970, predominantly non-Asian-Americans. The number of active members may be much lower, but the movement has been influential, especially among young people and in the entertainment industry, as people are attracted to its colorful rallies and its claims for the power of chanting. Buddhism for many has an ethereal meditative image, but this image does not fit Nichiren Shoshu meetings where young people chant the Daimoku over and over at a rapid pace, as an observer notes:

The feeling was overwhelmingly of a modern, streamlined Buddhism for the rock 'n' roll era -- but one which produced in its own way an inner confidence and joy corresponding to the inner peace of older meditative varieties (Ellwood, 1994, p. 236).

Two other modern Nichiren movements that have made headway in America are Rissho Kosei Kai and Reiyukai, and both emphasize Buddhism for the laity along with group counseling activities; both are also predominantly Asian-American in membership (Ellwood, 1994, pp. 235-236).

Buddhism is stronger in some parts of the country, notably in Hawaii where it has a long history. Culture in Hawaii is essentially American culture, but it stands beside traditional Hawaiian culture and the customs of the ethnically diverse population. The different cultures merge in Hawaii. The population is religiously diverse. Along with the predominant Christian denominations, there are some 100 Buddhist temples, scores of Shinto shrines, and two dozen Hindu temples on the islands. Taoist, Tenrikyo, Jewish, and Muslim denominations exist as well. The language is English, but it is peppered with Hawaiian phrases (Bendure & Friary, 1993, p. 40). Hawaii is very much an American state, but it also offers spectacular scenery, volcanic activity, a diverse population, and a traditional culture that is evident everywhere.

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