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From : Jason
Date : Thursday, October 25, 2001 7:49 PM
Subject: What is the different between Nambutse sect and Nichiren sect?

I am confused on Nichiren Shoshu. What is the different between Nambutse sect and Nichiren sect? I heard that Nichiren teaching is the only one that can save human beings in this latter life--Mappo is this true


ANSWER by Piyasilo


Nembutsu & Nichirenism

All forms of Buddhism arose from Sakyamuni Buddha who was born in India, became enlightened and taught the True Teaching to the world. As Buddhism spread beyond India, it has to adapt itself to the culture and needs of the people of the new regions. In some cases, however, even rulers (king. Emperors, etc.) adopted religion to help them in their social control of the people. Religion has a powerful control over people who believe in it (truly or falsely), and whoever controls the religion, controls the people.

Despite all this, Sakyamuni has prophesied that as long as the Noble Eightfold Path exists, it is possible to know the True Dharma. The Dharma-ending Age (mappo) is a variable concept referring to the direct and personal influence of the Buddha. Originally this was 500 years after the Buddha passed away. This means that after that period, different people would claim different things in the name of Sakyamuni. (This also happens in all the other world religions after the death of their founders without exception.)

This notion of Dharma-ending Age became a useful ideology especially in times of national calamities. During Nichiren's time there was a lot of social problems, the worst was the impending invasions of Kublai Khan's armies from China. So Nichiren made use of the notion of mappo to rouse the people to nationalism. But his aim was actually religious and noble because he saw many wrong practices among the Buddhism then.

Nichiren's teachings belong to his own time, but when it maintained its narrow nationalistic and sectarian beliefs, its success is only social (group activities, material success) almost to the exclusion of spiritual development. Some Nichiren groups are so closed up that they deny all other groups (like the Christian evangelists). Their members are kept under tight but subtle surveillance (in this sense, it is a cult). This is unbuddhistic because true Buddhism allows freedom of studying any form of Buddhism and practicing any Buddhist practice. Nichirenists only have the Lotus Sutra (which was written around the year 200 (that is, about 700 years after the Buddha).

As a social force, the Nichiren groups are successful, but if they accept other Buddhists on equal terms and not look down on them, modern Buddhism will be a great force for good. In Singapore the Nichirenists are opening up to learn from other Buddhists. One of the reasons is because in 1990, they broke away from the main Nichiren group (the Nichiren monks), which incidentally are setting up their centre here, too. However, their members are still not allowed to attend other Buddhist activities other than their own.

A good simple book about Nichiren Buddhism is "Nichiren: The New Buddhism of Modern Japan" (by Piyasilo, 1988) which is available in the Buddhist Library (Lorong 24A, Geylang). It is also available in other Buddhist libraries and bookshops.

The Nembutsu Buddhists centre their practice around the recitation of Amitabha's name. Like Nichiren Buddhism, this is a Buddhism of faith, which grew out of common religious needs especially amongst the uneducated and non-intellectual masses. However, a deeper study of the Amitabha Sutras will show that the practice is actually a visualization meditation.

It is sometimes called Pure Land Buddhism after Amitabha's Buddhafield called Sukhavati, "The Land of Bliss". (I've written a bit more about Amitabha in my answer to Wilson, which you should read.)

You should choose a Buddhist practice that helps you to calm your mind, lead a happy life and become successful that way. There are many good centres in Singapore (if you are from Singapore). A good place to start is the Buddhist Fellowship (I am not a member there, so I'm not peddling). Ajahn Brahmavamso is giving an enlightening series of good Buddhist talks this week (after which he is returning to Australia). You might like to surf this website for highly recommended readings and teachings from a living master:


When in doubt, please remember: The teaching, not the teacher.


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