The Nichiren Buddhism【ミステリーな日蓮 英訳版】8. Isn’t Daimoku the ultimate Secret Laws?

8. Isn’t Daimoku the ultimate Secret Laws?


Hiroto Ema

In this section, I would like to answer one of the frequently asked questions.


— I think the seven characters “南無妙法蓮華経(Nam Myoho Renge Kyo)” constitute the supreme teaching which excels the Lotus Sutra (Myohou Renge Kyo) that Shakyamuni preached, and they are the ultimate Secret Law which Shakyamuni  himself trained. How do you think about it?


Simply put, it is true that, after Nichiren passed away, those who wished to make supreme the belief in the Lotus Sutra by Nichiren interpreted and explained so. But Nichiren himself didn’t insist like that.


In Esoteric Buddhism, it is regarded that there is the Secret Law which was inducted from the Buddha. And Nichiren explained his doctrines to his disciples using the idea. Preaching doctrines according to the aptitude of each disciple symbolizes the wisdom of Buddha and is called Hoben (expedient means). So, it seems that the Esoteric Buddhism interpretation of Nichiren has been spread in such a way by future generations.


Nichiren never discussed the difference between the five characters “妙法蓮華経”, which is the formal title of the Lotus Sutra, and “南無妙法蓮華経”. Instead, as he wrote “The Daimoku(title) of the Lotus Sutra should be chanted南無妙法蓮華経” in The Tripitaka Master Shan-wu-wei, Nichiren differentiated them in such a degree as between “阿弥陀仏(Amida Butsu)” and “南無阿弥陀仏(Namu Amida Butsu )”. And even in important conclusions of arguments about the dogma, he said “Bring the medicine of the five characters of Myoho Renge Kyo to the ignorant people of the Latter Day”, or “The Buddha wrapped it within the five characters (of Myoho Renge Kyo), with which he then adorned the necks of the ignorant people of the Latter Day” (The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind). And as Nichiren listed the Three Great Secret Laws as “the object of devotion, the platform of enlightenment, and the five characters of Daimoku of the essential teaching”(On Taking the Essence of the Lotus Sutra). He didn’t give especial weight to the seven characters “南無妙法蓮華経”.


To start with, I would like to emphasize these facts.


The Lotus Sutra is the one and only sutra which preaches with the dogmatic corroboration and various evidences that everybody can attain Buddhahood. Other sutras even preached that women couldn’t attain Buddhahood. In other words, the Buddhism had been very discriminatory until the Lotus Sutra was written, and then the idea that everybody should be respected equally was made for the first time.


Yet, it is supposed that Lotus Sutra was preached repeatedly before Shakyamuni. The sutra which we call a Lotus Sutra should be called “the Lotus Sutra of Shakyamuni”, and there once were many Lotus Sutra preached by other Buddhas. For example, “Never Disparaging” chapter of the Lotus Sutra told the existence of Awesome Sound King Buddha who had preached a Lotus Sutra in the past, and the story about Never Disparaging who preached “the twenty-four-characters Lotus Sutra” after Awesome Sound King Buddha passed away. The doctrine that “the twenty-four-characters Lotus Sutra” preaches is the attainment Buddhahood of everybody, which means everybody can become a Buddha. It is the same with a Lotus Sutra which Awesome Sound King Buddha preached. In other words, the sutra preaching attainment Buddhahood of everybody is called Lotus Sutra. Furthermore, Shakyamuni said that Never Disparaging of the past had become Shakamuni himself of the present. So, Lotus Sutra, a doctrine that preaches attainment Buddhahood of everybody, has been preached repeatedly, and Buddhas who preach a Lotus Sutra also have appeared repeatedly. Indeed, Lotus Sutra is the mysterious sutra.


 In Buddhism, the process in which the doctrine of a Buddha gets lost is understood as three separate periods, namely, Former Day of the Law, Middle Day of the Law, and Latter Day of the Law. Former Day of the Law is a stable period when the doctrine of a Buddha pervades universally. Middle Day of the Law is a period when the doctrine becomes a mere formality and the world becomes instable, and in Latter Day of the Law, the doctrine gets lost from the world and everyone would suffer from misery. It is preached that Never Disparaging mentioned above appeared in the last days of Middle Day of the Law of Awesome Sound King Buddha and popularized Lotus Sutra.


Then, what is aimed to be meant by this mysterious setting of situation? Simply said, it aims to show that when the doctrines or thoughts preaching the equality of all get lost with the change of times and misery pervades universally, a new person preaches the equality again and popularizes this doctrine — then this process repeats eternally. Also, Awesome Sound King Buddha, Never Disparaging, and Shakyamuni Buddha exist in this succession, and a new Lotus Sutra has been preached in each period.


Nichiren lived in Latter Day of the Law of Shakyamuni Buddha. The belief in the Lotus Sutra which Shakyamuni Buddha had preached got lost rapidly by popularity of Nembutsu and the world suffered from misery, so Nichiren understood. Then he popularized the chanting of the Daimoku of Lotus Sutra, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, against the chanting of Nembutsu (Nam Amida Butsu) and preached the new belief in the Lotus Sutra, namely, “the five or seven characters Lotus Sutra”.


 At first, Nichiren positioned his position in Buddhism as an authentic heir of Chigi (Tendai Daishi) of China and Saicho (Dengyo Daishi) of Japan, who had popularized the Lotus Sutra of Shakyamuni in Middle Day of the Law after his death. Afterwards, though, Nichiren said according to the Lotus Sutra he had been a disciple of “Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings” in the remote past, and a Bodhisattva who was entrusted with the popularization of “the five characters Lotus Sutra” in Latter Day of the Law of Shakyamuni. Also, he repositioned himself as the heir of Awesome Sound King Buddha, Never Disparaging, and Shakyamuni Buddha. Why did Nichiren change his position? As for this mystery, I would like to seek the answer in the following chapters.


Anyway, the question ignores the premise that a Lotus Sutra has been renewed in each era and a Buddha preaching it also has appeared repeatedly, so it must be different from Nichiren’s understanding of Buddhism.

February 1st 2019


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質問 「南無妙法蓮華経の七文字は、釈迦が説いた法華経(妙法蓮華経)を超える優れた大法で、釈迦自身が修行した究極の秘法ではありませんか」





























澤宮 優




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