The Eternal Buddha of the Lotus Sutra

The word “Buddha” has two meaning: one is the Buddha as a person,

the other is the Buddha as a state of life.  The Buddha state of life is the world of Buddhahood.

While the person of a Buddha means a physical manifestation of Buddhahood, the person cannot of course be eternal, but his or her state of life is eternal.  Buddhahood is one of the Ten Worlds, which are eternal.

The Eternal state of Buddhahood existed before the birth of the historical buddha - and this eternal state of Buddhahood is the original, while the historical Buddha is a specific embodiment of Buddhahood. The person of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni was a specific manifestation of eternal Buddhahood.  The state of eternal Buddhahood is not restricted by time or space.  Buddhaood is the General state of life - while Shakyamuni was a specific person who perfectly manifested that state of life: Buddhahood.

Many problems in understanding identity come from a confusion between what is General and what is Specific.  For example: to say that person X is from a certain race or religion - this is the Specific category of that person.  To say that person X is a human being - this is the General category of that person.  The reason is that race and religions are specific manifestations of a general origin, being humanity.

Nichiren explains that confusing the General with the Specific is a big mistake:

“If you confuse the general with the specific even in the slightest, you will never be able to attain Buddhahood and will wander in suffering”.   WND1p746

The Three Interceptions of the Eternal Buddha

The way in which the doctrine of the “Original Buddha” is understood, characterises the relevant differences between Nichiren’s schools.

The three schools of Nichiren Shu, Nichiren Shoshu and SGI have different interpretations of the doctrine of Eternal Buddha:

Nichiren Shu, in this regard, names Shakyamuni as the Eternal Buddha,

Nichiren Shoshu names Nichiren Daishonin as the Original Buddha, while:

SGI literature indicates that the Eternal Buddha is:

                                 Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo’ - human being

NamMyohoRengeKyo is the eternal state of Buddhahood, which materializes in any human being who is devoted to the Law.  This interpretation regards both Shakyamuni and Nichiren as manifestations of the Eternal Buddhahood, and opens the way for all people attain the same state of Buddhahood.  The eternal Buddha is the highest state of life, and can be manifested by men and women without restriction.

Both sects of Nichiren Shu and Sho Shu fall into conflict with their own interpretation of who they call Eternal Buddha:

  1.     If Shakyamuni is named the True or Eternal Buddha, then - according to Nichiren Shu - Nichiren is only a Bodhisattva.  This interpretation is based on separation of the Ten Worlds and it denies that Nichiren’s state of life was Buddha-acting-as-Bodhisattva (as the Mutual Possession teaches), and contradicts his own writings.  Nichiren Shu school makes the World of Buddhahood as reserved to one person only.

  1.    On the other hand, if according to Shoshu priesthood, only Nichiren was the True Buddha, the question arises: then, who was Shakyamuni of the Lotus Sutra? Is it possible that Shakyamuni is a True Buddha as well as Nichiren Daishonin? 

  1.    SGI interpretation of the Eternal Buddha (One who manifests the Eternal Law of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo) is consistent with Nichiren writings, and bears no contradiction in placing a time-restricted person of Shakyamuni or Nichiren - as being eternal, while they passed away.  That what is eternal is their life of Buddhahood, being NamMyohoRengeKyo.

An eternally enlightened human being such as Shjakyamuni or Nichiren - must have had countless lifetimes, manifestations and names – not just one specific name.  Buddhism introduces a nameless reference to the concept of ‘Enlightened Being‘:  The Tathagata, or ‘One who emerged from the Truth’, translated also as “Thus Come One”.  The term ‘Thus Come One’ appears in the Lotus Sutra:

The Buddha said to Shariputra: A wonderful Law such as this,

Preached by the Buddhas, The ‘Thus Come Ones’” (Expedient Means, Ch.2, p.30)

This and other passages, clearly indicate the oneness of the person (who is the Thus Come One)  and the Dharma (or the Law).  It also means that any person whose life perfectly manifests the eternal Dharma (Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo) is a Thus Come One.

According to SGI teachings:

“The Original Buddha whose life is without beginning or end is then Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo-Thus-Come-One”. The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra 5 (page 164)

Both Shakyamuni and Nichiren manifested the Eternal Dharma, or the original Buddhahood:

“Just as did Shakyamuni, all Buddhas of the past, present and future has become enlightened to , and have taken as their mentor, the Buddha of time without beginning: Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo Thus Comes One.  This is the Buddha of Limitless Joy, the Buddha of absolute freedom Nam-myoho -renge - kyo Thus Come One. 

President Toda said: The life of Nichiren Daishonin and our own lives have neither beginning nor end.  This is what is termed time without beginning.  The Universe itself is a great entity of life”. The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 4 p.38

Clearly, an interpretation that maintains the true identity of both Buddhas - Nichiren and Shakyamnui – opens the way for any human being to manifest also original Buddhahood (or to become a Thus Come One: a human being whose life is one with the eternal law).  Such an interpretation has the capacity to benefit each person in daily life, through daily practice:

“Kuon signifies Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo; it signifies the Gohonzon. When we pray to the Gohonzon, that very instant is beginningless time”. (p.165)

This practically means that the life of the Eternal Buddha is the Gohonzon enshrined at home as the Object of Devotion, inscribed by Nichiren.

Attaining Buddhahood is possible for all people, but each would have own mission and horizon of responsibility.  We cannot be some one else or have a mission as huge as that of Shakyamuni or Nichiren, nonetheless a human being can manifest eternal state of Buddhahood through own mission in daily life.


                                                          Rarely Asked Questions