The Three Treasures


The Three Treasures in Buddhism are The Buddha, The Dharma and The Sangha (community of Believers).  The central difference in doctrine between the two schools of Nichiren Shu and SGI is found in the interpretation of the Treasure of the Buddha.  The Buddha is understood here as the “Teacher of Buddhism”.


In Nichiren Shu beliefs, the teacher Buddha is Shakyamuni and in SGI teachings the teacher Buddha is Nichiren.


The Treasure of the Buddha is simply the ‘Teacher of Buddhism’, whom a certain school follows.  Following Nichiren, who revealed the hidden doctrines within the Lotus Sutra and established the teaching of chanting to the Object of Devotion, SGI regards Nichiren as “the Teacher of Buddhism” of this current age.


This recognition of Nichiren as the Teacher of Buddhism in the Latter Day - is consistent with the Lotus Sutra, which makes it clear (Ch.2, p. 41; Ch.3, p. 32, 33) that Buddhas will appear in the Latter Day of the Law to teach its doctrines. Recognition of Nichiren as a Buddha is also a confirmation of acknowledgement and utmost respect to Shakyamuni Buddha - who was the first historical Buddha.  There is no conflict in the realm of Buddhahood.


Nichiren Shu literature defines the Buddha as one who was awakened to the Truth and teaches it to others” (Lotus Seeds, p. 61). This definition coincides with Nichiren, who was perfectly awakened to the truth implicit within the Lotus Sutra and taught it to others in various expressions.  As Nichiren Shu literature acknowledges: until Nichiren revealed the Three Great Hidden Laws, people were not aware of truth:


“Until Nichiren Shonin revealed the truth within the Lotus Sutra, however, there was not a precept platform based on this teaching”. (Awakening to the Lotus, p.15)


As the Teacher of Buddhism in the Latter Day, Nichiren also hand written hundreds of letters to explain his teachings.  Historically speaking, the Lotus Sutra could not reach ordinary people because its concepts were obscure and its truth ‘hidden’, with no practice available before Nichiren’s advent, who made its principles clear for ordinary people.


In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha had set the ‘initial stage’ or the inception of the final teachings of Buddhism, and which were destined for the Latter Day. Based on that initial stage, Nichiren extracted the deeply-encoded or ‘hidden’ doctrines.  Without him being perfectly equal to Shakyamuni in terms of enlightenment and understanding of the depth of the Dharma – Nichiren could not have possibly reveal that depth and could not have been able to teach it to others. This concept is known in SGI teachings as the oneness of person (teacher) and Law (teaching).  A true teacher must fully manifest the contents of the preached teachings.


The Teacher of the Practice


As the Expedient Means chapter states, the depth of understanding the Dharma is known only to Buddhas:


"The true entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddhas”.

The Three Great “Unknown-Yet” Laws - known only to Buddhas, include the practice of chanting to the Gohonzon.  However, before Nichiren, they were hidden before the knowledge of ordinary people.

The reason for this was that the practice of the Sutra was meant to be revealed and propagated in a later age in the future.  Although the Sutra was available to people for hundreds of years before Nichiren, however, there was no teacher to understand its depth - apart from Tientai and Dengyo, but whose mission was not to establish a way of practice, (because of the factor of time).

Only a person who is of equal Buddhahood to Shakyamuni could fully understand the depth of the ‘hidden’ teachings and make them known, explaining them not only in verbal and written form, but through personal behaviour as well, throughout his life. 

Nichiren is neither identical to Shakyamuni nor different: both are manifestations of the Dharma of the Lotus, and both taught it to the extent and in accordance with the time they appeared in.  There was no specific teaching instructed by Shakyamuni Buddha on how to practice (The Daimoku and the Gohonzon).  Nichiren was the teacher of both: the depth of the Sutra and its practice for the current age.

In a You-Tube video interview organised by Choeizan Enkyoji Nichiren Shu  about the subject, Rev. Ryuei mentions that there can be no two or three Buddhas each claiming a different Dharma. This is correct: the “Dharma of the Lotus” revealed by Shakyamuni Buddha in the text’s poetic presentation, is exactly the same Dharma taught by Nichiren - after extracting for ordinary people its hidden depth.  The Dharma to which Shakyamuni was enlightened was the same Dharma to which Nichiren was enlightened: the devotion to Myohorengekyo. The Dharma taught by Nichiren is not different from the Dharma taught by Shakyamuni of the Lotus sutra, it is exactly the same Dharma. 

The Buddhism of Sawing and the Buddhism of Harvest

Nichiren made it clear that the nature of his teaching is that of “the Cause” (or sowing the Cause of Buddhahood) while what is termed as Shakyamuni’s Buddhism is that of the Effect (or harvest):  

Shakyamuni’s, however, is the Buddhism of the harvest, and this is the Buddhism of sowing. The core of his teaching is one chapter and two halves, and the core of mine is the five characters of the daimoku alone”.  WND1 p.370


Because of this important difference, outlined also in the Five Fold Comparison, Shakyamuni Buddha is referred to as the Teacher of Buddhism of Harvest.


It would be misleading then to use the same name to indicate him as the Teacher of the Buddhism of Sawing (or the Buddhism to be spread at the Latter Age of the Law).     The teacher of the Latter Age of the Law is the teacher of the Buddhism of Sowing. 

 

The translation of Nichiren’s letter Kanjin Honzon-Sho by Nichiren Shu (Overseas Propagation Promotion Association - page 122) also agrees that the teachings of the Eternal Buddha, found in the Life Span chapter of the Lotus Sutra, are those of “sowing” of the seeds of Buddhahood. If Nichiren Buddhism is the Buddhism of sowing then Nichiren is the teacher of Buddhism in the Latter Day - or this current time. 

Nichiren’s teachings are for the propagation in the future (the Latter Age), based on implanting the Cause for the direct path to Buddhahood: though chanting of the Dharma.  This is the teaching of the Buddha of the Later Age, the teachings valid in the current time, in which he physically appeared.


It is of course obvious that if Nichiren was not perfectly enlightened to the Dharma as Shakyamuni was, he could not have taught it.  For this reason it is correct to consider Nichiren as the Teacher of Buddhism of Sawing, and hence The Treasure of the Buddha of this Latter Age.  This does not degrade from Shakyamuni’s Buddhahood in any way. 

Both Shakyamuni and Nichiren referred to the same Dharma.  Shakyamuni’s taught the Dharma which led him to Buddhahood, but without expounding the practice suitable for the future generations.  Nichiren expounded the same Dharma - which led Shakyamuni to Buddhahood - together with the teaching of the practice leading to Buddhahood in one’s current existence, suitable for this current age.

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Author:  Safwan Zabalawi (Darshams)

Nichiren Shu Buddhsim

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