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Nichiren vs Zen

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Nichiren vs Zen

Postby TonyD on Thu Dec 10, 2015 7:08 pm

Hi all,

I just recently joined this forum though I have been practicing Zen meditation (poorly) for a couple of decades. However, I find all the various forms of Buddhism intriguing. Pleased to meet you!

My burning question of the day has to do with Nichiren. Does anyone know why Nichiren was so vehemently opposed to the Zen Buddhist schools of the time? My understanding is that Zen was relatively new around the time that Nichiren lived (13th century) so I wonder if it really had time to become corrupt like the much older schools of Tendai and Shingon.

Also, does anyone know if Nichiren Buddhists do any type of sitting meditation?

Thank you and gassho !
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Re: Nichiren vs Zen

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu Dec 10, 2015 7:19 pm

Hi, Tony, greetings, and welcome to the Forum.

Zen Buddhism was newer in Japan than in China, when Nichiren lived.

Dogen (1200 -1253) started to reform Zen Buddhism in Japan when he returned from his years of practice of Ch'an in China. I think Dogen's motivation was in the fact that the head-ship of temples in Japan had become hereditary (Father to Son), and diverged from the proper scheme in which the most-realized practitioner and best administrator took responsibility of a temple and its training facilities and lands.

Detailed history on this is probably clear in some books that may be available.

Good luck in the research! Best greetings, again.

--Joe
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Re: Nichiren vs Zen

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Thu Dec 10, 2015 10:48 pm

TonyD wrote:Hi all,

I just recently joined this forum though I have been practicing Zen meditation (poorly) for a couple of decades. However, I find all the various forms of Buddhism intriguing. Pleased to meet you!

My burning question of the day has to do with Nichiren. Does anyone know why Nichiren was so vehemently opposed to the Zen Buddhist schools of the time? My understanding is that Zen was relatively new around the time that Nichiren lived (13th century) so I wonder if it really had time to become corrupt like the much older schools of Tendai and Shingon.

Also, does anyone know if Nichiren Buddhists do any type of sitting meditation?

Thank you and gassho !


This was called a reformation of Buddhism in the Kamakura Period. Jodo Shu, Jodo Shin Shu, Zen Shu (both Rinzai Shu and Soto Shu) , and the 5 major branches of Nichiren Shu were all innovated in this period. Nichiren (1222-1282) was the last born of the 5 major Buddhist innovators who lived in the same era, the four others being Zen founders Eisai (1141-1215) and Dogen (1200-1253) as well as the Pure Land developers Honen (1133-1212) and Shinran (1173-1263).

Tendai had a lock on political Buddhism, and these innovators of the Kamakura Period were all former Tendai priests with various epiphanies leading them to establish temples and teaching lineages apart from Tendai.

I don't know directly from the writings of Nichiren why he was so opposed to Zen, but my general sense is that his own awakening or epiphany was so strong that he did not have any confidence in anyone else's epiphany or awakening. He had no faith in Tendai, seeing it as ossified and corrupt, so he agreed with the others on this point. But also he seemed to see the new Pure Land and Zen schools as competition to his vision of Buddha Dharma and the efficacy of the Lotus Sutra and its mantra. He just felt that they were not "THE ANSWER" as it had been revealed to him that only his vison could save Buddhism in the time of Mappo, the degenerate period of Buddhism.

While the other aforementioned innovators also developed their new schools within this cultural context of it being the "latter days" of Buddhism, of them all, Nichiren seems to be particularly the one most consumed with it being the End Times and filled with the eschatological spirit. He saw himself as being the only one who saw clearly that the End Times called for extreme but simple measures and that people of the day could only successfully practice with the simple method of chanting the Namo-Myo-Ho-Renge-Kyo and veneration of script-mandala called the Gohonzon. Nichiren thought that the practices of Zen and Pure Land just would not cut it (for different specific reasons) given the dire circumstances of the End Times.

Interestingly, around 500 years later, Zen Master Hakuin was very ecumenical towards Nichiren and wrote a letter to a nun of the Nichiren sect telling her that knowing the correct way to chant the Namo-Myo-Ho-Renge-Kyo like a koan was just as effective as Zen and so she did not need to convert to Zen practice. This is worthwhile reading for anyone interested in the connection between Zen and Nichiren practice. Basically, Hakuin says that in the One Vehicle of the One Mind, all Buddhist practices will be effective if approached in the same manner as the Zen student approaches the koan.

This One Mind, derived from the two characters Myoho mentioned above, when spread out includes all the Dharma worlds of the ten directions, and when contracted returns to the no-thought and no-mind of the self-nature. Therefore such things as "outside the mind no thing exists," "in the three worlds there is One Mind alone," and "the true appearance of all things," have been preached. Reaching this ultimate place is called the Lotus Sutra, or the Buddha of Infinite Light; in Zen it is called the Original Face, in Shingon the Sun Disc of the Inherent Nature of the Letter A, in Ritsu the Basic, Intangible Form of the Precepts. Everyone must realize that these are all different names for the One Mind.
[...]
How can one penetrate to the True Face of the Lotus? To do this one must raise the great ball of doubt. What is being pointed out when we speak of the True Face of the Lotus? It is the Wondrous Law of the One Mind, with which you yourself are endowed from the outset. It is nothing more than to see into your own mind. And what is this "own mind?" Don't look for something white or something red, but by all means see it at once. Courageously and firmly establish your aspiration, raise up the great vow, and night and day investigate it to the end. For investigating the mind there are many methods. If you are a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra who ignores the teachings of other schools, then you must transcend the practice of the Lotus Samadhi. The practice of the Lotus Samadhi is from today on to determine, despite happiness and pain, sadness and joy, whether asleep or awake, standing or reclining, to intone without interruption the title of the Sutra alone: Reverence to the Lotus of the Wondrous Law Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. Whether you use this title as a staff or as a source of strength, you must recite it with the fervent wish to see without fail the True Face of the Lotus. Make each inhalation and exhalation of your breath the title of the Sutra. Recite it without ceasing with intense devotion. If you recite it without flagging, it will not be long before the mind-nature will truly be set as firmly as a large rock. Dimly you will gain an awareness of a state in which the One Mind is without disturbance. At this time, do not discard this awareness, but continue your constant recitation. Then you will awaken to the Great Matter of true meditation, and all the ordinary consciousnesses and emotions will not operate. It will be as if you had entered into the Diamond Sphere, as if you were seated within a lapis lazuli vase, and, without any discriminating thought at all, suddenly you will be no different from one who has died the Great Death. After you have returned to life, unconsciously the pure and uninvolved true principle of undistracted meditation will appear before you. You will see right before you, in the place where you stand, the True Face of the Lotus, and at once you body and mind will drop off. The true, unlimited, eternal, perfected Tathagata will manifest himself clearly before your eyes and never depart, though you should attempt to drive him away. This is the time that the Tendai school refers to as "plunging into the treasure abode, where the Dharma-nature is undisturbed, yet constantly illuminating." In Shingon it is to be illumined by the Sun Disc of the Inherent Nature of the Letter A. In the Ritsu it is the harmonize with the unparalleled Diamond-Treasure Precepts of the Many Buddhas. In the Pure Land School it is to fulfill one's vow for rebirth in Paradise, to see before one's eyes the marvelous birds and trees of Paradise and to keep constantly in mind the wondrous ornamentation of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
[...]
The practitioner of the true Wondrous Law is not like this. Pursuing the investigation of what sort of thing is his own innate Wondrous Law is, he seeks neither the Buddha nor the Patriarchs. He does not say that the Wondrous Law is inside or that it is outside. No matter where it is, no matter what color it is, he will not let things be until he has finally seen it once. All day long, everywhere, without interruption, strenuously, bravely, he forces his spirit on. Refusing to leave what he has resolved to accomplish unfinished, asleep, awake, while standing, while reclining, he does not cast it aside. Night and day he examines things; at times he goes over things again. Constantly, he proceeds, asking, "What is this thing, what is this thing? Who am I?" This is called the way of "the lion that bites the man." To proceed asking only, "What is the Wondrous Law of the Mind?" is called the way of "a fine dog chasing a clod of dirt." Just under all circumstances cast aside all things, become without thought and without mind and intone: "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, Reverence to the Lotus of the Wondrous Law." If you think that this old monk has any Dharma principle better than this to write of, you are terribly mistaken. Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, "Reverence to the Lotus of the Wondrous Law."


_/|\_
Gregory
Why you do not understand is because the three carts were provisional for former times, and because the One Vehicle is true for the present time. ~ Zen Master 6th Ancestor Huineng
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Re: Nichiren vs Zen

Postby Meido on Fri Dec 11, 2015 5:51 am

Nice post, Gregory. Thanks as always.

RE Hakuin, another interesting bit is that his mother was a devout Nichiren adherent, and it was upon hearing a lecture about the hell realms given by a Nichiren monk that he conceived the desire to seek liberation.

desert_woodworker wrote:Dogen (1200 -1253) started to reform Zen Buddhism in Japan when he returned from his years of practice of Ch'an in China. I think Dogen's motivation was in the fact that the head-ship of temples in Japan had become hereditary (Father to Son), and diverged from the proper scheme in which the most-realized practitioner and best administrator took responsibility of a temple and its training facilities and lands.


Joe, just to nitpick a bit: in Dogen's time it was not the norm for Japanese monks of any sect to marry, wear lay clothes, etc. Permission to marry happened much later in Meiji, by government decree. So there were no hereditary temple ownership arrangements then.

In Dogen's day Zen was still pretty new in Japan. One of his teachers, after all, was Eisai, who was the first to establish Rinzai training there in a lasting manner. So Dogen had little to reform in Zen; his intent was, rather, to establish his particular brand of Zen.

Even today, the position of shike (abbot/head of training) in a monastery proper is not hereditary, and some shIke are in fact required to remain celibate. Smaller temples, which are not monastic training centers but rather local parishes so to speak, are something different. Rather than an assembly of monks training, think instead of (usually) a single priest serving the surrounding community ceremonially...and, in the past, educationally too since the local temple often doubled as the village school. It is at these kinds of temples are where the hereditary thing has developed.

~ Meido
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺]: http://www.korinji.org
Madison Rinzai Zen Community/Ryugen-ji [機山龍源寺]: http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
The Rinzai Zen Community: http://www.rinzaizen.org
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Re: Nichiren vs Zen

Postby desert_woodworker on Fri Dec 11, 2015 2:07 pm

Meido,

Meido wrote:Joe, just to nitpick a bit: in Dogen's time it was not the norm for Japanese monks of any sect to marry, wear lay clothes, etc. Permission to marry happened much later in Meiji, by government decree. So there were no hereditary temple ownership arrangements then.

In Dogen's day Zen was still pretty new in Japan. One of his teachers, after all, was Eisai, who was the first to establish Rinzai training there in a lasting manner. So Dogen had little to reform in Zen; his intent was, rather, to establish his particular brand of Zen.

Even today, the position of shike (abbot/head of training) in a monastery proper is not hereditary, and some shIke are in fact required to remain celibate. Smaller temples, which are not monastic training centers but rather local parishes so to speak, are something different. Rather than an assembly of monks training, think instead of (usually) a single priest serving the surrounding community ceremonially...and, in the past, educationally too since the local temple often doubled as the village school. It is at these kinds of temples are where the hereditary thing has developed.

Thank you. Yes, I knew it was wrong even as I wrote it. Of course (!) the monks were celibate at that early time in Japan (as they still are in China). Maybe I was thinking of Hakuin's era.

I think then that the issue in Dogen's time was not hereditary transfer of temple head-ship, but something about "certificates" of kensho, and how these were not always earned, or warranted, when given proir to Dogen's reforms. Dogen changed this. But maybe that's wrong, too. ;)

And I take your point about how Dogen may not have been as much "reformer" as, say, "instituter", kindly establishing an idiosyncratic way that would suit the national character, and place, yet be true to the essence of the Ch'an training that Dogen experienced in China. But don't let me put words in your mouth.

Thanks! again,

:Namaste:,

--Joe
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Re: Nichiren vs Zen

Postby Meido on Fri Dec 11, 2015 3:08 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:Thank you. Yes, I knew it was wrong even as I wrote it. Of course (!) the monks were celibate at that early time in Japan (as they still are in China). Maybe I was thinking of Hakuin's era.

I think then that the issue in Dogen's time was not hereditary transfer of temple head-ship, but something about "certificates" of kensho, and how these were not always earned, or warranted, when given proir to Dogen's reforms. Dogen changed this. But maybe that's wrong, too. ;)

And I take your point about how Dogen may not have been as much "reformer" as, say, "instituter", kindly establishing an idiosyncratic way that would suit the national character, and place, yet be true to the essence of the Ch'an training that Dogen experienced in China. But don't let me put words in your mouth.


Well, not quite. Hakuin's era (1686-1786) was still a while before the official loosening of monkish rules in 1872 which was part of a governmental effort to suppress Buddhist institutions.

Again, when Dogen was active Zen was still quite new in Japan. He didn't reform "certificates of kensho". Not sure what is meant by that, actually: inka shomei is the affirmation that one has inherited/carries a lineage in Rinzai Zen (often called "dharma transmission", though beware as this English term is used differently in Soto Zen), and at that time there weren't many people running around with inka. Historically there were a few teachers (Hakuin for one) who gave pieces of calligraphy attesting that someone had genuinely entered the gate of kensho, but these never carried institutional weight or position...they were just personal acknowledgements between teacher and student. So I think you're a bit off here.

Certainly Dogen - like Eisai, and Nanpo Jomyo, Daito Kokushi, etc. whose lineage marked the real sinking of Rinzai "roots" in Japan - was trying to establish something that "fit" in native soil. However, I don't think any of them would agree that they were establishing idiosyncratic ways; i imagine they would all say they were establishing a genuine Zen which they received from Chinese masters. These pioneers were doing so in the face of enormous, sometimes violent resistance from influential sects established earlier such as Tendai. There is a reason Dogen relocated from Kyoto to the safety of the boonies.

Japanese Buddhist history is pretty interesting, and can be confusing. I'm no expert by any means. But we'll add a few more whacks to the 30 or 40 I owe you, and a few to myself for going off topic :PP:

~ Meido
The Rinzai Zen Way: A Guide to Practice
Korinji monastery [臨済宗 • 祖的山光林禅寺]: http://www.korinji.org
Madison Rinzai Zen Community/Ryugen-ji [機山龍源寺]: http://www.madisonrinzaizen.org
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Re: Nichiren vs Zen

Postby desert_woodworker on Fri Dec 11, 2015 3:20 pm

Meido,

Meido wrote:But we'll add a few more whacks to the 30 or 40 I owe you, and a few to myself for going off topic :PP:

Accepted.

With thanks,

:Namaste:

--Joe
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Re: Nichiren vs Zen

Postby TonyD on Fri Dec 11, 2015 7:19 pm

Gregory, wow, thanks, this is a lot of great information! I did not know about that letter of Hakuin.
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