Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Sat Sep 29, 2012 9:22 am

I recently got into the "classic" argument with another person about whether Nichiren Buddhism really is Buddhism. My argument was to say, "Just because it isn't a quiet, meditative path, doesn't mean it isn't Buddhism. Buddhism encompasses much more than just that...." The other person responded, "Buddhism IS meditation. And what about the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight-fold Path?" This got me thinking....

I have read a great deal about Nichiren Buddhism, and I don't think I have ever seen the Four Noble Truths mentioned anywhere in any book about Nichiren Buddhism. There is no talk of "All life is suffering" anywhere in any Nichiren book I've read. Am I missing something? Or does Nichiren Buddhism just disregard the Four Noble Truths altogether? Are they considered part of the "provisional" teachings that are no longer necessary now that we have Namu-myoho-renge-kyo?
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby Queequeg » Sat Sep 29, 2012 1:06 pm

OregonBuddhist wrote:Buddhism IS meditation.


I have no idea what that is supposed to mean - do they mean that as an exclusive definition? Buddhism teaches meditation, but it also teaches ethics and wisdom, to mention two broad categories of learning. If someone actually made this claim, I suspect they have not thought that statement through thoroughly, or else they have a very limited understanding of what is entailed in the rubric of "Buddhism".

Am I missing something? Or does Nichiren Buddhism just disregard the Four Noble Truths altogether? Are they considered part of the "provisional" teachings that are no longer necessary now that we have Namu-myoho-renge-kyo?


No, you are not missing anything, but yes, you are.

You have to understand that Nichiren Buddhism is based on Tientai/Tendai Buddhism. To understand why the Four Noble Truths are largely absent in Nichiren's teachings, you have to understand how they are viewed in Tientai/Tendai.

The short answer is that the Four Noble Truths, depending on the manner in which they are understood, can be "provisional" teachings. When understood in the integrated sense, they are more or less subsumed into Tientai teachings such as 一念三千 (Jp. ichinensanzen - En. Trichiliocosm in a Single Moment of Thought). Since they have no distinct meaning once subsumed into Ichinen Sanzen, there really is no point in studying them. Just study Ichinen Sanzen, and you will understand the Four Noble Truths from the Tientai (Integrated/Perfect) perspective. The gist of Tientai, and more, is contained in the Daimoku.

So, right, once you have the Daimoku, provisional teachings become superfluous.
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby catmoon » Sat Sep 29, 2012 2:55 pm

A remarkable post there QQ. I had no idea.
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby TaTa » Sat Sep 29, 2012 5:01 pm

I have the same problem, i really dont see the point in nichiren buddhism yet and i was hoping that someone could explain it. Here in argentina is very popular, my sister who i dont live with and a friend are followers but it seems very incomplete. More like a social help group than actual buddhism in the scence of transforming the mind. I dont want to make any claims or offend anyone so i ask if someone can help me to understand this.

Queequeg wrote:
OregonBuddhist wrote:Buddhism IS meditation.


I have no idea what that is supposed to mean - do they mean that as an exclusive definition? Buddhism teaches meditation, but it also teaches ethics and wisdom, to mention two broad categories of learning. If someone actually made this claim, I suspect they have not thought that statement through thoroughly, or else they have a very limited understanding of what is entailed in the rubric of "Buddhism".

.


Isnt meditation buddhism's MAIN (not only) way of achiving greater ethics and wisdom?
Last edited by TaTa on Sat Sep 29, 2012 5:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby Queequeg » Sat Sep 29, 2012 5:51 pm

TaTa wrote:Isnt buddhism MAIN (not only) way of achiving greater ethics and wisdom meditation?


Tata, I don't mean insult, but I am assuming that English is not your first language and you're missing some words in that statement and they are necessary to more accurately reflect your question -

"Isnt buddhism['s] MAIN (not only) way of achiving greater ethics and wisdom [through] meditation?"

Yes. And greater meditation is achieved through greater ethics and greater wisdom. In turn greater wisdom is achieved through greater ethics and greater meditation. These three divisions are considered in many Buddhist traditions to be mutually supportive. Take one away, and the other two are not possible. Some schools may stress meditation, but again, without wisdom, what is meditation? Without following ethical conduct, how could one meditate? Without meditation, how does one develop wisdom and knowledge of what ethical conduct entails?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_Eightfold_Path#Threefold_division
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby TaTa » Sat Sep 29, 2012 5:55 pm

Sory about that my english is quite rusty. I should take a second or to to post hehe.
Thanks for the reply
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby Queequeg » Sat Sep 29, 2012 5:59 pm

TaTa wrote:Sory about that my english is quite rusty. I should take a second or to to post hehe.
Thanks for the reply


No worries. :) Was I right about your question?
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby TaTa » Sat Sep 29, 2012 6:25 pm

Yes. I see you point! It was clarifiyng.
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby Queequeg » Sat Sep 29, 2012 8:58 pm

http://books.google.com/books?id=Fim0mM39dM4C&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

For an idea about how the Four Noble Truths are viewed in Tientai Buddhism see Swanson's "Foundations of T'ien-T'ai Philosophy" which contains a partial translation of Zhiyi's Fahua Hsuan-i (Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra), p. 226 supra. There are pages missing in the google books preview, but better than nothing.
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Sun Sep 30, 2012 2:03 am

Thank you for the response.

I had basically paraphrased to the other person what is mentioned on this page on the Tricycle website: "Most of our readers and contributors know Buddhism primarily in terms of the meditation traditions of Zen, Vipassana, or Vajrayana as they have been presented to a Western audience.... Meditation-oriented Buddhists often think of Nichiren Buddhists (if they think of them at all) with little real knowledge and even with condescension. "http://www.tricycle.com/buddhist-traditions/nichiren/understanding-nichiren-buddhism

I then mentioned that just because Nichiren Buddhism isn't focused on quiet, sitting meditations, doesn't mean it's "Not Buddhism." To which they responded, "Buddhism IS meditation." In other words, they were just sticking to their claim, refuting my counter argumenting, and holding to their belief that Nichiren Buddhism isn't Buddhism.

Now, I just got done with roughly three hours of Daimoku.... I'm very content with my practice. But reading what you wrote, I can see where, shall we say, "Mainstream" Buddhists would consider that Nichiren Buddhism "isn't" Buddhism. It seems that the perception of the mainstream American Buddhists is that the Four Noble Truths are the sum total of Buddhism. If a practice doesn't even address the Four Noble Truths, and doesn't even explicitly advocate quiet sitting meditations, then I can see where "mainstream" (that is, white, American, middle class) American Buddhists may not recognize it as Buddhism. I'm not saying I agree with their perspective. I'm just saying I can understand the angle from which they build their argument.

That much being said, the truth is, I sort of "don't care....." What I mean is, whatever this is, it works for me. I hope it doesn't sound awful on my part, but that's pretty much all that matters for me at this point. The Four Noble Truths are very sophisticated and logical. I like them and respect them. But they don't "work" for me. In fact, they are sort of depressing for me. So, if Nichiren Buddhism "isn't really Buddhism," fine. I suppose I just wanted to know why some people say it isn't. (And, by the way, when people say it isn't really Buddhism, they mean that as an insult. They usually don't say, "Well, it doesn't seem like Buddhism, but if it works, it works." What they usually mean when they say it isn't really Buddhism is that it's an inauthentic path.)

(I probably shouldn't put this into writing. But the feeling I get sometimes is that Nichiren Buddhism, as well as Pure Land Buddhism, is just "too ethnic" for many mainstream Americans. I think the idea of -- gasp -- having to learn words in another language is just, well, too demanding, or something. Also, the emphasis on faith in both traditions is probably too reminiscent of Christianity for many Americans.)

Queequeg wrote:
OregonBuddhist wrote:Buddhism IS meditation.


I have no idea what that is supposed to mean - do they mean that as an exclusive definition? Buddhism teaches meditation, but it also teaches ethics and wisdom, to mention two broad categories of learning. If someone actually made this claim, I suspect they have not thought that statement through thoroughly, or else they have a very limited understanding of what is entailed in the rubric of "Buddhism".

Am I missing something? Or does Nichiren Buddhism just disregard the Four Noble Truths altogether? Are they considered part of the "provisional" teachings that are no longer necessary now that we have Namu-myoho-renge-kyo?


No, you are not missing anything, but yes, you are.

You have to understand that Nichiren Buddhism is based on Tientai/Tendai Buddhism. To understand why the Four Noble Truths are largely absent in Nichiren's teachings, you have to understand how they are viewed in Tientai/Tendai.

The short answer is that the Four Noble Truths, depending on the manner in which they are understood, can be "provisional" teachings. When understood in the integrated sense, they are more or less subsumed into Tientai teachings such as 一念三千 (Jp. ichinensanzen - En. Trichiliocosm in a Single Moment of Thought). Since they have no distinct meaning once subsumed into Ichinen Sanzen, there really is no point in studying them. Just study Ichinen Sanzen, and you will understand the Four Noble Truths from the Tientai (Integrated/Perfect) perspective. The gist of Tientai, and more, is contained in the Daimoku.

So, right, once you have the Daimoku, provisional teachings become superfluous.
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby Myoho-Nameless » Tue Oct 02, 2012 5:56 am

I really do not see why chanting is not a form of meditation.....


hell it iS a form of meditation, and I have a theory, than as far as observing the mind, there is the advantage for chanting that one is forced to concentrate more, and is less likely to be distracted by thoughts. Not impossible to be distracted but harder. I will use a nerdy example, for a while I was into the "Eragon" books by that Paolini guy. to work magic in that story one needed to speak the elvish language, however it is then said that one only needs to THINK in the language, but by actually saying it rogue thoughts will not mess up your magic.

"Meditation" is such a broad term in reality....people trying to pin it down are making a mistake.

as far as being Buddhism being limited to meditation, I am under the impression that the Buddha actually taught morality FIRST to most people, and only to certain people was meditation taught.
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby noisemonkey » Tue Oct 02, 2012 6:23 am

Doesn't chanting the Daimoku to the Gohonzon include meditation on a single point in space? Can't remember the terminology for this but I've read it somewhere.
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby rory » Tue Oct 02, 2012 9:11 am

Rev. Tsuchiya of my sect recommends that we study the Dhammapada and apply it to our lives. He stresses the 4 Noble Truths.

SGI stresses worldy benefits as it is basically a neo buddhist prosperity sect. People for the most part are quite ignorant of Buddhism and don't understand that study of the sutra, chanting of the sutra, faith, ethical behavior and right thought are part of the totality of Buddhism.
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby Myoho-Nameless » Tue Oct 02, 2012 4:21 pm

The 4 Noble Truths make a sort of logic, and I think they have a place in Nichiren Buddhism....I think. I still am confused as to what proper place provisional teachings should have in our lineage. On the one hand I see them dismissed, on the other I see them studied and given importance.

The important thing is, that in regards to desire being the root cause of suffering, we should remember to keep in mind translation. What is used is "Tanha" which is also translated "craving" which is a stronger word than "desire". And I have been told that "Tanha" really means more like really strong egotistical desire, or selfish or akusala desire. not everyday "I want to watch Family Guy tonight" or "I think I will have pasta" or "man that cake looks good"....or Buddha forbid "I want to deepen my understanding of Buddhism"....is not wanting to extinguish desire itself a desire? Tanha must refer to something stronger than just desire.....or am I under the wrong impression?
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby rory » Tue Oct 02, 2012 8:45 pm

Here is a dharma talk from Rev. Tsuchiya from our Facebook group discussing the 4 noble truths and Nichiren.

It was indeed an expression of the pleasure of peace that Nichiren shonin said "Let's laugh for having gotten so much pleasure" when he was likely to be cut off his head, and said "I have been filled with pleasure" when he was snowed up in Sado island. For spending the pleasant life only, if you merely hope to eat when you feel hungry, if you merely hope to warm when you feel cold, if you merely hope to cool when you feel hot, if you merely hope to go to bed when you feel sleepy, any religions and disciplines are not necessary for you. However, life doesn't go the way we want it to. We suffer from four sufferings and eight sufferings one after another. Therefore, we need to train ourselves to keep the peace of mind even if unwelcome situations happen, and
show the power of spirit. Because the activity of the Buddha Shakamuni is to give the discipline and training, it is described that "I will save them from sufferings, giving the pleasure of peace." But it is not the Buddha Shakamuni's real intention, if you obstinately insist on this pleasure of peace as the moral courage only. The content of pleasure of peace is divided to the pleasure of the world and the pleasure of Nirvana. And the pleasure of the world guarantees the physical happiness, too. That is to say, the Buddha Shakamuni preaches for keeping your happy life, and is endeavoring to give the ideal and noble-minded pleasure, the pleasure of Nirvana.
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Dharani of Amoghapasa Avalokitesvara:

Om amogha-padma-pasa-krodhakarsaya praveshaya maha-pashupati-yama-varuna-kuvera
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heart mantra: Om amogha vijaya hum phat
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Tue Oct 02, 2012 11:09 pm

Myoho-Nameless wrote:...is not wanting to extinguish desire itself a desire? Tanha must refer to something stronger than just desire.....or am I under the wrong impression?

Note that tanha and chanda are not the same thing, although both may appear translated as desire. Tanha is directed towards feeling, leads to seeking of objects and is supported and nourished by ignorance. Chanda is directed toward benefit leading to effort and action and is founded on intelligent reflection. Chanda becomes more dominant as wisdom develops, while the blind craving of tanha diminishes.

from A.P. Payutto:

When ignorance is replaced with wisdom, it is possible to distinguish between what is of true benefit and what is not. With wisdom, desires will naturally be for that which is truly beneficial. In Buddhism, this desire for true well-being is called dhammachanda (desire for that which is right), kusalachanda (desire for that which is skillful), or in short, chanda.

The objective of chanda is dhamma or kusaladhamma, truth and goodness. Truth and goodness must be obtained through effort, and so chanda leads to action, as opposed to tanha, which leads to seeking. Chanda arises from intelligent reflection (yoniso-manasikara), as opposed to tanha, which is part of the habitual stream of ignorant reactions.


I hope this helps solving that apparent conundrum. The "desire of getting rid of desire" can be translated as developing chanda to lessen the strenght of tanha. Problem solved.

Best wishes.
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby dsaly1969 » Fri Nov 02, 2012 4:43 pm

The problem is that most people equate Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu which do not explicitly reference the core teachings of Shakyamuni as the sum total of NIchiren Buddhism. They are not. There are, in fact, a number of different Nichiren Buddhist and related schools like Nichiren Shu and Rissho Kosei-kai (which generally considers itself a "Lotus Sutra" school rather than a Nichiren school per se) which do teach the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and include such elements as Taking Refuge in the Three Treasures and the Four Bodhisattva Vows in their daily liturgy - but they also chant Odaimoku and Gongyo. And neither Nichiren Shu nor Rissho Kosei-kai explicitly teach "chanting for benefits" (I have an impression this is part of the wishful thinking and superstition by some of the laity - and explicitly institutionalized in SGI as a response to post-WWII rampant poverty in Japan).

So it really depends about which particular Nichiren sect to which you are referring.
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby Queequeg » Fri Nov 02, 2012 8:47 pm

dsaly1969 wrote:The problem is that most people equate Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu which do not explicitly reference the core teachings of Shakyamuni as the sum total of NIchiren Buddhism. They are not. There are, in fact, a number of different Nichiren Buddhist and related schools like Nichiren Shu and Rissho Kosei-kai (which generally considers itself a "Lotus Sutra" school rather than a Nichiren school per se) which do teach the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and include such elements as Taking Refuge in the Three Treasures and the Four Bodhisattva Vows in their daily liturgy - but they also chant Odaimoku and Gongyo. And neither Nichiren Shu nor Rissho Kosei-kai explicitly teach "chanting for benefits" (I have an impression this is part of the wishful thinking and superstition by some of the laity - and explicitly institutionalized in SGI as a response to post-WWII rampant poverty in Japan).

So it really depends about which particular Nichiren sect to which you are referring.


While I don't disagree with anything you write, when I argued above that the Four Noble Truths have a different significance in Nichiren Lotus Buddhism, this statement is based on Tientai theory on which Nichiren's teachings are founded.

See Zhiyi's Fahua Hsuan-I (Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra) and Moho Chih-Kuan (Great Cessation and Contemplation) for a detailed discussions of the Four Noble Truths from the perspective of the Perfect Teaching of the Lotus Sutra.
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby dsaly1969 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 4:46 am

Queequeg wrote: While I don't disagree with anything you write, when I argued above that the Four Noble Truths have a different significance in Nichiren Lotus Buddhism, this statement is based on Tientai theory on which Nichiren's teachings are founded.

See Zhiyi's Fahua Hsuan-I (Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra) and Moho Chih-Kuan (Great Cessation and Contemplation) for a detailed discussions of the Four Noble Truths from the perspective of the Perfect Teaching of the Lotus Sutra.


I should have clarified that I was responding to the original post in this thread. I generally agree with most of what you post Queequeg - especially as your knowledge of sources is better than my own. Although when working with my kids (they are teenagers) I do start from the Four Noble Truths and build up from there to get to the concept of Ichinen Sanzen (we also use the 4NT and 8FP as concrete ways to examine situations in daily life) - but, yes, the 4NT are subsumed in the conception of Ichinen Sanzen. But the 4NT are a good building block especially when demonstrating continuity of Buddhist thought.

:anjali:
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Re: Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism?

Postby Queequeg » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:52 pm

dsaly,

My bad. Thank you for the clarification and I misread the context of your post.

I am about to have my first and one of my concerns is how to open the Buddhadharma to him over the next few decades. I am very curious - how do your children react to the discussions? How does the subject come up? Do you incorporate it when talking to them? Do they identify as Buddhist? Is it something they internalize? Do you have a regular community that you attend?

Sorry for so many questions. I apologize if I am prying too much. I probably have a million more. I think I am getting into the angst ridden new parent phase and can't help it. :smile:
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