One of the things I've thought about a bit lately is the degree that Nichiren placed the Lotus Sutra in a primary position due to his extensive research of sources of the time that presented the Lotus as being a teaching, however figurative in its semiotics, that originated from the historical Buddha. (It's entirely possible that he suspected otherwise and didn't care - that his reforms needed expedients to carry out a desired objective of unifying Buddhism and the nation - but that's a big conjecture to make.) Our best scholarship now tells us that the Lotus Sutra was compiled centuries after the Buddha's lifetime and that there are differences in the existing Chinese translations and versions found in different languages from earlier periods.
It seems that, at best, we can take the Lotus Sutra as a kind of commentary on the distilled, perennial import of the Buddha's teaching. This would maybe put the Lotus and other influential Mahayana sutras on the level of doctrinal interpretations communicated via very dense symbolism. Kind of like my BS post about why I chose Nichiren Buddhism over other forms of Buddhism. Almost none of the s### in that post ever happened, but it does actually communicate important aspects of my initial inspiration for choosing Buddhism as a religious practice. And the answer to the "why Nichiren" question did actually end in Killeen. Lol.
I admire Nichiren, so despite my current doubts or desire to take up another kind of practice or emphasis that fits my life and situation, lately I find myself thinking about how Nichiren was wrong about certain things as an imperfect mortal and what that means to my practice in the here and now. Ultimately, I think that's where a lot of "Independents" end up. When I look at these kind of scriptures, I see the work of people who were good at essentially using the skill toolkit of suggestion and manipulation to communicate the gist of complex ideas to people unlikely to understand the technical minutiae of their teachings. The Lotus seems to be "this is what we think the Buddha ultimately meant," as presented by its ancient authors and later embedded commentary. Then the rest of our tradition goes from there.
SGI seems to accept that the Lotus is one part of an evolving tradition of ever more clearly refined religious truth, and I can accept and agree with that. It's just their Nippon-centric, Ikeda messianism that is too much wasabi for my palate.
One idea I've been mulling over though is that Buddhism was ultimately a kind of art and science. The Buddha rejected things from his native tradition that he thought to be superstition and used what he viewed as the best contemporaneous understanding of the world to explain his inner transformation and bring about that transformation in others. But what we also have a record of is the Buddha changing his teaching in various ways according to the people he taught in order to achieve a desired result. If Gautama was alive today, I imagine he'd have delved deeply into the sciences and yet still use a lot of religious metaphor for some, or many people.
Nameless wrote in response:
Before people had the Sutras, they had Shakyamuni in person. Someone (Madgulyayana?) after his death and after the compiling of the sutras said something like "its good that we have the sutras, but for me I will always remember the Buddha as an example".
As far as authenticity, the Lotus is in the exact same position as the Pali canon, or more importantly, the Pali canon is in the same position as the LS, ditto for the other sutras.
The canons used by the Mahayana and Theravada were both changed, but in different ways, and it's the quality of the changes made in the Mahayana that give me pause. Mahayana sutras represent a tradition focused on common people, and so feature more mythological symbolism. They also passed through China, where commentary and scripture was often given equal weight, and where it appears that the Lotus and other Sutras were altered by embedded commentary. It also gives me pause that Mahayanists reinterpreted the admonition to follow sutras that are "complete and final" to mean "Mahayana" rather than "unaltered in content.
What are we getting with the Lotus sutra?" Is it "wrong" or "false?" It certainly doesn't contain, in any surviving form, any word ever uttered by the historical Buddha, that much is certain. To what extent is it faithful in communicating a profound teaching (1) from the Buddha or (2) about Buddhism? Moving in either direction gives us reason to hearken still to this inspiring, and maybe "inspired," document. But neither leaves much ground for Nichiren's arguments about the supremacy of the Lotus.
SGI has it's answer to the questions and dilemmas that arise from these considerations, and that answer is mentor-&-disciple "Ikedaism." Illaraza has his personal answer; it's what I teasingly but respectfully will call "righteous copypasta-ism." Queequeg, from what I can tell, seems to still be developing in his understanding of what implications the Sutra's history has on his faith, generally falling on the idea that "all truth is Buddhavacana," or something like that. To an extent, I'm just sort of venting my thoughts here, but in another sense I'm bringing this up because I see that this newly released Lotus seed from the SGI greenhouse will come up against this question too if they stay with this tradition.
I can't discount the practice because by internalizing it I have seen significant positive changes in my life. I've also experienced other, less positive things, some self-created and some aided by the influence of superstition. So I have to consider in what sense the Lotus sutra is true, and in what sense is it simply metaphorical? What is that metaphor saying, and thus, what are we upholding and what is it asking us to bulwark against to protect this profound "something?" The Nichiren practice seems simple enough with just chanting and making good causes, but we're also admonished to spread and protect the teaching. Not only do I consider that admonition a significant and even an unavoidable part of correct practice, but sometimes a tall order to uphold.
The appearance of the treasure tower seems to admonish us to always follow and uphold the highest truth as great people in history have always done, but it also puts the votary in a class of people that is constantly reviled. But if I told you to live to the fullest and then told you a story like the experience I posted, what would you think?
and Nameless sur-replied:
When I say "authenticity" in relation to the sutras, I mean that we have just as much reason to believe the Buddha spoke the Pali cannon as we do the LS. Which is none, other than people have said he said it. I too have some "negative push back" in my Buddhistness recently, Buddhism and those things we discussed briefly on the other forum before it asspl0ded are not always easy to reconcile, human beings have had so much built upon idealist notions and when you have to be honest with yourself and they fall apart what then? I suppose I am with (your understanding of) Queequeg's view that "if its true, its Buddhism". I guess we are lazy, we don't stuck to just writing our own scriptures, if its true, its ours. Yoink.
Well, I can't pull any actual quotations out of my head, but to my knowledge some discourses in even the Pali Cannon are actually attributed to people other than Shakyamuni, and after said discourses are given Sidh even said "I could not have put it better myself". He did not even consider himself a founder of a new religion, or sect, or order (other than the Sangha?). Buddhism then, perhaps should not be constrained to a series of teaching attributed to the historical Buddha. By his teachings people have been led to varying degrees of awakening, and they also wanted to teach people, and did so according to their ability and understanding, different from the historical Buddha, but the same perhaps as the eternal Buddha. I guess I see it like evolution, evolution is a tinkerer, not an inventor. it works with what it gets, new things are placed upon old things, when you move one of your fingers, actually the first thing to happen in your brain is a signal to move all of your fingers goes out, however some newer part of your brain fixes that so only one moves, because we had an ancestor who could not at all move only one finger. The idealist idea that all of this was said by the historical Buddha, that he established and taught everything we need to know about the Dharma and ergo we should only rely on what he actually can be said to have said, that is falling apart and this too is hard to reconcile for some people. But why? Think of it like science, there was not one person who handed us science. Newton was into alchemy and prophecy. Its not a perfect analogy because Sidh was likely not insane like that, but science is an evolving and changing entity.
of course people can also tell themselves that "the Buddha actually taught this", I think the honorable MarkP believed this, and they have just as much reason to believe that, as people believe the Pali Cannon came straight from the horse's mouth.