First, it should be noted in which forum this discussion is taking place. Generally, the matters under discussion are going to be the views of the Nichiren Lotus Schools. Other schools may, and very well do, have different interpretations of Buddhadharma. In forums for those traditions, those interpretations would rightly enjoy precedence. Here, the Nichiren Lotus views ought to enjoy precedence.
The Buddha Amida is mentioned only twice in the Lotus Sutra and that is in chapter 7 in the context of him being one of the sixteen princes and in chapter 23 that talks about birth of women in the Pure Land of Amida through the practice of the Lotus Sutra. Chapter 10 and 11 speak about the various emanations of Buddha Shakyamuni, but their names are not mentioned. That Buddha Amida was one of them is your interpretation - it is not based on what we can find in the Lotus Sutra.
I addressed the mention of Amitayus in chapter 7. From the perspective of the Honmon, the Buddha Shakyamuni's previous incarnation as the 16th son of Mahabhijnajnanabhibhu Tathagata was an expedient means. Not that it was not true, but rather that it was an incomplete revelation of his true identity. That previous incarnation was part of Shakyamuni's upaya appearance as the Buddha Gautama in this world. It follows that his past familial relationship with his 15 brothers was also an upaya. Mahabhijnajnanabhibhu Tathagata was an upaya. Upaya does not mean false - the Buddha does not lie. However, they are not the full revelation of the Truth.According to the Nichiren Lotus Tradition, and Zhiyi-Zhanran versions of the Tientai teachings
, the Buddhist canon preached by Shakyamuni over the course of his life was a gradual build up to his revelation in the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra as the Root Buddha possessing the beginningless and endless Trikaya Buddha Body. Some particularly sharp people caught the full scope of the Buddha's identity when he preached the Avatamsaka Sutra immediately after his enlightenment in his Sambhogakaya/Dharmakaya form as Vairocana Buddha. Others did not. Through the course of the Agama Sutras, the Buddha made no mention of his true identity. In the Prajna Sutras he talked about his identity in theoretical terms. In the Vaipulya Sutras (including the Pure Land Sutras) he gave further hints about his true identity, but still did not come out and say it. Through the entire Lotus Sutra leading up to the 16th Chapter, Shakyamuni drops bigger and bigger hints about his identity, until he finally declares is straight up in the 16th Chapter that he is the 本佛, and then continued to teach it until his preaching of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra and his supposed parinirvana.
This tradition considers Amitayus/Amitabha to be an emanation of Shakyamuni Buddha.
It is perfectly well understood that Pure Land practitioners tend not to believe this. Fine and dandy.
This is the passage in the 10th chapter that the Lotus Schools base this view of all other Buddhas, including Amitayus/Amitabha upon:
From the Numata/BDK translation of the Lotus Sutra, Chapter 10:
Then the Buddha emitted a ray of light from the tuft of white hair between his eyebrows; and they immediately saw the buddhas in ﬁve hundred myriads of koṭis of nayutas of lands in the eastern direction equal in number to the sands of the Ganges River. In these lands the soil was of crystal and adorned with treasure trees and jeweled garments; and these lands were full of innumerable thousands of myriads of koṭis of bodhisattvas. Jeweled drapes were hung everywhere and were covered with jeweled nets. All the buddhas in these lands were teaching the Dharma in most harmonious voices. They also saw immeasurable thousands of myriads of koṭis of bodhisattvas, ﬁlling all the lands and teaching the Dharma to sentient beings.
The other directions to the south, north, and west, the four intermediary directions, and the upper and lower regions were also illuminated by the ray of light emitted from the tuft of white hair between the Buddha’s eyebrows; and they were also exactly like this.
Then all the buddhas in the ten directions each addressed the assembly of bodhisattvas, saying: “O sons of a virtuous family! We will now go to the place where Śākyamuni is in the sahā world and pay homage to the jeweled stupa of the Tathāgata Prabhūtaratna.”
The notion of Shakyamuni having achieved Buddhahood in the remote past does not conflict with Amida having achieved enlightenment 10 kalpas ago.
In the Nichiren Lotus Tradition, this is upaya. See below.
Otherwise it would be impossible for any sentient being to achieve Buddhahood after Buddha Shakyamuni attained enlightenment
I don't know what you mean. I am guessing this is some Pure Land teaching?
- or, that all sentient beings are actually emanations of Shakyamuni Buddha. And I am quite sure, that this is not the interpretation of Nichiren.
I am quite sure this IS Nichiren's teaching. Actually, not just sentient beings, but insentients - grasses, trees, and even rocks, dirt, on down to the minutest material particle - all emanation of the Buddha. This is another way to express the concept of "the mutual possession of the ten worlds". We are all functions of the Buddha; we are permeated by the world of Buddhahood; We have the world of Buddhahood in our lives; we are all destined to Buddhahood; we all possess the Buddhanature; we all possess the Tathagatagarbha. The flame of the beginning of the candle is the same as that at the complete burning of the candle. The initiation of the practice is the same as the complete fruition of the practice. Cause and effect is simultaneous and complete. It is all Upaya. All Upaya is the Eternal Buddha.
You need to keep in mind that Nichiren Buddhism is the Buddhism of 一念三千 - the Trichiliocosm in a Single Thought.
What I'm writing may not make sense if you are not familiar with Tientai/Tendai/Nichiren thought. This is Buddhism according to East Asian Lotus Sutra Buddhism discourse.
This is interpreted in the Lotus tradition to mean that Shakayamuni is a Trikaya Buddha whose nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya, and dharmakaya have neither beginning nor end.
Can you explain this passage to me? At least one Nirmanakaya of Buddha Shakyamuni obviously had an end.
No. In Nichiren Buddhism, the Nirmanakaya neither has a beginning, nor does it have an end. The same goes for the Sambhogakaya and Dharmakaya.
Again, the BDK/Numata translation, Chapter 16.
The Buddha has just finished describing his life span which is longer than a calculation involving crushing worlds into dust and distributing them through the universe and again crushing worlds into dust.
“O sons of a virtuous family! During this interim I explained about the Buddha Dīpaṃkara and others. Furthermore, I also said that they had entered parinirvāṇa. I have explained such things through skillful means.
“O sons of a virtuous family! If any sentient being comes to me, I perceive the dullness or sharpness of his faith and other faculties with my buddhaeye. According to the way I should bring them to the path, I, myself, proclaim different names and lifespans in various places. In each case I have also clearly stated that I would enter parinirvāṇa. Through various skillful means I have explained subtle teachings and have made the sentient beings rejoice.
In other words:
"Sometimes I call myself Vairocana. Sometimes I call myself Amitayus. I do it to lead beings to enlightenment."
“O sons of a virtuous family! To those beings whom the Tathāgata perceives as taking pleasure in the inferior teachings, who have few qualities and grave deﬁlements, he teaches that the Buddha attained highest, complete
enlightenment after he renounced household life in his young age. However, it has been a very long time indeed since I attained buddhahood. I give such an explanation only to lead and inspire the sentient beings to enter the buddha path through skillful means.
“O sons of a virtuous family! The sutras that the Tathāgata has expounded are all to save the sentient beings. Whether the Tathāgata teaches about himself or others, whether he reveals his form or that of others, whether he shows
his acts or those of others, everything he says is true, never false.
“Why is this? Because the Tathāgata perceives all the marks of the triple world as they really are: that there is no birth and death, coming or going; that there is also no existence or extinction in the world, truth or falsehood, sameness or difference. The Tathāgata does not view the triple world as sentient beings in the triple world see it. The Tathāgata perceives such things clearly and without mistakes.
“Since sentient beings have various natures, desires, behaviors, thoughts, and distinctions, the Tathāgata, wanting to cause them to plant roots of good merit, has explained various teachings through a variety of examples, explanations, and illustrations. He has not desisted from doing buddha acts even for a single moment and in this way it has been an extremely long time since I attained buddhahood. My lifespan is immeasurable and incalculable. I abide forever without entering parinirvāṇa.
“O sons of a virtuousfamily! The lifespan that I ﬁrst attained through practicing the bodhisattva path has not yet expired. It is twice as great as the number previously mentioned. Although I do not actually enter parinirvāṇa I proclaim that I do. It is through this skillful means that the Tathāgata leads and inspires sentient beings.
“Why is this? Because if the Buddha abides a long time in this world, those who have few qualities do not plant roots of good merit, acquire poor and superﬁcial characters, are attached to the desires of the ﬁve senses, and enter into the web of illusions and false views. If they see the Tathāgata always existing without extinction, they then become proud, self-willed, and negligent. The thought that the Buddha is difficult to meet and that he is to be respected cannot awaken in them. That is why the Tathāgata teaches through skillful means, saying:
O monks! You should know that the appearance of the buddhas in the
world is very difficult to encounter.
“Why is this? Because some of those with little merit may not see the Buddha during the passage of immeasurable hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of kalpas.
“For this reason I say:
O monks! It is difficult to meet the Tathāgata.
“Hearing such words, the thought that it is very difficult to meet the Tathāgata will certainly awaken in these sentient beings. Longing and yearning for the Buddha, they will plant roots of good merit. For this reason, although the Tathāgata does not really pass into extinction, he nevertheless says he does.
“Furthermore, O sons of a virtuous family, the teaching of all the Buddha Tathāgatas is exactly like this. It is entirely true, never false, all for the sake of saving sentient beings.
Some people, even Nichiren Buddhists, argue that this passage implies a beginning to the Nirmanakaya. However, they are not taking into account the full scope of Trichiliocosm in a Single Thought. What we talk about is an Original Cause and Original Effect which are simultaneous. Trying to find this Original Cause is like trying solve the riddle of the chicken and egg. What we are pointing to is the infinite nature of cause and effect - what the Buddha teaches is how to become a being who fully embraces and realizes the potential of this nature. To realize that Our life is, like that of the Buddha's, "immeasurable and incalculable", like Infinite Life - Amitabha - an emanation of Shakyamuni.
Apart from that: Expedient means have the function to lead sentient beings with lesser qualities to the final truth. It does not make sense to reject them - otherwise most of the teaching years of the Buddha would have been in vain.
I think this is addressed above. For further reference, see the Expedient Means (chapter 2) and Belief and Understanding (chapter 4) of the Lotus Sutra for how the "provisional" teachings are viewed.
And because of that Buddha Shakyamuni explicitly encourages the use of expedient means in the Lotus Sutra - not in the Shakumon, but in the Honmon (!):
"If good sons or good daughters in ages to come believe in the Tathagata-wisdom, do you proclaim this Law-Flower Sutra to them that they may hear and know it, in order that they may obtain the Buddha-wisdom. If there be living beings who do not believe in it, do you show, teach, benefit, and rejoice them with the other [tactful] profound laws of the Tathagata. If you are able thus to act, then you will have repaid the grace of the buddhas." (Lotus Sutra, chapter 22)
In the Nichiren Lotus Tradition, once the Buddha reveals his LifeSpan and true identity as the "Eternal" Buddha, all other teachings are transformed into leaves and branches of the Lotus Sutra. This is called "Opening the Trace teachings to Reveal the True Teaching". All of the Buddha's teachings are revealed to be the Lotus Sutra, albeit preparatory teachings.