The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby nichirenista » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:48 am

I don't know if the rest of you have seen this wonderful article by Jacqueline Stone. In this article she discusses the fact that Nichiren taught that his school of Buddhism was the only correct form of Buddhism. Apparently he taught that to practice any other form of Buddhism was to slander the true Buddhism -- which resulted in going to hell. Stone writes that this "Slander of the Dharma" as he called it is neglected within academia because it is so counter to modern ecumenical sensibilities. Anyway, as with just about every article I have read by her, I think it's amazing.

"And because, he argued, only faith in the Lotus Sutra leads to Buddhahood, to reject the Lotus in favor of other, "inferior" teachings was in effect to slander the True Dharma and led inexorably to rebirth in the Avici Hell."

http://www.princeton.edu/~jstone/Articles%20on%20the%20Lotus%20Sutra%20Tendai%20and%20Nichiren%20Buddhism/The%20Sin%20of%20Slandering%20the%20True%20Dharma%20in%20Nichiren's%20Thought%20(2012).pdf
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby Queequeg » Tue Aug 05, 2014 1:12 pm

Good read. Thank you for that link.

This article addresses the heart of Nichiren's teachings. As noted in the article, this is difficult for people steeped in the sensibilities of secularism to accept. Instead, a gentler interpretation is commonly urged - to use Nichiren Buddhism terminology, we should practice shoju instead of shakubuku. I believe this is a terrible mistake and is tantamount to abandoning Nichiren. I also think this decision is made because people don't actually understand the message. I believe that if people understood Nichiren's message in language and concepts within their experience, many would find Nichiren to be compelling and inspirational, and most critically, relevant today.

My sense is, and Stone touched on this, the writings we have are generally addressed to these doctrinal issue to the exclusion of matters that were commonly understood and toward which Nichiren had no criticism. To really understand Nichiren, you have to understand the stuff that functions as uncontroversial givens. I believe you find this base in Tientai teachings (which also are difficult to understand through the lens of modern sensibility). This body of work includes profound insights into the nature of the reality of our lives as well as the practical means to achieve insight ourselves. Without these things, I think its easy to ungrounded and lose sight of Nichiren.

Without getting bogged down in the complexities of Lotus Buddhist theory and practice, I would suggest that we start with the understanding that the Lotus Sutra is not just a text, but rather the actual fabric of reality. This understanding is born out in the text itself as well as the Tientai commentaries, and practice is nothing other than the means by which we can perceive ultimate reality/Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren's message then is nothing other than, "you suffer because you misapprehend the true nature of reality. Devote youself to ultimate reality and seek understanding with every ounce of effort. Moreover, misunderstandings of reality must be identified and called out for the benefit of both oneself and others; those who knowingly obfuscate reality and confuse others must be condemned as the worst offenders."

In a world full of groundless ideas and deliberate efforts to confuse people, Nichiren's message translates today into a call to arms to eradicate groundless opinions and views from our own minds and the minds of others and make the communities and resources necessary to achieve this goal.

Easily said. Profoundly difficult to actually do.
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby Jikan » Tue Aug 05, 2014 2:01 pm

This has the makings of an excellent discussion.

I'm having a hard time reconciling this position...

Queequeg wrote:Nichiren's message then is nothing other than, "you suffer because you misapprehend the true nature of reality. Devote youself to ultimate reality and seek understanding with every ounce of effort. Moreover, misunderstandings of reality must be identified and called out for the benefit of both oneself and others; those who knowingly obfuscate reality and confuse others must be condemned as the worst offenders."

In a world full of groundless ideas and deliberate efforts to confuse people, Nichiren's message translates today into a call to arms to eradicate groundless opinions and views from our own minds and the minds of others and make the communities and resources necessary to achieve this goal.


...and this one:

nichirenista wrote: Nichiren taught that his school of Buddhism was the only correct form of Buddhism. Apparently he taught that to practice any other form of Buddhism was to slander the true Buddhism -- which resulted in going to hell. [...]

"And because, he argued, only faith in the Lotus Sutra leads to Buddhahood, to reject the Lotus in favor of other, "inferior" teachings was in effect to slander the True Dharma and led inexorably to rebirth in the Avici Hell."


The former interpretation reads like mainstream, and nuanced, Mahayana Buddhism. The latter reads like mundane, and extraordinarily harsh, sectarian polemic. Am I misreading here?
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby uan » Tue Aug 05, 2014 4:37 pm

Jikan wrote:This has the makings of an excellent discussion.

I'm having a hard time reconciling this position...

Queequeg wrote:Nichiren's message then is nothing other than, "you suffer because you misapprehend the true nature of reality. Devote youself to ultimate reality and seek understanding with every ounce of effort. Moreover, misunderstandings of reality must be identified and called out for the benefit of both oneself and others; those who knowingly obfuscate reality and confuse others must be condemned as the worst offenders."

In a world full of groundless ideas and deliberate efforts to confuse people, Nichiren's message translates today into a call to arms to eradicate groundless opinions and views from our own minds and the minds of others and make the communities and resources necessary to achieve this goal.


...and this one:

nichirenista wrote: Nichiren taught that his school of Buddhism was the only correct form of Buddhism. Apparently he taught that to practice any other form of Buddhism was to slander the true Buddhism -- which resulted in going to hell. [...]

"And because, he argued, only faith in the Lotus Sutra leads to Buddhahood, to reject the Lotus in favor of other, "inferior" teachings was in effect to slander the True Dharma and led inexorably to rebirth in the Avici Hell."


The former interpretation reads like mainstream, and nuanced, Mahayana Buddhism. The latter reads like mundane, and extraordinarily harsh, sectarian polemic. Am I misreading here?


I don't think you are necessarily misreading here, though you could take a more nuanced view - mainly that that latter words are coming from an academic (Stone), and if there's a sense she's tearing down Nichiren, it's not because she's building up another sect. In effect, what you have is a secular polemic, not a sectarian one. It's probably even more precise to say it's an academic polemic, not secular.

I like Queequeg's approach - taking something from outside of Buddhism that might be of some interest or have some insight, but discussing that thing within a Buddhist framework. There's no obligation on our part to honor the academic by maintaining their conceptual framework or terminology, even if it was their article/observation that started the discussion.

I also think Queequeg response helps underscore the differences in discussing Buddhadharma amongst practitioners versus academics, and how academics sort of miss the boat. For instance, this whole concept of "slander". Thtat's a western, legalistic term and concept that she imposes on Buddhism.
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby nichirenista » Tue Aug 05, 2014 5:57 pm

If the above is meant to say that Stone is claiming that Nichiren said only his form of Buddhism was correct, but Nichiren himself never said that, then I'm pretty sure you're mistaken. I've read several sources where Nichiren says only his practice is the valid practice in the age of Mappo. (In another piece by Stone, she says that this is one reason Soka Gakkai is so controversial: because it is the only branch of Nichiren Buddhism that still openly states what Nichiren himself said: that only his form is correct.)
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby Malcolm » Tue Aug 05, 2014 5:58 pm

nichirenista wrote: I've read several sources where Nichiren says only his practice is the valid practice in the age of Mappo.


Yes, but it is obviously nonsense, the product of a febrile imagination.
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby nichirenista » Tue Aug 05, 2014 6:00 pm

I politely disagree. :anjali:
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby Malcolm » Tue Aug 05, 2014 6:14 pm

nichirenista wrote:I politely disagree. :anjali:



Sure, you are a committed sectarian, you have to disagree.
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby nichirenista » Tue Aug 05, 2014 7:13 pm

No. I choose to follow the only correct Buddhist path. No one forces it on me.
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby Malcolm » Tue Aug 05, 2014 7:18 pm

nichirenista wrote:No. I choose to follow the only correct Buddhist path. No one forces it on me.


Yes, a committed sectarian, as I said.
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby Son of Buddha » Tue Aug 05, 2014 7:30 pm

nichirenista wrote:I don't know if the rest of you have seen this wonderful article by Jacqueline Stone. In this article she discusses the fact that Nichiren taught that his school of Buddhism was the only correct form of Buddhism. Apparently he taught that to practice any other form of Buddhism was to slander the true Buddhism -- which resulted in going to hell. Stone writes that this "Slander of the Dharma" as he called it is neglected within academia because it is so counter to modern ecumenical sensibilities. Anyway, as with just about every article I have read by her, I think it's amazing.

"And because, he argued, only faith in the Lotus Sutra leads to Buddhahood, to reject the Lotus in favor of other, "inferior" teachings was in effect to slander the True Dharma and led inexorably to rebirth in the Avici Hell."

http://www.princeton.edu/~jstone/Articles%20on%20the%20Lotus%20Sutra%20Tendai%20and%20Nichiren%20Buddhism/The%20Sin%20of%20Slandering%20the%20True%20Dharma%20in%20Nichiren's%20Thought%20(2012).pdf


Opening of the eyes (2) pg261
http://www.nichirenlibrary.org/en/wnd-1/Content/30#p261" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
In view of these facts, I believe that the devotees and followers of the Flower Garland, Meditation, Mahāvairochana, and other sutras will undoubtedly be protected by the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and heavenly beings of the respective sutras that they uphold. But if the votaries of the Mahāvairochana, Meditation, and other sutras should set themselves up as the enemies of the votary of the Lotus Sutra, then the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and heavenly beings will abandon them and will protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra. It is like the case of a filial son whose father opposes the ruler of the kingdom. The son will abandon his father and support the ruler, for to do so is the height of filial piety.

It seems Nichiren didn't have a problem with the other sects, unless they tried to attack him or the Lotus sutra.

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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Aug 05, 2014 7:36 pm

No. I choose to follow the only correct Buddhist path. No one forces it on me.


According to my understanding, such a view would lead to the accumulation of the karma of abandoning the dharma. It is quite a serious transgression according to the bodhisattva vows (vow number 6).

So, this kind of sectarian posturing is inadvisable for ANY dharma practitioner, especially of the Mahayana traditions.

Geshe Tashi explains it this way:

http://www.bodhicitta.net/BODHISATTVAVOWS.htm

6. abandoning the doctrine through sectarianism
The sixth one is referring to stopping or abandoning the practice of Buddhadharma, either completely or partly, due to misinformation. For example, for people who are practising the Mahayana path, there is such a strong emphasis on the Mahayana teachings that there is a risk of saying the Theravadin teachings are not really important. Conversely if the emphasis is put very strongly on the Theravadin teachings, there is a risk of thinking that the Mahayana teachings are not relevant. Of course there are different emphases but that does not mean that we should abandon one teaching or the other. They are there purely due to an individual’s interest and mental dispositions.
Lama Tsong Khapa said very clearly in his Lam-rim Chen-mo, The Great Exposition of the Gradual Path to Enlightenment that a unique feature of the lam-rim is that through studying it the entire Buddhadharma can be understood as a spiritual path to achieve buddhahood. In the earlier stage, the middle and small scope teaching, there is a strong emphasis on the law of cause and effect and the Four Noble Truths, whereas in the great scope there is much more emphasis on bodhicitta or Mahayana teachings. The entire teaching is given to show a practitioner where to start and where to end. Like the analogy I often use, if you pull one corner of the cloth, the whole cloth moves. To understand bodhicitta, we must understand emptiness and cause-and-effect. It is so important not to abandon one part of Buddhadharma just because that is not our main emphasis or because we are following a particular tradition. Of course, different traditions suit different mental dispositions. I am not advocating mixing everything together. In English you have an expression, ‘melting pot’. That does not work so well in Buddhism.
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby Queequeg » Tue Aug 05, 2014 7:50 pm

Hi Jikan,

This was my argument bridging between Nichiren's writings and my suggestion of how Nichiren might be understood today:

My sense is, and Stone touched on this, the writings we have are generally addressed to these doctrinal issue to the exclusion of matters that were commonly understood and toward which Nichiren had no criticism. To really understand Nichiren, you have to understand the stuff that functions as uncontroversial givens. I believe you find this base in Tientai teachings (which also are difficult to understand through the lens of modern sensibility). This body of work includes profound insights into the nature of the reality of our lives as well as the practical means to achieve insight ourselves. Without these things, I think its easy to ungrounded and lose sight of Nichiren.


Reading it over, its not clear. Let me give another try.

To understand Nichiren, you need to understand what he didn't write about as much as what he did write about. As Stone notes, Nichiren did not use much ink and paper discussing the finer points of Buddhist practice. She suggests that maybe its because such instruction was given personally. There certainly are statements Nichiren made referring to oral instructions that he would give in person. While he emphasized the essential nature of the Daimoku, he also wrote approvingly of more comprehensive devotional practices as well as the Tientai/Tendai practice of contemplating the Three Thousand in a Single Thought-Moment. For people with the capacity, he wrote that they should study the entire corpus of Buddhist teachings. The point is, it seems that Nichiren's criticisms were grounded in a more comprehensive path than we might think if we limited ourselves to the letter of what he wrote. And that context included viewing Dharma not as some closed system of thought that was nothing more than grist for pedantic sophistry, but rather the most advanced learning on how a human being could come to an understanding of ultimate reality.

Nichiren wrote:

This [Lotus] sutra deals with the original mind [of enlightenment] in the waking state. But because living beings are accustomed to thinking in the mental terms appropriate to a dream state, it borrows the language of the dream state in order to teach the waking state of the original mind. However, though the language is that employed in a dream state, the intention behind it is to give instruction in the waking state of the original mind. This is the aim of both the text of the Lotus Sutra itself and of the commentaries on it. If one does not clearly understand this, one will invariably misunderstand the wording of both the sutra and its commentaries.


I think Nichiren's warning about the Lotus Sutra and its commentaries could be applied to reading his writings as well.

Nichiren's rhetoric was not extraordinary at his time. Remember, we're talking about a time when monks were armed to the teeth and regularly burned down each other's monasteries. If we sift away the rhetoric, examine what exactly "Lotus Sutra" meant to Nichiren, a broader message in line with traditional Mahayana emerges. "Lotus Sutra", or more specifically, "Myohorengekyo" refers to the integrated reality and teaching as understood in Tientai teachings (See Fa hua Hsuan i "Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra). "Every scent is the way". If we limit "Lotus Sutra" to the literal text, to the specific Daimoku, we're missing what Nichiren was talking about and we will have tremendous trouble adapting the teaching to contemporary conditions.
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby Queequeg » Tue Aug 05, 2014 7:59 pm

Son of Buddha wrote:Opening of the eyes (2) pg261
http://www.nichirenlibrary.org/en/wnd-1/Content/30#p261" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
In view of these facts, I believe that the devotees and followers of the Flower Garland, Meditation, Mahāvairochana, and other sutras will undoubtedly be protected by the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and heavenly beings of the respective sutras that they uphold. But if the votaries of the Mahāvairochana, Meditation, and other sutras should set themselves up as the enemies of the votary of the Lotus Sutra, then the Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and heavenly beings will abandon them and will protect the votary of the Lotus Sutra. It is like the case of a filial son whose father opposes the ruler of the kingdom. The son will abandon his father and support the ruler, for to do so is the height of filial piety.

It seems Nichiren didn't have a problem with the other sects, unless they tried to attack him or the Lotus sutra.

Peace and Love


Yep.

There is much more in Nichiren's writings along these lines. Many tend to gloss it over in favor of some other limited passages that seem to justify their sectarianism. (Nichiren btw denied that he ever intended to start a sect. Rather, he was trying to unite all the sects under the Lotus Sutra and heal all the schisms.)

Nichiren's view is the view explained in the Lotus Sutra itself, specifically the Expedient Means and Life Span Chapters. All of the Buddha's teachings are taught as expedients to and from the ultimate wisdom expounded in the Lotus Sutra. If you take one of these expedients as the source and view the Lotus as some non-essential or extraneous teaching, you are going to misunderstand everything, the logic goes.

This is also expressed in Zhiyi's teaching - opening the provisional to reveal the real. Nichiren derived many of his views from Zhiyi.
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Aug 05, 2014 8:39 pm

Excuse my ignorance, but is there much of an emphasis on the bodhisattva path/practices in Nichiren Buddhism?
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby Queequeg » Tue Aug 05, 2014 8:48 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:Excuse my ignorance, but is there much of an emphasis on the bodhisattva path/practices in Nichiren Buddhism?


The short answer is, "Of Course!"

Whether we're talking about the same practices, well...

Depends on what you mean by "bodhisattva path/practices". :tongue:
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:03 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Sherab Dorje wrote:Excuse my ignorance, but is there much of an emphasis on the bodhisattva path/practices in Nichiren Buddhism?


The short answer is, "Of Course!"

Whether we're talking about the same practices, well...

Depends on what you mean by "bodhisattva path/practices". :tongue:



I would guess that would be the practices and concepts taught by the Indian Mahayana masters, in form or another, to start with. You know, the perfections, rules of conduct, etc.

It seems most forms of Buddhist practice have angles where one sees this kind of triumphalism, and plenty claim to be the best practice for the age of degeneration.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby Queequeg » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:12 pm

Queequeg wrote:Yep.

There is much more in Nichiren's writings along these lines. Many tend to gloss it over in favor of some other limited passages that seem to justify their sectarianism. (Nichiren btw denied that he ever intended to start a sect. Rather, he was trying to unite all the sects under the Lotus Sutra and heal all the schisms.)

Nichiren's view is the view explained in the Lotus Sutra itself, specifically the Expedient Means and Life Span Chapters. All of the Buddha's teachings are taught as expedients to and from the ultimate wisdom expounded in the Lotus Sutra. If you take one of these expedients as the source and view the Lotus as some non-essential or extraneous teaching, you are going to misunderstand everything, the logic goes.

This is also expressed in Zhiyi's teaching - opening the provisional to reveal the real. Nichiren derived many of his views from Zhiyi.


I do need to add a caveat here.

According to Nichiren, if you undertake a practice based, say, on the Avatamsaka Sutra, believing that it will lead you to enlightenment, after having been exposed to the Lotus, and this includes everyone living in a place like Japan where the Lotus had been spread widely, you not only will be disappointed, but you will be making severely detrimental causes that will lead to birth in hell. On the other hand, if you undertake Avatamsaka based practice interpreted through the lens of the Lotus Sutra, you may derive a modicum of benefit, but only because your practice is ultimately based on the Lotus Sutra.

That said, having entered the Latter Day after the Buddha's teachings have lost efficacy, no practice based on sutras other than the Lotus can bring benefit, but rather can only bring harm.

Again, though, this is limited only if we view Myohorengekyo as limited to its literal form. If we understand Myohorengekyo as the integrated teaching grounded in the fabric of reality itself, we get the Dharma that transcends the dharma.

Anyway, all this is dream talk. If you want to see if its true, apply the path of faith described in the Canki Sutta.
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby Queequeg » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:16 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I would guess that would be the practices and concepts taught by the Indian Mahayana masters, in form or another, to start with. You know, the perfections, rules of conduct, etc.


Does the Lotus Sutra qualify as the teaching of an Indian Master? There are teachings of Bodhisattva practice that don't necessarily include the Paramitas, at least immediately. The applicability of the Vinaya is also a dicey subject when it comes to Japanese Lotus Buddhism.
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Re: The Sin of Slandering the Dharma by Jacqueline Stone

Postby rory » Wed Aug 06, 2014 2:32 am

Well it turns out the Vinaya is a later fabrication so the reforms of the founder of Tendai Saicho were quite warranted. After the Samye debate http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1569901/Samye-DebateTibetan Buddhism left East Asian Buddhist intellectual currents so they don't have the later philosophical developments of the Tiantai and Avatamsaka schools at all.

As for 'sectarianism' it was all around what people find distressing in Nichiren was the norm in those days. Pure Land said it was the only way and other practices led to Avici Hell, it's a form of rhetoric that was quite common. If I look through my book on Jokei Jokei and Buddhist Devotion in Early Medieval JapanI should be able to find something. I know I've read this in scholarly texts. Same condemnation, different groups thats all, nothing new.
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