OregonBuddhist wrote:Probably THE most sensitive question one could ask on a Nichiren forum, so I need to mention upfront that I'm not trying to start controversy, and I've been practicing chants for two years now, with both the Hoben and Juryo chapters memorized. I'm now working on other chapters. I suppose you could say that I AM a Nichiren Buddhist.
That much said, isn't it generally recognized that the Lotus Sutra is symbolic? I mean, to my understanding, not even the Theravada sutras are the verbatim word of the historical Gautama Buddha, but were themselves written down about two hundred years after his death. To my understanding, the Mahayana sutras are in reality "symbolic" revelations of the Buddha. I know that there are probably very orthodox followers of various Mahayana schools who literally believe the Mahayana sutras are the literal words of the Buddha -- but don't most agree that they are symbolically from the Buddha?
Again, I don't mean this as an insult. It reminds me of what a mentor of mine, a man with a PhD in psychology and a lover of Shakespeare, once said to me, "I don't know if Shakespeare actually wrote the Shakespeare plays. They were probably the work of Francis Bacon. But they're good plays no matter who wrote them."
Literally is a tricky term for Shayamuni's Lotus Sutra was gathered and compiled after his death!
More importantly is the assumption by too many that Shakyamuni's Lotus Sutra is the only Lotus Sutra associated with Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism!
There are in fact Three Types of Lotus Sutra recognized by a large number of Nichiren' Buddhism Practioners.
Mr Josei Toda Taught"
"Everyone casually assumes that the Lotus Sutra indicates the 28 chapter text by that name. But there are in fact three kinds of Lotus Sutra.
The first is the Lotus Sutra of Shakyamuni. This is the 28 chapter sutra of that name; this Lotus Sutra benefited people during Shakyamuni's lifetime and during the Former Day of the Law. Presently, in the Latter Day, however, even if you should carry out the practices [of the Former Day] of reading and reciting this sutra and copying it, you will gain no benefit thereby. Our recitation of the "Hoben" and "Juryo" chapters during morning and evening Gongyo does not come from this earlier practice --- it has a different significance.
The Lotus Sutra of the Middle Day of the Law is T'ien-t'ai's Maka Shikan (Great Concentration and Insight). The Lotus Sutra for this period of the Latter Day is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the "seven-character Lotus Sutra" hidden in the depths of the "Juryo" chapter. You need to understand that there are three kinds of Lotus Sutra and how they are related to one another. In addition to these, there is another Lotus Sutra that, while not capable of being substantiated in a precise historical sense, was recognized alike by Nichiren Daishonin, Shakyamuni, T'ien-t'ai and Dengyo; this is the "24 character Lotus Sutra" expounded by Bodhisattva Fukyo.
Shakyamuni of India taught the "28 chapter Lotus Sutra" for those alive during his lifetime and in the Former Day. T'ien-t'ai of China expounded the Maka Shikan for human beings of the Middle Day of the Law. And Bodhisattva Fukyo expounded the so-called "24 character Lotus Sutra" for the people of the Middle Day of a Buddha called lonno.
President Toda explained that despite the differences in the age and the form in which the teaching was expressed, these are all in fact the same Lotus Sutra. President Toda called the Lotus Sutra as thus conceived the "manifold Lotus Sutra."
The Lotus Sutra, therefore, is not simply the "Lotus Sutra of Shakyamuni." It is also the "Lotus Sutra of T'ien-t'ai" and the "Lotus Sutra of Bodhisattva Fukyo." To President Toda, who had become enlightened to the Lotus Sutra's essence, this was clear.
In the course of listening to his broad-ranging lectures, his listeners, as a matter of course, could engrave distinctions between the "Lotus Sutra of Shakyamuni" and the "Lotus Sutra of Nichiren Daishonin" in their lives.
What do the different expressions of this "manifold Lotus Sutra" have in common? Ultimately, it is the teaching that "everyone equally has the potential to become a Buddha." There are, however, great differences in how Shakyamuni and Nichiren Daishonin expressed this teaching.
Whereas Shakyamuni expressed it as the "28 chapter Lotus Sutra." Nichiren Daishonin, to enable all human beings of the Latter Day to attain Buddhahood, revealed the ultimate principle of the Lotus Sutra as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
In the "Essence of the Lotus Sutra" (Hokke Shuyo Sho) the Daishonin says: "Nichiren throws away the general and the outlined and selects the essential. The essence is the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo transmitted to Bodhisattva Jogyo" (Gosho Zenshu, p. 336).
The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, which constitute the Lotus Sutra's essence --- that is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the Three Great Secret Laws --- are the Lotus Sutra appropriate to this age of the Latter Day of the Law. President Toda therefore termed the Daishonin's teaching the "Lotus Sutra of the Latter Day."