Thursday, March 02, 2006

Q&A: SGI v. NSP; On Blasphemy; High Priest Nikken Abe

Q: Hey, man, I'm konfoozed about something. I [read] your blog and saw numerous references to Nichiren Shoshu, even though you are clearly an SGI-USA member.

Put bluntly, what's up with that? Why even mention Nichiren Shoshu? They're old school, old news, ya know?

I'm just afraid that your readership might think we're a branch of Nichiren Shoshu, when we're just plain done with their asses. - Jason H., Los Angeles, CA

A: Damn good question, and I was wondering how long it'd take for someone to point this out.

Well, okay, for the purposes of this blog, I'm going to place a distinction between Nichiren Shoshu (NS), the School of Buddhism founded by Nichiren Daishonin, and which the SGI members practice; and the Nichiren Shoshu Priesthood (NSP), currently headed by Nikken Abe, which purportedly represents the NS School.

The reason for this is that I want to make sure people understand that we're not practicing something like Nichiren Shugai (or something similar); which is really quite deceptively close to Shoshu, even using Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo as the basis of their practice, even though what they advocate is pretty damn close to Christianity.

They too call their school "Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism;" to me, this is far more confusing than the SGI v. NS situation.

Thanks for reminding me, however, that I need to elucidate what the distinction is between NS and the NSP; more on this in a few paragraphs. Otherwise, I think it's a small price to pay for accuracy.

Speaking of accuracy, I need to make something clear: My secular friend, JJ, recently asked me if this Buddhism had an equivalent to blasphemy in its doctrines. At the time, I said something like "not as such. You can't slander others, is basically it."

Which, technically, is true. Even though it sounds silly, no one will stop you from saying stuff like, "buddha damnit." (Or from using such colloquiallisms as "thank god," or "jesus h. christ.") Also, most of the things labeled as blasphemous in the majority of religions, are actually encouraged here...Get pissed, demand proof, make threats; particularly if things aren't going your way.

Lastly, the act of slandering another is pretty heinous.

But there is something that, on paper, could equate to what JJ's asking about; which will be the basis for the rest of this entry: Slandering the Lotus Sutra/the votary of the Lotus Sutra, as well as standing idly by while these activities are occurring.

Look up the word slander in the OED, and here's what you get:

1) The utterance or dissemination of false statements or reports concerning a person, or malicious misrepresentation of his actions, in order to defame or injure him; calumny, defamation.

In other words, the Lotus Sutra (or Myoho Renge Kyo) is a manifestation of the Ultimate Law; don’t fuck with it. Don’t tell people lies about it, don’t mislead them regarding it, don’t spread misinformation or treat it as anything other than a manifestation of the Ultimate Mystic Law of Cause and Effect.

The same goes for those who practice it. You don’t want to think about the immensity of the negative karma you are creating. Also, if you, regardless of whether you practice or not, witness and allow others to defame either the Law or those who practice it, you will also be on the wrong end of karmic retribution. Actually, worse if you practice.

Let me tell ya, this ain't no whistling Dixie, this is straight up shit; so much so, that Shakyamuni (aka Siddartha), explicitly stated in the LS that no one, absolutely no one is exempt from this. He was quite vehement about it.

Miao-lo, T’ien-T’ai, and Nichiren Daishonin, successor-philosopher-monk types*, who spent their lives dedicated to studying the numerous sutras, but specifically the Lotus, all noted on the importance of these warnings. They also noted the various predictions warning of “false priests,” though it was Nichiren Daishonin who noted that this title could also be applied to anyone who decides to use the Lotus Sutra as a means of exploiting the innocent, to gain influence and power…to whore the religion out.

The Daishonin's writings mostly consist of letters he sent to his followers. He did have students, but those didn’t come for a while. The majority of his followers were lay-people he would exclaim that they could attain enlightenment without the need for priests (as they were pretty non-existent, ND was a one man show for a quite a while), without giving in to their cajoling, extorting and other condescending or exploitative means. That they could attain enlightenment simply by adhering to the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, and by chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo (literally “I adhere to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra”; variously “the Ultimate Mystic Law” or “of cause and effect as described in the LS”).

He knew, however, that even this stoic teaching could be manipulated, and so he wrote often of rebuking anyone who tried to slander the LS, no matter what positions they held, no matter who they were [Nichiren Daishonin's emphasis – tbo]. It didn’t matter if it was a priest of high stature, he’d write, or if it was a powerful politician, one has to be watchful and admonish those who try to abuse others, and those who slander.

Let’s just say that things in feudal Japan during the 1200s were a bit desperate. Damn if that doesn’t sound familiar.

Next: How all of this applies to Nikken Abe.

*Because of the high number of writings Shakyamuni left behind, priests of the various different schools would argue about which was the Ultimate Correct Teaching. Rulers, who were also Buddhist, would also want to know. So, what would happen quite often, especially if there was a hotly contested issue, is that the rulers would hold debates to settle once and for all (at least for the ruler) which was what. Invariably, those who studied the Lotus Sutra and were steadfast in their learning would always win out. There are exceptions, but these usually had some tincture of intimidation involved, or these students were simply not invited.