“In the current period of Mappo (Latter Day of the Law) the essence of the Hokekyo is only found in the True Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, as is well testified by the prophecy of Shakyamuni himself. … There are two main streams of Buddhism in mankind’s recorded history. One is what is generally called the Buddhism of Shakyamuni and the other, Nichiren Dai­shonin’s Buddhism. The latter is known as True Bud­dhism as distinguished from the former. … However, as predicted by Shakyamuni himself, Bud­dhism declined with the passing of time until it finally lost the power of redemption. ‘Josei Toda

While in many ways a “Great Person”, Toda was the source of a lot of misinformed, “supercessionist” views. To this day, members of SGI & NST often refer to Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism as if it is distinct from conventional Buddhism; or that Nichiren somehow supercedes or eclipses Shakyamuni. Here are some fairly current, stated, Nichiren Shoshu Taisekiji views:

“Nichiren Daishonin is the Buddha from the remotest past of kuon-ganjo … Wisdom and intellect do not characterize True Buddhism. …We must eliminate our tendency to evaluate Buddhism, based on our own wisdom or arbitrary personal perspectives. It is essential to uphold faith that characterizes both the master and the disciple, based on the Lifeblood Heritage of the Law that is transmitted to only one person.”February, 2005 Oko Lecture

Personally, I doubt that Nichiren would approve. He wrote, “I, Nichiren, am not the founder of any sect, nor am I a latter-day follower of any older sect. I am a priest without precepts, neither keeping the precepts nor breaking them. I am an ordinary creature like an ox or a sheep, divorced from both the possession of wisdom and the absence of it.” Letter to Myomitsu Shonin

While the “Nichiren Lotus Sutra School” is a valid distinction, I do not think there is a distinct Daishonin’s Buddhism; it is all Shakyamuni’s Buddhism. I think it was Nichikan (1665-1726) of Taisekiji who invented the concept of “Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism” — with a basis in the thought of Hongaku Nichdai (1309-1369), Nishiyama Nichigen (?-1486), and Nichiu of Taisekiji {1402-1492{?}). But the views of the latter three were refuted by their peers and rejected by their immediate successors.

We could also go back to Nikko Shonin’s 1288 rejection of the “unadorned” Shakya statue as a Gohonzon. That is very technical, and I think he was being too picky and prickly. I discuss that here: The Lord of Teachings of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. What I did not mention in that blog was that Nikko Shonin’s view was actually stricter than what Nichiren wrote on the topic; both before and after Tatsunokuchi. But, a few points to highlight:

  • Nikko okayed a statue of the historical Shakyamuni as a Gohonzon provided the four {4} attendants were present.
    He referred to Nichiren as “Nichiren Shonin” {Sage Nichiren} or the “Shonin.”
    He defined ‘the reason for Sage Nichiren’s Advent in this World’ as being “Shakyamuni Buddha enlightened from remote ages past; The Lord of Teachings of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo.”

IIRC, Nichiu {1402-1492{?}), the 8th Chief Priest of Taisekiji, had admitted that Nichiren revered “Shakyamuni Buddha enlightened from remote ages past; the Lord of Teachings of Namu-myoho-renge-kyo.” But he said this was too hard for the people to grasp. He argued that the historical Shakyamuni was the Buddha of True Effect; while Nichiren was the Buddha of True Cause; and it was natural for the Japanese to revere “the Sage” {Nichiren} as the Buddha {He called him Shonin too}. If I have this last part right, then his thinking was similar to that of Honen’s rationale to elevate Amida over Shakyamuni. In reality, Nichiren viewed “Shakyamuni enlightened from remote ages past” as the Buddha of True Effect and True Cause.

I suspect it was Nichikan who decided that “Shakyamuni Buddha enlightened from remote ages past” really meant Nichiren Daishonin. I am fairly sure it was Nichikan who first stated this in terms of Nichiren Daishonin being the “True Form” {honjishin} and Shakyamuni the “Provisional Form” {suijakushin}. This was similar to the way Kokagaku Ryobu Shinto reversed the roles of Dainichi & Amaterasu.

In Secret Transmissions in the Hokke Shu, from Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism, Dr. Jacquie Stone wrote: “While not nearly as developed as those of Ryobu Shinto or Sanno Shinto, … these transmissions attempt to identify kami with the sacred sites and persons of the Hokke Shu. … The identification of Nichiren with the Sun Goddess is especially pronounced in transmissions of the Fuji school, which exalt the status of Nichiren to that of the original Buddha.”

Nichikan also argued this in terms of “Ninpo Ikka” {Oneness of person and Law}. He wrote “Nichiren is the object of devotion in terms of the Person.”
Either Nichikan, or someone later than him, came up with the idea of the “Original Buddha of the Infinite Past” {as opposed to remote past} and identified Nichiren as this Primordial Buddha. The Original Buddha {Hon-Butsu} of Kuon Ganjo {Infinite Past} sounds like the Tibetan Vajrayana “Adi-Buddha.” So this might be derived from the Shingon-Ryobu Shinto view of Dainichi-Amaterasu as the Hosshin {Dharma-Kaya Buddha}. Tibetan Vajrayana and Japanese Shingon have some common roots.

Personally, I think Nichiren saw the Dharma itself, Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, as the Dharma-Kaya Buddha {Hosshin} and “Shakyamuni Buddha enlightened from remote ages past” as the Sambhoga-Kaya Buddha {Hoshin}. In other words, “Ninpo Ikka” refers to the Unity of the Eernal Shakya Nyorai with the Wondrous Dharma.

Still, there are those within SGI & NST who want Nichiren to have invented something entirely new. For some, this is, perhaps, a sincere form of reverence. Others, the “supercessionists”, may wish to distance our form of Buddhism from the traditional; and for not a few, there is a Japanese Nationalist element in this thought.

The boiler plate SGI or NST counter to this line of reasoning is to take a bunch of Gosho Quotes out of context. I have gone over this dozens of times on both sides. Some phrases from the Gosho can be read to imply that the Daimoku, the Gohonzon, and Kanjin were Nichiren’s inventions. That is another blog entry. But I do cover some of that here:Posted in Robin Beck on January 14, 2006 08:35 AM