I had some further thoughts about one-pointed practice.
I think that one aspect of one-pointed practice is that it is not just doing one thing only and obsessively like chanting a phrase in Sino-Japanese or sitting in front of a blank wall or “Mu”ing until the cows come home (that was a little Zen joke – sorry). It is really about calling our mind back again and again to the fundamental point throughout the day and in everything that we do. In the case of Nichiren Buddhism, the fundamental point is devotion to the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Flower Teaching. And what is that exactly? I would say that it is devotion to the divine nature within all of us, a divine nature which we are always embraced by and which we embrace within ourselves though ignorance keeps us from being aware of it. I say “divine nature” here for the sake of thus who may be put off by Buddhist jargon. It is the nature of compassion, and wisdom, the nature of reality, and the source of reality in that because of this nature things are the way they are and unfold as they do. It can be called the Unborn, the Deathless, Buddha-nature, and many other names but essentially it is that still point within us which is at the same time a voice of compassion and grace.
Nichiren felt that he was most in touch with this when he chanted Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, because it was through that chant that he could call to mind the Lotus Sutra whose teachings opened his eyes to this reality. But Nichiren also advocated other practices which would support calling to mind this fundamental point – chanting chapters or even just passages of the sutra, copying the sutra, lecturing on the sutra, meditating on the sutra, upholding the sutra in the face of persecution, or simply sharing its message of hope and respect for all beings with all he met. All of this was a way of expressing “Devotion to the Wondeful Dharma of the Lotus Flower Teaching” which is what Namu Myoho Renge Kyo means.
It was very instructive for me to read Dogen’s Shobogenzo. Dogen (1200-1253) was a contemporary of Nichiren who established the Soto Zen school in Japan. His Shobogenzo is a monumental collection of his essays, many of which are quite subtle and complex. Again and again he seems to stress simply sitting (shikan taza) as if that were the only thing in the whole world which mattered. But then if one reads more, one discovers that he writes about sowing robes, preparing and cooking dinner, or cleaning a toilet with the same intensity. Whatever you are doing is the one thing that matters and is THE way to actualize the fundamental point in that moment. That is what I get from reading the Shobogenzo anyway. So when my sensei, the Ven. Ryusho Matsuda, tells me that we should do all things in the spirit of Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, this is what I think of.
Now there is another important aspect to this. Having a one-pointed practice does not mean that you will not get discouraged or distracted. In fact, it is to be expected. And in fact, that is part of the reason for having a one-pointed practice. If we have a practice that is too entertaining, too multi-faceted then we have no chance to really get bored. Then we have no chance to settle the mind into one point from which we can view what the ego likes to throw at us in order to keep us entertained, nervous, distracted, anxious, hopeful, fearful, or whatever. And it is seeing the mind, the ego, as it operates without buying into it that is an important lesson. As we do a one-pointed practice, like chanting Odaimoku, we should expect this – expect the boredom, the resistance, the distraction, the entertainment, the fidgetiness, the daydreams, the daymares. And more than just expect it, we should see all of this inner phantasmagoria as an opportunity to really see it from the stablility of the practice. We take note of what comes up and simply return again and again to the practice. And in noting these things and returning to the practice we become more and more mindful of how our mind operates, what its tracks and ruts are like, and the fact that they do not have to hold us or entangle us because there is the one point that we can come back to which gives us an inner distance from all that.
So if you are chanting or doing anything really, and find the mind is throwing all it’s usual crap at you, or that you are getting anxious, fidgety, or perhaps tired or foggy, or whatever – don’t lose heart. This is what the practice is all about. It is to take one-point like the Odaimoku and make that your inner anchor or inner eye of the storm and with that view all of this without judgement and without giving in and just watch it and learn from it. That is how insight breaks through.
And in any case, if one keeps noting and returning to that one point enough, eventually the ego, the mind, the chattering monkey, will get tired of you not jumping up to do its bidding (or letting it lull you to sleep) and it will settle down and be replaced by a lightness and stillness and an inner space and peace that is a very pleasant abiding indeed.
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,

Hi everyone,
Below is a repost of something I send in response to posts in the
taiten yahoo group. I hope that people here might be interested as
Some people have remarked upon how less constricting the practice of
Nichiren Buddhism can be outside of certain narrow and dogmatic
approaches taken by some groups. On the other hand, even in the big
tent which is Nichiren Shu the focus is on the Odaimoku and there
are certain parameteres within which we do our practice. So I think
this idea of expanding our practice is something which should be
explored further. Let me begin by sharing my own experience.
When I first ran into Nichiren Shu it was in L.A. and I went to the
temple and got to participate in Shodaigyo. That was a real eye-
opener. I am so happy that my sensei, the Ven. Ryusho Matsuda, was
agreeable several years ago to the request of several members of the
San Jose temple to make Shodaigyo part of our regular monthly
In fact, when I first went to San Jose, my sensei was conducing the
regular first Sunday of the month sitting practice. I was astounded
and afterwords said to him: “I was surprised you do sitting
meditation here. I thought Nichiren Buddhists only chanted?” He
looked quite taken aback and said “Of course we meditate. All
Buddhists meditate.” That was when I knew I was at the right place.
Some may wonder why I would have been surprised since I already knew
about Shodaigyo – but Shodaigyo is primarily about chanting Odaimoku
with periods of silent sitting before and after. This was just
silent sitting with Odaimoku chanted three times before and after.
Having stuck with Nichiren Shu and gone so far as to train as a
minister (my not so subtle strategy for getting as close as possible
to the core of Nichiren Shu so I could find out for myself what it
is all about) I have learned quite a lot both doctrinally and
One thing I discovered was that for me – I really do need to focus
on the Odaimoku above all. I even coined the phrase the “sole
efficacy of Odaimoku” in explaning this to myself and subsequently
others. What I mean by “sole efficacy” is that the Odaimoku by
itself contains the benefits of other practices like tranquilitiy
and insight meditation or koan study or shikan taza or more esoteric
practices. But my experience and understanding is that this only
happens when approached correctly, otherwise it is just “babbling in
Sino-Japanese” (another phrase I use to explain things to myself). I
think Nichiren himself realized this when he wrote in one
gosho “There are those who praise the Lotus Sutra with their lips
but slander it in their hearts.” and in his admonitions against the
14 slanders which undercut our practice.
Anyway, I think there is immense wisdom and benefit in focusing our
practice on that one point. But at the same time, that one point
becomes the place out of which radiates many other good habits and
even supporting practices – like ethical conduct, developing and/or
strengthening our integrity, becoming more compassionat and
generous, and even doing things like Shodaigyo, silent sitting,
dharanis, reciting the sutra, studying the sutra, copying the sutra,
copying images of the Buddha, delving into the insights of the many
teachings of the Buddha and his followers through the ages to see
what they have to say to us. All of this and more has become part of
my practice since joining Nichiren Shu. As my sensei told me, our
practice should be like a top – it spins and that action is like the
way in which our lives can revolve around the eightfold path and the
six perfections insofar as our actions and conduct in daily life is
concerned but it is able to spin in a stable way if it is resting on
one point – and that point is Odaimoku in terms of our practice.
When I was at Shingyo Dojo, I ended up following a way of life very
close to that of traditional monastics. It was a very strict,
simple, and demanding regime that included not only the following of
certain precepts (though most were unspoken or just part of the
system of training), but also Shodaigyo, sutra recital, sutra
copying, dharanis, shomyo, walking (or hiking) Odaimoku, and other
things. And what I found was that following such a regimine did not
in and of itself make me a better person or a better Buddhist. But
it did free me to focus on the Odaimoku without any other extraneous
concerns and all the various practices helped keep me motivated and
interested in deepening the practice of Odaimoku. And the Odaimoku
itself could lead to a concentration of mind and an openess to
growth and insight in my own life.
So anyway, this is how I see my own practice – as focused on the
Odaimoku and not fractured among many different practices. But at
the same time, my Odaimoku encompasses many other supporting
practices including the cultivation of good habits and the
curtailing of bad ones in terms of my daily life.
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,

Recently my views on the possibility of a Buddhist rationale for self-defense have been criticized from two directions. On the one hand are those who believe that Buddhist, and Nichiren Buddhists in particular, are obliged to hold a position of absolute non-violence. Then there are those who insist that Nichiren Budhists are not obliged to follow any precept, rule, or principle other than to uphold Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. I would like to respond to these critiques here and also report what I have learned from discussions with other Nichiren Shu ministers.

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