Friend (member): This is Raymo. He's new to Nichiren
but has been practicing Zen for some years
Me: Hi there
Other member: Zen huh? That is inferior.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a member of Nichiren Soshu. Only a curious visitor and, possibly, future member. Also, I'm not sure whether this is a rant or not but let's see where it goes.
What a welcome. This introduction was an indicator of several issues I'd have to confront on this new path. Though it has some redeeming qualities, Nichiren Daishonin does not fit very well into my conceptualization of Buddhism.
In their doctrine it is stated that Nichiren has the "true religion/teaching". This flies right in the face of Buddhism as I have come to know it, as a practice that yields. To be the true religion is to be against other faith traditions that also claim to be the true religion. Such an idea seems dangerous in the way it could foster an enlarged ego. And in the wider scheme of things, collectively an highly egotic group.
Turns out not all the members I met were like that. Most were welcoming and delighted to make my acquaintance. And upon further inquiry and studies, I've come to understand the essence behind the idea of a true teaching: it's in the sutras.
While my anarchic, radical Zen/Vipassana is heavily based upon the prajnaparamita heart sutra, a "provisional teaching" as my new friends like to say, Nichiren's true teachings are in reverence of the Lotus sutra, a cumulative teaching given towards the end of Shakyamuni Buddha's life. My Zen led me nowhere special. Emptiness, Impermanence, Investigation. Okay. Then what? Gaining insight to reality got me just that and nothing more. The sense of peace does not give any meaning, nor does it seem appropriate in such tumultuous times as this age of information.
As they would have it, Nichiren practitioners say Buddha came to the realization that as time passes the relevance of his former teaching may become irrelevant thus hindering future practitioners from liberation. However, the lotus sutra was written to be relevant in any part of history.
Okay fine. That makes sense. Things change with time. So what is this true teaching anyway? It lies in the title. And with that comes something else that pisses me off: The chanting.
I usually like to meditate in quiet. But nope, not here. It seems if I am to assimilate, I must chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, which translates to something like The Great Law of Existence or something. For one thing, it's in Japanese; it has no meaning to me, linguistically or otherwise. It's like telling me to chant "Voy a la Playa" and eventually the secrets of our human evolution will unfold in my mind. And how exactly will my chanting the name of something help me reach any type of higher consciousness. Being highly atheistic I am terribly allergic to any idea of supernatural, mystical gobbledygook.
I would be a worse Buddhist than I already am if I continually reacted negatively to all of this. So again, I sought counsel with my friend who explained the performing Gongyo, chanting and recitation of the lotus sutra, is a meditation upon karma. As in, "I sincerely accept the great law of cause and effect"; Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.
Though I don't believe the reincarnation part of karma, I can respect the idea of the true teaching. I can see how it would be an enervating path for a youth like me. To get involved in and less apathetic about the future, my future, our future.
Now as I see it, the law of cause and effect is several times more interesting and exciting than emptiness. So no, Buddhism is not boring, but death will now and forever be the end of us all. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.