Although derived from the teachings of the same Buddha, the various traditional schools of Buddhism in Japan were all locked in a bitter, centuries-old power struggle when Nichiren Shonin discovered a spiritual basis in the teachings of the Lotus Sutra which would allow all of the Buddhist schools to return to the original philosophy of their founder, Shakyamuni Buddha. This basis lies in the principle of integration”, which provides a new, common starting point, not only for Buddhism, but for other religions as well. In the Lotus Sutra, the idea of “revealing all possible relationships” (kaigen) is examined in great detail. This process of revelation enables us to reconcile the often stark contrasts between different religions and world views. It is achieved by respecting the distinctiveness of each and by identifying the relevant interrelationships. This process exemplifies what is certainly the crucial condition for such a reconciliation – transforming confrontation into coexistence. This struggle must be seen as the most important long-term task for humanity. The teachings of the Lotus Sutra are in the form of parables, some of which resemble those of the New Testament. Shakyamuni Buddha is described, for example, as a father rescuing his children from a burning house, or as a father and doctor healing his child who has accidentally swallowed poison, or as a father welcoming his itinerant son home again.
Looking at these examples, it is easy to understand the areas that the Lotus Sutra wishes to bring “healing” to – everyday life, and the problems resulting from social imbalance. In keeping with this general approach, the way to reach the goal is not seen as simply a task of focusing on spiritual aspects, such as spiritualization or enlightenment, or by escaping from real life to a world composed purely of ideas. Instead, the Lotus Sutra explains very clearly the values that are urgently needed today to help the true spiritual core of humanity to blossom and grow. Only then can we begin to tackle the problems of everyday life and social imbalance. Nichiren Shonin developed the principle of “Ichinen Sanzen” or “Integration” from these precepts. This philosophical model describes the organic and reciprocal relationships between the universe as a whole and the human beings who are part of it. There are three basic tenets:
- All aspects of the universe – beings vs. matter, subject and object, spirit and universe – are closely interconnected, and these connections can be proved by rational observation.
- It is therefore possible to revitalize the human environment from the ground up. The fate of humanity can be creatively controlled by using each individual’s innate capacity for self-organisation.
- All people, irrespective of their own distinctiveness, have the same rights. Human beings will be able to accept each others’ mutual dignity and eliminate the unproductive disparities and conflicts that prevail in the world if they breathe life into the principles of the Lotus Sutra as embodied in the principle of Ichinen Sanzen, and apply the doctrine of organic integration in practice to their everyday life.
The Nichiren school is the fifth largest Buddhist denomination in Japan. It has approximately 2 million followers, 10,000 priests and priestesses, and 5,000 temples.
Nichiren shu (Registered Religious Organization)
Head Temple: Minobu-san Kuon-Ji Temple
Minobu 3567, Minobu-cho, Minami-Kyoma, Yamanashi Pref. Japan
Ikegami 1-32-15, Ota Ward, Tokyo Pref. Japan
Archbishop: Uchino Nisso
Chief Administrator: Kobayashi Junkou