Basic Buddhist Terminology

Attaining Buddhahood in One's Present Form


Sokushin Jobutsu, 即身成仏 The state of Buddhahood can be attained without discarding one' present form as a common mortal by practicing the Buddhism of the Three Great Secrete Laws. Nichiren Daishonin states in the "Reply to the Wife of Lord Ota": [Tiantai and other great teachers conclude that] attaining Buddhahood in one's present form is only possible through the Lotus Sutra. My disciples should never forget this. (Gosho, p. 1472) In the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, it is expounded that one musst practice over a period of countless kalpas in order to attain Buddhahood. However, the Lotus Sutra, which teaches the principle of ichiren sanzen (three thousand realms in a single life-moment), is the supreme teaching. It enables all people in each of the ten worlds to attain Buddhahood through the power of the Law without changing their present form.




Buddhism of the Sowing


Geshu Buppo, 下種仏法 The Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin is referred to as the Buddhism of the sowing, while the Buddhism of Shakyamuni Buddha is referred to as the Buddhism of the harvest. In the Buddhism of the harvest, Shakyamuni Buddha, the Buddha of the harvest, taught Buddhism to the people who had already received the seed for attaining Buddhahood. They could nurture the seed and attain enlightenment. On the other hand, in the Buddhism of the sowing, as in the case of the inconceivably remote past of kuon-ganjo, Nichiren Daishonin, the True Buddha of the sowing, sows the original seed of Myoho-Renge-Kyo into the lives of the people who do not possess the seed for attaining Buddhahood, enabling them to attain enlightenment instantly.




Changing Poison into Medicine


Hendoku Iyaku, 変毒為薬 Indicates attaining Buddhahood as a common mortal in one's present form without eradicating one's illusions and desires. This doctrine originates from the Treatise on the Great Sutra on the Perfection of Wisdom (Daichido-ron), which states: For instances, it is as if a skilled physician transformed poison into medicines. (Taisho Tripitaka, Vol. 25, p. 754) The pre-Lotus Sutra and provisional teachings indicate that in order to attain enlightenment, one must carry out Buddhist austerities over a period of countless kalpas to eliminate one's earthly desires. However, the Lotus Sutra elucidates the doctrines of the mutual posessions of the ten worlds and ichiren sanzen. According to the sutra, we, common mortals will be able to attain Buddhahood without eliminating our earthly desires. Nichiren Daishonin states in the "Reply to Shijo Kingo", that the Lotus Sutra is the teaching that enables us to attain enlightenment without eradicating our earthly desires.




Daimoku


Daimoku, 題目 Supreme Invocation or Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. This expression also indicates the chanting of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.




Faith, Practice, and Study


Shin Gyo Gaku, 信行学 This term represents three basic elements in the Daishonin's Buddhism: having sincere faith in the Gohonzon; daily practices of Gongyo and chanting Daimoku while carrying out shakubuku; and correctly studying the teachings of true Buddhism. These three components are indispensible for attaining Buddhahood. Nichiren Daishonin states in the Gosho, "The True Entity of All Phenomena": Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others. Both practice and study arise from faith. Teach others to the best of your ability, even if only a single sentence or phrase. (Gosho, p. 668) In this Gosho passage, the Daishonin teaches us the importance of practice and study based on faith.




Four Powers


Shiriki, 四力 There are four types of power that enable one to attain Buddhahood in one's present form. They are: The power of the Buddha: refers to that of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin, and is inherent within the Gohonzon. The power of the Law: is that of Myoho-Renge-Kyo, which is vast and profound, and is also inherent within the Gohonzon. The power of the Faith: is devout belief in the Gohonzon. The power of the Practice: is the chanting of Daimoku to the Gohonzon for oneself and for others. The Twenty-sixth High Priest Nichikan Shonin discussed the relationship between these powers in his Exegesis on the "True Object of Worship". He stated that the people will be able to develop the powers of faith and practice through the power of the Law inherent within the Gohonzon. The Power of the Buddha will respond to the people's power of faith and practice. This will enable them to attain Buddhahood in their present form.




Guardian Deities


Shoten Zenjin, 諸天善神 The guardian deities are bodhisattvas who vow to protect the votaries of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. They are depicted in the Introduction (Jo; first), the Dharani (Darani; twenty-sixth), and some other chapters of the Lotus Sutra.




Gongyo


Gongyo, 勤行 Recitation of a portion of teenth the second (Hoben) and all of the sixteenth (Juryo) chapters of the Lotus Sutra with silent prayers. Performed twice daily.




Gosho


Gosho, 御書 The writings of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. They take the form of treatises, the letters he wrote to His disciples, and oral lectures writtend down by His successor, Second High Priest Nikko Shonin.




Ichinen Sanzen


Ichiren Sanzen, 一念三千 "Three thousand realms are possessed by a single life moment." The theory that explains that all existence possesses the Buddha nature along with all the other conditions of life. This is elucidated by teaching that there are ten states of life or mind, called the "Ten Worlds." Furthermore the principles of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds makes this 100 worlds. They are manifested through the principles of the Ten Factors and the Three Realms of Existence, which make 3,000 worlds.




Karma


Internal causes residing in the depths of the life that manifest themselves as conspicuous effects when external causes or conditions are encountered. All people possess both positive and negative karma. The practice of True Buddhism implants tremendous good karma (fortune) in one's life, and lessens one's retribution for negative karma from causes made in this and previous lifetimes.




Lessening One's Karmic Retribution


Tenju Kyoju, 転重軽受 Changing one's heavy karma and lessening the negative effects one will receive. The phrase originiates from the Nirvana Sutra. Through embracing the Lotus Sutra, we can lessen and eradicate in this lifetime our heavy karma accumulated through past slanders against the Lotus Sutra. We can also lessen the retribution we would otherwise receive in future lifetimes.




Lotus Sutra


Shakyamuni's highest teaching. It was his final teaching, preached during the last eight years of his life together with the sutra of Infinite Meaning, an introduction to the Lotus Sutra, and the Nirvana Sutra, the teaching for the sake of propagating the principles of the Lotus Sutra. In it, Shakyamuni expounded the ultimate truth of his enlightenment. However, in the Latter Day of the Law, we can only benefit from the Lotus Sutra when it is viewed through the life of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. Therefore, as Nichiren Shoshu believers, we practice and study the Lotus Sutra based exclusively on the interpretations and teachings of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin and the successive High Priests of Nichiren Shoshu. In His writings, Nichiren Daishonin sometimes uses the term "Lotus Sutra" to indicate Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, or the Gohonzon.




Oneness of Life and its Environment


Esho Funi, 依正不ニ This signifies that life (a sentient being) and its environment (the external, insentient world where the sentient being lives) are not two, but one, contained in a single life-moment. Both life and its environment are the resultant manifestation of karmic causes accumulated from past existences. Nichiren Daishonin states in "The True Entity of All Phenomena": All living beings and their environments in any of the ten worlds are, without exception, the manifestations of Myoho-Renge-Kyo. (Gosho, p. 664)




Practice for Oneself and Others


Jigyo Keta, 自行化他 "Practice for Oneself" refers to the act of carrying out Buddhist practice for one's own sake while "practice for others" refers to the act of teaching and thus imparting the benefit of the Buddha to others for their sake.




Three Great Secret Laws


The principle which constitutes the core and foundation of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhsim. They are the True Object of Worship, the True High Sanctuary, and the Daimoku of the Essential Teaching.

  • The True Object of Worship of the Essential Teaching is the Dai-Gohonzon, inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin on October 12, 1279. Within the Dai-Gohonzon is the Person and the Law. The Person is the eternal enlightened life of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. The Law is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to which the Daishonin is eternally enlightened.
  • The True High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching is the place where the Dai-Gohonzon will be enshrined at the time of Kosen-rufu so that all humankind can eradicate their negative karma and attain enlightenment. At the present time it is enshrined in the Enshrinement Hall at Nichiren Shoshu Head Temple, Taisekiji.
  • The Daimoku of the Essential Teaching is composed of the Daimoku of Faith and the Daimoku of Practice. The Daimoku of Faith means to believe in the Dai-Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teaching as the single and absolute entity of the Law. The Daimoku of Practice means to chant Daimoku earnestly with this strong faith.