Last Updated 13 Apr 2020

Lotus Versus Zen Buddhism

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William Bettley 4/3/2013 Cul 260 Prof. Grohe Zen (or Chan) and Lotus Buddhism A Comparison Essay Buddhism, like many other major religions has expanded past a simple definition. There are a large number of regions that practice this astronomically large religion, and throughout the years since its introduction to the world it has developed a large number of ways to practice the belief system. The sect with the largest number of temples in Japan is Zen Buddhism, the second largest number belong to the Lotus, or Nichiren Sect.

Zen, being the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character Chan, falls into a much larger sect of Buddhism, with many different branches; this paper will look into the Japanese Zen branch and the Soto-Zen branch. These branches will be compared to the almost exclusively Japanese sect of Buddhism, Nichiren. The Nichiren sect, that borrows its name from its founder, is an extremely large sect of Buddhism whose main sutra is the Lotus Sutra. The Nichiren sect of Buddhism is any denomination of Buddhism that derives its beliefs from the teachings of the ancient Japanese teacher Nichiren. Nichiren is comprised of more than forty different independent religious institutions. Nichiren, originally a monk of the Tendai doctrine did not see himself as the creator of a sect, nor did he give his followers a name. It was in his death that his teachings, based on the Lotus Sutra, were denominated to be the Lotus sect of Buddhism” (Buswell Vol. 2). The largest of the Nichiren branches has its largest temple in Yamanashi and is called Nichrenshu. “Nichiren adopted the Tiantai School doctrine of reality as three thousand realms in a single thought to explain the theoretical basis upon which ordinary people can reach Buddhahood.

He found this single thought doctrine not as an access from meditation, but as concrete manifestations from the three great secret dharmas. He derived these three secret dharmas from the latter half of the Lotus Sutra, or the origin teachings, thus these three secret dharmas became the core of his teachings. ” (Buswell Vol. 2) The Daimoku, or name, is the Myohorengekyo or name of the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren believed this to embody the essence of all Buddhist teachings. He felt that all that Buddha is and was and ever will be can be embodied in a practitioner through the faith and chanting of this name.

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He felt that through reciting this mane, the essence of the Buddhist teaching can be transferred to the practitioner in a moment of faith. This was the first dharma of lotus teaching. As with most major religions, and religious sects, there is an identifying object. The Lotus sect of Buddhism is no different. The second dharma of Lotus teaching was the honzon, or object of worship. During Nichiren’s lifetime he developed a calligraphy Mandala, an example of which you can see above. This is an example of the item of worship you would bear reverence to in this sect of Buddhism, and this can be found in every Lotus Buddhist temple.

Namu Myohorengekyo is inscribed down the center, and to the left and right are inscribed the names of Buddha, along with the representatives of the assembly of the Lotus Sutra. The third dharma is the most controversial. The kaidan is to some a platform of belief, while to others it is a physical thing. By definition it is a platform loosely described in Nichiren’s writings. It is more definitely an ordination platform. In the esoteric sense it means that wherever one embraces the Lotus sutra is the Buddha land.

There is not much to say about this but to say that Nichiren has mixed reviews on what he believed this to be. “Zen is the Japanese pronunciation of the Japanese character Chan” (Buswell Vol. 2). This was one of the first quotes in my paper, and allows us to look at Zen in a different light. While it remains the Zen school of Buddhism in Japan, it is a branch of the Chan school of Buddhism, thus to look at Zen, you must first see Chan. This section will look into both the Japanese Zen Buddhism, and the Soto Chan Buddhism.

Japanese Zen Buddhism is almost exactly like the original Chan School, because it took upon itself Chan concepts in Japanese style. There is not much of a difference between the Chan School and central Buddhist practice, and thus I will not look deeply into it. One of the primary notable things about the Zen school is that it, much like other schools, incited much violence between the schools because of a difference of views. Soto Chan Buddhism takes as its main concept that one is already Buddha, and to take up the mantle, you must sit in meditation without the attempting to become Buddha.

This is interesting and much different from what we have learned prior in this paper. Most schools of Buddhism do not see themselves already being Buddha, and most strive to achieve Buddhism, and that takes a huge parting path from original Buddha teachings. Thus far in this paper we have broken down many branches of Buddhism schools and how they differ in belief. That being the target of the paper would imply that this is the end, but I must make a few additional remarks. In Buddhism one strives to achieve enlightenment. In that cause Buddhism is different from many religions.

It takes a walk away from heaven, and strives towards the land of Buddha. But like many other religions there is discrepancy, and thus there is conflict. That does not mean that Buddhism is bad, just normal. There is much more depth this paper could look into, but doing so would make this a Buddhism paper, and not just the cores of the sects I am looking into. To see more of how this paper applies to Buddhism, would much improve the knowledge of the coherency of this paper. References Buswell, Robert E. Encyclopedia of Buddhism Vol. 1 Macmillan Reference USA. 004 PP, 134-135 Buswell, Robert E. Encyclopedia of Buddhism Vol. 2 Macmillan Reference USA. 2004 PP, 595-598, 293 Princeton EDU Nichiren Buddhism, Author Unknown, https://www. princeton. edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Nichiren_Buddhism. html Yusa, Michiko. Japanese Religious Traditions. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002. Print. All images belong to their original owners and no profit will be made from their inclusion in this paper. Any profit from this paper will be distributed to the owners of the original image holders at their request.

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