Nichiren Nights and the Great Tendai Sun

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From this series on the Lotus Sutra it’s not hard to imagine why mystical-movements evolved from its teachings. The Japanese Tendai-School has its roots within the Chinese Tiantai Tradition and was established by a monk named Saichō, whom like his Shingon counterpart, the great Kūkai, had traveled and studied first hand in China. While Saichō emphasized encompassing many forms of Buddhist practice under the canopy of the Lotus Sutra, it was long after his death that Tendai-Buddhism evolved into a highly intricate esoteric-system based on the vehicle of the Lotus Sutra. The Great Mahāvariocana Buddha became center-stage as one entered into cosmic-union with this Great-Buddha of the Mystical Sun through the three mysteries: the forming of mudrās or elaborate hand gestures; the chanting of sacred mantras, or dhāraṇīs; and the daily contemplation and meditation with Buddhist-deities, or symbols bearing the mark of the deities, usually through mandalas that could be outwardly created or inwardly visualized. Tendai-Buddhism also utilizes the “Lotus Repentance Meditation”, its purpose is to bring about satori, or the spark of enlightenment. One such example of the meditation; ceremony runs as follows:

Outside the meditation hall or spiritual practice area

1             Shikan Zen Yo No Ichi Ge

the verse displaying the main point of samatha-vipasyana meditation

Recite once:

“In the genuine entering nirvana, apparently there are a multitude of roads. But if we think about only the vital necessities, two practice methods stand out. The first, samatha, quiets one’s evil passions, and the second, vipasyana, further leads one to deny unwholesome desires. When samatha results in one’s winning entry into dhyana-samadhi, then vipasyana becomes the foundation of prajna. When both samatha and vipasyana are successfully practiced, the meditator enters samadhi and receives prajna. In that state, the dharma’s altruistic goal of helping both self and others is fully completed.”

Notes:

Samatha                 stopping, ceasing all activity

Dhyana-Samadhi       meditation trance

Vipasyana               insight

Prajna                    wisdom

Dharma                  the path/truth

2             Kokoro No Ryo

verse on food for the heart/mind

Recite once each:

“Practicing the dharma includes food and clothes, but in food and clothes the practice of dharma is not found.”

“Monetary wealth is not a national treasure; a person who brightens a single corner is a national treasure.”

“The height of compassion is to welcome evil onto myself while giving good deeds to other people, and to forget myself while doing good for others.”

“By holding grudges and repaying with hatred, hatred never ends; but by repaying with virtue, hatred is completely exhausted. Rather than bearing grudges about the things happening in this long night’s dream called the world, cross the boundary into the dharma realm of the true Buddha.”

3             Method of entering the hall

Line up outside the hall.

Recite the Sange Mon (repentance verse) once:

“Ga Shaku Sho Zo Sho Aku Go, Kai Yu Mu Shi Ton Jin Chi, Ju Shin Go I Shi Sho Sho, Issai Ga Kon Kai Sange”

Translation: From beginningless time I have generated negative karma through my misdirected thoughts, words and deeds. I wish to acknowledge and atone for all.

Enter the hall…

 

Inside the meditation hall or spiritual practice area

4             San Rai

three prostrations

Recite three times, each time performing a grand prostration after each recitation:

“Isshin Chorai Jippo Hokai Joju Sanbo”

Translation: I the penitent come to make amends for my transgressions

Great Prostration: Stand in gassho, then move into the kneeling position with hands in Gassho, than lay on ground face down with hands straight out in front of you

5             Ten non-virtuous states of mind

the recitation on self-discipline

This is done individually. Contemplate:

Reflecting on my own life, I should abandon those heart-states in which bad actions accumulate, namely the realms of hells, animals, hungry ghosts, fighting entities, mundane life, heavens, evil spirits, Hinayana followers, professional priests, and conflicting emotions.

6             Godai Gan

five great vows

Recite:

“Shujo Muhen Segan Do Sentient beings are limitless. I vow to save them all.
Fukuchi Muhen Segan Shu Knowledge and wisdom are limitless. I vow to accumulate them all.
Homon Muhen Segan Gaku The dharmas are infinite. I vow to study them all.
Nyorai Muhen Segan Ji The tathagatas are endless. I vow to serve them all.
Mujo Bodai Segan Jo Supreme enlightenment is unsurpassed. I vow to attain it.
Goji Busshi Jodaigan” May this seeker of enlightenment fulfil these vows.

 

Note: The Tathagata means the accomplished one, an enlightened being, like a buddha. There are ten levels of bodhisattvaship until you reach the state of a buddha with the complete realisation of emptiness and compassion. The buddha himself had several incarnations as a bodhisattva (a being that is completely motivated by the wish to help others and no more interested in anything for himself), before he became the buddha.

Take your seat for meditation…

7             Entering samadhi

First, check one’s posture. If sitting in the half-lotus position, place the left leg over the right leg. Pull it close to the body, with the left toes and the right heel equally spaced. Loosen the belt and arrange the clothes neatly so as to cover the legs. Form the meditation mudra with the hands in the lap, right palm on top of the left palm, with the tips of the thumbs lightly touching, pulled close under the stomach. Twist the body left and right a number of times, coming to rest in a correct, straight posture. The backbone should not be curved, and the shoulders are thrown back. If the posture should relax, without hurrying, quickly correct it.

Clear the air passages, expelling muddy spirits. Exhale with the mouth open, releasing stagnant air slowly while leaning slightly forward. Don’t exhale quickly or slowly, but continue until you are satisfied. Breathe all defects out during exhalation, completely exhausting them. The straighten up again, and through the nose breathe in endless, pure spirit. Imagine it entering through the top of the head, in and out three times.

Then with the torso straight and relaxed, allow the diaphragm to move in tandem with the movement of air through the nose. Close the mouth, teeth lightly together, tongue against the upper palate. With the eyes half-closed to reduce the brightness of the outside light, let the line of sight fall about six feet in front.

Second, check the breathing. Listening to the sound of the in- and out-breaths, it should not be loud, not gasping or sucking in air, not jerky, puckering or sliding. Allow the breathing to remain in a natural state, as if in a closed system.

Third, check the activity of the thoughts. Separate the attention from the breathing and concentrate it at the red field. Abandon those thoughts outside the practice, such as gross thoughts, random thoughts, daydreaming, thoughts about emotional ups and downs, or relaxed and tense states.

Note: the red field is what you can see when you half close your eyelids and turn your eyes upwards.

8             Dwelling in samadhi

Observe the harmony of the Three Mysteries of the body, the breath and the thoughts. Note when the three are not in harmony, and continually apply mindfulness and recollection to again produce unity and harmony of the body, breath and thoughts. Rely on this practice to cross over. One sits single-pointedly, not being shaken by thoughts or activities of daily life, not even if enveloped in raging flames.

9             Exiting samadhi

First, release the mind from samadhi, and establish connections and relations. Next, open the mouth and breathe deeply so as to release the spirit. Next, move the body very slightly. Then move the hands, down over the arms with a sweeping motion from shoulder to fingertip (a la kenyoku), then returning the hand back up the arm, from the elbow to the shoulder and on over the neck, head, the neck and shoulder on the other side, finishing with a flourishing flick as you remove negative energy. Do the same with the other hand. Next, rub the pores of the whole body (rub your forearms), then rub the palms together, using warmth to cover the eyes. Next, open the eyes behind the palms. Finally, light incense or recite sutras depending on the time.

10          Method for leaving the hall

If there is time, recite sutras. This can be the Heart sutra, the Ten-verse Kannon sutra, portions of the Lotus sutra, the sutra of Saintly Fudo, or any other sutra you choose. You may also chant the Nembutsu and dedicate merit.

Finally, recite the San Rai (three prostrations) again, three times, each time performing a Grand Prostration.

“Isshin Chorai Jippo Joju Sanbo”

Depart the hall…

It’s interesting that while originating from the same root source (e.g., Lotus), Kūkai’s Shingon Buddhism eventually relegated the Lotus Sutra to an inferior category of the “exoteric”, whilst settling for more elaborate esoteric meditation techniques utilizing mudras, mandalas, chants and mantras, as well as an elaborate Fire Ritual known as the Goma. An example of this particular Shingon-based ritual is offered in our closing video.

Essentially these Esoteric Buddhist teachings of both Tendai and Shingon hold that the Cosmic Buddha, or his Dharmakaya-Body, is without beginning or end; yet equally pervading everywhere. In this sense the Buddha is not considered as a “historical-person”, but the innate Dharmakayic-Principle Itself manifesting in Sambhogakāyic-form. Through the aforementioned esoteric techniques, the aspiring adept is believed to actually align one’s body, speech, and mind with the Cosmic Buddha and thus Realize-Awakening. What occurred culturally through this development was that the former path to awakening—one that was tedious and linear in nature—now could be, through these esoteric-methods, self-realized in more direct-innate fashions.

The Nichiren School (Nichirenshū), took a different tactic altogether in utilizing the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren actually began his spiritual-career as a Tendai-monk, but eventually broke-away and formed his own unique approach. Both he and his devotees stressed the need for a unique form of practice that would be accessible to the masses. They took their lead from the familiar technique of Hōnen’s Pure-Land School—that of invoking the nenbutsu—or chanting the name of Amitābha (Amida in Japan) Buddha. Thus the Nichiren School taught their followers that simply having faith in the Lotus Sutra and chanting its sacred title (daimoku)—expressed in the formula Namu myōhō renge kyō (“Devotion to the Sūtra of the Lotus Blossom of the Wonderful Dharma”) one could attain enlightenment. The formula Namu myōhō renge kyō (prominently displayed in our previous blog-post) is similar in-tone to the indigenous Japanese Nature-Religion sound of the Kotodama—or “word-spirit.” I recognized this similarity since I am familiar with the Kotodama through my Reiki background (Reiki utilizes Kotodamas as part of its systematic development). The sound of both Kotodamas/ Namu myōhō renge kyō has a soothing and trance-like effect on the spirit. Hence, its mysticism is akin to this blog’s title, totally divorced from sensate-means, it’s a great Nichiren Night that envelops the Core-Light of the Lotus, as the senses melt away in a dark luminous-night as the spirit dissolves-away all afflictions of the clouded-mind.

Perhaps the greatest drawback to Nichirenism is that it not only stressed individual enlightenment, but that this religion could AND WOULD transform our present Saha-World into the ideal Buddha-land. Unfortunately this particular mindset took on a rather fanatical-shape in Japan during the Second World War—since the original teachings became so twisted as literally “Imperial Japan” was considered as being THE predominate Buddha-world. Happily, Nichirenism’s present-form today revolves around human development in general and ecological concerns.

This now concludes our series on the Lotus Sutra. We have seen just how comprehensive its significance holds for the Buddhist World. A truly cosmic-setting, with its all-inclusive sentient assembly being comprised of every shape and genetic variation throughout the Universe; the crucial significance of skillful means—expedient tools that are still being utilized by all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the ten directions; the singular-focus on the One-Vehicle, or one’s inherent Buddha-nature; Buddha Śākyamuni’s Authentic-Spirit and Spiritual-Career that far transcends any limited historical figure, but rather is akin to Esoteric Buddhism’s notion of the Cosmic Buddha; the Spiritual-Careers of diverse Bodhisattvas, who, like Avalokiteśvara, offers Compassionate-Transformations; the vast cultural-implementations of the Lotus, as in both Tendai and Shingon; all being bracketed, of course, with the admonition that devotion to the Lotus Sutra, both as text and as ritual tool, will assure lasting spiritual-protection and Joyous Enlightenment; truly a text to continually study and hold-in profound reverence.

As previously stated, the following video is representative of Shingon Buddhism (and its fire-ritual, Goma); it was created back in 2012, along with a series of others, in honor of my favorite Electronic, Avant-garde composer, Stomu Yamash’ta:

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