Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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KiwiNFLFan
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Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by KiwiNFLFan » Mon Apr 23, 2018 12:58 am

I started practicing Nichiren Buddhism (SGI) late last year, but this year got involved with Theravada Buddhism and took the Triple Refuge a couple of weeks ago. I feel that Theravada is the more authentic Buddhism (and SGI has been accused of not being really Buddhist), but I still have friends at the SGI centre.

My question is: is it possible to practice both Theravada Buddhism and still do Nichiren Buddhist chanting? For those who aren't familiar with Nichiren Buddhism, it was started in the 13th century in Japan by a Buddhist monk ('priest") called Nichiren. Nichiren taught that the Lotus Sutra is the supreme and final teaching of the Buddha, and that Shakyamuni Buddha's teachings have lost their power to save people. Nichiren is typically regarded as the "Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law", and he is said to be the Buddha in the Triple Gem. Their practice involves chanting the mantra 'Nam Myoho Renge Kyo' (homage to the Lotus Sutra) and reciting portions of the Sutra (including part of the 16th chapter which talks about the Eternal Buddha). They do not do meditation as part of their regular practice.

So is it possible to be a Theravada Buddhist and still go along and chant and meet with the people? Also, would saying the prayer thye have where one pays respect to Nichiren as the 'Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law' invalidate one's refuge? (I won't say it again but I have previously).

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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by DNS » Mon Apr 23, 2018 1:51 am

I suppose one could practice both. In regards to the doctrines of both traditions, that might be more difficult to mix. The Lotus Sutra is somewhat critical of Theravada, believing the path of arahantship to be "inferior" to the way of the bodhisattva.

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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by pilgrim » Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:00 am

It depends how far or deep one is practising each . Theravada is Sila , Samadhi, Panna. The Sila part has much overlap with other religions and philosophies. The Samadhi less and when it comes to Panna, none.

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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by rightviewftw » Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:07 am

I am pretty sure anybody could chant anything and it would be a valid concentration exercise.
Last edited by rightviewftw on Mon Apr 23, 2018 2:14 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by JamesTheGiant » Mon Apr 23, 2018 3:47 am

In my experience Nichiren is all about getting stuff, chanting FOR things. Whereas Theravada is all about relinquishing, letting go.
There seems to be a fundamental difference... not sure how you'd do both?
But if you can combine the two somehow, well done! May it bring you happiness, whatever you do.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by Lucas Oliveira » Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:00 pm

Seeing for Yourself

This incident was one of many that taught Ajaan Fuang some important lessons: that you had to test things for yourself, to see where the instructions had to be taken literally and where they had to be taken figuratively; that you had to judge for yourself how well you were doing; and that you had to be ingenious, experimenting and taking risks to find ways to deal with problems as they arose.

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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by dharmacorps » Mon Apr 23, 2018 4:08 pm

You have to ask yourself I suppose, if as you say Theravada is more authentic, and you want to pursue liberation above all, why practice both?

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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by Yan kong » Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:13 pm

Are you continuing with SGI and Nichiren groups simply because you're part of their social circles? If you're just going through the motions and not praying with any sincerity or faith then I wouldn't worry as it doesn't seem like you're practicing Nicheren Buddhism.

If you do have faith in Nichiren (and here I mean the priest from Japan) bit not in his doctrine then I think you've got some soul searching to do.

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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by Yan kong » Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:17 pm

JamesTheGiant wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 3:47 am
In my experience Nichiren is all about getting stuff, chanting FOR things. Whereas Theravada is all about relinquishing, letting go.
There seems to be a fundamental difference... not sure how you'd do both?
But if you can combine the two somehow, well done! May it bring you happiness, whatever you do.
It's not, I'm no fan of Nichiren but his teachings are not this.

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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by rightviewftw » Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:12 pm

I want to add that although some of their techniques might be valid for development of concentration and whatnot i would be making sure not to adopt their wrong views and be careful when entertaining the heretic ideas.
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Tyranny of Words - An Introduction to General Semantics
Dhammatalks categorized by topic @ video.sirimangalo.org/
Ledi Sayadaw's Anapana Dipani (Samatha) @ ffmt.fr/articles/maitres/LediS/anapana-dipani.ledi-sayadaw.pdf
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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by JamesTheGiant » Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:07 pm

Yan kong wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 5:17 pm
JamesTheGiant wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 3:47 am
In my experience Nichiren is all about getting stuff, chanting FOR things. Whereas Theravada is all about relinquishing, letting go.
There seems to be a fundamental difference... not sure how you'd do both?
But if you can combine the two somehow, well done! May it bring you happiness, whatever you do.
It's not, I'm no fan of Nichiren but his teachings are not this.
I apologise, I only did the SGI thing for two months, and that's what I learned. We were encouraged to chant for a new car, and a girlfriend.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:55 pm

JamesTheGiant wrote:
Mon Apr 23, 2018 9:07 pm
I apologise, I only did the SGI thing for two months, and that's what I learned. We were encouraged to chant for a new car, and a girlfriend.
Back in the 1980s, I had a friend called Clive who worked in a day centre for people with mental health problems. He used to talk about a female colleague who was into Nichiren Shoshu and would actually do the chanting at work. She said she was chanting for the welfare of the day centre attendees, for her own success and prosperity, and for world peace. Clive was very liberal in outlook, and had no objections so long as the clients didn't get upset, but thought it was a bit of an exotic waste of time.

One day he told me of something that had happened which had left him in a mild state of shock. Clive and the colleague had taken a group of clients out in the day centre's minibus and it had got a flat tyre in a busy part of South London. Being a practical sort of bloke, he got the jack and the spare wheel, only to find that the spare was also flat. This was before mobile phones, and the clients were beginning to get distressed and noisy, and he was trying to formulate a plan. Meanwhile, his colleague's response was to sit herself down on the pavement and do her chanting. Clive thought this was less than helpful, and was getting hot and frazzled enough to tell her so.

Until, that is, a complete stranger with a similar van stopped, got out with a spare wheel and jack, and cheerfully set to work fixing the problem. He chatted like any helpful motorist doing a good turn might do, then just jumped back in his vehicle and drove off, leaving them with the functioning wheel.

Happy coincidence? It made Clive wonder, at any rate...

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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by Dhammarakkhito » Tue Apr 24, 2018 3:34 am

i listened to tina turner chanting when i did too much acid and what a horrible experience
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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by KiwiNFLFan » Tue Apr 24, 2018 10:04 am

Thanks for the replies.

Yes, I am more concerned with staying in the social circles of the SGI. I have found their particular interpretation of Buddhism to be quite far removed from other forms of Buddhism. Every month there is a study session where we study a magazine article with portions of the Gosho (the writings of Nichiren). But we've never even studied the Lotus Sutra in a group, let alone any of the Pāli Canon or other Mahayana sutras.

Chanting to get material things does seem very much contrary to the teachings of the Buddha, who taught renunciation of attachments. The president of the SGI, Daisaku Ikeda, said that Buddhism concerns itself with winning. The Dhammapada, on the other hand, says: "Winning gives birth to hostility. Losing, one lies down in pain. The calmed lie down with ease, having set winning & losing aside" (Dhammapada 15)

I think I'll still go to the meetings from time to time, but I won't be praying the silent prayer that calls Nichiren "the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law". Would already having done so invalidate one's refuge, though?

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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Apr 24, 2018 10:20 am

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 10:04 am

I think I'll still go to the meetings from time to time, but I won't be praying the silent prayer that calls Nichiren "the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law". Would already having done so invalidate one's refuge, though?
No, I don't think anything done in the past can "invalidate one's refuge". There might be kammic consequences, but when we go for refuge we signal our intention to trust in the Triple Gem from that time onward.

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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by narhwal90 » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:04 am

I've been in SGI for ages, recently have been also pursing zen but have not found a local sanga yet (a few more to visit). I don't mix the daimoku/gongyo with zazen, but do one or the other and try to do both in a given week. I really like the zen instruction on observing and handling the mind, nothing like that is found in SGI (or the old NSA) instruction OTOH the energy and determination that the Nichiren practice brings is most helpful. I like the Theravadan practices- I really like the scholarship and lectures from the bikkhu's, have pursued that a bit too but it looks like I respond more strongly to the zen side of things.

The SGI angle has been a difficulty for me for 30 years, I don't click with the organization and the tiny walled-garden sort of study methods they use tend to leave one profoundly ignorant of buddhism in general- and frankly even Nichiren too. OTOH debts of gratitude are for reals, the SGI makes a lot of material available and I do have a number of friends there.

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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by Yan kong » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:43 am

There are other schools devoted to Nichiren, but I think they would revolve almost exclusively around the study of the Lotus sutra.

If you find meaning in the Lotus suits then I'd say it was important in both Japan and China and there are other schools that study it along with other Sutras.

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Re: Practicing both Theravada and Nichiren Buddhism

Post by JamesTheGiant » Tue Apr 24, 2018 7:15 pm

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Tue Apr 24, 2018 10:04 am
Every month there is a study session where we study a magazine article with portions of the Gosho (the writings of Nichiren). But we've never even studied the Lotus Sutra in a group, let alone any of the Pāli Canon or other Mahayana sutras.
Yes, I did this with SGI too.
When I asked about studying the Lotus Sutra, or other sutras, I was told: "First we study and 100% understand the writings of Nichiren. When we fully understand him, we can study the Lotus Sutra. When you fully understand the Lotus Sutra you can read other sutras. But really there is no need to read any Sutras. Nichiren's writings are complete."
I asked them about the 4 noble truths and the 8-fold path, and the response was "Ah yes I've heard of them..."
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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