Nichiren Buddhists, I am told, consider their faith to be the purest of all the Buddhist sects. Although this did stir a vague memory, and an explanation about Nichiren Buddhism being based on The Lotus Sutra and not having any gods, demons and hungry ghosts, such as are part of the New Kadampa Tradition, I thought I should investigate further.
Nichiren Shonin, as he was known in the early years, gave his first sermon to commemorate the completion of his studies to his master and fellow monks. In this sermon he shocked his audience by criticising the then popular form of Buddhism known as Pure Land. The Pure Land movement taught that Buddhahood could only be attained, after death in a heavenly pure land, by chanting the name of the Buddha of Infinite Light.
In place of this practice, Nichiren taught the practice of chanting the “Great Title” (daimoku) of the Lotus Sutra, which is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. He taught the chanting of daimoku as a practical and accessible way in which all people can realise the deepest truths of Buddhism.
He argued that, just as the name of a country can bring to mind all the characteristics of that country, so the title of the Lotus Sutra embodies all the merits and virtues of the Buddha expounded in the sutra. Nichiren taught that by chanting the daimoku, we can directly receive the ultimate truth of the Lotus Sutra from Shakyamuni Buddha and attain Buddhahood within our lifetime.
So maybe the claim about Nichiren Buddhists having the purest of faiths stems from the manner in which Nichiren stripped away all the embellishments of the other sects, to get back to Shakyamuni Buddha’s original teachings. This is not to say that these embellishments are without worth, but more that the simpler (purer) practice was accessible to many more people of lower status.
Thinking of our practice as purer, truer, better even, is not a very Buddhist way of looking at things. We should look at all aspects of all matters from all angles and without bias or preconceived ideas, in an enlightened manner you might say.
To use a modern idiom, we might say that Nichiren Buddhism is Buddhism Lite. It has all the core beliefs and the fundamentals of the philosophy without the adornments, the bells and whistles, that others sects have incorporated into their practice.
Before any argument or criticism ensues, I am not putting this idea forward as any form of value judgement, just my thoughts and ideas, from my mostly unenlightened view point. I have seen other sects from inside and out, I simply prefer the atheistic approach and the simple and accessible practice.
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo