Guest Author - Linda J. Paul
Buddhism is a philosophy that is practiced today in many different parts of the world. Not that long ago, Buddhism was basically a practice that was adhered to in the Eastern world, primarily in India and Asia. But, with the advent of the internet and worldwide travel, Buddhism is drawing more and more followers from around the globe.
Shakyamuni (Gautama Siddartha), is known to be the historical founder of the teachings of Buddhism in India some 2,500 years ago.
Shakamuni was born into a royal family as a prince. But, his wealth did not bring him happiness. He embarked upon a spiritual quest that would allow him to understand why there was human suffering and how it could be ended. It was a quest that would lead him into poverty and near starvation. But, poverty did not bring him happiness either. So, in his despair, he sat down to meditate, refusing to move until he found the answer to his questions. This profound meditation awoke in him a deep, all encompassing understanding of life and of human nature. He became enlightened.
According to tradition he became known as the Buddha (awakened one), and traveled throughout India for nearly forty years sharing his wisdom, promoting peace, and teaching people how to recognize their suffering and how to put an end to that suffering. His teachings were recorded as sutras and spread throughout Asia. These teaching eventually gave rise to several distinct schools of Buddhism, with different ideas and concepts, but with the main core emphasis on peace and compassion.
Among these various sutras, the Lotus Sutra is widely regarded as one of the most important or sacred of the Buddhist scriptures.
The message of the Lotus Sutra is that all of us are capable of attaining Buddhahood, or the enlightenment of the Buddha. Buddhahood is a state of absolute happiness and freedom from fear. Achieving this state of Buddhahood allows all people to overcome problems and live in a state of peace and harmony with all living beings.
I must admit that I didn’t really know a whole lot about Buddhism until a few weeks ago. I attended a service that was hosted by a group called Soka Gakkai International. Two hours later, I emerged with a whole different view of Buddhism and a chant that has brought about a few amazing changes in my life.
The teachings of SGI revolve around a thirteenth century Japanese monk named Nichiren. Almost two thousand years after the death of Shakyamuni, Nichiren condensed the wisdom of the Lotus Sutra into a practice that would enable anyone to work toward achieving Buddhahood, or the highest state of life, even in the midst of the chaotic world in which we are currently living.
The teachings of Nichiren are based on the premise that each and every person has the power within them to overcome all of life’s challenges, to live a life of value, and to become a positive role model for those in their community, in their society, and even in the world.
Japanese society at the time of Nichiren’s birth in 1222, was filled with social unrest and natural disasters. The common people suffered most of all. Like Shakamuni before him, Nichiren found himself surrounded by a society immersed in suffering and chaos. He wondered why people had lost the vision that the original Buddhist teachings had provided for them. After an intensive study of the Buddhist sutras, Nichiren was convinced that the Lotus Sutra contained the very essence of the Buddha’s enlightenment and that it had the power to transform and heal the suffering and allow it to be replaced by peace, happiness and harmony.
Basically, the Lotus Sutra affirms that all people, regardless of gender, capacity or social standing, inherently possess the qualities of a Buddha, and are therefore equally worthy of utmost respect.
Based on his study of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren established a chant that would become a universal practice among his followers. Chanting Nam myoho-renge-kyo sends out a powerful message to the Universe and brings in strength and wisdom to the chanter. Myoho-renge-kyo is the title of the Lotus Sutra in it’s Japanese translation. But, to Nichiren, the words were an expression of the law of life.
Follow the link below to find out more about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.