Monday, January 17, 2011

Nichiren Shoshu

I went to a Nichiren Shoshu intro meeting yesterday. They played a little bit of the PBS special on the The Buddha ( - also on Netflix). Afterwards, there was a Q&A session. I like the fact that the intro meeting didn't bash other Nichiren Buddhist paths. However, in talking to individual members, I found that they are quick to bring up the infamous NST / SGI split. Here are a few questions that were asked, the priest's answer, and then my comments.

Q: Is there a God / Divine figure in Buddhism? A creation story?
A: No. Buddhists are concerned with cause and effect. A Divine figure keeps people from taking responsibility for their own actions. As for the creation story, Buddhist aren't concerned with how we got here. The important thing is the here and now.

I agree with this for the most part. However, I believe in Goddess. Humans were created with free will. Whatever happens to us (as in humankind in general) is our own fault. God/dess does not give little kids cancer or cause bad things to happen to good people. One thing that I dislike is when a very young baby or child dies that God took him/her to be an angel. I know parents need comfort in time like this, but can they really think God is so cruel? The law of cause and effect would make better sense of this tragedy. Something happened (cause) that caused the child to die (effect). The Divine had nothing to do with it.

Q: Since Nichiren Shoshu believes that the priesthood is responsible for teaching the laypeople, is there proof of an unbroken High Priest succession from the beginning or is it based on faith? *my question :)*
A: The transfer ceremony is conducted between High Priest and his successor. The ceremony is secret, mystical. Therefore no one can say for sure that the line has been unbroken. It is based on faith.

I loved his answer! Lots of NS sites will point to this unbroken line of High Priests as one of the reasons why NS is true Buddhism. How can anyone know for sure?

Q: Are Buddhists vegetarian?
A: As far as Nichiren Shoshu is concerned, whether to eat meat or not is a personal decision. There is no doctrine for or against eating meat.

Again, great answer. What one eats is a personal choice. I believe that long long long time ago, we didn't eat meat but something happened to change that. I think humans at this point need meat to survive. However, I have nothing against vegetarians as long as they don't try to convert me.

Q: Is the High Priest line of succession similiar to the Tibetan Dali Lama line of succession?
A: The priest admitted that he didn't know much about Tibetan Buddhism. Buddhists believe in reincarnation. The next Dali Lama is chosen based on the new one retaining specific knowledge from his former life. The High Priest is not chosen in this way. The specific method of chosing the next high priest is unknown.

Well, I don't believe in reincarnation, at least, not right now.

All in all, it was a good meeting. I wish more new people had questions. I will continue studying Nichiren Shoshu but I will not be joining. It is too strict and orthodox for me.

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