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Ensapa

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Practicing Nichiren Buddhism at SJSU
« on: April 21, 2013, 10:29:50 AM »
Here's an article on Nichiren Buddhism, a Japanese Buddhist sect which has 4 subsects: Nichiren, Nichiren Shu, Nichiren Soshu and Sokka Gakkai. Be educated of the different Buddhist traditions!

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Practicing Nichiren Buddhism at SJSU

by Stephanie Wong
Apr 10, 2013 12:57 pm
 
What comes to mind when you think of Buddhism?
Monks? Temples? Chanting? Peace?
All those aspects are a part of the religion, but there are various types of Buddhism that exist.

History of Buddhism:
Buddhism is a religion with followers all over the world, and according to the website BuddhaNet, there are different types because the emphasis changes from one country to another based on the culture and customs of people who practice it.
According to the BuddhistCoach website, Buddhism has evolved from different phases such as early Buddhism, the Mahayana, the Vajrayana and contemporary Buddhism.
Within these phases, it is stated on the BuddhistCoach website that there are many different types of Buddhism including Theravada, Zen, Nichiren, Tibetan and more.
According to the BuddhaNet website, Buddhism has been reinterpreted over and over again so that the teachings are still relevant to current generations.

Nichiren Buddhism at SJSU:
Soka Lions is a Buddhist organization at SJSU whose members practice Nichiren Buddhism, according to Yvonne Yamasaki, a senior graphic design major who is involved in the organization.
According to Yamasaki, “Nichiren Buddhism has a worldwide network called the Soka Gakkai International.”
Yamasaki said The Soka Gakkai International was founded in 1975 with roots in Japan.
Nichiren Buddhism is based on teachings from Daishonin Nichiren , a thirteenth-century Buddhist monk, and his interpretation of the Lotus Sutra.
According to Minako Nishiyama, a graduate student in environmental studies involved in Soka Lions, Buddhism started 2,500 years ago.
“We don’t have a God,” Nishiyama said. “We believe the most powerful life force is within each being.”
She said members don’t pray to God, but rather try to manifest their true potential within themselves.
She also said that those who practice Nichiren Buddhism don’t separate themselves from society like monks do, but “go into society and communicate” instead.
According to Nishiyama, the three fundamental elements that Nichiren Buddhism encourages members to have are: a balance of faith, practice and study.
She said having faith in Buddhism means that one believes in the power of their own lives as well as the lives of others.
“Even if we practice or study, if we do not have a strong faith, we cannot manifest a true benefit,” she said.
According to Nishiyama, the element of practice refers to chanting daily as well as teaching others about their Buddhist practice.
She said helping others “establish their Buddhist practice … creates fulfilling lives.”
Nishiyama said the study element refers to reading the works of Nichiren Daishonin to better understand Buddhist teachings.
“We apply the philosophy into our daily life activities,” she said.

Chanting:
According to Nishiyama, when members of the Soka Lions get together, they chant to strengthen their faith, practice and study.
She said during the chants, the words that are chanted are, “nam-myoho-renge-kyo.”
According to Yamasaki, this phrase can be broken down into small parts that help to define the entire phrase itself.
She said “nam” means “to devote oneself.”
“Myoho” literally means “mystic law,” which she said is, “the underlying truth or principle which governs the mysterious workings of the universe and our life from moment to moment. ‘Myoho’ refers to the very essence of life which is ‘invisible’ and beyond intellectual understanding.”
According to Yamasaki, “renge” means “lotus flower,” which “blooms and produces seeds at the same time and represents the simultaneity of cause and effect.”
“Kyo” literally means “sutra,” she said, which is the teaching of Buddha.
According to Nishiyama, “nam-myoho-renge-kyo” altogether means, “a devotion of my life to the mystic law.”
Nishiyama said happiness can be established by chanting this phrase.
Juzu beads can be held while chanting, which according to Yamasaki, symbolizes one’s Buddhist spirit.
“Holding them in our hands is a metaphor for having the power over your happiness and being able to transform your life with Buddhist practice,” Yamasaki said.
Nishiyama said she holds juzu beads when she chants, and that they help her to concentrate on chanting.
When the Soka Lions get together for their monthly meetings in the Student Union, they chant in front of a scroll, which according to Nishiyama, is an object of devotion called a Gohonzon.
“Nichiren inscribed the Gohonzon to serve as a mirror to reflect our innate, enlightened nature … the intangible aspect of our lives,” she said.
She said followers of Nichiren Buddhism are taught that those who see Buddha as separate from themselves will not be able to realize their full potential.
“When we chant to the Gohonzon, we do not expect the scroll in our altars to fulfill our wishes … we chant to reveal the power of our own enlightened wisdom,” Nishiyama said.
Yamasaki said she chants once a day and usually in the mornings.
She said while she is chanting, her goals are what crosses her mind. However, the point is not to think about things while chanting, but just to relax and meditate.

Buddhism as a way of life:
“(Chanting) gives my life balance and makes me responsible for my choices … the core values of compassion, creating value, diversity, peace and interconnectedness has manifested my life,” she said.
Yamasaki said she grew up with Buddhism and the Soka Gakkai was a support system for her family.
She said she has built many strong relationships with people and has learned many things about life and struggle because of Buddhism.
“This practice gave me the focus and confidence to overcome tremendous hurdles in my life,” she said. “It helps me channel all of my desires and make them reality by building my confidence.”
Nishiyama said as a campus organization, the Soka Lions do not solely get together to chant, but the members also have discussions about any personal experiences or difficulties they’d like to share with each other, as well as studying Buddhism philosophy together.
She said those who practice Nichiren Buddhism all over the world have these kinds of discussions during meetings.
“As students … we focus more on how Buddhism can help us in our lives,” she said.
According to Nishiyama, Soka Lions meetings consist of games or hands-on activities as well as off-campus activities such as community outreach.
She said members of the Soka Lions organization meet every Wednesday morning in the Student Union at 10 a.m. to chant together for half an hour.
She also said although the organization of mostly SJSU students, people in the local community are also members and everyone is welcome.
“(Nichiren Buddhism) overall makes me a more positive person,” Yamasaki said.