|By: John Ankerberg, John Weldon; ©2000|
|According to Daishonin, the cause of all unhappiness is evil religion, which, more or less, constituted all other religious interpretations apart from his own.|
According to Daishonin, the cause of all unhappiness is evil religion, which, more or less, constituted all other religious interpretations apart from his own. Shakubuku (to break and subdue) is one NS term descriptive of his attitude toward other religion. Shakubuku is the forceful method of conversion, whereas shoju is the more moderate approach. According to Harry Thomsen, author of The New Religions of Japan, "Nichiren maintained that to kill heretics is not murder, and that it is the duty of the government to extirpate heresy with the sword."
Shakubuku is considered an act of great love and mercy, because it breaks the evil religion of the person being converted. The second president, Josei Toda, stated on May 3, 1951, "Kosenrufu [mass conversion] of today can be attained only when all of you take on evil religions and convert everyone in the country and let him accept a Gohonzon."
Professor Noah S. Brannen, author of Soka Gakkai: Japan's Militant Buddhists, states that Shakubuku, "designates intolerant propaganda and pressure to produce a forced conversion....[it] often employs a technique of intimidation carried out in a very systematic manner." Although the practice has allegedly been modified, Brannen and others list earlier incidents of threats of injury against a prospective convert and family members, actual beatings, cases of arson, and so on.
Perhaps it is not surprising that, despite attempts at accommodation, hostility toward Christianity has remained a feature of the writings of Nichiren Shoshu and President Ikeda. Regrettably, Christianity is often misrepresented and then attacked as an inferior and irrational belief. Thus, in the authoritative NS literature the major doctrines of Christianity are described as follows: "unscientific nonsense"; "stupid superstition"; "ridiculous"; "fantasy"; "irrational"; "morbid"; "shallow," and so forth.
NS believes "[the Christian] God is dead..." and "it is apparent that Christian life has, in fact, repeated every kind of atrocity." The Genesis doctrine of creation is "foolish and childish." Heaven is seen as "an enticement toward some illusionary paradise." Under a belief in absolute monotheism, "the people are powerless beings."
In essence, being a Christian only brings "bad karma." Relying upon Jesus Christ for salvation will "ultimately lead to confusion." Christian teachings are "destructive of people's happiness." And, referring to the Christian concepts of God and salvation, we are told there is no need to seek salvation outside ourselves in the Christian God, nor is there any reason to believe in Him, nor is there any need for the concept of God's grace. As professor N.S. Brannen observes, "Christianity is the universal non-Buddhist religion singled out for attack."
Nichiren Shoshu replaces God with an impersonal omnipresent essence which eternally fluctuates in cycles of manifestation and dormancy. Practically speaking, Nichiren Shoshu is an atheistic system, for any concept of a personal God is irrelevant and, to their way of thinking, spiritually harmful.
Nichiren Shoshu teaches that "Life has no beginning; therefore it was not created by God," and, "God is not the Creator....Our life is not given to us by our parents, and is not either given by God."
Perhaps the clearest expression of their humanistic theology is given in The Complete Works of Daisku Ikeda, volume 1. There it simply, if succinctly, states: "God is nothing but man" (cf. Jer. 17:5; Ps. 9:15, 20; 10:3-4).
While it is true NS rejects the Christian concept of God, it is also clear that the mystical life essence ("the very source of the universe") is divinized, and that the Gohonzon is the visible expression of it. Thus, while the biblical God is ridiculed as a myth, the Gohonzon is deified and worshipped.
Even though common sense tells us that the Gohonzon is merely a piece of paper (Nichiren Shoshu stresses that it is a religion of common sense), throughout Nichiren Shoshu writings we find that it is constantly worshipped, personalized, held to be eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and the ultimate source of everything; that it alone saves, supports, protects, purifies and physically heals the believer, that it answers prayer, forgives sin, punishes evil and gives great wisdom. It alone can bring happiness and good fortune. It is the Savior of the world and anxiously awaits the world's worship. To slander or disbelieve in the Gohonzon is to fall into the lowest hell: "Nothing can surpass the Gohonzon"; "All of us are children of the Gohonzon"; "The Gohonzon witnesses everything"; "The Gohonzon's blessings are as vast as the universe"; "The Gohonzon's mercy is equal to all."
Statements about Jesus Christ are usually general and given within a Buddhist context. For example, "Because of his love, Jesus of Nazareth is comparable to a Bodhisattva," that is, one full of compassion who sacrifices himself to help others attain "enlightenment" (i.e., Buddhahood). Thus, Nichiren Shoshu rejects the biblical portrait of Christ's person and mission, His unique deity (John 1:1, 3:16, 18; 10:30, 33) and His atoning death (Matt. 26:28; Eph. 1:7). For example, "Jesus died on the Cross. This fact shows that he was defeated by opposition, whatever interpretation posterity may have given to this fact...."
While the Bible teaches, "there is one God and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:15), who is "the Savior of all men" (1 Tim. 4:10), Nichiren Shoshu teaches it is Nichiren who is "the true Savior of mankind." Only he is to be worshipped through the Gohonzon, as he reflects the true Buddha.
According to Nichiren Shoshu, "Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism alone can save all of the people." But what is salvation? In its true essence, salvation is humanistic, not theological. Salvation is equivalent to lasting personal happiness or satisfaction ("Buddhahood"); it does not involve deliverance from sin and spiritual death as Christianity maintains (Eph. 2:1-4). In a nutshell, "salvation" is from suffering, ignorance and unhappiness and results from appropriating the supposed Buddha nature within, achieved by the spiritual mechanics of Nichiren Shoshu: "The true intention of the Daishonin is to save the whole world through the attainment of each individual's happiness in life."
The biblical concept of atonement (Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 2:22) is rejected on multiple grounds. First, the Christian God is held to be a myth and so Christianity's teaching on the atoning death of Christ--God's Son--is also held to be a myth. There is no Christian God who exists--so he could not, in fact, have a Son to give. Thus, "faith in the saving power of Christ is fundamental to every Christian teaching....Buddhism paints a vastly different picture."
Second, the concept of the miraculous is rejected. The idea of a divine incarnation or of a God who intervenes in history is seen as "irrational, unscientific nonsense." Yet salvation in Christianity is miraculous from start to finish as can be seen in the doctrines of Christ's miraculous birth, ministry, death and resurrection, ascension, intercession, and Second Coming.
Third, the concept of substitutionary death for man's sins violates the heart of major Buddhist doctrine, such as the law of karma,--the relationship between cause the effect, and the necessity to atone for one's own misdeeds by repayment.
Fourth, the idea of the Christian atonement is innately repugnant to Buddhists since it implies that ultimate reality is somehow linked to suffering, the very thing Buddhists work so diligently to eradicate. In the Buddhist universe, suffering is an illusion to be dispensed with, forever vanquished by absorption into the ultimate reality of a blissful, if impersonal, nirvana. It is not something that can be related to ultimate reality ("God") in any way.
In conclusion, Nichiren Shoshu clearly offers a system of salvation by merit and personal effort. God is an entirely irrelevant consideration. By chanting, one removes karma, becomes happy and, finally, attains Buddhahood ("eternal happiness"--although not in a personal, individual sense). All this is why President Ikeda emphasizes, "We must seek the source of the meaning in life within man himself, instead of finding it in another transcendental being, God."
Nevertheless, Jesus Himself taught: "This is eternal life, that they may know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent" (John 17:3). And, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life: (John 8:12).