Introduction

The translated volumes in this library are based on the Japanese works Nichiren Daishonin gosho zenshū (The Complete Works of Nichiren Daishonin) and Myōhō-renge-kyō narabi-ni kaiketsu (The Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law as well as its Opening and Closing Sutras), both published by the Soka Gakkai.

The Nichiren Daishonin gosho zenshū comprises the treatises and correspondences of the thirteenth-century Japanese Buddhist teacher Nichiren, presented in their original language.

The Myōhō-renge-kyō narabi-ni kaiketsu consists of the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit Saddharama-pundarīka-sūtra (The Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law) produced by the fourth-century translator-monk Kumārajīva. It also includes the Muryōgi-kyō (The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra) and the Fugen-kyō (The Universal Worthy Sutra), regarded respectively as the prologue and epilogue to the Lotus Sutra.

The English works in this library reflect the most recent editions of translations the Soka Gakkai has produced over many decades.

Buddhism began in India with Shakyamuni Buddha, also known as Gautama or Siddhārtha. Shakyamuni’s words and actions, embodying his wisdom and compassion, came to be recorded in scriptures called sutras. In time, various Buddhist tenets and interpretations developed from these sutras.

Around the beginning of the first century ce, a new Buddhist movement called Mahayana gained momentum and gave rise to a number of scriptures. The Lotus Sutra, which emerged within this tradition, revealed that all people inherently possess a Buddha’s state of wisdom and taught the way by which all people can attain Buddhahood, or enlightenment. It conveyed Shakyamuni’s original and most fundamental wish: that all people be able to actualize for themselves an immovable state of happiness and help others do the same. It also clarified the essence of the Buddha’s teaching, providing a way for people to fundamentally resolve their troubles and suffering.

In India, the Buddhist philosophers Nāgārjuna and Vasubandhu contributed greatly to the development of Mahayana thought and left behind works that elucidated the philosophy intrinsic to the Lotus Sutra. This philosophy was transmitted to East Asia. In China around the sixth century, Zhiyi (the Great Teacher Tiantai), and in the eighth century, Zhanran (the Great Teacher Miaole), made clear in their works the preeminence of the Lotus Sutra’s teachings in contrast with those of the other Buddhist sutras. In the ninth century, Saichō (the Great Teacher Dengyō) transmitted this philosophy to Japan and endeavored to teach and establish it in Japanese society.

In this way, over many centuries and throughout diverse regions and cultures, people came to accept and believe in the Lotus Sutra. In the process, the principles and philosophy derived from the Lotus Sutra became refined and universalized, leading to a richer, deeper, and broader appreciation of its teachings.

Nichiren lived in 13th century Japan, a society wrought with turmoil and confusion. He empathized deeply with the people’s suffering and searched for a solution, finding it in the Lotus Sutra and it’s teaching that the condition of society can be improved by bringing to blossom the limitless potential in all people.

Nichiren resolved to build a foundation of genuine human happiness and respect for the dignity of human life upon which a peaceful and secure society could be realized. He dedicated himself fully, as the Lotus Sutra taught, to the work of encouraging people and enabling them to revitalize their lives. To this end, he established the practice of chanting the phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the Law expressed in the title of the Lotus Sutra, and inscribed as an object of devotion the Gohonzon (a mandala formed of the characters Nam-myoho-renge-kyo surrounded by characters for the names of key figures related to Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra). In this way, he established the Lotus Sutra’s most essential principle as a basis for Buddhist practice, providing a concrete means for all people to develop the life-state of Buddhahood.

The Lotus Sutra and the works of Nichiren based upon it were written down in ages far removed from our own. It is natural, then, that their content reflects and is in some manner framed by the values and cultural orientation of the people of those times.

Their essential message, on the other hand, transcends ages and cultures. Throughout the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren’s writings we find passages that beautifully express principles both universal and timeless. For example, Nichiren writes, “The sufferings that all living beings undergo . . . —all these are Nichiren’s own sufferings” (WND-2, 934). These words, imbued with deep compassion and resolve, express his strong wish for the happiness of all people.

Nichiren also writes, “Even if it seems that, because I was born in the ruler’s domain, I follow him in my actions, I will never follow him in my heart” (WND-1, 579). In modern terms, we might describe this statement as a declaration of the principles of religious and spiritual freedom.

The Soka Gakkai has revived this humane teaching of Nichiren in our times and has shared it on a global scale as a universal philosophy for the happiness of all humankind. It has taken on the suffering of ordinary people throughout the world and persisted in encouraging them, revealing as a fundamental source of hope the idea that all people possess within their lives the supremely noble nature of a Buddha. The Soka Gakkai grounds itself in the conviction that the purpose of religion is none other than the happiness of all people and peace throughout the world and that religion must exist for people and not the other way around.

In recent years, Buddhist scholarship, including research into the Lotus Sutra and the writings of Nichiren, has progressed considerably. Awareness has developed in many areas that affect translation and editorial choices. For instance, the Chinese personal names, place names, and names of works in these volumes are spelled in the traditional Wade-Giles system of Romanization. Today, however, the Pinyin system of Chinese romanization is becoming widely accepted as a global standard. In the future, we would like to adopt the Pinyin system and also incorporate in these materials changes reflecting further advances in scholarship.

Our heartfelt wish is that this library will serve to enrich the faith and understanding of those who practice Nichiren Buddhism and enable many others to discover the wisdom and universal value of Nichiren’s philosophy. We hope thereby to contribute in some small way to furthering the peace and happiness of humanity.

 

November 18, 2013
The Nichiren Buddhism Library Committee

 

 

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