I find that the practice of Nichiren Buddhism is scientific on the most part, except for the following little deviations. However, I have tried to defend/tried to find the logic behind these in this post. I believe that these concepts might seem cult-like and dogmatic in the beginning, but if one carefully reads the purpose behind them, they would find that they are not actually such. The philosophy actively shuns superstition and blind faith. Theoretic proof is emphasized on, by Nichiren Daishonin himself, which says that the doctrimes must be in line with reason and logic. Therefore, these concepts must be taken in good faith.
- The concept of religion: This one is a bit tricky because it is established that Nichiren Buddhism is a way of life and a practice, however many times Dr. Ikeda (President of thew SGI) has referred to Nichiren Buddhism as a world religion, and has often even payed respect to the institution of organized religion.
- Chanting to fix your problems:
I feel that this was because the Daishonin was Japanese so Nam myoho renege kyo wasn’t hard for him or his Japanese disciples to understand. When they chanted this mantra, they knew what they were saying. “Nam my oho renege kyo” means “I dedicate my life to the law of cause and effect/ I believe in the power of cause and effect” and therefore while chanting they were consciously making the determination to base their lives on this law. Hence, they would condition their mind to think in a cause and effect way making themselves more objective and capable of solving the problems they faced in their life with greater strength and resilience. Now the question arises, why don’t we just directly chant “I believe in the power of cause and effect” if it means the same thing?
They probably don’t want to change the “Core rituals” of the practice as prescribed, or have not realized this logic.
- Asking to stop strategizing with one’s mind and use the strategy of the lotus sutra instead: The strategy of the Lotus sutra is to chant about your problems, to gain wisdom to develop a higher perspective. Many might argue that this reduces the emphasis on brainstorming for solutions or taking action, but I think that it appeals to people who often overthink and don’t “let things happen”. This refers to events and situations that are not in one’s control.
- Belief in rebirth: As explained in the ceremony of the heir concept or in general as a principle, the philosophy does believe in past life karma. However, it is empowering in the sense that the purpose of the practice becomes to live in the present, fight that karma and emerge victorious.
- The concept of Gohonzon: An object of worship, is by definition a superstitious thing. However, they say that it is inside of you and the embodiment of your Buddhahood and highest potential, neither do they force you to get one immediately. They say from day one, that one must not seek the gohonzon outside themselvies and treat it as a representation of all the positive and negative forces in the universe.
- The concept of Buddhist gods: They say that these are not actual god gods. They are the positive forces or entities in your environment who help you achieve your goal or help you attain Buddhahood.
- The concept of Shakabuku: The first thing that would occur in a skeptic’s mind would be “forced conversion”, but one of the first principles of shakabuku is that the interested party’s parents and family must approve of them joining the practice, and that they don’t have to let go of the religion that they previously followed. Also, the spirit of Shakabuku is to help someone transform their negative circumstances into fuel for growth, and focusses a lot on individual agency, personal growth and success, because the practice itself is such. It is done as a way of showing compassion to others so that they enjoy the benefits of the practice that we have. It is philanthropic in the sense that we seek to impart the life skills we learn at the practice to another person so that they become self sufficient. Even President Ikeda emphasizes that Shakabuku must be a joyous activity and we should have fun sharing Buddhism with others. It should not be stressful.
- Engaging in “Kosen Rufu” activities in order to see positive results in your life and experience benefits: It could be taken as saying “if you don’t do the rituals, you will suffer”, which sounds very superstitious and is often even explained in that sense. But I agree with this because every time you attend a discussion meeting, Gosho study, do a home visit, you end up strengthening your faith, building good connects in your group, understanding the philosophy better and eventually end up empowering yourself in some way or the other, which has a significant positive effect on your life condition and your strength to deal with problems.