Honoring the Buddhist Saints of India and Japan - the closest allies
Rev. Naka is an expert on Prince Shotoku is one of our advisers in our bid to bring back authenticity to the Dharma for Asian youth
Nichiren was the most persecuted and yet the most influential monk on a global scale in the last 1000 years as Lotus Sutra Buddhism is by far the most widely practiced school of Buddhism all over the world. Most Japanese people today are not too concerned with the different sects and often pray in a more general manner. The Supreme Goddess Kannon is the most widely beloved Divinity worshiped by all Buddhist sects of Japan and the Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra is the most widely chanted sutra. As per Chapter 25, Kannon, Amida and the Lotus Sutra are the most popular icons of Japanese Buddhism. Kannon is seen as the Universal God-like Being who has Limitless power to save all, Amida is seen as the Eternal Buddha sitting in Kannon's crown and the Lord of the Heavens. The Lotus Sutra is seen as the Ultimate teaching that is the very body of the historic Buddha Shakyamuni. All sects agree that these deities are interchangeable manifestations of each other as skillful means to inspire each believer as per their level of understanding....
We have great respect for all Buddhist Saints but the following hold a special place in our practice:
1] King Ashoka: The founder of Buddhism, whose construction of 84000 stupas, elaborate decor of the Sanchi Stupa, enhancing the Mahabodhi Temple with images of Kannon and edicts about being a Father to all showed a great influence and symbolism of the Lotus Sutra. The National Emblem of India is based on the Buddha's Lion throne mentioned in the Lotus Sutra which has also inspired India's freedom fighters. Mahatma Gandhi placed the Lotus Sutra as the Highest Text during his prayer services. Netaji's ashes are kept in a temple dedicated to the Lotus Sutra and Ambedkar promoted the egalitarian approach of empowering all laity instead of monks - as taught in the Lotus Sutra. The Buddhist Goddess Avalokiteshwara and Her powerful form Vajrapani both from the Lotus Sutra are the stars of the Ajanta Caves, Mahabodhi Temple and Nalanda Museum and all major temples all over the world.
2] Bodhidharma: The coolest Buddhist monk in history and arguably most beloved Buddhist after the Buddha Himself. He is also seen as the Founder of Shaolin Kung Fu and Patron Saint of Samurai Warriors. Referred to in texts as the "wall-gazing (Buddhist) Baramon" for being able to meditate for 9 years at a stretch, Bodhidharma is the symbol of Persistence as seen in the Daruma dolls that are the most popular items for Japanese Buddhists of all traditions. There are more artworks of Bodhidharma in museums than any other Buddhist monk and He is often seen as a human manifestation of the Highest Buddhist Divinity Kannon/ Kwan Yin as per Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra. The Shaolin Temple places the highest emphasis on Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra and has halls dedicated to the main Bodhisattvas of the Lotus Sutra. Bodhidharma is believed to have resurrected from his coffin and to have traveled to the Heaven of Amida upon death where the majority of Buddhists of Asian nations pray to be reborn. As Bodhidharma's disciple Huike cut off his left hand to prove his allegiance, we do Gassho or Namaste with only our right hand.
3] Nalanda University: The cradle of Buddhist civilization and ground zero for the Buddhist holocaust, Nalanda got its very name from the Lotus Sutra. The Nalanda Museum is full of imagery from the Lotus Sutra including the largest object which is a multi-armed statue of Kannon Avalokiteshwara - the Supreme God/Goddess. Nalanda is the world's first international university where students from around the world came to study Mahayana (Mainstream) Buddhism.
4] Prince Shotoku - Father of Yamato (Japanese) Buddhism. Used the Lotus Sutra to found the world's oldest constitution and create the first written text in Japan. Shotoku built the first official Buddhist temple in Japan called Shitennoji and dedicated to Almighty Kannon. Shotoku is honored as the Father of Japanese Buddhism by all Buddhist sects of Japan sans exception. Shotoku's translation of the Lotus Sutra from Sanskrit to Japanese is the oldest written document in Japan and in his honor we chant the Lotus Sutra in Sanskrit which was Shotoku's favorite language. Shotoku also favored the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra which is why we emphasize the laity and the Srimala Sutra which is how we promote girl power.
5] Honen, Shinran & Genshin: The great Japanese monk who ensured that Buddhism would not be a minority religion only for the intelligentsia but for commoners as well. By focusing on faith in the Savior Amida as well as His Trinity of All-merciful Kannon and Almighty Seishi -- Honen was able to make Buddhism accessible to all people regardless of their education or lineage. Honen's disciple Shinran continued his work and created the largest school of Buddhism in Japan today. Both Honen and Shinran were influenced by the Tendai monk Genshin who fused both the Lotus Sutra and the Nembutsu as the 2 pillars of Japanese Buddhism. Both Honen and Shinran were relentlessly mocked and persecuted in their lifetimes - to become larger than life legends after death.
6] Nichiren - born Zennichimaro, he is arguably the most influential monk in the last 1000 years and the foremost Lotus Sutra missionary in history. Nichiren is also the founder of the fastest growing school of Buddhism worldwide and easily the most diverse school of Buddhism with practitioners in all nations from India and Japan to Brazil and Argentina. Nichiren Buddhists also played an important role in rebuilding Buddhist temples in India & in making the Lotus Sutra well known all over the world. Nichiren is honored as the reincarnation of Jogyo Bosatsu or Visistacharita. As Buddhist monks and scholars often make up their own Buddhist doctrines, Nichiren brought a sense of discipline by upholding the Lotus Sutra as the bottom-line authority and this no-nonsense approach has reinvigorated Buddhism in Japan and worldwide. Nichiren was also known for being relentlessly persecuted by the enemies of Buddhism and no matter how they maligned him, Nichiren never gave up his faith in the Lotus Sutra. While Nichiren suffered great opposition and defamation as well as even attempts on his life, his legacy stands the test of time as today, no other Buddhist prophet has as many diverse followers all over the world. Further, the chant Namu Myoho Renge Kyo is easily the most popular Buddhist chant in diverse Buddhist communities all over the world and this is directly due to the popularity of Nichiren. It is based on the Sanskrit version of the Lotus Sutra written by Kumarajiva - himself a Buddhist of Brahmin lineage who was also jailed & persecuted but whose translation of the Lotus Sutra is perhaps the most important text in Asian history as a trip to any Asian Art Museum can prove.
7] Huen Tsang: The great Chinese traveler who went to Nalanda in order to collect the key manuscripts and then translate them into Chinese. He faced many storms and great adversity during his journey, which he overcame by faith in Almighty Kannon and in the meditative power of the Heart Sutra.
8] Bodhisena - Known as Baramon Osho or the Brahmin-Buddhist priest, Bodhisena was a promoter of Indian and Japanese ties & Head of Japanese Buddhism during the Nara Period when the Yamato spirit was at its height. Bodhisena inaugurated the Todaiji Temple which is the biggest temple in the world. Todaiji has a Lotus Sutra hall where ordinations of all monks took place. It also has towering statues of Kannon, Kongo Rikishi and Bisahmon and in its honor, our altar has all 3 of these powerful divinities as well as they all feature in the Lotus Sutra.