Risshō Kōsei Kai

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Rissho Kosei Kai (Great Sacred Hall)

Risshō Kōsei Kai (立正佼成会; until June 1960, 大日本立正交成会: Dai-Nippon Risshō Kōsei Kai?) is a Japanese Buddhist lay movement founded in 1938 by Nikkyo Niwano and Myoko Naganuma. Rissho Kosei Kai branched off from the older Reiyukai, and is primarily focused around the Lotus Sutra and veneration of ancestors.

History[edit]

Inside of the Great Sacred Hall

Rissho Kosei-kai was founded on March 5, 1938 by Nikkyo Niwano and Myoko Naganuma, both former members of the Buddhist sect Reiyūkai.[1] Rev. Niwano met Ms. Naganuma while he was engaged in missionary work with Reiyukai and the two became close friends. In 1938 they attended a Reiyukai meeting in which its president made remarks that lectures and study of the Lotus Sutra were out of date. After hearing this and consulting with each other, they determined that they could not support such ideas and left Reiyukai.[2] It was then that they decided to form a new organization. The first meeting was held at Mr. Niwano's house and some 30 people joined at that time.

Original Headquarters

The organization grew quickly and by 1941 membership had reach 1,000. For a short period between 1949 and 1950 Rissho Kosei-kai served as a lay auxiliary organisation of Nichiren Shū, but Niwano could not stem the, what he considered to be, liberal policies of Nichiren Shū. [3] No longer able to meet at Rev. Niwano's house, construction on a new headquarters began. However, as membership continued to grow the new headquarters also became too small and work on the Great Sacred Hall, or daiseidō (大聖堂?), began in the late 1950s'. Myoko Naganuma, who had been serving as Vice-President, died before the Great Sacred Hall was completed, dying on September 10, 1957. Seven years later it would be completed.

It was also during this time that Rissho Kosei-kai began to become active in interfaith co-operation. Nikkyo Niwano had a private audience with Pope Paul VI at the Second Vatican Council in 1965 and later attended the 20th world congress of the IARF in 1969. In 1970 Rev. Niwano helped to form the World Conference of Religions for Peace and became a leader of the WCRP.[4]

In 1991 Nikkyo Niwano stepped down as President and his son, Nichiko Niwano, who had been appointed successor and was at that time serving as Vice President, took over as President in a special ceremony.[5] Nichiko Niwano had been designated his successor in 1960. In 1994, Nichiko's eldest daughter, Mitsuyo Niwano, was made Vice President and designated successor.[2] She was given the Buddhist name Kosho by her father and grandfather and is known to members as “Kosho-sama” with “Sama” being an honorary title. Nikkyo Niwano continued to engage in interfaith activities and participate in Rissho Kosei-kai activities even though he handed over the presidency in 1991. He died on October 4, 1999.

In 2008 Rissho Kosei-kai International of North America was established due to growth of interest in the group in America and Canada and in the summer of 2009 the United States celebrated 50 years, holding a gathering in Las Vegas, Nevada, which President Niwano attended.[6]

As of 2010 there are over 240 churches and centers in 20 countries.[7] Membership currently stands at 6.5 million members,[2] with the majority living in Japan.

Government Structure[edit]

Rissho Kosei-kai is run, both religiously and administratively, by a board of directors, with the Chairman being the head. The office of the President is the highest spiritual office, therefore the President is the chief spiritual leader and master of ceremony. The duties of the President include visiting churches and centers, representing Rissho Kosei-kai at interfaith and cultural events, giving sermons, speeches and greeting guests. In this regard, the office of president holds much importance and the President plays an active role in how the church is run. However, it is the board of directors that holds the final say on all matters.

Characteristics[edit]

Even though being regarded as a decedent of Reiyukai and Nichiren Buddhism it has developed distinct features in terms of doctrine and objects of worship to the extent, that some regard Rissho Kosei-kai as a separate Buddhist denomination outside of Nichiren Buddhism, thus it has a number of features in common with other Nichiren sects:[8]

  • Devotion to the Lotus Sutra as the highest teaching in Buddhism.
  • Belief in Buddha-nature of all beings.
  • Recitation of the odaimoku as a Buddhist practice.
  • Evangelism of Buddhist teachings, and in particular the Lotus Sutra.
  • Veneration of Nichiren as teacher and bodhisattva. He is frequently referred to as daibosatsu (大菩薩?, "Great Bodhisattva") in Rissho Kosei Kai liturgy.

Object of Devotion[edit]

Rissho Kosei Kai venerates the Eternal Buddha, the central figure of the Lotus Sutra, instead of a gohonzon.[9] The central temple, the Great Sacred Hall, features a statue of the Eternal Buddha that is 6.09meters long and 3.03 meters wide. The imagery of the Eternal Buddha used in the Great Sacred Hall, and all temple altars, is of a standing Buddha enveloped in a fiery halo, within are four, smaller Bodhisattvas:

  • Bodhisattva Eminent Conduct
  • Bodhisattva Boundless Conduct
  • Bodhisattva Pure Conduct
  • Bodhisattva Steadfast Conduct

Further above the Buddha's head is a small image of the stupa of the Buddha Abundant Treasure, featured in Chapter 11 of the Lotus Sutra.

Additionally, members enshrine a Sōkaimyō (総戒名?, "Family Posthumous Name"), which is a kind of certificate and object of veneration that represent the collective ancestors of that member. Because it is not feasible to provide each ancestor with a posthumous Buddhist name, the ancestors as a whole are venerated through the Sokaimyo.[9]

Basic Teachings[edit]

Rissho Kosei-kai places a strong emphasis on studying the Lotus Sutra and the Buddha's teachings. They affirm the basic teachings of Buddhism, such as the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path and the Three Seals of the Law, among their core teachings.[10][11] The Threefold Lotus Sutra is the groups chief scripture. It is viewed as containing the highest teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha.

The Buddha and the Dharma[edit]

Adherents believe that Shakyamuni Buddha was the first human to be awakened to the Dharma, which is believed to be an invisible entity that sustains, guides and improves the lives of all living things.[12] They refer to this life force as the Eternal Buddha, teaching that it is omnipresent and universal.

Daily Practice[edit]

Members begin and end each day by chanting parts of the Lotus Sutra and saying various prayers and vows before family altars in their home.[13] The center of the altar is the Focus of Devotion, either a scroll with an image of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni on it or a small statue of the Eternal Buddha. Members leave offerings of rice, water and tea before the image.

Hoza or Dharma Circle[edit]

Another practice frequently found in Rissho Kosei Kai services and meetings is the hōza (法座?, "Dharma Circle") which is a kind of informal, group session led by a trained leader, in which members sit in a circle, discuss their problems or their shortcomings, and other members listen and provide advice. The discussions usually will explore how Buddhism and insight can be applied to help the person with the problem, and encourage a sense of trust and community between members.[9]

Holidays[edit]

Rissho Kosei-kai observes various Buddhist holidays, including Nirvana Day, Buddha's Birthday and Bodhi Day. They also have special gatherings to mark important events in the organizations history, such as memorial services for the Founder and Co-Founder and the Anniversary of the Founding of Rissho Kosei-kai.[14]

Interfaith and Peace Activities[edit]

Since its founding, Rissho Kosei-kai has sought to cooperate with other religions and work with the United Nations and a variety of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).[15]

Interfaith Co-operation[edit]

Nikkyo Niwano was one of the founders of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. Since the founding of the WCRP in 1970, Rissho Kosei-kai has been actively involved with the organization [16] and currently President Nichiko Niwano is a president of the WCRP.[5]

In 1981 Nikkyo Niwano was elected as the President of the International Association for Religious Freedom and in 1984 hosted the IARF at the Great Sacred Hall.[17]

Nichiko Niwano is currently the President of the Japanese branch of the WRCP and Chairman of Shinshuren. The organization is also involved with the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace[18] and maintains close ties to the Unitarian Universalist Association.

UNICEF and the United Nations[edit]

Rissho Kosei-kai has supported UNICEF since 1979 and members regularly participate in campaign activities related to UNICEF. It has also supported and participated in a number of UN programs, including the second Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament held in 1982.[19]

Humanitarian Projects[edit]

Rissho Kosei-kai engages in numerous campaigns to end hunger and poverty, support the environment and work for peace. In the late 1960s, Rissho Kosei-kai began to advocate the Brighter Society Movement, a public-spirited undertaking through which the local churches of Rissho Kosei-kai cooperate with local governments, welfare organizations, and volunteer groups throughout Japan.[20]

In 1974 it launched the Donate a Meal Movement in which one skips a meal twice a month and contribute the money saved to the Movement. During the last thirty years over 11 billion yen has been donated in Japan and thousands more worldwide to this Movement.[21]

There is also the Little Bags of Dreams Campaign started in 1999 in which local churches have the youth members prepare cloth bags full of toys, small gifts and cards with well wishes, for children in war torn nations. Children in Northern Ireland, Palestine and the former Yugoslavia.[22]

The Niwano Peace Foundation was established in 1978 to promote research for world peace and religious, cultural, scientific and educational endeavors.[23] Starting in 1983, with the exception of 1988, it has on a yearly basis given out the Niwano Peace Prize to an individual or organization that contributes to world peace.[24]

Music[edit]

Rissho Kosei Kai is world-renowned in the field of music for its generous support of several leading professional music ensembles, most notably the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. Its facilities are also used to host the world's largest music competition, the All-Japan Band Association national band contest.

Criticisms[edit]

Detractors have alleged that it is too strongly linked to Japan's Liberal Democratic Party and that it supported Japanese militarist elements in World War II.[citation needed] This charge is dubious at best,[citation needed] since Rissho Kosei-kai suffered severe religious restrictions under the Japanese regime in power during that conflict. There is also criticism, specifically Buddhist in nature, concerning its practice of fortune telling and ancestor worship. Members memorialize their ancestors (their names are kept in a death register, or a kakocho, which is kept on their home altars), but this practice is nearly universal among Japanese Buddhists of all sects. Critics also see the massive estate left by Niwano as a sign of un-Buddhist materialism.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tamura, Yoshiro (2001). Japanese Buddhism: A Cultural History. Kosei Publishing. p. 203. ISBN 9784333016846. 
  2. ^ a b c "History of Rissho Kosei-kai". Rissho Kosei-kai Hawaii. 
  3. ^ Montgomery, Daniel (1991). Fire in the Lotus, The Dynamic Religion of Nichiren, London: Mandala, ISBN 1852740914, p. 237
  4. ^ "Timeline of Rissho Kosei-kai". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  5. ^ a b "President Nichiko Niwano". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  6. ^ "Rissho Kosei-kai Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Dissemination in U.S.". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  7. ^ "Locations". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  8. ^ Montgomery, Daniel (1991). Fire in the Lotus, The Dynamic Religion of Nichiren, London: Mandala, ISBN 1852740914, p. 238
  9. ^ a b c Kotaro Suzuki, ed. (2007). Introduction to Rissho Kosei-Kai For Our New Members. Rissho Kosei Kai International. p. 3, 15 and 30. 
  10. ^ "Teachings". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  11. ^ "Rissho Kosei Kai". Division of Religion and Philosophy University of Cumbria. 
  12. ^ "The Focus of Devotion". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  13. ^ "Sutra Recitation". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  14. ^ "Annual Memorial Days and Special Ceremonies and Events". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  15. ^ "Cooperation with Religious and Secular Organizations". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  16. ^ "World Conference of Religions for Peace". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  17. ^ "International Association for Religious Freedom". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  18. ^ "Asian Conference of Religions for Peace". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  19. ^ "UNICEF and United Nations". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  20. ^ "Rissho Kosei-kai". Religions for Peace - USA. 
  21. ^ "Donate A Meal Movement". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  22. ^ "Little Bags of Dreams Campaign". Rissho Kosei-kai. 
  23. ^ "About Us". Niwano Peace Foundation. 
  24. ^ "Niwano Peace Foundation". Rissho Kosei-kai. 

Literature[edit]

  • Anderson, Richard W. (1994). "Risshō Kōseikai and the Bodhisattva way: Religious ideals, conflict, gender, and status". Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 21 (2-3): 312–337. 
  • Gerlitz, Peter, "Die Rissho Kosei-kai und ihre Assimilation im Westen", in: Michael Pye, Renate Stegerhoff (eds.), Religion in fremder Kultur. Religion als Minderheit in Europa und Asien, Saarbruecken: Dadder 1987, pp. 111-122
  • Inaba, Keishin; in: Clarke, Peter B. (2006). Encyclopedia of new religious movements, New York : Routledge. ISBN 0415267072, pp. 539-540
  • Kyoden Sutra Readings: Extracts from the Threefold Lotus Sutra, Romanized Japanese and English Translation, Rissho Kosei-kai 1994
  • Stewart Guthrie: A Japanese New Religion: Rissho Kosei-Kai in a Mountain Hamlet (Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies), Univ of Michigan 1988. ISBN 0939512335
  • Kato, Bunno (1993). The Threefold Lotus Sutra. Tokyo: Kosei Publishing Company. p. 348. ISBN 4333002087.  PDF
  • Morioka, Kiyomi (1994). Attacks on the New Religions: Risshō Kōseikai and the “Yomiuri Affair, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 21 (2-3), 281-310
  • Niwano, Nikkyo (1976), Buddhism For Today: A Modern Interpretation of the Threefold Lotus Sutra, Tokyo: Kōsei Publishing Co., ISBN 4333002702  PDF

External links[edit]