One of the founding teachers of Tibetan Buddhism, Atisha, proclaimed that the instuction of th mentor as more important than knoledge of the scripture since guru, lamas, master or spiritual mentor is the key that makes them practicable. this pinciple of "the priority of the mentor" is the foundation of Tibetan Buddhism.
A proponent of the tantric school, considered to be thSupreme vhicl for Enlightenment, atisha reestablishe thi ritualistic path that could not be negottiate ithout sucessive initiations at the hand s of a living teacher. For tibetab buddhist, there is no quicker path to enlightenment than embacing the Tantic teachings ith a lama. Absolute surrender and trust is required.
The mentor and disciple relationship, in Nichiren Buddhis, is one of the Mutual trust in the Law here our mentor, SGI President Ikeda, presents model from which to earn, but holds NO initiatory status or special powers. Our mentor is not the focus of our devotion or worship. What we call "senoirs in faith" are lay organization leaders who encourage the membrs in their practice. Strenghtening our faith as equal members, we do not rely upon persons who would serve s gatekeepers to enlightenment.
Nichiren Daishonin's teachings and writings are a condensation of shakyamuni Buddha's 80,000 sutras/teachings. Immediately before his passing, shakyamuni strictly admonished his disciples to rely on the Law(dharma) and themselves. He forbade reliance upon people, gods and deities, including shakyamuni himself. The practice of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism clearly emphasize our relinace upon the [Mystic] Law of cause and effect and our chanting of Nam Myoho Reng kyo. As the Nirvana sutra, the last sutra preached just before the passing of the Buddha, said: "Rely on the Law and not upon person..."
Thus, It should be pointed out that the "Law", not the "person" is to be regarded as the proper standard in all things. Putting the person first gives you an uncertain standard: it is to let that person's mind become your master. In contrast, if yuo establish the Law as your standard, you will become the master of your mind.
Early Tibetan Buddhist scholars had no knoledge of the landmark interpretations of the Lotus sutra,set forth by Chinese scholar an sage CHI-I or Tietntai, the most important teaching of the buddha's lifetime.Here is a brief synopses and of what Nichiren Buddhism self-understanding of Buddha Dharma.
It begins with Shakaymuni Buddha who taught around the 5th century BCE and then his teachings were passed down orally until they were written down beginning in the first century BCE. The T'ien-t'ai school in China, basing itself on apocryphal sutras, believes that there was a lineage of 24 patriarchs in India beginning with Shakyamuni Buddha passing to Mahakashyapa and then Ananda and including Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu and ending with Aryasimha (Zen later added four more in order to bridge the gap between Aryasimha and the coming of Bodhidharma to China).
Nagarjuna provided a major impetus to the Mahayana school in the 2nd-3rd century CE with his Verses on the Middle Way and his commentaries on the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras. He is considered the founder of the Madhyamika school and his influence on all forms of Mahayana can not be overestimated.
Buddhism entered China in the first century CE and in the early part of the 5th century CE the renowned Madhyamika scholar and translator from Central Asia, Kumarajiva, came to China and began to translate the Lotus Sutra, the Vimalakirti Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, and other important Mahayana sutras. He also probably wrote the huge Treatise on the Large Perfection of Wisdoom Sutra which he attributed to Nagarjuna.
In the 6th century CE, the Chinese monk named Chih-i began teaching and established a teaching center on Mt. T'ien-t'ai. He was later known as the Great Master T'ien-t'ai, the founder of the school of the same name. Chih-i was a great scholar and meditator who wanted to systematize all the seemingly contradictory teachings which had been translated into Chinese. He also wanted to express the Madhyamika teachings in a way that would preserve both their dynamism and their liberating potential. Finally he wanted to lay the groundwork for a comprehensive system of meditation which would lead to enlightenment.
Chih-i's teachings, along with those of the 8th century reformer of the T'ien-t'a school known as Miao-lo, would later become the cornerstone of Nichiren Buddhism. Here are some of the major teachings of Chih-i:
The Three Truths - whereas Madhyamika stressed the two truths of the provisional (samvirti) and the ultimate (paramartha), Chih-i believed that three truths actually needed to be held in balance so that the ultimate would not be reified and the conventional denigrated. The Three Truths are:
The Empty - the non-substantial nature of things
The Provisional -the contingent nature of things as they arise and cease
The Middle Way - the total inseperability of emptiness and contingent phenomena
Chih-i taught that each of these truths could be approached seperately but that ultimately they were united and should be viewed in their unity.
The Eight Teachings - Chih-i taught that the Buddha's teachings can be categorized into four teachings by content and four by method depending on how the Three Truths and their ultimate unity are presented.
The Four Teachings by Content:
The Tripitika Teaching - this corresponds to pre-Mahayana teachings and is directed at the shravakas (hearers) who strive to become arhats (those who escape from the world of birth and death and do not return). It emphasizes emptiness and approaches it through analysis of the aggregates and the links of dependent origination.
The Common Teaching - this corresponds to the Prajnaparamita Sutras and is directed to the more advanced shravakas and the beginner bodhisattvas. Because these teachings are directed at both shravakas and bodhisattvas it is called the teaching they hold in common. This level of discourse approaches emptiness more immediately because it does not involve analysis. Rather, one learns not to impute substance or a fixed nature onto things in the first place. It is also more thoroughgoing in its application of emptiness in that it applies it not just to the self but to all dharmas (phenomena).
The Specific Teaching - this corresponds to the Flower Garland Sutra which is directed specifically to the bodhisattvas. At this point, one needs to see that emptiness is not a dead-end but just the beginning. From the perspective of emptiness, the bodhisattvas can begin to compassionately apply their insight to specific situations for the sake of all sentient beings. This requires an appreciation for contingent phenomena and thus the truth of provisionality. All three truths are taught at this level, but they are still not fully integrated.
The Perfect Teaching - this corresponds to the Lotus Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra and it is considered perfect because it presents the Middle Way as the integration of all three truths - the empty, the provisional, and the Middle Way wich integrates them into a seamless whole. The Perfect Teaching also presents the One Vehicle which integrates the vehicles of the shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas and so is more profound than the earlier teachings but also more inclusive. The Perfect Teaching also contains the teaching of the Unborn and Deathless nature of the Buddha's enlightened life and in this way also presents the unity of the three truths as presented in the life, teachings, example, and continued spiritual presence of Shakyamuni Buddha who Chih-i taught united all three bodies of the Buddha (the historical, ideal, and universal bodies), in chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra.
The Four Teachings by Method -
The Sudden Method - the Buddha teaches directly from his own awakening without any preliminaries. This is usually identified with the Flower Garland Sutra.
The Gradual Method - the Buddha begins at a very basic common sense level and then gradually deepens the understanding of his disciples. This is usually identified with the Tripitika, Prajnaparamita, and other Mahayana sutras.
The Indeterminate Method - the Buddha teaches one doctrine but it is understood in different ways by the various people who hear it.
The Secret Method - the Buddha teaches some people who are ready for or else can benefit by a specific teaching but others are not aware of this because they are either not ready or would misunderstand the teaching.
Chih-i then taught that the four types of teaching were combined like ingredients into five different flavors of Dharma. Miao-lo later identified these more rigidly with a chronological scheme of the Buddha's teachings called the five periods.
The Five Flavors/Periods:
The Flower Garland - This lasted for the first few weeks after the Buddha's enlightenment. This period combines the Perfect Teaching with concessions to the Sudden Teaching.
The Deer Park - for the next 12 years beginning with the Deer Park discourse, the Buddha exclusively taught the Tripitika doctrine for the shravakas.
The Extended (Vaipulya) - for the next 8 years the Buddha taught preliminary Mahayana teachings in order to castigate the shravakas for their complacency and to inspire the novice bodhisattvas. The Vimalakirti Sutra, the Pure Land Sutras, and those pertaining to Conciousness Only and later the Esoteric teachings are all lumped into this catch-all category which contains all the four teachings which are taught depending on how they correspond to the needs of the audience at any given time and place.
The Prajnaparamita Sutras - for the next 22 years the Buddha taught the Prajnaparamita Sutras which included all but the Tripitika teachings. This period emphasized emptiness and was the Buddha's way of clearing the decks and introducing non-duality which would be needed to properly understand the final period of the teaching.
The Lotus and Nirvana Sutras - this period was taught in the last 8 years of the Buddha's life and contained only the unadulterated Pure teaching. This was the period which not only comes full circle back to the Buddha's own point of view, but brings along all those who were prepared by the last three stages and who did not understand or felt left out of the teachings of the Flower Garland period.
Another way that Chih-i had of expressing the ultimate import of the Perfect Teaching of the Lotus Sutra and the unity of the Three Truths was through the teaching of the Three Thousand Worlds in a Single Thought Moment. This deserves a whole thread of its own, but essentially it teaches that there are ten factors of causality which are operative in the ten worlds of sentient experience from hell to buddhahood and that each of the ten worlds contains the others due to their common causality and that these worlds all express themselves in the three realms of the individual, all sentient beings, and the environment. This teaching also became the basis of the claim put forward by Miao-lo that even grasses and trees can manifest buddhahood.
This most importand teaching of the buddha did not reach Tibet in the early years of Buddhist propgation there. After its introduction, the Lotus sutra was not regaded as singularly important in Tibet. By the time it was translate into Tibetan language earlier forms of Buddhism had already established themselves in the lives of tibetan poeple.
Buddhism in Tibet absorbed much of the old shamnistic indigenious religion known as Bon. This ws similar to Christianity absorbed the custom and practics of ancient nature or pagan cults of Europe. To this day, one can see the old religion in Tibetan demon masjk dances and in the ancient arts aand practices of divination, astrology, and consulting of oracles. as poer shifted ovr centuries, the rlords and aristocracy of tiber were bsorbed into monastic class as well. In the 13th century(coincidence with Nichiren daishonin's lifetime), the political title of " Dalai Lama" which means " Ocan of wisdom" was bestowed on a high abbot of Tibet by Kublai khan, making him regent of tibet.