Moksha & Nirvaan

                                                                    (Liberation & Extinguished)


(Interactive session on 17.10.2013)

Keynote address by Ms. Manimala Das

(Other participant speakers: Mr. Gautam Kanjilal, Asim K. Banerjee, Mr. Sarada Ranjan Das, Ms. Sharmila Bhawal, Dr. B.B. Chakravarti, Mr. Amitava Tripathi, Dr. Santosh Ganguly, Mr. Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Mr. R. K. Gupta, Mr. A. K. Sengupta & Ms. Anuradha Banerjee Sarkar)

[Devotional song – chorus – By Ms Jayanti Dasgupta, Sikha Majumdar, Manimala Das, Mitali Ghosh, Sharmila Bhawal etc.]

Anchor, Introduction & Conclusive Remarks: Asish K.Raha



Moksha is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘liberation’ – liberation from the cycle of birth and death which according to the Vedanta is possible only after realization of Brahman or God. Nirvaan is also a Sanskrit term meaning ‘extinguished’ as a lamp or fire, implying cessation of birth and death, and is central to Buddhist philosophy.

Apparently though both the terms look synonymous taking into account the end result, i.e. cessation of birth and death, the Vedantists and the Buddhists generally find the above two terms as conceptually distinctive on the question of existence of God and soul. Besides, there are other grey areas and lingering doubts relating to both the concepts, even among the followers and subscribers who are divided in interpretation and understanding of the above concepts. Some of the questions and doubts that need to be addressed are as follows:

1)    Whether Moksha implies merger of an individual soul with Brahman or God. Whether even after attaining Moksha individual soul continues as distinct identity.

2)    Whether Buddha denied the existence of God.

3)    Whether Buddha denied the existence of soul.

4)    Whether a person after attaining Moksha or Nirvaan can live on, and after death can be reborn.

5)    Considering that both the Vedantists and the Buddhists consider all human beings as potential God or Buddha, as the case may be, are we not visualizing a utopia consisting of humans turned into Gods/Buddhas?

6)    Holding this mortal world as the place of sufferings, doesn’t the theory of Moksha and Nirvaan smack of escapism resulting from a pessimistic view of worldly life? If the Brahman has evolved multifold so as to enjoy His creation, why should we strive to escape from it to thwart His enjoyment?

Before we address above questions, let us deal with the concepts of Moksha and Nirvaan in general.


Moksha (Liberation) and Nirvaan (extinguishing) are the supreme goals aimed at by the spiritual seekers in Hindu religion and Buddhism respectively. The above two concepts essentially belong to the domain of experience and not intellect, and hence can be best explained by those only who have experienced it. Nonetheless, one who has a glimpse of the gems and jewels of both the Vedanta and the Buddhist philosophy will share the thrills of John Keats of stepping into a new realm of indescribable beauty and grandeur which the poet described in his poem “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”, after he read the translation of Chapman’s Homer.

Both Moksha and Nirvaan ( often called Nibbana in Pali; Buddha chose to teach in the language of the common people of the time ) apparently seem to be similar as both are the states of infinite bliss, devoid of desires, delusions and sorrows; and can be experienced in one’s present life; but they appear also to have deep-rooted differences inasmuch as Shakyamuni Buddha’s understanding of life , Samsara and spirituality was an epoch making departure from the traditional Hinduism of the day. All through his life, Buddha taught how life should be lived.  He preached neither God, nor soul, nor heaven or hell; the focus was only on the individual, faced with himself or herself and responsible for his or her every act in life. In Buddha’s  teachings, as Edwin Arnold in The Light of Asia says, “there is this eternity of universal hope, the immortality of a boundless love, an indestructible element of faith in final good, and the proudest assertion ever made of human freedom.”


2. The Vedas, the ancient Hindu scriptures, talk about the concept of an External God.  God who is master of nature and governs the universe, who is formless, but All-Powerful, All-Merciful, Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent; worshipping Him only man’s sorrows and sufferings can be eliminated. Man’s age- old quest for freedom and happiness, which his desire-bound acquisition of wealth, power, fame and glory could not satiate; all his evolutions, revolutions, reformations and innovations to make life perfect and free, still left him with a sense of void and futility, at last found an answer in the Vedic conception of God. God who is beyond all darkness and delusion and knowing Him alone man could be free from the fetters of sorrows and sufferings. The Vedas, particularly the Upanishads also said that man is not the body and the mind alone; he is more than that. In the depth of his innermost being, there is this spirit, pure and perfect which is the human soul. This soul is immortal and unchanging, does not perish with the body and is part of that intangible energy which the Vedas have given the epithet of God.   To put it simply, the Upanishads and the Vedas taught that the macrocosmic universe is one with the microcosmic universe, i.e. the individual. In other words, The Brahman or God and the self or the human soul is one.

3.  The Vedic sages addressed men as the Children of Immortal Bliss/Amritasya Putra who is oblivious of his inmost purity i.e. the soul, owing to his mundane desires and impure actions.  The ancient sages said that Man can regain his purity and perfection through worship of God and His mercy. To worship God with a pure heart, one should struggle to become perfect, to become divine, to reach God and see God and in the process become one with God. Swami Vivekananda beautifully says, “Man is to become divine by realizing the divine. He will have to strive to realize the external divinity as well as the divinity in himself which is an undying spirit, perfect, pure and eternal. Shattering the bondage of matter and delusion around this pure spirit or soul which is within us is Moksha itself.” The scriptures say that the external worship, the material worship is the lowest stage; mental prayer is the next stage, but the highest stage is when God has been realized.” Again Swami Vivekananda’s poetic words drove the message home, “To him all the religions, from the lowest fetishism to the highest Absolutism means so many attempts of the human soul to grasp and realize the Infinite, each determined by the condition of his birth and associations and each of these mark a stage of progress; and every soul is a young eagle soaring higher and higher, gathering more and more strength, till it reaches the Glorious Sun.”

Seeking God or the truth in our hearts is most important. We will feel that God is within us, within the universe and in each one of us. And this philosophy is the essence of the Vedanta philosophy.

4. So then, Moksha, is to feel the All powerful, the Perfect and the Free in myself, in each and everybody else and in every gleam and spark of life in the universe.  It is the ultimate goal of a conscious and unconscious seeker. Having realized God, Man lives a life of bliss infinite. We have read that Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, the Guru of Swami Vivekananda lived a life of infinite bliss. In a plane of super consciousness, he saw and felt the presence Goddess Kali whom he called his beloved Mother, talked with Her and felt Her always within himself.  This realization of Sat-Chit- Ananda meaning Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute, Bliss Absolute is Moksha or liberation. If we feel God inside us , we become fearless, ; if we see God in everyone else, we feel one with him or her. This is a sublime state of life and mind that is never entangled by desires or base instincts and this is called Moksha. Hindu Scriptures say that devotion, and moral integrity and disinterest in worldly things is a must to attain Moksha and it may take many births before Moksha is achieved. The ultimate reward is release from Samsara or cycle of birth and death and a sense of being one with God.


Sri Sankara in his Advaita philosophy, talked about Nirguna Brahma as well as Saguna Brahma. Jiva’s fundamental ignorance keeps him in delusion and he, with his body, mind and senses, thinks, acts and enjoys. In reality Jiva is not different from the Brahman or the Absolute. The Upanishads declare, “Tat Tvam Asi  (Thou Art That).”  As Jiva destroys ignorance through karma (action) and bhakti (devotion), he feels that he is of Sat-Chit-Ananda (eternal existence, eternal consciousness and eternal bliss) nature. The river of individual life joins the ocean of existence. This realization is Moksha.  Karma and Bhakti enable one to reach this self-realization or identity with Brahman. This concept is delineated in verse 30 of chapter 13 of Bhagavad Gita:

“Yada bhuta-prithak-bhavam ekastham anupashyati I

Tata eba cha vistaram Brahma sampadyate tadaa II”

[“When one realizes that the state of diversity is rooted in the ONE, and that their manifestation is also from THAT, then one gets identified with Brahman.”]

The very same concept has been poetically depicted in the following hymn by Sri Sankara in Nirvana Shatakam:

“Om Mano-budhi-ahangkara chittani naaham

Na cha Shrotra-Jhibe Na cha Ghraana-netre

Na Cha vyoma Bhuumir-na Tejo na Bayu

Chidananda Ruupah Shiboham Shiboham”

[“Neither am I the mind, nor intelligence or ego,

Neither am I the organs of hearing, nor that of tasting, smelling or seeing,

Neither am I the sky, nor the earth, neither the fire nor the air,

I am the ever pure Blissful Consciousness; I am Shiva, I am Shiva.”]



Sri Ramanuja’s Vishtadvaitabad or Qualified Monism describes the oneness of God with Visesha or attributes. God alone exists and all else that we see are His manifestations or attributes. These manifestations or various forms of existence are not Maya but a real part of Brahman’s nature. God is Vishishta, a complex organic whole. Ramanuja identifies God with Lord Narayana. For Ramanuja , Moksha means the soul’s passing away from the mundane into a kind of paradise ( Vaikuntha ) where it will remain forever in perfect bliss in the presence of Lord Narayana. The individual can attain Moksha through the Grace of Lord Narayana and the grace descends on those who are pure and struggle for it.


Samkhya, one of the ancient Indian philosophies, denies the notion of God and regards the universe as consisting of two realities : the Purusha (consciousness) and the Prakriti ( phenomenal realm of Matter ). Jiva is the state in which the Purusha is bonded to the Prakriti through desire and the end of this bondage is Moksha.

There are four major paths through which one can attain this sublime state of life. These are called Yogas.


a) Karma Yoga: It is a path of action, of selfless service.  Karmayoga is a system of ethics and religion intended to attain freedom through unselfishness and by good works. To work without any motive and give up all the fruits of work, to be unattached to them is the way of the Karma Yogin.  Swami Vivekananda says that “in whole human history Buddha is the ideal Karma Yogin. He had the highest philosophy, yet had the deepest sympathy for the lowest of animals and never put forth any claims for himself. He was in the conduct of his life absolutely without any personal motives and what man worked more than he? He works best who works without any motive, neither for money, nor for fame, nor for anything else; when a man can do that he will be a Buddha and will have the power to transform the world.”

b)  Jnana Yoga is the Path of knowledge. Moksha is attained through the knowledge of Brahman, through realization of the identity of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul or Brahman or God….a direct realization of oneness or unity with the Supreme or God.  It can be achieved by intense meditation-Nididyasana.  Discrimination ( Viveka ), dispassion ( Vairagya ), the six fold virtues ( Shat Sampat )  and yearning for liberation ( Mumukhutva ). The six virtues practiced by the Jnanayogin  are: tranquility ( Shama ), restraint ( Dama ), satiety or renunciation ( Uparati ), endurance ( Titiksha ), faith( Shraddha) and concentration ( Samadhana ). After practicing deep meditation with these qualities, he becomes Jivanmukta or liberated. He attains Moksha.

c)   Raj yoga is the path that leads to union with God through self restraint and control of mind. It teaches how to control the senses and the mental faculties or Vrittis and how to develop concentration and thus commune with God. Yama, Niyama, Asana , Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are the eight limbs of Raja Yoga. Yama and Niyama constitute the ethical discipline which purifies the heart. Yama consists of Ahimsa/non-injury, Satya/truthfulness, Brahmacharya/continence, Asteya/non stealing and  Aparigraha/non receiving of gifts conducive to luxury. Niyama is observance. It consists of Sauchya/external and internal purity, Santosha/contentment, Tapas/austerity, Sadhyaya/study of scriptures and repetition of mantras, and Ishvara Pranidhana/ self-surrender to God.

Asana is steady pose.  Pranayama is regulation of breath.  These lead to serenity and steadiness of mind and good health. Pratyahara is withdrawal of the senses from the objects so that one is able to look within.  Dharana is the concentration of the mind on Ishta Devata , internal chakra or tutelary deity. Then comes Dhyana/meditation, meaning deep concentration on one object /God. This leads to Samadhi when all tendencies, impressions, sense perceptions and subtle desires die down. The Yogi becomes one with God. He obtains liberation or Moksha. Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi in which it is difficult to retain the body. Besides Nirvikalpa Samadhi , Sri Ramakrishna used to go into Samadhi whenever some external object or happening like Swami Vivekananda’s songs used to kindle fire of divine feelings in him.

d )    Realization of God or liberation or Moksha attained through immense love of God is called Bhakti Yoga. It is absolute self surrender to God. Loving God and not wanting anything in return. Desires for any sensual objects debar us from having love for God. He who loves God, loves all, has no sorrow or pain; he has surrendered to God unconditionally. He lives in bliss chanting the name and qualities of God and contemplating the Lilas or divine activities of God. Sri Chaitanya, Sri Ramakrishna, Mirabai attained Moksha through Bhakti path. They realized the Truth and experienced intense trances or Samadhi where they had no physical or worldly senses and could feel God in their hearts and thus attained Moksha.

So Moksha is very much a living experience when the seeker or Yogi tries to delve into the innermost region of his heart, after discarding all his desires and negativities and disciplining his mind through one of these Yogas.   The spiritual seekers yearn for Moksha because their ultimate goal is to be liberated from the cycle of birth and death. Whether liberation from the cycle of birth and death really happens is beyond senses and rational power of ordinary mortals.  Sri Ramakrshna said that in Kaliyuga man will be able to realise God and thus attain liberation or Moksha by chanting God’s name and contemplating on His qualities, activities and image sincerely and earnestly. It would ultimately make his mind pure and perfect.


In the time Shakyamuni lived, the Hindu religion was dominated by the Brahmins or the priests along with the aristocracy. Brahministic religious teachings were mostly esoteric and were handed down from one believer to the next. The Hindu religion became ceremonial and ritual based. The Brahmans performed religious rituals and prayed to God for blessings in this world. The common people followed these rituals and placed offerings so that their lot could be improved in the present life as well as in the next one. They were made to believe that the human soul could reach God only after living many lives by accumulating good karma in which they climb up through the Varna or caste system. Shakyamuni’s stance was against such authoritarianism and ritualism and caste structure of the day.


Before we discuss what Nirvaan means in Buddha’s teaching, a few things are necessary to know. Shakyamuni defined 3 main characteristics of existence: 1) Sufferings,   2) Impermanence and 3) The concept of no unique self.   Buddha renounced his princely life at the age of 29 to search for the causes of sufferings and how to end sufferings.  After years of austerities and meditation he was enlightened to the 4 Noble Truth:  sufferings, causes of sufferings, cessation of sufferings, and the path to cessation of sufferings.  According to Buddha, human being is not a permanent or fixed entity but part of an ongoing reality. We are a collection of body, feelings, perceptions, and mental formations and consciousness which are interconnected. It is in contrast to the concept of eternal Self in Hinduism, which is an unchanging identity and locked in some rigid fate.  To elaborate, a physical body is dependent on food and warmth and develops as time and age progress. Our feelings change as we grow in life and as a result of perceptions of what we see and hear around us. Our feelings and perceptions, lead us to make decisions and they in turn constitute our mental formations. From body, feelings, perceptions and mental formations originate consciousness. Self is the sum of body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness, dependent on everything that has gone before and constantly changing in accordance with an interconnecting and changing reality. In place of a separate and benevolent creator Buddha saw the interdependence of all life and the cause and effect of actions which create their own future. Buddha’s Dependent Origination is the Law of cause and effect and closely linked to the 4 Noble Truths, which says that desire causes suffering, one is dependent on the other. Following the Right Path causes desire to reduce and so causes suffering to reduce.  Buddha’s only concern was the people, their suffering and how this suffering can be eradicated. Buddha said, “One thing and only one thing do I teach, suffering and cessation of suffering.” He asked the people to do good and be good. And this would take one to freedom or whatever the truth is. One should abandon the extremes; cultivate virtue/sila, concentration/Samadhi, and wisdom/ prajna to reach Bodhi or self realization or Nibbana/ Nirvana. Shakyamuni Buddha said that anybody could attain enlightenment or Nibbana/Nirvaan in this present life if he followed the Noble 8 fold path: namely right knowledge, right thinking, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. These paths should lead men to understand that greed, selfishness and ignorance are the causes of all sufferings.


8.  After 100 years of passing away of Shakyamuni Buddha, and just before the reign of King Ashoka, Buddhism separated into two main schools. This separation is known as the ‘fundamental split’. The two main schools are : The Therevada tradition or the doctrine of the Elders, and the Mahayana school or the Greater Vehicle. In Therevada, the focus is on Nirvana and it relies closely on the word of Buddha as it appears in the Pali Cannon.  Theravada school also follows Tripitaka or the Three Baskets consisting of Vinay Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka. Theravada Buddhists aspire for Nibbana for their own sake.

In his book, “Essence of the Heart Sutra,”Dalai Lama said that Nirvana is a state beyond sorrows.

Nibbana  or Nirvaan means blowing out or extinguishing  the fires of greed, hatred and delusion ( raagaggi, dosaggi, and mohaggi). When these fires are blown out, peace is attained and one becomes cooled (siitibhuuta). Nibbana is a state that can be attained here and now, in this very life. . Nirvana is freedom from whatever binds man from the burning passion of desire, jealousy and ignorance. Once these are totally overcome a state of perfect bliss is achieved. The way to Nirvaan involves a person showing love, sympathy and compassion for others and showing patience in everything. 5 main principles of no killing, stealing, ill language, sexual immorality and use of toxic substance should also be observed. When one successfully follows these principles, 3 roots of evil like greed, hatred and deceit can also be overcome.

In Milinda’s Questions, a sacred Buddhist text, Nagasena the Buddhist monk, explains to king Milinda that ‘one can avoid attachment to self and others by not becoming entrapped by the ego. The goal is to overcome the bonds of the “lesser or individual self” and create a magnanimous approach to life that is inclusive of self and others. Overcoming the lesser self creates a state of nothingness, or non-self, and when this state of mind is achieved, sorrow, grief and heartache are forgotten and one’s mind is at peace. This is an “immovable” state of mind in which all joys and sorrows can be observed objectively. This state of mind is referred to as Nirvaana.’

9. In Sutta pitaka, Buddha describes Nirvaana as the perfect peace of mind.   In Dhammapada the Buddha says that Nibbana is the highest happiness- mind becomes unconditioned, not obscured by volitional formations. This ultimate state is described by Buddha as Nibbana. It has four attributes. They are: Happiness, Moral perfection, Realization and Freedom. It is a pure, blissful, serene state, full of loving kindness/metta or maitree and compassion or Karuna. Buddha was the living embodiment of Karuna. Nirvaan is a radiant and infinite state of consciousness free of lowly habits and tendencies and desires. Everybody in his present life can attain Nirvaan. Nirvaan is the feeling of immense love and compassion for everybody. It is perfect wisdom and insight and seeing things in their true aspect and nature.  It is absolute freedom from all bonds. Actions are done with a free and joyful mind. Buddha was a human being who found his perfection in Nirvaan. He emerged perfectly moral, perfectly ethical and his suffering ended forever.

10.   People’s suffering induced Buddha to renounce his princely life which is known as The Great Renunciation and after he was enlightened, his whole life was dedicated to the well being and happiness of all. The poor and the ignorant got his most attention, so his teachings are in Pali, the vernacular of the then society. The Mahayana or the Greater Vehicle Buddhists focus not on Nirvaan but on enlightenment. They have taken the Bodhisattva vow of helping people ease their sorrows and sufferings. This school emphasizes compassion, wisdom and Bodhisattva ideal. Bodhisattva is a being whose Buddhahood is assured but who is deeply concerned with helping others achieve Nirvaana first.  Buddha told his first disciples to journey far and wide to spread his teachings among the people. Mahayana Buddhists remain in the world or Samsar to free others from their sufferings. This magnanimous and noble approach of making others happy underlies the activities and principles of Mahayana Buddhists.


The thirteenth century Japanese priest Nichiren Daishonin studied all Buddhist scriptures in detail and based his teachings on the Lotus Sutra preached by Shakyamuni Buddha during the last 8 yrs of his life. Here Buddha declared that every human being, high and low, rich and poor, male and female has the potential to attain Buddhahood. Buddha nature which symbolizes boundless wisdom, courage, and immense compassion is inherent in every being. Nichiren Daishonin declared that one can be reawakened to his or her Buddhahood by chanting the title of the Lotus Sutra which is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo( JP: Sad dharma Pundarika Sutra in Sanskrit ). Chanting this with devotion one is empowered to awaken his Buddhahood and thus achieve enlightenment. While Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the ultimate law of the universe, the Gohonzon, Its graphic expression is the object of fundamental devotion in Nichiren Buddhism. The follower should not only awaken his or her Buddhahood, namely, immense wisdom, courage and boundless compassion but make others happy and ease their suffering by enabling them to realize their own inherent Buddhahood through chanting.  Daishonin said that reciting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo with deep faith, even if just once, has infinitely vast and immeasurable power to revitalize our lives.  Daisaku Ikeda the president of Soka Gakkai International and the Buddhist follower of Nichiren Daishonin says, “ Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the ultimate Law of the Universe, the fundamental rhythm of life itself. Through the practice of chanting , we can bring forth our inner Buddhahood and increase the splendor and power of our lives.” Being able to chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo , the source of unsurpassed joy, is in itself the greatest good fortune. The goal of a follower of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is to strive for the flowering of the highest human potential and achieving it with a view to the well being and happiness of others as well as his own. This ideal of making others happy as well as one’s own self is defined as Enlightenment in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.


Just before Mahaparinirvaana (extinguishing of the great light), Buddha told Ananda, his closest disciple, who asked in tears ‘what shall we do when you are no more?’, “Be lamp unto you.”  On our journey through life, we would take suffering in our stride and triumphant we would emerge because our innate divinity or Buddha nature will resurface as we dispel our own fundamental ignorance. This lamp of divinity or Buddhahood will create value for all by showing everyone the way to achieve his or her inner Buddha nature.

Nirvaan is very much a living experience, defined by total absence of sorrow, remaining and taking action in the glowing warmth of truth and happiness. One does not have to die for it. One can have a glimpse of that sublime state that shines forth through small things in our everyday life: As Kahlil Gibran. The Lebanese American writer says, “Yes, there is a Nirvaana: it is leading your sheep to a green pasture, and putting your child to sleep and in writing the last line to your poem”.


In conclusion, we will address the six posers raised in the introduction, as these are considered quite pertinent.

1)      Whether Moksha implies merger with Brahman/God:

According to the Advaitavad or monist school of thought, led by Sri Sankara, the universe as we see in naked eyes is illusory and unreal. The only reality is Brahman. All beings are only evolved and impermanent form of Brahman. When we realize this truth we get merged in Brahman. According to this school of thought, Moksha implies complete merger with God. Even after attaining moksha the liberated souls may continue to live in this world to fulfill their mission, mostly for well-being of the people. In ancient time such persons were called Brahmarshi (God-realized sage). To name a few among them, Vashistha, Vishwamitra and Yagnavalkya were Brahmarshi. As for re-incarnation after merger with Brahman, obviously with no distinctive identity, a Brahmarshi is not re-born.

According to Dvaitvad or dualist school of thought led by Sri Madhavacharya and Sri Chaitanya, even after Moksha or God-realization cum liberation, one does not get merged with God but continues with distinct identity and can be born at will.

According to Vishistadvaitavad or qualified monist school of thought led by Sri Ramanuja, Moksha depending upon the path of Truth pursued by the Yogi, may lead to complete merger with Brahman or continuation with separate identity. It goes without saying in so many words; liberated yogis with distinct identity can be re-incarnated at will.

2)      Whether Buddha denied the existence of God:

It is believed that Buddha had denied the existence of God, which in reality he never did. When he was asked this question by the uninitiated, he became evasive, because his questioners perhaps did not have the frame of mind to perceive God Which was beyond their perception. It has also to be borne in mind that Buddha preached his Dhamma to the savant and the savage alike. His preaching to the savant could not obviously be the same as his preaching to the laity. It is claimed by the Lamas of Tibet (refer ‘The Book of the Dead’) that Buddha’s esoteric teachings were reserved for the Lamas and have been kept secret from the outside world. Thus, from his evasive, rather mystical replies regarding existence of God, it is not permissible to infer that he denied the existence of God.

3)      Whether Buddha denied the existence of soul:

Scholars, who subscribe to the view that Buddha denied the existence of soul, refer to a passage in the Brahmajal Sutta (Digha Nikay) which mentions sixty two erroneous beliefs, one of which is the fallacy that the soul and the world are eternal. The final sentence in the said Sutta is as follows: “Mendicants, that which binds the teacher to existence is cut off; but his body shall remain, he will be seen by gods and men; but after the termination of life, upon the dissolution of the body, neither gods nor men will see him.” Based on this sentence, scholars like Rhys Davids has concluded that Buddha has denied existence of soul (refer The Spirit of Buddhism by H.S Gour). However, same scholars find a contradiction in Buddha’s creed of transmigration which does not integrate with no-soul theory. If there is no soul, how can there be re-incarnation?

The fact of the matter is Buddha never denied the existence of soul. What he meant was that nothing was permanent in this world, including the soul. The soul is comparable to the garment of a child. Just as the child needs a larger garment when he outgrows his clothes, man’s soul enlarges with his spiritual growth. With Nirvaan his/her soul cannot be framed in a mortal body. In other words, the soul has outgrown the receptacle in which it can dwell in this mortal world. From this point of view Nirvaan is nothing but higher state of existence.

4)      Whether after Moksha and Nirvaan man can live on, and can be re-born after death:

 In response to poser no. 1, we have already mentioned that as per Vedantic philosophy, a liberated Yogi, not merged with Brahman, can be re-born at will. If merged with Brahman, the Yogi ceases to exist and hence the question of his re-incarnation does not arise.

Let us now address the above question from Buddhist point of view.

When king Pasenadi of Koushal confronted Khema, a female disciple of Buddha, with the question whether Buddha would exist after death, she replied that the Exalted One had not declared that he would or would not exist after death. Her subsequent explanation of the phenomenon of existence of the Perfect One in corporeal form was mystical. She explained it thus: “If the existence of the Perfect One be measured by the predicates of the corporeal form, these predicates are abolished in the Perfect One, their root is severed, they are hewn away like a palm tree, and laid aside, so that they cannot grow again in the future. The Perfect One is deep, immeasurable, and unfathomable like the great ocean.” It is said that king Pasenadi confronted Buddha with the same question and received similar answer.

The encounter of Buddha with Vacha, a wondering monk, on the question of re-birth of an emancipated soul is more direct and focussed and hence is recounted here.

Vacha: When a man is emancipated, where is he re-born?

Buddha: The word ‘re-born’ does not fit the case.

Vacha: Then Gautam, he is not re-born?

Buddha: To say he is not re-born does not fit the case. Nor is it any better to say that he is both re-born and not re-born or that he is neither re-born nor not re-born”.

Vacha: I am completely be-wildered and my faith in you is completely gone.

Buddha: Never mind your be-wilderment. This doctrine is profound and difficult. Suppose there was a fire in front of you, you would see it burning and know that its burning depended on fuel. And if it went out you would know that it had gone out. But if someone were to ask you to which quarter has it gone, east, west, north or south, what would you say?

Vacha: The expression does not fit the case, Gautam. For the fire depended on fuel and when the fuel is gone, the fire is gone.

Buddha: In just the same way, all forms by which one could predicate the existence of the saint are abandoned and uprooted like a palm tree, so that it will never grow up in future. The saint who is released from what is styled form, is deep, immeasurable, hard to fathom, like the great ocean. It does not fit the case to say either that he is re-born, or not re-born (Ref: The Spirit of Buddhism by H.S Gour).

Buddha’s evasive reply to the direct question as to whether he would be re-born after Nirvaan is somewhat similar to the Vedantic concept of re-incarnation at will by an emancipated soul.

5)    Whether we are visualizing Utopia of humans cum Gods/Buddhas:

As to the poser whether we are visualizing utopia of humans turned into God/Buddhas, the simple answer from the point of view of Advaita (Monistic) Vedanta is that the Truth is we all are Gods in evolved form sans our awareness. From Dvaita and Vishistadvaita points of view, God-realized Yogis may continue with distinct identity. Only a handful of them may merge with God. One essential pre-requisite of God-realization is the uprooting of one’s ego which is deeply embedded in mind. Therefore, unless the mind is annihilated, it is not possible to realize God. Since it is extremely difficult for the mortals to annihilate mind, thereby uprooting the ego to turn into God or Buddha as the case may be, the utopia may not ever come into being in this mortal world. However, Sri Aurobindo has foreseen the world of overmen and thereafter the world of supermen which may look like utopia at this point of time, but cannot be ruled out in distant future.

6)     Whether Moksha and Nirvaan are concepts of escapism:

It is often alleged that the whole purpose of struggling for Moksha and/or Nirvaan is to escape from worldly sufferings. This was precisely the reason why Tathagata renounced the world to seek emancipation or Nirvaan so as to eliminate re-birth.

The above perception is convoluted and distorted. True it is that the sufferings in this mortal world had driven young Siddhartha to renounce the world in search of a panacea for the humanity. And the panacea that he found was the renunciation of all desires and the ego. When a person renounces his ego and consequently all desires, he is surely not running away from sufferings but transcends it by not identifying self with the sufferings. In other words, he/she detaches self from the body that suffers. This is a practical way to get rid of sufferings and to prepare self for Nirvaan. As a matter of fact, Nirvaan that Buddha taught his disciples was not extinction but the completion of being, as Max Mueller has put it.

The Vedanta, however, confers a divine shield on the humans to either absorb or reject whatever is inflicted by Prakriti or nature and to remain untouched like the lotus leaf (refer verse 5, chapter 10, Gita). Sri Sankara and Swami Vivekananda have described the Maya as the glass sheet between Brahman and the mortal world that has the effect of distorting our vision. Unless the glass sheet is broken, our vision of the Truth or Brahman would not be possible. The Vedanta, earlier than Buddha, has spoken of uprooting the palm tree so that our ego does not sprout again from its root which in this illustration stands for mind. Once the mind, the root of ego, is gone the self/soul is gone. This state is attained in Nirvikalpa Samadhi.  From Buddhist point of view as well, once the root of ego is severed, the soul is gone. In such event, sufferings become inconsequential.

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57 Responses to MOKSHA AND NIRVAAN

  1. RKGupta says:

    An erudite discussion presented very nicely. My comments are a bit longer; I hope the esteemed readers would not mind it.
    I am writing these comments from Sufi perspective. In Sufi tradition, Nirvana or Moksha does not mean getting over the cycle of life and death. It means becoming a ‘Jeevan-Mukta’, i.e. attaining liberation while still in body. In other words it means getting over one’s desires, which is the cause of bondage. Even the desire not to be reborn after all is a desire. As Hazrat Abu Hasan Khirqani said “My desire is to have no desires”.
    Mind by travelling between the two extremes of the physical body and the causal body (embodied soul), carries impressions and forms a knot under their influence. It is the mind that rules both the body and the embodied soul and it is the mind alone that accepts bondage or liberation. The action, which entangles the embodied soul, originates first in the mind. It may, therefore, be argued that every evil has its origin in the mind and it is the mind that is responsible for all misdeeds. The mind, however, cannot be condemned. Mind is not the originator and responsible for bad actions alone, the good and virtue also arise in the mind. There is, therefore, no justification for blaming the mind. The mind is like the horse on which one has to ride to cover the distance in the journey of life. If the mind is compelled or coerced with force it gets irritated and becomes weak. One cannot complete his journey satisfactorily and pull the cart of the life to its destination using a weak horse. All that is necessary is to control the fickle mind and to train it. It needs to be guided with love and care. With love the mind gets to the right path easily.
    In Sufi tradition, particularly the Naqshbadi Sufi Order, the subtle heart is considered to be intimately connected with the ‘Latifa-e-Nafs’ (Anahat Chakra), which needs to be purified of the impressions gathered by it arising from innumerable sensual desires and distractions in order to achieve the state of definitive annihilation (Fana, the Sufi terminology for the annihilation of the Self) and permanent realisation (Baqa). Purification of this center results in transmutation of the sensual soul (Nafs-e-Ammara) into the pacified soul (Nafs-e-Mutmainna).
    The concept of annihilation, however, is not unique to Sufism alone. The Srimadbhagwat Mahapuran in Dwitiya Skandh Adhyay 2 mentions how a yogi should prepare for departure from this world. It states that such a yogi who has overcome his desires following the path of knowledge should sit steadfastly pressing his anus with the toe of the foot. He should then direct his breath (Pranvayu) upwards according to the technique of subjugating the six spiritual Chakras (Shatchakrabhedan). He should direct the breath from the Manipurak Chakra on the naval to the Anahat Chakra at the heart, from there to the Vishuddha Chakra on the throat through Udan Vayu (the pharyngeal breath) and then gradually to the top of the Vishuddha Chakra at the root of the palate. Thereafter he should block the seven gates i.e. two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and the mouth and lift that breath to the Agya Chakra at the center of the eyebrows. If the yogi does not wish to go to any Loka, he should hold the breath there for a short while and then with a firm determination raise it to Sahstradal Kamal and get absorbed in the Supreme Soul. He should then cross the Brahmarandhra and leave behind his body and senses (Indriyan).
    If, however, the yogi wishes to go to Brahmaloka and to acquire the eight miraculous powers (Ashta Siddhi) or to go to any other Loka in this universe, then he should leave behind his body but carry with him his senses and the Manas (mind). The body of such yogis is subtly thin like air. Those yogis who follow the path of worship (Upasana), penance (Tapasya) or knowledge (Gyan) acquire the liberty to move freely anywhere within or outside this universe. This liberty, however, cannot be acquired through action alone.
    The Srimadbhagwat Mahapuran states further that when the yogi moves ahead on this lighted path of the Sushumna (one of the principal nerve originating from heart and leading to the vertex) for the Brahmaloka, he first goes to Agni Loka where the remainder of all his vices are burnt and from there he moves up to the lighted sphere ‘Shishumar’ of Lord Sri Hari (Lord Vishnu), which is the center for the movement in the entire universes. After crossing it, he acquires a very subtle and pure body that enables him to go to Maharloka, which even those possessing knowledge of Brahma praise and which is inhabited by the angels (gods-Devta). When the time of dissolution (Pralay) arrives, the yogi moves to Brahmaloka, which has the life span of Brahma. Here there is existence of no sorrow or pain, nor that of aging and death. The only discomfort they have is to witness other creatures suffering the pain of life and death.
    On reaching the Satya Loka, the fearless yogi now dissolves his subtle body in the element earth and proceeds to subjugate the seven sheaths. He now proceeds to dissolve his earthen form into the element water; water into the element fire and then gaining the form of Tej (fire), into the element air. At the due moment his subtle form then gets dissolved into the element ether, which imparts the experience of the boundless Brahman. While going through the dissolution of the gross elements, his organs of senses (Indriyan) also get dissolved in their subtle principles. The organ of smell gets dissolved in the subtle principle Gandha (odour); the organ of savour in its subtle principle essence; the organ of vision in its subtle principle form (Rupa); the organ of feeling in its subtle principle Sparsh (touch); the organ of hearing in its subtle principle Shabda (vibration) and the organs of action in their respective powers of action. Having thus dissolved the gross and subtle principles, the yogi now enters the sheath of ego (Ahankar). Here he dissolves the subtle elements in the Tamas Ahankar, the senses in the Rajas Ahankar and the Manas (mind) and the governors of the organs of senses and action into the Satvik Ahankar. Thereafter he dissolves the Ahankar in the Mahatatva and lastly in the Prakriti (the Adimaya), the origin of all Gunas (modes of Nature). When the time of Mahapralaya (the ultimate dissolution) comes, the yogi now having no sheath over his true Self becomes the abode of eternal bliss and becomes One with the Truth.
    In regard to the yogis following the path of love and devotion, the Srimadbhagwat Mahapuran states that they should withdraw their attention from all other engagements and restrain their mind and senses. They should then absorb their mind and intellect (Buddhi) into the embodied soul and the embodied soul into the inner Self (Antaryami). The inner Self is then to be absorbed in the Truth. Such yogis have no duty left for them. In such a state the Trigunas, Ahankar, Prakriti or Mahatatva none exists for the yogi. This supreme state is achieved only through the unqualified love and devotion for the Almighty God.
    Further, as rightly pointed out by everyone, desires are the bondage. Renunciation of desires, however, may also leave a subtle pride, the pride of conquering desires. In this context I would like to quote Hazrat Shams Tabrez, the spiritual Master of Maulana Rumi. He used to wander bare-headed. Once when someone asked him about this, he replied-“You are blind. I wear four caps, which are not visible to you” and then said:
    Meaning thereby-my head is not bare. I am wearing four caps. The first is I have left the worldly desires, the second is I have left the desire for the hereinafter (heavens), the third is I have left the desire to seek God and the fourth is I have left even that consciousness through which I left the first three. Here one also needs to understand the proper meaning of ‘Tark-e-Maula’. It is the state when one completely internalises the Truth and then nothing is left to seek outside.
    As regards the mind, I would like to quote an anecdote from Maharshi Ashtawrak.
    Maharaja Janak was considered to be one of the renowned Knowers of his time, who had risen above the materialistic desires. He, however, felt that he had traces of his will still left in him, which could be over come only by taking shelter under a competent Master. He, therefore, made up his mind and announced that one who can lead him to realisation within the duration in which he mounts the horse shall be his Master, and if he fails he will be awarded death.
    On the destined day Maharaja Janak was ready with a well-decorated horse to mount on and many wise people from all around had gathered to witness the scene. No one, however, dared to come forward. The time was passing and everyone was wondering what was going to happen, as the vow taken by Maharaja Janak was very difficult to be fulfilled.
    When no one came forward, a little before the Sunset, Maharshi Ashtawrak’s mother told him to go to Maharaja Janak, fulfill his desire and to rescue all those present from this difficult situation. Maharshi Ashtawrak was then about nine or ten years old. His body was bent at eight places and, therefore, he was known Ashtawrak i.e. bent at eight places. Spiritually it can also mean that he, by birth, had mastered all the eight mystique centers of energy and that he was a great Master by birth.
    As desired by his mother Maharshi Ashtawrak reached the Court of Maharaja Janak. His brilliance shadowed everyone including Maharaja Janak. He asked Maharaja Janak to mount the horse. Maharaja Janak, although deeply impressed by him, told him very politely about his vow and that he would not like to subject a child, woman, old or disabled person to be subjected to death penalty as announced by him.
    Maharshi Ashtawrak on listening to this warning of Maharaja Janak challenged him saying, ‘O Janak, you are surely falling from your position. You are unnecessarily wasting time of every one by showing your cowardice and incapability, besides incurring the risk of not fulfilling your vow. I had heard that Maharaja Janak is a learned person but today in this Court full of wise people you are backing out from your vow. If in the mean time the Sun sets you would not be able to fulfil your vow.’
    Maharaja Janak was astonished and bewildered. He proceeded to mount the horse but as he was about to put his foot in the stirrup, Maharshi Ashtawrak told him, ‘O Janak, you have taken such a harsh vow which has put the lives of several saints at risk, but you have not announced the Gurudakshina (a reward presented to the Master as a mark of respect). You should, therefore, first commit the Gurudakshina, which should be matching your vow and also meet with the aspirations of the Master.’
    Maharaja Janak felt embarrassed and said, “Kindly tell me what you desire as Gurudakshina. I shall here and now fulfil it.” Maharshi Ashtawrak replied, “Whatever you claim is yours, you can promise as Gurudakshina. I do not want anything else.”

    Maharaja Janak immediately offered his kingdom, all belongings and even his family members at the feet of Maharshi Ashtawrak. Maharshi Ashtawrak laughed at it and said, “O Janak, you are perhaps joking with me. Do really all these things belong to you. The kingdom, property and wealth, which you claim to be yours, were these not belonging to somebody else before you and would not these pass to someone else after you. Your family members, whom you consider to be related to you, are they not related to others. Is it proper for you to deny others of their rights as a result of succumbing to your ego? Do you want to deceive your Master?”
    Maharaja Janak was stunned. He started gazing at the feet of Maharshi Ashtawrak and it looked as if he was pondering over something very deeply. Maharshi Ashtawrak looking at the condition of Maharaja Janak took pity at him and asked him, ‘Why are you feeling so helpless over this trifle matter. Do not get perturbed. Tell me how and what makes you think that all these things belong to you.’ Maharaja Janak felt something igniting inside by the grace of the Master. He said, “It is the mind of this humble servant of yours through which it accepts and thinks anything belonging to it. O Master if this mind belongs to your humble servant, it offers it at your pious feet.”
    Maharshi Ashtawrak said, “Although this mind also does not fully belong to you, but I accept it. Now it is my order that you should not do anything through this mind which is now mine, without or against my order.’ Maharaja Janak although was a great scholar and had travelled far on the path of spirituality, his mind was not completely free from sankalp and vikalp (affirmation and negation). It took some time for him to completely empty out his mind. During this period Maharshi Ashtawrak kept a watch on his mind and reminded him, if he strayed. The moment Maharaja Janak reached the state of perfection, he forgot about himself, his vow and that he was about to mount the horse. Maharaja Janak was about to fall that Maharshi Ashtawrak supported him. In a moment his heart was filled with the Divine Light. His vow had been fulfilled. Maharshi Ashtawrak then told him to ask whatever he wanted to know. Maharaja Janak put his head at the pious feet of his Master Maharshi Ashtawrak and said, “O my lord, I had taken this difficult vow only to acquire this knowledge. Now there is nothing more to know.” Maharshi Ashtawrak then told Maharaja Janak that it is only when the disciple completely surrenders his mind to the Master, shedding his own-will, that he is able to acquire the divine knowledge.
    Regards, RKGupta

  2. Manimala Das says:

    In response to the 5th question raised regarding this discussion, I humbly like to say that to think that everybody can evolve his or her inherent Buddha nature and make the society an ideal place to live on is not a Utopian conjecture. To make something real, one should have a vision of it , one should visualize how to work for it.. The Marxists dream of a classless society and I believe that if each and every active Marxist is sincere and work tirelessly for it, his dream would come true some day. As a follower of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism I believe in the Buddha nature of all and that one should strive to awaken one’s own Buddha nature by chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and thus create a society based on good will and compassion. Good will and compassion are totally missing both in our everyday life as well as in the larger arena of social life. Chanting earnestly makes us feel our vast potential and tap it for the good of us as well as for all others. As a follower of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism it is our goal to flower our innate Buddha nature .and subsequently create a value in society.

    Then there was a fleeting remark that why should we recite a Japanese chant. My answer is : first this chant is the translation of Sanskrit Sad Dharma Pundarika sutra. In our society we feel proud to speak in English. think in English, dream in English , and we have never tried our vernaculars or regional languages to prosper in a way so that they can become equal to and as important as the English language. While in Japan, Japanese is an all important and flourishing language. In our country if we encourage the nursery level children to learn their mother tongue , the scenario would have been far better today. So what is wrong with the Japanese chant if it can lead us to our treasure house of Buddha Nature?

    Then there was the finger point at the Soka Gakkai International itself that some people say it is like a Rotary Club. I like to say that even Buddha had to face ill language from many people whose vested interests seemed to be hit by his teachings. The Soka Gakkai International rose to the unbelievable heights from the background of utter economic, social and political devastation caused by second World War and atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At that time there was not a single household in Japan who did not suffer losses in terms of death and disease and dire poverty..It is for the unshakable faith and tireless work of the three presidents of Soka Gakkai namely Mr Makuguchi, Mr Toda (both are no more) and the present president Mr Daisaku Ikeda, our respectable mentor, that this organization has been able to spread its ideals of hope and , dignity of life all over the world. And the ideal is not an empty slogan because we, the members of Soka Gakkai are striving at every moment to shed all our negative thoughts and emotions and realize our Buddha nature as well as that of others. Our goal is to create a society full of peace, harmony and good will where everybody can revive his immense humane potentiality.

    Thank you
    Manimala Das

  3. akraha1948 says:

    Erudite reflections of Guptjai from Sufi perspective and explanation by Ms. Manimala Das how the innate Buddha nature can be evolved by chanting are truly enlightening and hence welcome.

    As for Hazrat Shams Tabrez’s famous remark – “TARK-E-DUNIYA, TARK-E-UKVA, TARK-E-MAULA, TARK-E-TARK.” (I have left the worldly desires, the desire for heaven, the desire to seek God and the desire for desire), there is no doubt that only a liberated soul who has uprooted his ego and also the mind from which the ego sprouts is capable of making such remark. It is pertinent to point out that long before the time of Hazrat Shams Tabrez, the concept of such liberation was prevalent in India as Guptaji himself pointed out with reference to Srimad Bhagwat Mahapuran. Here are more direct references.

    In Shanti Parva of Mahabharata, the sage Vedavyasa.advised king Yudhisthir to renounce all worldly desires in the first instance through mind and thereafter to annihilate mind to become liberated.

    In verses 3-4, chapter 15 of Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna having compared worldly existence with a banyan tree observes that the wise after destroying the banyan tree from its root takes refuge in God from Whom alone the immemorial process of creation originated. Reaching IT, they do not return to phenomenal existence any more.

    Even earlier than the time of Mahabharata / Gita, Brahmarshi (God-realized sage) Vasishtha narrated to Rama how Jivanmuktas (liberated men) conduct themselves in this world (refer the anecdote of Sikhidhwaja and Chudalai in Yogavasishtha). The Brahmarshi stated as follows: “The liberated sages are free from longings or desires. They have annihilated their minds. They have no desire for heaven and for rewards for their actions. They show equipoise under all circumstances of life.”

    Thus it can be seen that the concept that for liberation one has to renounce or annihilate the root of all desires, viz. the mind, was prevalent in India long before the time of Lord Buddha. While in ancient India prior to Buddha, the above concept was confined to a few sages, Buddha introduced it to the masses in the name of Nirvaan, and thus attracted a large number of youth who left the worldly life to become his disciples aiming at Nirvaan.

    Ms Das has very correctly remarked that our innate Buddha nature can be flowered by constant chanting. But it is doubtful whether by chanting alone one can become a Buddha or a liberated soul. In this regard I consider it pertinent to cite Brahmarshi Vasishtha from Yoga Vasishtha:
    “Yabat prabodho vimalo noditostabadeba sah I
    Mourkhyaddinataya Rama bhaktya mokshohavibanchyate II”
    [Rama, unless pure wisdom dawns, people out of foolishness desire liberation through devotion alone.].

    The above statement,coming as it does from a Brahmarshi like Vasishtha is a loaded one having deep meaning. Devotion / love implies duality where God is often personified as the recipient of the devotee’s respect or love. In the process, the devotee can reach his/her God to whom he/she is devoted, but cannot be merged with God. As for instance, it is believed that Radha was re-incarnated as Meera and at least one of the Gopis was identified by Sri Ramakrishna as one of his close disciples. Such devotees or Divine Lovers maintain their distinct identity and never aim at Moksha, Nirvaan or liberation. It is only through pure wisdom attained through meditation that one can attain Moksha or Nirvaan. Yogis describe this state of realization as Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Buddha has also prescribed meditation for his disciples who had renounced worldly life. Without the guidance and blessings of the Master and without utmost devotion and unconditional surrender of the disciple to the Master, one cannot reach such state merely by chanting.

  4. Sarada Ranjan Das says:

    The subject Moksha & Nirvaan was nicely dealt with by the main speaker as well as by some of the other speakers present there. Lots of pertinent questions arise in our mind like:
    Is it possible to attain Moksha or Nirvaan by everybody
    If yes, then can we think of a world where everybody has attained Moksha
    Whether Moksha is the final goal
    If God has created this Maya and Jeevas to enjoy it, then why should we denounce it, would it not be an action against the God’s will?
    Since all of us have gone through schooling I like to attempt some of these questions
    In a typical school, there are 12 classes running simultaneously with different levels. At any point of time, school has students in all the classes years after years, however for an individual student, he progresses form one class to next higher class. There was a time when he entered as a student ignorant and there will be a time when he leaves the school acquiring highest level knowledge that offers. However at any point of time, school has mix of all levels of students of all the classes.
    In a typical school, there are 12 classes running simultaneously with different levels. A student progresses from one class to the next higher class. There was a time when he entered as a student to learn from the very fundamental level and there will be a time when he leaves the school acquiring highest level of knowledge it offers. However at any point of time, school has a mix of all levels of students of all the classes.

    Similarly, in our society there are people whose goal is to acquire materialistic happiness whereas there are people who shun materialistic interests and have longing for God. To them realization of God is the only aim of human life. This change of attitude comes after undergoing many cycles of life and death. For everybody, one who is self centered and materialistic in nature (Asura prakrity) in the initial phase of the human cycle and becomes selfless, compassionate and spiritual in nature towards the end of the cycle.
    So yes, everybody is potentially spiritual (having divine nature) and everybody will attain Nirvana or Moksha at some point of time as that is the destiny. Since it takes numerous numbers of births, one cannot predict when and how one achieves Moksha. Therefore all the time, in this world there will be a mixed population of different levels of spirituality. This also makes sense in sustaining human race in the world.
    Whether Mokshya is the ultimate stage of a human being? It seems it is rather penultimate stage and real divinity start with this stage. Broadly we can find four stages:
    1. A stage where a person is self centered only. All his activities are for self satisfaction or self protection. He believes only in the existence of materialistic life. His feelings are only through five senses and his emotions are driven by his six inherent vices like anger, greed, vanity etc.
    2. In the second stage he starts believing in the existence of God and that there is something beyond self and materialistic world. Then through various spiritual practices he experiences God’s grace.
    3. In the third stage he understands that his existence is due to God, by God and for God and one day he would get merged in Him. Now materialistic life is of no importance for him and he seeks the spiritual path. He then starts experiencing the bliss. Our sufferings, unhappiness, nonfulfilment of desires etc are due to attachment to the materialistic world and self centeredness. In this stage one achieves total freedom from worldly desires and turns to God. So one becomes Mukta Jeeva hence least likely to take another birth. His sadhana continues without body. However if he takes birth, it would be to fulfil some selfless objective.
    4. The last stage where one totally gets merged in God; here jeevatma gets one with paramatma. This is the ultimate stage. As Sri Ramakrishna used to say that when a doll of salt goes to sea, it completely gets dissolved in it.

  5. RKGupta says:

    An interesting aspect of ‘chanting’ a prayer and the language of the prayer has gained some prominence in these discussions. I would like to add Sufi perspective to a prayer. Prayer for Sufis means to be in the Presence of the Almighty. As Prophet Muhammad remarked, ‘Thou shouldst worship thy Lord, as if thou seest Him; and if not, He indeed sees thee.’ An incident from the life of Maulana Bahauddin Wald (son of the great Sufi Master Maulana Rumi) is related. One day he was lost completely in the remembrance of the Almighty. The hour of offering prayers (Namaz) arrived. Some of his disciples mentioned it to him but as Maulana Bahauddin was deeply engrossed in the remembrance of God, he did not pay any attention to it. All his disciples, except two, also got up to offer prayers. Maulana Bahauddin and the two disciples kept on sitting in the remembrance of God. One of the disciples who got up to offer prayers was blessed with insight. He noticed that all of those disciples who had stood up to offer prayers, their prayers were not accepted and their faces appeared to be turned away from the Kaaba, whereas Maulana Wald and his two disciples who had not got up and were sitting with him, were facing the Kaaba, as is usual in the prayers. This was so because at that moment Maulana Bahauddin Wald was deeply immersed in the divine thoughts and had completely merged himself with the Almighty, which is the real offering of prayer.

    Someone once asked Maulana Rumi that as he remained busy in his duties and worldly affairs, he is not able to offer prayers faithfully, although he always wished to do so. Maulana Rumi answered that the worldly duties are also ordained by the God and, therefore, they are also the work of God. However the worldly duties should not be motivated by self-interest. If the worldly duties are performed for the benefit of others, as a service and considering them to be a duty enjoined upon him that enables and help others also in offering prayers then they are like offering prayer to God. If the intention is pious, all the acts are spiritual acts. God chooses them to perform such duties to whom He is extremely kind and merciful.

    Maulana Rumi also said that a prayer is not merely words. Prayer is not something simply uttered by mouth signifying belief. What can be conveyed and confined by words has a beginning and an end. It starts with the words and ends with the words. Such a prayer is nothing but a hollow thing. The essence of prayer is to forget oneself in His remembrance and get absorbed in His thoughts. One does not have to stick to any external form in offering prayer. The real prayer is to get merged; all the formalities then disappear. Mahatma Radha Mohan Lalji (My father’s Master) also used to say, ‘what is the use of repeating a prayer mechanically? One has to overcome the language barrier.’

    My Master Param Sant Thakur Ram Singhji used to narrate an anecdote. A lady, mad in the love of her husband was running blindly to see him. On the way a man was offering prayers (Namaz). The lady, however, did not see him put her feet on his back. When she returned, this man stopped her and asked her whether she had turned so blind that she could not spot him offering prayers? The lady asked him in return ‘were you offering prayers to the Almighty or thinking of the world. I had become so mad in the love of my husband that I could not see anything else. You say that you were offering prayers to God, but you appear to be putting blame on His love. If you were really offering prayer to Him then how could you know anything else happening around while offering prayers?’

    Before concluding, I must, however, say that as most of the people would not have reached the state where they can get completely absorbed in the divine, chanting a prayer plays an important role to channelize and focus the mind on the divine and gradually enter into that state, where the real sense of the words manifests in the form of a silent prayer.

    • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

      Prophet Muhammad remarked, ‘Thou shouldst worship thy Lord, as if thou seest Him; and if not, He indeed sees thee.

      Guptajee this is perfectly picked. It is true that Naam & Namee (Deity;s name and He himself) are one and the same. Therefore when one takes name or Chants, His presence is there.If this is understood, Chanting become vibrant and blissful.

      Thanks for your nice post above.

  6. I would like to commend Smt Manimala Das and all the other commentators for their erudite presentations. I have, however, some basic problems with going for either Moksha or Nirvana since none of us has any clear idea as to what such a state actually entails and , even whether it is at all desirable or even sustainable for an eternity Merely repeating the scriptures or what one guru/monk or the other has to say about these things including advise on the incredible calisthenics needed to be practiced mentioned in one of Shri Gupta’s commentaries are not particularly helpful unless , of course,one is totally prepared to abandon all rationality. My first issue is , if the world has been created by intelligent design, why must we assume it to be either an evil or an illusion from which we must all try to escape? Is it the intention of this supernatural being to lay elaborate traps for us and watch the fun as we engage in various tortuous physical and mental processes to get out of what we grandiosly term the cycle of life and death.. Asish after some quick calculations came to the conclusion that since the Satya Yuga at most a dozen individuals may have attained Moksha/ Nirvana, a most dismal record. Mr Gupta is a bit more optimistic and quotes Sufi philosophy to say all we need to do is to give up all worldly desires and we can then all become Paramhansas. Smt Das firmly believes that by some repetitive Buddhist chanting scripted by a Jappanese monk Buddha -hood is accessible to us all.Really , Smt Das? How many Buddhas have you encountered in your life? Can you introduce us all to such an individual?
    Indeed, if we are creatures of this world and must abide by our respective Dharmas (no doubt a separate and conflicting injunction) how can we possibly give up all worldly desires? Certainly this cannot be attained by more than a few. What of the rest of us? Do we stand condemned? If we view the Paramatma as an ocean or a huge magnet, and the Jivatmas as water drops or tiny iron filings, we have no option but to merge one day with the Paramatma. However, as the cycle must go on Jivatma would inevitably be separated again from the Paramatma and start the whole process afresh. Hence, no one needs to be a yogi to merge with the supreme consciouness . It is a natural process . My simple submission is that if we are ethical in all that we do the Supreme Being will take care of the rest and there is really no need for us to fret over what happens when we pass into the beyond.

  7. RKGupta says:

    I agree with you Tripathiji and I find no fault in your argument that if it is He,Who has created the world and everyone of us and if the world is not an evil or illusion then why should we feel unhappy and why should we give up desires? My simple submission is that if we really come to that state, where we feel happy in the state in which we are, we have really achieved the goal. After all the ultimate aim of all spiritual practices is to attain the state of permanent bliss. The state when one is happy in all circumstances is called “Razi Mein Raza” (to be blissful in whatever condition He keeps). The only problem is that we do not move forward towards the state of permanent happiness through our effort in fulfilling one desire after another. It is a matter of common experience that even multimillionaires and highly accomplished persons do not enjoy the state of permanent bliss and their desire to achieve more and more does not satiate. Further, since desires arise from imperfection; as a result of some lacking, one keeps on running to acquire more and more. Have we ever come across a person who has acquired all the worldly possessions beyond which there was nothing to look for and then he was satisfied, not craving for anything and being blissful? No Alexander or Midas ever seemed to be satisfied. In fact keeping on satisfying the desires of senses, after some time start becoming counterproductive. For example keeping on eating, viewing, listening, touching or so on gives rise to aversion towards those sense objectives.
    I also feel that a wise person need not always learn through his own experience alone, but he should also learn through the experiences of others. One, therefore, has to wisely choose his ideal and the path to be followed to achieve that ideal. One should take a wise decision to find where his real happiness lies and then pursue it with full commitment and vigor. If, however, one comes to a conclusion that running after worldly desires is not going to take him to the state of permanent bliss, would it not be wise to ponder over what it is that has taken at least some to such a state of bliss and then try to explore the possibility of taking a step in that direction?
    Regards, RKGupta

    • Thank-you Mr Gupta. There is no doubt much wisdom in what you say. Of course. great rishis, sages and monks have their own approach to the Divine. Their path, however, is not for lay people like us, nor need it be. I have no doubt at all that the Creator is immensely proud of His Creation and is greatly pained by all the foolish talk of dismissing it as impermanent and an illusion. If you are the author of a great book and I trash it and say I must meet the author himself ,how would you feel? All of us identify ourselves with our work and God is no different , since we are an integral part of Him. God manifests Himself through His creation and quite rightly wants us all to participate in this Leela. That is why Tagore had said” Liberation through renunciation is not my path” and that he would like to be born again and again to enjoy the many beauties of this universe.That, too, is a form of worship. However, as you have rightly stated, a grab , grab mentality is not conducive to real happiness and fulfillment. The more we share the happier are we. Yuddhistira had once said to a yaksha that the greatest wonder of the world is that we know we would all die one day and yet behave in life as if we were immortals. To this one can add a second wonder, namely, we all know that we came to this world with no material goods and that we would leave the world with none either, and yet we spend all our lives in hankering for them. I am not saying that aquisition of wealth per say is bad, but that we should not be its slave and lose our divine nature in a mad quest for money at all cost.But, having said that, I must also reiterate that saving us from ourselves is God’s prerogative alone and He will do so in His own way and in His own time. We need not fret over whether we attain bliss in a single life-time or over many. The Puranas are full of stories of danavas who performed great scarifices to win divine blessings with disastrous consequences. As for the rishis themselves, many were full of aham and behaved in the most atrocious manner-e.g. Vishavamitra, Durbasha and Bhrigu to name but a few. So let us be cautious in what we do. Buddha’s Middle Path is a sensible approach in all such matters.

  8. RKGupta says:

    I fully endorse your views. The life is given to us not to run away from it but to gain experience through our body and senses and to distinguish between good and bad (for the entire creation), have compassion and sympathy for not only animates but with in-animates, as well. Just another thought which comes to my mind is that while the in-animates worship the Creator by being what they are, we the human beings, consider ourselves to be superior animates and do not remain what we are but try to hide our true-self behind so many covers. I agree that if we can become true human beings, it would be the greatest form of worship.

    • Manimala Das says:

      In response to Mr Tripathi’s first post, I would like to say that our path of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is to live our lives meaningfully and not aspire for Nirvaan. As we are human beings , it is very natural to have desires and we can aspire for the fulfilment of our personal desire through our chant. We may chant for earthly desires ( say ,a good job or big house ) but we will have to work hard for it, make ourselves alert, intelligent, confident and wise; in a word, we have to be capable to aquire that. Fulfillment of our desire will not happen as a magic or through some unfair means. So through chant, though we may pray for earthly desire, but in the process we are elevating our life state by being more hardworking, intelligent and honest and discarding our negative tendencies.. Chanting of this mystic Law (Nam Myoho Renge Kyo ) does change all our negative feelings and attitude and let us expand our hearts for the good of everyone. The core of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is to change ourselves for the better so that we be happy, make others happy as well in this our present life. And it is not through some miracle but by transforming our negative aspect through this chant..As a human being we have anger, jealousy, greed and what not which make our everyday life painful? At home, in workplace, on the road, there are numerous small and big incidents of rage, impatience, disregard, deceit, and greed. As a follower of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, I have been taught to respect everyone and regard everyone equal to the every other person. Why? Because we believe that everyone has the Buddha nature, which is dormant now but will revive if one chants earnestly. Buddha nature means to have true wisdom, true courage and boundless compassion. Buddha was the embodiment of all these.
      In reply to how many Buddhas have i encountered , I would like to say that all of us are Buddhas ,,,only we do not know that and act with lowly aspirations. If we had a little fellow feeling,compassion, could shed the shell of selfishness then we would not have indulged in greedy, foolish and deceitful,activities. Just think, what a hell we have made our world of? . All through his life Buddha taught us how our lives should be lived so that we be happy and let others also be happy. Nichiren Daishonin says that through this chant one would attain a high life state of compassion, wisdom and courage and thus make the society worth living. There were so many armed revolutions on our earth against the oppressors, but happiness and freedom were only momentary. Peace and harmony did not last because men did not change. Fellow feeling,compassion courage and wisdom were missing from people’s heart. Now is the time to change ourselves. The motto of Sokka Gakkai International is,:’ if I change then the world will change’. I can change myself through this chant of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo in this very present life. And this is the truth. To test this, one has to chant and see the effect!.

      Manimala Das

      • Dear Smt Das,
        Thank-you very much for your gentle rejoinder to my remarks in the true Buddhist tradition . I admit to have been deliberately provocative in my comments for two reasons:1) to test the genuineness of the speaker’s convictions and 2) to make the Blog exciting with contrarian remarks that bring forth further clarifications. I must admit you have done exceedingly well both in your initial presentation and in your subsequent defense of the laudable goals of the Nichiren Daishonin school of Buddhism. When I had posed the rhetorical question whether you had met any Buddha in real life, I had actually meant someone like the historical Shakyamuni who was not only an enlightened self but a towering personality that made him the no. 1 Indian of all times. You ,of course, mean someone who has the Buddha’s core characteristics of compassion for all living beings and capacity to conquer all negative impulses that bedevil us. But what of his brilliant intellect, compelling power of communication and superb organisational skills ? Two and a half thousand years after his Mahaparinirvan India is still to get a worthier son than him.

  9. Manimala Das says:

    Dear Mr. Tripathi,
    Thank you for the recent post. Shakyamuni Buddha had this towering personality studded by intellectual brilliance, superb power of communication and organisational skills because he based everything on his boundless compassion for the people’s ceaseless suffering. His Bodhi or supreme wisdom led him to his immortal teachings that still in this modern age show us the way. He acquired the power to tap his vast potential by sheer faith in himself and a burning desire to save the Mankind. Buddha himself said,to us, ‘Be lamp unto you’. Everybody can draw on his or her vast potentiality and create value in society. And how to draw on our own potential? According to Nichiren Daishonin , the means is chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, the title of the Lotus sutra which Buddha preached during the last eight years of his life. In the Lotus sutra Shakyamuni Buddha said that every person has the Buddha nature. The chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo will empower us to awaken our faith in ourselves which will in turn make us shine in our respective fields of work.

    There are numerous instances where, by chanting, the followers of Nichiren Daishonin have broken through deadlocks and achieved their goals in education, workplace and other fields. In all the numberless instances, we read about the victory of the follower in winning over innumerable drawbacks.

    As for organisational power and communication skill and superb intellect, our present President of Sokka Gakkai International is incomparable in this modern age.His goal is to achieve peace and harmony in society and in the world. And still at the age of eighty five, he is working towards it tirelessly The ideals of this lay organisation Sokka Gakkai International ( Sokka Gakkai means value creation in Japanese ) has spread throughout the world and more and more young people as well as old ones have started to practice this faith. Because this faith of the Buddha talks about faith in one’s own self and bringing happiness to one and everybody.

    Manimala Das

  10. Dear Smt Das,
    May the power be with you and with the Sokka Gakkai International.
    Regards, Amitava Tripathi.

    • akraha1948 says:

      Response to Amitava Tripathi:

      My sincere apology at the outset for my dated response (owing to my long travel schedule) to Amitava’s pertinent poser that goes to the root of our search for Truth. His poser was: “if the world has been created by intelligent design, why must we assume it to be either an evil or an illusion from which we must all try to escape”.

      Undoubtedly, this very same poser has troubled all Truth-seekers from time immemorial. A logical corollary of the above poser is – if God is there, why He must create this world full of sufferings in the name of enjoying His creativity.

      My humble submission, in response, is that since we all are rational animals, and in the words of John Stuart Mill, prefer to be ‘a Socrates dissatisfied rather than a pig satisfied’, we strive to know, seek or perceive Truth rather than accepting as postulate what all great people, claiming to have realized the ultimate Truth have said. To be precise, our efforts are to perceive the Grand Design, if there is one. Once we are able to perceive the same following the path or procedure prescribed by the great Masters, we also start participating in the Grand Design like God, and all sufferings disappear in no time. For the sake of clarity, let me use an illustration. Let’s take the case of Pather Panchali of Satyajit Roy. The pathos in the film makes us shed tears and more tears we shed greater are the satisfaction of the Director of the film at his success. None would accuse Roy of sadism. There are also Directors who are actors as well in the same play. If we take this world as the script of God where God Itself participates in the guise of all the characters as also spectators, we can at once detach ourselves from the sufferings and joy that are being staged in this world as per the grand script. Till we perceive the grand script, we have the tendency of taking the happenings around us as real.

      What are stated above are just one approach to know the Truth and not the only approach. Amitava has very aptly cited Tagore to delineate the other approach – “Liberation through renunciation is not my path”. The poet went on to say: “I shall taste liberation, full of bliss, amidst countless bondage.” In another place, Tagore wrote:

      “The ascetic is muttering negation in his every breath (to know Infinite),
      While the Infinite is yearning to manifest Itself within the limits of man.
      This manifestation is called ‘I’.”

      The seeking/perceiving of Truth through the joy and sufferings, ups and downs of human existence is the other approach suggested by liberated souls. Followers of this approach need not deny our existence as unreal. Amitava seems to be subscribing to this path which has its own appeal to a large number of seekers.

      On power of chanting:

      I am in agreement with Ms Manimala Das that chanting, in her case chanting of ‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo’, as suggested by Nichiren Daishonin, the 13th century Buddhist monk from Japan, can inspire a person to awaken his/her inner divinity. Nichiren was considered as the second Buddha by his followers, notably Nichiren Shoshu, the priestly Buddhist organization and Soka Gakkai International (SGI, founded in 1930) the organization of lay Buddhists. Indeed, in the Lotus sutra Shakyamuni Buddha said that every person had the Buddha nature. on April 28, 1253, Nichiren declared that by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo one could activate universal enlightenment inherent in every human being. The above phrase can be literally translated as “I devote myself to the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law.” Nichiren used a poetic metaphor to describe this process of awakening: “When a caged bird sings, birds who are flying in the sky are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives to get out. When we chant the Mystic Law, our Buddha nature, being summoned, will invariably emerge.”

      However, Buddha’s emphasis was undoubtedly on meditation, and in traditional Buddhism chanting is a means to prepare the mind for meditation. While on chants, there is no commonality among various Buddhist sects. Among the most popular Theravada chants are Buddhabhivandana (Preliminary Reverence for the Buddha), Tisarana (The Three Refuges), Pancasila (The Five Precepts), Buddha Vandana, Dhamma Vandana and Sangha Vandana. The most popular Mahayana chant is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo from Lotus Sutra. But Mahayana Buddhists also chant nianfo, Namu Amida Butsu or Namo Amituofo (Homage to Amitabha Buddha). Prajñāpāramitā Hridaya Sūtra (Heart Sutra) is popular with Zen Buddhists. For Vajrayana practitioners, the chant ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ is very popular around the world. It may not be correct on our part to evaluate comparative values of those chants so long as devotees get inspired by the same. As to the question whether those chants are able to awaken Buddha nature of every chanter, there is serious room for doubt as Amitava has correctly pointed out.

      The case in point is the instance of serious rift between Nichiren Shoshu, the organization of Buddhist priests in Japan and Soka Gakkai, the organization of lay Buddhists founded in 1930 in Japan as subordinate to Nichiren Shoshu. Owing to the rift, and virtual defiance of Soka Gakkai to Nichiren Shoshu’s dominance, the former was ex-communicated by the latter in 1992 by a formal order. Soka Gokkai eventually shifted its base to the USA and is now known as Soka Gokkai International. Given the fact that both the organizations were Buddhist, and ardent followers of Nichiren Daishonin, and followers of both were used to chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to awaken their innate Buddha nature, it is inexplicable why they must fall out on a petty worldly issue. Be that as it may, we do not doubt the proposition that it is possible for an ardent and sincere follower to awaken his/her Buddha nature by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but find it difficult to subscribe to the view that all those who chant the above shall awaken to Buddhahood. The following anecdote will elucidate our contention.

      It is believed that king Parikshit got Moksha (liberation) after hearing Shukdeva’s recital from Bhagwat Mahapuran. Inspired by that precedent, a king instructed his head priest to recite Bhagwat to him so that he also could attain Moksha. After hearing the recital for about seven days the king realized that there was no change in him. He directed the head priest to explain by next morning why he could not progress a bit spiritually despite hearing the recital from Bhagwat, failing which the head priest would face severe punishment. The daughter of the head priest noticing her father restless and sleepless found out the cause and assured her father that she would explain to the king the reason why he did not make any progress. Next morning, the head priest on being asked by the king to explain submitted that his daughter would explain the matter satisfactorily. Thereupon, the daughter requested the king to tie her to the pillar on the right side of the throne. That being done, the daughter requested the king to have him tied to the left pillar with the help of his lieutenants. After that was also done, she requested the king to untie her. The king exclaimed, ‘how can I untie you when I myself am tied’? She replied, ‘Your majesty, you have got your answer. One tied man cannot untie another. My father is no Shukdeva, being himself in bondage thanks to your favour. Therefore, how can he liberate you?’

      I hope that above anecdote is self-explanatory.

      • Manimala Das says:

        In response to Mr. Raha’s post which I happened to see only today I would like to say that the chant which is recited by SGI followers, is the title of Lotus Sutra which is believed to be the Law of the cause and effect,I.e. the Law of the Universe. It will , undoubtedly, change one man’s nature for the better. The irony is this, that we believe in all types of miracles shown by the great spiritual leaders but can not believe that by chanting only,we can revive the best nature in us. It is because we do not have faith in ourselves.Chanting is the simplest means to reach our goal whereas meditation is not so easy, it is not for the lay people. All spiritual leaders rose to great heights by their intense divine chanting or meditation. Here also, we chant,which is a very simple procedure to awaken the goodness in us.

        As for the rift between Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai, the former is the temple authority in Japan who did not like the growing popularity of Soka Gakkai, the lay Buddhists organisation and there is the rub.The rest is history. the Soka Gakkai International is very much based in Japan and not in US. But there are centers of SGI all over America as well as the rest of the world.
        Manimala Das

      • akraha1948 says:

        Ms. Das, you are correct that Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is based in Japan. In fact, it has its presence in 192 countries including India, and have followers numbering approximately 12 millions who firmly believe, like the priests of Nichiren Shoshu (NS), that the chanting of Nam(u) Myōhō Renge Kyō from the Lotus Sutra shall awaken their innate Buddha nature in this life itself. I fully subscribe to the view that every individual is a potential Buddha and can be awakened either by chanting or meditation or by Karma as the case may be. This view is in conformity with Vedantic view that one can find in the Upanishads and the Gita.

        The only difference in our perception is when you appear to contend, relying upon Nichiren Daishonin, that the only way to awaken Buddhahood in this very life is by chanting Nam(u) Myōhō Renge Kyō from the Lotus Sutra. As per my understanding, Buddha never suggested that. Besides, the rest of the Buddhists other than the followers of SGI and NS do not subscribe to that view while all the Buddhists have complete faith in the Lotus Sutra. The total number of Buddhists is estimated at approximately 500 million. Another 800 million approximately may account for cultural Buddhists who are not Buddhists by religion but by belief or practice. Of those, China alone including Tibet comprises 270 million practicing Buddhists and 675 million cultural Buddhists, followed by Thailand having 63 million practicing Buddhists and Japan having 46 million practicing Buddhists and more than double that number of cultural Buddhists. Considering that the 12 million followers of SGI constitute about 1% of the total practicing and cultural Buddhists of the world, it cannot be our case that rest of the Buddhists who do not chant Nam(u) Myōhō Renge Kyō shall not be able to awaken their innate Buddha nature in this very life.

        As for the followers of Nichiren Daishonin, all do not subscribe to the above view that inner Buddha nature can be awakened by chanting Nam(u) Myōhō Renge Kyō in this very life. Before his demise in 1288, Nichiren had named following six senior priests (rokurōsō) through whom he wanted to transmit his teachings to future generations: Nisshō, Nichirō, Nikō, Nitchō, Nichiji, and Nikkō. Each of them started a lineage of schools. The following two lineages were most prominent among those lineages in Japan: Ichi lineage and Shoretsu lineage. The most important representative of Ichi lineage happens to be Nichiren Shu organization that does not recognize Nichiren Daishonin as Buddha, but only a Bodhisattva, and does not subscribe to the view that we all can become Buddha in this life by chanting Nam(u) Myōhō Renge Kyō. The most important representative of Shoretsu lineage happens to be Nichiren Shoshu comprising Buddhist priests and its subsidiary organization of lay Buddhists named Soka Gokkai founded in 1930 which later separated from its principal after its leaders were excommunicated in 1992 and all its members were excommunicated in 1997 by Nichiren Shoshu on some serious differences.

        In case the principal organization of priests excommunicated the subsidiary organization of lay Buddhists, merely because of the latter’s growing popularity, as you have suggested, obviously the priests did not benefit a bit from the chanting of Nam(u) Myōhō Renge Kyō and behaved like ordinary mortals. The rift between the priests and the lay Buddhists of the Nichiren school is often likened to the rift between the Catholics and the Protestants. Even Nichiren Daishonin himself faced severe opposition from other Buddhist schools of his time, in and outside Japan.

        As for the phrase ‘Nam(u) Myōhō Renge Kyō’, Nam(u) is a transliteration into Japanese of the Sanskrit “namas”, and Myōhō Renge Kyō is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese title of the Lotus Sutra, in the translation by Kumārajīva. If we break down the phrase the following meaning emerges:
        • Nam(u) – derived from the Sanskrit ‘namas’ meaning ‘devotion to’
        • Myō – meaning ‘strange’, ‘mystery’, ‘miracle’
        • Hō – meaning ‘law’, ‘principle’, ‘doctrine’;
        ` Myōhō – meaning ‘supreme (marvelous) law of Buddha’
        • Ren – meaning ‘lotus’
        • Ge – meaning ‘flower’
        • Kyō – meaning ‘sutra’ or ‘teaching’

        Together, the phrase suggests: “I take refuge in (devote or submit myself to) the Wonderful Law of the Lotus Flower Sutra”.

        Obviously the above phrase is not to be found in the Lotus Sutra itself and its origin is not attributed to Buddha. It has been coined by Nichiren Daishonin in 1253. This explains why other Buddhist sects or schools do not subscribe to the proposition of Nichiren Daishonin or his followers notably NS or SGI that the only way of awakening one’s Buddha nature is by chanting ‘Nam(u) Myōhō Renge Kyō’. On the other hand, they follow various other means such as meditation, karma as prescribed by Buddha, or chanting of other phrases or mantra to awaken their innate Buddha nature.

        In my limited understanding, just as the chanting of ‘Nam(u) Myōhō Renge Kyō’ helps in awakening one’s Buddha nature, chanting of other phrases such as ‘Nam-myoho-renge-kyo’ from the Lotus Sutra or ‘Buddham Smaranam Gacchami …’ etc. are equally capable of awakening innate Buddha nature of a sincere practitioner, apart from pursuing other means such as meditation.

        I am, however, open to conviction and am prepared to be enlightened further on the subject.

  11. RKGupta says:

    Can I add a little more explanation to the effect of chanting? In my humble opinion, the real power does not lie in words, whether it is chanting the Vedic mantras or the Buddhist mantras or chanting any other name for that mater, but it lies in the ‘self” (or soul or by whatever name one may call it). It is the faith associated with the chanting that activates the inner-self or the will power, which works wonder. It is the ‘self”, which is the thresh-hold to the Infinity (the Truth or the God).

    • deepanjan2k9 says:

      I agree with what RK Gupta has to say. However, while it is true that faith activates the full power of chanting (and it is true for any other activity), it is also true that words by themselves have power. Just as a few cruel words can arouse hatred, anger or despair, gentle words can arouse feelings of appreciation and kindness, chanting mantra can have a positive effect (though not immediately perceptible) on persons. This happens even if the person does not believe in the chant.

    • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

      Guptajee, it reminds me of Chanting Maraa (dead) by Ratnakar, a robber, and he became Balmiki Muni (sage).

  12. deepanjan2k9 says:

    I really appreciate all your comments on SGI and Nichiren Buddhism. I would like to share my (limited) thoughts on various topics concerning this philosophy and the SGI –
    1) What exactly is Buddha nature?
    2) The supremacy of the Lotus Sutra amongst all other Buddhist sutras
    3) Why Nam-myoho-renge-kyo?
    4) Why Nichiren Daishonin emphasised on Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and refuted other Buddhist schools.
    5) Why was there a rift between the Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu Priesthood?

    1) What exactly is the Buddha nature?
    Ans.: In the Lotus Sutra, regarded as the highest Mahayana Buddhist scripture, Shakyamuni Buddha declared that all people possess within them an infinite potential to realize happiness and overcome suffering. Such a state of indestructible happiness, wisdom and courage is referred to as the Buddha nature. The Lotus Sutra emphasizes faith as “faith in one’s infinite potential”, and refutes the idea of salvation being bestowed on common mortals by a heavenly being. The Buddha himself held unshakable conviction in this fact when he says, “At all times I think to myself, how can I cause living beings to gain entry into the unsurpassed way and quickly acquire the body of a Buddha?” (Life Span chapter of the LS).
    In short, enlightenment from a Buddhist perspective, is not accessible only to certain spiritually accomplished individuals, but is an inherent part of all living beings. It is also not a transformation into a “divine being”, but is actually a manifestation of a common mortal’s highest potential just as he/she is.

    2) The supremacy of the Lotus Sutra amongst all other Buddhist sutras
    Ans.: Soon after Shakyamuni Buddha gained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, he started preaching to his followers and common people. However, he realized quickly that it was very difficult to convey his thoughts to others as they lacked the basic understanding of the nature of his enlightenment. This was so because he realised the infinite potential of human life, whereas people in his days believed firmly in external means to attain enlightenment. Therefore, he started to preach in various “expedient means”. In other words, he tried to create a “base for understanding” his ultimate teaching (which he did not yet reveal). This is akin to teaching the basics of Newtonian physics to students before introducing them to the startling world of particle physics. Newtonian physics and particle physics seem to contradict each other. Without developing knowledge and skills in Newtonian physics, however, it is impossible to even try to understand particle physics. Similarly, Shakyamuni Buddha believed that without creating a basic understanding of his teachings, he should not reveal the ultimate truth, which in fact seemed contrary to his earlier teachings. He therefore, taught “according to the capacity of his followers”. For the common man, he taught the Eight Precepts, to the intellectuals he taught more advanced principles, etc. Thus many different sutras were born which later would spawn different Buddhist schools like the Precepts school, Zen, True Word, Nembutsu, etc.
    During his final 8 years of preaching, however, Shakyamuni Buddha revealed what he himself called the King of the sutras – the Lotus Sutra. He urged his followers to discard his earlier teachings, saying, “Honestly discarding expedient means, I will preach only the unsurpassed way.” There are plenty of documentary proofs on the supremacy of the Lotus Sutra, one of them being the Buddha’s own words, “Among the sutras I have preached, now preach and will preach, this Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand.” This is because the Buddha reveals his ultimate teaching in the Lotus Sutra according to his own enlightenment, and not according to the capacity of his followers.

    3) Why Nam-moyoho-renge-kyo?
    Ans.: Myoho-renge-kyo is the Chinese title of the Lotus Sutra, which translates to “The Wonderful Law of the Lotus Sutra”. Nam, meaning devotion, was added by Nichiren Daishonin, 13th centure Japanese priest and founder of Nichiren Buddhism, to convey devotion to the ultimate teaching. An interesting point to note is the he added “Nam” which is in Sanskrit, to signify the universal validity of the Lotus Sutra’s teachings. In order to convey the supremacy of the Lotus Sutra, he cites numerous passages from it. In one of his treatises, he says, “The eighth volume of the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law states that one who accepts and upholds the mere name of the Lotus Sutra will enjoy immeasurable good fortune. …These statements indicate that the good fortune one receives from simply chanting the daimoku (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) is beyond measure.” In another of his writings, he states, “The blessings of the entire Lotus Sutra are all contained solely within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, While the words in the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra differ according to the contents of the twenty-eight chapters, the five characters of the daimoku remain the same throughout. To illustrate, within the two characters of Japan are included the more than sixty provinces and the two islands. Are there any districts or provinces that are not contained within this name?” His many writings indicate that the daimoku wasn’t his own invention, but was derived from the principles expounded in the Lotus Sutra. In other words, the daimoku represents the heart-and -soul of the LS.

    He declares the benefit of chanting the daimoku – “the Buddha nature that all these beings possess is called by the name Myoho-renge-kyo. Therefore, if you recite these words of the daimoku once, then the Buddha nature of all living beings will be summoned and gather around you. At that time, the three bodies of the Dharma nature within you will be drawn forth and become manifest.”

    The practice of chanting daimoku is one that is readily accessible to the common people while they deal with their day-to-day lives. The Great Teacher Tien’tai of China, had formulated the practice of observing one’s mind – an extremely difficult type of meditation. This practice, although based on the teachings of the Lotus Sutra was so difficult that only the most accomplished monks could hope to gain enlightenment through it. Nichiren Daishonin’s purpose was to enable all people to gain enlightenment, and therefore he put forth the practice of chanting the daimoku to the Gohonzon (object of fundamental devotion in Nichiren Buddhism) for “observing one’s mind”.

    4) Nichiren’s emphasis on the Lotus Sutra and refutation of other Buddhist schools
    Ans.: Since he was a young boy, having observed the sufferings of people around him, Nichiren Daishonin resolved to be “wisest person in Japan”. This was his vow in order to rid his people of their sufferings. For this, he studied all the Buddhist sutras available in Japan during that period, and concluded, through deep study, that the Lotus Sutra is the foremost amongst all sutras. Through documentary proof given in various sutras as well as the LS, he validated his claim in his various writings. He expounded the fact that the Lotus Sutra was the teaching to be followed in the Latter Day of the Law, and that the provisional teachings of all the other sutras were ineffective in resolving mankind’s problems in the Latter Day. In fact, he firmly maintained that by following other Buddhist schools, the people accumulate negative karma in the form of the slander of the correct teaching, and create causes for deep suffering in their lives. He proved his claims by citing various examples of futile attempts by other schools, and by predicting major calamities, foreign invasion and internal strife, all of which were mentioned in the Lotus Sutra as “punishments” of slandering the correct teaching. It is for these very reasons, that he dedicated his life to protecting the people by refuting influential Buddhist schools and remonstrating with the government for supporting them. In one of his most popular treatises, “Rissho Ankoku-ron” or “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land”, he cites passages from various sutras that predict the occurrences of severe calamities, plague and famine, war, etc. because of the slander of the Lotus Sutra. In the course of his lifetime, his predictions of foreign invasion and internal strife came true.

    5) Why was there a rift between the Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu Priesthood?
    Ans.: Nichiren Shoshu priesthood is a direct descendant of the school of Nichiren Daishonin, established and upheld in the truest sense by his most trustworthy disciple, Nikko Shonin. All his six primary other disciples, showing arrogance, departed from his correct teachings. Nikko Shonin, worrying about distortions of his mentor’s words, authored what is popularly known as “Nikko Shonin’s 26 Admonitions”.
    The Soka Gakkai, was founded by a Japanese educator and philospher, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, after having discovered the teachings of Nchiren Daishonin. His intention was to revolutionize the education system of Japan into a truly humanistic education, based on the teachings of Nichiren and the principles of the Lotus Sutra. Later on, the Soka Gakkai began supporting the Priesthood in their endeavour to spread Nichiren Buddhism to the common people. The Soka Gakkai became a lay Buddhist organization which supported the priesthood. However, during the WW2, the true worth of the priesthood was proved when they, along with the Soka Gakkai, were being harshly persecuted by the Japanese military authorities. During WW2, Japanese military government began forcing the Shinto talisman on all people and religious schools due their false belief that doing so would lend them “protection” and enable them to win in war. They threatened the Soka Gakkai and the priesthood with dire consequences if they did not accept the Shinto. Cowering in fear, the priesthood surrendered, and even urged the Soka Gakkai to “temporarily accept the Shinto till the war is over”. Enraged at the cowardice of the priesthood, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and his true disciple, Josei Toda, stayed firm in their beliefs. They were eventually arrested as “thought criminals”. Makiguchi died in prison. When Toda was finally freed after two years when the war was over, he vowed to keep true to his mentor’s ideals and re-start the then disbanded Soka Gakkai. Under Toda’s leadership, the Soka Gakkai actively supported the Priesthood (there were many priests at that time who were true followers of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings) both financially and otherwise. Later on, as the Soka Gakkai grew due to strong faith and sense of mission of its three presidents (later on forming a parallel worldwide organization, the Soka Gakkai International) the corrupt priests became fearful of the SGI. Thinking that their livelihood and lavish lifestyle would be at stake because less and less people came to their temples, they began hatching plans to harm the Soka Gakkai. Under Nikken Abe’s leadership, they launched Operation-C designed to excommunicate the Soka Gakkai and SGI and the million strong members from the priesthood. They thought that by doing so, they could intimidate the followers and cause them to come under them. Infact, the opposite happened. There are many numerous examples of how the priesthood tried to persecute the Soka Gakkai, and was met with failure every single time. One of the reasons for the corruption of the priesthood, apart from their growing insecurity and arrogance, was their lack of study of NIchiren Daishonin’s study. Nichiren states, “without study,there can be no Buddhism.” and “you must exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study.” The priesthood also came up with the idea that the High Priest, being the descendant of Nichiren school of Buddhism, was the true Buddha, and that only by paying reverence to him can common people activate their Buddhahood. This runs contrary to the Lotus Sutra’s teachings that all people have the potential of Buddhahood within them.

    The erroneous beliefs of the priesthood were –
    1) Absolute power of the High Priest – runs contrary to the teaching that all people can manifest the Buddha nature through practice of the Lotus Sutra
    2) High Priest receives the exclusive Transmission of the Law – runs contrary to the teaching that all people can manifest the Law through chanting the daimoku and having faith in the Lotus Sutra
    3) Inequality of priests and laity – contrary to the teaching that all living beings possess the Buddha nature and are equally worthy of respect

    • akraha1948 says:

      I am thankful to Mr. Deepanjan for his explanatory note on Soka Gakkai movement of lay Buddhists. Undoubtedly, Soka Gakkai happens to be the largest organization of lay Buddhists in the world today and the leaders of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) deserve commendation for their outstanding contribution in this regard.

      However, some questions still persist in regard to the basic & fundamental postulates of SGI which I, with all humility, put below for necessary clarification from Mr. Deepanjan.

      1. Is it not the belief of SGI based on the authority of Lotus Sutra that the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (‘Daimoku’ in short) not only awakens Buddha nature but also awakens innate Buddhahood of the chanter in this very life? Given the fact that Buddha stands out for his concept of Nirvana, is it the contention of SGI that the chanting of Daimoku leads to Nirvana eventually in this very life?

      2. If the answer to the above poser is in the affirmative, can the relevant citation in support from Lotus Sutra be provided?

      3. In the context of Mr. Deepanjan’s explanation that the priests of Nichiren Shoshu (who have been chanting Daimoku for centuries) became corrupt, egoistic & fearful of the growing popularity of SGI and hence they ex-communicated SGI leaders and members in 1990’s, doesn’t this observation invalidate the very postulate that the chanting of Daimoku awakens Buddha nature and eventually Buddhahood of chanters? What is the explanation for the priests not being awakened even to their innate Buddha nature despite chanting Daimoku?

      4. Isn’t Tathagata Buddha known for his non-materialistic teachings & Nirvana as the summum bonum of our worldly life? How are the assurances of materialistic gains and benefits to chanters of Daimoku and the threat of natural calamities, foreign aggression and internal feud to the deviants as punishment for slandering the correct teaching, as administered by SGI, are compatible with Buddha’s thoughts?

      5. Given the fact that Lotus Sutra surfaced after about 5 centuries of Buddha’s demise, should we not subject it to strict scrutiny for its authenticity, as the scholars invariably insist? Should we not reject the sutras that talk about material gains and punishment and also the sutra, if any, that assures Buddhahood in one life if a particular phrase is repeatedly chanted, which is fundamentally different from Buddha’s prescription of austere monastic life for his monk-initiates who aspired for Nirvana?

      6. Given the postulate of Lotus Sutra that every human being is a potential Buddha, is it the contention of SGI that Buddhahood can be awakened by chanting Daimoku only, and no other mantra, phrase or verse by the Buddhists of other sects or school, or non-Buddhists?

      Will Mr. Deepanjan please clarify above doubts and posers?

      • deepanjan2k9 says:

        I am very glad that Mr. Raha has brought up these questions about SGI and Nichiren Buddhism. These are very deep rooted questions that has allowed me to deepen my understanding of the philosophy. I shall now try my best to answer them.
        Reading the post, the following points came to light –
        1) What is nirvana in Buddhism (especially according to the Lotus Sutra)?
        2) Why does Nichiren Buddhism and the SGI assure materialistic gain to its practitioners when Buddha himself renounced secular life in search for spiritual awakening?
        3) It seems that simply chanting does not work, why else then would the priesthood turn corrupt? Hence chanting daimoku does not ensure attainment of Buddhahood.
        4) Is it only the practice of Nichiren Buddhism that ensures enlightenment in this lifetime?
        I would first like to state that Buddhism is based on the law of causality – every action has an effect. It is, however, not limited to causality as easily observable in daily life, for example one of Newton’s laws of mechanics that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Buddhist law of causality goes much, much deeper. In simplistic terms, Buddhist causality can be broken down into 4 components – internal cause, manifest cause, latent effect and manifest effect. Furthermore, the Lotus Sutra presents an interesting revelation – that cause and effect are simultaneous! Unlike in popular belief, the effect is not created after some finite time a cause is made, rather it is created at that very instant. This property is depicted by the lotus flower, which is, I believe, the only flower that flowers and bears fruit at the same time. In fact this is the reason the Lotus Sutra is called so. This law of cause and effect is told by the Buddha when in the Expedient Means chapter (2nd chapter of Lotus Sutra), he states – “The true aspect of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddhas. This reality consists of appearance, nature, entity, power, influence, internal cause, relation, latent effect, manifest effect and their consistency from beginning to end.” Furthermore, karma is created by thoughts, words and action.
        Now coming to nirvana or moksha, Buddhist view might seem different from the popular belief. According to the common idea, I believe, nirvana or moksha is gained when a person is freed from the cycle of birth and death, so that he/she does not have to undergo the sufferings of birth and death. Buddhism, on the other hand, reveals more. It puts forth the concept of Ten Worlds. These are nothing but ten life-states or life-conditions that every human being goes through. They start from the World of Hell at the bottom to the World of Buddhahood at the top –
        1. World of Hell – represents extreme suffering
        2. World of Hunger – represents a state of life controlled by uncontrollable desires
        3. World of Animality – a state of life controlled by one’s instincts
        4. World of Anger – a state of life dominated by one’s ego and arrogance
        5. World of Heaven – a state of peace and calmness
        6. World of Rapture – a state of joy arising out of worldly pleasures
        7. World of Learning – a state of life dedicated to spiritual learning
        8. World of Realization – a state of life where one puts into practice the spiritual teachings
        9. World of Bodhisattva – a state of life dedicated to bringing joy to others through compassionate actions
        10. World of Buddhahood – an enlightened state of indestructible happiness, courage and wisdom
        Although the ten worlds are dynamic (and indeed every one of them has the potential of other nine within it) and keeps on changing according to one’s circumstances, people usually dwell in the first six worlds, also called the Six Paths or the Six Lower Worlds. The Lotus Sutra reveals that when life is examined from this perspective, the sufferings of birth and death are mostly limited to the six lower worlds. Also, the sufferings are absent from the World of Buddhahood, even though negative circumstances may be present. In other words, a Buddha does not suffer even when in the midst of hellish conditions because he/she has acquired a life state of indestructible happiness, courage and wisdom. In Buddhism, attaining nirvana means attaining Buddhahood. It means that when one attains Buddhahood, one is free of the sufferings of life and death. It does not mean that one stops taking birth in this evil age (or latter day/kalyug) and is freed from troubles of daily life! That would be impossible due to the law of causality. Isn’t it interesting that since karma (or causes) are created at each moment through one’s thoughts, words and actions, even at the point of death, some cause is still being created. And due to that very fact, life must follow death in order to give expression to some effect that has to manifest!
        Now, just like when one understands the law of buoyancy, for example, one can make use of it and create a ship to travel on the seas without drowning; when one understands the law of life through the correct teaching, one can make use of it to attain enlightenment in this very lifetime! So, yes, SGI, being the only Buddhist organization that practices the Lotus Sutra teachings correctly, affirms (and has shown countless actual proofs) that one indeed attains Buddhahood through chanting daimoku and taking faith-based actions in daily life, within one’s present lifetime. At this point I would like to stress on the fact that the comparison of the Lotus Sutra with the other sutras (or the “correct teaching”) refers to those in Buddhism only. We cannot compare scriptures of other spiritual practices due to lack of knowledge. Also, the Buddha himself compares the Lotus amongst the various other sutras he had taught as expedient means.
        The Lotus Sutra has references which state that the benefit gained by speaking of even the title of it brings enormous good fortune. This good fortune, more than being materialistic gain, is in fact the “treasures of the heart” – courage, wisdom and compassion. Myoho-renge-kyo is the title of the Lotus Sutra, and Nam means devotion to its teachings. As mentioned in my earlier post, just like the name India refers to all its people and its geography, politics and economics, the title of the Lotus Sutra refers to its soul – the principles contained within its teachings. Nam, meaning devotion, is devotion to practicing its teachings in daily life. In fact, when an SGI member chants the daimoku, he/she chants with the determination to realize his/her highest potential.
        Now comes an interesting part! How does one challenge to bring forth one’s highest potential? Lets suppose that one is very happy, has no complaints whatsoever, life is good and luxurious, full of riches, etc etc. Would such a person even think of trying to improve himself? What is the motivation? On the other hand, suppose a person is suffering (obviously due to some desire!). Wouldn’t that person find motivation to keep challenging to improve his life condition? How does one become Mr. Universe? By training for hours in the gym everyday, by undergoing many pains and trials but never giving up on his desire to achieve the title. Similarly, in order to attain Buddhahood – a state of indestructible happiness, wisdom and courage, one has to literally earn it. It does not come through spiritual contemplation. It has to be earned through challenge. But challenge what? Challenge one’s weaknesses. In Buddhism, the greatest weakness or enemy is one’s fundamental ignorance that one is in fact a Buddha. This ignorance is manifested in various forms – fear, anger, doubt, low esteem, lack of respect, etc etc. The fundamental belief that one can build a strong body and win in the Mr. Universe contests pushes one to undergo pains and trials of rigorous physical training. In the same way, the fundamental belief that one can manifest one’s Buddhahood can make one keep pushing against one’s own negativity. The daily practice of chanting and determination to devote oneself to practice the teachings of the Lotus Sutra in one’s daily life (through chanting nam-myoho-range-kyo) enables one to challenge one’s fundamental ignorance.
        In Buddhism, there is an interesting principle of Oneness of Life and its Environment, which essentially states that one’s environment (objects as well as phenomena) are a reflection of one’s inner life-condition. Which means, when one establishes a consistent higher life condition, one can change one’s environment and what goes on in it. This perfectly obeys the law of causality. Similarly, a low life-condition “attracts” suffering in one’s life. Further, the Lotus Sutra states that one’s actions (or karma) determine one’s life condition (refer to the quote from the Expedient Means chapter I gave towards the beginning), as all the factors (ten in total, the tenth being consistency of all the other nine from beginning to end) are consistent. Hence, a bad action will determine a low life condition, a negative thought will determine a low life condition and so will sufferings. The low life condition will in turn determine more of negative situations, thus forming a cycle. This is the reason spirituality stress so much on nirvana or moksha! How to break this cycle? Simple – to determine to improve one’s life condition through positive actions, thoughts and words! Lets see what daimoku can do here. The very title of the Lotus Sutra is a positive phrase, the Nam (or devotion) is a determination to practice it correctly in one’s life – which is a positive thought, and to chant it aloud and take actions based on faith is the action part. So, this practice of the Lotus Sutra enables one to attain higher life condition, thereby challenging one’s fundamental ignorance and powerfully impacting one’s circumstances!
        Pure cause and effect.
        Now, lets remember the determination and the devotion part of it. Without them, or in other words, without faith that one can improve oneself, the chanting by itself does not work. It is the heart that is important. When one practices with a pure hearted faith – determining to manifest one’s highest potential in daily life, one receives benefits (I will come to what benefit means in Buddhism). Otherwise, one does not. The very principle of the Ten Worlds says that each one of those worlds has the potential of the other nine within them. World of Hell has the potential of Buddhahood within it, which is why an SGI practitioner can breakthrough serious sufferings. Similarly, even the World of Bodhisattva or Buddhahood has lurking within it the World of Hell or any other nine worlds. We experience this to some extent, do we not? For example, one so very happy for being victorious at work and gets so carried away by it that his performance drops due to laziness or arrogance, or both!
        The priesthood became corrupt because they forgot to practice the “Nam” part of nam-myoho-renge-kyo in their lives! They let their arrogance get in the way because they thought they held some sort of “religious power” over common mortals. Even the Buddha after attaining enlightenment had to constantly challenge himself to enable others to become Buddhas. Even if one is a good cook, if one is in a very bad mood, he will not cook well. But even if one does not know how to cook, through his devotion and pure heart he will learn to please another’s taste buds! Lets remember this important fact!
        To answer the 5th question about the Lotus Sutra surfacing after about 5 centuries after the Buddha’s demise, I can say two things –
        1) The Lotus Sutra is a teaching meant especially for the Latter Day of the Law (which began a few hundred years after the Buddha’s passing). He entrusted certain Bodhisattvas, called the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, to propagate the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. (this episode is depicted in the Treasure Tower chapter and Encouraging Devotion chapters of the Lotus Sutra). That is the reason why it was not spread till recently in history.
        2) One can argue about its authenticity through intellectual and scholarly means, or prove its validity through applying it in daily life. Which one does one prefer? I prefer the latter!
        This should answer the first part of the 5th question. Now moving on to the 2nd part, I believe there are two things – principle and methodology. A principle is that a car’s engine drives a car from one place to another. Methodology is what speed, 6 valve engine or a 12 valve engine, what gears, etc etc. It changes with time and place, but the basic principle of an engine remains the same. In the golden days cars used to drive with a speed of a few kilometers an hour. Now, they drive a more than a hundred an hour! That too on proper roads! Imagine a traffic cop of the yester year complaining that people drive in such high speeds these days! Something similar is also in the practice of Buddhism. The principle of the Lotus Sutra remains the same. The method of practicing it changes from time, place and culture. Specifically, the Lotus Sutra is a teaching for the Latter Day when people undergo extreme suffering and hardships, when it is not easy to manifest or believe in one’s Buddha nature, and when people don’t and can’t perform austerity and traditional spiritual practices to gain enlightenment. The Buddha strove to spread the Law to the people, not just to some select few. Nichiren Daishonin, regarded as the Buddha of the Latter Day, addressed this issue by filtering out the essence of the Lotus Sutra in the phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and making this practice easily accessible to the common people. Its just like a modern physicist can use Einstein’s theorems to work on advanced physics. He does not need to undergo the hardwork Einstein went through to prove basic theorems – he can just apply them! Similarly, we don’t need to undergo what the Buddha did to reveal the law of life – we can just apply the principles! Chanting daimoku with faith and determination is just such an application.

        Now coming to the issue of materialistic gain. Again, I would like to go back to the principle of Oneness of Life and its Environment. Since the environment consists of objects (trees, houses, wealth, etc), people (good people, bad people, helpful people, etc) as well as life phenomena (sufferings, situations and circumstances), all of them are directly linked to one’s state of life. Hence, a high life condition attracts favorable circumstances, good people, and likewise “materialistic” things. But as I mentioned, a high life condition is subject to one’s karma, which means one has to make causes in thoughts, words and action along with the most powerful cause of awakening one’s highest potential, in order to achieve the highest life condition. Materialism and spirituality are two sides of the same coin. That same coin is called life. A life cannot exist without material, nor can it have meaning without spirituality. A gain in one particular aspect can affect the other powerfully. But also, since materialism (by this I don’t necessarily mean wealth or health) which is the perceivable aspect of life, is a manifestation of the invisible aspect (as though one gives expression to another), these two aspects are inseparable. Hence, spiritual wealth brings about materialistic wealth. Does it necessarily mean one becomes wealthy by practicing spirituality? No. However, one gains the capability to do so. What I mean to say is that a spiritually developed person is happy and its his choice to be rich. But anyways, he is happy and he is “rich enough” to worry about becoming rich. It also depends on the culture, so a monk, although being “poor” according to our standards, can be “rich enough” because he is not concerned with accumulating wealth. But if he sets his mind to it, he can accomplish it (one can read the book Siddhartha for such an example, although it’s a work of fiction).
        The fact remains, though, that since circumstances affect one’s spiritual health (because they are inter-linked), challenging a negative circumstance through faith indeed develops one’s spirituality.
        The very purpose of Buddhism is to become happy. We cannot deny the happiness of challenging a difficult situation and overcoming it. This kind of happiness comes from the fact that we are challenging our notion of being incapable of breaking through. Just like a gym is required to exercise the body, studies is required to exercise the mind, life’s negative situations are required to exercise spiritual strength. These situations invariable occur in the form of poor health, poverty, etc etc. So, winning over our doubts and the belief that we cannot challenge a particular situation results in “materialistic gain”, which in turn re-inforces our belief in our Buddhahood, which makes the faith stronger, which in turn strengthens our life condition, which in turns bring more favorable situations which in turn again strengthen our faith in ourselves and so on and so forth.
        In Nichiren Buddhism there are two kinds of benefits – inconspicuous and conspicuous. The former cannot be perceived easily, while the latter comes in the form of material gain. But it is a manifestation of spiritual growth and the fact that one is applying faith in daily life!
        How can one, at this time and age, hope to make another person happy (who is suffering due to various problems in life) by making him realize his own true potential?
        There are two stories – one of a rich man becoming richer, the other of a poor, suffering man becoming rich and successful through overcoming pains and trials and doing hard work. Which story would be more inspiring and motivate countless others to work hard and be successful in life?
        That’s a good question to ponder on!

    • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

      This refers to the post (Nov 8) by Deepanjan,
      “The Lotus Sutra emphasizes faith as “faith in one’s infinite potential”, and refutes the idea of salvation being bestowed on common mortals by a heavenly being. ”
      My considered opinion is that “ one’s infinite potential” and “a heavenly being” are one and the same as in spirituality heaven is also inside, a matter of words only.
      Example: When a person comes to our house we say some outsider had come but when our son comes we don’t say outsider came though he is not staying here..
      This is only a matter of perception/definition.

      • akraha1948 says:

        Mr. Deepanjan, even while your general observations based on Tathagata Buddha’s philosophy & teachings are broadly acceptable, I am not yet able to find any logical or spiritual link of those thoughts to the chanting of nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Hence following further questions obviously arise for resolution.

        1. Assuming that one follows Tathagata Buddha’s precepts to the core without chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo, will he not be able to awaken his Buddha nature or for that matter his innate Buddhahood [Now that it stands clarified by you that mere chanting of nam-myoho-renge-kyo has failed to awaken Bddhahood of Nichiren Shoshu priests as they allegedly deviated from the precepts of Buddha]?

        2. Given the fact that all human beings are potentially or actually Buddha as is held in Lotus Sutra or Brahman as is contended by Vedantists like Shankara & Vivekananda, does it really matter whether one chants nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Om Mani Padme Hum, Buddham Smaranam Gachhami, Om Namoh Shivaya, bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ or Khandana Bhaba Bandhana Jaga awaken their innate spiritual divinity?

        I still look forward to relevant citation from Lotus Sutra in support of the chanting of nam-myoho-renge-kyo and the contention that it helps awakening of one’s innate Buddhahood, in view of the fact that 99% of the Buddhists (including cultural Buddhists) do not subscribe to the view of Soka Gakkai.

  13. RKGupta says:

    We have discussed about chanting but not about silence. Is not ‘Silence’ the greatest chanting? In my humble opinion SILENCE is the most powerful CHANTING.

    • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

      Well Guptajee, it is not silence or chanting, it is about getting connected with the God. If silence means thinking of God (smaran maman) yes it if it takes your mind to some where else then not. Body Mind and Soul need to be synchronized while getting connected with God. Chanting means body’s participation only. With it thinking of Him whose name is being chanted – mind is also there. Feeling connected with Him means soul is also participating. This is all about Spiritual practice…
      Om Tat Saat . .

      • I never stop being surprised by how confident some people are about the existence and nature of God and even the most effective manner of communicating with this Entity. Our knowledge and understanding of God is essentially a socio-cultural conditioning with most of the concepts about Him/ Her developed in the past when understanding of natural laws was limited. For the sake of one’s mental peace one can still continue to believe in such a super-natural Being but it is ridiculous to think that there is any special manner of connecting with this Entity. Every path is the right path and every way the right way and it is only after death one will learn the truth or perhaps not even then as the self would have been extinguished.

  14. akraha1948 says:

    Well said,Guptaji. My experience tells me that chanting in silence is most vibrant.

    • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

      Raha Shaheb, let us not forget chanting in silence with mind only can not be practiced by everybody. Otherwise Sri Chaitanya Dev would not have recommended Loud chanting of Hari naam Sankirtan.

  15. akraha1948 says:

    I couldn’t have agreed more with you, Mr. Das. Chanting in silence is for those who aspire for higher spiritual goal, like spiritual enlightenment or awakening of one’s innate divinity. Group chanting is for creating spiritual environment & to draw spiritually inclined people to the assembly. Both the methods have their distinct utility & justification.

    • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

      Very true. I feel for most of us combination of Chanting aloud and in silence (Japam+Dhyan) may be good. Finally what is required is Longing for God. All the spiritual activities like reading, discussions, chanting, singing Bhajans, meditation etc will help in orienting mind towards God. Rest one has to depend on God’s grace. This is true in our day to day life also. If I want to see a VVIP, not only I have to reach there but also I have to get his permission on which I do not have any control…

  16. RKGupta says:

    I appreciate your comment Mr. Das, I have, however, to make a simple submission that you remember or connect with someone when their is duality. In perfect silence there is no thought, You are That. The example of the iron rod in fire. When the iron rod is red hot, it is the fire. On coming out of fire, when it is cold, it is the same iron rod with all its angularity. In other words, I am trying to say that the objective is to achieve the state of absolute silence, where mind does not exist. What exists is the Existence Itself, perhaps a matter of realisation rather than a matter to be resolved though mind.

    • Sarada Ranjan Das says:

      Guptajee you are now taking the discussion into much depth..Silence means no thought in mind. That is no vibration, this happens when one is free from materialistic desires. That is the time when mind gets dissolved in God. God could be assumed in the form of duality or non duality.In either case meditation or silence is long as one is free from selfishness..The bottom line is Longing for God, rest He will take care.

    • akraha1948 says:

      Guptaji, the state of perfect silence where mind does not exist is attained in Nirvikalpa Samadhi. The question is whether such state is achievable ordinarily. The poser whether mind could be controlled (not eliminated) was put to Sri Krishna by Arjuna & in Gita Sri Krishna admitted that it was very difficult even to control mind except through abhyasa. Elimination or annihilation of mind is far more difficult. What is more easily achievable is to render mind ekmukhi or concentrated on a single form, whether the form of Master, deity, beloved or even a dot in-between eyebrows or on the tip of nose. There is no chanting in that state of meditation in silence. However, alternately one can absorb self in chanting Guru-mantra or any mantra in silence, repeatedly over short or long duration or continuously even while in sleep. The latter state is known as ajapaa. Obviously, the state of ajapaa and the state of pure silence (Samadhi), though distinctive, are very high spiritual states which very few people can attain.

  17. akraha1948 says:

    Amitava, your observation: “Every path is the right path and every way the right way and it is only after death one will learn the truth or perhaps not even then as the self would have been extinguished” is a loaded statement which would undoubtedly make one think whether one’s obsession with a single path in the search for Truth renders one fundamentalist. A true enlightened approach is to render one’s mind wide open to appreciate different points of view and approaches to life and Truth and to look for positive elements in every substantive thought. An atheist and an agnostic deserve as much respect as a theist and a spiritual person in the realm of thoughts.

  18. RKGupta says:

    Dear Tripathiji, your own statement has the answer to your question. You said “Every path is the right path and every way the right way and it is only after death one will learn the truth or perhaps not even then as the self would have been extinguished”. The answer lies in understanding the word “self” used by you. what is this self; is it body, mind or something beyond that? If one identifies the self with body and mind, both are continuously changing and growing but deep inside one connects with the self and talks to one’s own self which owns the body and the mind. The entire effort is to realize the true nature of this self or in other words “Self Realization”. Another question which your comments raise is whether the mind is extinguished with death? If that be so, who is re-born and then the entire theory of “law of action” (Karma theory) is put to question.

  19. Dear Guptaji,
    We all know for a fact that the body is absorbed in the panchabhuta after death. Whether anything survives is a matter of pure speculation and hence different religions and spiritual teachers have, not surprisingly, varying perceptions of and prescriptions for after-life. No one has a real clue of what happens after death which remains the ultimate mystery. The self is essentiallly a compendium of our memories, both good and bad, and as it is a function of the brain it perishes with it. When one is in deep sleep or in coma or under heavy anaestheia the brain functions at a sub-par level and hence there is no self or ego . This brings me to your anguished question on the validity of the Karma Theory. Of course, it is typically Indian gobeldigook to justify all social ills and to keep the poor and the disadvantaged in their place.If I have no memory of my past life how can I be rewarded or punished for my past life actions ? What spiritual purpose is served by such an arbitrary dispensation?Mysterious , indeed, are the ways of the Lord and since He/She can do no wrong obviously it is the victim who is to blame for all ill-luck. Remember Aesop’s fable of the wolf and the lamb?
    Dear Ashish,I wholly agree with you that both the pious and the agnostic deserve respect for their beliefs.The difference is that the pious secretly pities the agnostic destined for eternal hell-fire, while the agnostic remains privately exasperated by the seeming obtuseness of the believer.

    • akraha1948 says:

      Dear Amitava, I have no faith in Hell or Hell fire and, therefore, have no intent or arrogance to pity you. As I firmly believe in Tat Tvam Asi (Thou art That) who am I to pity God if He chooses to be agnostic or atheist. I can only conclude by saying Amen or Tathastu.

  20. RKGupta says:

    Dear Tripathiji,
    I do not think ‘self’ is a compendium of memories and that it originates from mind, rather it is the mind, which functions on the strength of self. The self is like the light which helps viewing various objects. Light or for that matter the eyes are not a compendium of objects, but it is light which enables eyes to sight various objects. Similarly, the self enables the mind to function. According to the Hindu philosophy, the union of mind (or subtle body) with a suitable physical body results in the birth of a new creature and their separation is termed as death and the physical body is given according to the law of Karma which enables him to bear the fruit of his Karma and to make further progress.
    As regards your poser about reward or punishment for karma without having a memory of what it is for, there is a reason behind it. Firstly, if one remembered who he was in the past life and what did he or others did with him, or what was his relation with them, it would be a total chaos. Some one’s mother or sister or any other relation could be in a different relationship in this birth and similarly, a debtor or creditor could be one’s son or father in the present life. If one carries the memory, it would not be possible for him to discharge his duties properly in this birth. The prejudices would continue. Secondly, if one has the knowledge of the Karma for which he is undergoing suffering, it would discourage him from making further progress. The theory of Karma cannot be denied simply because we do not have the knowledge when and how the outcome would fructify. If the law of action is not operating how can one explain children of the same parents, even twins meeting with different fates? As per my limited knowledge, all the major religions do believe in the law of action (not necessarily in the re-birth). While the Hindus and some others believe in the re-birth, Islam and Christianity believe in eternal reward or punishment after death.

    • Guptaji,
      It is beyond my limited ability to undo your conditioning. So do continue to believe in whatever makes you happy. After all, if our scriptures say so, they must be right.Anyway we will soon find out who is right . The pity is we won’t be able to write about it in our blog.
      Amitava Tripathi

  21. deepanjan2k9 says:

    Hi AK Raha,

    At this point of time I am unable to further clarify your questions based on the Lotus Sutra, because I am not well versed in the sutra passages. However, Nichiren Buddhism as practiced by the Soka Gakkai is a Buddhism of action, of true cause, never separated from daily life. As I had mentioned before, the Lotus Sutra, and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (based on it) have been held foremost in merit compared to other Buddhist sutras/practices by Gautama Buddha and Nichiren Daishonin respectively. The Daishonin proved the validity of his teachings through his life. Shakyamuni Buddha, himself the founder of Buddhism, again and again admonished against following the expedient means – those sutras other than the Lotus.
    Countless members of the Soka Gakkai International, across 192 countries, have, and are showing actual proof of this practice. Buddhism is profound, and cannot be understood by intellect alone. It has to be experienced. As for any philosophy, actual proof ultimately decides its validity.

    Buddhism is practical. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is not magic. Merely chanting it cannot ensure manifestation of Buddhahood if one does not have the intention to work for the happiness of oneself and others, the very reason for existence of the Buddha. The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood lacks on this point. The argument that the practice of Nichiren Buddhism may be doubtful because of the behavior of the Priesthood is not a valid argument, since even in Buddha’s days, one of his foremost disciples – Devadatta – plotted against him.

    In any philosophy, it is the heart of the practitioner that matters.

    As for the relative merit of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and chants of other philosophies (other than Buddhism), I cannot compare. I can only say that the members of SGI, through their correct practice of Nichiren Buddhism, have, and are, winning over life’s enormous challenges and creating a state of life of indestructible happiness as a result.

    Actual proof cannot be contended.

  22. akraha1948 says:

    Hi Deepanjan, thanks for your candid views and conviction, which I very much appreciate. I agree with your view that ultimately it is the heart of the practitioner that matters, so far as faith or philosophy is concerned (and not the head). My best wishes for success of your mission.

  23. RKGupta says:

    I am writing a Zen poem, its free English translation, just to enjoy the reading:
    The Almighty is like the Center of a circle,
    For those, who have accepted Him all over,
    And for those, who are ONLY standing at the center of the circle,
    He is like the Circumference of the circle.

    • Guptaji,
      Congratulations on your Zen poem. I am sure you will present us with many similar gems in the future.The Paramatma is the centre, the circumference and the in-between space of the Circle.But, we ,who are less than microscopic dots in the Circle, do have probem in drawing His attention.Does any of us pay attention to any one of the billions of cells that constitute our body, unless, of course, it starts to metastasise? Hence to gain His attention you need to be a rebel child- a goody -goody person is simply taken for granted and usually ignored or, worse still, like many martyrs and saints, put through the wringer of fate to check the quality of his/her fatth. What do you think?

  24. RKGupta says:

    You are right Tripathiji. Yes, He pays more attention to His rebel children, as the rebel children need more of His love. Besides, the rebel children are closer to Him as they think more of Him as compared to an abiding child. Regards, RKG

  25. akraha1948 says:

    In a lighter vein, Gods of all traditions are apparently as cruel & unsparing as we, the humans, are in relation to the rebel children or troublesome cells.This may be because we have created Gods in our own image. I wish God had been created by more compassionate souls like Guptaji for comfort of rebel children like Amitava. I am, however, more comfortable with the concept of Tat Tvam Asi or Thou art That.

  26. RKGupta says:

    The Thou art That is stated in a Zen poem thus: KISI SE BHI WOH JUDA NAHI HAI, ISILIYE KYA WOH KHUDA NAHI HAI (He is not separated from anyone, is it not that makes Him God?)

  27. akraha1948 says:

    Thanks Guptaji for the elegant Zen poem that touches my heart as it states that God is inseparable from me. Tat Tvam Asi is still deeper, as it can be seen from the following verses of Sankara:
    “Na Me Dvessa-Raagau Na Me Lobha-Mohau
    Mado Naiva Me Naiva Maatsarya-Bhaavah |
    Na Dharmo Na Ca-Artho Na Kaamo Na Mokssah
    Cid-Aananda-Ruupah Shivoham Shivoham ||”

    Neither do I have Hatred, nor Attachment, Neither Greed nor Infatuation,
    Neither do I have Passion, nor Envy or Jealousy,
    I am Not bound by Dharma (Righteousness), Artha (Wealth), Kama (Desire) and Moksha (Liberation)
    3.4: I am the Ever Pure Blissful Consciousness; I am Shiva, I am Shiva,

  28. RKGupta says:

    Another Zen poem, just to read and enjoy:
    Meaning thereby-If I am asked to explain about the Param Poorna (the God), I shall only stand unmoved, speechless and astonished!!

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  31. Derrick says:

    Hello, i read your article referring to Moksha and Nirvaan. I left a post on the website for help regarding the two. Im interested in learning more regarding the Dvaita Philosophy of Moksha and maintaining individuality after achieving. I remember reading that a Dvaita Mukti can be reborn at will. Id like to learn more and possibly pointed in a direction on how to attain Liberation within the specific school of thought. Can you help me with this?

    Thank you,

    • akraha1948 says:

      Hello Mr. Derrick,
      I am happy to note your interest in knowing more about Dvaita philosophy on liberation. The essence of Dvaita philosophy founded on Brahma Sutras is that individual souls can never be one with Brahman and shall remain distinct even when liberated. On the other hand, same Brahma Sutras have been interpreted differently by Advaita philosophers to drive home their contention that in liberation, souls lose their individual identities and get merged in Brahman. Then there are qualified non-dualists who also interpret same Brahma Sutras to make a synthesis between the two schools. Modern approach to the varying interpretations of Brahma Sutras, pioneered by Sri Ramakrishna and followed by Swami Vivekananda, is that all those interpretations are valid & apt, depending upon the spiritual level of the seeker. In case you have a specific query relating to Dvaita philosophy, we will continue our interaction.

      • Derrick says:

        Thank you for the response. I have been researching anything regarding Madhvacharya, and have been trying to find his books in english. What is the path for attaining Moksha based on the Dvaita Philosophy?

        There was a book i have recently found called History of Dvaita school on Vedanta. Is this a good book to studying the literature behind the teaching. The path is what interests me.

        Thank you,

  32. akraha1948 says:

    In case you want to have a holistic view of Dvaita philosophy vis-a-vis Advaita & Vishisthadvaita I recommend Swami Vivekananda’s Complete Works, particularly his lecture on ‘The Vedanta Philosophy’ in vol.1, and on ‘The Atman’ & ‘The Real & The Apparent Man’ in vol. 2. I understand, his Complete Works are accessible on line.

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