There are a number of Buddhist “traditions” practised by Buddhists in Southwark:
In the past few decades Buddhists have re-examined the teachings of their religion and have found a basis for social action, for confronting war, racism, exploitation, commercialism, and the destruction of the environment.
This insight has evolved into a world-wide movement called Engaged Buddhism.
The movement engages in caring and service, in social and environmental protest and analysis, in non-violence as a creative way of overcoming conflicts and in’right livelihood’ and other initiatives which prefigure a society of the future. It also engages in a variety of contempory concerns of relevance to an evolving Buddhism. Engaged Buddhism combines the cultivation of inner peace with active social compassion in a mutually supportive and enriching practice.
Leading members of the Engaged Buddhist movement include B.R Ambedkkar, who brought Buddhism to the ‘untouchables’of India; Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen master, known for his activisn against the war in Vietnam;and A.T. Ariyaratne, founder of the Sarvodaya Shramadana rural development movement in Sri Lanka.
(For reference see: Indra’s Net, the Journal of the Network of Engaged Buddhists, July 2003 issue 31.)
Information on Engaged Buddhism provided by Mr Trevor Precious.
Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism
Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, was born some 2,500 years ago in what is now Southern Nepal. Followers of Nichiren Daishonin believe that Shakyamuni’s enlightenment to eternal, universal reality was most succinctly articulated in the Lotus Sutra.
Nichiren Daishonin was born in 1222 in Japan. He taught that chanting the title of the Lotus Sutra, Myoho-renge-kyo, preceded by the word ‘Nam’, to the mandala called a ‘Gohonzon’ is the practice that enables people in the present age to attain Buddhahood.
According to Nichiren Daishonin the workings of the universe are an expression of a single principle or law – Myoho-renge-kyo, the title and essence of the Lotus Sutra. By putting their lives in rhythm with this law, individuals can unlock their hidden potential – the Buddha nature – and achieve creative harmony with the environment. Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism is a vehicle of individual empowerment – that is, individuals have within themselves the power to transform the inevitable sufferings of life into happiness and to be a positive influence in the community.
There are three fundamentals to the practice of Nichiren Daishonins’s Buddhism. Faith, which means to believe in the Gohonzon, practice, which is to chant Nam-myoho-renge and perform gongyo (recitation of portions of the Lotus Sutra) daily as well as sharing Buddhist teaching with others. Study which is to study the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin and applying them in our daily lives.
What is the SGI?
The lay society of Nichiren Daishonin’s buddhism, now called the Soka Gakkai (‘Value Creating Society’), was first established by an educator called Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, in 1930. His open criticism of the Japanese government’s militarism at the outset of the Second World War led to his imprisonment, together with his closest follower, Josei Toda. Makiguchi died in prison, but Toda emerged at the end of the war fired with the determination that he would build and develop the lay society. Since then Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism has blossomed, not only throughout Japan, but to more than 180 countries and territories around the world.
Soka Gakkai International (SGI) was founded in 1975. It is taking as active role in world affairs, building bridges through dialogue and cultural exchange.
Based on the humanistic principles of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, SGI President Daiseku Ikeda, has founded the Soka school system, which includes universities in Japan and USA. He is also the founder of the Toda Peace Institute, the Boston Research Centre for the 21st Century, the Tokyo Fuji Arts Museum and the Institute of Oriental Philosophy whose European centre is based at the SGI-UK headquarters in Taplow Court, Maidenhead, Berkshire.
At birth, the baby is blessed and given a Dharma name.
Some Buddhist Schools regard death as the actual time movement from one life to another. All rituals at death are aimed at promoting human rebirth in the next life, as well as preventing lower forms of rebirth taking place. An individual’s state of mind at the moment of death is believed to influence rebirth.
In order to ensure that the necessary rituals and pre-death counselling a Buddhist representative must be notified well in advance to ensure that an appropriate person presides over the care of a dying person.
In addition, acceptance of impending death does not mean that conventional medicine and preventative measures or measures prolonging life are refused.
After death, there is traditionally a 3-day period when the body is not disturbed. In cases of unexpected death or death of a small child special rituals may be necessary.
On entering a place of worship, the shoes are usually removed. It is customary to bow towards the altar with the palms of the hands pressed together.
Individuals may chant and/ or recite the Buddhist scriptures ( The Sutras ), or meditate or observe other rites and/ or rituals according to the form of Buddhism they follow. Though practised through a wide variety of methods, meditation among Buddhists can be found in two basic forms: shamatha/samatha (tranquillity) and vipashyana/vipassana (insight) meditation.
In individual worship practices, many, or all, of the following may be used: incense burning, flower and fruit offerings, altars in temples and home with images of Buddha and ancestors; and prayer beads.
To avoid harming animals, many Buddhists may be vegetarian or vegan. Many will not consume alcohol.
There are some celebrations and festivals that are common to all Buddhists, but many are unique to particular schools.