How many kinds of Buddhism exist?
When people use the term Buddhism, they imply a body of teachings or philosophy expounded by Prince Sidhartha Shakya,
also called Shakyamuni, the muni being an honorific title following the family name Shakya. Shakyamuni pondered the meaning
of all existence and then told those who asked, except once, his conclusions. Those whose questions he answered perceived
him to be "The Buddha" because of his profound wisdom. He called himself, "a buddha" because he stated he was manifesting
a wisdom capacity inherent but not manifesting in everyone. He said that the purpose of his being was to inform everyone else
how to transform the inherent hidden powers into manifest volitional powers. Concurrently, he admitted that everyone at the
same time is not ready to know the truth about themselves. This of course is similar to the experiance of David Oates, not everyone wants to know the truth. For those who want to know the truth, the means to transforming the theory to manifest is simple and straightforward. To those who want to hide from the truth, the pathways of self-deception are infinite and convoluted.
In fact, the more convoluted the better, as such allows people to think they are on the high road to enlightenment without really ever having to endure the brilliant light and arguable burden of total self-responsibility.
As I said, Shakyamuni taught in response to the questions of his disciples. He never wrote anything down. His disciples, chief among them, Ananda, wrote down his words. In the time of Shakyamuni, there were no books as we know them but various portions of his teachings were gathered together in "volumes" and called sutras. All the sutras, except one, are the gathered together transcriptions of conversations Shakyamuni had with his disciples in response to questions they asked him, generally THREE times before he would respond.
Not all disciples stayed for the full message however. Many from time to time, depending on their attention span and thirst for truth, took some of the sutras and went home to preach the word to others.
Nowthen, Shakyamuni, SPONTANEOUSLY spoke to his disciples only at one time and after telling them he was about to tell them something important FOUR times.
But even though two extraordinary things had occurred, Shakyamuni spontaneously speaking and Shakyamuni stating 'this is important' four times, a remarkable number of disciples left for home, stating we've heard enough! Shakyamuni was not disturbed by their leavetaking, he rather welcomed it stating "Now in this congregation I am free from useless twigs and leaves, and have nothing but all that are purely the true and real." [pg 55]
So here is the hard heart of the matter. Many call themselves "Buddhists" but in Shakyamuni's own words, only those who know and follow the message he spontaneously delivered are truly "Buddhists". Many otherwise "good and sincere" people who call themselves Buddhists, whether Hinayana Vietnamese, or Mahayana Tibetan, or, neither fish nor fowl, Zen are NOT practicing BUDDHISM because they are not practicing what, from the "horse's mouth", Shakyamuni, "the Buddha", said Buddhism is.
Might this be my interpretation of reading between some obscure lines? Absolutely not. The one sutra spontaneously expound by Shakyamuni is the Lotus Sutra. The translation of Lotus Sutra takes on many different sound vibrations in various languages but the most crucial vibratory pattern for profound reasons is the Japanese. In Japanese, the Lotus Sutra, translates as "Myoho Renge Kyo". Renge is the translation of white lotus blossom, the short hand title of the sutra and a metaphor, for the simultaneous manifestation of cause and effect, as lotus plants, seed and flower simultaneously. The full title is also a metaphor. Myo means mystic in the sense of having a connected, logical, provable explanation but simultaneously very hard to understand. Ho means a law. Kyo is onomatapoeia for a sound, a sound sometimes translated by extention to mean sutra, but at the most profound level a sound.
Inherent in sound is the fact of its formless form. Sound exists simultaneously as matter and energy. Sound exists and yet cannot be said to exist at any specific location. Sound is the ultimate metaphor for the nature of all existence and the nature of a discovered quantum of existence know as the "superstring".
So, the meaning behind the metaphor of Myoho Renge Kyo is a mystic (hard to understand) law of cause and effect modified by a sound vibration. Simultaneously, (that word comes up a lot in Buddhism) the title of the sutra explains why the law it describes works if the title is chanted aloud. By extention, it describes why anything spoken has an effect, even if a very weak in manifesting effect.
Now here is a difficult part to understand superficially and impossible to understand unless one is manifesting the Buddhahood state of being. Buddha and Myoho Renge Kyo are synonymous.
There is only ONE activity which defines those who are truly Buddhist from those who mistakenly believe themselves to be Buddhists and that is to chant aloud "Namu Buddha" in coded words and "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" in actual practice.
My personal interpretation? Absolutely not.
Shakyamuni said, " The nine divisions..Are but the intoduction to the Great-Vehicle, Hence I preach this sutra...[pg 63] and "there is no other vehicle, but only the One Buddha-Vehicle"..."there is no such thing as a (buddhist priest) who has really obtained (enlightenment) if he has not believed this Law" [pg 61]..."For at length after the Buddha's preparatory teaching He must now proclaim the perfect Truth"...[pg 55] ..." the Buddha has declared only one principle of emancipation"...[pg55]
What is the One Buddha-Vehicle, the Law, the perfect Truth, the one principle of emancipation? Is the explanation of these terms found in any other sutra, thus permitting devoutees of other sutras to practice Buddhism? To answer the latter question first, No. Within the Lotus Sutra is found the statement, "from of yore I have never heard such a discourse from the Buddha." [page 55] meaning this is the only sutra that the instruction about the law and practice of true Buddhism can be found.
To answer the former question we must look at the heart and soul of the Lotus Sutra, found on page 69, "If any..cry but once 'Namu Buddha' They have attained the Buddha-way"
To re-iterate and amplify. The whole purpose of Buddhism is to teach the fastest way to obtain a state of being called Buddhahood. The fastest way to obtain Buddhahood is also said to be the only way to obtain Buddhahood and that way, that law, that perfect Truth, that one principle of emancipation is to chant (cry aloud) 'Namu Buddha" e.g. "Nam(u) Myoho Renge Kyo" which sounds to the western ear like "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo".
Paradoxically, any "Buddhist" who does not chant "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" is not a Buddhist or Shakyamuni, "the Buddha" is not a Buddhist! Non-dai-moku Buddhist may achieve through their techniques some type of emotional state which they define as enlightenment but they don't and can't achieve Buddhahood. More precisely they achieve a high state of conciousness or bliss, Buddhist define as rapture. But rapture is an inferior state of being to Buddhahood or true enlightenment.