円教寺 Enkyoji Buddhist Network Distinctives
円教寺 Enkyoji Buddhist Network is a fast growing organization. We are people living life together and helping one another throughout our society in order to better serve our communities. Each week, we have many Sanghas (Community) meetings in communities all over the United States to learn about the Lotus Sutra, pray, eat, laugh, and live.
We call these Community Groups—and they’re the heart of our Temples Mission. And they’re the way we grow smaller and the only way to not get lost in the crowd. Central to our Community Groups are three ideas: Image, Body & Ownership.
Our birth right is that of enlightenment and that image of the Buddha, and part of that image is community. Through the Three Hidden Treasures, the Honzon (True Object of Veneration), that is the true representation of the Eternal Buddha “hidden core” the Lotus Sutra which is a manifestation of the Buddha’s perfect voice expounded thought the Sutra’s title, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, the Kaidan the place of enlightenment manifested in our Founder Nichiren Shonin who represents the perfect community, we understand that humans not only long for but are also made for community to reflect the teachings of the Eternal Buddha as expounded in the Lotus Sutra. Much of the loneliness, pain, and fragmentation we feel in life are a result of attachment to suffering marring our realization of the Buddha in our minds and putting a wedge between community and relationships as the Sutra unites all in one universal Sangha. Community Groups at 円教寺 Enkyoji Buddhist Network we seek to redeem community by making ways to meaningfully connect with other Buddhists.
In the Lotus Sutra, the Bodhisattva, (Ch. 15 Such as the Bodhisattva’s from underground) is spoken of as a group body often. This imagery points to the reality that we are all interconnected and depend on one another in life—much like a body relies on all its parts to function well. This is very different from the way most people view practice and coming to the temple—which is generally an event you attend to be checked off the calendar. At Enkyoji Temple, we believe that while services are important, the Temple is not a service but the people who come together to participate in miraculous assembly in the air with the Eternal Buddha and then live life throughout the week at home, work, and society.
As the Sangha, Nichiren Buddhists are to take the primary role in serving each other and their cities, helping each other grow to be more like the compassion of the Eternal Buddha and our Founder Nichiren Shonin, and caring for the hurting and injured members of the body, as well as sharing the truths of the Lotus Sutra. In growing Temples like ours, Community Groups are the best and primary way in which we do This. For more on the Temple as a body, check out Nichiren Shonin’s Letter, Itaidoshinji (One Spirit in Different Bodies)
As the Sangha, it’s the duty and responsibility of Nichiren Buddhists to not rely on a handful of priests and temple staff to fulfill the Sangha’s calling to expound the Lotus Sutra and help others hear it. Rather, we believe it’s important for all Nichiren Buddhist’s to take ownership of their role in the Lotus Sutras vision by participating allowing people to see the Buddha in their minds and growing as disciples of our Founder. Community Groups are active groups. More than just a Lotus Sutra study or a meeting group—though those are elements—members take the initiative to challenge our inclination to apathy by actively caring for one another, building friendships with one another, participating in serving the city through various charities and outreaches, and learning more about the Lotus Sutra and our Founder Nichiren Shonin together. This moves the traditional dynamic of the Temple as one of attendance to one of participation. This leads to real and lasting dynamic change daily both personally and in our families, communities, and municipalities.
For more on ownership, check out Nichiren Shonin’s Writing, “Rissho Ankoku Ron” (Eternal Truth)
Join a Group
If you’re looking to get more connected with 円教寺 Enkyoji Buddhist Network, Community Groups are the way to do it. And while it’s always scary to meet new people and be a stranger, we promise you won’t be a stranger for long. To find a Community Group, contact your local 円教寺 Enkyoji Buddhist Network Temple, Sangha or Community group.
The Why in Community:
There are many reasons that could be given why community is important. Some common answers to the “why we do community” question might be discipleship, care, friendship, or Temple/Sangha growth. While these answers are important byproducts of community, they are just that: byproducts. We can’t take the fruit of healthy, Lotus Sutra-centered community and turn it into the reason why we do it. Our foundational reason for why we have community groups in our Temple is to bring forth the Lotus Sutra into manifestation in our lives and proclaim the hidden core of the Eternal Buddha’s teaching reflected in the Odaimoku (Namu Myoho Renge Kyo) and what we can accomplish when we uphold and live in it.
We follow the Lotus Sutra, proclaimed by the Buddha and verified by Taho Buddha in the Lotus Sutra, as the “King of all Sutras” and to contain the Buddha’s true intention and practice. By upholding and living in this teaching we are able to gain the Eternal Buddha’s boundless merits of eternal practice to see our true potential and the meaning of our existence. This is practice in the Bodhisattva path of upholding the Sutra with all of one’s life and traveling together in the One Buddha Vehicle which does not discriminate or condemn. This is the true meaning of our life and how we can bring foundation to others. Reflecting the truth, found in the Lotus Sutra, that this teaching is the greatest gift to mankind and that it has the ability to liberate all people without exception. Yet many people today do not realize that this teaching is within their grasp, because they are still in the Burning House, unable to find a way out. But the Buddha calls us out with the promise to an end to our suffering and to find safety. When we see that the Buddha exists and that this Good Medicine was left for us, we join our hands together and chant the Sacred Title, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. This gives us a true sense of community by seeing the Buddha-nature in all beings. Allow us to go beyond our limitations and bow with Gassho and Raihai (Bowing to one's inherent Buddha-Nature). Gaining the deep compassion that ignorance isolates us, not only from our true nature but from realizing the true meaning of our life.
Where we are confused in our lives, the Lotus Sutra has given us true direction to the Essence of our Lives. Community is for us a declaration in the overwhelming belief that all beings have Buddha-nature and that we must pursue it together, a tangible proclamation of the reconciling work of the Lotus Sutra. This is a truly compelling reason to build community groups within our Temples. The “For” in Community. Once we understand the real reason why we do community, now we can look at the purpose community serves. The Buddha states the purpose for the Sangha plainly and the role of Bodhisattava’s from underground in the Lotus Sutra in that they were given the task to expound the Eternal Buddha’s true mind to all the Beings of this world. A disciple is a follower of the Eternal Buddha, reflecting the meaning of the Lotus Sutra through faith in the Odaimoku, and expressing that identity through veneration to the Gohonzon (Correct Object of Veneration), community in Temple, and mission in the world. We gather in community groups with our friends and neighbors to live life together and experience the Lotus Sutra in ways we can’t on our own. Community Groups are a place to wrestle with the truths of the Buddha’s teaching, love one another, serve the city, and participate in the mission of our Founder Nichiren Shonin for 円教寺 Enkyoji Buddhist Network and Nichiren Shu.
The reason that the Lotus Sutra is filled with teachings of equality, with commands to love, teach, admonish, and rebuke one another is that by discipling one another, we are not only learning, but also we are teaching the Lotus Sutra. Instead of one teacher teaching only many disciples, we create a community of disciples who are discipling one another, and allowing the teachings to reach all from our Head Priest. Teachers have long known that this is the best way to learn because you must know your subject well to teach it to others. In this way, as the teachings are preached and then applied in community, we can disciple an entire population effectively and efficiently.
What Is A Community Group?
A Community Group is a group of disciples who live life together for the purpose of removing the suffering of others and realizing the Pure Land of the Buddha, here and now. Consequently we expect that the same attributes of a disciple would be present in community. Simply, a Community Group is group of disciples who find their identity in the Eternal Buddha, participate in the glories “Ceremony in the Air”, care for one another, spur each other toward Buddhahood, and own the mission to see more people hear the Lotus Sutra. A Community Group is not an event. It’s a lifestyle of discipleship.
The Neighborhood Approach
The mission of 円教寺 Enkyoji Buddhist Network is huge. Our goal is to transform our cities and town placing the Lotus Sutra’s mission of saving all sentient beings as our main foundation. For those of us without a microphone, website, blog, or other social platform, it can be difficult to grasp how we fit into the plan. This is where the Neighborhood Approach comes in.
The concept is simple. Although your Community Group may not be able to serve the whole city, it can serve your block and your neighborhood. If the other groups in your neighborhood do the same, and the groups in your church serve their neighborhoods, eventually we can transform a city. What makes this more significant is the fact that you and your group can reach people and people groups that would never step foot in a Temple. You have to opportunity to reach the suffering within your group at a deeper level then a Temple service ever could, and therefore reach people who otherwise would never hear the Lotus Sutra. As Sunday gatherings and Community Groups work together, this country will take a positive turn and never be the same.
The Community Group organizational structure is simple:
Each group has a leader
Each leader has a coach
Each coach has a head coach (depending on the size of your group)
Each head coach is overseen by our Head Priest
It is important to note that this structure is lived out within the neighborhood strategy, allowing us to accomplish the purposes described above.
Pastoral Care: One of the primary functions of community groups within the Sangha is pastoral care (counseling, discipleship, etc.). Our structure has been designed to ensure that every active member of the Sangha is being supported by a leader, coach, or pastor.
Discipleship: The leadership structure provides relationships for discipleship and growth. This gives us an avenue for growth and maturation as well as leadership development within the Sangha, allowing members to grow as leaders and fulfill their calling. The structure provides a network through which discipleship can naturally occur within relationships that are consistent and intentional.
Mission: One of the purposes of the leadership structure is to implement the vision and accomplish the mission of Nichiren Shu. The structure is designed to promote ownership of the mission of 円教寺 Enkyoji Buddhist Network at the group level as they carry out the mission in their neighborhood. We intentionally build our structure around geographic regions to emphasize the neighborhood strategy.
Administration:. A good structure facilitates communication throughout the body. It provides channels for communicating vision and values as well as needs in an efficient and effective way. In this way, it also allows leaders to be more a part of the leadership process of the Sangha. The leadership structure provides us with enough oversight that we can empower you as a leader to employ the concepts outlined in the vision section to express community in new and unique ways. By providing a consistent structure we have freedom in the way community is expressed in particular contexts.