The Comparison between Buddhist And Non-Buddhist Teachings


Nichiren Daishonin established the principle of the five guides for propagation in order to judge the validity of various teachings. These five guides consist of the teaching, the capacity, the time, the country, and the stage of propagation.

The first guide is judging the teaching. Utilizing the process of comparison, the specific doctrine of a religion can be examined in terms of its validity. Within the process of judging the teaching, there is a five-level comparison starting from the shallow and progressing to the deep. This doctrine is called the fivefold comparison. It comprises of the comparisons between Buddhist and non-Buddhist teachings (also known as the “inner” and the “outer”), the Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhist teachings, the true Mahayana and the provisional Mahayana, the essential and the theoretical, and the sowing and the harvest. Relatively, the doctrines of these teachings are clarified in regards to their provisional and true nature, as well as the comparative profundity of their doctrines.

This original doctrine taught by the Daishonin, the fivefold comparison is expounded in the “Opening of the Eyes,” in addition to other Goshos, thereby emphasizing its importance. The first level of the fivefold comparison is the relative judgment of the Buddhist and non-Buddhist teachings, which are also referred to as the “inner way” and the “outer way.” The inner way refers to Buddhism, and the outer way refers to teachings other than Buddhism, such as Brahmanism, Christianity, Islam, Confucianism and so forth. This principle contrasts and compares Buddhism, specifically, with other religious doctrines.


Three Types of Non-Buddhist Teachings

The Daishonin stated in his “Outline of the Lifelong Sacred Teachings” (“Ichidai shogyo tai’i”):


There are three types of the outer way [non-Buddhist teachings].

(Gosho, p. 97)


Twenty-sixth High Priest, Nichikan Shonin, discussed the non-Buddhist teachings in his Commentary on the “Opening of the Eyes” (“Kaimoku-sho” guki):


The three types of non-Buddhist teachings consist of the following:

The first type is represented by the non-Buddhist teachings that are outside the realm of Buddhism. The doctrines of the six non-Buddhist teachers are associated with this form of the outer way. The second type is signified by

the non-Buddhist teachings of those who are related to Buddhism, but function to denounce it. The third type refers to the non-Buddhist teachings that are doctrinally associated with Buddhism. They are upheld by those who study the doctrines of Buddhism, but promote evil perspectives about them.

(Rekizen, p. 5189)


As explained above, the first type of non-Buddhist teachings are the religions other than Buddhism. In the Daishonin’s Goshos, Confucianism or Brahmanism are sometimes referred to as the first type of the outer way. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are also included in this category.

The second type is called the “Buddhism-related outer way.” It includes non-Buddhist groups who appropriate the teachings of Buddhism into their own religious doctrines, thereby appearing to be a Buddhist denomination. New religions in present day Japan such as Reiyukai, Rissho-Kosei-Kai, Shinyo-en, Agon-shu and so forth, are included in this category.

The third type is called the “Buddhism-learned outer way.” It includes those groups who deviated from the correct teachings of Buddhism, and have fundamentally reverted to non-Buddhist views.


The Non-Buddhist Teachings Indicated in the Gosho

In China, teachings by Confucius, Mencius, and Lao Tzu, are broadly embraced and revered. In his “Opening of the Eyes,” the Daishonin stated with regard to these outer ways:


To sum it up, their ultimate doctrines are limited to the three profundities. The first is the profundity of being, established by the Duke of Chou, and others. The second is the profundity of non-being, expounded by Lao Tzu, and others. The third is the profundity of both being and non-being asserted by Chuang Tzu.

(Gosho, p. 524; cf. MW-2, p. 73)


(Note: This chapter can be read in its entirety in the book: The Doctrines and Practice of Nichiren Shoshu.

For more information, please contact your local temple.)