Question: What is prayer in Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism and why should we pray?
Answer: Prayer is a natural phenomenon that brings to the lips whatever is in your heart. It is nothing but a deep wish. In ND Buddhism, prayer bridges the gap between what one has and what one aspires to achieve.
Question: Whom should we prayAnswer: We pray to Gohonzon, “The object of fundamental respect” as inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin
Question: Isn’t GH just a piece of paper? How can it have the power to solve our problems?
Answer: Our GH may be printed, but it still retains its inherent powers. For example, a 10 rupee note is printed, our graduation degree or appointment letter all of them have their respective power. The paper is physical matter, but the words written on it are the Daishonin’s spirit and very essence of our own life.
The Buddhist principle of oneness of body and mind teaches us that the physical and spiritual are one. Life is found in their unity. The GH embodies the life of the Buddha. When we chant we are not chanting to a piece of paper, but to the law which is printed on it.
Question: I don’t know, how to pray? What is the proper way to pray?Answer: We have to be as natural as we are in front of the GH, with trust in the GH like a trust a child pours his heart out to his parents. We should have the attitude, “If I chant, everything will be all right”
Another thing is to remember is that the focus of our prayers should expand not only to your own wishes, but for the happiness of your friends, your family, your classmates and society and humanity as a whole.
Question: What should our prayers consist of?Answer: The most important prayer in Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism is chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, i.e Diamoku and reciting morning and evening Gongyo regularly. When we chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, we can activate the protective functions to support us and realize our prayers\.
Question: Can we pray for anything we like?Answer: Yes you can pray for anything that may contribute to your happiness or that of others.
Question: How are our prayers Answered?Answer: The realization of our prayers entirely depends upon the power of our faith and practice. The greater your conviction that your prayers will be Answered the stronger your faith and more powerfully GH will respond to your practice for yourself and for others. The more you can tap the power of Buddha and the law of GH.
Question Though I have prayed with all my might and made sincere efforts, still dome prayers weren’t Answered. Are all our prayers really Answered / fulfilled?
Answer: Yes, GH enables us to realize all our prayers. It is as certain as the Sun rising in the east everyday. As I said earlier, it depends upon the power of our faith and practice Like Mr Toda said, “Obviously, you are going to get a vastly different sound, depending upon whether you strike a bell with a toothpick , chopstick or a bell striker. The bell is the same, but if you hit it powerfully, it rings loudly, if you hit it weekly it rings softly. The same is true of the GH. The benefit we receive depends entirely on our prayer of our faith and practice. How intensely we do our prayers.
Question: Why are some prayers unfulfilled or take time to get fulfilled?Answer: There are times when our prayers seem to take an ages to be fulfilled, despite all our efforts. But the important thing is to keep chanting. It will lead us to positive changes day by day. For eg: Its like work you get a job right away but you don’t get paid right away, or it is like gardening, you plant a sapling and water it daily but it will take a long time to grow into a tree.
Question: How much should I chant? Is it the number of hours or quality and quantity matter?
Answer Like earning a $100 note is better than earning $10 note. The important thing in prayer is that we become happy, therefore there is no hard and fast rule about having to chant a certain number of hours. The important thing is that you should enjoy doing chanting.
Question: What if I skip my Gongyo and Daimaku for a day? Will it eradicate all my practice?
Answer: Skipping Gongyo occasionally is certainly not going to erase all your earlier efforts. You need not feel guilty when you miss a Gongyo but on the other hand you should not neglect it.
Question: What is the right speed of Gongyo and Daimaku?Answer: Don’t worry too much about the speed of Daimaku and Gongyo. Just do the way you feel Comfortable and natural.
Question: What part of the Gohonzon should we concentrate upon?Answer: Just look at any part of GH you feel comfortable focusing on. The Gosho merely states that we should sit up straight.
Question: If there is less time, which one should be given priority, Gongyo or Daimaku?
Answer: To use the analogy of a meal, Daimaku can be likened to the main course and Gongyo as side dishes. Of course having both is best but daimaku comes first. ND states that even a single Diamoku contains infinite benefits.
Question: You mean by just chanting I can tap the power to fulfill all my prayers without having studied about the Buddhist doctrines often described as a “Treasury of Eighty thousand teachings”
Answer: ND Buddhism is based on 3 principles of faith, practice and study. Therefore the more we study the more strong our faith and conviction will be, which will in turn fortify our power of faith and practice. Study is beneficial as it deepens our understanding and appreciation of excellence and profundity of Buddhism.
Why chant "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" instead of any other words? Do the words themselves have power?
All words have power. Words can make people happy or sad, angry or loving, and so on. Language has a more profound effect on our lives than we realize. Nichiren Daishonin says: "They say that.... if you so much as hear the words 'pickled plum', your mouth will begin to water. Even in everyday life there are such wonders, so how much greater are the wonders of the Lotus Sutra." (Major Writings, vol.3, pp.34).
Historically, Myoho-renge-kyo is the title and essence of the Lotus Sutra, the highest of Shakyamuni's teachings, as translated from Sanskrit into ancient Chinese characters. Nichiren Daishonin placed "nam," a Sanskrit word meaning 'devotion', in front of these characters; so that in simple terms Nam-myoho-renge-kyo means devotion to the ultimate Law of the universe. Each of the characters themselves contain extremely profound principles of life, however, and together they express how everything in the cosmos works in one harmonious relationship.
Of course this is extremely difficult to believe and understand, but that does not mean it cannot be understood, or that chanting this phrase does not have a profound effect on our lives.
Scientists and mathematicians use formulas and language which are quite incomprehensible to most other people, but they can convey even the most difficult concepts to each other with accurate use of these expressions. Daisaku Ikeda, president of Soka Gakkai International (SGI), says: "In the same manner, when we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, even if we don't understand its profound meaning, we can tap the condition of Buddhahood. Our voice chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo permeates the cosmos and reaches the life condition of Buddhahood and all the Buddhas in the universe. It also penetrates our lives, enabling us to unlock the palace of Buddhahood, or the supreme life condition of eternity, happiness, true self and purity. It is the same as music that, without any explanation, reaches and filters into people's hearts, calling forth a sympathetic response from them."
The most important point to remember is that everyone who chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can draw out of themselves the state of Buddhahood which influences all the other states in our life and guides our actions in the very midst of our day-to-day struggles and problems. Although it is very difficult to believe at first, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the essence of everyone's life, and when we chant this phrase it affects us in countless positive ways, from the very core of our lives.
The extent to which we can benefit from chanting depends not on the power inherent in the characters Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is limitless, but entirely on how much sincere effort we make when we practice. The natural Law of life is in everything, but only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and taking action in our daily lives can we tap or activate it, and so enable it to work for the happiness of ourselves and other people. Buddhism talks about the principle of the 'four powers': the power of the Buddha, the power of the Law, the power of faith and the power of practice. The first two are embodied in the Gohonzon, but are only activated by the powers of faith and practice of the person who chants to it. In other words it is the power of our faith and practice which determines the extent to which the power of the Gohonzon can appear in our lives.
Josei Toda, the second president of the Soka Gakkai, said that it is vital to understand this point:
"I often hear new members complain that they have not yet received any benefit. I find the majority of those people are preoccupied solely with getting benefit and pay no attention to strengthening their own powers of faith and practice. The statement 'Knock and it shall be opened unto you' serves as a good illustration of the four powers. For example, if one exerts his powers of faith and practice to a factor of 100, the powers of the Buddha and the Law will also be manifested to the power of 100. Likewise, the powers of faith and practice exerted to a factor of 10,000 will manifest the powers of the Buddha and the Law to a factor of 10,000. We should fix this principle in our minds and dedicate ourselves to faith and practice without reservation."
I often hear members talking about getting "benefits" from their practice. What do they mean?
Nichiren Daishonin spoke of the three proofs that should be used as standards for judging the validity of any teaching, these are documentary, theoretical and actual proof. Documentary proof means that the doctrine of a particular sect or school is based on, or is in accord with, the teachings of its founder. Theoretical proof means that the doctrine is compatible with reason and logic and offers a convincing explanation of life as we experience it. Actual proof means that the teachings of that doctrine are borne out by actual results when put into practice.
With regard to this practice Nichiren Daishonin states that actual proof is the most important of the three, and it is actual proof — usually in the form of increased good fortune, protection or happiness — that people are referring to when they talk about benefits or experiences.
Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism teaches that the physical and spiritual aspects of our lives are inseparable, so that if the overall state of our life is elevated it is quite natural that this improvement should be seen or felt in both spheres. Broadly speaking then, the benefits we derive from our practice can be divided into two types — conspicuous and inconspicuous. Conspicuous benefits refer to improvements in our circumstances — in our working lives or in our relationships with friends and relatives — which are clear and obvious. Members may talk about how they received the benefit of promotion at work, better living conditions, or even the acquisition of some material possession. Although the nature of the benefit and its importance will vary from person to person, according to their circumstances, these "benefits" are evidence of increasing good fortune, springing from the practice
What does Gongyo Mean?
The Japanese word gongyo literally means "assiduous practice." Generally speaking it means to recite Buddhist sutras in front of an object of worship. In the practice of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism it means chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and reciting parts of the second chapter "Hoben" and the sixteenth chapter "Juryo" of the Lotus Sutra in front of the Gohonzon. This is the fundamental practice, which is performed morning and evening.
The standard form of gongyo practiced by the SGI is reciting the essential portions of these two chapters of the Lotus Sutra, chanting daimoku, and offering silent prayers.
I hear people say they "chant to the Gohonzon." What is the Gohonzon?
The Gohonzon is the object of devotion in Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. The Gohonzon that members receive is in the form of a paper scroll, on which are printed a variety of Chinese and Sanskrit characters in black ink. The Gohonzon is a transcription of the Dai-Gohonzon (Dai meaning "great") inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin on October 12, 1279.
The characters represent life in all its aspects. Down the center, for example, in characters larger and bolder than the others, are the words "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Nichiren." This represents a principle called "the Oneness of the Person and the Law" and means, specifically, that Nichiren Daishonin was inherently enlightened to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; in other words, he did not learn the Law from anyone else, but realized it himself. As he says of the Gohonzon in a letter to one of his followers, "I, Nichiren, have inscribed my life in sumi ink, so believe in the Gohonzon with your whole heart." (Major Writings, Vol. 1,p. 120)
In a general sense, the Oneness of the Person and the Law also means that all people possess the same Law within their own lives, and the same potential as Nichiren Daishonin to become enlightened.
Grouped around these large characters are smaller characters representing the totality of life - the Ten Worlds, for example, from Hell to Buddhahood; the principles of using one's desires and sufferings to achieve enlightenment; the great qualities of true self, purity, happiness and eternity that lie dormant in each person; the relationship of one's life to the universe; and much more.
In short, then, the Gohonzon embodies the enlightened life condition of Nichiren Daishonin and represents life in its highest possible state — Buddhahood.
I do not have the Gohonzon as yet. Can I get the same benefit from my practice without having the Gohonzon?
Actually, most people start to practice this Buddhism without the Gohonzon. In fact, it is valuable that we should do so, because it is important that we have the time to practice, study the teachings and develop the desire to actually receive and protect the Gohonzon.
As time goes on and you receive benefits from the practice, quite naturally you will want to practice with a Gohonzon. Although the benefit is the same with or without the Gohonzon in the beginning, the daily effort required to bring forth your Buddha nature and continue your practice requires you to at some point receive a Gohonzon.
Is chanting a form of meditation or is it positive thinking?
Chanting is neither meditation, nor positive thinking, though it reaps the benefits of both these practices and much more. The essence of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is that in the very act of doing so we are expressing our Buddha nature. Meditation and positive thinking do not have Buddhahood as their objective. It is not possible to express Buddhahood through these means. Although meditation and positive thinking may have value they cannot change the fundamental element in our lives which makes us unhappy and unfulfilled as human beings — our karma, nor can they bring out the highest condition of life, Buddhahood.
Meditation is a more passive exercise than chanting; one usually calms one's mind by concentrating on a particular phrase or image. At first glance this may seem close to the practice of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, but actually the difference is apparent. The practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables us to express and experience our innate Buddhahood and release the powerful energy contained within that, rather than to calm our minds or negate certain ways of thinking.
Again, while it is true that our thinking does become more positive as a result of chanting, this is because chanting draws out our Buddhahood which, in turn, influences every aspect of our lives, both mental and physical. Therefore, chanting is not so much a question of "thinking positively" or exercising "mind over matter," which implies restriction; rather, through chanting, our highest state of life naturally influences our thoughts and actions towards the most valuable ends.
I hear members talk about the "Ten Worlds." What are they?
The Ten Worlds are ten conditions of life which everyone possesses, and which we experience from moment to moment.
The first six (known collectively as the six lower worlds) are: Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Humanity and Rapture. These six lower worlds arise automatically from within our lives in response to external surroundings. Three of the four remaining worlds are: Learning, Realization and Bodhisattva. These worlds are developed through seeking, discovering and aspiring. The tenth world, Buddhahood, is a condition of pure, indestructible happiness.
HELL is a condition of suffering, in which one is devoid of freedom and has very little life force (physical or mental energy). One feels totally trapped by one's circumstances, sometimes dominated by frustrated rage and, in extreme cases, the urge to destroy oneself and everything else. Without the world of Hell, however, we would never be able to understand happiness, or identify with anyone else's suffering. Also, the desire not to fall into this condition is a powerful incentive for us to make efforts in daily life.
HUNGER is a condition characterized by an insatiable desire for food, power, wealth, fame, pleasure and so on. In this state one is tormented by relentless craving and the inability to satisfy it, even when the desire is achieved. Looked at positively, though, hunger is the driving force behind most human activity. Put simply, without the desire to do something, nothing would get done.
ANIMALITY is a condition in which one is governed by instinct, in which one has no sense of morality and lives only for the present moment. In this state one fears the strong and bullies the weak. The positive aspects of animality are our intuitive wisdom and the instinct to protect and nurture life — both our own and the lives of those close to us.
ANGER is the condition in which one is dominated by the selfish ego, competitiveness, arrogance and the need to be superior in all things. Its positive side is passionate energy, a desire for excellence and, above all, a burning abhorrence of injustice.
HUMANITY (or Tranquillity) is the basic "resting" condition of human beings, in which one's energy is recharged before one makes more effort. In this calm state one can pass fair judgment, control instinctive desires with reason, and act in harmony with one's surroundings. However, it is a very unstable state and one can quickly find oneself in a lower world if this world is disturbed.
RAPTURE (or Heaven) is the condition of pleasure, experienced when one's desires are fulfilled. Unlike the true happiness of Buddhahood, however, this state is temporary and, like Humanity, easily disrupted by even a slight change of circumstances. Even if things do not change, Rapture simply disappears with time.
The majority of people spend most of their time moving between these six conditions of life, from Hell to Rapture, governed by their reactions to external influences and therefore highly vulnerable to changing circumstances.
The four higher worlds are characterized by the fact that one needs to make effort to reveal them from within one's life.
LEARNING is a condition in which one seeks some skill, lasting truth or self-improvement through the teachings of others.
REALIZATION (or Absorption) is a state in which one discovers a partial truth through one's own observations, efforts and concentration. The worlds of Learning and Realization are closely related. People in these states can be come arrogant and self-centered.
BODHISATTVA is a condition in which one not only aspires for personal enlightenment but devotes oneself to relieving the sufferings of others through compassionate and altruistic actions. Even this state can have a negative aspect, however, the tendency towards self-sacrifice, the neglect or disrespect of one's own life, which can lead to one acting "compassionately" but merely from a sense of duty and with resentment.
BUDDHAHOOD is the highest of the Ten Worlds, a condition of pure, indestructible happiness which is not dependent on one's circumstances. It is a condition of perfect and absolute freedom, characterized by boundless wisdom, courage, compassion and life force.
Each of the Ten Worlds possesses all Ten Worlds, and each has the potential to reveal any of the others at any moment. This means that we have the capacity to reveal our Buddhahood from the first moment we begin to chant. As we practice we make Buddhahood the dominant state of our lives, as it acts as a kind of filter, revealing the positive aspects of the other nine worlds from Hell to Bodhisattva.
In this way, based on the regular, day-by-day practice of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, our ordinary lives become charged with positive, value-creating activity; and increasingly we are able to transform our environment — our family, circle of friends and workplace — into a vibrant, happy and harmonious one.
Who is Nichiren Daishonin?
Nichiren (1222-1282) was the Japanese founder of Nichiren Buddhism. Born as a fisherman's son, he was called Zennichimaro. He went to Seicho-ji temple in his home province of Awa to study Buddhism in 1233. Shortly after his tonsure at sixteen, he took the name of Rencho and went to Kamakura for further studies. After returning from Kamakura, he traveled to Kyoto and Nara, the old centers of traditional Buddhism in Japan, where he mastered all the sutras and literature of Buddhism. In I253, returning to Seicho-ji, Rencho adopted the name Nichiren (Sun-Lotus) when he advocated chanting "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" for the first time. He declared the establishment of a new Buddhism. In 1279 he inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon as the fundamental object of respect for the peace and happiness of all mankind. He died three years later. See "The Life of Nichiren Daishonin" in the Introduction of The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1.
The term "Daishonin" is an honorific title meaning "great sage" and has been traditionally used in reference to Nichiren, e.g. Nichiren Daishonin, by the Nichiren Shoshu school of Buddhism. The Soka Gakkai and SGI have adopted this usage in most publications, however it is not commonly used in society or by academic and religious scholars.
The revolutionary nature of Nichiren's achievement lies in the fact that he made it possible, for the first time, for all people to actually practice the highest teachings of Buddhism by providing a methodology whereby they can establish a life-condition of absolute happiness, unswayed by changing outer circumstances.
What is the function of various meetings and why are members encouraged to attend them?
The purpose of meetings is to support members in their practice, or to make friendships for a common goal. SGl-USA has many different kinds of meetings which people can attend, ranging from discussion and study meetings to divisional meetings, world peace gongyo meetings and special interest groups. The function of these meetings are to enable members to understand more deeply the profound principles of life as taught by Nichiren Daishonin.
The pivotal meeting is the discussion meeting. It is at this gathering, usually monthly, where members and their guests come together to discuss a theme or topic relevant to everyone. It is a unique forum that is planned by the members.
Who is Daisaku Ikeda?
Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), is a Buddhist thinker, author and educator who believes that only through personal interaction and dialogue across cultural and philosophical boundaries can human beings nurture the trust and understanding that is necessary for lasting peace. To date, he has traveled to more than 50 countries in pursuit of this ideal, holding discussions with many distinguished political, cultural and educational figures. Topics include a range of issues crucial to humanity--such as the transformative value of religion, the universality of life, social responsibility, and sustainable progress and development.
Ikeda was born on January 2, 1928, in Tokyo, Japan. His family's business was producing a form of edible seaweed. An avid reader, Ikeda began composing poetry at an early age. His interests include art, music, philosophy and photography.
Ikeda was seventeen when the Second World War ended in 1945. His four elder brothers had been drafted for military service, and the eldest was killed in combat. Ikeda's family suffered greatly, as did other ordinary Japanese, on account of the war. The anguish of those days left an indelible impression on the young Ikeda and prompted his life-long endeavor to root out the fundamental causes of human conflict. Although the hardships of the war disrupted most of his chances for education, he was able to graduate from Fuji Junior College's department of economics.
In 1947, Ikeda met Josei Toda, the man who was to become his mentor and play a decisive role in shaping the course of his life. Toda, later the second president of the Soka Gakkai, was an innovative educator who was deeply committed to the ideals and practice of Nichiren Buddhism. During the war, he was imprisoned together with the first Soka Gakkai president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi-who later died in prison-by the authorities because of their opposition to Japanese militarism. Upon his release after more than two years of confinement in July 1945, Toda dedicated his life to the development of the Soka Gakkai and the realization of a humane society.
Ikeda joined the Soka Gakkai soon after meeting Toda, and worked alongside his mentor to launch the organization's movement to promote peace, culture, and education. He also embarked on a course in self-education under Toda's tutelage, exploring philosophy, literature, the natural sciences, economics, politics and other disciplines.
Ikeda assisted his mentor for more than a decade until the latter's death in 1958. In 1960, Ikeda succeeded Toda as head of the Soka Gakkai, becoming its third president, and in 1975 he became president of the newlyformed Soka Gakkai International.
Ikeda has defined the organization's objectives as: "Working for peace by opposing all forms of violence and contributing to the welfare of humankind by pursuing humanistic culture and education." "Peace," as it is used here, is not the mere absence of war, but indicates a condition where the dignity and fundamental rights of all people are respected. Ikeda recognizes that peace must emanate from within individuals--a view based on the Buddhist conviction that people inherently possess the ability to create value and harmony in society, and between themselves and their environment. For Ikeda, culture is the lively expression of this unique human characteristic. He also attaches great importance to education as an essential vehicle for the development of individuals' creative potential. Education and culture are, in this sense, prerequisites for peace.
Referring to the United Nations as "the congress of humanity," Ikeda emphasizes the importance of working with the world body for realizing these goals. In the past, the SGI, which is registered with the UN as a nongovernmental organization (NGO), has organized exhibitions on human rights, war and peace, and development and the environment, in conjunction with various UN departments. It has also carried out extensive refugee relief activities, and recently collected nearly 300,000 used radios for presentation to the United Nations in Cambodia to help facilitate free elections. In addition, Ikeda himself has made numerous proposals on peace and international affairs.
The SGI leader has founded several institutions, such as the Soka schools (from kindergarten through university level), the Min-On Concert Association and the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, in order to promote educational, cultural and artistic activities and conduct exchanges with like groups and institutions on a global scale. Ikeda has also initiated a wide range of grassroots exchange programs and delivered speeches at a number of institutions of higher learning around the world, including Harvard University, the Institut de France and Beijing University.
Mr. Ikeda has received honorary doctorates from 20 universities, including University of Glasgow (UK), Moscow State University, Sofia University (Bulgaria), University of Buenos Aires (Argentina), Ankara University (Turkey), University of Nairobi (Kenya), University of the Philippines. He has honorary professorships in 14 universities, including Beijing University and National University of San Marcos (Peru).
For his humanitarian endeavors in a range of fields, he is the recipient of numerous awards, including the United Nations Peace Award, National Order of the Southern Cross of the Republic of Brazil, Honorary Cross of Science and the Arts from the Austrian Ministry of Education, Medal of the Grand Officer of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Culture, and the World Poet Laureateship from the World Poetry Society.
Major books that he has written include: The Human Revolution (12 volumes),Choose Life: A Dialogue with Dr. Arnold J. Toynbee; Dawn After Dark with Dr. René Hughye; Before It Is Too Late with Dr. Aurelio Peccei; A Lifelong Quest for Peace with Dr. Linus Pauling; Dialogue of World Citizens with Dr. Norman Cousins; Choose Peace, with Dr. Johan Galtung; The Snow Country Prince, The Cherry Tree, The Princess and the Moon and Over the Deep Blue Sea (children's books translated into over ten languages).
What is the "human revolution"?
The "human revolution" is a term used by Josei Toda, second president of the Soka Gakkai, to describe the process by which an individual gradually expands his life, conquers his negative and destructive tendencies, and ultimately makes the state of Buddhahood his dominant life condition. The idea of revolution as most people understand it usually refers to a political or economic revolution. Such a revolution usually imposes new ideas upon people at large, and thereby effects change.
Rather than changing society directly, through improving or reforming social or political systems, the object of change lies deep within the life of each individual. As Josei Toda states: "'The human revolution' I am talking about...refers to the establishment of one's ultimate purpose in life and working towards the perfection of self. We carry out our daily lives according to our own views on life and society. However, 'human revolution' refers to the change that we bring about in the way we view life, society and the world. A fundamental change occurs in the way one has led his or her life up until that point. The 'human revolution' of an individual becomes apparent when he or she establishes an unwavering and absolute conviction in the eternity of life. Rather than focusing on short-term goals which apply only to one's present lifetime, this conviction becomes the basis for the pursuit of loftier goals and greater good, in contrast to one's previous satisfaction with the accomplishment of lesser goals and good."
SGI President Daisaku Ikeda wrote these words in the foreword to his novel The Human Revolution: "A great revolution of character in just a single man will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will cause a change in the destiny of all humankind."
What is karma?
The question of destiny or karma has greatly preoccupied philosophers in both the West and the East. One Western theory is that when we are born our lives are like a sheet of paper on which nothing is written. Each life then develops as a result of its surroundings and the forces acting on it - parents, friends, society, the dominant culture, and so on.
Buddhism, however, teaches the eternity of life; that we have lived countless lives already. This means that we are not born as blank pages, but pages on which countless impressions have already been made. According to Buddhism, life is forever existing in the cosmos; sometimes it is manifest and sometimes latent. Just as when we sleep and then awaken; our conscious mind awakens and our body feels refreshed. Between the sleeping and awakening, our consciousness carries on in a sub-conscious state. Similarly one's life continues eternally in alternating states of life and death. Death is as much a part of living as sleep is part of the process of living.
Karma is thus the accumulation of effects from the good and bad causes that we bring with us from our former lives, as well as from the good and bad causes we have made in this lifetime, which shapes our future. Karma is a Sanskrit word that means 'action'. Karma is created by actions - our thoughts, words and deeds - and manifests itself in our appearance, behavior, attitudes, good and bad fortune, where we are born or live - in short, everything about us. It is all the positive and negative influences or causes that make up our complete reality in this world
Unlike some other philosophies though, Buddhism does not consider one's karma or destiny to be fixed; since our minds change from moment to moment, even the habitual and destructive tendencies we all possess to varying degrees can be altered. In other words, Buddhism teaches that individuals have within themselves the potential to change their own karma.
All that we do in one lifetime affects the negative and positive balance of our karma. For example, if we are born poor in this lifetime and spend our life giving to others whatever we can give, we are making causes to change the negative karma of being poor. On the other hand, if we spend our life envying or hating or even stealing from others, we are adding to our negative balance of karma.
Buddhism teaches we have all amassed karma throughout countless lives and that we not only experience the effects of this karma now, but we continue to recreate it. However, the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin teaches that there is an area of our life that is more profound than our karma - our Buddhahood or Buddha nature. The purpose of our Buddhist practice is to reveal this area and to allow its pure life force to purify our lives and change our karma at the deepest level.
As SGI President Daisaku Ikeda explains: "It is the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin that enables the pure life force of the Buddha state, which has existed within us since time without beginning, to well forth in unceasing currents. It changes all the tragic causes and effects that lie between and unveils the pure causes and effects which exist from the beginningless past towards the present and the future. This is liberation from the heavy shackles of destiny we have carried from the past. This is the establishment of free individuals in the truest sense of the term."
What Is The Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds?
The ten worlds were originally thought of as distinct physical realms into which beings were born as a result of accumulated karma. For example, human beings were born in the world of Humanity, animals in the world of Animality and gods in the world of Heaven. In Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, the ten worlds are instead viewed as conditions of life that all people have the potential to experience. At any moment, one of the ten will be manifest and the other nine dormant, but there is always the potential for change.
This principle is further expressed as the mutual possession of the ten worlds -- the concept that each of the ten worlds possesses all ten within itself. For example, a person now in the state of Hell may, at the next moment, either remain in Hell or manifest any of the other nine states. The vital implication of this principle is that all people, in whatever state of life, have the ever-present potential to manifest Buddhahood. And equally important is that Buddhahood is found within the reality of our lives in the other nine worlds, not somewhere separate.
In the course of a day, we experience different states from moment to moment in response to our interaction with the environment. The sight of another’s suffering may call forth the compassionate world of Bodhisattva, and the loss of a loved one will plunge us into Hell. However, all of us have one or more worlds around which our life-activities usually center and to which we tend to revert when external stimuli subside. This is one’s basic life-tendency, and it has been established by each individual through prior actions. Some people’s lives revolve around the three evil paths, some move back and forth among the six lower worlds, and some are primarily motivated by the desire to seek the truth that characterizes the two vehicles. The purpose of Buddhist practice is to elevate the basic life-tendency and eventually establish Buddhahood as one’s fundamental state.
Establishing Buddhahood as our basic life-tendency does not mean we rid ourselves of the other nine worlds. All these states are integral and necessary aspects of life. Without experiencing the sufferings of Hell ourselves, we could never feel true compassion for others. Without the instinctive desires represented by Hunger and Animality, we would forget to eat, sleep and reproduce ourselves, and soon become extinct. Even if we establish Buddhahood as our fundamental life-tendency, we will still continue to experience the joys and sorrows of the nine worlds. However, they will not control us, and we will not define ourselves in terms of them. Based on the life-tendency of Buddhahood, our nine worlds will be harmonized and function to benefit both ourselves and those around us.
What Is The Oneness of Life and Its Environment?
The principle of the oneness of life and its environment describes the inseparable relationship of the individual and the environment. People generally have a tendency to regard the environment as something separate from themselves, and from the viewpoint of that which we can observe, we are justified in drawing this distinction. However, from the viewpoint of ultimate reality, the individual and the environment are one and inseparable. Life manifests itself in both a living subject and an objective environment.
"Life" indicates a subjective "self" that experiences the karmic effects of past actions. The environment is the objective realm where the karmic effects of life take shape. Environment here does not mean one overall context in which all beings live. Each living being has his or her own unique environment in which the effects of karma appear. The effects of one’s karma, both good and bad, manifest themselves both in one’s self and in the environment, because these are two integral phases of the same entity.
Since both life and its environment are one, whichever of the ten worlds an individual manifests internally will be mirrored in his or her environment. For example, a person in the state of Hell will perceive the environment to be hellish, while a person in the world of Animality will perceive the same environment as a jungle where only the strong survive. This idea has important implications. First, as already mentioned, we need not seek enlightenment in a particular place. Wherever we are, under whatever circumstances, we can bring forth our innate Buddhahood through the Buddhist practice, thus transforming our experience of our environment into the Buddha’s land. This is an act of freedom whereby we liberate ourselves from control by circumstances. For example, if we sufficiently elevate our condition of life, we will not be crushed by adversity but can command the strength and wisdom to use it constructively for our own development.
Moreover, as we accumulate good karma through Buddhist practice, the effects of the karma will become apparent not only in ourselves but also in our environment, in the form of improved material circumstances, greater respect from others, and so forth.
From this standpoint, one’s environment stretches out to encompass the whole dimension of space. Our enlightenment is therefore not confined to ourselves but exerts an influence on our families, communities, nations, and ultimately all humanity. The principle of the oneness of life and its environment is the rationale for asserting that the Buddhist practice of individuals will work a transformation in society. Buddhism expands the entire reality of life and shows the way to live a winning life -- the most fulfilled existence.
What is the practice of True Buddhism?The three aspects of practice are faith, practice, and study. Faith is the
developing belief and conviction in the Gohonzon. Practice includes practice for
oneself and practice for others. Practice for oneself is chanting Nam-Myoho-
Renge-Kyo and the twice daily recitation of Gongyo, consisting of portions of
the Lotus Sutra. Once you begin to experience the actual benefit of the practice,
you will naturally wish to share it with others. The act of propagating this
Buddhism with a spirit of deep compassion is to help others to overcome their
sufferings. Study is also an important aspect of the practice for the purpose of
deepening our faith and confidence in the teachings.
For a new believer who has little or no experience with True Buddhism,
faith can be described as an expectation that benefit will manifest through
chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon. As your practice continues,
you will develop confidence that you can bring forth the enlightened nature of
Buddhahood in your life. Faith then develops in the form of conviction, and conviction
develops through actual proof that gives you the confidence to continue
Is there a special way to hold the beads?When we use the beads, we twist them over once, forming a figure eight.
The end of the figure eight with the three strands is placed over the middle
finger of the right hand and the end with the two strands over the middle finger
of the left. The short strands lie on the outside of the hands which are
placed together with palms and fingers touching. The beads should not be
rubbed together but held quietly between our palms when facing the Gohonzon.
It is said that when we hold the beads on our fingers and enclose them
between the palms of our hands, we can obtain the great benefit of transforming
earthly desires into enlightenment.
What is Shakubuku?
Shakubuku is a term you will hear a lot during your practice of True Buddhism
because it is one of the most important aspects of your practice.
Shakubuku means to refute others’ attachment to incorrect views and to lead
them to the teachings of True Buddhism.
We accumulate from our Buddhist practice of jigyo (practice for ourselves)
great fortune, and as our faith deepens and our life condition begins
to improve it is only natural that we want to share this with our friends and
Therefore the desire to do
Shakubuku arises naturally from
faith. Faith arises from the daily
practice of Gongyo, Daimoku
and the study of Nichiren Daishonin’s
You are welcome to bring
your guests to the temple and
introduce them to the priest.
You can also take them to a local
meeting and receive support from your fellow believers. Your efforts to teach
them about Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and the Dai-Gohonzon will plant the seed
of Buddhahood in their lives. Even if they do not take faith right away, this
seed will eventually sprout and they will be able to practice True Buddhism
in the future and attain enlightenment. Also, you will have made the cause to
develop great good fortune in your own life and lessen your negative
BASIC BUDDHIST TERMS
Daimoku: Supreme Invocation or Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. This expression
also indicates the chanting of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
Gongyo: Literally assiduous practice. Recitation of a portion of the second
(Hoben) and all of the sixteenth (Juryo) chapters of the Lotus Sutra with
silent prayers. Performed twice daily.
Gosho: The writings of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. They take
the form of treatises, the letters he wrote to His disciples, and oral lectures
written down by His successor, Second High Priest Nikko Shonin.
Ichinen sanzen: “Three thousand realms are possessed by a single life
moment.” The theory that explains that all existence possesses the Buddha
nature along with all the other conditions of life. This is elucidated by teaching
that there are ten states of life or mind, called the “Ten Worlds.” Furthermore
the principle of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds makes this 100
worlds. They are manifested through the principle of the Ten Factors and the
Three Realms of Existence, which make 3,000 worlds.
Karma: Internal causes residing in the depths of life that manifest themselves
as conspicuous effects when external causes or conditions are encountered.
All people possess both positive and negative karma. The practice of
True Buddhism implants tremendous good karma (fortune) in one’s life, and
lessens one’s retribution for negative karma from causes made in this and previous
Kosen-rufu: Means to widely declare and spread True Buddhism.
There are two aspects of Kosen-rufu. “Kosen-rufu of the Entity of the Law”
signifies the establishment of the Dai-Gohonzon by the True Buddha,
Nichiren Daishonin. His will to us was to accomplish “Kosen-rufu of Sub12
stantiation” which signifies the time when all the people of the world
embrace the Daishonin’s Buddhism and revere the Dai-Gohonzon. At this
time, there will be true world peace and the masses of people around the
world will attain Buddhahood.
Lotus Sutra: Shakyamuni’s highest teaching. It was his final teaching,
preached during the last eight years of his life together with the Sutra of Infinite
Meaning, an introduction to the Lotus Sutra, and the Nirvana Sutra, the
teaching for the sake of propagating the principles of the Lotus Sutra. In it,
Shakyamuni expounded the ultimate truth of his enlightenment. However, in
the Latter Day of the Law, we can only benefit from the Lotus Sutra when it
is viewed through the life of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. Therefore,
as Nichiren Shoshu believers, we practice and study the Lotus Sutra based
exclusively on the interpretations and teachings of the True Buddha, Nichiren
Daishonin and the successive High Priests of Nichiren Shoshu. In His writings,
Nichiren Daishonin sometimes uses the term “Lotus Sutra” to indicate
Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, or the Gohonzon.
Three Great Secret Laws: The principle which constitutes the core and
foundation of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. They are the True Object of Worship,
the True High Sanctuary, and the True Invocation.
The True Object of Worship is the Dai-Gohonzon, inscribed by
Nichiren Daishonin on October 12, 1279. Within the Dai-Gohonzon is the
Person and the Law. The Person is the eternal enlightened life of the True
Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. The Law is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to
which the Daishonin is eternally enlightened.
The True High Sanctuary is the place where the Dai-Gohonzon will
be enshrined at the time of Kosen-rufu so that all humankind can eradicate
their negative karma and attain enlightenment. At the present time
it is enshrined in the Enshrinement Hall at Nichiren Shoshu Head Temple,
Taisekiji. In a general sense, it also signifies the place where the
Gohonzon is enshrined in local temples and believers’ homes.
The True Invocation is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Nichiren Daishonin
established the True Invocation by chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo for
the first time on April 28, 1253. The True Invocation carries the significance
of both faith and practice.
Three Periods of Propagation: The three time periods following the
passing of Shakyamuni. The first 1000 year period after Shakyamuni’s passing
is called the Former Day of the Law (Shoho). The second 1000 year
period is called the Middle Day of the Law (Zoho). The final period starting
thereafter is called the Latter Day of the Law (Mappo). Shakyamuni
taught that the Latter Day of the Law would last 10,000 years and into the
future. He taught that at this time, because the people would have no connection
to Shakyamuni, they could no longer gain any benefit from his
13 teachings. The True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin, appeared at the beginning
of the Latter Day of the Law and established the Buddhism of the Three
Great Secret Laws so that all people could attain enlightenment now and
on into the future.
Three Treasures: The Three Treasures are what all Buddhists revere as
the most precious treasures in the universe. They are the Buddha, the Law
and the Priesthood. The Buddha is one who is enlightened to the eternal
truth of life and the universe and possesses the three virtues of Sovereign,
Teacher, and Parent. The Law is the teaching that the Buddha teaches
through his own enlightenment. The Priesthood signifies the disciples of the
Buddha who inherit, protect, and transmit the teachings to future generations.
In Nichiren Shoshu the Buddha is Nichiren Daishonin, the eternal True
Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. The Law is the Dai-Gohonzon of the
True High Sanctuary of True Buddhism, and the Priesthood is Nikko Shonin,
the Second High Priest, who directly received the transmission of True Buddhism,
and all of the successive High Priests of Nichiren Shoshu who have
received this face to face transmission in an unbroken succession for over
700 years. The present High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu, as of November 1999,
is Sixty-seventh High Priest Nikken Shonin.