Buddhist Practice

Members of the SGI practise the Buddhism taught by the thirteenth-century Japanese monk Nichiren. At the core of Nichiren’s Buddhism are the phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and a mandala referred to as the Gohonzon.

There are three basic elements to the practice of Nichiren Buddhism: chanting the phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a prayer for oneself and others; studying the teachings of Nichiren; and making efforts to share the teachings of Buddhism, to spread the Buddhist perspective of life’s inherent dignity and potential. SGI members perform a morning and evening practice known as Gongyo, which consists of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and reciting portions of the Lotus Sutra.

The "Law"

Buddhism teaches that a universal Law (Dharma) underlies everything in the universe. This is the very essence of life. One could also think of it as the fundamental rhythm of life and the universe. Nichiren identified this Law or essence as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. He taught that by correctly carrying out the practice of Buddhism anyone is able to bring their individual life into harmony with the greater life of the universe. The result of this is that one is able to experience greater wisdom, courage, life force and compassion (the qualities of this life-essence). This, practically, is what it means to manifest Buddhahood, or an enlightened life condition.

About Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

The invocation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was established by Nichiren on April 28, 1253. Having studied widely among all the Buddhist sutras, he had concluded that the Lotus Sutra contains the ultimate truth of Buddhism: that everyone without exception has the potential to attain Buddhahood. The title of the Lotus Sutra in its Japanese translation is Myoho-renge-kyo. But to Nichiren, Myoho-renge-kyo was far more than the title of a Buddhist text, it was the expression, in words, of the Law of life which all Buddhist teachings in one way or another seek to clarify. What follows is a brief and unavoidably limited explanation of some of the key concepts expressed by this phrase.

Nam derives from Sanskrit. A close translation of its meaning is “to devote oneself.” Nichiren established the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a means to enable all people to put their lives in harmony or rhythm with the law of life, or Dharma. In the original Sanskrit, nam indicates the elements of action and attitude, and refers therefore to the correct action one needs to take and the attitude one needs to develop in order to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime.

Myoho literally means the Mystic Law, and expresses the relationship between the life inherent in the universe and the many different ways this life expresses itself. Myo refers to the very essence of life, which is “invisible” and beyond intellectual understanding. This essence always expresses itself in a tangible form (ho) that can be apprehended by the senses. Phenomena (ho) are changeable, but pervading all such phenomena is a constant reality known as myo.

Renge means lotus flower. The lotus blooms and produces seeds at the same time, and thus represents the simultaneity of cause and effect. The circumstances and quality of our individual lives are determined by the causes and effects, both good and bad, that we accumulate (through our thoughts, words and actions) at each moment. This is called our “karma.” The law of cause and effect explains that we each have personal responsibility for our own destiny. We create our destiny and we can change it. The most powerful cause we can make is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; the effect of Buddhahood is simultaneously created in the depths of our life and will definitely manifest in time.

The lotus flower grows and blooms in a muddy pond, and yet remains pristine and free from any defilement, symbolising the emergence of Buddhahood from within the life of an ordinary person.

Kyo literally means sutra, the voice or teaching of a Buddha. In this sense, it also means sound, rhythm or vibration. Also, the Chinese character for kyo originally meant the warp in a piece of woven cloth, symbolizing the continuity of life throughout past, present and future. In a broad sense, kyo conveys the concept that all things in the universe are a manifestation of the Mystic Law.

Daily Practice

SGI members’ daily practice is known as gongyo, which comprises chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and reciting portions of the second and the sixteenth chapters of the Lotus Sutra. “Gongyo” literally means “assiduous practice”. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the primary practice, is like fuel for an engine. Reciting the sutra is a supplementary practice, like adding oil to that engine.

Regular morning and evening gongyo form the basis of one’s daily practice, a time when one can reflect and connect with the deeper rhythms of life. Through this practice, one is able to reveal the state of Buddhahood in one’s life, experienced as the natural development of joy, increased vitality, courage, wisdom and compassion.

Buddhahood in Daily Life

SGI members are encouraged to employ their Buddhist practice to squarely confront and overcome the specific challenges of their daily lives. Through this process, one is able to appreciate and manifest the profound potential of one’s life. Buddhist practice is also a means to realize and unfold one’s unique life purpose. SGI members believe that this process of inner spiritual transformation or “human revolution” not only leads to individual empowerment and constructive action but is the surest way to direct humankind’s energies toward creating a peaceful and prosperous world.

Discussion Meetings

SGI members carry out their daily practice at home and meet at regular local discussion meetings to study Buddhist principles and their application in everyday life. At these gatherings, members also exchange ideas, hopes, challenges and experiences of their Buddhist faith and practice. These small group meetings are a place of mutual encouragement as well as for sharing Buddhist faith with friends.