The practice of Nichiren Buddhism comprises three essential aspects of faith, practice and study.
Faith means to have absolute conviction that our prayers to the Gohonzon (object of devotion) and our practice of Nichiren teachings will enable us to achieve a life of great happiness and fulfilment without fail.
Practice refers to the actions that express our faith and to further develop it. It comprises practice for oneself and practice for others. Practice for oneself is the daily practice of offering prayers to the Gohonzon. It involves chanting the phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and reciting excerpts from two important chapters of the Lotus Sutra. Practice for others refers to the act of introducing others to Nichiren Buddhism based on the Buddhist compassion to enable others to attain happiness. It also encompasses the participation in various activities of faith organized by SGS.
Study refers to the study of Nichiren teachings. SGS organizes study meetings to explain the concepts of Nichiren Buddhism and how to apply the philosophy in daily life. There are also many books and publications including SGS’ two organ papers, Creative Life and Soka Times which provide materials for the understanding of Nichiren Buddhism.
SGS members often speak about the positive impact that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo has on their lives. This is hard to comprehend and is something that can only be experienced on an individual basis. Often people trying the practice are encouraged to try chanting even a small amount regularly for a while, in order to see the effect it has.
The 13th-century sage Nichiren established the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. He concluded that the Lotus Sutra contains the full 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. By chanting “Nam,” or devotion to the essential message of the Lotus Sutra, we activate the state of Buddhahood in our lives. Rather than being a prayer to an external being, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is an expression of the determination of the human spirit, seeking to come into rhythm with the reality of the universe. Through continuing in this practice of determined intention we bring forth our highest potential from within our lives.
The practice of Buddhism focuses not just on benefiting and developing oneself, but on the needs of others as well. Through exchange, dialogue and contact, people at any stage of their practice can learn more than they can by practicing in isolation. Newcomers are always encouraged to raise questions. Buddhist practice is not easy, requiring self-discipline, and seeing one’s own life clearly can be tough–this is why support from others is important as people strive to bring out their highest potential.
Through the extensive network of the global Soka Gakkai International (SGI) organization, people can receive encouragement, build links of friendship and support, and offer support to others. As a group dedicated to achieving a positive change in the world, SGI is also able to have more impact than individuals acting alone, for instance through awareness raising exhibitions or community-based projects.
“Start by chanting the phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo”
Anyone can start practising Nichiren Buddhism by having faith in the Gohonzon and chanting the phrase, “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (chanting means reciting this phrase repeatedly).
You can chant at some Soka centres which are open at stipulated time for prayers. If you do not have the Gohonzon at home to chant to, just visualize the Gohonzon in your mind as you chant.
How long you chant depends entirely on you. Of course the more you chant, the greater will be the benefits accruing from your sincere prayers. For new friends who are just beginning their practice, you may start by chanting 5 or 15 minutes and increasing the period slowly as you become more comfortable with the practice. Before you end the chanting, offer your silent prayers to express your wishes silently in your heart.
As you progress in your practice, you may also recite 2 key chapters that we practice from the Lotus Sutra to complement your daily practice. They are Chapter 2 (‘Expedient Means’ Chapter) and 16 (‘Life Span’ Chapter). It is important that you have someone from SGS to guide and even chant with you as you begin your practice. If you need any assistance, please call the SGS Headquarters or write to us here.
There are various meetings and activities which help to develop the faith of members and new friends. The most basic activities include discussion meeting, study meeting and prayer meeting and they are open to new friends.
These basic activities are held at District levels. Members and new friends are invited to join a District which are often near to their homes. Leaders in these Districts are entrusted with the responsibility to look after the faith and development of members and new friends. If currently you do not have a District, please contact SGS Headquarters and arrangement will be made for you to join one.
As you become convinced of the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism through various activities and the actual proof of your practice, you may apply to become a member of SGS by filling up a membership application form. Your District leaders will assist you in this application.
The milestone of becoming a SGS member is when you receive the Gohonzon (the object of devotion) for the purpose of your daily practice at the comfort of your homes.