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 duration of any particular chanting session is up to each individual. This regular morning and evening ritual is the basis of daily practice, a time when one can reflect on priorities in life and connect with the deeper rhythms of life.
Nichiren Buddhism teaches that the workings of the universe are an expression of a single principle or Law, expressed as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables all people to perceive this Law in their own lives and to bring themselves into rhythm with it. And by putting their lives in harmony with this Law, people can unlock their hidden potential and achieve harmony with their environment.
This is a powerful expression of individual empowerment–that each person can transform the inevitable sufferings of life into sources of growth and fulfillment and become a positive influence in their family and community.
Faith, practice and study
There are three basic elements in applying Nichiren Buddhism to daily life: faith, practice and study. These are the primary ingredients in the recipe for revealing one’s innate enlightened condition, or Buddhahood. Faith means to believe in the teachings of Nichiren and share his belief that all people have within them the highest potential. Practice means to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, as well as to explain Nichiren’s teachings to others. Study means to study and understand the Buddhist teachings.
Among these three, faith is the most fundamental for the attainment of Buddhahood. This does not mean some kind of blind acceptance, but rather an openness toward positive possibility. SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has written, “In Buddhism, faith means a pure heart, a flexible spirit and an open mind. Faith is the function of human life to dispel the dark clouds of doubt, anxiety and regret, and sincerely open and direct one’s heart toward something great.”
Nichiren clarifies that faith gives rise to practice and study, and practice and study serve to deepen faith. In “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” he states: “Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others. Both practice and study arise from faith. Teach others to the best of your ability, even if it is only a single sentence or phrase” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 386).
Through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, studying the teachings of Nichiren and the Lotus Sutra and taking action daily for the well-being of others, SGI members aim to establish a state of profound happiness and wisdom, as well as a wish to contribute to society.
SGI members carry out their daily practice at home, but also meet regularly with other members in their communities. The discussion meeting tradition dates back to the earliest days of the Soka Gakkai’s history in prewar Japan, and serves as the focal point for members to study Buddhist principles and how to apply them in everyday life.
SGI discussion meetings are usually held on a monthly basis, and the vast majority are held in the homes of members who make them available for this purpose. They give people the opportunity to develop the kind of relationships that are increasingly rare in contemporary urban environments where people may live for years as neighbors without developing any personal connection.
The sharing of faith experiences–the transformation in people’s lives realized through Buddhist practice–is a central element of discussion meetings. There is perhaps nothing more heartening for people struggling with problems than the example of others who have successfully confronted and overcome their own challenges.
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 such a process of inner spiritual transformation or “human revolution” not only leads to individual empowerment and constructive action, but is ultimately the surest way to direct humankind’s energies toward creating a peaceful, just and sustainable world.