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SGI-USA: Fort Worth, Texas

Practicing Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism

New Guidelines for Membership!

How many types of Buddhism are there?

Just as there are many sects of Christianity, so there are also many types of Buddhism. The most well-known in America are Zen, Mahayana (in which there are also many sub-branches), Theravada, and Tibetan. Vietnamese Buddhism is also established in some parts of the country. Even within Nichiren Buddhism, there are many sects.

How is Nichiren Buddhism different from any other?

The most obvious element unique to Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism is the emphasis on chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge Kyo. In 13th century Japan, Nichiren saw that people combined all sorts of religious practices, not only Buddhist, but Confucian and Shinto. He believed that there was only one true way to practice Buddhism correctly. He set out to study all the sects and learn as much as he could to prove his theory.

After 15 years of study, Nichiren presented his ideas to the people of Japan. He had discovered that the correct way of practice in the Latter Day of the Law is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

What are the distinguishing characteristics of Soka Gakkai?

There are a great many things which distinguish Soka Gakkai from any other Buddhism, but here are a few:

The first is equality. True to the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, we emphasize that all beings have the potential to attain Buddhahood. This means all people, men and women, regardless of nationality, race, financial status, or sexual orientation.

The second is the return of Buddhism to the common people with an easily accessible, community-based organization. Soka Gakkai split with Nichiren Shoshu in reaction to a priesthood that seemed more concerned with their own careers than spreading Nichiren's Buddhism.

Third, we accept Nichiren Daishonin as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. We also accept the teachings of the Lotus Sutra as superior to all else.

Fourth, we are very serious about our primary practice and object of devotion, the recitation of "Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo" to the Gohonzon.

How old is this religion?

Buddhism is roughly 3000-5000 years old. The first reported historical Buddha was Shakyamuni Buddha, whose birth has been placed variously as 1029 BCE, 560 BCE, or 460 BCE. Nichiren Buddhism dates its foundation from 1253, when Nichiren Daishonin first chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

How do I become a Nichiren Buddhist?

Does it cost money to go to meetings or to become a member?

There are no membership dues or fees. You are asked to make a minimum offering of $20.00 as an expression of appreciation when receiving the Gohonzon and in support of the SGI-USA. This is a donation, not a commercial transaction. The Gohonzon is loaned to you; you do not buy it. A single $20.00 minimum offering includes all members of your family who join at the same time.

Are there dietary or lifestyle restrictions?

No. We hope that you actively continue your practice to the best of your ability. We ask that you treat the organization and your follow members with courtesy and respect. Only in an extreme case in which an individual might abuse the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, the organization, or fellow members, would the individual's membership status be reviewed.

What is the membership pledge?

In the process of becoming an SGI-USA member, we ask you to make a pledge based on your understanding of the fundamentals of Buddhist practice.

First, you will be asked to embrace the Gohonzon throughout your life. By joining the SGI and receiving the Gohonzon, you are taking a great initial step toward your goal of a happier life. Persevering in your practice makes that possible. This portion of the pledge signifies the sincerity of your commitment to try your best to do so.

Second, you will be asked to exert yourself in the basics of faith, practice, and study as taught by Nichiren Daishonin, within the SGI-USA movement. This pledge indicates your understanding and determination to make efforts to carry out the full practice to the best of your ability.

Third, you will be asked to abide by the guidance of the SGI as it relates to the practice of faith. This indicates that you recognize that the SGI faithfully upholds the Daishonin's Buddhism and that your desire to share in this movement for the happiness of all people. This pledge in no way interferes with the rights and responsibilities of individuals to make their own decisions with regard to their personal lives.

Where do you meet? How often? What do you do?

We usually meet in member's houses and community centers. Currently, our district meets for a monthly planning meeting, one discussion and study meeting each week, and a monthly Gosho study meeting. We also meet on the first Sunday of each month for World Peace (Kosen Rufu) Gongyo, a meeting where we specifically chant for world peace.

At discussion meetings, we recite gongyo and chant daimoku. Following gongyo, specific Gosho or other material is studied and the meeting is opened to discussion.

Are there Buddhist holidays?

Members of SGI-USA come from all different ethnic and religious backgrounds, and continue to celebrate holidays from their own cultures. For example, a member with a Jewish background might light candles on Chanukah, while members of Christian background might exchange Christmas gifts. In addition, there are days that have special meaning in Buddhism and SGI, such as the anniversary of SGI's founding or New Years Day. We meet on those days and perform gongyo.

What types of Buddhist ceremonies are there (marriage, etc.)?

SGI Members receive the Gohonzon in a Gohonzon conferral ceremony. They can get married in a Buddhist marriage ceremony. They can be memorialized after death in a memorial ceremony.