Who Was Nichiren Daishonin?
The Gohonzon
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Members of the SGI practice the Buddhism taught by Nichiren, a 13th-century Japanese priest whose philosophy centered around one of the last teachings of the first historically recognized Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama (or Shakyamuni Buddha). This teaching, called the Lotus Sutra, declares that all living beings, regardless of gender or intelligence, have the potential to attain Buddhahood. Enlightenment is an awakening to the true nature of life, including the profound realization of the interconnectedness of all things - the inseparable relationship between the individual and the environment, and the ability of each human being to powerfully influence both. This realization leads the individual to assume personal responsibility for her or his own condition and for that of the immediate and distant environment.

This responsibility is furthered by an understanding of the simultaneity of cause and effect. Each thought, word, or deed has an immediate effect both on the individual and on his or her environment, even if the effect takes time to manifest.

The goal of SGI members is to manifest Buddhahood, or enlightenment, in their own lives, which will tap their own creative potential as individuals and, in so doing, create thriving and peaceful families, work places, and communities. The eventual goal is, through the gradual "human revolution" of individuals, to create peace and prosperity in societies throughout the world.

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

Nichiren taught that all of the benefits of the wisdom contained in the Lotus Sutra can be realized by chanting its title: Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Chanting these words and excerpts from the Lotus Sutra is the core of the Buddhist practice, supported by study and the propagation of the teachings. Faith, practice, and study are the basics of the Buddhist practice, pursuing activities for oneself and activities for the sake of others.

The Gohonzon

Toward the end of his life Nichiren inscribed a scroll which he called the fundamental object of respect, or Gohonzon. The scroll depicts in Chinese characters the law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and the life of Nichiren, as well as protective influences. Down the center are the characters Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and Nichiren's signature. This indicates the oneness of the person and the Law - that the condition of Buddhahood is a potential within and can be manifested by all people. SGI members enshrine a copy of the Gohonzon in their homes as a focal point for their daily practice. The Gohonzon's power comes from the worshipper's faith - it functions as a spiritual mirror. Sitting in front of it and chanting, a person is able to recognize and reveal his or her own Buddha nature, the creative essence of life.

Daily Practice-Gongyo

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 Buddhism, it means reciting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, part of the second chapter - "Hoben" - and the entire sixteenth "Juryo" chapter of the Lotus Sutra in front of the Gohonzon. This is the fundamental practice of Nichiren Buddhism, performed morning and evening.

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(HTML version-Translation taken from SGI Online Library, formerly Gosho.Net)

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The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin

Nichiren was persecuted throughout his lifetime by the Japanese government and by religious powers who considered his revolutionary teachings a grave threat to their continued authority. Nevertheless, the letters he wrote to his followers , often under the most dire conditions, illustrated that even in the midst of the greatest challenge, he was able to realize the great beauty of life and feel joy and compassion for others - the state of Buddhahood. These letters and treatises, more than 400 of which remain today, collected in English as 'The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin', are among the primary study materials for SGI members.

Lay Believers-the SGI

Until the 1930s, the followers of Nichiren known as the Hokkeko were a relatively small group of lay believers, led by the priesthood of the Fuji School (Nichiren Shoshu). In 1930, a lay organization was founded by educator Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. During World War II, he was imprisoned for refusing to compromise his religious beliefs in spite of pressure from the Japanese government to accept the State religion, Shinto, which was used to unify the public in support of the war. Makiguchi died in prison in 1944. His successor, Josei Toda, was also imprisoned, but survived to help lead the post-war growth of the Soka Gakkai ("Value Creation Society") from a handful of members to more than 750,000 households before his death in 1958. The third President, Daisaku Ikeda, has guided the movement to its present day strength of 10 million members in Japan, and approximately 1.26 million members in 128 countries abroad. The international organization, Soka Gakkai International (SGI), was established in 1975. In 1991 the SGI organization separated from the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood.

"True and lasting happiness only and always comes from our own efforts, our own wisdom, our own good fortune. This is a fundamental truth. Faith is the key to strengthening our efforts, wisdom and good fortune; SGI activities are the key to strengthening ourselves."
-Daisaku Ikeda, President

Source-official SGI-USA site