40 Sample Questions

The Essentials Exam Part 2 will be held Jan. 24–31. (SGI-USA members who have passed the Introductory Exam are eligible.)

The Essentials Exam Part 2 will be held Jan. 24–31. (SGI-USA members who have passed the Introductory Exam are eligible.) The study guide can be puchased for $2 at SGI-USA bookstores. Download it for free at For information regarding times and locations, please contact your local organization. 

I: The History of Buddhism

The Life of Shakyamuni

1. Shakyamuni renounced his privileged existence to find the answers to humanity’s fundamental sufferings. What were these four fundamental sufferings? (see p. 6)

2. After Shakyamuni’s awakening, he considered how best to share the wisdom of his enlightenment with others. What was his concern? What did he resolve to do? With whom did Shakyamuni aim to share his teachings? (see p. 7)

The Lotus Sutra: Opening the Way for
the Enlightenment of All People

3. What two teachings distinguish the Lotus Sutra from sutras taught prior to it? (see p. 9)

4. Though other sutras expounded by the Buddha place limitations on who can attain Buddhahood, the Lotus Sutra is revolutionary because it reveals that it is possible for what three groups of people to attain enlightenment? (see p. 11)

5. In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni states, “I practiced the bodhisattva way, and the life span that I acquired then has yet to come to an end” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 268). What does this passage teach about practicing the bodhisattva way and Buddhahood? (see p. 12)

6. What passage in“The True Aspect of All Phenomena” conveys that we who believe in and strive to practice in accord with Nichiren Daishonin’s teaching and intent are Bodhisattvas of the Earth? (see pp. 12–13)

7. The practice of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, described in the Lotus Sutra’s 20th chapter, demonstrates the way to practice and propagate the correct Buddhist teaching in the evil age after the Buddha’s passing.

What was the practice of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging? What essential spirit of Buddhism did he reveal? (see p. 13)

Mahayana Buddhism
and the Lotus Sutra

8. In contrast to the practice of those aspiring to become arhats, or sages, who led a monastic lifestyle, what type of practice did Mahayana Buddhism emphasize? (see p. 14)

9. After Shakyamuni’s awakening, what did he make his teacher and the foundation of his life? (see p. 15)

10. What does the Lotus Sutra encourage and empower people to do? (see p. 15)

Nichiren Daishonin
and the Lotus Sutra

11. Who persecuted Nichiren as described in the Lotus Sutra? (see pp. 17–18)

12. By facing extreme obstacles while propagating and protecting the teaching of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren not only proved himself to be its votary, but also fulfilled the role of what significant figure described in the sutra? (see p. 18)

13. On Sept. 12, 1271, at Tatsunokuchi, Nichiren was nearly beheaded for spreading his teachings. At that time, what did he discard and what did he reveal? What is the significance of this? (see p. 19)

14. Following the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, what did Nichiren do to provide a means for all people to reveal the Buddhahood innate within them? (see p. 19)

Practicing the Lotus Sutra
in the Latter Day of the Law

15. How do Buddhists view life’s obstacles? (see p. 20)

16. On the night of Sept. 12, 1271, knowing that his life might end soon, what did Nichiren express? (see p. 20)

17. By “casting off his transient identity,” in what capacity did Nichiren reveal his Buddhahood? (see pp. 20–21)

■  ■  ■

II: Soka Spirit


18. The Lotus Sutra says, “There will be many arrogant people who will curse and speak ill of us . . . In that evil age there will be monks with perverse wisdom and hearts that are fawning and crooked” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 232). This passage refers to the three powerful enemies. What are they? Briefly describe the third powerful enemy. (see p. 25)

19. Devadatta attempted to disrupt the Buddhist Order and kill the Buddha. What did Devadatta eventually come to represent? (see p. 26)

20. At the end of 1990, under the pretext of revising their regulations, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood eliminated the position of head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations, effectively dismissing SGI President Ikeda as head of laity. They began propounding doctrines found nowhere in Nichiren’s teachings. What was their plan? (see p. 28) And for the sake of kosen-rufu, what did the Soka Gakkai do? (see p. 29)

21. What happened on Nov. 28, 1991? This allowed the Soka Gakkai to claim what? (see p. 29)

A Revolution Dawns

22. In the context of good and evil, what does President Ikeda say is “right human conduct”? (see p.30)

Spiritual Independence—
Freed From an Authoritarian Priesthood

23. On July 16, 1990, Nikken and his close associates agreed on a plan called “Operation C.” What did the “C” stand for? What was the overall aim of the plan? (see p. 33)

A Struggle That Continues Forever

24. The forces of fundamental darkness that hinder or prevent our Buddhist practice appear from both within and without the Buddhist Order. What are some examples of this? (see p. 36)

25. In “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” what does Nichiren say in this writing regarding disrupting the unity of many in body, one in mind? (see p. 36)

■  ■  ■

III: Learning From the Writings:
The Teachings for Victory—
Selected Sections From
SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series

“The Heritage of the
Ultimate Law of Life”

26. The “heritage of the ultimate Law of life and death” is the heritage to be passed on to all living beings. What is the aim of this heritage? (see p. 40)

27. What is the Soka Gakkai organization called in terms of Buddhism and what is its significance? (see p. 40)

28. In the writing “Many in Body, One in Mind,” what does Nichiren say about unity and achieving all our goals? (see p. 41)

“The Opening of the Eyes”

29. In “The Opening of the Eyes,” Nichiren makes a great declaration, expressing his towering life state. What does he say? (see p. 42)

30. In “The Opening of the Eyes,” one of Nichiren’s major writings, what main idea does he reveal? (see p. 43)

31. In the famous passage from “The Opening of the Eyes” that begins “Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties . . . ,” what does the phrase “I and my disciples” imply? (see p. 44)

■  ■  ■

IV. Buddhist Concepts

Three Thousand Realms in
a Single Moment of Life

32. All people possess within their lives all of the Ten Worlds, or ten potential conditions of life. List the Ten Worlds. Explain, from the standpoint of Nichiren Buddhism, the most important aspect of this concept. (see p. 46)

33. “Three thousand realms” represent the entirety of life viewed from three different perspectives. Explain what the three perspectives are. (see p. 46)

34. List the “ten factors of life.” Answer the following:

A. What do the first three factors describe?

B. What do the next six factors describe?

C. According to Nichiren, on a fundamental level, what does “consistency from beginning to end,” the tenth factor of life, signify? (see pp. 47–48)

35. What are the “three realms of existence”? What does each realm describe? (see pp. 48–49)

The Oneness of Body and Mind

36. The philosophy of the Lotus Sutra stresses the principle of the “oneness of body and mind .” Explain “oneness” and what it implies about the body and mind. (see p. 51)

37. In his writing “Opening the Eyes of Wooden and Painted Images,” what does Nichiren say about the relationship between one’s voice and one’s mind? (see pp. 51–52)

The Oneness of Life and
Its Environment

38. In “On Omens,” what does Nichiren Daishonin state regarding the concept of the oneness of life and its environment? (see p. 53)

39. In “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” what does Nichiren say about the relationship between life and its environment? (see p. 54)

40. According to the principle of the oneness of life and its environment, what give rise to a fouled environment? (see p. 54)