Benefit in Buddhism

Core Buddhist Principles

Detroit. Photo: Hannah Jones.

Some may view benefit in Buddhism as something tangible, like a promotion at work, being able to buy a much-needed car, finding “the one” and so on.

The tangible benefits we see through practicing Buddhism are called “conspicuous benefits.” And while such things are undeniably important in sustaining our lives and encouraging us to strive further in our Buddhist practice, they are temporary. The ultimate aim of Buddhism is to reveal our inherent state of Buddhahood.

In Nichiren Buddhism, benefit (Jpn kudoku) can also be translated as “blessing” or “virtue.” Buddhahood is a state in which our character and actions consistently demonstrate the virtue and noble qualities Buddhism aspires to, making our lives shine with genuine, lasting happiness. “Inconspicuous benefit” refers to developing such qualities.

Benefit can be described in various ways. Nichiren Daishonin offers a few key perspectives in this passage from The Record of the O rally Transmitted Teachings:

The element ku in the word kudoku means good fortune or happiness. It also refers to the merit achieved by wiping out evil, while the element toku or doku refers to the virtue one acquires by bringing about good. Thus the word means to attain Buddhahood in one’s present form. It also means the purification of the six sense organs. You should understand that to practice the Lotus Sutra as the sutra itself directs is to carry out purification of the six sense organs. (p. 148).

Regarding the benefit of “wiping out evil” and “bringing about good,” Buddhism views good and evil as innate potentials within all life. The root cause of evil is “fundamental darkness”— ignorance of the fact that one’s life is itself the Mystic Law, the fundamental law of life and the universe. By carrying out our Buddhist practice, we cultivate the wisdom to overcome and defeat the evil tendencies that arise from this ignorance.

In the passage above, the “six sense organs” correspond to our five senses and our mind, the cognitive function that integrates and processes input from the five senses.

The “purification of the six sense organs” refers to developing the life state to “see” the path to happiness, “hear” another’s heart and cultivate a wise mind.

SGI President Ikeda says: “The purification of the senses . . . is itself the purification of one’s life. In other words, benefit means doing our human revolution and transforming our destiny . . . Attaining Buddhahood, that is to say, doing one’s human revolution, is the supreme benefit. All the so-called worldly benefits manifest as concrete proof of happiness to the extent that we have purified our lives” (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol .5, p. 4).

He also points out that though we often speak of “receiving” a benefit, “Benefit is definitely not something that comes to us from the outside; rather, it wells forth from within our lives, manifested through our own actions. It gushes out like water rising from a spring” (Ibid).

By making Nam-myoho-renge-kyo the foundation of our lives and taking action for the happiness of those around us, we bring forth immense courage, strength and wisdom from within our lives, allowing us to transform even the most painful suffering into the greatest benefit and joy.