Concepts

Conspicuous and Inconspicuous Benefit

In Nichiren Buddhism, the joy, fulfillment and growth we experience is called benefit.

Lake Tahoe, Calif. Photo: @iStockPhoto/Mariusz Blach.


The purpose of Buddhism is to enable people to live happy, fulfilling lives.

As Buddhist practitioners, we experience joy, fulfillment and growth by carrying out the basics of Buddhist practice: developing our understanding of Buddhist principles and philosophy; practicing for self and others, which consists of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and reciting the sutra every day, morning and evening, while striving to develop our own lives as well as help those around us lead happier lives.

In Nichiren Buddhism, the joy, fulfillment and growth we experience is called benefit. It is also at times translated as “blessing,” “merit” or “virtue.” While benefit can refer to any positive outcome or gain, fundamentally it means the virtues or excellent qualities we develop in our lives through Buddhist faith and practice.

Benefit gained through Buddhist practice can be described in many ways. But a good starting point for understanding benefit can be learning about the two categories of conspicuous benefit and inconspicuous benefit.

Conspicuous benefits are immediately noticeable and often tangible. They can range from financial gain to overcoming an illness to finding the optimum job.

The purpose of Buddhism is to enable people to live happy, fulfilling lives.

Inconspicuous benefits are less easily observed, accruing over a longer time as a result of steadily persevering in Buddhist practice.

Nichiren Daishonin states, “When in one’s heart one takes faith in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the heart becomes a dwelling and Shakyamuni Buddha takes up residence there . . . At first one is not aware of this, but gradually, as the months go by, the Buddha in the heart begins to appear as in a dream, and one’s heart becomes bit by bit ever more joyful” (“The Buddha Resides in a Pure Heart,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 885). Suppose you plant a sapling and watch it every day to see if it is growing. In truth, it will be nearly impossible to notice its growth from day to day. But after 5, 10 and 20 years, the fact that the sapling has transformed into a strong and tall tree will be clear to everyone.

Similarly, when we consistently practice Buddhism for 5, 10 or 20 years, our lives strengthen, and our capacity expands to the point where we can take on greater and greater challenges. Ultimately, everything becomes a source of joy and fulfillment. We also call this process of inner transformation human revolution.

In addition, Nichiren says that for people in this age known as the Latter Day of the Law, the benefits of Buddhist practice are primarily inconspicuous (see “The Teaching, Practice, and Proof,” WND-1, 474).

Most important then, is that we nurture and cultivate through faith and practice the “seed” of Buddhahood that is awakened within us when we first encounter Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. As time goes by, the life state of Buddhahood will become deeply rooted within us, and we will fully enjoy the rich fruit of its benefit.