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2016 Introductory Exam: Questions and Answers

Study for victory—Participants take the SGI-USA Introductory Exam, Los Angeles. Photo: Gerry Hall


I. BUDDHIST TERMS

1. In The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” Nichiren Daishonin states: “Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others. Both practice and study arise from _____.” Please correctly fill in the blank.

a) earthly desires
b) the Buddha
c) karma
d) faith

2. The title and essence of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha’s highest teaching, is Myoho-renge-kyo. Nichiren Daishonin added Nam to this title to form Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Nam is translated as:

a) to dedicate one’s life.
b) to be granted salvation.
c) to submit.
d) to delight in.

3. Based on the Lotus Sutra, the Ten Worlds are understood as:

a) ten places we can travel to when we practice Buddhism.
b) ten potential conditions of life.
c) ten stages we must go through to attain Buddhahood.
d) ten levels of wisdom.

4. Nichiren states, “Each thing—the cherry, the plum, the peach, the damson—in its own entity, without undergoing any change, possesses the eternally endowed three bodies [Buddha nature].” This passage suggests that “attaining Buddhahood” means:

a) surpassing others mentally, spiritually and physically.
b) giving full play to our unique inherent qualities.
c) that growth and development are not necessary.
d) achieving a transcendent state after death.

5. Regarding the word Gohonzon, honzon is a Japanese word meaning “object of fundamental respect” or “object of devotion.” The prefix go means “worthy of honor.” While Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the ultimate Law of the universe, the Gohonzon is its graphic expression. Nichiren inscribed the Gohonzon to serve as a:

a) mirror to reflect our innate enlightened nature.
b) declaration of humanity’s imperfect nature.
c) reminder of the Buddhist gods’ power.
d) beautiful work of art.

6. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo produces most meaningful results when it is accompanied by:

a) a religious pilgrimage.
b) silent meditation.
c) consistent action.
d) occasional fasting.

7. In the course of practicing Nichiren Buddhism and spreading its teachings, we may face negative influences and functions that try to interfere with such efforts. Nichiren taught that encountering such opposition is:

a) a sign that one should develop the wisdom to circumvent negative influences.
b) a bad omen.
c) a sign to ease one’s efforts in Buddhist practice.
d) a benefit, an opportunity for deepening one’s faith.

8. In Letter to the Brothers,” regarding the three obstacles and four devils, Nichiren instructs the Ikegami brothers to:

a) act as though they do not exist.
b) steer clear of them.
c) be neither influenced nor frightened by them.
d) choose one to challenge and ignore the rest.

II. THE LIFE OF NICHIREN DAISHONIN

9. On April 28, 1253, Nichiren lectured publicly, refuting the teachings of the major Buddhist schools. He chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and asserted that it is the correct teaching capable of relieving the suffering of all people of the Latter Day of the Law. This event is known as his:

a) declaring the establishment of his teaching.
b) revealing his identity as Bodhisattva Never Disparaging.
c) commencement of a hunger strike to protest government policies.
d) lecture on the meaning of “dependent origination.”

10. After the failed attempt to kill him at Tatsunokuchi, Nichiren was exiled to Sado Island. While on Sado, he authored a number of important works. These include The Opening of the Eyes,” which reveals the object of devotion in terms of the Person, and The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” which reveals the object of devotion in terms of the _____.

a) Buddha
b) Law
c) Sangha
d) Sutra

11. For several years leading up to autumn 1279, many of Nichiren’s disciples in Atsuhara Village endured mounting persecution and harassment intended to force them to renounce their faith. On Sept. 21, 1279, 20 of his disciples were arrested—three were ultimately executed and the remaining 17 banished from Atsuhara. This series of persecutions is known collectively as the Atsuhara Persecution. During this time, Nichiren stated that he had fulfilled the purpose of his appearance in this world, because he saw that:

a) enough blood had been shed on his account.
b) his disciples were ready to establish their own schools of Buddhism.
c) ordinary people were dedicating themselves to kosen-rufu without begrudging their lives.
d) he no longer had to shoulder the responsibility of spreading his teachings.

III. THE HISTORY OF THE SOKA GAKKAI

12. On Nov. 18, 1930, with his disciple Josei Toda’s dedicated assistance, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi published the first volume of The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy. This publication date is also considered the day of the Soka Gakkai’s founding. In this work, Mr. Makiguchi uses the word soka, which means _____.

a) nirvana
b) creationism
c) value creation
d) value assessment

13. In 1943, Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda were imprisoned for refusing to comply with government pressure to accept the Shinto religious talisman and thereby compromise their beliefs. While in prison, Mr. Toda earnestly chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and repeatedly read the Lotus Sutra, and came to realize that the Buddha is essentially life itself and that this life of the Buddha exists within himself and all people, as well as in the vast universe. Through practicing and studying Buddhism in prison, Josei Toda also:

a) awakened to his mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth.
b) resolved to become a political commentator.
c) no longer suffered any hardship.
d) extinguished all desire.

14. Daisaku Ikeda resolved to study under Mr. Toda. He fully supported Mr. Toda and greatly contributed to the Soka Gakkai’s expansion. On May 3, 1960, he was inaugurated third president of the Soka Gakkai. On Oct. 2, 1960, determined to fulfill his mentor’s wish to spread Nichiren Buddhism throughout the world, President Ikeda:

a) began writing his novel The New Human Revolution.
b) departed on his first overseas trip, visiting nine cities in North and South America.
c) traveled to Guam to establish the Soka Gakkai International.
d) initiated The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra lecture series.

IV. SGI PRESIDENT IKEDA’S STUDY LECTURE SERIES

15. In his lecture on The Dragon Gate,” President Ikeda says that the strong currents that drive the carp back from climbing the waterfall can be likened to:

a) the “drowning” of one’s desires and attachments to attain Nirvana.
b) conditions of an evil age defiled by the five impurities.
c) rush-hour traffic, which can be endured with patience.
d) the sangha, or the community of believers.

16. In How Those Initially Aspiring to the Way,” Nichiren writes, “When we revere Myoho-renge-kyo inherent in our own life as _____, the Buddha nature within us is summoned forth and manifested by our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.” Please correctly fill in the blank.

a) we do our parents
b) our sovereign
c) a sword by our side
d) the object of devotion

17. In The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” Nichiren says, “The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra.” This means the Gohonzon serves as a:

a) direct link to our past lives.
b) talisman that grants all wishes.
c) source of earthly desires.
d) means for calling forth the Buddhahood within us.

18. In this letter, Nichiren also states, “The body is the palace of _____, the unchanging reality that reigns over all of life’s functions.” Please correctly fill in the blank.

a) the ninth consciousness
b) earthly desires
c) the six senses
d) the four leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth

V. SOKA SPIRIT

19. The claim of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood that “the fundamental principle of the Daishonin’s Buddhism is transmitted only to the High Priest” is contradicted by Nichiren’s own statements. For instance, in one letter, he writes, “Nichiren has been trying to awaken all people of Japan to faith in the Lotus Sutra so that they too can share the _____ and attain Buddhahood.” Please correctly fill in the blank.

a) precepts
b) heritage
c) secret Law
d) good medicine

20. Nichiren emphasizes the Lotus Sutra’s teaching that all people are equally capable of attaining Buddhahood. The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, however, asserts that “an innate difference exists between the priesthood and laity in the Daishonin’s Buddhism.” This stands in stark contrast to many of Nichiren’s statements, including the following from The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life: “Shakyamuni Buddha who attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago, the Lotus Sutra that leads all people to Buddhahood, and _____ are in no way different or separate from one another. To chant Myoho-renge-kyo with this realization is to inherit the ultimate Law of life and death.” Please correctly fill in the blank.

a) monks or nuns who wear priestly robes
b) those of status in society
c) we ordinary human beings
d) people of understanding and enlightenment

(p. 8)