Practice and Study Are the Heart of the SGI
“Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study,” Nichiren Daishonin writes. “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 faith. Teach others to the best of your ability, even if it is only a single sentence or phrase” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 386).
This passage expresses the core spirit of the SGI’s practice of Nichiren Buddhism.
From the time we begin practicing Nichiren Buddhism, we start engaging in the basics: chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, reciting the sutra, attending meetings, learning about Buddhism and sharing it with those around us. And whether a beginner or a longtime practitioner, what’s vital is that we continue to strive in the “two ways of practice and study,” as the Daishonin underscores in this passage from “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” written in 1273.
What are the two ways of practice and study?
“Practice” entails transforming our lives and taking concrete action to teach others about Buddhism. One aspect of this is “practicing for oneself,” which begins with reciting the sutra and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—what we call “gongyo”— in the morning and evening. At the same time, based on our daily practice of gongyo, we strive to challenge our weaknesses, enhance our strengths and develop our character—what we call “human revolution.” The other important aspect of Buddhist practice is “practicing for others.” We do this through sharing Buddhism with those around us and helping them develop their lives.
Both practice and study arise from faith.
“Study,” meanwhile, involves reading and studying Nichiren’s writings as well as learning about Buddhist teachings.
“Strive to read the Daishonin’s writings again and again, and put his teachings into practice,” SGI President Ikeda advises. “If you do so, they will become part of your life, and you will gain strong conviction in faith. The teachings that you deeply engrave in your heart will definitely become the foundation for victory in life and enable you to transform your karma” (Feb. 25, 2011, World Tribune, p. 5).
Through deepening our understanding of Buddhism, we can hone the lens through which we view our problems and our lives, and better tackle the challenges in front of us. Therefore, by challenging ourselves in practice and study, we develop faith in Buddhism.
When it comes to our actions to discuss Buddhism with others, many new pracitioners tend to feel that because they’ve just begun practicing and studying Buddhism, they don’t know enough to teach others about it or aren’t good at it. And some longtime members may feel the same way for various other reasons. But there’s no need to hesitate to talk with others. Nichiren encourages us, “Teach others to the best of your ability, even if it is only a single sentence or phrase” (WND-1, 386).
Simply expressing how you feel about your Buddhist practice, saying, “I really enjoy my Buddhist practice” or conveying your conviction, “You can definitely become happy from practicing Buddhism,” can inspire someone to want to find out more about it.
Though at times it may be hard to see, the intangible accumulation of every effort we make to do gongyo, attend meetings, study Buddhism and share Buddhism with others will become a great source of strength, wisdom and fortune in our lives.