2018 Essentials Exam Part 3: Questions and Answers

Questions and Answers to the Essentials Exam Part 3 held in January.

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1. Of the four descriptions below, which one is NOT a description of “human revolution” as it relates to our practice of Nichiren Buddhism?

a) Elevating our life state from the “four evil paths” to the worlds of bodhisattva and Buddhahood
b) The inner transformation that results from Buddhist practice
c) A modern expression of the principle of “attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime”
d) Focusing on past achievements rather than our present growth and development

2. Regarding the concept of “many in body, one in mind,” the phrase “one in mind” refers to all practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism:

a) prioritizing our own needs over the needs of others.
b) sharing the lofty goal of widely spreading Buddhism.
c) giving the appearance of unity but not accepting the goal in our heart.
d) suppressing our individuality and unique identity.

3. Nichiren says we can transform the three paths of earthly desires, karma and suffering into the three virtues, which are:

a) the Dharma body, wisdom and emancipation.
b) earth, wind and water.
c) the realm of asuras, human beings and heavenly beings.
d) thoughts, words and deeds.

4. In his writing “Hell Is the Land of Tranquil Light,” Nichiren Daishonin states about one of his disciples: “When he was alive, he was a Buddha in life, and now he is a Buddha in death. He is a Buddha in both life and death. This is what is meant by that most important doctrine called __________________.” Choose the correct phrase that completes this passage.

a) reducing one’s body to ashes and annihilating consciousness
b) extinguishing all earthly desires
c) transforming into a transcendental being
d) attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form

5. The ninth level of consciousness, also called the amala-consciousness, is the “fundamental pure consciousness” existing at a depth of life free from all karmic impurity. It is synonymous with the world of Buddhahood. We can access this “palace of the ninth consciousness” by:

a) basing our decisions about life on the guidance of a higher power.
b) countering each bad cause we’ve made in the past with a good cause over countless lifetimes.
c) chanting to the Gohonzon with faith in our Buddha nature.
d) activating the non-self through meditation.

6. An act of true compassion in Nichiren Buddhism is:

a) introducing others to Buddhism.
b) closing ourselves off from the rest of the world to practice Buddhism.
c) only pursuing our personal happiness.
d) believing in the Buddhahood of those we like but not in those we dislike.


Questions 7 and 8 are based on SGI President Ikeda’s lecture on “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon.”

7. In this letter, Nichiren Daishonin says, referring to the Gohonzon, “How wondrous it is that, around two hundred years and more into the Latter Day of the Law, I was the first to reveal as the _______ of the Lotus Sutra this great mandala that even those such as Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu, T’ien-t’ai and Miao-lo were unable to express.” Choose the correct phrase that completes this passage.

a) mirror of contemplation
b) seal of compassion
c) banner of propagation
d) beacon of emancipation

8. According to President Ikeda’s lecture on this writing, the Gohonzon is a perfect representation of three important Buddhist principles: “the true aspect of all phenomena,” “three thousand realms in a single moment of life” and “the ___________________.”

a) twenty consciousnesses
b) mutual possession of the Ten Worlds
c) poison-pen relationship
d) phantom city

Questions 9 through 11 are based on President Ikeda’s lecture on “The Four Virtues and the Four Debts of Gratitude.”

9. In this writing, what is the first debt of gratitude that Nichiren Daishonin describes?

a) The debt of gratitude owed to protective functions of the universe
b) The debt of gratitude owed to the earth itself
c) The debt of gratitude owed to good circumstances
d) The debt of gratitude owed to one’s mother and father

10. What does President Ikeda say that “repaying the debt of gratitude to the nation’s ruler” means today?

a) to appreciate and contribute to society
b) to practice Buddhism isolated from society
c) to give alms to priests of erroneous teachings
d) to abandon our faith in order to ingratiate ourselves with the nation’s ruler

11. In this writing, Nichiren says that only the Lotus Sutra enables one to repay the four debts of gratitude, because it is the only sutra that:

a) teaches that practicing for countless kalpas is necessary to attain enlightenment.
b) teaches the attainment of enlightenment by women.
c) denies the attainment of enlightenment by evil people.
d) denies the attainment of enlightenment by people of the two vehicles.

Questions 12 and 13 are based on President Ikeda’s lecture on “Flowering and Bearing Grain.”

12. Nichiren’s mentor, Dozen-bo, had attempted to return to his faith in the Lotus Sutra after Nichiren rebuked his slander of the Law. But Dozen-bo died without completely giving up his attachment to the Nembutsu practice. In this letter, Nichiren elucidates that if he as a disciple attains Buddhahood through practicing the correct teaching, then:

a) he would be able to prove that Dozen-bo was incorrect once and for all.
b) Dozen-bo would also attain enlightenment.
c) he would have pity for Dozen-bo for not awakening to the correct teaching.
d) despite all his efforts, Dozen-bo would still not be able to attain Buddhahood

13. The relationship of the oneness of mentor and disciple enables us to:

a) break free from our attachments to our lesser selves and realize our greater selves.
b) do away with our individuality and achieve serenity.
c) realize that pursuing our personal happiness is the only goal in Buddhism.
d) break free from the six difficult and nine easy acts.


14. The Soka Gakkai maintains the orthodox lineage and tradition of Buddhist humanism that affirms respect for life and for all human beings. Its Buddhist teachings originate from _____1______ in India and have been carried on and developed by the Indian Buddhist scholars Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu; the Great Teachers ____2_____ and Miao-lo of China; the Great Teacher Dengyo of Japan; and Nichiren Daishonin. Fill in the two blanks by choosing ONE of the letters (a through d below).

a) 1. Tagore / 2. Confucius
b) 1. Gandhi / 2. Laozi
c) 1. Shakyamuni Buddha / 2. T’ien-t’ai
d) 1. Kumarajiva / 2. Genghis Khan

15. Shakyamuni decided to leave his life as a prince and embark on a spiritual quest, because he:

a) realized that luxuries and living in comfort were the most important things in life.

b) witnessed the fundamental sufferings of life and wanted to find a solution to them.
c) found that life is meaningless.
d) became bored with his princely life and wanted to enjoy traveling.

16. Shakyamuni taught that people’s ________ cause(s) them to be ruled by egoism and driven to fulfill immediate, selfish desires and seek their own happiness at the expense of others.

a) ignorance of the inherent dignity of their own lives
b) belief in many gods
c) doubts in the existence of an all-powerful deity
d) diligent Buddhist practice

17. Nichiren opened the way for all people to attain Buddhahood by:

a) promoting charitable enterprises and public works.
b) commissioning many statues of Shakyamuni Buddha 
c) building temples and stupas, and offering prayers for rain.
d) establishing the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon.

18. Nichiren regarded the suffering of all people as his own and, in a time of great social turmoil, sought to find a way to relieve that suffering. He eventually found the answer he had been searching for in the Lotus Sutra. The focus of his lifelong efforts was to:

a) maintain a steady flow of donations and have a comfortable life.
b) have his teachings sanctioned by the government.
c) realize peace and make respect for the dignity of life a guiding principle of society.
d) establish his own personal fame and wealth.

19. In his treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” Nichiren asserts that peace is indispensable to building individual happiness. This message is encapsulated in the passage: “If you care anything about your personal security, you should first of all pray for _______ throughout the four quarters of the land, should you not?” Choose the correct phrase that completes this passage.

a) physicians and medicines
b) good deeds and good omens
c) order and tranquillity
d) fame and fortune

20. Buddhism, which began in India, eventually traveled to Japan. Now it is spreading from Japan not only to the countries of Asia but throughout the entire world. In Nichiren Buddhism, we refer to this as the ___________ of Buddhism.

a) geocentrism
b) global citizenship
c) eastward transmission
d) westward transmission

(p. 9)