Q: What does being part of the SGI organization have to do with practicing Buddhism?
Good to Know
A: Some people think of Buddhism as a solitary practice. But since the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, the community of believers (Sanskrit samgha) has existed to support the practice, preservation and transmission of the Buddha’s teachings. It formed early on, as it was recognized that the aim of Buddhism could not be fulfilled through isolated practice.
The essential teaching of Buddhism—that all people are inherently respectworthy, equal and irreplaceable—is unchanging. And the Buddhist practice for carrying out this teaching consists of individual practice, while working with others to lead all people to enlightenment.
Nichiren Daishonin established his teaching based on this same spirit. He and his disciples were dedicated to propagating the teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and, based on their solid unity in the face of persecutions, forged a foundation of faith that has endured until today. Nichiren taught that the “true goal” of his propagation lies in practitioners uniting with “the spirit of many in body but one in mind, transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim” (“The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 217). “Many in body” refers to each person revealing their unique potential and individuality, while “one in mind” means working together based on faith and a shared goal.
Today, the SGI is the modern-day samgha, a united gathering of individuals dedicated to upholding the teaching of Nichiren Buddhism, while applying it to ever-changing times. We continue to emphasize the two core aspects of Buddhist practice: the daily individual practice of chanting and doing gongyo (practice for oneself), and the altruistic practice of teaching others about Buddhism (practice for others).
To unite toward the goal of happiness for all people, we must work closely with diverse individuals—each with unique qualities, abilities and roles—which helps us to grow and develop ourselves.
Founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi aptly pointed out that though it is easy for the corrupt to unite due to insecurities stemming from their flaws and weaknesses, it is difficult for good people to unite because they are usually strong and self-reliant. In order to defeat alliances of evil, however, forces of good must unite.
Challenging our own growth is instrumental in forging and maintaining this unity. SGI President Ikeda explains: “If we become complacent in our faith, devilish functions will take advantage. Devilish functions also seek to create division. The indestructible unity of those whose hearts are united in their shared vow for kosen-rufu, while each challenging their individual human revolution, can overcome all obstacles and achieve victories that are the concrete result of the unity of ‘many in body, one in mind’” (July 2017 Living Buddhism, p. 63).
Creating genuine unity is the driving force for each person’s human revolution, overcoming obstacles and advancing kosen-rufu. It is also the philosophy that can lead humanity toward harmonious coexistence and peace.