Faith, Practice and Study
Study Made Easy
The following is adapted from An Introduction to Buddhism that serves as study material for the SGI-USA Introductory Exam, which will be administered this year on June 30, Sept. 29 and Dec. 15 throughout the SGI-USA. See pp. 7–10 of the booklet to read this article in its entirety.
Nichiren Buddhism encourages a dynamic balance of faith, practice and study. Nichiren Daishonin writes: “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 faith” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin,
vol. 1, p. 386).
Faith in Buddhism is belief in our own vast potential and the limitless potential of all people to establish lives of unshakable happiness. This belief is expressed in the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the Mystic Law and the fundamental Law permeating our lives and the universe.
The basis of our Buddhist practice is to believe deeply that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon enables all people to reveal their innate Buddhahood. Faith in the Gohonzon, therefore, means faith in the tremendous power and nobility inherent in our lives and the lives of others. Buddhist practice and study strengthen our faith. And the stronger our faith, the more benefit and growth will result from practice and study.
Nichiren Buddhist practice consists of practice for oneself and practice for others. These are compared to the two wheels of a cart; both are necessary for the cart to move ahead properly.
Practice for oneself refers to chanting and reciting the sutra on a daily basis to bring about and maintain the high life condition necessary to establish enduring happiness. Practice for others constitutes teaching people about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and helping them establish their Buddhist practice and thereby create fulfilling lives. SGI activities aimed at further spreading Nichiren Buddhism and its humanistic philosophy are also part of this practice for others.
Nichiren writes, “Single-mindedly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and urge others to do the same; that will remain as the only memory of your present life in this human world” (“Questions and Answers About Embracing the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 64).
Study in Nichiren Buddhism means reading Nichiren’s writings in order to correctly understand the Buddhist teachings and apply them more effectively in our lives. By deepening our knowledge of the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism, we strengthen our confidence and conviction and learn what it means to practice correctly.
By continually studying and seeking the correct Buddhist teaching, we can avoid the pitfall of forming shallow views based on personal opinion or the incorrect interpretations of others. To be misled by such things will prevent us from fully bringing forth our Buddha nature and enjoying the true benefit of our practice. Therefore, we also study the words and examples of the three Soka Gakkai presidents—Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda—who have fully applied and validated the teachings of the Daishonin in this modern age.
“Buddhist study,” SGI President Ikeda says, “provides us with a great philosophy that serves as a compass to traverse the stormy and perilous seas of life. The more solid our foundation in Buddhist study, the stronger our faith will grow” (Dec. 9, 2005, World Tribune, p. 2). WT