Why do we always emphasize the benefits we gain through Buddhist practice?
It’s human to want things. We look and work for what we think will bring us joy or make life easier and better. We also find satisfaction in achieving, learning or mastering something that holds value for us. The desire to improve our circumstances is what motivated many of us to take up the practice of Buddhism.
Nichiren Daishonin writes about the many rewards of Buddhist practice, and members in our Soka community often talk about the benefits they have gained because of their faith.
A word often translated as “benefit” in Nichiren Buddhism is the Japanese term kudoku. It also appears in English translations of Nichiren’s writings as “blessings,” “reward,” “virtue” or “merit,” and it refers to the excellent qualities we develop through our efforts to correctly practice Buddhism.
The practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo gives rise to all kinds of benefits, but the most fundamental is attaining enlightenment, or Buddhahood—an indestructible state of happiness and the ultimate purpose of Buddhism.
“Benefit,” then, means inner growth and the cultivation of fine qualities inherent to the life state of Buddhahood. These rewards are much deeper and more permanent than those provided by others or by good circumstances.
An Affirmation of Why We Practice Buddhism
We talk about our benefits in faith to remind one another of the purpose of our Buddhist practice.
In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings (the compilation of notes on the Daishonin’s lectures on the Lotus Sutra), Nichiren says:
The element ku in the word kudoku [benefit] means good fortune or happiness. It also refers to the merit achieved by wiping out evil, while the element toku or doku refers to the virtue one acquires by bringing about good. Thus the word kudoku means to attain Buddhahood in one’s present form. (p. 148)
By continuing to engage in Buddhist practice, we effectively purify our lives or diminish the power of negative impulses and sufferings that obscure and distort our perceptions. At the same time, we bring forth good qualities such as wisdom, courage, composure and kindness.
Nichiren’s comment above is regarding the title of the Lotus Sutra’s 19th chapter, “The Benefits of the Teacher of the Law,” which expounds the merits gained from teaching the Law—sharing Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with others and enabling them also to experience the rewards of Buddhist practice.
The SGI’s activities to widely spread Buddhist ideals are all directed at “wiping out evil,” which means helping people overcome the causes of misery and violence that exist in their hearts, while “bringing about good,” or helping people unlock their inner source of wisdom, joy, good fortune and compassion.
Staying engaged in our Buddhist practice and continuing to spread the ideals of Buddhism are vital for enjoying sustained fortune and joy, and establishing lasting peace and prosperity in society. Such noble efforts, carried out with courage and wisdom despite any adversity, are the source of limitless benefit.
Deepening Our Appreciation Brings Abundant Fortune
Telling others about our benefits leads to developing even more appreciation. As Nichiren says, “The more one praises the blessings [kudoku] of the Lotus Sutra, the more one’s own blessings will increase” (“The Blessings of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 673).
Whether at SGI meetings or in conversations with friends, talking freely about the benefits and growth we have achieved through Buddhist practice not only helps others understand how they too can enjoy such benefits; it also helps us deepen our own understanding. This is the process of kosen-rufu, or widely spreading the Mystic Law.
Ikeda Sensei says:
There is no satisfaction or joy—no sense of pride—that can compare to having made your best effort for kosen-rufu. And the benefit attained as a result is immeasurable. … The benefit we gain through striving for the Soka Gakkai and for kosen-rufu transforms our life into one filled with good fortune and happiness. (June 1, 2007, World Tribune, p. 2)
When talking to others about Buddhism, more important than discussing theory or doctrine is sincerely conveying the fulfillment, joy and sense of purpose that we gain through our Buddhist practice.
—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department