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District Meeting

District Discussion Meeting Material

August 2023

Illustration by ArdeaA / Getty images

Please base your study for your monthly discussion meetings on:

1) Writings for Discussion Meetings (pp. 38–39)
2) Buddhist Concepts (pp. 40–41)
3) Material from any recent issue of the World Tribune or Living Buddhism

Have a great discussion meeting!

Understanding How the World Works

Writings for Discussion Meetings


A person of wisdom is not one who practices Buddhism apart from worldly affairs but, rather, one who thoroughly understands the principles by which the world is governed.

—“The Kalpa of Decrease,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1121

Some people associate Buddhism with asceticism, quiet seclusion or escaping from the concerns of the world.

Nichiren Buddhism, in contrast, focuses on using our Buddhist practice to engage with daily realities and fundamentally transform our lives and our world for the better.

In this passage, Nichiren Daishonin defines “a person of wisdom” as one who understands the ways of the world and cultivates wisdom not for wisdom’s sake alone but to create happy, healthy, successful lives and help humanity prosper.

Nichiren wrote this letter around 1276 to someone likely close to the lay priest Takahashi Rokuro Hyoe, a follower who had recently died.

In it, he explains the principle of “the true aspect of all phenomena,” which holds that everything in the universe (all phenomena) is a manifestation of the Mystic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (true aspect). By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and studying Buddhist principles we learn how best to interact with the people and things around us to create the best possible outcomes.

In Buddhism, genuine people of wisdom take action based on faith while grappling with the realities of daily life, whether in relationships, finances, societal issues and so on. As we chant to break through hardships and realize our goals, we gain even greater strength in remembering that our victory opens the way for the victory of countless others.

In sharing Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we show those around us how to call forth their inherent Buddha nature and bring forth the wisdom, courage and compassion necessary for overcoming challenges and developing fulfilling lives.

“All around the world,” Ikeda Sensei says, “Soka Gakkai members, starting with prayers infused with their vow for kosen-rufu, chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the happiness of themselves and others. They summon their courage and wisdom to win in their own day-to-day challenges and to compassionately spread the Mystic Law” (October 2021 Living Buddhism, p. 56).

As Nichiren teaches, those who harness Buddhist wisdom can confidently navigate all life’s challenges, lead others to happiness and contribute to creating a more respectful, harmonious and peaceful society.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Becoming People of Genuine Wisdom

Ikeda Sensei: Nichiren Buddhism is a teaching of active engagement in society; it looks directly at society and seeks to transform it for the better. It is not divorced from reality or “worldly affairs.” Nevertheless, many in Japan, past and present, have held fast to the notion that Buddhism is distinct or removed from worldly affairs, something unrelated to daily life. This is partly because the established Buddhist schools regarded the Buddha as a transcendent, supernatural being and distinguished the religious from the secular in various ways. This led to some Buddhist schools assuming an aura of mysticism and authority that they used to hold themselves above the secular world and exert control over people’s lives.

Nichiren Daishonin, in contrast, declares: “The minds of living beings are and have always been Buddhas” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 208). Nichiren Buddhism teaches that the Buddha does not dwell in some distant realm far from the real world, and that in fact we all inherently possess the noble life state of Buddhahood and can draw forth that power from within to overcome our real-life struggles.

Let us once again keep these words deeply in mind: “A person of wisdom is not one who practices Buddhism apart from worldly affairs” (WND-1, 1121).

This troubled saha world in which we dwell is indeed a realm mired in suffering. But it is by summoning the courage to reach out to those who are suffering, bringing forth the compassion and wisdom of Buddhism, and actually contributing to others’ happiness that we become genuine people of wisdom. That is the proud way of life of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. The living Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin aims to send a steady stream of such individuals into society. (October 2021 Living Buddhism, p. 57)

Suggested Questions:

1) How has learning about Buddhism helped you cultivate wisdom?

2) Can you share a recent experience of sharing Buddhism?

The Boundless Joy of Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

Buddhist Concepts

“Nam-myo… what? What’s that?”

A friend ever respond like that when you’ve told them about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo? Ever stumble to offer an explanation?

A simple answer might be, “Just try chanting a little every day and see for yourself what it’s about.” Undeniably they’ll feel something.

But you could go a little deeper, maybe starting with the origin of the phrase.

Myoho-renge-kyo is the title of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha’s highest teaching. Nichiren believed that more than just the sutra’s title, Myoho-renge-kyo is the sutra’s essence, an expression of the ultimate Law of life.

He added nam, meaning “to dedicate one’s life,” to the beginning of the phrase and established the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a daily practice accessible to all people.

When someone calls our name, we respond. Likewise, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo calls forth the Buddha nature in all people. Ikeda Sensei says:

To chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is to summon forth our own innate Buddhahood (see “Those Initially Aspiring to the Way,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 887). It is the direct path to manifesting that highest state of life. The wisdom and compassion of the Buddha that emerge through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enrich our beings and bring happiness to ourselves and others. Further, as more and more people come to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the happiness of themselves and others, it will be possible to forge an alliance of people filled with the compassion of the Buddha and to ultimately transform even the destiny of humankind.[1]

The Meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

Your friend might also enjoy a word-by-word explanation. Nichiren offers extensive meanings and explanations for each character of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but here are brief descriptions of each component:

Nam comes from the Sanskrit word namas, meaning “bow” or “reverence.” As stated earlier, it means dedication. In Nichiren Buddhism, we dedicate our lives to the happiness of self and others.

Myoho consists of myo, which means “mystic” or “wonderful,” and ho, meaning law. Myoho is often translated as Wonderful or Mystic Law, the fundamental Law of the universe that works in wondrous ways.

Renge, literally “lotus flower,” symbolizes the simultaneity of cause and effect in Buddhism because the lotus blooms and produces fruit simultaneously. In our Buddhist practice, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the ultimate cause for bringing about the greatest effect of attaining Buddhahood. So, the instant we chant Nam-myoho-
renge-kyo resolved to transform our lives, the life state of Buddhahood wells forth, enabling us to take the most effective action.

Kyo means “sutra” or “teaching.” Nichiren Daishonin teaches that our legs correspond to kyo,[2] indicating that the benefit of the Law spreads when we take action for the happiness of others.

Developing an Indestructible State of Life

There are still so many other ways to explain Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. For instance, Nichiren says that chanting brings limitless joy:

Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, no matter what happens. How could this be anything other than the boundless joy of the Law?” (“Happiness in This World,” WND-1, 681)

Chanting through the good times and bad, is the surest way to establish deep, everlasting happiness in an ever-changing and uncertain world.

Sensei also assures us:

By striving to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and teach it to others, we bring forth a life state of Buddhahood that nothing can destroy, and we transform our surroundings into a Land of Tranquil Light.[3] Tremendous joy then wells up from the depths of our lives. …

Happiness is not found in self-indulgent pleasure-seeking.

Buddhist practice may seem difficult and demanding, but it is through our practice and daily Soka Gakkai activities that we savor true happiness.[4]

Whether confident or shy in sharing Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, just keep trying. Through our ongoing efforts, we will experience the “boundless joy of the Law,” creating an ever-broadening realm of happiness and peace.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Suggested Questions:

1) What was your initial impression of hearing about or chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo?

2) What experience helped you solidify your conviction in the power of chanting?

From the August 2023 Living Buddhism


  1. The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 1, revised edition, p. 89. ↩︎
  2. In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren Daishonin states: “Our head corresponds to myo, our throat to ho, our chest to ren, our stomach to ge, and our legs to kyo. Hence this five-foot body of ours constitutes the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo” (p. 28). ↩︎
  3. Land of Eternally Tranquil Light: The Buddha land, which is free from impermanence and impurity. In many sutras, the saha world is described as an impure land filled with delusions and sufferings, while the Buddha land is described as a pure land free from these and far removed from this saha world. In contrast, the Lotus Sutra reveals the saha world to be the Buddha land, or the Land of Tranquil Light, and explains that the nature of a land is determined by the minds of its inhabitants. ↩︎
  4. July 2023 Living Buddhism, p. 48. ↩︎

District Study Meeting Material

A Hope-Inspiring Life Philosophy for the Real World