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District Meeting

District Discussion Meeting Material

December 2023

Illustration by Ardeaa / Getty Images

Please base your study for your monthly discussion meetings on:

1) Writings for Discussion Meetings (pp. 34–35)
2) Buddhist Concepts (pp. 36–37)
3) Material from any recent issue of the World Tribune or Living Buddhism

Have a great discussion meeting!

Practicing Like the Buddha

Writings for Discussion Meetings


Shakyamuni’s practices and the virtues he consequently attained are all contained within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. If we believe in these five characters, we will naturally be granted the same benefits as he was.
—“The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 365

Chanting Benefits Everyone

Here Nichiren Daishonin tells us that the benefits any of us can gain from chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are equal to those enjoyed by the Buddha.

Shakyamuni Buddha—who first expounded Buddhism based on his awakening to the truths of life—is said to have conducted countless practices over numerous lifetimes to reveal his benefit of enlightenment.

In one incarnation, it is told, he was a King named Shibi, who offered a hungry hawk his own flesh to save a dove. In another life, as the boy Snow Mountains, he offered himself to a demon to learn a Buddhist teaching, scrawling it on rocks and trees for the sake of others before jumping into the demon’s mouth. Through many lifetimes, Shakyamuni became an expert in conveying his teachings to people’s varying capacities, awakening them to their potential for enlightenment.

In the passage above, however, Nichiren declares that Shakyamuni’s practices and the virtues he gained are “all contained within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo.”[1] So simply chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo brings immeasurable benefits regardless of who we are, how long we’ve been chanting or our status in society. Ikeda Sensei says:

The benefit of chanting is the same for everyone. Imagine money in a wallet. One person’s wallet may differ from another’s, but the money in it has the same value. Or imagine lighting a candle. The flame will be the same no matter who lights it. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is like this.[2]

Three Keys to Benefit

Nichiren says, “If we believe in these five characters, we will naturally be granted the same benefits as he [Shakyamuni] was.”

Belief in Nichiren Buddhism is not blind faith. It often starts with curiosity or a desire to change something. We may hear something about Buddhism that prompts us to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. We see changes in our lives that spark us to seek Buddhism further. Through repeating this process we develop our faith.

While there are many ways to increase the benefit we see from our practice, here are three points to bear in mind:

1) Faith, practice and study are our cornerstones.

Faith means to believe in the Gohonzon, the clear mirror reflecting our enlightened nature.

Practice entails reciting gongyo, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo daily for ourselves and others, and sharing Buddhism with those around us.

Study means deepening our understanding by reading the writings of Nichiren and Ikeda Sensei.

To fully benefit from our practice, it’s helpful to reconfirm that we are fully engaged in all three of these cornerstones.

2) Our vow for kosen-rufu activates our Buddha nature.

Taking action based on the resolve to spread and establish in society the Lotus Sutra’s principles of equality and respect aligns with the Buddha’s efforts to relieve people’s suffering and move society toward peace. Thus, it activates our Buddha nature and transforms our lives. Sensei writes:

To correctly practice Nichiren Buddhism requires actions for kosen-rufu. Visiting someone to inspire them, sharing Buddhism with another because we want them to become happy, engaging in dialogue to promote kosen-rufu in the community—genuine Buddhist practice is found only in such altruistic action.[3]

3) We accrue benefits by facing challenges head-on.

How we face obstacles that arise as we work to spread Buddhism is key. When we view obstacles as opportunities, they become fuel for becoming resilient, wiser and more compassionate toward others. Sensei elaborates:

If you decide to work for kosen-rufu, you will meet opposition and hardships. But your actions are those of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, the emissaries of the Buddha. Therefore, when you strive bravely in Buddhist practice, your life becomes filled with joy. This is the principle that earthly desires lead to enlightenment.[4] It is the great path to forging a state of indestructible happiness.[5]

“Forging a state of indestructible happiness” is the greatest benefit. By joyfully engaging in our Buddhist practice each day and taking action for ourselves and others, we can achieve all our dreams and gain benefits beyond our imagination.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Suggested Questions:

1) What benefits have you gained from chanting?

2) What experience do you have of transforming a difficulty into a lasting victory?

The Oneness of Good and Evil

Buddhist Concepts

Stories of good versus evil through the ages have often portrayed them as distinctly opposite and absolute. But real life is rarely that simple. How can we navigate the injustice, oppression and divisiveness that we see and experience every day?

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “One who is thoroughly awakened to the nature of good and evil from their roots to their branches and leaves is called a Buddha.”[6]

Buddhism not only teaches the nature of good and evil and how to perceive it but also the importance of bringing about good in every situation.

Combatting Evil Brings About Good

The idea of good versus evil may conjure images of angels and demons or heroes and villains. In Buddhism, both good and evil exist within all people and can manifest in anyone at any time. Simply put, “good” means that which benefits oneself and others while “evil” harms oneself and others. What’s more, good and evil are not mutually exclusive opposites.

In discerning whether something is good or evil, a helpful question to ask is, Do the actions we take harm and divide people or support and unite them?

Taking this a step further, the principle of the oneness of good and evil is expressed in Nichiren’s statement “When great evil occurs, great good follows.”[7]

In the face of intense difficulties, it is vital to have the determination to transform them into opportunities to bring forth even greater strengths, unity and understanding.

“Rejecting evil and embracing good,” writes founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, “are two sides of the same coin.”[8]

For us, this effort entails challenging destructive tendencies within ourselves while also doing so in our day-to-day interactions and situations with others. Ikeda Sensei writes:

If we perceive our inner evil but neglect efforts to conquer it, then our lives are instantaneously stained with evil. In that sense, a good person is someone who struggles against evil. It is by fighting the evil around us that we eradicate evil within our lives and so purify them. That is the path of human revolution.[9]

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo helps us understand the negative, destructive workings in life and to challenge them by summoning the life force, wisdom, courage and compassion to transform negativity into fuel for transforming our lives and the environment around us.

Compassion for the Happiness of All

Compassion is a key component in the oneness of good and evil. Ikeda Sensei writes that strictly distinguishing good and evil and showing generosity toward others are “in no way incompatible and are essentially part of the same whole.”

He continues, giving this example:

Let’s suppose, for example, that someone eats poisonous mushrooms and is rushed to a doctor. Irrespective of who the patient may be, the doctor naturally exhausts all possible means to save the person and also offers sincere words of encouragement. This, we might say, is an example of “generosity toward others.”

It is also likely, however, that the doctor will warn the patient not to eat harmful mushrooms in the future. I am sure there is no doctor who would stand by indifferently while the patient declares, “But poisonous mushrooms are delicious; I want to eat them again.” This corresponds to “taking a strict stance toward the Law.”

In both these instances, the doctor is motivated by his compassion and commitment to removing the patient’s suffering. This is also the behavior of a Buddhist.[10]

Just as the Buddha vowed to embrace all people to help them attain enlightenment, we aim to care for each person by battling the destructive forces that cause suffering. Together with fellow SGI members, we chant, spread Buddhism and care for others, striving to deepen the same resolve as Nichiren to ensure that “when great evil occurs, great good follows.”

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Suggested Questions:

1) How has your view of good and evil changed through studying Buddhism?

2) What experience do you have of transforming a difficult situation?


  1. Myoho-renge-kyo is written with five Chinese characters, while Nam-myoho-renge-kyo comprises seven (nam, or namu, uses two characters). Nichiren Daishonin often uses Myoho-renge-kyo synonymously with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his writings. ↩︎
  2. May 2023 Living Buddhism, pp. 48–49. ↩︎
  3. Ibid., p. 49. ↩︎
  4. Earthly desires lead to enlightenment is a principle explaining that our sufferings can be transformed into causes for our happiness. ↩︎
  5. May 2023 Living Buddhism, p. 50. ↩︎
  6. “The Kalpa of Decrease,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1121. ↩︎
  7. “Great Evil and Great Good,” WND-1, 1119. ↩︎
  8. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, “Zen’aku-kan to aisho-kan to no konmei” (The Confusion in Views of Good and Evil, Great and Small), in Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi) (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1988), 9:97. ↩︎
  9. The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 3, p. 76. ↩︎
  10. The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, revised edition, p. 218. ↩︎

District Study Meeting Material

Key Passages From The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings (Part 4)