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District Meeting

District Discussion Meeting Material

July 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!

Becoming a ‘Hero of the World’

Writings for Discussion Meetings


Untempered iron quickly melts in a blazing fire, like ice put in hot water. But a sword, even when exposed to a great fire, withstands the heat for a while, because it has been well forged. In admonishing you in this way, I am trying to forge your faith. Buddhism is reason. Reason will win over your lord.

—“The Hero of the World,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 839

What’s a Hero in Buddhism?

What makes a hero? Whether they be make-believe, like Black Panther or Wonder Woman, or real life, like parents, teachers and first responders, heroes share some outstanding traits—superpowers, if you will: bravery, wisdom, concern for the welfare of others, and the list goes on.

Buddhas earn the honorific “hero of the world” because they valiantly help people conquer their sufferings and reveal their greatest selves, their Buddha nature.

The passage above comes from Nichiren Daishonin’s letter “The Hero of the World,” which he sent in July or August of 1277 to his embattled disciple Shijo Kingo.

Kingo had attended a debate between Nichiren’s disciple Sammi-bo and a Tendai school priest named Ryuzo-bo in June 1277 in Kuwagayatsu, Kamakura. Ryuzo-bo was a disciple of Ryokan, an influential priest who was very hostile toward Nichiren. In this exchange, which came to be known as the Kuwagayatsu Debate, Sammi-bo defeated Ryuzo-bo in front of a large crowd.

Some of Kingo’s fellow samurai followed Ryokan and were jealous of Kingo. They falsely reporting to their feudal lord, Ema—who highly regarded Ryokan—that Kingo had burst in with an armed group of men, disrupted the debate and disrespected Ryokan. Outraged, Ema threatened to confiscate Kingo’s estate unless he wrote an oath renouncing his faith in Nichiren’s teaching.

Kingo reported this to Nichiren and pledged to never forsake his faith. In response, the Daishonin drafted a petition on Kingo’s behalf to give to Ema and sent Kingo letters of encouragement, including “The Hero of the World.”

Our Daily Practice Is Key to Forging Our Resolve

In this letter, Nichiren tells Kingo to neither bend before his lord’s threats nor fall into complacency if Ema softens his tone. Keenly understanding Kingo’s predicament, he urges him to use his hardships as opportunities to strengthen his resolve, just as a sword is forged so it can withstand raging flames.

The same holds for us today. As Ikeda Sensei says:

We cannot achieve victory in a true sense if we constantly vacillate between hope and fear over what might await us in the future. Buddhism is reason. Only when we approach life with a serene, unclouded state of mind—forged through cultivating inner strength and polishing our faith—can we truly bring forth the wondrous workings of life that put us on a course to victory. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 2, p. 76)

Buddhist heroes never give up, even in the face of intense obstacles. We forge our superpowers by resolving to win over our doubts, fears and negativity through our daily practice of gongyo and daimoku, and our efforts to advance kosen-rufu, no matter the challenges.

Proving the Mentor’s Words True

“Buddhism is reason. Reason will win over your lord”—here, reason indicates qualities such as honesty, integrity and sincerity, which we can hone through faith. And lord can be understood not just as one’s boss but anyone in authority or power.

When faced with intense and complex choices, always choose the path of faith, Nichiren teaches Kingo. He also warned Kingo not to give in to his anger, resentment or self-righteousness and not to act out of spite. Remain steadfast in faith, he says, and conduct yourself with integrity in Ema’s service. Kingo followed his mentor’s guidance and prevailed.

Before long, Ema fell ill, and Kingo, a skilled physician, helped him recover. With renewed trust in Kingo, Ema awarded him in 1278 with an estate three times larger than his original one. Kingo had proven the words “reason will win over your lord.”

As Sensei writes:

Victory in Nichiren Buddhism is victory based on the supreme principle of the Mystic Law. And its greatest victory in a real sense is the harmonious realm of the Mystic Law spreading in the sphere of our daily lives, workplaces, communities and beyond. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 2, p. 78)

Buddhist heroes share any number of superpowers, including our ability to inspire courage and create unity, even amid painful ordeals. We can develop them all by grounding ourselves in faith and taking action with integrity, bravery and concern for the greater good of humanity.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Suggested Questions:

1) Can you share an experience of overcoming adversity and the positive qualities you discovered in the process?

2) What does “Buddhism is reason” mean to you?

Fundamental Enlightenment Versus Fundamental Ignorance

Buddhist Concepts

In trying situations, what determines whether we thrive or wither?

We do!

As Nichiren Buddhists, we practice to bring forth our inherent goodness—called our Buddha nature, Dharma nature or fundamental nature of enlightenment—so that we can lead an empowered and joyful life no matter the circumstance.

All people from the start have the dignified state of life called Buddhahood and are worthy of utmost respect.

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo aligns our lives with the Mystic Law, the fundamental law of enlightenment that pulsates within everyone and everything in the universe. This practice enables us to activate the Buddha nature in our lives and environment, tap into limitless reserves of wisdom, courage and compassion, and move our and others’ lives in the desired direction.

Honing Our Ability to Perceive Fundamental Ignorance

As we strive to reveal our greatest selves, however, we will face some powerful headwinds. Just as we embody fundamental enlightenment, we also have fundamental ignorance or darkness—the evil or devilish nature of our lives, the most deeply rooted illusion about life. It is the inability or unwillingness to recognize and believe in our own and others’ innate Buddhahood, or enlightened potential. It expresses itself in various ways such as fear, doubt, anxiety, anger or negativity; it causes us to reject, devalue or harm ourselves or others.

Nichiren Daishonin states:

Both good and evil are inherent even in those at the highest stage of perfect enlightenment. The fundamental nature of enlightenment manifests itself as Brahma and Shakra[1] [protective workings of the universe], whereas the fundamental darkness manifests itself as the devil king of the sixth heaven.[2] (“The Treatment of Illness,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1113).

No matter how long we’ve practiced Buddhism or what benefits we’ve gained, we must consistently rouse our belief in the Buddha nature in everyone so we can see devilish functions for what they are and confront and win over them.

In a sense, in our daily practice, we engage in an ongoing battle between the Buddha nature and devilish functions in the depths of our lives and in our environment. Ikeda Sensei reminds us:

When we have faith in the Buddha nature within us and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, our fundamental nature of enlightenment is activated and the positive, protective functions of the universe are manifested.

At the same time, in the Latter Day of the Law, when right and wrong are confused and turned upside-down, fundamental darkness is amplified through contact with innumerable negative influences that are rampant in society. This intensifies the onslaughts of devilish forces against the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra.

And that is precisely why we need to fight against and triumph over external evils in the world. The battle against external evils is one and the same as the conquest of inner evil and the manifestation of inner goodness. (February 2017 Living Buddhism, p. 47)

The Antidote to Divisiveness Is Unity

To win over external evils, and not let them control us, we need a powerful life force that only doing gongyo and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon can provide us. Sensei affirms:

From the perspective of Buddhism, the law of cause and effect ensures that the moment we pray, we create a cause for our victory, for our prayers to be answered.

But this is not perceptible to us as ordinary people, and as a result we may have doubts and worries about whether our prayers will in fact be answered. Prayer is an ongoing battle against fundamental ignorance, the ultimate form of delusion. Faith means having complete conviction in the indisputable law of life, even though we may not be able to perceive it directly. (November 2021 Living Buddhism, pp. 62–63)

Delusions run rampant in today’s world. Among the worst are the divisiveness and violence plaguing human relations at all levels. Though it may be only natural to wonder if our prayers will make a difference, it’s important to fight any tendency toward feeling powerless and help others do so as well. Here’s where friends in faith, uniting with others, can help. If the antidote to divisiveness is unity, then when we unite to awaken the goodness, the Buddha nature, of all around us, we create pathways to a better life and better world. This is why we spread Nichiren Buddhism and build an organization dedicated to good, with diverse individuals united in purpose.

Life gifts us with trying situations, for it is in facing and winning over them that we can bring forth our inherent Buddhahood. We can always find the power to move our lives forward, unite with others and move together toward the greatest good.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Suggested Questions:

1) How has Buddhist practice helped you bring forth your inherent goodness?

2) What experiences have you had of using adversity to become a stronger force for good?

From the July 2023 Living Buddhism


  1. Brahma and Shakra: Two deities of ancient Indian mythology. In Buddhism, they are said to protect and watch over the world as leaders of the heavenly deities, the protective forces of the universe. ↩︎
  2. Devil king of the sixth heaven: The king of devils who dwells in the sixth, or highest, heaven of the world of desire and is the manifestation of the fundamental darkness inherent in life. He is the personification of the negative tendency to obstruct Buddhist practice, giving rise to the desire to control or even take others’ lives. ↩︎

District Study Meeting Material

Great Path—Volume 28, Chapter 2