Skip to main content

District Meeting

District Discussion Meeting Material

May 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!

Determined Prayer Is Powerful

Writings for Discussion Meetings


Though one might point at the earth and miss it, though one might bind up the sky, though the tides might cease to ebb and flow and the sun rise in the west, it could never come about that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered.

—“On Prayer,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 345

The Prayers of Lotus Sutra Practitioners

Few guarantees exist in our constantly changing world. However, countless Soka Gakkai members repeatedly prove Nichiren Buddhism’s promise: We can overcome our challenges and become happy by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and practicing as Nichiren Daishonin teaches.

In this passage from “On Prayer,” Nichiren offers examples of extremely unlikely occurrences—shooting an arrow at the ground and missing it, tying up the sky, stopping the ocean’s ebb and flow or the sun rising in the west.
He says that practitioners of the Lotus Sutra would still see their prayers fulfilled even if such improbable things happened.

Let’s reconfirm who “a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra” is, why their prayers are answered and some effective ways to pray.

Who Are Practitioners of the Lotus Sutra?

Lotus Sutra practitioners chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the same spirit as Nichiren and teach this practice to others despite challenges or obstacles.

While Nichiren always urges his disciples to have stalwart faith, he also reassures us that it’s OK if we’re not there yet. He says, “It makes no difference if the practitioner himself is lacking in worth, defective in wisdom, impure in his person, and lacking in virtue” (“On Prayer,” WND-1, 345). The key, he says, is to keep chanting no matter what.

Why Are Our Prayers Answered?

Nichiren revealed that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the essence of the Lotus Sutra and the name of the Mystic Law, the fundamental Law of the universe. Overcoming intense persecutions, he demonstrated how to live based on this Law and the compassionate desire to lead all people to enlightenment.

Like Nichiren, when we chant with resolve and champion the Mystic Law, we rouse everything and everyone to our aid. Ikeda Sensei says:

When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo thoroughly to the very end and take resolute action, boundless wisdom will well forth from within us. All the living beings of the Ten Worlds will come to serve as protective functions to assist, support and safeguard our gathering of Buddhas. (April 6, 2019, Seikyo Shimbun, p. 1)

What Makes Our Prayers Effective?

There isn’t one set way to chant, yet Sensei emphasizes: “Nothing is a match for daimoku infused with a fighting spirit. The power of our unwavering faith and practice is the driving force that activates the power of the Buddha and the Law, which can make the impossible possible” (April 6, 2019, Seikyo Shimbun, p. 1).

We must continue to deepen our resolve, seek the most effective ways to practice Buddhism and keep moving forward. Here are some effective ways to chant:

1) Chant to show the greatness of the Mystic Law. Many people chant and see improvements in their relationships, finances, health, work and more. We see optimum results when we chant to win over our challenges to prove the power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, rousing others to follow suit.

2) Chant with a vow for kosen-rufu. Kosen-rufu is about compassionately sharing Buddhism to awaken all people to Buddhahood.

“Put simply,” Sensei says, “kosen-rufu means building a happy, peaceful world in which everyone is glad to have been born, appreciates their life and can lead an enjoyable, fulfilling existence in harmony with others” (March 2021 Living Buddhism, p. 58).

3) Chant to recognize and defeat devilish functions. As we develop our lives and share Buddhism with others, we will encounter forces attempting to obstruct our progress. Praying to identify and conquer such obstacles is driven by our compassionate desire to prevent ourselves and others from suffering. The awareness and effort to overcome negative functions helps us continue advancing, come what may.

Chanting with powerful resolve causes our daimoku to resonate in our lives and throughout the universe. With such prayer, we can bring forth the vitality, wisdom and courage to impact change in our lives and lead our friends, families, communities and society toward peace, joy and fulfillment.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Suggested Questions:

1) What was your first or most recent experience with chanting?

2) What helps you refocus or strengthen your prayer to the Gohonzon?

Gaining Conspicuous and Inconspicuous Benefits

Buddhist Concepts

Seeing is believing, they say. And because we see the actual results of our Buddhist practice in our daily lives, we continue to practice. Buddhist scriptures express these positive outcomes with words like benefit, blessing, merit or virtue.

In Buddhism, there are two general categories of benefit, conspicuous and inconspicuous:

• Conspicuous benefits are immediately noticeable and often tangible. They can range from financial gain to overcoming an illness to being protected at a crucial moment.

• Inconspicuous benefits are less easily observed benefits that accrue over time from steadily persevering in Buddhist practice. These benefits range from developing our behavior and character to feeling unshakable satisfaction, appreciation and joy.

Conspicuous benefits can invigorate us to keep striving in faith. But the real treasures of Buddhist practice are honing our character and growing as human beings. For instance, by practicing Buddhism, we gain insight and fortitude to win over our inherent impulses of greed, anger and foolishness. And we learn how to take resolute action to create value as we respect, care for and inspire hope in those around us.

‘Bit by Bit Ever More Joyful’

If you plant a sapling today, you don’t expect to see a tree tomorrow. But you’ll happily picnic under its canopy after 5, 10 and 20 years. Similarly, consistent Buddhist practice over 5, 10 and 20 years will strengthen our lives.

By chanting daily, studying and sharing Buddhism with others, we can come to view everything—good and bad—as an opportunity to find our strengths, create joy and deepen our appreciation for all aspects of life.

Nichiren Daishonin states:

When in one’s heart one takes faith in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the heart becomes a dwelling and Shakyamuni Buddha takes up residence there. …

At first one is not aware of this, but gradually, as the months go by, the Buddha in the heart begins to appear as in a dream, and one’s heart becomes bit by bit ever more joyful. (“The Buddha Resides in a Pure Heart,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 885)

Cultivating the “seed” of Buddhahood that is awakened within us when we first encounter Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is vital. The process is gradual but not automatic. The more we chant, deepen our faith and share Buddhism with and support those around us, the more the life state of Buddhahood deeply roots itself within us, providing bountiful fruits of benefit.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Developing a Strong Inner Core

The following is from The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 1, revised edition, pp. 128–29.

Ikeda Sensei: There are two kinds of benefit that derive from faith in the Gohonzon: conspicuous and inconspicuous. Conspicuous benefit is the obvious, visible benefit of being protected or being quickly able to surmount a problem when it arises—be it an illness or a conflict in personal relationships.

Inconspicuous benefit, on the other hand, is less tangible. It is good fortune accumulated slowly but steadily, like the growth of a tree or the rising of the tide, which results in the forging of a rich and expansive state of life. We might not discern any change from day to day, but as the years pass, it will be clear that we’ve become happy, that we’ve grown as individuals. This is inconspicuous benefit.

When you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, you will definitely gain the best result, regardless of whether that benefit is conspicuous or inconspicuous.

No matter what happens, the important thing is to continue chanting. If you do so, you’ll become happy without fail. Even if things don’t work out the way you hoped or imagined, when you look back later, you’ll understand on a much more profound level that it was the best possible result. This is tremendous inconspicuous benefit.

Conspicuous benefit, for instance, might allow you to eat your fill today but leave you worrying about your next meal. As an example of inconspicuous benefit, on the other hand, you may have only a meager meal today, but you are moving steadily toward a life in which you will never have to worry about having enough to eat. The latter is a far more attractive prospect, I think, and is the essence of practicing Nichiren Buddhism.

Suggested Questions:

1) What conspicuous benefits have you gained through chanting?

2) What inconspicuous benefits of Buddhist practice do you appreciate the most?

From the May 2023 Living Buddhism

District Study Meeting Material

Faith Is the Compass for Victory in Life—Courageously and Cheerfully Sailing the Course to Happiness