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District Meeting

District Discussion Meeting Material

November 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!

Opening Avenues of Possibilities

Writings for Discussion Meetings


The character myo means to open. If there is a storehouse full of treasures but no key, then it cannot be opened, and if it cannot be opened, then the treasures inside cannot be seen.

—“The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 145

Can we benefit from chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo even if we don’t understand its meaning?

The simple answer: Yes, we can!

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere; it is one of the most refined Buddhist practices. 

That said, each component of the phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo holds profound meaning. As Nichiren Daishonin states in the passage above from “The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” one of the meanings of myo is “to open.” Chanting is the key to unlocking the boundless treasures of courage, compassion and wisdom inside our lives that enable us to open a way forward, no matter the situation. 

In “The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” which he wrote in January 1266 to a woman who was new to practicing the Daishonin’s Buddhism,[1] Nichiren clearly explains the benefits of chanting the daimoku, or title, of the Lotus Sutra—Myoho-renge-kyo. It is not simply the title of the sutra, it is the essence of Shakyamuni Buddha’s vast teachings that lead all people to enlightenment, the greatest benefit and purpose of Buddhist practice. 

Three Meanings of Myo

In this writing, Nichiren highlights the significance of the character myo of myoho, the Mystic Law, expressing the tremendous power found in this single character. He explains the “three meanings of myo”—to open, to be fully endowed and to revive.

1) “Myo means to open.”[2]

The Lotus Sutra teaches that the Buddha nature is originally inherent in all living beings. Based on this essential teaching, it is the only sutra that opens the way to enlightenment for all. Ikeda Sensei explains: 

Various other sutras detail the Buddha’s lofty character and the vastness of his enlightenment, but unless all people can access those teachings, they are of no benefit. The true value of Buddhism can be demonstrated only if we can transform our lives and manifest in the course of our everyday reality the same supremely noble life state as the Buddha.[3]

The Buddha is not someone or something outside or far removed from us. No matter our circumstances, we can chant to tap into our Buddhahood, our tremendous reserves of wisdom, courage and compassion, and respond in the most effective ways. We never need to give in to deadlock; we can always find a way forward.

2) “Myo means to be fully endowed, which in turn has the meaning of ‘perfect and full.’”[4]

The Mystic Law is the fundamental Law of the universe. Our lives are one with the Mystic Law, even if we are not always aware of this truth. Within each of our lives exists the entire and vast potential, power and benefit of the universe.

Nichiren offers these examples: 

One drop of the great ocean contains within it the waters of all the various rivers that flow into the ocean. … Plants and trees are withered and bare in autumn and winter, but when the sun of spring and summer shines on them, they put forth branches and leaves, and then flowers and fruit.[5]

When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can instantly activate the Buddha nature in our lives, in the lives of those around us and in the immense universe. “That is why,” Sensei says, “the moment we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the Buddhas and heavenly deities begin to extend us their protection and everything and everyone become our ally.”[6]

3) “Myo means to revive, that is, to return to life.”[7]

Before the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, earlier sutras taught that certain people—such as evildoers, women and people of the two vehicles[8]—could not hope to attain Buddhahood. But the Lotus Sutra upholds the dignity of all living beings.
Sensei explains:

Another way of looking at this is that, though everyone else may have given up on someone, the Lotus Sutra does not. By embracing the Mystic Law, all people, without exception, can attain the life state of Buddhahood. This brilliant light of hope can fundamentally transform the destiny of humankind. The revitalizing power of the Mystic Law is the energy source for transforming our lives from the depths of suffering into lives filled with the joy of value creation.[9]

When we start out chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we may not know what we’re saying. But as we continue to chant, gain benefits, develop our faith and share Buddhism with others, we discover how to move forward and revitalize our lives and surroundings. 

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Suggested Questions:

1) What strengths have you discovered through your Buddhist practice?

2) What benefits have you gained from chanting?

Not Begrudging One’s Life

Buddhist Concepts

In practicing Buddhism, we often hear about the importance of “not begrudging one’s life.” But what exactly does it mean?

Begrudge, here, means “to give or concede reluctantly or with displeasure.” Conversely, not begrudging means to give willingly or with pleasure. To not begrudge one’s life means not hesitating to dedicate one’s life to Buddhism—to practicing and spreading the Mystic Law for the peace and happiness of humanity. 

The Chinese phrase appears three times in the Lotus Sutra. In “Life Span of the Thus Come One,” the sutra’s 16th chapter, it is pronounced as fu ji shaku shinmyo in Japanese. This phrase may sound familiar because we recite it each day during gongyo. 

To break it down, fu means “not”; ji, self; shaku, to hesitate or regret parting with (begrudge); shin, body or self; and myo, life.

It appears in the second part of the sutra phrase:

Single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha, not hesitating even if it costs them their lives. (The Lotus Sutra and It’s Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 271)

Learning From Models of Faith

The idea of seeking the Buddha even at the cost of our lives might seem extreme, but let’s consider who has lived and practiced Buddhism with this spirit. 

The first was Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism. Knowing he would face great opposition should he teach others the truth that he awakened to, he resolved to do so anyway. He never relented in the face of hardship, betrayal and threats to his life. As a Buddha, we might say, he “single-mindedly desired to see” and awaken the Buddha nature in all people. 

Nichiren Daishonin—from the moment he first lectured on his teaching and publicly chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—faced a continual onslaught of life-threatening attacks, denunciation and persecution, just as the Lotus Sutra predicted. But he declared that these difficulties enabled him to fulfill his mission and demonstrate the power of the Lotus Sutra. 

In modern times, first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi traveled throughout Japan to share the empowering philosophy and practice of Nichiren Buddhism. He did so under surveillance by Japan’s wartime “thought police.”

He and his disciple, Josei Toda, were imprisoned for refusing to renounce their religious beliefs, and Mr. Makiguchi, never disheartened in the least, eventually died in prison. Mr. Toda emerged determined to dedicate his life to spreading Nichiren Buddhism and his mentor’s vision to expunge the word misery from humankind. 

All this difficulty arose from the fact that people attached to personal power and wealth tend to regard strong, wise and compassionate people as a threat. They may oppress and try to intimidate those who devote themselves to educating and empowering ordinary people. 

That is why Nichiren urged practitioners of the Mystic Law to “speak out without fearing others and without flinching before society” (“Letter to Akimoto,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1017) as he had done.

Ikeda Sensei has placed himself in the forefront of Nichiren Buddhism’s global spread, taking on unimaginable abuse and criticism while resolved to protect every member of the SGI. He writes: 

We speak of “not begrudging one’s life,” but Nichiren Buddhism is definitely not a teaching of reckless self-sacrifice or martyrdom. Mr. Makiguchi, Mr. Toda and I—the first three presidents of the Soka Gakkai—have taken action with the resolve to advance kosen-rufu in such a way that not one member is sacrificed, and we have willingly given our all toward that end. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, pp. 8–9)

Giving Our All

While referring in his writings to stories of ancient saints and sages who offered their lives for Buddhism and thereby accrued tremendous benefit, Nichiren points out that such sacrifice is meaningless for ordinary people of this age. The same benefit, that of attaining Buddhahood, he says, arises from practicing Buddhism with “earnest resolve” (see “The Gift of Rice,” WND-1, 1125).

Sensei has said that the true meaning of “not hesitating even if it costs them their lives” is to earnestly strive to excel in our daily lives while chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and supporting kosen-rufu. He also says:

It means to challenge oneself to realize one’s fullest potential. 

There is no limit to the extent to which we who uphold faith in the Mystic Law can expand and enrich our lives when we practice with this spirit. To this end, it is important in our practice of faith that we not hesitate or hold back. The Mystic Law enables us to lead the fullest and most brilliant of lives. The whole point of practicing this Buddhism is to ensure that we never find ourselves deadlocked in misery. (The Heart of the Lotus Sutra, p. 332)

Those who excel at anything do so because they give it their all. And those who give their all to chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and acting for the happiness of their friends and families will excel in every aspect of life.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Suggested Questions:

1) How has supporting others enhanced your life?

2) What does it take to give something your all?

From the November 2023 Living Buddhism


  1. See The Teachings for Victory, vol. 7, p. 21. ↩︎
  2. “The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 145. ↩︎
  3. TFV-7, 26. ↩︎
  4. “The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 146. ↩︎
  5. Ibid. ↩︎
  6. TFV-7, 26. ↩︎
  7. “The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 149. ↩︎
  8. People of the two vehicles: Voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones, or persons of the worlds of learning and realization. ↩︎
  9. TFV-7, 28. ↩︎

District Study Meeting Material

Great Path—Volume 28, Chapter 2