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District Meeting

District Study Meeting Material

October 2023

Illustration by Ardeaa / Getty Images

Please base your study on the material provided here or any study material from a recent issue of the World Tribune or Living Buddhism or the Introductory Exam Study Guide, which is posted on Have a great study meeting!

Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime


In support of members and guests taking the SGI-USA Introductory Exam this month, let’s study the principle of “attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime,” introduced in the exam study guide, pp. 21–25. The highlighted passages indicate key points.

What is the principle of ‘attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime’?

Buddhahood is the state of awakening that a Buddha has attained. The word enlightenment, often used synonymously with Buddhahood, is regarded as a state of perfect freedom, in which one is awakened to the eternal and ultimate truth that is the reality of all things. This supreme state of life is characterized by boundless wisdom, infinite compassion and undaunted courage….

The purpose of practicing Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, in addition to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime on an individual level, is to secure happiness for others as well.

By embracing faith in the Gohonzon and striving sincerely in Buddhist practice for oneself and others, anyone can realize the state of Buddhahood in this existence. This is the principle of “attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.”

What does ‘attain’ of ‘attaining Buddhahood’ signify?

Attaining Buddhahood, or becoming a Buddha, does not mean becoming some kind of special human being completely different from who we are now, nor does it mean being reborn in a pure land far removed from this world in our next lifetime.

The Daishonin explains the “attain” of attaining Buddhahood as follows: “‘Attain’ means to open or reveal” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 126). Attaining Buddhahood, therefore, simply means revealing our innate Buddhahood.
As ordinary people, we can reveal this enlightened state of life just as we are.

What does it mean to ‘attain Buddhahood in one’s present form’?

Attaining Buddhahood is a process of manifesting the life state of a Buddha, which is originally present within all people (the inherent world of Buddhahood). A Buddha, therefore, is not a special being separate from or superior to human beings. The Daishonin taught that attaining Buddhahood is revealing the highest humanity—that is, Buddhahood—in our lives as ordinary people.

This is called “attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form.” This means that people can realize the life state of a Buddha just as they are without having to be reborn and changing their present form as an ordinary person.

What do ‘earthly desires are enlightenment’ and ‘the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana’ mean?

The idea of attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form can be expressed from another distinct perspective as the principles that “earthly desires are enlightenment” and “the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana.”

Even ordinary people whose lives are dominated by earthly desires, burdened by negative karma and afflicted by suffering, can, by awakening to the reality that Buddhahood exists within their own lives, manifest the wisdom of a Buddha’s enlightenment, liberate themselves from suffering and realize a state of complete freedom.

A life tormented by earthly desires and suffering can become a life of limitless freedom that shines with enlightened wisdom just as it is. This is the meaning of the principle that earthly desires are enlightenment.

Nichiren Daishonin teaches that the world of Buddhahood within us is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

When we believe in the Gohonzon, chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and awaken to our true, noble selves, then the wisdom to live out our lives, the courage and confidence to face the challenges of adversity and overcome them, and the compassion to care for the welfare of others will well forth from within us.

The sufferings of birth and death are nirvana means that though we may be in a state of suffering caused by the painful realities of birth and death, when we believe in the Gohonzon and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can manifest in our lives the tranquil life state of a Buddha’s enlightenment (nirvana).

What is the difference between relative and absolute happiness?

Relative happiness describes a condition in which our material needs are fulfilled and our personal desires satisfied. But desires know no limits; even if we may enjoy a sense of those desires being fulfilled for a time, it is not lasting. Since this kind of happiness is dependent on external circumstances, if those circumstances should change or disappear, then so will our happiness. Such happiness is called relative because it exists only in relation to external factors.

In contrast, absolute happiness is a state of life in which being alive itself is a source of happiness and joy no matter where we are or what our circumstances. It describes a life condition in which happiness wells forth from within us. Because it is not influenced by external conditions, it is called absolute happiness. Attaining Buddhahood means establishing this state of absolute happiness.

Suggested Questions:

1) What challenge helped you develop yourself?

2) What recent benefits have you had from practicing Buddhism?

From the October 2023 Living Buddhism

Highlights of the October 2023 Study Material

District Discussion Meeting Material