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District Meeting

Material for Discussion Meetings (July)

July 2024

Illustrations by ArdeaA / Getty images

Writings for Discussion Meetings


You must quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart and embrace the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]. If you do so, then the threefold world will become the Buddha land, and how could a Buddha land ever decline? 

—“On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 25

Where have all the peace movements gone? Amid escalating tensions and the rising risk of nuclear war, peace movements popular during the Cold War era seem to have faded away. This is what Asle Toje, deputy leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, observed in an interview with Living Buddhism

Yet, he said: “Soka [Gakkai] is one of the few examples of a peace movement that has not withered. This is no small thing.”[1]

Why has the Soka Gakkai endured? 

One reason is our daily efforts to realize genuine, lasting peace one person at a time. We chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, find the courage to speak with others about our life-changing Buddhist philosophy and reach out to and support all kinds of people. These conversations are sometimes quite challenging. 

Nichiren Daishonin illustrated one of his challenging conversations in his seminal writing “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land.” 

On July 16, 1260, he submitted this treatise to Hojo Tokiyori, Japan’s most influential government official at that time. The treatise is written as a dialogue between a host, representing Nichiren, and a guest, thought to represent Hojo Tokiyori. 

In this dialogue, the host cites various Buddhist scriptures and identifies the fundamental cause of the disasters afflicting the country: People have rejected the Lotus Sutra’s teaching that all people inherently possess Buddhahood and can find happiness within. 

The guest grows angry when the host points out the errors of his beliefs. But no matter how emotional the guest gets, the host remains calm and continues respectfully saying what needs to be said. 

Toward the dialogue’s end, the host calls on the guest, saying: “You must quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart.” 

These “tenets” indicate deeply rooted beliefs, which, if mistaken, can cause suffering. Changing them can be tricky. To reform them entails a fundamental inner transformation and the acceptance of a profound truth—that within each of us is unlimited wisdom, courage and compassion. 

To carry out this transformation, Nichiren says, we must “embrace … the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra].” Ikeda Sensei explains: 

“Embracing the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]” means, in one sense, abandoning all prejudiced and partial views of life and humanity and returning to a respect for the supreme dignity of life. It means doing away with egoism and living by the rule of compassion, basing ourselves on true humanism. Here we find the universal principle that provides the key to humankind’s prosperity and peace on Earth.[2]

The host’s conviction and calm and compassionate demeanor eventually wins over the guest, who expresses appreciation for being awakened to the truth. He then pledges to set about quickly helping many others do the same. 

Creating allies for peace requires courage, perseverance and compassion. While we may not see eye-to-eye on fundamental issues, we seek honest and respectful dialogue with as many people as possible, endeavoring to believe in and awaken each person’s inherent Buddha nature. Just like Nichiren, we can help people change their hearts. Sensei says: 

When we speak with our friends sincerely, in an open and relaxed way, based on our prayers for their happiness, a profound transformation of hope can occur in their lives. Changing one person’s heart is the starting point for changing the hearts of all humankind.[3]

It’s up to us to keep expanding the Soka movement that Sensei built, described as “one of the largest intact peace movements in the world” by Toje, who urges us:

The job has been left to you, and me. We can’t sleep on this, can’t afford to. We can’t simply be concerned with our own spiritual enlightenment but need to go out and speak with others.[4]

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo helps us believe in the potential of each person we encounter and gives us the courage to speak with others. As we do, we follow in Nichiren’s footsteps, changing the world one heart at a time. 

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Buddhist Concepts

Buddhism expounds the principle of the Ten Worlds, or 10 states or conditions that color every experience and moment of our lives. Since January 2024, we have covered the six lower worlds—hell, hungry spirits, animals, asuras, human beings and heavenly beings—which describe conditions easily influenced by external circumstances. 

Next are the four noble worlds, characterized by an inner-motivated effort to develop understanding, wisdom, appreciation, compassion and lasting joy.

In one sense, the aim of Buddhist practice is to transcend the lower worlds and elevate our state of life. To confirm which path we can take that will lead to rich and fulfilling lives, let’s explore the first two of the noble worlds—the worlds of voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones, also known as learning and realization. 

The pursuit of self-improvement characterizes these two worlds. 

In the world of learning, people seek to understand life through others’ experiences, perspectives and knowledge. Traditionally referred to as the world of voice-hearers, this state of life is associated with people who achieved a degree of enlightenment through hearing the Buddha preach. 

The world of realization, or cause-awakened ones, describes those who awaken to the temporary nature of all phenomena through their observations of the world and seek self-improvement. 

Together, the worlds of voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones are known as the two vehicles. Here, vehicle means a teaching that carries one to a higher state. It also points to the life states of those to whom these teachings were addressed.

The people of the two vehicles make intensive efforts to arrive at a greater understanding of the workings of life. They strive for self-mastery and are awakened to the impermanence of life, perceiving themselves and the world around them objectively and liberating themselves from attachments that had plagued them in the lower worlds. 

“The fact that all things in this world are transient is perfectly clear to us,” writes Nichiren Daishonin. “Is this not because the worlds of the two vehicles are present in the human world?”[5]

In other words, ordinary people possess these perceptive worlds of realization and learning. 

At the same time, various sutras describe how Shakyamuni Buddha reprimands the people of the two vehicles for being self-absorbed in trying to eradicate attachments and other earthly desires thought to be the cause of suffering. In extreme cases, some even sought to extinguish their bodies and minds entirely.

Viewing the two vehicles as states of life, the awakening gained by those in the worlds of learning and realization is incomplete. This is because they cannot believe in their ability to attain the same enlightenment as the Buddha and because of their tendency not to help others. 

Ironically, their self-satisfaction with their elevated awareness makes them susceptible to falling back into the lower worlds. Thus, seeking knowledge and self-improvement can have its limits if we aim to benefit solely ourselves at the exclusion of others.

So, how can we deepen our understanding of life while avoiding the pitfalls of getting self-absorbed in these worlds of learning and realization?

Ikeda Sensei writes:

A self-centered heart is destined for the world of hell. This is true for individuals and society at large. 

A heart directed “for the Law” and “for the people,” on the other hand, is destined for the world of Buddhahood. In fact, in light of the principle of the simultaneity of cause and effect, Buddhahood already exists in such a heart.[6]

We can unlock the transformative spirit of the four noble worlds by tapping the Buddha’s compassionate vow to nurture the inherent Buddha nature in all people. Sensei says:

While self-reflection is of course important, if not done in a positive, growth-inspiring way, people’s lives may become closed off and rigid, causing them to lose all sense of purpose. …

Instead of nitpicking over others’ weaknesses, it is far more valuable to encourage them, give them hope and enable them to find goals. Through doing so, we can help those who are impatient, for example, become those who cannot wait to take positive action.

This applies to one’s personal growth as well as that of others. We can be completely ourselves.[7]

In understanding the various conditions of life, we can better navigate our constantly changing lives and surroundings. And our practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo helps us elevate our lives and bring forth our wisdom, compassion and courage to make the best use of all the Ten Worlds as we strive for the growth and happiness of ourselves and all others.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

From the July 2024 Living Buddhism


  1. April 2023 Living Buddhism, p. 16. ↩︎
  2. The New Human Revolution, vol. 4, revised edition, p. 248. ↩︎
  3. Translated from the July 26, 2023, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. ↩︎
  4. April 2023 Living Buddhism, p. 18. ↩︎
  5. “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 358. ↩︎
  6. The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 4, pp. 175–76. ↩︎
  7. Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death, p. 126. ↩︎

Highlights of the July 2024 Study Material

Inner Change—Volume 28, Chapter 3