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District Meeting

Material for Discussion Meetings (May)

May 2024

Illustration by ArdeaA / Getty images.


The Great Teacher Dengyo says: “Shakyamuni taught that the shallow is easy to embrace, but the profound is difficult. To discard the shallow and seek the profound is the way of a person of courage.” 

—“On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 402

The hero in The Lord of the Rings saga, Frodo Baggins, journeys to the barren wasteland of Mordor to destroy a magical evil ring, the power source of the villain Sauron. With guidance from the wizard Gandalf, loyal support of his friend Samwise Gamgee and his alliance with stalwart comrades, Frodo braves harrowing twists and turns as he strives to defeat Sauron and ensure peace prevails.

Just as Frodo and his companions muster the courage to accomplish their chosen mission, we can also bring forth great courage as we traverse the obstacle-fraught path of transforming our lives and advancing kosen-rufu—the widespread propagation of Nichiren Buddhism’s life-affirming philosophy. 

For us, faith is an excellent source of courage. With our good friends in faith supporting us and with our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and study of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, we can conquer our fears and live true to our ideals no matter the challenges. 

As we do so, our lives begin to brim with confidence, wisdom, happiness and joy. So much so that we can’t help but share it with those around us, join forces with others to bring peace and harmony to the world, and contribute our time, energy and resources to support this noble cause. 

Ikeda Sensei urges: 

In the seven years leading to our centennial [in 2030], let us tap even greater wisdom to help people form a connection with Nichiren Buddhism. Let us awaken even greater numbers of people around the world to their Buddha nature. And let us joyfully and courageously bring many new friends to join us in the castle of happiness, where we can together shine with wisdom and compassion.[1]

The passage we’re studying this month focuses on becoming “a person of courage.” The Daishonin cites these words from the Great Teacher Dengyo[2] in “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” which he wrote in 1273 while exiled on Sado Island. He also cites this passage in several other writings, including “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude” and “The Selection of the Time.”

In the line “Shakyamuni taught that the shallow is easy to embrace, but the profound is difficult,” “the shallow” points to teachings that are easy to understand and believe but do not reveal the Buddha’s enlightenment. “The profound” means the Lotus Sutra, which is difficult to understand and accept. 

In today’s world, confusion and doubt about the importance of respecting the dignity and equality of all people run rampant. Changing circumstances can easily upset us—or we can come to focus on pursuing only immediate pleasures or gains. 

Yet, as Dengyo states, “To discard the shallow and seek the profound is the way of a person of courage.” 

Rather than letting “the shallow” sway us, we can experience a more rewarding life by seeking “the profound.” Sensei explains: 

“To seek the profound” refers to our challenge in bravely standing as protagonists of kosen-rufu. We of the SGI have steadfastly taken on this most difficult challenge in the present age. … In these compassionless and self-centered times, where people are only concerned about themselves and give little thought to others, we of the SGI have chanted for the happiness of our friends, prayed for the prosperity of our local communities and society and wholeheartedly exerted ourselves for kosen-rufu. …

Viewed in terms of human life, “shallow” means inertia, idleness and cowardice. Bravely defeating such inner weakness and seeking deep conviction and profound human greatness is “the way of a person of courage.” To seek the shallow or the profound—this inner battle takes place in our hearts many times each day.[3]

Each day, each moment, can be a struggle to win over our negativity and keep moving toward our goals and dreams. 

Fortunately, we have our Buddhist practice and community through which we learn to act with courage and compassion. Such action takes shape
in various ways. We chant for the happiness of ourselves and others, confront challenges, share Buddhism and study it with others, become trusted allies to our families, co-workers and community, and much more. During this May’s commemorative contribution period, we also have an opportunity to contribute financially to our noble Soka movement. 

The more we take such actions to “seek the profound,” the more we can live as “a person of courage.”

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Whether we notice it or not, our inner spiritual condition guides how we think, feel and act, ultimately directing the course of our lives. We can achieve a genuinely free and satisfying existence by learning to master our life state. That is what Buddhist practice is all about.

Buddhism describes 10 potential conditions (the Ten Worlds) that color every experience and moment of our lives. 

The lower six worlds describe conditions susceptible to external influence and changing circumstances. The higher conditions focus on bettering oneself and supporting others, bringing greater strength, autonomy, appreciation and joy. 

Fixed right in the middle is the fifth world, the world of human beings, also called humanity. Self-awareness and intellect characterize this state of life, the starting point of winning over our negative tendencies and self-mastery. 

Nichiren Daishonin says, “The wise may be called human, but the thoughtless are no more than animals.”[4] As discussed in previous articles in this series on the Ten Worlds, simply being born human doesn’t automatically make us humane. Cultivating our humanity requires persistent effort.

In Sanskrit, the word for “human being” is manusya, meaning “thinking being” or “one who thinks.” When in the state of human beings, we can perceive cause and effect and distinguish right from wrong—discernments that are the basis of wisdom and common sense. People strive to control their impulses and make sound decisions in this state.

Nichiren also writes, “Calmness is [the world] of human beings.”[5] Thus, this state is also described as a state of tranquility.

Sustaining that calm, however, is not so easy. 

While we all tend to navigate life using our common sense or logic, sooner or later, we can succumb to our negative tendencies and fall into cycles of despair.

Why? Because in the world of humanity, people are still easily swayed. 

Intellect alone cannot lead us to happiness. Certain obstacles can upend us, turning our tranquility into turmoil and productivity into stagnation. In the world of humanity, we’re still on shaky ground.

Then, what are we to do? Nichiren writes:

Now I have already obtained birth in the human realm, something difficult to achieve, and have had the privilege of hearing the Buddhist teachings, which are seldom encountered. If I should pass my present life in idleness, then in what future life could I possibly free myself from the sufferings of birth and death and attain enlightenment?[6]

In the passage above, Nichiren urges us to understand that having the fortune to be born as human beings also means we have an opportunity to strive to attain the highest states of life. 

Acting solely out of self-interest and self-preservation are hallmarks of the lower worlds. Yet, from the state of humanity, we can start stepping out of the lower worlds and make our purpose in life the betterment of ourselves and others. That’s how we can tap the life force of the higher worlds. This is why countless SGI members find such purpose and joy in working for the betterment of all humankind, or kosen-rufu.

“Therefore, it’s important that we exert ourselves earnestly while we are hale and hearty,” says Ikeda Sensei. “To the extent that we courageously take action for kosen-rufu, we solidify within our lives the path leading to eternal happiness.”[7]

He continues:

In Buddhism, the human body is called the “correct vessel of the noble paths”—that is, it is the vessel of the Law for carrying out Buddhist practice. When we fill that vessel with the great life of Buddhahood, we realize the true significance of having been born as human beings.[8]

The “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds” teaches that no matter what state of life we are in, we can directly access the highest state of Buddhahood through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Through continued Buddhist practice, we can make Buddhahood the foundation of our lives. This state of genuine strength and composure remains unshaken even when facing hardship and turmoil. 

Striving for the sake of kosen-rufu helps us bring forth this tremendous potential in ourselves and others. Orienting ourselves as protagonists in awakening Buddhahood in our family, friends and those around us is the path to mastering our life state and leading truly humane lives. 

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

From the May 2024 Living Buddhism


  1. November 18, 2023, World Tribune, p. 3. ↩︎
  2. The Great Teacher Dengyo (767–822): Also known as Saicho. The founder of the Tendai (T’ien-t’ai) school in Japan, he refuted the errors of the six schools of Nara—the established Buddhist schools of the day—and was dedicated to elevating the Lotus Sutra and establishing a Mahayana ordination platform on Mount Hiei. ↩︎
  3. The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, p. 83. ↩︎
  4. “The Three Kinds of Treasure,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 852. ↩︎
  5. “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” WND-1, 358. ↩︎
  6. “A Sage and an Unenlightened Man,” WND-1, 125. ↩︎
  7. The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 4, p. 141. ↩︎
  8. Ibid. ↩︎

Highlights of the May 2024 Study Material

Inner Change—Volume 28, Chapter 3