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District Meeting

Material for District Discussion Meetings (April)

April 2024

Illustration by ArdeaA / Getty images.

Those who make offerings to the Lotus Sutra will receive the same benefit as they would by making offerings to all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas in the ten directions, because all the Buddhas of the ten directions originate from the single character myo. … When a small spark is set to a large expanse of grass, not only the grass but also the big trees and large stones will all be consumed. Such is the power of the fire of wisdom in the single character myo. Not only will all offenses vanish, but they will become sources of benefit.

—“The Drum at the Gate of Thunder,”  The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 949

Ever think you’re doing one thing only to discover that that one thing affects much more than you had imagined? 

It’s like offerings in Buddhism. 

As the passage above says, by making offerings to the Lotus Sutra—in our case, offering our time, financial support and goods to the Soka community of believers that upholds and propagates it—we are contributing to so much more. As such, we can enjoy boundless benefits and transform our negative karma.

Nichiren Daishonin wrote “The Drum at the Gate of Thunder” in 1278 while residing on Mount Minobu. He addressed it to the lay nun Sennichi, who, with her husband, Abutsu-bo, supported and sustained Nichiren with offerings of food, money and other items while he was an exile on Sado.[1]

Here, the Daishonin observes that the Lotus Sutra—embodied in the single character myo—is the source of the enlightenment of all Buddhas and bodhisattvas across the universe. Because of this, when we make offerings to support the spread of its teaching, it’s like we’re making offerings to all those Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Various sutras extol the immeasurable benefit of making offerings to even one Buddha. And now we’re making offerings to immeasurable numbers of Buddhas? Do the math. Wow! 

While the lay nun was an ordinary woman, she was extraordinary in her commitment to supporting Nichiren. In his letter, he seeks to assure Sennichi that her good fortune and benefits are as vast as the universe. Ikeda Sensei says that, in effect, Nichiren is telling her: 

To make offerings to the Lotus Sutra is to make offerings to all Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions. Therefore, they are all sure to protect you. You will absolutely never be deadlocked. You need not worry about anything. You can serenely savor a state of life that is as eternal and vast as the universe.[2]

Having faced severe pressure from the authorities for supporting Nichiren, she must have deeply appreciated this encouragement.

Nichiren also says, “All the Buddhas of the ten directions originate from the single character myo.” Myo represents Myoho-renge-kyo, the Lotus Sutra’s title, and the Mystic Law (myoho). 

The various principles taught in the Lotus Sutra, Sensei says, are all to express, teach and transmit the mystic principle of myo.[3] Nichiren’s wish to enable all people to experience the power of myo led him to reveal and spread Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. 

So, what does myo signify? 

In “The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,”[4] Nichiren explains that myo has three meanings: 1) “to open,” 2) “to be fully endowed” and 3) “to revive.” Sensei offers this description: 

The Mystic Law is the fundamental and perfect Law that encompasses all phenomena (the principle of “full endowment”) and has the power to open or bring out the inherent value of all things (the principle of “opening”). As such, it also has the power to revitalize and invigorate even those facing the most adverse and intractable circumstances and enable them to attain Buddhahood (the principle of “reviving”).[5]

The Daishonin next likens all the wrongs we have committed to a large expanse of dry grass. “The single character myo,” he says, is like a spark that sets fire to the grass, a fire that grows to consume even the big trees and large stones.

No matter what difficulties we might face, by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can overcome all our mistakes, fears and worries. Sensei observes: 

As long as we keep challenging ourselves in faith to resolve the problems that confront us through the fire fueled by our efforts to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo ourselves and teach others to do the same, we will eventually also be able to burn away even heavy, deep-rooted negative karma.[6]

We tap the wondrous power of myo through every contribution we make, every Nam-myoho-renge-kyo we chant and every person we share it with. This is how we unite with all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas in the ten directions and transform our lives and the destiny of all humankind.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Have you ever felt better than others or, perhaps, felt intimidated or jealous of someone you think has it better than you? Welcome to the world of asuras.

As the fourth of 10 potential states of life, asuras lurk in the six lower worlds in which people are easily influenced by external circumstances. 

Asura derives from Sanskrit and originally referred to a class of benevolent spirits in Indian cosmology. They later came to be described as combative demons constantly at odds with the gods.

In the past, the world of asuras was called the world of anger. This may be because asura demons were often depicted with angry expressions. But, as was explained in a previous article in this series,[7] anger is associated with the world of hell. 

In Nichiren Buddhism, “arrogance” more aptly describes the world of asuras because those in this state continually compare themselves with others and focus on self-preservation, resulting in pain for oneself and others. Compared to the first three worlds—hell, hungry spirits and animals—known as the three evil paths, this fourth one is considered higher because those in this life state act of their own volition. They have more awareness of themselves and their surroundings. Yet, as soon as they become self-aware, they’re overcome by the desire to be better than others.

Nichiren Buddhism teaches how to change the function of asuras from one that causes suffering to one that creates value. Let’s explore this life state and how to transform it.

While often hidden, the life state of asuras exists within us all. 

Nichiren Daishonin explains that “perversity is [the world] of asuras.”[8] The Japanese word for perversity is written as two Chinese characters that mean “fawning” and “crooked.” In this state, people’s behavior contradicts their true feelings. Nichiren cites the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai’s description of this world:

Since the mind of a person who is in the world of asuras desires in every moment to be superior to everyone else and cannot bear to be inferior to anyone else, he belittles and despises others and exalts himself just as a kite flies on high and looks down. Moreover, he outwardly displays benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and good faith, and develops an inferior kind of goodness of mind, and yet puts into practice the way of asuras.[9]

In the “crooked” world of asuras, our outlook becomes distorted. We may envy and even be unable to respect the goodness in others. We might pretend to be loyal to someone yet inwardly despise them; we might inflate who we are by flaunting our virtues and hiding our weaknesses. 

In “Letter from Sado,” Nichiren writes, “An arrogant person will always be overcome with fear when meeting a strong enemy, as was the haughty asura who shrank in size and hid himself in a lotus blossom in Heat-Free Lake when reproached by Shakra.”[10]

Those in the world of asuras constantly fear that someone might see through their false sense of grandeur. 

“On the other hand,” Ikeda Sensei says, “those with the heart of a lion king are totally fearless. That’s because they are concerned not with protecting themselves but with protecting the Law and the people.”[11]

One way to transform the self-interested nature of asuras in ourselves is to expand the scope of our concerns and pray and take action to support the happiness and well-being of others. 

The principle of the “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds” teaches that each world possesses the potential for all other worlds. So even the world of asuras isn’t all bad. It, too, has an enlightened side. 

We can activate that enlightened side by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for ourselves and others. For instance, an enlightened aspect might be bringing forth the competitive drive of an asura to become better than anyone in sharing Nichiren Buddhism with others. 

Sensei also writes:

Toward evil, we have to fight with the intensity of asura or a charging demon. Buddhism concerns itself with winning. We have no choice but to win. When we thoroughly exert ourselves for kosen-rufu, the life of asura manifests the function of Buddhahood. This is the principle of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds.[12]

What’s more, anytime we catch ourselves comparing ourselves with others, that’s a good time to chant to raise our life condition and strive to respect those around us. Our continual efforts to raise our life state directly contribute to expanding the life state of our society. 

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

From the April 2024 Living Buddhism


  1. Following the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, an unlawful attempt to execute Nichiren Daishonin at Tatsunokuchi in Kamakura on September 12, 1271, he was sentenced to exile on Sado Island. The exile lasted for two years and five months, from the end of October 1271 until his pardon in March 1274. ↩︎
  2. The Hope-Filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 6. ↩︎
  3. See Ibid., p. 6. ↩︎
  4. See WND-1, 145. ↩︎
  5. The Hope-Filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, pp. 6–7. ↩︎
  6. Ibid., p. 10. ↩︎
  7. See January 2024 Living Buddhism, pp. 44–45. ↩︎
  8. See “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 358. ↩︎
  9. “Explaining the Causation of the Ten Worlds,” WND-2, 197. ↩︎
  10. WND-1, 302. ↩︎
  11. The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 4, p. 123. ↩︎
  12. Ibid., p. 134. ↩︎

Highlights of the April 2024 Study Material

Inner Change—Volume 28, Chapter 3