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District Meeting

Material for District Discussion Meetings (February)

February 2024

Illustration by ArdeaA / Getty images.

Please base your monthly discussion meeting on one of the following:

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 meeting!

Chanting Activates Our Inner Buddhahood

Writings for Discussion Meetings


Becoming a Buddha is nothing extraordinary. If you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with your whole heart, you will naturally become endowed with the Buddha’s thirty-two features and eighty characteristics. … You can readily become as noble a Buddha as Shakyamuni.
—“Letter to Niike,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1030

Many people familiar with Shakyamuni Buddha know how he endured intense practices before attaining enlightenment under a bodhi tree. Buddhist scriptures also explain that the cause for his enlightenment lay in his efforts in that lifetime and his practices in past lifetimes. Through such practices, the Buddha acquired one by one over an immeasurably long time “thirty-two features and eighty characteristics”—extraordinary attributes that signify his enlightenment.

But in the Lotus Sutra’s “Life Span of the Thus Come One” chapter, Shakyamuni reveals that he had attained enlightenment in the remotest past and had already been a Buddha for countless lifetimes.

Based on this, Nichiren set forth a revolutionary view of the Buddha’s enlightenment and what it means for us. In “Letter to Niike,” written in February 1280, he teaches that by simply chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, ordinary people can readily attain the same enlightenment as the Buddha in this lifetime. In other words, there’s no need to practice for many lifetimes or endure painful austerities to do so. Ikeda Sensei affirms:

Nichiren’s teaching establishes a path leading to Buddhahood for all. Attaining Buddhahood is not something that happens in the distant future or somewhere far away. Nichiren Buddhism makes it possible for all people to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. …

There is immeasurable benefit in chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo even just once. Instantaneously, we gain all the benefit the Buddhas acquired over many lifetimes of practice. That’s how great the Mystic Law is. (The Heart of Lotus Sutra, pp. 42–43)

The Object of Devotion of Faith

When developing our faith for attaining Buddhahood, what should we focus on?

In “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” Nichiren teaches that the benefits Shakyamuni gained are all contained within Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. “If we believe in these five characters,” he says, “we will naturally be granted the same benefits as he was” (WND-1, 365).

In Buddhism, “observing the mind” historically pointed to perceiving which of the Ten Worlds[1] we are experiencing in each moment. But because our fundamental ignorance—the inability to believe in the enlightened potential of ourselves and others—causes confusion about the true nature of our lives, this can be challenging.

Yet, no matter our life state, we can instantly bring forth our Buddhahood. Nichiren understood the need for a way for all people to reveal their full potential. So he established the Gohonzon as a clear mirror to reflect our true, enlightened nature. When inscribing the Gohonzon, he infused into it his enlightened state of life. We, too, can instantly bring forth that same enlightened life state when we chant “with our whole heart.” Sensei says:

Through strong faith, we connect our lives with the Gohonzon. Then the Gohonzon within us is activated, and immediately we are embraced in the light of hope. Strength wells forth.(The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings, vol. 1, p. 266)

Practicing for Ourselves and the Happiness of Others

While developing our faith and happiness, we also support others in cultivating their connections with Buddhism. As Nichiren says:

Now, however, we have entered the Latter Day of the Law, and the daimoku that I, Nichiren, chant is different from that of earlier ages. This Nam-myoho-renge-kyo encompasses both practice for oneself and the teaching of others. (“Receiving of the Three Great Secret Laws,” WND-2, 986)

We bring this passage to life by chanting to the Gohonzon and taking action to contribute to spreading Buddhist ideals in society, supporting our families, fellow members and friends, and sharing Buddhism with those around us. Through such efforts, we manifest the same heart as the Daishonin, transform our lives and experience incredible benefits. Sensei says:

Day after day, SGI members chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon and engage in dialogue for the happiness of themselves and others. …

Through dialogue, the most basic means of engaging with others, we impart the light of hope and renewal to those who have lost their way in life, are in the depths of suffering or are unable to find any meaning in living. In the process, together with them, we elevate our appreciation for the meaning of life itself. This is indeed the noble practice of contributing to a revolutionary transformation in the life state of all humanity. (Faith, Practice, and Study, p. 33)

No matter our worries or difficulties, when we chant with conviction in the Gohonzon and strive in our Buddhist practice for self and others, we can resolutely overcome everything, experience tremendous results and readily become Buddhas.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Examining the Ten Worlds: Hungry Spirits—The World of Insatiable Desire

Buddhist Concepts

Chasing one craving after another, intoxicated and driven by the unquenchable desire to get your next dollar, reward or pleasure fix—this is the world of hungry spirits.

Buddhism expounds the principle of the Ten Worlds, ten states or conditions of life that anyone can experience at any given moment. The six lower worlds—hell, hungry spirits, animals, asuras, human beings and heavenly beings—are temporary conditions easily influenced by external circumstances.

This month, we will focus on the world of hungry spirits, also called hunger. The Japanese term for this world is gaki (Sanskrit preta). This term originally referred to the dead in ancient India because the dead were thought to be in a constant state of starvation. This world is ruled by desire and suffering that intensifies when those desires go unfulfilled.

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “Greed is [the world] of hungry spirits.”[2] He also writes, “The realm of hungry spirits is a pitiful place where, driven by starvation, they devour their own children.”[3]

To obsess over desires, even at the expense of loved ones, is to be controlled by craving that knows no bounds.

The sufferings of hunger can be transcended, however, if illuminated by the light of the Mystic Law. Our Buddhist practice provides the tools to transform even insatiable desire into the fuel to progress toward complete freedom and fulfillment.

Our Desires Fuel Our Prayer

Some schools of Buddhism teach that desires are the source of suffering and that to eliminate suffering we must rid ourselves of desire.

Nichiren Buddhism, however, rejects this view, teaching us how to combat the delusion within that causes us to be controlled by desires and use them to generate life force and wisdom.

Desire itself is neither good nor bad. It is an inherent part of human life. Without a sense of hunger, we wouldn’t nourish our bodies. Our wants also drive us to enjoy life’s subtleties, and they can provide the impetus for self-improvement.

Without a solid core, however, we can be easily swayed by our cravings and suffer as a result.

“The real issue, therefore,” writes Ikeda Sensei, “is how we use desire.”[4]

When we use our desires to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we strengthen our core life state of Buddhahood. This is expressed through the principle that “earthly desires are enlightenment.”

Nichiren explains, “[Again, when Nichiren and his followers recite Nam-myoho-renge-kyo], they are burning the firewood of earthly desires, summoning up the wisdom fire of bodhi or enlightenment.”[5]

In other words, when we use our sufferings and desires as fuel to chant daimoku to the Gohonzon, we ignite the fire of the Buddha’s wisdom within, dispel our inherent delusion and regain control of our lives.

Rallying the Protective Forces

Nichiren inscribed the Gohonzon and depicted all Ten Worlds inherent in our lives. The names of figures from the Buddhist pantheon, including Shakyamuni, Many Treasures and various deities represent them.

Facing the Gohonzon, inscribed on the right is Mother of Demon Children (Japanese Kishimojin) and on the left are the ten demon daughters (Japanese ju-rasetsu-nyo), who are said to represent the world of hunger.

Based on the principle of the “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds,” which teaches that each world possesses the potential for all other worlds in itself, all nine worlds contain Buddhahood, the highest world. Written down the center of the Gohonzon are the characters Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, reflecting this world of Buddhahood.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda explained that when we pray to the Gohonzon, the figures depicted on it, even those representing the lower worlds, obey the Gohonzon. He said, “Indeed, all entities depicted on the Gohonzon display their innate dignified attributes when illuminated by Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.”[6]

Our determined prayer rallies the functions of Mother of Demon Children, the ten demon daughters and the other figures representing the Ten Worlds to support and protect us. When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we activate the enlightened qualities of desire in our lives, freeing ourselves from the shackles of hungry spirits.

By praying to the Gohonzon and taking action to advance kosen-rufu, we can transform the function of hunger in our lives from a source of powerlessness and suffering to one that fuels our determination to advance and improve our lives.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

From the February 2024 Living Buddhism


  1. Ten Worlds: A classification of ten distinct states of life that forms the foundation for the Buddhist view of life. The mutual possession of the Ten Worlds explains that the potential for Buddhahood exists within each of these worlds; thus, we can bring forth this highest state of life no matter our circumstances. (See pp. 40–41 for more on the Ten Worlds.) ↩︎
  2. “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 358. ↩︎
  3. “Letter to Niike,” WND-1, 1026. ↩︎
  4. The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 4, p. 110. ↩︎
  5. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 11. ↩︎
  6. The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 71. ↩︎

Highlights of the February 2024 Study Material

Inner Change—Volume 28, Chapter 3