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District Meeting

Material for District Discussion Meetings (March)

March 2024

Illustration by ArdeaA / Getty images.

Writings for Discussion Meetings

At first only Nichiren chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but then two, three, and a hundred followed, chanting and teaching others. Propagation will unfold this way in the future as well.

—“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 385

It takes just one person to start something great. What qualities do people who blaze new trails share? Naturally, creativity, initiative, passion for improvement and wisdom would be among them. 

In addition to these qualities, what drove Nichiren Daishonin, a trailblazer in his own right, was his desire to free all people from misery, to shape a peaceful society grounded on the Buddhist principles of respect, equality and harmony. 

Through rigorous study of Buddhist scriptures, he confirmed that Myoho-renge-kyo, the title of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha’s highest teaching, also embodies its essence. He established the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—the universal Law of life, also known as the Mystic Law—to lead all people to absolute happiness, or enlightenment. He was the first to chant and teach others about the Mystic Law. 

The above passage is from “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” addressed to his disciple Sairen-bo in 1273 while both were in exile on Sado Island. Here, Nichiren says that at first he was the only one who chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo but later “two, three, and a hundred followed, chanting and teaching others.” He predicts that “propagation will unfold this way in the future as well.”

As he envisioned, today, Nichiren Buddhism has spread to 192 countries and territories, and the sound of Soka Gakkai members chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can be heard around the world, 24 hours a day. 

In many ways, we’re still in the pioneering phase of our movement to spread Nichiren Buddhism. Some members are the only ones practicing Buddhism in their families, circles of friends, communities or workplaces. 

No matter our circumstances, when we strive with the same spirit as Nichiren to share Buddhism and awaken one person and then another to the Mystic Law, we will see our lives, families and communities shine with the light of hope, happiness and peace.

In The New Human Revolution, Sensei emphasizes that each person’s resolve to spread Buddhism leads to their development as individuals. He writes of a young woman who had just started practicing Nichiren Buddhism and was the only SGI member in her town in France. She had to travel several hours to attend discussion meetings. Being isolated and new to the practice, she worried about her ability to share Buddhism with others. He assured her:

Don’t worry—your presence alone is enough. … Everything starts with one person. Become someone who is loved by everyone in your community. That’s the key. If there is a single tall tree, people will gather under it to seek shade from the hot sun or shelter from the rain. Similarly, if people like and trust you, a person who practices Nichiren Buddhism, they will naturally come to view Buddhism in a positive light. This will lead to opportunities to share the teachings with them. Focus on growing into a tall tree, a fine tall tree for your community.[1]

When he was in his 20s, Sensei, too, aimed to become a “fine tall tree” for his community, his small apartment complex. 

After joining the Soka Gakkai at 19, he began working for Josei Toda. Diligently supporting his mentor in overcoming his business crisis, Sensei went to work early in the morning and came home late at night. His neighbors wondered if anyone lived in his unit. Yet he prayed with the determination to share the greatness of the Mystic Law with everyone in his apartment complex. He later recalled taking action based on this prayer: 

I always made a point of greeting my neighbors in a cheerful, polite manner. I saw them all as people I shared a connection with and strove to build and deepen friendships with them. Whenever I held discussion meetings in my apartment, I also invited other residents in my building and my neighborhood to attend. I am always delighted when I hear news of those families who joined the Soka Gakkai at the time enjoying many benefits.[2]

Let’s deepen our ties with those in our communities, naturally helping those around us form connections with Buddhism so that “two, three, and a hundred follow” in becoming fulfilled and happy. Through our sincere efforts, we can continue building momentum from our March Youth Peace Festivals and help many others positively transform their lives and communities.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

“People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel.”[3]

—Fyodor Dostoevsky

In the Buddhist worldview, the Ten Worlds offers a framework that categorizes a broad spectrum of potential life conditions that anyone can experience at any moment. The six lower worlds—hell, hungry spirits, animals, asuras, human beings and heavenly beings—also called the six paths, are temporary conditions easily influenced by external circumstances. 

This month, we delve into the world of animals—a latent condition that can lead people to commit acts of cruelty—and how Nichiren Buddhism arms us with the means to free ourselves from its claws.

The world of animals, also called animality, is controlled by instinct. In this state, immediate personal gain drives people who, lacking a standard for judging right from wrong, are blind to how their actions lead to harmful consequences for themselves and others. Nichiren Daishonin characterizes animality as a life state of foolishness.[4]

In “Letter from Sado,” he writes:

Fish want to survive; they deplore their pond’s shallowness and dig holes in the bottom to hide in, yet tricked by bait, they take the hook. Birds in a tree fear that they are too low and perch in the top branches, yet bewitched by bait, they too are caught in snares.[5]

Driven by the instinct to fulfill immediate needs, people in this state of life tend to lose their common sense and morals. While seeking happiness, they actually head in the opposite direction, losing their way and becoming miserable. 

Nichiren also describes the world of animals, saying, “It is the nature of beasts to threaten the weak and fear the strong.”[6] An example of this would be submitting to superiors while stepping on the backs of others to gain a promotion. Ikeda Sensei writes:

To “threaten the weak and fear the strong” is certainly an inherent part of the logic of power. It’s a psychology of survival of the fittest. It could be said that those in this state, while human, have lost their humanity.[7]

This “logic of power” can pull human beings into paths of violence and war. 

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, however, activates our inherent Buddha nature, calls forth our wisdom, compassion and courage to combat violence at its source, and transforms our state of life. Regarding violence resulting from the state of animality, Sensei says: 

To ensure that such tragedies are never again repeated, we have to produce a steady stream of humane people, of people overflowing with humanity. That is my conviction and my heartfelt prayer. Kosen-rufu is in a sense a great movement of human education on the success of which the fate of humankind depends.[8]

The sufferings caused by the lack of humanity in this world of animality can be conquered by cultivating our humanity. Practicing Buddhism helps us affirm the dignity of life and enact a revolution within to become truly humane people. 

Nichiren writes: 

The heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the “Never Disparaging” chapter. What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being. … The wise may be called human, but the thoughtless are no more than animals.[9]

Here, he highlights Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, introduced in the Lotus Sutra’s 20th chapter as Shakyamuni Buddha in a previous life. Although people ridiculed and attacked him, Never Disparaging exhibited unconditional respect for everyone because he believed in their innate potential to become Buddhas.

Striving in our daily Buddhist practice leads to transforming and elevating our life condition toward Buddhahood and identifying and overcoming the thoughtless tendencies of animality and other lower worlds. Sensei says:

If you truly want to transform your state of life, then you have to put every ounce of strength you’ve got into it. There’s no way you can do so if your practice is half-hearted. Painful though it may be, it is only by struggling to thoroughly polish and temper your life that you can attain a state of great joy. … 

By carrying out that sort of practice, we can come to truly understand the doctrine of the Ten Worlds.[10]

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

From the March 2024 Living Buddhism


  1. The New Human Revolution, vol. 30, p. 405. ↩︎
  2. December 2018 Living Buddhism, pp. 47–48. ↩︎
  3. Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (New York: Random House, 1943, 1945), p. 283. ↩︎
  4. See “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 358. ↩︎
  5. “Letter from Sado,” WND-1, 301. ↩︎
  6. Ibid., 302. ↩︎
  7. The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 4, p. 111. ↩︎
  8. Ibid., 113. ↩︎
  9. “The Three Kinds of Treasure,” WND-1, 852. ↩︎
  10. WLS-4, 117. ↩︎

Highlights of the March 2024 Study Material

Inner Change—Volume 28, Chapter 3