Frequently Asked Questions

What do SGI members do?

SGI members integrate Buddhist practice into the daily rhythm of their lives. They aim to develop and strengthen their lives through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and by studying the teachings of Buddhism. The basic morning and evening practice, known as gongyo, consists of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and reciting portions of the Lotus Sutra. This is usually carried out at home but can also be done together with others. The aim of this practice is to develop one’s Buddha nature – the qualities of courage, wisdom and compassion – thereby tapping the energy needed to tackle one’s challenges, transform one’s life and contribute to the happiness of others. In countries where there is an SGI organisation, members and guests meet to share experiences of their practice and study together at regular monthly discussion meetings. Practice naturally leads to a sense of empowerment and responsibility, and SGI members aim to positively impact the communities in which they live.

What Buddhist tradition is SGI part of?

SGI members embrace Nichiren Buddhism, following a Lotus Sutra-based practice formulated by the 13th-century Japanese priest Nichiren. The Lotus Sutra is considered by many in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition to be the fullest expression of the teachings of Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha who was born in present-day Nepal some 2,500 years ago. The Lotus Sutra is revered for its embracing message that all people possess the Buddha nature, both men and women.

The image of the pure lotus flower growing in a muddy pond symbolises how people can develop this enlightened state of life in the midst of their daily problems and struggles. Nichiren studied all available Buddhist texts and investigated the many competing schools of Buddhism of his day before concluding that the Lotus Sutra epitomised the true compassionate intent of Shakyamuni. Today, SGI members study the letters and treatises of Nichiren and his analysis of the Lotus Sutra, as well as the Lotus Sutra itself and commentaries by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda.

Do SGI members have to follow rules?

There are no set rules that regulate the lives of SGI members, but they are encouraged to live constructive and contributive lives and to respect the laws and norms of the societies and cultures in which they live. Based on conviction in the dignity and inherent worth of all human beings, as taught in the Lotus Sutra, individuals are trusted to develop the ability to see the true nature of their thoughts, words and actions, and the wisdom to make the right choices for their lives. Practicing Buddhism naturally leads one to refrain from denigrating and destroying life and to wish to support and encourage others. The Soka Gakkai Charter lays out the broad goals of the organisation and its vision of contributing to a peaceful, just and sustainable world based on the principles of Nichiren Buddhism.

What are the benefits of practicing Buddhism with other people?

The practice of Buddhism focuses not just on benefiting and developing oneself, but on the needs of others as well. Through exchange, dialogue and contact, people at any stage of their practice can learn more than they can by practicing in isolation. Newcomers are always encouraged to raise questions. Buddhist practice is not easy, requiring self-discipline, and seeing one’s own life clearly can be tough – this is why support from others is important as people strive to bring out their highest potential. Through the extensive network of the SGI organisation, people can receive encouragement, build links of friendship and support, and offer support to others. As a group dedicated to achieving a positive change in the world, SGI is also able to have more impact than individuals acting alone, for instance through awareness raising exhibitions or community-based projects.

How does SGI contribute to society?

In the broadest sense, SGI actively promotes peace, culture and education based on a belief in positive human potential and respect for the dignity of life. There are three main levels on which SGI contributes to society. Most significant are the efforts of millions of individual SGI members in their own families, societies and workplaces, where they aim to promote high ideals, help resolve conflict and support the development of capable people. In addition, local SGI groups in individual countries undertake projects such as environmental clean-ups, displays and discussions about nonviolence or a culture of peace and cultural exchanges. At the international level, SGI is a firm supporter of the United Nations, with liaison offices in New York, Geneva and Vienna. It is active in public education with a focus on peace and disarmament, human rights and sustainable development, as well as providing humanitarian assistance in response to natural disasters and participating in interfaith activities. SGI is also engaged in various NGO networks and partnerships at the local, national and international level.

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