In many Buddhist writings it was taught that women could never become Buddhas. One sutra states, "Even if the eyes of the Buddhas of the three existences were to fall to the ground, no woman of any of the realms of existence could ever attain Buddhahood."
This no doubt reflects the prevailing view of women in India during the fifth century B.C.E. when they were considered more or less the property of their husbands. However, it is said that in response to requests from his aunt and other women, Shakyamuni allowed women to become nuns and carry out monastic practice after establishing eight rules which they should follow. According to Indian studies specialist Dr. Hajime Nakamura, "The appearance [in Buddhism] of an order of nuns was an astonishing development in world religious history. No such female religious order existed in Europe, North Africa, West Asia or East Asia at the time. Buddhism was the first tradition to produce one."
However, in the following centuries, prevailing perceptions of women began to reassert themselves, and it was commonly believed that women would have to be reborn as men and carry out endless austerities before being able to attain Buddhahood. The bhikshuni sangha, or order of Buddhist nuns, declined and nearly disappeared.
Nichiren, the 13th-century Buddhist monk whose teachings SGI members follow, was a firm believer in the equality of men and women. He wrote, "There should be no discrimination among those who propagate the five characters of nam-myoho-renge-kyo in the Latter Day of the Law, be they men or women" (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin (WND), The True Aspect of All Phenomena, p. 385). This was a revolutionary statement for his time, when women were almost totally dependent on men. The "three obediences," which was deeply-entrenched in Japanese culture, dictated that a Japanese woman should first obey her parents; then she should obey her husband; and finally, in old age, she should obey her son. [Note: Sanju, the "three obediences," are based on the teachings of Confucius, and the tradition is still observed by the older generation in some remote rural villages.]
Nichiren sent letters of encouragement to many of his female followers and gave several the title of "Shonin," or saint. The strength of faith and independence of spirit shown by these women impressed him deeply. To Nichimyo Shonin, he wrote: "Never have I heard of a woman who journeyed a thousand ri in search of Buddhism as you did. . . . you are the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra among the women of Japan" (WND, Letter to the Sage Nichinyo, p. 324).
In the 12th or "Devadatta" chapter of the version of the Lotus Sutra cited by Nichiren, Shakyamuni demonstrates that Buddhahood is within reach "even" for women. It is revealed that an eight-year-old female dragon has been able to attain Buddhahood quickly by practicing the Lotus Sutra.
This girl, often known as the dragon king's daughter, appears and dramatically demonstrates her attainment of Buddhahood, illustrating the principle of becoming a Buddha in one's present form. She overturns the prevailing belief that enlightenment could only be attained after carrying out painful practices over an extremely long period of time. The dragon girl has the form of an animal; she is female; and she is very young. That she should be the very first to demonstrate the immediate attainment of Buddhahood is striking, even shocking.
Nichiren stresses, ". . . among the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, that of women attaining Buddhahood is first" (WND, The Sutra of Requital, p. 930). And, in another letter, he writes, "When I, Nichiren, read the sutras other than the Lotus Sutra, I have not the slightest wish to become a woman. One sutra condemns women as messengers of hell. Another describes them as great serpents. . . . Only in the Lotus Sutra do we read that a woman who embraces this sutra not only excels all other women but surpasses all men" (WND, The Unity of Husband and Wife, p. 463-464). Nichiren vowed to share the Lotus Sutra's hopeful message with all the women of Japan.
Buddhism views distinctions of gender, race and age as differences which exist in order to enrich our individual experience and human society as a whole. The Lotus Sutra is sometimes called the teaching of nondiscrimination, because it reveals that the state of Buddhahood is inherent in all phenomena. There is no difference between men and women in terms of their capacity to attain Buddhahood, as both are equally manifestations of the ultimate reality. If we consider the eternity of life, it is also clear that we may be born as a man in one life, and as a woman in another.
SGI President Daisaku Ikeda states, "The important thing is that both women and men become happy as human beings. Becoming happy is the objective; everything else is a means. The fundamental point of the 'declaration of women's rights' arising from the Lotus Sutra is that each person has the innate potential and the right to realize a state of life of the greatest happiness."
I am honored that you are visiting this web site. Being a person of open-mind and joy in giving knowledge and information about this religious organization, I am always striving to find new ways to get message out to current and prospective members. This web site allows the Soka Gakkai to reach people it may never have been able to contact before.
Please use this site to access the information you need about the organization and as a resource for broadening your faith and The Opening Of The Eyes. I look forward to hearing from you and answering any questions you might have.
Please sign my guestbook to offer comments and join the Soka Gakkai's mailing list for announcements and special events.
SGI President Ikeda's Daily Encouragement for February 19th.
This lifetime will never come again; it is precious and irreplaceable. To live without regret, it is crucial for us to have a concrete purpose and continually set goals and challenges for ourselves. It is equally important that we keep moving toward specific targets steadily and tenaciously, one step at a time.
If you would like to email me with more information, please do so at email@example.com. Please feel free to join the Soka Gakkai mailing list from any of the international organizations from the links provided on this website to obtain more information. And, again, thank you for signing this guestbook. ~Maggie
What is the Soka Gakkai?
Soka Gakkai is a lay Buddhist association that embraces the philosophy and teachings of Nichiren, a 13th-century Japanese Buddhist sage and scholar. In their daily practice of Nichiren Buddhism, as individuals, Soka Gakkai members strive to cultivate and develop their inherent potential by challenging to advance in their own circumstances as well as work for the well-being of others.
here are three basics in applying Buddhism: faith, practice and study. They are the primary ingredients in the recipe for developing our innate enlightened condition, or Buddhahood. All three are essential. With this recipe, we will experience actual proof of our transformation in the forms of both conspicuous and inconspicuous benefit. The recipe is universal. these basics are the same in every country where this Buddhism is practiced.
FAITH -Traditionally, religion has asked its believers to have faith in its tenets before accepting the religion, without any proof of the religion's assertions. But how can we have faith in something with which we have no experience? Unless a religion can provide benefit to the believers' daily lives and help them overcome their struggles, they cannot become happy by practicing it. Today, many religions lack the ability to truly empower people to change.
In Buddhism, faith is based on experience. Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism emphasizes obtaining "actual proof" of the teaching's power. Faith begins as an expectation or hope that something will happen. At the start of our journey if we are willing to try the practice and anticipate some result, we will then develop our faith brick by brick as examples of actual proof accrue.
PRACTICE -To develop faith, we must take action. We strengthen our wisdom and vital life force by actualizing our Buddhahood each day in a very concrete way. Practice in Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism consists of two parts: practice for ourselves and practice for others. Practice for ourselves is primarily the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Each morning and evening, believers participate in a ritual that, along with chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, includes recitation from two significant chapters of the Lotus Sutra - chapters which explain that each individual holds the potential for enlightenment and that life itself is eternal. This ritual has been traditionally referred to as gongyo (literally "assiduous practice"). Practice for others consists of introducing them to Nichiren Daishonin's teachings. It is action based on compassion to help give others the means to make fundamental improvements in their lives, similar to what we are undergoing. The development of our compassion through such practice for others is also a direct benefit to us.
STUDY - To gain confidence that this practice is valid, and to understand why your efforts will bring about a result, it is essential to study the tenets of this Buddhism. The basis of study comes from the founder himself, Nichiren Daishonin. More than 700 years ago, he instructed followers in the correct way to practice; and his writings, which have been preserved and translated into English, give us valuable insight into how this practice will benefit us today.
The Soka Gakkai International (SGI) was formed to support practitioners of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism and help them teach others about it on a global scale. Today, there are some 12 million members in 128 countries around the world.
The SGI has prepared numerous study materials that offer deeper looks at Buddhist theory as well as practical applications through members' testimonies. (See "Suggested Reading") There are also English translations of the original teachings of Buddhism, such as the Lotus Sutra. By helping to build understanding and confidence. the study material provides vital encouragement for us - especially at crucial moments.
Through faith, practice and study, members have enriched and broadened their outlook on life, in many cases expanding from one bound and colored by self-interests to one motivated by humanistic and humanitarian concerns. Moreover, members develop the ability to live with confidence and to create value in any situation. Thus the association's name--"Soka" meaning "value creation," and "Gakkai," "society."
The more than 10 million Soka Gakkai members represent a broad cross-section of Japanese society. Members contribute to the betterment of their communities, societies and the world through activities that promote friendship, peace, culture and education.
Soka Gakkai is one of 76 worldwide constituent organizations that make up the Soka Gakkai International (SGI).
The basic prayer or chant is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is the name of the Mystic Law that governs life eternally throughout the universe. Nichiren Daishonin revealed this law as the underlying principle contained in Buddhism's highest teaching, the Lotus Sutra. A11 life is an expression or manifestation of this law. Thus when we chant this Mystic Law, we attune our lives to the perfect rhythm of the universe. The result is increased vital life force, wisdom, compassion and good fortune to face the challenges in front of us.
The translation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is as follows:
NAM - Devotion. By devoting our lives to this law through our faith, practice and study, we will awaken the life-condition of Buddha, or enlightenment, inside ourselves.
MYOHO - Mystic Law. As the Daishonin explained in one of his writings: "What then does myo signify? It is simply the mysterious nature of our lives from moment to moment, which the mind cannot comprehend nor words express. When you look into your own mind at any moment, you perceive neither color nor form to verify it exists. Yet you still cannot say it does not exist, for many differing thoughts continually occur to you. Life is indeed an elusive reality that transcends both the words and concepts of existence. It is neither existence nor non-existence, yet exhibits the qualities of both. It is the mystic entity of the middle way that is the reality of all things. Myo is the name given to the mystic nature of life, and ho to Its manifestations," (from "On Attaining Buddhahood," The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. I , p. 5 ; see "Suggested Readings") .
RENGE - Literally, the "lotus flower," which seeds and blooms at the same time. This represents the simultaneity of cause and effect. We create causes through thoughts, words and actions. With each cause made, an effect is registered simultaneously in the depths of life, and those effects are manifested when we meet the right environmental circumstances. Life itself is an endless series of causes and simultaneous effects. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the deepest cause we can make in order to produce our desired effect.
KYO - Sound or teaching. This is how the Buddha has traditionally, instructed-through the spoken word, which is heard.
Myoho-renge-kyo is the Lotus Sutra's title and contains its essential meaning. Nichiren Daishonin added namu (contracted to nam), which comes from Sanskrit. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the ultimate invocation of life, often referred to as the language of the Buddha.
There are no prerequisites or rules as to what to chant for. We simply make the decision to begin chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. And by chanting, we experience the energy and wisdom to make our lives fulfilled.
In the sixty years since this Buddhism has been widely accessible through the efforts of the Soka Gakkai worldwide, millions have chanted about every conceivable problem and goal, from the most dire health and financial crises to the most urgent matters of the heart. Unlike in most Western religions, when we chant we are not praying to an external deity invested with human qualities like judgment. Our prayers are communicated into the depths of our being when we invoke the sound of the Mystic Law.
This universal Law is impartial, and no prayer is more or less worthy than another. The only issue is whether we can create value in our lives and help others do the same. As the Daishonin teaches, we attain enlightenment through a continual transformation that takes place in the depths of our existence as we seek to fulfill our desires and resolve our conflicts.
It is important to understand that our prayers are realized because we bring forth from within ourselves the highest life-condition and the wisdom to take correct action.
Once people begin experiencing the benefits of chanting, they may decide to make a deeper commitment and begin a more complete Buddhist practice. The first milestone after beginning one's practice is to receive the Gohonzon, the object of devotion for Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. The Daishonin inscribed his enlightenment in the form of a mandala called the Gohonzon, and believers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to a scroll form of the Gohonzon enshrined in their own homes. (For information on how to receive the Gohonzon, please contact your nearest SGI organization.)
In the Gohonzon, the Daishonin graphically depicted his enlightenment, or Buddhahood, which is the enlightened life-condition of the universe. The important point here is that the same potential for enlightenment exists within each of us. And when we fuse our lives with the Gohonzon by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to it, we tap into that enlightened life-condition, our own Buddhahood.
This is why the Daishonin calls the Gohonzon a mirror for the inner self. It is a way to see inside, to begin changing what we don't like and strengthening what we do like. We have the potential of many life-conditions, which appear when we come in contact with various external stimuli. For instance, someone may be rather mild-mannered and quiet, but another person might say something that sparks a show of temper. This temper or anger was dormant inside until provoked by the environment. To bring out our highest potential condition of life, our Buddhahood, we also need a stimulus. As our conviction develops, we will come to see that the Gohonzon is the most positive external stimulus, and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to it is the internal cause that will activate the latent state of Buddhahood in our lives.
The scroll of the Gohonzon is kept on an altar in the practitioner's home where it can be protected from the daily routine of the household.
How often do we chant? Our basic ritual, which includes chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, reciting sections of the Lotus Sutra, and offering silent prayers, is carried out diligently each morning and evening. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the primary practice, is like fuel for an engine. Reciting the sutra is a supplementary practice, like adding oil to that engine. When the two are combined, it is most effective, and we feel the confidence of performing in top condition.
We are also free to chant as often as we like and to our heart's content. Most new practitioners will experiment with chanting until they experience something tangible, sort of like a "test drive." The duration of any particular chanting session is up to each individual's preferences and needs. However, the complete morning and evening ritual should become the basis of our daily practice, a special time when we can communicate directly with the rhythm of the universe.
As we start to see actual proof of the power of our Buddhist practice, we naturally come to share our experiences with friends and encourage them to try practicing as well. this sharing with others is another key to developing our inner potential for enlightenment, or Buddhahood.
The SGI's ultimate purpose is to contribute to the establishment of a peaceful world where all people experience happiness. We can make our lives larger and experience a stronger life-condition by endeavoring to help others. This way of life founded on compassion is instrumental in helping us strengthen our own Buddha nature. It is the altruistic interactions with people in our daily lives that will help us grow and become enlightened.
This is not only Buddhist theory-most people recognize the satisfaction and growth that accompany their efforts to truly help others. Practicing Buddhism to overcome our own problems or circumstances gives us insight we can share. We can chant for our families and friends, we can encourage others to practice, we can begin to show our own transformation so that others will be encouraged to find out the source of our great changes and newfound personal freedom.