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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.

***

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If you would like to email me with more information, please do so at miglet@internetoutlet.net. 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

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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.

Picture of Purple Lotus Flower; Actual size=130 pixels wide

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