The SGI is based on the teachings and philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, which places the highest emphasis on the sanctity of life. Members seek, through their practice of Buddhism, to develop the ability to live with confidence, to create value in any circumstance and to contribute to the well-being of friends, family and community.
Our philosophy is rooted in the concept of "human revolution," a process of inner transformation through Buddhist practice. It is a process that leads us to develop our character and to act not only for our personal fulfillment but also for the betterment of society.
We believe that happiness is being able to experience profound joy that comes from never being defeated by any problem in life. In fact, we use life’s challenges as catalysts to deepen and expand our inner lives. True happiness results from our efforts to manifest our highest potential — wisdom, compassion, courage and vitality.
The SGI-USA is the American branch of the SGI network, with more than 2,600 neighborhood discussion groups and nearly 100 SGI-USA centers throughout the country.
The core activity for all SGI-USA members is the neighborhood discussion meeting. These informal gatherings bring people together for Buddhist prayer, study, sharing and discussion of ways Buddhism can be applied to the challenges of daily living.
Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism appeared in 13th century Japan as the means to free people from the four inescapable sufferings of this world: birth, aging, sickness, and death. Nichiren expressed the content of Shakyamuni's (the historical founder of Buddhism in India) Lotus Sutra in a form that all people could practice. This form is the invocation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which he defined as the Law implied in the Lotus Sutra.
Whereas the Lotus Sutra is an expression of Shakyamuni's enlightenment to the Law of Life, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo actually is the Law of life, or true essense of life permeating everything in the universe. Nichiren Daishonin interpreted the Lotus Sutra in relation to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and taught that this was the ultimate Law that all Buddhist sutras, especially the Lotus Sutra, had sought to express.
Nichiren, the founder of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, lived in 13th century Japan. After mastering all the sutras and Buddhist literature, he declared Nam-myoho-renge kyo to be the ultimate Law, or true entity of life permeating all phenomena in the universe. Nichiren advocated chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the first time in 1253, declaring the establishment of a new Buddhism. From then on, he dedicated himself to propagating Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the True Law.
The Lotus Sutra teaches that by believing in and practicing the Buddha's teachings, all people can attain enlightenment, therefore implying the importance of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Nichiren both perceived the exact nature of the Law to be propogated and awoke to his self-identity as Bodhisattva Jogyo, the leader of the bodhisattvas who emerged from the earth and were entrusted with the mission of propagating the True Law in the ceremony described in the latter part of the Lotus Sutra.
Nichiren revealed his true identity as the original Buddha, whose purpose was to open the way to Buddhahood for all people. In 1279 he inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon for the enlightenment of all people, thus fulfilling the purpose of his advent.
Nichiren stated that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the essential reality of life. As such, it cannot be understood by verbal definition alone. Only the practice of Buddhism can ultimately reveal the deepest meaning of the phrase. The following explanation is taken from The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1: "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 that it exists. Yet you 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 and nonexistence. It is neither existence nor nonexistence, yet exhibits the qualitites 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.
"Renge, the lotus flower, symbolizes the wonder of this Law. Once you realize that your own life is the Mystic Law, you will realize that so are the lives of all others. That realization is the mystic kyo, or sutra. It is the king of sutras, the direct path to enlightenment, for it explains that the entity of our minds, from which spring both good and evil, is in fact the entity of the Mystic Law.
"If you have deep faith in this truth and chant Myoho-renge-kyo, you are certain to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. That is why the sutra states, 'After my death, you must embrace this sutra. Those who do so shall travel the straight road to Buddhahood.'"