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. The complete morning and evening ritual, however, 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 interaction 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.
The Buddha nature is not just a happy feeling or an existential bliss; it is an actual state of life based on the Mystic Law of the universe. We do not need to understand exactly how this Mystic Law works before we can make use of it to our advantage. Laws of nature require neither our understanding nor our belief in them. Although we cannot see the law of gravity, we can attest to its existence. The law of life (Mystic Law), which Buddhism postulates, is far too profound to be fully discussed here. Nonetheless, a few basic concepts can be explained as follows:
Eternity of Life
Some religions teach that we live only one lifetime, and when we die, we go permanently to some beautiful hereafter such as Heaven or some horrific eternal torture chamber known as hell. Buddhism's view of eternal life, however, posits that one's life or essence has no real beginning or end. We live many lifetimes, repeating the cycle of birth and death. Like going to sleep at night, we refresh our bodies and wake up anew.Buddhism explains that our lives possess an eternal and unchanging aspect. When we die, our life functions may stop, but the essence of our lives -- our eternal identity, with myriad causes engraved in it -- continues in a form that cannot be seen. Death then becomes the potential for life. Again, death is just like a rosebush in winter, which contains the potential for flowers (life) within and when the correct external circumstances are present, the roses will bloom (birth).
Everything we've done until this moment adds up to who we are. This is the law of cause and effect. For every cause, there must be an effect. This is karma. We make myriad causes every day through our thoughts, words and deeds, and for each cause we receive an effect.
Buddhism says that, in essence, this law of cause and effect is simultaneous. The moment a cause is created an effect is registered like a seed planted in the depths of life. In fact, this law is symbolized by the lotus flower, which seeds and blooms at the same time. While the effect is planted the same instant the cause is created, it may not appear instantly. When the correct external circumstances appear, the effect will then transform from potential to actual. Looked at another way, our karma is like a bank balance of latent effects we'll experience when our lives meet the right environmental conditions.
As we live our lives (making causes), effects reside within us, and when we die, those effects dictate the circumstances of our birth in the next life. When we are reborn, therefore, we still face the same problems or karma from causes we have made. This goes a long way to explaining why people are born under such different circumstances -- in other words, why people have different karma.
This principle suggests we can change our karma or destiny that we may have thought unchangeable. This is the great hope and promise offered by Buddhist practice. While in theory all we have to do is make the best causes to get the best effects, many times we feel we have little control over the causes we make. A prime example is when we get angry at and say something we don't really mean to people who are close to us. At such times, the condition of anger may seem more powerful than our general nature. When we practice Buddhism, however, we can establish Buddhahood as our basic condition of life and face our circumstances filled with wisdom and compassion.