Soka Gakkai, anyone?
Neha Das, Feb 03, 2012 :
There is silence here as soon as you open the door.
But suddenly everyone gets ready to sit with feet folded below or in the Buddha’s lotus posture, to chant in unison, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo – a prayer for peace. A calm descends on the room as each one shares their joys and worries, seeking courage from one another’s victories in the daily struggle of life.
A growing number of well-educated, young and upwardly mobile men and women are seeking personal salvation through a variant of Buddhist practice that has become popular in urban middle-class India.
The philosophy behind this phenomenon is basic: The belief and the conviction that the power to change one’s life lies within oneself.
Buddhism originated in the Indian subcontinent around 2,500 years ago. Its teachings derive from Shakyamuni, also known as Gautama or Siddhartha, who dedicated his life to finding the means to liberate people from the universal sufferings of life and develop spiritual strength. His teachings were later compiled into sutras, and numerous schools of Buddhism sprang up as his teachings spread after his death.
“The practice has helped me handle stress and strain of every day life. I am encouraged and supported by the local members and the philosophy of Buddhism and 13th century Japanese priest Nichiren Daishonin’s writings. They are very inspiring and relevant in our daily life. This practice gives me strength to look ahead in life without any kind of fear or loss,” said Ishita Kapoor, a practicing member.
Nichiren established the chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo as the way to awaken one’s Buddha nature and tap into the deepest levels of our existence, on which our own lives and that of the universe are one. He first taught invocation of the phrase to a small group at Seicho-ji temple in Awa province, Japan, on April 28, 1253.
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the name of the Lotus Sutra in Japanese pronunciation of classical Chinese characters, and so its literal meaning is ‘I devote myself to the Lotus Sutra’. The core element of the Buddhist practice conducted by members of the Soka Gakkai India (SGI) is chanting the phrase Nam Myoho Renge Kyo or devotion to the Lotus Sutra, which was identified by Nichiren as the key to developing the Buddha nature.
“I have seen things change in my life. It has personally changed me as a person,” said Pallavi Mishra, another practitioner. Same is the case with Ankita Sharma, a college student, “I was very depressed with my studies in first year but then a member introduced me to this practice and since then I have learnt to be happy in whatever situation I am in. I feel happy from inside and that is what is important,” she smiles.
Chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo enables people to unleash their hidden potential and unlock the courage and compassion to transform their lives and create positive values in their family, community and society. Members usually chant to a mandala called gohonzon which is enshrined in their homes.
This primary practice is supported by reciting passages of the Lotus Sutra, as well as studying Buddhist teachings. Another key activity is the discussion meeting, which provides members and guests with the opportunity to share their experiences in faith and support and learn from each other.