SGI members follow the teachings of Nichiren, a Buddhist monk who lived in 13th-century Japan. Nichiren was the son of a fisherman, born in 1222, a time rife with social unrest and natural disasters. The ordinary people, especially, suffered enormously. Nichiren wondered why the teachings of Buddhism had lost their power to enable people to lead happy, empowered lives. His intensive study of the Buddhist sutras convinced him that the Lotus Sutra contained the essence of the Buddha’s enlightenment and that it held the key to transforming people’s suffering and enabling society to flourish.
The Lotus Sutra affirms that all people, regardless of gender, capacity or social standing, inherently possess the qualities of a Buddha, and are therefore equally worthy of the utmost respect.
Based on his study of the sutra, Nichiren established the invocation (chant) of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a universal practice to enable people to manifest the Buddha nature inherent in their own lives and gain the strength and wisdom to challenge and overcome any adverse circumstances. Nichiren saw the Lotus Sutra as a vehicle for people’s empowerment – stressing that everyone can attain enlightenment and enjoy happiness in this world. He first chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo on April 28, 1253, and later inscribed the mandala of the Gohonzon (the object of devotion to enable people to perceive the enlightened life state of the Buddha in graphic form).