What is Buddhism?

The Name “Buddhism” comes from the Sanskrit word “Buddha”, meaning “Awakened One”. Buddha does not indicate a supernatural, or special being, but rather a potential that any human being can realize. Historically, the first Buddha was Siddhartha Gautama, or Shakyamuni, who lived in India About 3000 years ago. The purpose of his teachings was to enable people to overcome the sufferings which all people inevitably face and allow them to live a truly happy and fulfilled life. The Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni’s highest teaching, points out that all people have within themselves the potential for enlightenment, a condition of immeasurable wisdom, compassion, energy, and joy.

 For many centuries however emphasis on monastic life and the mastery of complex doctrines restricted Buddhism to a small elite. Nichiren Daishonin established a universally accessible form of Buddhist practice on April 28, 1253 when he first began chanting and propagating Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.   Myoho Renge Kyo is the title in Ancient Japanese of the Lotus Sutra and Nam, derived from Sanskrit, an expression of devotion.  By chanting this phrase, he taught that all people, irrespective of ability or understanding, could attain enlightenment themselves, overcoming sorrow and establishing eternal, indestructible happiness, for themselves and the world in which they live.

The Buddhism Nichiren Daishonin established has been handed down for seven centuries.  The Soka Gakkai, founded in Japan in 1930, and the SGI-USA, founded in the United States in 1960, are both lay organizations.  There are now more than 17 million people throughout the world who are practicing this Buddhism and receiving many benefits.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

This Practice centers on chanting the phrase Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, which expresses the ultimate truth or the Law of life. 

Nam means ‘dedication’, or to fuse one’s life with and gain boundless wisdom from, the fundamental life force of the Universe.

Myoho literally means the mystic Law and is the essential and ultimate principle or law of the Universe.

Renge Means the Lotus Flower, a symbol for simultaneous cause and effect.  Buddhism teaches the law of karmic causality penetrating past present and future.  This law is not imposed on us by some external or supernatural power but operates within life itself.

Each individual is therefore accountable for his or her own fate.  Because chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo allows the individual to tap life’s inherent Buddha nature directly, irrespective of past karma, one can in the present moment, gain the power and wisdom to live confidently and change karma, immediately redirecting his or her life to a more desirable future. The pure lotus blossom, which grows in a muddy swamp, also symbolizes the emergence of Buddhahood within the life of the ordinary person.

Lastly, Kyo means sutra, the teaching of a Buddha

The Gohonzon

Nichiren Daishonin established the object of worship (Gohonzon), which is a scroll and is the object of most fundamental respect in this Buddhism.  In the center of the Gohonzon are written the Chinese characters “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Nichiren”.

Thus the Gohonzon is the physical object embodying the perfect fusion of the ultimate law of the universe and the person, Nichiren Daishonin, who was enlightened to it.

Individual Gohonzons are enshrined in the homes of believers or in activity centers.  These Gohonzons are transcriptions of the Dai-Gohonzon, which was inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin in 1279.

Chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo with faith in the Gohonzon brings forth our innate Buddha nature and power of the universal law from within our own lives.

Benefits OF Practice

Many positive changes, such as better health, a happier family life or an improved financial situation will be seen early on in one’s practice of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.  The True benefit however, lies in the deep-rooted wisdom, good fortune and youthful state of life, which one develops over a period of years.  Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is therefore a lifetime practice.  By chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, one can bring out his or her highest potential, more capably directing his or her destiny.  The practice fundamentally revitalizes one’s life so that one can challenge problems and courageously pursue individual dreams.   Growing in this way, a person becomes more and more capable of contributing to the happiness of others, thus helping to establish a harmonious society and peaceful world.


Revolution generally implies a dramatic or sweeping change. Throughout history people have attempted to improve their lot by trying to reform the environment, for example by overthrowing unjust governments, campaigning against war and poverty, or protesting against pollution.  However, despite the most sincere and exhaustive measures, the most fundamental problems often remain.   In the light of the Buddhist teachings, we would say that this is because the inner world of the human being has not changed. 

According to the Buddhist view, the individual human being and his or her environment are fundamentally one, and society accordingly reflects the people who live in it.  As long as people continue to base their actions on misplaced selfishness, fear, greed, or other emotions that go against the dignity of life similar distortions will appear in their surrounding.

However, as each person brings forth his or her inherent Buddha nature by chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and develops a progressively more enlightened way of life, an unshakable basis is created for a peaceful and harmonious society.

Human Revolution refers to the process of elevating one’s basic life tendency through he dedication to Buddhist practice, gradually establishing Buddhahood as one’s fundamental state.  Upon this basis, all one’s traits and attributes will come to function positively so as to benefit oneself and others.

Human revolution thus implies a change not of personality or individual characters, but of the life condition on which they are based.  The concept of human revolution includes bringing forth the Buddha nature, changing negative karma, perfecting character, overcoming obstacles, attaining enlightenment in this lifetime and laying the groundwork for a peaceful world through the awakening of many individuals. 


Soka Gakkai International—USA (SGI—USA) is the largest lay organization of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism in the United States.  SGI—USA helps people learn and practice this Buddhism, opening a way for them to overcome their problems, greatly develop their individual capabilities and contribute positively to the happiness of others.  SGI-USA has sister organizations in more than 119 countries where believers practice. An umbrella organization, the Soka Gakkai International, headed by Daisaku Ikeda, links the efforts of members worldwide. 

SGI-USA was organized in 1960.  Coming from diverse social and ethnic backgrounds, SGI-USA members practice in every state, as well as Guam and Puerto Rico.

SGI-USA’s goal is to introduce the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism to American society.  One vehicle for this endeavor is the discussion meeting, a small gathering generally held in someone’s home, where members learn through each other’s experiences in Buddhist practice and also answer the questions of newcomers.  Introductory meetings, group practice, study and informational meetings comprise SGI-USA’s basic activities.  SGI-USA also aims at promoting Peace, culture and education based on respect for the dignity of life, which Buddhism teaches.


Buddhist Information Of North America (BIONA) is composed of various students who want to help people find a Buddhist practice in their area.  We also provide free study materials to people all over the world.  We are located in Kansas City, Kansas in The United States Of America  and can be reached at (913) 722-0900.  Outside the Kansas City area please use this toll-free number: (800) 576-9212. These numbers can be called twenty-four hours any day of the year. There is never any charge for any service from Buddhist Information.