The central scripture for Soka Gakkai followers, as with other Nichiren Buddhists, is the Lotus Sutra, a text which is presented as taught by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, although scholars suggest that it was perhaps composed around 200 CE. The Lotus Sutra and other Mahayana sutras teach that the Buddha had been enlightened from time immemorial, even though historically he appeared to live and die like an ordinary man (Keown 1996: 62).
The Lotus Sutra is the scriptural focus of reverence for Nichiren Buddhists. Its very title forms the basis of the Nichiren chant – nam is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘dedication’ or ‘devotion’ while Myoho Renge Kyo is the name of the Chinese translation of the Lotus Sutra (SGI-UK 2017: 18). According to Soka Gakkai, the combination of Sanskrit and Chinese in the phrase also indicates the universality of its teachings.
According to Soka Gakkai, it is not necessary to believe in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in order to start practising the chant – faith develops organically after the practitioner begins to experience the benefits of chanting (SGI-UK 2017: 6).
In addition to the Lotus Sutra, Soka Gakkai followers also engage in in-depth study of other Buddhist texts, especially The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, compiled by Josei Toda (1900-1958), the group’s second leader. Also known as the Gosho, it carries immense prestige within Soka Gakkai, alongside the Lotus Sutra (Montgomery 1991: 189). Additionally, Soka Gakkai members around the world follow the teachings, public speeches and writings of their current leader, Daisaku Ikeda (b. 1928).