Answers to Ultimate Questions
As noted in other sections above, Soka Gakkai teaches that Nam-myoho-renge-kyoexpresses the ‘universal law of life’, and that its recitation “allows each individual to tap into the wisdom of their life to reveal their Buddha nature” (SGI-USA: 2016). The phrase thus encapsulates the Soka Gakkai belief that each individual has Buddha nature. When an individual lives by the universal law, through dedication to and daily repetition of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, s/he can “deal effectively with any situation” and can work towards the happiness of self and others (SGI-USA: 2016). A central teaching of Soka Gakkai is that individual change will lead to societal, and then global, change: “empowered global citizens” will work for change in their own communities. SGI describes itself as “Buddhism in Action for Peace”. SGI also teaches that dedication to the Lotus Sutra is the only means of salvation in the current ‘Latter Day of the Law’, also known as the ‘Age of Decay’ (mappō).
According to Soka Gakkai teachings, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables us to “see, hear, smell and taste more clearly”, while “our sense of touch becomes more sensitive, and we begin to perceive and make judgements about both the physical and abstract world with greater clarity” (SGI-UK 2017: 38). This accords with the Buddhist teaching about the Nine Levels of Perception or Consciousness shared by all living beings.
The first five consciousnesses corresponded to the five senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. The sixth consciousness enables us to make judgements about physical things – for example, recognising that a chair is hard and that we can sit on it, or that an apple is edible. The seventh consciousness is about discerning the abstract and making moral judgements. The eighth consciousness stores our underlying habits, dislikes, likes and other personality traits as an accumulation of our karma. The ninth consciousness is the life-force itself, which Nichiren Buddhists call Myoho-renge-kyo. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo thus enables us to attain the ninth consciousness and to purify all the other eight consciousnesses.