The main practice engaged in by followers of Soka Gakkai is o daimoku, or the daily chanting of the phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Members hold that this practice is what helps them to raise their ‘life-condition’ and change previously held attitudes into more positive ways of being (SGI-UK 2017: 3). In addition, daily practice involves reciting important portions of the Lotus Sutra. Together, the daily practices of o daimoku and recitation of the Lotus Sutra are known as ‘gongyo’, which means ‘assiduous practice’. After a prospective member has been practising gongyo for a few months, they receive their own Gohonzon replica in a ceremony called gojukai, to “take the precepts,” or uphold exclusive reverence for the Gohonzon (McLaughlin 2013). The Gohonzon is a paper scroll inscribed with the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Nichiren.
Some tips from Soka Gakkai on how to chant include (SGI-UK 2017: 14):
• Sitting upright with palms together and eyes open
• Repeating the phrase Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, focusing on sincerity and correct pronunciation
• Chanting in a ‘firm, clear, vibrant’ voice without worrying too much about volume
• Chanting for as long as it is desired
Soka Gakkai also engage in regular study of the letters (‘gosho’) addressed by Nichiren Daishonin to his disciples. These individual practices are complemented by collective Buddhist activities organised by what are known as ‘local districts’, which can take the form of discussion meetings held in people’s homes (SGI-UK 2017: 5). Sharing the teachings with others with a view to helping them overcome their problems is a central practice of SGI.
Soka Gakkai voluntary ‘ministers of ceremony’ perform life cycle rituals for members including weddings and funerals.