Lotus Buddhism / FAQ / What is Soka Buddha?

What is Soka Buddha?

The word ”Buddha” is used in two ways:

  • to refer to a person (who attained enlightenment),

  • to refer to a state of life : the “Buddha State” (of enlightenment).

The Lotus Sutra presents the state of Buddhahood as inseparable from the practice of the Bodhisattvas, who share the same life-orientation and commitment to propagate its highest teachings.

SGI as a gathering of Bodhsiattva-Buddhas

In his writing ”The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra” Nichiren urges his disciples to form their network to spread his teachings: “My disciples, form your [groups] and follow me”.  Based on the principle of the Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds, Nichiren regarded his followers as being  basically Bodhisattvas-Buddhas:

“The Buddha, who is the entity of Myoho-renge-kyo of the Life Span Chapter….

he is to be found in the disciples and lay believers of Nichiren”.    WND1 p 417

P.Toda introduced the concept of “Soka Buddha” referring to the Community of Soka, whose shared spirit of all members forms ‘one integral and collective life force’ carrying out the Buddha’s work.

From this perspective, “Soka Buddha” refers to the compassionate wisdom and courage of ‘The Community of Bodhisattvas revealing their Buddhahood’.

The focus here is not on any particular person or individual - but on the activities of the “State of Buddhahood” expressed in the common integral efforts of all SGI members, aimed at KosenRufu.

Can an organisation represent a certain state of life in the Ten Worlds?

Not only individuals experience the Ten Worlds.  Organisations or institutions, also manifest a certain kind of collective spirit, for example, a university expresses the World of Learning, and medical institutions express the function of humanism, compassion and easing sufferings, etc.   Buddhist communities represent the World of Bodhisattva. 

It is possible to trace the establishment of the society of Bodhisattva to Shakyamuni Buddha’s time.  With Shakyamuni’s leadership, his followers formed the samgha or “Society of Buddhist Practitioners”.  The Buddha’s followers established their various organisations, each based on particular teachings of Buddhism, collectively manifesting in this way the  ‘World of Bodhisattva’.

Life expresses itself in the form of the individual, society and the environment. As the teaching of the Three Realms explains, the Ten Worlds exist in the life of the three domains of the: Individual, Living Beings and the Environment. 

Accordingly, the state of Buddhahood manifests itself in the life of the individual, as well as the group of practicing individuals (or their society) and also in their environment.  Based on this perspective, the world of Bodhisattva and Buddha can be manifest in the collective life of their organisation and their institutions and environment.   A Buddhist culture centre where activities are held and Gohonzon is enshrined - manifests the environment of the world of ‘Bodhisattva - Buddha’ .

The Three Properties of Buddhahood in SGI activities

Mahayana Buddhism refers to the three “Buddha bodies” (or three enlightened aspects) - expressing the three virtues of Wisdom, Compassion and Action.  These virtues are also expressed collectively by the SGI, which offers the stage for :

  • the wisdom of the Buddha in its study on the Lotus Sutra and discussion meetings

  • the virtue of compassion in the vast network of caring and supporting members, and  

  • taking action such as in exchanges and dialogues, training courses or in involvement in society.

Unity in Diversity: “Different in Bodies, One in Purpose”

“As long as the fundamental spirit of striving for kosen-rufu demonstrated by the first three presidents pulses vitally in our organisation, and all our members are united in the spirit of ‘many in body, one in mind,’ the Soka Gakkai will forever possess the great life force of the Buddha who seeks to lead all people to enlightenment.

“Endowed with this power of the Buddha, the Soka Gakkai towers as a community of practitioners solidly united in purpose, a great and indestructible bastion of the shared commitment of mentor and disciple that will defeat even the fiercest onslaughts of the ‘three obstacles and four devils.'

“President Toda predicted that in the Buddhist scriptures of the future, the Soka Gakkai’s name would be recorded as ‘Soka Gakkai Buddha.’ (SGI Newsletter No. 9583, The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, Part 3)

“Mr. Toda used to say that the Soka Gakkai is an organisation functioning in accord with the Buddha’s intent, and even called it ‘Soka Gakkai Buddha.’ By taking kosen-rufu as our personal mission and uniting with our fellow members, we become a part of ‘Soka Gakkai Buddha’ and open the way to realising indestructible happiness.” (Source: SGI Newsletter No. 9717, The New Human Revolution––Vol. 27: Chap. 3, Fierce Struggle 30, translation released 3rd Oct. 2017)