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Lotus Sutra

Welcome to the KIG cafe! This is the website of Kansai International Group, English-speaking members of Soka Gakkai who practice Nichiren Buddhism in the Kansai area of Japan which includes the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe. Whether you are living in Kansai, planning a visit, or just browsing, we hope you will find this website infomative and enjoyable.

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        Why KIG?    

By Eddie Estry - KIG Member since 1990

Many people assume that Buddhism is a solitary custom, practiced for one's own personal enlightenment. However, Nichiren's Buddhism is based on the principle of practice for oneself and practice for others.

Practice for oneself is gongyo, which means assiduous practice. This is usually done mornings and evenings, and entails chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo after reciting sections of the Lotus Sutra.

Practice for others means, primarily, to introduce Nichiren Daishonin's teachings to people you know or to whom you have been introduced. Why is this important? Because this is called the Buddhism of action and telling others about this wonderful practice is an act of compassion (jihi). In Buddhism, compassion means to take away unhappiness and give happiness. We can give others the life-long ability to constantly improve their lives. In addition, when we chant daimoku (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo), we also chant for the well-being of others. This development of compassion is a two-way street because it helps us to master our own negative tendencies.

Another important aspect of practice for oneself and practice for others is study. By studying Nichiren's teachings, we are able not only to explain Buddhist philosophy to others, but we are also able to understand its workings better for ourselves. Yet again, we gain our own benefits in the process of benefitting others.

Finally, like the completion of a circle, the above two acts of compassion help to solidify our faith, from which comes our desire to practice this religion and tell others about it. Nichiren Daishonin wrote: "Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself, you must also teach others. Both practice and study arise from faith. Teach others to the best of your ability."

Daisaku Ikeda said: "In Buddhism, faith means a pure heart, a flexible spirit and an open mind. Faith is the function of human life to dispel the dark clouds of doubt, anxiety and regret, and sincerely open and direct one's heart towards something great. Faith might also be characterized as the power that enables the microcosm of the self to sense the universal macrocosm."

Absolute faith that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the universal law of life, exists in ourselves leads to a wonderful sense of security, a state where we know we can deal with anything that life might throw at us. Why wouldn't we want to recommend to our family, friends or anyone we meet in the course of our lives, a practice that can bring about such a state of well-being?

So, why KIG? Well, let me tell you my experience of how I met Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. I'd been in Japan for about two years and was teaching English at a conversation school in Osaka. I was unattached, without any responsibilities, and I could have gone almost anywhere in the world. However, something was nagging at my mind: the age-old question of what was life really about and the equally age-old plea: there must be something else to life, another dimension, because my life was beginning to feel meaningless, without aim or direction. For me, the hedonistic party was over at 39. I then met two people, almost simultaneously, who were to help me change my life, give it an aim and a direction.

I'd read about Buddhism in my twenties and I realized it was a profound philosophy which appealed to my sensibilities much more than my family's Judaism or any other God-based religion. I could never quite have full faith in the idea of an omnipotent power sitting somewhere in heaven in judgment of all beings. But how to apply this Buddhist philosophy to my daily life, how to make it actually work, remained a mystery. Maybe subconsciously remembering this, I had stayed in Japan in the hope that here lay the answer.

Of course, those two people that I met introduced me to KIG and one of them took me to a monthly meeting. At first, I was very skeptical and felt that the Soka Gakkai might be some kind of cult. The practice of chanting to a mandala on a scroll of paper seemed strange, embarrassing and not a little outlandish. But the people there, from many different countries didn't seem strange. Most seemed happy and secure, and the atmosphere was one of conviviality, hospitality and open-mindedness. I was told that this is the Buddhism of actual proof and that I would, without doubt, receive benefits in my life if I started chanting. As it transpired, I had indeed found the key to starting that "engine" of Buddhist philosophy which was about to take me on the greatest trip of my life.

Without the Soka Gakkai, without the great desire of Daisaku Ikeda to take this practice to the world, without the KIG, I would have had only an infinitely small chance of meeting Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. But it doesn't end there. Once you start practicing, you may still harbour doubts, you will still be faced with any of the myriad possible problems that life can throw at you. Being able to meet regularly with other practitioners can help you over all these hurdles. We encourage each other; at the same time we encourage ourselves. However mundane your job or daily life, the Soka Gakkai can be the vehicle to provide your life with magnificent goals: taking an active role in spreading this Buddhism to others and taking part in activities to encourage those already practicing and as a consequence, improving your own life and community.

No, this Buddhism is not a solitary practice, just for your own personal enlightenment. How could it be? We are all connected. To go through just one day comfortably, we rely upon thousands and thousands of other people from the moment we get up. People to make the toilet paper, people to dig the sewers, farmers to cultivate crops and provide us with animal products for our breakfast, publishers to produce our morning newspapers, people to sort and deliver our mail, people to make radio and TV programmes, people to provide internet service. All this and more, before we even go out in the morning! As the Austrian teacher and philosopher Martin Buber once said, "Man becomes an I through a You. There is no true growth that remains purely within the circle of the individual."

For non-Japanese living in the Kansai area, the Kansai International Group can first give you the opportunity to meet this Buddhism and then the opportunity to grow with this Buddhism.

And, as Daisaku Ikeda put it: "There may be times, certainly, when being a member of an organization seems bothersome and we just want to be alone. But how sad is it if we are left alone without any support and then lose our faith. True growth comes from striving together with our fellow members in the living realm of human beings, experiencing the rich gamut of human emotions."

Eddie Estry, KIG member since 1990.

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