Dating from around 400 – 500 B.C.E., Buddhism is based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as “The Buddha” (literally “the Awakened One”) who lived in the northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent. Gautama summed up his life’s work in this passage from The Lotus Sutra:
“At all times I think to myself: How can I cause living beings to gain entry into the unsurpassed way and quickly acquire the body of a Buddha?”(Burton Watson, translator, The Lotus Sutra, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), p. 232.
At its core, Buddhism is a collection of religious and philosophical values and practices whose ultimate goal is the attainment of enlightenment. Unlike most major world religions, Buddhism doesn’t embrace a creator-deity. Instead, Buddhists embrace a Dharma, a word usually rendered in English as Teaching, Way, or Law. And embracing this Dharma is the way to enlightenment.
Gautama taught for roughly fifty years, adapting his teachings to the audience he was addressing. Because of this and other factors, the doctrinal variations among Buddhist schools are often quite remarkable. Generally, Buddhism has evolved into two major branches. The older, Theravada, is widespread in Southeast Asia. The newer, Mahayana, is spread throughout Tibet, China, Korea and Japan. This branch includes, among others, the Pure Land, Zen, Vajrayana and Nichiren schools.
The 12 million members of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) around the world embrace Nichiren Buddhism, a dynamic philosophy grounded in the realities of daily life. This Buddhist practice leads to empowerment and inner transformation or “human revolution” which enables individuals to take responsibility for their lives and contribute to building a world where people of diverse cultures and faiths can live in peace. Nichiren, a 13th century Buddhist reformer, based his teachings on the Lotus Sutra and its core message of the dignity of all life. According to this sutra, all people possess and can manifest the Buddha nature–an unlimited, inherent life state of freedom which enables them to create value out of any situation