Is it OK to try the practice even if I'm not sure I believe in it?

Many people are wary of how some religions tend to emphasize belief without any evidence of how they work. They basically ask for your blind faith. Nichiren Buddhism is different. It is a philosophy and practice of actual proof—belief, or faith, arises from the positive impact the practice has on people's lives, from how it leads to happiness here and now.

Of course, if you are very new to chanting Nam-myoho-rengekyo, you might not have experienced any conspicuous actual proof yet. But at SGI-USA activities, you have no doubt heard members' experiences of having received benefit as well as explanations of how the practice works. This can be your starting point—instead of blind faith, you can begin with an expectation that the practice works and therefore be willing to try it.

Nichiren Daishonin established the criteria of "three proofs" that people should apply to determine the validity of a religious practice: documentary proof, theoretical proof and actual proof. Documentary proof means that the teaching should accord with the Buddhist sutras, considered the collective and comprehensive body of wisdom at the time. Nichiren explains in his writings how chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and sharing it with others actualizes the Lotus Sutra, the highest teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha.

Theoretical proof means that the teaching must accord with reason and logic. Nichiren Buddhism is profoundly based on the principle of cause and effect, of which all phenomena in the universe are an expression. We are not expected to believe in anything that cannot ultimately be explained in light of this principle.

Actual proof means that the teaching actually changes people's lives for the better, that there is undeniable improvement that anyone can see. Nichiren argued that actual proof is the most important of the three: "In judging the relative merit of Buddhist doctrines, I, Nichiren, believe that the best standards are those of reason and documentary proof. And even more valuable than reason and documentary proof is the proof of actual fact" ("Three Tripitaka Masters Pray for Rain," The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 599).

As Nichiren Buddhists, we develop ever-deepening faith through our own experience rather than simply accepting our beliefs from others. Ours is a philosophy of proof, and new members can expect to see actual proof from their practice soon after starting.