benefit ［功徳］ ( guna or punya; kudoku): Also, merit, virtue, or blessing. In Buddhism, (1) meritorious acts or Buddhist practice that produce beneficial reward in this or future existences; and (2) benefit gained as a result of such good deeds or Buddhist practice. The Buddhist view of the law of causality holds that benefits accompany meritorious deeds. Deeds recognized as bringing about benefits differ among Buddhist schools. In general, however, religious deeds such as building monasteries or temples, erecting stupas, making images of the Buddha, transcribing sutras, and the practice of prayer have been considered throughout the history of Buddhism as major sources of benefit.
The “Expedient Means” (second) chapter of the Lotus Sutra reads, “If there are those who hear the Law, then not a one will fail to attain Buddhahood.” The “Perceiver of the World’s Sounds” (twenty-fifth) chapter of the sutra describes the beneficent power possessed by the bodhisattva Perceiver of the World’s Sounds to save the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra from all kinds of crises. The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra explains ten inconceivable benefits, the fourth of which, for instance, it describes as follows: “If living beings are able to hear this sutra, though they hear only one recitation, one verse, or just one line, they will be filled with brave and stalwart thoughts. Though they have not yet saved themselves, they will be able to save others.” The sutras describe the various meritorious deeds and practices Shakyamuni carried out in his past existences and the benefits he consequently enjoyed in his life in India.
In his Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind, Nichiren (1222–1282) states: “Shakyamuni’s practices and the virtues he consequently attained are all contained within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. If we believe in these five characters, we will naturally be granted the same benefits as he was” (365). Nichiren also states in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings: “Benefit means the reward of purification of the six sense organs [eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind]. . . .” Nichiren thus associates benefit with the purification of the mind and other human faculties that results from Buddhist practice, specifically from the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.