Transforming Our Society Into a Buddha Land
It may seem at times that society’s problems are too complex and overwhelming for ordinary people to transform, but as President Ikeda teaches, peace is a competition between resignation and hope.
Can humanity come together to construct a new age, in which ordinary people enjoy peace and security? Is world peace possible?
On July 16, 1260, 758 years ago this month, Nichiren Daishonin submitted his landmark treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land” to Hojo Tokiyori, the de facto ruler of the Japanese military government.
What motivated Nichiren to remonstrate with the authorities? Japan at the time had experienced an unending series of natural disasters, including severe earthquakes, extreme weather and epidemics—all of which caused ordinary people to suffer without end.
In this writing, which takes the form of a dialogue between a host and guest, Nichiren describes this suffering, which he witnessed firsthand:
Famine and epidemics rage more fiercely than ever, beggars are everywhere in sight, and scenes of death fill our eyes. Corpses pile up in mounds like observation platforms, and dead bodies lie side by side like planks on a bridge. (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 6)
Nichiren searched exhaustively through the Buddhist scriptures for a way to lead all people out of the depths of suffering. He concluded that the country’s turmoil lay in its negation of the Lotus Sutra and its teaching of universal enlightenment.
Nichiren, in particular, called out the slander of the Law by the Pure Land teachings, which held that people lacked the capacity or wisdom to attain enlightenment. Rather, the most they could do was to chant a phrase that would enable them to be reborn in a distant paradise. This sort of thinking disempowered people, weakening them and leading to the deterioration of society. President Ikeda explains:
The Daishonin doesn’t remonstrate with the country’s rulers in this treatise in order to demand that they abandon all teachings except for the Lotus Sutra. He is insisting that they abandon intolerant, exclusionary doctrines that call on people to discard the Lotus Sutra, which teaches the supreme dignity and worth of life. (January 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 36)
Nichiren wrote that the state of Japanese society was a reflection of the deluded impulses within human beings—the three poisons of “greed, anger and foolishness,” which are the fundamental evils inherent in life.
In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, he states:
Because anger increases in intensity, strife of arms occurs. Because greed increases in intensity, famine arises. Because foolishness increases in intensity, pestilence breaks out. And because these three calamities occur, earthly desires grow more powerful and false views increasingly flourish. (p. 33)
If this held true in Nichiren’s time, how much more so today, when people are consumed by their own egoism, solely seeking their own profit and gain?
Today, we face the threat of nuclear weapons, climate change, acts of senseless violence and discrimination, which can be traced to a fundamental lack of respect for the dignity of life. While most people desire peace, they struggle to find a way to translate their cry for peace into concrete action.
Nichiren concluded that, rather than focusing solely on adjusting the framework of society, lasting peace would be brought about when the people who inhabit society changed. He writes:
Therefore, you must quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart and embrace the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]. If you do so, then the threefold world will become the Buddha land, and how could a Buddha land ever decline? (WND-1, 25)
His powerful conclusion is echoed in the preamble to the constitution of UNESCO, which declares: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.” In his lecture on this writing, SGI President Ikeda writes:
People are seeking a philosophy that will lead to genuine happiness. They are earnestly searching, from the depths of their beings, for a new movement dedicated to helping everyone reveal their inherent dignity and, through the power of dialogue, expanding a network of good and creating a world of harmony and peaceful coexistence. (January 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 32)
The SGI is the movement advancing human happiness and harmony based on Nichiren’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.”
What Does It Mean to “Establish the Correct Teaching”?
Nichiren Daishonin wrote “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land” to proclaim that the way to transform society is to transform the hearts of one person after another by helping them establish in their hearts the philosophy of respect for the sanctity of life.
He delivered the treatise in the form of a dialogue between a host, represented by Nichiren, and a guest, represented by someone who has put their faith in the authorities, to demonstrate that sustained, one-to-one dialogue is the direct way to achieve societal change.
In the end, the guest makes his own determination to awaken others to the truth of the Lotus Sutra, realizing happiness for oneself and others, stating: “It is not enough that I alone should accept and have faith in your words—we must see to it that others as well are warned of their errors” (WND-1, 26).
50,000 Lions of Justice
What does the SGI-USA’s effort to gather 50,000 Lions of Justice on September 23 have to do with Nichiren’s treatise? The American transcendentalist philosopher Henry David Thoreau noted, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”1
The goal of gathering 50,000 youth is a direct call to expand our movement of human revolution and dialogue in order to transform society at its roots.
By expanding this movement to awaken each person to the sanctity of life, we are directly confronting and overcoming the ways of thinking that justify war, violence, discrimination and the degradation of our natural environment.
When he made his declaration for the abolition of nuclear weapons in 1957, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda proclaimed in front of 50,000 Soka Gakkai youth:
Although a movement to ban the testing of nuclear weapons is now underway around the world, it is my wish to attack the problem at its root, that is, to rip out the claws that are hidden in the very depths of this issue. (The Human Revolution, p. 1780)
President Ikeda explains:
As people grow wiser and stronger, the ideals of the sanctity of life and the absolute importance of peace will become more widely accepted and established in society . . . In order to create such a society, it is crucial to widely spread the philosophical principles of the sanctity of life, respect for all people and peace-building. (November 2011 Living Buddhism, pp. 28–29)
Striving as a Lion of Jusice
What kind of world will the coming generations inherit? Our efforts now to make a difference in the hearts of 50,000 young people with the spirit of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land” is the direct path to creating a bright future for ourselves and our loved ones.
Nichiren expresses this sentiment in the following passage, which forms the foundation of the SGI’s peace movement: “If you care anything about your personal security, you should first of all pray for order and tranquillity throughout the four quarters of the land, should you not?” (WND-1, 24). President Ikeda elaborates:
Essentially, our personal security is not something that can be established in isolation. For each of us to enjoy a life that is safe and secure, it is crucial that both the natural environment and the society in which we live are flourishing in peace and stability. (January 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 36)
It may seem at times that society’s problems are too complex and overwhelming for ordinary people to transform, but as President Ikeda teaches, peace is a competition between resignation and hope. This is what the 50,000 Lions of Justice movement represents.
President Ikeda writes:
The moment our mindset changes, we create a cause in the present that can definitely transform the effect manifested in the future. Nichiren Buddhism is the Buddhism of the Sun. It is a philosophy of hope that enables us to transform the present and realize a bright future. Those who embrace this philosophy need never feel despondent or hopeless. They need never give in to complaint. What matters is our inner resolve right now. (May 15, 2009, World Tribune, p. 4)
Together, let us powerfully call forth the life condition of the Buddha with abundant daimoku [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] and shakubuku, and embark on a great adventure of dialogue and encouragement!