Feature

"A Religion of Human Revolution"

A report on the North America and Oceania Study Conference.

Photo by Victor Golden


HIDEYUKI TAKANO
SGI VICE STUDY LEADER

WESTON, Fla., Nov. 16–19—Someone once asked SGI President Ikeda how the Soka Gakkai had been able to develop to the extent it had. He answered by saying, “It’s because I have thoroughly cherished and treasured each person.”

Coming together on the auspicious weekend of Nov. 18, Soka Gakkai Founding Day, 185 representatives from the U.S., St. Maarten, Canada, New Zealand and Australia gathered at the SGI-USA Florida Nature and Culture Center to deepen their bodhisattva vow at the North America and Oceania Study Conference, led by SGI Vice Study Leader Hideyuki Takano.

In a message, President Ikeda asked the participants to “lead lives filled with joy, harmony and brilliant achievements as you write your own stories of eternal victory together with the youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth who will determine the future of humanity.”

During the four-day conference, Mr. Takano lectured on President Ikeda’s study series for “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime”; and two subseries of “The Buddhism of the Sun—Illuminating the World,” “A Religion for Human Revolution”[1]The “A Religion for Human Revolution” subseries was published in the October 2017–September 2018 issues of Living Buddhism. and “To My Beloved Youth.”[2]The “To My Beloved Youth” subseries is currently being serialized in Living Buddhism, starting with the October 2018 issue.

This conference was held on the heels of a two-year effort to accelerate the pace of kosen-rufu toward this Nov. 18, the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu.

Beginning with the SGI-USA youth, who victoriously gathered 50,000 young Lions of Justice in September, all were filled with the joy and vitality gained from their earnest efforts, as they refreshed their spirits to set out on new challenges.

The characteristics of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of the people can be expressed in various ways. These include: “Treasuring a single individual,” “enabling all people to reveal their Buddhahood” and “changing our karma into mission.”

“A religion of human revolution” is a clear and concise way of expressing these qualities, said SGI Vice Study Leader Hideyuki Takano. “For SGI members, the accumulation of our daily efforts for human revolution lead to kosen-rufu.”

At the North America and Oceania Study Conference, Mr. Takano lectured on SGI President Ikeda’s 12-part subseries “A Religion of Human Revolution,” from the landmark study series “The Buddhism of the Sun—Illuminating the World,” focusing on passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings while emphasizing themes such as possessing the heart of a lion king, summoning hope and basing one’s life on the shared struggle of mentor and disciple.

Nichiren Buddhism is a religion of human revolution.

In the first installment of the subseries, President Ikeda opens his lecture on the theme “the heart of a lion king,” describing why the problems confronting humanity cannot be solved by external changes alone. He states:

We must remember that the fundamental goal is people’s happiness. Stay connected to the people! Awaken to the dignity and preciousness of life! Change must start with people themselves! Now is the time for humanity to return to these basic points.

Given all of this, what should be the central guiding principles of religion in the 21st century? I assert that they are humanism and human revolution.[3]October 2017 Living Buddhism, p. 43.

Mr. Takano shared that the relationship between human revolution and kosen-rufu is often compared to the relationship between the earth’s rotation on its axis and its revolution around the sun: It is the accumulation of each that opens up the path to happiness for humanity.

“Whether you’re talking about peace or your personal happiness, it all starts with your individual human revolution,” he said. “This is why Nichiren Buddhism is called the ‘religion of human revolution.’ ”

Being concerned with the well-being of each person is the very purpose of religion.

The Lotus Sutra offers a secret means for leading all living beings to Buddhahood. It leads one person in the realm of hell, one person in the realm of hungry spirits, and thus one person in each of the nine realms of existence to Buddhahood, and thereby the way is opened for all living beings to attain Buddhahood. The situation is like the joints in a piece of bamboo: if one joint is ruptured, then all the joints will split.[4]“Letter to Horen,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 512.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda expanded on and developed the meaning of human revolution based on the correct spirit and interpretation of Nichiren Buddhism.

He expressed the goal of Buddhist practice—attaining Buddhahood—as human revolution, or transforming one’s life, thereby reviving in contemporary times the idea of attaining enlightenment.

Although the Daishonin refers to the Lotus Sutra as “a secret means for leading all living beings to Buddhahood” (WND-1, 512), everything starts with a single individual.

“If we’re not able to help the person before us reveal their Buddhahood, then we won’t be able to help all people attain enlightenment,” Mr. Takano said. “This is why the Daishonin stresses the importance of assisting a single individual in becoming a Buddha.”

When we stand up with the same spirit as Nichiren, the path to attaining Buddhahood and fulfilling our great mission opens broadly before us.

To be sure, Nichiren uses the metaphor of splitting a single joint in a bamboo stalk to describe how the attainment of Buddhahood by a single person opens the way for the enlightenment of many.

President Ikeda elaborates:

Whichever of the Ten Worlds we may be in, once we decide to live based on the Mystic Law, which enables us to believe in and tap the infinite potential that resides within each of us, we can discover a bright future ahead. We are filled with the courage to challenge ourselves. We can bring forth an intrepid fighting spirit, unflagging hope, steadfast determination and perseverance. We awaken to our personal mission, the purpose for which we were born into this world. Our view of life changes and our way of living also fundamentally changes. Through our own actions, we can change our reality.

That’s why each person is important. Our basic spirit must always be tovalue each individual. This, to me, is the essence of a religion of human revolution.

When we speak of “all living beings” or “all humankind,” we are not treating them as abstract concepts or ideals. Our focus is on the real, living person before our eyes—on how we can help this individual become happy, transform their karma and dispel the darkness of suffering shrouding their life. A religion that cannot help the individual is empty of true meaning. Being concerned with the well-being of each person is the very purpose and reason for a religion’s existence.[5]October 2017 Living Buddhism

“Discussion meetings are occasions for inspiring people in their human revolution.”

All disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the spirit of many in body but one in mind, transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death. Herein lies the true goal of Nichiren’s propagation. When you are so united, even the great desire for widespread propagation can be fulfilled.[6]“The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” WND-1, 217.

The final installment of The New Human Revolution, President Ikeda’s 30-volume novelized history of the Soka Gakkai, was published in the Seikyo Shimbun on Sept. 8—the day in 1957 when President Toda issued his Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.

President Toda used to refer to his personal philosophy as “global citizenship.” This term, Mr. Takano said, represented his fervent conviction that now is the time to open throughout the world a path for peace and coexistence, transcending differences in race and ideology.

What undergirds this philosophy of peace? “It is the Lotus Sutra and, above all, the life philosophy of the Mystic Lawtaught by Nichiren Daishonin, which holds that all people equally possess dignity and are worthy of respect,” Mr. Takano said.

Buddhism accords respect to all peopleand, thus, brings about harmony. The above passage in “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life” explains the idea of “many in body, one in mind,” which represents a principle of harmony based on the Mystic Law and serves as a guidepost for kosen-rufu.

As reflected in the Daishonin’s call “All disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren,” the foundation of Nichiren Buddhism is faith based on the oneness of mentor and disciple. “The vertical thread of the oneness of mentor and disciple, and the horizontal thread of kosen-rufu combine to weave a multi-colored banner of peace and happiness in the world,” he said.

In this passage, Nichiren teaches three keys for transmitting to all people “the heritage of the ultimate Law of life” for their enlightenment. They are:

1. “Transcending all differences among ourselves”—getting rid of distinctions of self and the other that cause conflicts and egoistic impulses.

2. “Being as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim”—mutually respecting, understanding and supporting one another, just like fish cherish water.

3. “Uniting in the spirit of many in body but one in mind”—sharing the same goals and values, despite having different personalities and circumstances in life.

President Ikeda stresses that the world of harmony that is “many in body, one in mind,” which courses through “the heritage of the ultimate Law of life,” exists in the discussion meeting, the Soka Gakkai’s mainstay. He elaborates:

Discussion meetings are oases of peace, culture and happiness, where a diverse and varied group of individuals assemble in one place and as equals share their thoughts, feelings and experiences. We reach out warmly to include and embrace everyone, no matter what their situation, leaving no one out, and doing our utmost to wholeheartedly encourage and inspire those present . . .

People gathering and sitting together, even when they may be struggling with various challenges and problems, is in itself truly noble. Moreover, discussion meetings are filled with warm empathy and dialogue deriving from a spirit to share others’ sufferings as our own and strive together to overcome them. Discussion meetings are occasions for inspiring people in their human revolution.[7]January 2018 Living Buddhism, p. 55.

The discussion meeting is the basis of our activities. “When we consider that one-to-one dialogue has always been the way that we have pursued kosen-rufu, it’s easy to understand that having solid and encouraging discussion meetings are the key to driving kosen-rufu forward,” Mr. Takano said. “Let’s plan discussion meetings in which those who attend leave feeling: ‘I’m so glad that I came’ and ‘I want to come again!’ ”

The wish of the lion king is to enable all people to actualize happiness.

With regard to the phrase “to roar the lion’s roar” (Jpn sa shishi ku):] The lion’s roar (shishi ku) is the preaching of the Buddha. The preaching of the Law means the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, or the preaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in particular.

The first shi [which means “teacher”] of the word shishi, or “lion,” is the Wonderful Law [Mystic Law] that is passed on by the teacher. The second shi [which means “child”] is the Wonderful Law as it is received by the disciples. The “roar” [ku] is the sound of the teacher and the disciples chanting in unison.

The verb sa, “to make” or “to roar,” should here be understood to mean to initiate or to put forth. It refers to the initiating of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in the Latter Day of the Law.[8]See The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 111.

In the above passage, the Daishonin states that “lion’s roar” is the mentor and disciple chanting and propagating Nam-myoho-renge-kyo together. Here, the lion king is a metaphor for the indomitable Buddha, who fears no one.

President Ikeda describes in his lecture that the wish of the lion king—the Buddha—as taught in Nichiren Buddhism is to defeat all devilish functions and enable all people to actualize happiness through the great lion’s roar that has the power to move everything in a positive direction.

President Ikeda shares that, in numerous sutras, the lion’s roar is used as a metaphor to describe the fearless and calm way in which the Buddha preaches the truth.

During the assembly of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha reveals his intent and wish to entrust his disciples with the widespread propagation of the Law in the evil age after his passing, thereby opening the way to enlightenment for all people.

In response, his bodhisattva disciples make a vow that is expressed in “Encouraging Devotion,” the 13th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. They pledge to triumph over the three powerful enemies of Buddhism and widely propagate the Lotus Sutra after Shakyamuni’s passing, declaring to “roar the lion’s roar.”[9]The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 231–32.

“To roar the lion’s roar” means for the disciple to make a vow to the mentor to do kosen-rufu, underscoring the importance of the disciple’s self-motivated vow. “What’s important is for the disciple to have the same vow as the mentor—that is, to take the initiative to share this Buddhism with others,” Mr. Takano said.

Therefore, the “roar” is the powerful sound of kosen-rufu—the sound of teacher and disciple uniting together to chant and spread the Mystic Law for the sake of peace.

“The important thing,” he said, “is to have the same spirit as the mentor and to fight with the awareness that we’re playing a leading role for kosen-rufu.”

Striving with “the same mind” as Nichiren brings limitless benefits.

To be sure, everything starts from our awareness as Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Nichiren tells us, “If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth.”[10]“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 385. “The same mind” means sharing the aim of kosen-rufu. When we stand up with the same spirit as Nichiren, the path to attaining Buddhahood and fulfilling our great mission opens broadly before us.

President Ikeda elaborates:

The realization of kosen-rufu is the Daishonin’s wish and great vow. When we devote ourselves to kosen-rufu with “the same mind” as him and carry out our vow to show victory through our Buddhist practice, our lives are filled with benefit. This is the formula for attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime, the ultimate victory in life.[11]11. August 2018 Living Buddhism, p. 46.

Herein lies the essence of the spirit of Soka, the spirit of shakubuku. The person who continues to fight on despite confronting trials and hardships is a Buddha. Mr. Takano urged the participants: “Let’s have conviction in this point and confidently and thoroughly talk to others about Buddhism, becoming the power source of worldwide kosen-rufu.” WT

Notes   [ + ]

1. The “A Religion for Human Revolution” subseries was published in the October 2017–September 2018 issues of Living Buddhism.
2. The “To My Beloved Youth” subseries is currently being serialized in Living Buddhism, starting with the October 2018 issue.
3. October 2017 Living Buddhism, p. 43.
4. “Letter to Horen,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 512.
5. October 2017 Living Buddhism
6. “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” WND-1, 217.
7. January 2018 Living Buddhism, p. 55.
8. See The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 111.
9. The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 231–32.
10. “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 385.
11. 11. August 2018 Living Buddhism, p. 46.