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What Does Human Revolution Look Like?

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7 signs of inner transformation based on a life of courageous action

The following is SGI President Ikeda’s guidance in volume 19 of The New Human Revolution, pp. 184–88, in which he discusses the significance of human revolution and suggests several concrete indicators for measuring our progress in this inner transformation. President Ikeda appears as Shin’ichi Yamamoto.

One of [second Soka Gakkai President Josei] Toda’s greatest achievements was presenting complex Buddhist teachings in a way accessible to ordinary people in the modern age. [British philosopher] Alfred North Whitehead wrote, “[Religion’s] principles may be eternal, but the expression of those principles requires continual development.”

For example, while in prison for his opposition to Japanese militarism during World War II, Mr. Toda attained the profound realization that the Buddha is life itself. Based on that realization, he taught Buddhism as a philosophy of life, reviving it as a living humanistic philosophy that can illuminate the present age. He also expressed the path to achieving the goal of Buddhist practice—attaining the life state of Buddhahood—as “human revolution.” By introducing this new concept of human revolution, he could clarify and deepen the meaning of “attaining Buddhahood”—which in Japan had come to refer to a condition reached after death—as perfecting oneself in this present lifetime. The aim of our Buddhist practice is none other than achieving our human revolution.

Shin’ichi [Yamamoto] wanted to impress upon the young people that Nichiren Buddhism is a philosophy of human revolution and to articulate concrete guidelines for accomplishing that aim.

Looking around the room at the participants, he then said: “Our lives, both body and spirit, are entities of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and human revolution is the process of manifesting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the life state of Buddhahood, therein. What, then, characterizes human revolution? What does it look like? I offer some points on this subject to you today.

1. Health

“The first is regarding health. We need to demonstrate the power of our practice in accord with the concept of ‘faith manifested in health.’ Of course, the question of karma is also involved; nevertheless, when our health is compromised we cannot be as active as we would like. Given that we are made of flesh and blood, it is only natural that we will experience sickness. But the important thing is our earnest Buddhist prayer to be healthy and to attune our lives to the fundamental rhythm of the universe at the deepest level. Without such profundity in our prayer and a balanced lifestyle, we cannot say that we are genuinely practicing Nichiren Buddhism.”

The members listened intently as Shin’ichi spoke.

2. Youthfulness

The second characteristic of human revolution Shin’ichi introduced was youthfulness. Maintaining a youthful spirit throughout our lives is proof of our human revolution. As long as we continue to practice vibrantly and strive to improve and develop ourselves, we will never lose our youthful spirit.

3. Good Fortune

The third characteristic of human revolution he mentioned was good fortune. All of the victories we achieve through chanting sincerely and working diligently for kosen-rufu come back to us as benefit and good fortune that adorn our lives and the lives of our loved ones. In our turbulent society, it is this good fortune that protects us and enables us to experience genuine fulfillment.

4. Wisdom

The fourth quality Shin’ichi cited was wisdom. To perfect ourselves and develop into leaders who can function effectively in society, we need to cultivate our minds. Failing to do so will lead to our defeat.

5. Passion

The fifth distinguishing characteristic of human revolution, Shin’ichi stated, is passion. True practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism burn with a passionate spirit to achieve kosen-rufu, and their lives shine. No matter how intelligent we are, if we lose our passion and enthusiasm, it would be no exaggeration to say that we are little better than a living corpse. Passion is also a requirement for happiness. For the most part, whether we are happy comes down to whether we can feel passionate about things in our lives.

6. Conviction

The sixth quality Shin’ichi introduced was conviction. Human revolution means to become a person who shines with firm conviction. Without a sound philosophy, without conviction, we are like a ship without a compass; we lose our way in life and run the risk of becoming shipwrecked when the winds of adversity start to blow.

7. Victory

The seventh and final characteristic of human revolution Shin’ichi put forth was victory. Buddhism is about winning. It is through our achieving victory upon victory that we carry out our human revolution. A life of victory is a life of human revolution. Our lives and kosen-rufu are a struggle. When we triumph in those struggles, we can demonstrate the truth and correctness of our cause.

Compassion is an essential foundation that encompasses all seven elements

After offering these seven characteristics of human revolution—health, youthfulness, good fortune, wisdom, passion, conviction and victory—Shin’ichi went on to say that being a true Buddhist practitioner also requires bringing forth one’s compassion, which embraces all of these characteristics.

Referring to Mr. Toda’s guidance on compassion, Shin’ichi said that for us ordinary mortals, taking courageous action translates into compassion. He then emphasized the importance and nobility of dedicating one’s life to kosen-rufu, which itself is the practice of compassion and courage, saying, “Human revolution ultimately means awakening to our mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth and striving joyfully and courageously in the effort to realize kosen-rufu.

“Those who practice the correct teaching of Buddhism and dedicate themselves to making a positive contribution to society and the welfare of others are worthy of genuine respect and admiration. Fame and wealth have nothing to do with it. Such people are manifesting the life state of a bodhisattva.

“The Soka Gakkai is an organization that has reached out to those who are suffering and enabled them to revitalize their lives. And its successive presidents have devoted their lives to this cause.”

The Swedish educator and thinker Ellen Key wrote, “The greatest heroes are those who fight to help others, not those who fight for power or glory.” The path of Soka is the supreme path of the most admirable and noble heroes. WT