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Three Keys On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land

From a Buddhist perspective, times of crisis present an opportunity for us to deepen our sense of responsibility, as individuals and as a society.

In Nichiren Daishonin’s treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” he writes, “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?” Ikeda Sensei says that this is Nichiren’s “call for the establishment of a worldview rooted in a vital sense of our interconnectedness.” Photo by Dave Goodman


Buddhism emerged from Shakyamuni Buddha’s commitment to solving the problems that stem from the four sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death. While these sufferings are inevitable, he taught people how to approach them with wisdom, tenacity and dignity, thereby developing lives of meaning and fulfillment.

Connected to the suffering of “sickness,” epidemics have ravaged humankind throughout history, creating widespread suffering and loss of life, while impacting economies and even the course of civilizations. Nichiren Daishonin in his writings refers to epidemics sweeping Japan in his day, finding it impossible to idly witness the misery, death and disruption they and other calamities were causing. He searched the Buddhist teachings for a solution, which he found in the empowering philosophy of the Lotus Sutra.

He stated his findings in a treatise of remonstration that he submitted on July 16, 1260, to the rulers of Japan, titled “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land.” Ikeda Sensei, in his 2012 peace proposal,[1]See daisakuikeda.org/assets/files/Peace_Proposal_2012.pdf; retrieved May 6, 2020. summarizes three essential points of this landmark treatise, which forms the core of Nichiren’s philosophy.

1. Prioritizing the well-being of all people

First, Sensei emphasizes the Daishonin’s “philosophical stance that the highest priority of the state must be the well-being and security of ordinary people.”

While the title mentions “peace of the land,” by “land” he meant not merely a political state but the place where ordinary people, all people, reside. In his treatise, Nichiren uses a few Chinese characters for “land,” but most frequently uses the character that symbolizes “a realm of ordinary people” over the more common characters symbolizing a royal or military domain.

In submitting “On Establishing the Correct Teaching,” Nichiren called out the mistaken beliefs of his country’s leaders, who embraced teachings that discounted the dignity and capacity of ordinary people. He asserted that a correct Buddhist philosophy, which is focused on respecting and valuing each person, can provide a way to dispel the confusion enveloping society.

“Disasters and crises,” Sensei says in his peace proposal, “bring to the surface the fault lines in society that might otherwise remain hidden. They reveal the particular vulnerabilities of the aged, women, children, people with disabilities and those marginalized by economic disparities.”

From a Buddhist perspective, times of crisis present an opportunity for us to deepen our sense of responsibility, as individuals and as a society, and ask what we must improve for the sake of our own and everyone’s security and happiness.

2. Understanding the interconnectedness of all life

The second point from “On Establishing the Correct Teaching” that Sensei cites is Nichiren’s “call for the establishment of a world-view rooted in a vital sense of our interconnectedness.”

The treatise reads: “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?” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 24).

Sensei goes on to say: “We cannot experience happiness and security in isolation—enjoying them even as others suffer from their want. We likewise cannot live insulated against the miseries and threats that afflict others. As people, we share this one planet, which we will eventually pass on to our children. A clear and vital awareness of the full dimensions of life’s interconnectedness must be the basis for all our actions.”

3. Engaging in dialogue that empowers self and others

The third point is Nichiren’s “insight that the greatest empowerment is realized when, through dialogue, we advance from a shared awareness and concern about a difficult situation to a shared pledge or vow to achieve its resolution.”

Sensei refers to the Daishonin’s statement that “the varied sufferings that all living beings undergo—all these are Nichiren’s own sufferings” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 138).

This kind of universal empathy and action—the will to pray for people’s well-being, engage them in dialogue to relieve anxiety and instill confidence and hope—has always been the SGI’s approach to establishing “the peace of the land.”

From a Buddhist perspective, times of crisis present an opportunity for us to deepen our sense of responsibility, as individuals and as a society, and ask what we must improve for the sake of our own and everyone’s security and happiness.

Nichiren’s Care for His Disciples

The Daishonin did not regard epidemics merely as some kind of sign but as an immediate problem to resolve. His approach was to reach out to one sick or suffering individual after another and offer earnest encouragement.

To a disciple with a sick daughter, he wrote: “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is like the roar of a lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle” (“Reply to Kyo’o,” WND-1, 412).

During an epidemic, he was worried about a couple. When he received news that they were in good health, he wrote: “I felt as if I were a blind man who had recovered his sight, or as if my deceased father and mother had come to me in a dream. … It is a strange and wonderful thing, but both here and in Kamakura, very few of my followers have died from this plague. … It is indeed wondrous!” (“The Sutra of True Requital,” WND-1, 934).

Regarding Nichiren’s care for his disciples, Sensei writes, “A genuine mentor is constantly concerned about the health and safety of each disciple and always prays wholeheartedly for their development and growth” (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 2, p. 119).

Relieving People’s Suffering

In Albert Camus’ The Plague, a novel set in the 1940s, a deadly illness spreads in the Algerian city of Oran. The death toll mounts, but city leaders seek to downplay the problem, saying they lack authority to act. Two young men, however, take it upon themselves at great personal risk to save lives and convince others to join them, insisting that “the only means of fighting a plague is common decency.”[2]Albert Camus, The Plague, translated by Stuart Gilbert (New York: Random House, Inc., 1948), p. 150. Their dedicated and united efforts eventually reverse the course of the disaster.

Sensei, having read the novel in his youth, pointed out that their actions accord with the Buddhist spirit to relieve people’s suffering. “True decency is to do all we can for people. It means living out our own mission,”[3]Tentative translation of a portion of Ikeda Sensei’s March 11, 2005, address to representatives of the young women’s and women’s divisions. he concludes.

Amid this COVID-19 pandemic, SGI members are focused on praying abundantly for the quick resolution to this crisis and for the well-being of all people; studying and deepening our ability to perceive everything from the Buddhist perspective; and reaching out to others to share words of care and encouragement, and deepening ties of friendship. Many are striving on the front lines of the crisis, whether through work, as volunteers, or simply by providing support to friends and family members. Through such earnest efforts, we can be sure that we are establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.

Notes   [ + ]

1. See daisakuikeda.org/assets/files/Peace_Proposal_2012.pdf; retrieved May 6, 2020.
2. Albert Camus, The Plague, translated by Stuart Gilbert (New York: Random House, Inc., 1948), p. 150.
3. Tentative translation of a portion of Ikeda Sensei’s March 11, 2005, address to representatives of the young women’s and women’s divisions.