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Buddhism Manifests Itself in Society

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Using the metaphor of clear skies illuminating the ground, Nichiren Daishonin illustrates how, through the belief in and practice of the Mystic Law, we gain a deeper understanding of the events of daily life and society. Photo by HARALD NACHTMANN / GETTY IMAGES.


Many regard Buddhism as a philosophy of peace and calm, a rejection of the cares and distractions of the world to be sought in austere quietude, away from society’s bustle. A pilgrim making an arduous journey to learn the secrets of life from a secluded hermit comes to mind.

Certainly, inner peace is a benefit of Buddhist practice, and an earnest spirit to seek the way is necessary to master it and gain wisdom.

But the above impressions can fortify the misconception that Buddhism encourages escapism, that it urges people to take refuge from the troubles of this world.

From the standpoint of Nichiren Buddhism, however, this is an incorrect approach, a misreading of the teachings and intent of the Buddha.

A More Profound View of Life and Society

Nichiren Daishonin makes it clear in his writings that Buddhism has meaning only when it can effect a positive change in society. To do that, it must enable individuals to change their lives, values and actions in a way that leads to their happiness. Two concepts that express these ideas are “Buddhism manifests itself in society” and “faith equals daily life.” The following passage from Nichiren encapsulates these concepts:

When the skies are clear, the ground is illuminated. Similarly, when one knows the Lotus Sutra, one understands the meaning of all worldly affairs. (“The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 376)

When the Daishonin wrote these words, Japan was reeling from a series of calamities, including earthquakes and epidemics. The people were anxious and afraid. But he identified these events as signs that the Bodhisattvas of the Earth depicted in the Lotus Sutra—those who would spread the teaching capable of transforming society—were about to make their appearance. Now was the time, he explained, to share this powerful teaching for the people’s sake.

Using the metaphor of clear skies illuminating the ground, Nichiren illustrates how, through the belief in and practice of the Mystic Law, we gain a deeper understanding of the events of daily life and society, enabling us to win in every endeavor.

For us today, this means practicing Nichiren Buddhism to bring forth the wisdom to deal effectively with any situation—at work, in school, in our families or in our communities. By winning in these areas, we show actual proof of the power of our practice and inspire many others.

Buddhism is a philosophy that guides people toward a better life. It does not exist apart from the real world, from the issues and challenges of life and society. Its benefits are reflected in each individual, who in turn can exert a positive influence on the economy, government, arts and education.

SGI members, through their faith, polish their character and steadily improve themselves, enhancing their ability to contribute to and create harmony in their families, jobs, businesses and communities.

Our Prayer “Activates” Our Victory

The principle that Buddhism manifests itself in, or equals, society is not passive. What enables us to fully impact life and society is our strong determination and action.

Referring to this principle, Ikeda Sensei has commented:

All phenomena are manifestations of Buddhism. When our daily lives are solid and secure, our faith is solid and secure.

Buddhism equals society. It reveals itself in the workplace, in the community and in the family. “Equals” here means one’s innermost resolve (ichinen) based on faith. When one fulfills one’s mission and responsibility in the harmonious community of believers that is the Soka Gakkai and strives for kosen-rufu, then the revolutionary principle embodied in the word equals is activated.

Life is a succession of different problems. But if you base yourself on faith, you will never lose. You will never retreat a single step. To have such inner resolve opens the way for victory in life and victory in society.

Whether working or studying, when you consistently chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and seriously take on the tasks before you, the wisdom for winning in each endeavor surges forth from within. This way of life based on the Mystic Law “clears the skies” so that “the ground is illuminated.” (Translated from the Oct. 8, 2009, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun)

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis affecting the world. What’s more, in the U.S., we face a growing crisis of anger and frustration over a deep-seated history of prejudice and abuse.

The word crisis derives from the Greek word meaning decision, which suggests a turning point, whose outcome depends on what we decide, what we determine to do right now. In that sense, now is the time to hone our Buddhist “eyesight” so we can grasp every situation and event from the deepest perspective, while challenging it with our prayer and practice.

In July, this month of mentor and disciple, let us chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo powerfully to the Gohonzon and continue talking with friends based on absolute respect for the dignity and preciousness of their lives. And let us be the sun that illuminates the hearts of everyone we meet.

Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department staff