New Members Meeting

The Hallmark of Buddhism: Respect for All People

Bernal Rock District, San Francisco, 2019. Photo by Kimngmond Young.


If you see a person who accepts and upholds this sutra, you should rise and greet him from afar, showing him the same respect you would a Buddha. (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 365)

How we greet people can make a difference in their lives. As Shakyamuni stated in the passage above, Buddhism teaches the importance of showing people “the same respect you would a Buddha.”

Ikeda Sensei says:

A pleasant greeting can instantly forge positive connections. It can create good will, even if it is your first encounter or the other person is someone you have trouble communicating with.

When greeting others, it doesn’t matter if your greeting isn’t returned. Taking the lead in greeting others is important. Those who can respect others will be respected in turn.[1]Aug. 31, 2012, World Tribune, p. 4.

The Eight-Character Lotus Sutra

The passage “you should rise and greet him from afar, showing him the same respect you would a Buddha” is from the Lotus Sutra’s concluding chapter. It consists of eight Chinese characters and is also called the “eight-character Lotus Sutra.”

Nichiren Daishonin says, “With just these eight characters [Shakyamuni Buddha] summed up the message of the entire sutra.”[2]The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 193. The sets of eight pillars adorning the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, represent these eight characters, welcoming people with this spirit of the Lotus Sutra. In his message to the opening of the Hall in November 2013, Ikeda Sensei wrote:

The eight pillars on the north and south sides of this building … symbolize this eight-character passage that expresses the heart of the Lotus Sutra, which is also the Soka Gakkai spirit of treasuring each member as if he or she were a Buddha. (January 2014 Living Buddhism, p. 7)

This passage highlights a key aspect of Buddhist practice, as expressed by Sensei as follows:

Respect the practitioners of Buddhism, respect all human beings— this is the foremost message the Buddha seeks to convey. We of the Soka Gakkai are inspired by, are grateful for, and fully embrace this humanism, this love of humanity, that pulses vibrantly in Shakyamuni’s and Nichiren’s teachings.[3]The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 3, p. 171.

The Unity of Buddhas Can Transform the World

As we develop ourselves, deepen our sense of mission to spread Nichiren Buddhism and contribute to building a better world, we will undoubtedly encounter difficult relationships.

The reality is, however, that every person is fundamentally worthy of respect, because each without exception possesses a Buddha nature. When we approach people with this awareness and conviction, we can apply the power of our Buddhist practice to overcome negative functions that vie to create discord among people.

To lead a vibrant and fulfilling life, we need to develop our abilities to appreciate, support and encourage those around us, and unite people amid ever-growing currents of negativity, disunity and conflict.

Sensei says:

To criticize another is to do the same to a Buddha. Because we are all Buddhas, we should respect one another. …

The Daishonin goes so far as to say that when people get into the habit of criticizing others, “they never rid themselves of this wrong attitude, so they seem to be destined for the evil paths.” Therefore, he says, “You should respect one another [as Buddhas]” (“The Fourteen Slanders,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 757).[4]Ibid., p. 133.

Sensei further emphasizes the importance of uniting toward the goal of spreading and establishing the Buddhist ideals of respect and equality in society. He also asserts that dialogue is the means for generating trust, stating:

In any situation, dialogue is positive. It builds solidarity and creates unity. To refuse dialogue is wrong; it can be divisive and destructive. The point is to meet and to talk. It is only natural that our perspective may at times differ from others. But discussion gives rise to trust, even among those who don’t see eye to eye.[5]Ibid., p. 134.

This November, as we celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding and the seventh anniversary of the opening of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu, let’s return to the Lotus Sutra’s essential message: We are all Buddhas.

Keeping this in mind, let’s overcome one challenge after another as we strive toward the Soka Gakkai’s centennial, and the happiness and peace of all humanity.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Aug. 31, 2012, World Tribune, p. 4.
2. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 193.
3. The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 3, p. 171.
4. Ibid., p. 133.
5. Ibid., p. 134.