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Buddhist Study

All Life Is Equally Precious

Transforming society begins with each individual expanding their scope of concern to the greater realms of family, community and all humankind. (Pictured) Registered nurse and SGI-USA member Derek DeVault (left) with his co-workers in Los Angeles. They found a beautiful way to bring ease to their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo Courtesy of Derek DeVault

All people desire to be happy, strong and feel fulfilled. Yet, we face various challenges, impasses and suffering in our lives.

While there may be many causes of our struggles, Nichiren Daishonin suggests that they all boil down to one thing. In his treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” he clearly states, “Rather than offering up ten thousand prayers for remedy, it would be better simply to outlaw this one evil” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 15).

In this treatise, which he submitted to the authorities of his day, Nichiren points out that the underlying cause of the various natural disasters, famine, epidemics and suffering that had stricken their society were beliefs that diminished the value of people’s lives. These beliefs originate from the ignorance of the true nature of life. This ignorance, he deemed, was the “one evil” that must be outlawed.

Nichiren Buddhism teaches that all life is equally precious and that true prosperity on both an individual and societal level can exist only when disregard for life is challenged and respect for the dignity of life becomes firmly rooted in the hearts of the people.

Expanding Our Concern for Others While Challenging Our Own Tendencies

Transforming society begins with individuals expanding their scope of concern to the greater realms of family, community and all humankind.

In his treatise, Nichiren offers two essential ideas for transforming society and our lives:

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? (WND-1, 24)


You must quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart and embrace the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]. (WND-1, 25)

We cannot become truly happy in isolation from others. Ikeda Sensei says, “A clear and vital awareness of the full dimensions of life’s interconnectedness must be the basis for all our actions.”[1]

Because all life is interdependent, each individual is precious, irreplaceable and has a mission.

When we talk about the “one evil” in our lives, some tend to think that they need to analyze and find the fundamental cause of their suffering.

However, instead of spending too much time doing that, Nichiren urges us to embrace “the single good doctrine of the Lotus Sutra.” We do so by striving in our Buddhist practice and sharing it with others, while working to bring forth our inherent goodness.

We can ask ourselves: “Are we driven by egoism that seeks personal happiness at the exclusion and expense of others, or by compassion that is concerned with both our own and others’ welfare, refusing to build our happiness on the misfortune of others?” (January 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 39).

When we expand our compassion for others, we can naturally overcome the tendency to devalue life while also developing unshakable conviction in our own limitless potential. This human revolution in each person leads to “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.”

This is at the heart of the Lotus Sutra’s philosophy that has been courageously propagated by Nichiren and the three founding Soka Gakkai presidents.

Developing the Wisdom to Rebuke Evil

In contrast to the spirit of equality taught in the Lotus Sutra, people tend to doubt their own insights and give higher consideration to the opinions of those in positions of authority.

Sensei says that in this treatise, Nichiren “sternly rebukes as the root of evil not only the ideas that delude and bring unhappiness to people but also the high-ranking priests who promote such ideas and are looked up to as authorities. … People must learn to wisely detect evil” (January 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 43).

In this regard, the Soka Gakkai clearly perceived the Nikken sect’s corruption and its attempts to oppress the spirit of human dignity of the laity, the common people. They were more concerned about elevating their own status and using people as a means rather than advancing kosen-rufu.

Successfully gaining independence from the priesthood in November 1991, Soka Gakkai members have never wavered in their efforts to engage with and awaken all people to the reality that they possess within them limitless resources to attain happiness.

Sensei says:

In the years since this issue first surfaced, through our struggles against corrupt religious authority, members of the SGI have, both as individuals and as an organization, outgrown the restraints of our past selves, strengthening and tempering the hearts of the courageous. It is something of which I believe we can be justly proud. This pride stems from the confidence that our struggle ties into the larger challenge—inherent in the nature of civilization itself—of constructing a genuine and robust humanism.[2]

To “outlaw this one evil” means constantly advancing in this way as we carry on the vow of Nichiren and our mentors in faith who have striven to help us move our lives and society from self-centeredness to compassion, from division to unity, from destruction to creativity, and firmly establish a foundation of genuine humanism and respect.


  1. Daisaku Ikeda. 2012 Peace Proposal., retrieved May 6, 2020. ↩︎
  2. Daisaku Ikeda. 2005 Peace Proposal., retrieved May 6, 2020. ↩︎

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