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Ikeda Sensei

We Can Transform the World (Part 1)

Child's hands holding a globe, space for copy.

The following is Ikeda Sensei’s study essay from “The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin and the Mentor-Disciple Relationship” series, which was originally published in the Dec. 11, 2008, Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, as well as the April 17, 2009, World Tribune.

“From [the] single element of mind spring all the various lands and environmental conditions.” (“The Unanimous Declaration by the Buddhas,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 843)

In my youth, my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, often sent me to one place or another to raise the banner of kosen-rufu there. I responded to his every call with lightning speed, boldly taking up the challenge—be it in Kamata, Bunkyo, Osaka, Yamaguchi, Sapporo or Yubari [Japan]. Everywhere I went, I prayed and fought in the spirit of transforming the karma or destiny of that particular place—the spirit of the “threefold transformation of the land” [also referred to as the “three-time purification of the lands”]. I strove tirelessly, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with firm determination to permeate the area with the Mystic Law. I engaged in dialogue with a pledge to summon forth Bodhisattvas of the Earth. As a result, I have made all of my mentor’s goals and dreams a reality.

The ongoing efforts of each of us to carry out our individual human revolution, or inner transformation, as members of the SGI in the midst of society, are the means by which we can transform the world around us. They represent a modern-day expression of the “threefold transformation of the land,” a teaching expounded in the Lotus Sutra (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 212–13). This is because transforming the land ultimately hinges on people transforming their hearts and minds. Moreover, when the principles of truth and justice triumph, the land, the place where we live, will be positively influenced. That is why the struggle inherent in the “threefold transformation of the land” is actually a fierce battle to ensure that truth prevails.

The phenomenal postwar development of the Soka Gakkai, for instance, played an important role in Japan’s rise from the ashes of defeat—a fact that was also noted with keen interest by the eminent British historian Arnold Toynbee. The wide dissemination of the Mystic Law serves as the fundamental driving force for transforming the world into a realm of peace and prosperity. All of you, my friends in faith, are working together with me to fulfill this great mission that we proudly share. This is the most admirable life possible and the way to accumulate boundless good fortune and benefit.

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “From [the] single element of mind spring all the various lands and environmental conditions” (WND-2, 843). This expresses one of the most profound principles of Buddhism—in other words, the principle of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life,” which teaches that our heart or mind encompasses all phenomena in the universe. A place can be transformed positively or negatively depending on what is in people’s hearts and minds. It is no exaggeration to say that the human spiritual quest throughout history has been an exploration of this “single element of mind.” And when we closely examine such fundamental problems as war, famine and environmental destruction, we find that they all come back to this one element.

When We Change Ourselves, the Environment Also Changes.

Viewed in terms of the principle of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life,” the land also has a state of being or life condition. Because Buddhism views life and its environment as inseparable, when the hearts of people living in a certain place are troubled and unhappy, the land, their environment, will also be troubled and unhappy. When people’s hearts shine with inner strength and confidence, the land will also flourish and prosper.

In order to make our precious blue planet Earth shine with the light of peace, prosperity and happiness, it is absolutely vital that we master, deepen and polish this single element of the heart or mind. When areas such as science and information technology lose sight of this truth, they will not be able to contribute to human happiness.

In its ultimate expression, faith in the Mystic Law is the “single element of mind” that can enable our lands to truly flourish. Mr. Toda used to say, “Wherever there are people who have faith in the Mystic Law, that place is a Buddha land.” Through their dedicated endeavors, our SGI members around the world are making valuable contributions to their communities and societies. By striving to achieve lives shining with good health and happiness, each of them is demonstrating the path to transforming the karma of their respective countries.

A nation’s prosperity is a direct result of its people standing up with confidence and tapping the passion and energy of the youth. In that respect, nothing pleases me more than seeing my fellow members with whom I share such deep bonds—not least the pioneering members in Kansai, who as youth worked alongside me to make the impossible possible so many years ago—enjoying happy and victorious lives.

Osaka—long famed as the “nation’s kitchen” and commercial capital—and invincible Kansai; some scholars have argued that it was the dynamism of the people of Kansai in the decade after World War II that provided the momentum for Japan’s subsequent miraculous economic recovery. Ever-Victorious Kansai helped carry the nation forward. Many leading thinkers, including noted American economist Lester Thurow and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan J. Thomas Schieffer, have praised the boundless strength and energy of Kansai.

The power of one genuinely committed individual can surpass that of a force of 1 million. When we change the “single element of mind” and thus transform ourselves, our environment changes. And when our environment changes, the world changes.

The darker and more confused the times, the brighter the wisdom of Buddhism and courageous action based on that wisdom shine. Our progress signals progress for our countries and for the entire world toward a better, more hope-filled future.

This is why we must never stop moving forward. Mr. Toda declared: “Buddhism is a win-or-lose struggle, and genuine Buddhism is to be found in engaging in a wholehearted struggle in society. To be true disciples of Nichiren, true agents of change, we have to put Buddhism into practice in society and strive as hard as we can for the welfare of others, our country and the world. That’s what the Soka Gakkai is all about.”

Buddhism Has the Power to Transform the Land.

What, precisely, does the “threefold transformation of the land” mean? It is a principle of change—of transforming the countries, lands, areas or places where we are into Buddha lands—which is expounded in the “Emergence of the Treasure Tower” chapter of the Lotus Sutra (see LSOC, 212–13). It derives from Shakyamuni Buddha’s action of purifying the lands throughout the universe in a threefold process.

Leading up to the Ceremony in the Air of the Lotus Sutra, the magnificent, jeweled treasure tower of Many Treasures Thus Come One rises out of the earth, Buddhas gather from throughout the universe, and the entire assembly is suspended in space so that Shakyamuni can begin his preaching in the air.

When the treasure tower first appears, however, its doors remain closed, and Many Treasures Buddha, who is seated inside, cannot be seen by the assembly. The doors cannot be opened until all the Buddhas of the worlds of the ten directions have assembled before the treasure tower. For that to happen, the land has to be cleaned and purified into a place suitable for such a great assembly of Buddhas—that is, transformed into a Buddha land. Shakyamuni thus embarks on what is termed the “threefold transformation of the land.”

In the first transformation, Shakyamuni emits a ray of light from the tuft of white hair between his eyebrows, making visible the Buddhas in their infinite realms throughout the universe. Those already gathered at the assembly are able to see Buddhas and bodhisattvas in countless lands preaching the Law with great and wondrous voices. These multitudes of Buddhas then say to the bodhisattvas who follow them, “Now I must go to the saha1 world, to the place where Shakyamuni Buddha is, and also offer alms to the treasure tower of Many Treasures Thus Come One” (LSOC, 212). Having learned of the appearance of the treasure tower, these Buddhas throughout the universe hasten with their followers to gather before it and meet with Shakyamuni and Many Treasures.

Incidentally, in modern terms, we can perhaps think of these innumerable lands described in the sutra as corresponding to the infinite planets of the cosmos.

Accompanied by their bodhisattva followers, the Buddhas who preach the Law in every corner of the universe begin to assemble one after another at Eagle Peak on the earth. What unfolds is a scene of the grandest scale imaginable. In order to prepare a suitable place for all these Buddhas and bodhisattvas, Shakyamuni transforms the ground into lapis lazuli and adorns it with jeweled trees. An exquisite fragrance perfumes the air and beautiful mandarava flowers cover the ground. In this purified land, each of the Buddhas who gather takes their place on a lion seat. These events represent the first transformation, or purification, of the land.

The second transformation takes place because there is not enough room to accommodate the vast multitudes of Buddhas who continue arriving. Shakyamuni therefore also purifies “two hundred ten thousand million nayutas2 of lands in each of the eight directions,” connecting them to the saha world and forming one Buddha land of inconceivable extent.

Yet even this is still not sufficient to fit all the Buddhas of the universe, so, in the third transformation, Shakyamuni proceeds to purify a further “two hundred ten thousand million nayutas of lands in each of the eight directions,” fusing them with the other already purified lands.

As a result of this threefold transformation, the saha world and a total of 410,000 million nayutas of lands in each of the eight directions are merged into a single, vast Buddha land, accommodating infinite multitudes of Buddhas of the ten directions who are emanations of Shakyamuni Buddha. Now that these Buddhas are all present, the doors to the treasure tower are opened by Shakyamuni. With Many Treasures Buddha looking on, the entire assembly is lifted into space and the Ceremony in the Air begins.

In a loud voice, Shakyamuni declares: “Who is capable of broadly preaching the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law in this saha world? Now is the time to do so” (LSOC, 215). It is a call for the future propagation of the Lotus Sutra.

The mentor-disciple relationship is the starting point for all things.

The essence of the “threefold transformation of the land” is a grand drama of teacher and disciples on a universal scale, in which countless disciples gather around their teacher. It is an assembly of capable individuals who pledge to carry out kosen-rufu, or the widespread propagation of the Law, into the far distant future.

In Nichiren Buddhism, the relationship between teacher and disciple is the starting point for all things; it is the source of all genuine victory.

The Ceremony in the Air sets the scene for the subsequent preaching of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra [which begins in the “Emerging from the Earth” chapter]. The “threefold transformation of the land” thus opens the stage for the essential teaching, a drama of teacher and disciples from time without beginning.

Viewed with the Buddha eye and the Dharma eye—the vision that perceives the true nature of reality—Buddha lands are now steadily being constructed in Japan and around the world. The drama of the essential teaching, a glorious paean to the people, is now unfolding. The time has arrived for the disciples of the essential teaching to take their place on the world stage.

To be continued in an upcoming issue.

Sending Forth the Brilliant Light of “Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land”

The Unwavering Commitment of Bodhisattvas of the Earth