20 Life-Changing Buddhist Concepts

Unity in Diversity

Concept #14: Many in Body, One in Mind

Together—SGI-USA members gather for their September Kosen-rufu Gongyo Meeting at the Philadelphia Buddhist Center, Sept. 12, 2021. Photo by Jonathan Wilson


In the world today, we can see countless examples of discord and lack of respect—from bullying online, at school and work, to intensifying political divisions that cause people to dismiss or vilify those on the opposing side.

Whether in our personal relationships or society at large, difficulty cooperating with others is at the core of many problems we face.

While we often hear calls for unity and understanding from commentators in many fields, Nichiren Daishonin offers a unique approach through the principle of “many in body, one in mind.” He writes:

All disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the spirit of many in body but one in mind, transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death. Herein lies the true goal of Nichiren’s propagation.[1]“The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 217.

The Daishonin established the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the ultimate Law of the universe, to enable all people to lead lives of absolute happiness. And he taught that chanting with the united spirit of “many in body, one in mind” is crucial in this endeavor.

Many in body refers to each person’s unique opinions, backgrounds, abilities and roles—it means respect for diversity and individuality. One in mind is to share a purpose or goal. As practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, being “one in mind” means taking Nichiren’s vow to spread the Law for people’s happiness as one’s own mission and working toward its realization.

Simply put, uniting for the noblest cause of awakening people to their ability to become truly happy connects directly to creating a peaceful world. In practical terms, it means that we, as Buddhists, have a mission to engender trust, respect, empathy and understanding among those around us. Through our resolve to work together in unity for the sake of kosen-rufu, we gain the ability to create harmony in our homes, workplaces and communities.

Genuine Unity Highlights Each Person’s Uniqueness

Unity, however, doesn’t mean conformity or denying our differences. Rather, Nichiren Buddhism emphasizes the importance of “transcending differences,” overcoming the antagonism that arises from such differences—feelings such as contempt, jealousy, resentment, arrogance, malice, ingratitude and the like. Identifying and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to rise above such tendencies enables us to develop respect even for those with whom we don’t agree.

Ikeda Sensei notes that “many in body, one in mind” signals “unity in diversity:”[2]The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 206.

Though we may share the same purpose or aspiration, we do not suppress or deny our own individuality. When we each fully express our unique potential through the power of the Mystic Law, we can manifest the invincible strength of the unity of many in body, one in mind.[3]Ibid.

From this perspective, striving to create unity is what allows each of us to exhibit our unique strengths while pooling those strengths to bring even the loftiest of goals within reach.

Unity Starts With Ourselves

What if we don’t see such unity?

Sensei says, “Everything begins with changing our own attitude, or mindset.”[4]Ibid., p. 212. In other words, unity starts with us. Just one person deciding to elevate themselves is key to creating harmonious relationships.

When we don’t see eye to eye with someone, we can: 1) chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; 2) refresh our resolve to be the one who creates unity; 3) engage others with a willingness to listen to their point of view; 4) find points of agreement. By repeating the process of chanting, taking action and reflecting, we can find the best way forward.

Regarding the significance of creating unity, the Daishonin declares: “Herein lies the true goal of Nichiren’s propagation.” Therefore, it’s vital to understand that our efforts to unite with our fellow SGI members for the sake of kosen-rufu enhance our ability to create harmony with anyone, anywhere.

Amid the divisiveness and angst of today’s society, when we mend the discord and lack of respect in our own lives as well as with those around us, we bring the world one step closer to the harmony and respect it so desperately needs.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department


Check It Out!

The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin comprises Ikeda Sensei’s lectures on letters that Nichiren wrote to his followers to awaken in them the infinite power to surmount all hardships. Visit bookstore.sgi-usa.org to purchase a hard copy for $8.95 or e-book for $6.99.

Notes

Notes
1 “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 217.
2 The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 206.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid., p. 212.