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Fundamentals

Our Behavior as Human Beings

Photo by Rob Hendry.

“The heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the ‘Never Disparaging’ chapter. What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being.” (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 851–52)

Background

To help Shijo Kingo regain the trust of Lord Ema, Nichiren emphasizes to him the importance of his “behavior as a human being.” The Lotus Sutra is Shakyamuni’s highest teaching, which enables all people to attain enlightenment. But this Buddhist Law is invisible. “The Law does not spread by itself,” Nichiren writes elsewhere. “Because people propagate it, both people and the Law are worthy of respect” (Gosho zenshu, p. 856). The only way to show others the benefit of Buddhist practice is through our own behavior.

Our “profound respect for people” is the essence of our Buddhist practice. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging believed that all living beings possess the Buddha nature and told people, “I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance. Why? Because you will all practice the bodhisattva way and will then be able to attain Buddhahood” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 308). Even when people reacted with ridicule and anger, even throwing sticks and stones at him, he never stopped showing them respect. Thus he was able to attain Buddhahood.

It takes courage to live this way. It’s certainly not easy to respect those who may be giving us a hard time. But striving to lead such a life of respect is the path to human revolution and a life of satisfaction and fulfillment. To treasure the person in front of us—this is how we can usher in an age of respect our world so desperately needs.

Ikeda Sensei’s Guidance

Our humanistic behavior is the most important aspect of our Buddhist practice. It can have a deep, positive impact on the lives of others. The key is always to act with sincerity, to have unwavering commitment and to be in complete earnest. And, above all, it is to have courage. Only through such actions can we genuinely move the hearts of others (A Foundation for Your Life, pp. 156–57).

How Buddhists Set Healthy Boundaries

On the Cover—January 2022