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What Is Human Revolution, Really?

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The term human revolution was used by second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda to describe the process by which we elevate our state of life and become unshakably happy—the ultimate goal of our Buddhist practice. 

In Japan, the attainment of Buddhahood had long been viewed as something to be realized only after death, but Mr. Toda clarified that developing such a life state is an internal process, and that our inner transformation—our human revolution—is how we “attain Buddhahood” in this lifetime. 

Ikeda Sensei reminds us that engaging in our human revolution by diligently striving in Buddhist practice is a “spiritual adventure” in which we grow over time and pave a new path for our lives. He states:

Needless to say, living in the real world as we do, none of us is perfect. Those who achieve their human revolution have not attained perfection, either. Human revolution entails a clear awakening to our purpose in life, followed by the effort to approach the state of perfection a little at a time, keeping that purpose clearly in mind. Human revolution is not a final goal that can be realized; rather, it is a change in the course, the direction of our lives.

As a result, at any fixed point in time, those striving for human revolution will naturally have faults and deficiencies, just as all people do, and may appear no different from others. But on the inside, those engaged in human revolution are completely different from the people they were before they embarked on this spiritual adventure, and over the long term, their differences from others will become apparent. (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 2, revised edition, pp. 28–29)

Here are six points we can glean from Sensei’s guidance about what human revolution is and how we can succeed in accomplishing it. These excerpts can be found in the revised edition of The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 2, pp. 5–9.

—Prepared by the World Tribune staff

Ikeda Sensei’s Guidance:

1. Look Beyond Your Ordinary Concerns 

Human revolution is opening your eyes wide and looking beyond your ordinary concerns, striving for and dedicating your actions to something higher, deeper and broader.

Someone who at first may seem to be a hopeless case can, by achieving a major self-transformation through their Buddhist practice, become an inspiration to countless others.

Also, times when you are suffering intensely, when you don’t know what to do or which way to turn, can become important opportunities for making great strides in your human revolution. (pp. 5–6)

2. Refresh Your Determination 

If you tend to be easily discouraged, just refresh your determination each time that happens. People who are resolved to see problems as opportunities and keep trying again and again, forging ahead with unflagging optimism, will definitely succeed in their human revolution. (p. 6)

3. Purposefully Engage in Compassionate Behavior 

Our lives as human beings are a complex fabric of many factors—our personalities, habits, karma and family connections among them—in which we can easily become entangled and unable to free ourselves. People spend their days fussing and fretting about immediate, minor problems, and before they know it, their lives are over. Many end their lives still trapped in the cycle of the six paths, or lower six worlds—that is, the worlds of hell, hungry spirits, animals, asuras, human beings and heavenly beings. 

Human revolution is a revolution in our actions and behavior. It means to purposefully engage in behavior that is grounded in compassion, in actions that break free from the cycle of the six paths and bring us to the worlds of bodhisattvas and Buddhas.

When human revolution spreads to the family, the country and the world, it becomes a noble and bloodless revolution for peace. (p. 6)

What matters is who we are when all the external things are stripped away; who we are as ourselves. Human revolution is transforming that inner core, our lives, ourselves.

4. Revolution Means Radical Change 

“Revolution” means to turn things around. It signifies a sudden, radical change.

The natural process is for people to grow little by little, with the passage of time. Human revolution is a step beyond that gradual process, propelling us rapidly in a positive direction. And while it is a rapid improvement, it is also growth that continues throughout our lives. There is no end point. And our Buddhist practice is the engine, the driving force, for our human revolution. (p. 7)

5. Take Concrete Action 

There are countless books of moral teachings that have existed for thousands of years. There are also self-help and inspirational books, but achieving human revolution or changing our karma cannot be realized through words alone.

The Soka Gakkai has consistently followed the path not of abstract arguments but of actual human revolution—transforming our minds, orienting them in the direction of supreme goodness in our real lives through concrete action. (p. 7)

6. Unite With the Life of the Buddha

Fundamentally, human revolution is achieved by uniting with the life of the Buddha. Through attaining the “fusion of reality and wisdom” with the Buddha, the power for self-transformation wells up within us.

Only human beings have the ability to seek growth and self-improvement. We have the capacity to consciously change the direction of our lives, to enrich and deepen our lives instead of just allowing them to flow on aimlessly.

People tend to view the way to greatness as rising within the ranks of society. But human revolution is bettering ourselves in a more profound, inner way. It also has an eternal aspect. It is far superior to mere social advancement.

Human beings always remain human beings; we can’t transform ourselves into some higher being. That’s why the most important thing is to transform ourselves as human beings. We can try to adorn ourselves with fame, social status, academic credentials, knowledge or money, but if we are impoverished in terms of our own humanity, our lives remain poor and empty inside.

What matters is who we are when all the external things are stripped away; who we are as ourselves. Human revolution is transforming that inner core, our lives, ourselves. (p. 8)

Jan.20, 2023, World Tribune, pp. 6–7

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