Skip to main content

Buddhist Study

Eternity in a Single Moment 

Photo by Stockbyte / Getty Images.

Eternity can be distilled in a single moment of life—a moment when a person’s humanity, past and future, destiny and life story are revealed with unerring clarity. Photography is the art of capturing that eternal moment and presenting it to others. In that respect, photographers are not simply recorders of events; they are explorers in earnest pursuit of humanity.[2]
—Cornell Capa, photographer

Brothers Robert and Cornell Capa spent their lives chronicling the realities of life through their photos.

Robert, a war photographer, braved the front lines of many conflicts with a wide-angle lens, abiding by the dictum, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”[3] He was killed in May 1954 by a landmine while covering the First Indochina War.

Cornell, who met with Ikeda Sensei several times, said that his brother’s death changed his life. “I made a decision to devote my life to preserving my brother’s work,” he said.[4] He originally wanted to be a doctor, but his brother helped him see that a photograph “may have the power to heal more hearts than a doctor can.”[5]

Calling his emotionally engaged approach “concerned photography,” Cornell focused on diverse subjects. He shot photos of ordinary people in the Soviet Union, children with mental health challenges and candid snaps of Marilyn Monroe, “opening the door to worlds that people would not have seen otherwise.”[6]

Robert often advised aspiring photographs: “Like people, and let them know it.”[7] Cornell said their mother’s love for people inspired them to use their cameras as “explorers in the earnest pursuit of humanity.”

Sensei’s foray into photography began in 1970 after a friend gave him a single-lens reflex camera while recovering from an illness. He took his first photos in June 1971 in southern Hokkaido. One night, he came upon a breathtaking, brilliant full moon illuminating Onuma Lake.

Thinking, “This moment will never come again!”[8] he grabbed his camera. Describing this experience, he writes:

Shin’ichi[9] snapped the shutter, keenly aware of the importance of seizing the moment. Both in advancing kosen-rufu and in every other aspect of life, it was crucial to win at each juncture. Whether encouraging members or engaging in his work, Shin’ichi always strove to do his best, as if this moment was all he had.[10]

Sensei chose the moon as the subject of his earliest photos, after which he photographed sunsets before broadening his scope to include landscapes and scenery.

Through his photos, he aimed to convey the Buddhist teaching that “everything is life. … Every bit of the world that surrounds us embodies the mystery of the universe and the wondrous Law of life.”[11]

He was also motivated to capture the splendor of nature and life through the lens to encourage, praise and inspire those who were making tireless efforts to spread the life-affirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism.

Like the Capa brothers, Sensei was also an explorer of life and humanity. He writes:

Photography is a struggle to engage with the object being photographed as it changes moment by moment. In a sense, the same can be said of life: The important thing is to appreciate to the fullest the value of the events unfolding before you and the people you encounter.[12]

Sensei’s spirit of capturing the moment expresses the underlying aim of our Buddhist practice—being present in the here and now.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

March 8, 2024, World Tribune, p. 10


  1. “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 376. ↩︎
  2. From an essay published in the Oct. 9, 1994, Seikyo Shimbun, p. 1. ↩︎
  3. Ibid. ↩︎
  4. Ibid. ↩︎
  5. Ibid. ↩︎
  6. <accessed Feb. 29, 2024>. ↩︎
  7. Oct. 9, 1994, Seikyo Shimbun, p. 1. ↩︎
  8. Aug. 9, 2019, World Tribune, p. 2. ↩︎
  9. Ikeda Sensei appears in The New Human Revolution as Shin’ichi Yamamoto. ↩︎
  10. The New Human Revolution, vol. 15, p. 251. ↩︎
  11. Ibid., p. 253. ↩︎
  12. The Art of True Relations, p. 42. ↩︎

Shine as Youthful Successors and Bodhisattvas of the Earth

Historic Town of Guanajuato and Adjacent Mines