A report from the North America and Oceania Study Conference.
“If you care anything about your personal security, you should first of all pray for order and tranquility throughout the four quarters of the land, should you not?”
—Nichiren Daishonin, from “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land”
“A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind”
—SGI President Ikeda, from The Human Revolution
WESTON, Fla.—What does it take to change the foundation of society? Do ordinary people have the ability to bring about an age of peace?
One hundred and ninety-six participants from the U.S., Canada and New Zealand pondered this question as they gathered Aug. 25–28 at the SGI-USA Florida Nature and Culture Center for the North America and Oceania Study Conference, led by SGI Vice Study Leader Hidetoshi Fukuda.
The conference began with a powerful message from SGI President Ikeda, in which he called the annual study conference “a splendid tradition,” saying that he and Mrs. Ikeda felt as if they were “participating in this conference together with you.”
President Ikeda continued: “I took my first steps for worldwide kosen-rufu with the members in the Pacific, the United States and Canada. Fifty-seven years have passed since then. Today, the great compassionate tide of kosen-rufu has continued to develop, and now nothing can stop its flow. Nichiren Daishonin states, ‘It is like the tides of the ocean that never fail to come when the time arrives’ (‘The Selection of the Time,’ The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 550). Just as he says, we have without a doubt been able to create just the right ‘time’ for kosen-rufu to unfold throughout the world. This is precisely why it is even more pressing for us now to redouble our efforts to study Nichiren’s writings together, and deepen and strengthen the spirit of ‘many in body, one in mind,’ which is essential for accomplishing kosen-rufu.”
The Lotus Sutra teaches the supreme dignity and worth of life.
In his first lecture, Mr. Fukuda focused on Nichiren Daishonin’s landmark treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” based on President Ikeda’s study series “Learning From the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin: The Teachings for Victory” (see January 2016 Living Buddhism).
Why this writing, in particular? Mr. Fukuda explained that the core ideals of Nichiren Buddhism are expressed in this treatise, which Nichiren submitted on July 16, 1260, to Hojo Tokiyori, the de facto ruler of the Japanese military government. While it was addressed to a specific person, from a broader perspective, it is addressed to all leaders of society, he said.
What motivated the Daishonin to remonstrate with authorities? Japan at the time had experienced an unending series of natural disasters, including severe earthquakes, extreme weather and epidemics—all of which caused ordinary people to suffer without reprieve.
In this writing, which takes the form of a dialogue between a host and guest, the Daishonin describes this suffering, which he witnessed firsthand:
In recent years, there have been unusual disturbances in the heavens, strange occurrences on earth, famine and pestilence, all affecting every corner of the empire and spreading throughout the land. Oxen and horses lie dead in the streets, and the bones of the stricken crowd the highways. Over half the population has already been carried off by death, and there is hardly a single person who does not grieve. (WND-1, 6)
Nichiren searched desperately through the Buddhist scriptures for a way to lead all people out of the depths of suffering. “His approach was not idealistic or based on generalities,” Mr. Fukuda said. “His motivation resided in questions like: ‘How can I help the people right in front of me who are suffering and grieving?’ ‘How can we create a society that is free of misery?’ ”
Through intensely studying the Buddhist scriptures, Nichiren came to the conclusion that the country’s turmoil lie in its negation of the Lotus Sutra and its teaching of universal enlightenment.
President Ikeda elaborates:
[T]he fundamental cause of the country’s turmoil was slander of the Law—the rejection of the Lotus Sutra, which teaches respect for life and all human beings. He became profoundly convinced that the only ultimate solution was to firmly establish in the heart of each person the correct Buddhist teaching that could serve as the pillar underpinning society. (January 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 34)
Nichiren, in particular, called out slander of the Law by the Pure Land teachings, which were widely embraced in Japanese society at the time.
Its basic philosophy held that ordinary people in the Latter Day of the Law lacked the capacity or wisdom to attain enlightenment. Rather, the most people could do was to chant a phrase that would enable them to enter the Pure Land of Perfect Bliss after death.
This sort of thinking, Mr. Fukuda said, robbed people of the power or will to live, and it infected society with pessimism. “The reason why Nichiren so harshly denounced the Pure Land teachings was precisely because he keenly saw that it bred thinking that weakens people and leads to the deterioration of society,” he said.
President Ikeda explains:
The Daishonin doesn’t remonstrate with the country’s rulers in this treatise in order to demand that they abandon all teachings except for the Lotus Sutra. He is insisting that they abandon intolerant, exclusionary doctrines that call on people to discard the Lotus Sutra, which teaches the supreme dignity and worth of life. (January 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 36)
To transform society, we must transform the deluded impulses within the human heart.
Mr. Fukuda asked the audience:
“What happens when people are consumed by their own egoism, satisfying their own selfish desires and only seeking their own profit and gain?” Society becomes warped in the process.
In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren states that such a society is the reflection of the deluded impulses within human beings:
Because anger increases in intensity, strife of arms occurs. Because greed increases in intensity, famine arises. Because foolishness increases in intensity, pestilence breaks out. And because these three calamities occur, earthly desires grow more powerful and false views increasingly flourish. (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 33)
In this passage, Nichiren described the root cause of society’s ills as the three poisons of “greed, anger and foolishness,” which are the fundamental evils inherent in life. “In taking this further,” Mr. Fukuda said, “we can say that, if each person challenges his or her own egoism and selfish earthly desires, and wins over them every time, then we will be able to establish a society of true peace and tranquillity.” Nichiren Buddhism, he said, is the teaching that enables ordinary people to carry out such an inner transformation.
“Establishing the correct teaching” means to expand the network of those who are committed to doing their human revolution.
In the concluding section of this writing, Nichiren writes of the necessity of an inner-directed revolution:
Therefore, you must quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart and embrace the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]. If you do so, then the threefold world will become the Buddha land, and how could a Buddha land ever decline? The regions in the ten directions will all become treasure realms, and how could a treasure
realm ever suffer harm? If you live in a country that knows no decline or diminution, in a land that suffers no harm or disruption, then your body will find peace and security, and your mind will be calm and untroubled. You must believe my words; heed what I say! (WND-1, 25)
The words “true vehicle” here means the true teaching, or the Lotus Sutra, while the “single good doctrine” refers to fundamental good.
Rather than focusing solely on adjusting the framework of society, this means changing the hearts and lives of people who inhabit society. “In this way, the basis and foundation of ‘establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land’ is found in establishing the correct teaching in the heart of each person,” he said. “What this means is that each person must awaken to the fundamental good that resides in their life and establish as their basic philosophy the essence of the Lotus Sutra, which teaches respect for all people and upholding the dignity of life.”
President Ikeda writes of what it means to “reform the tenets that we hold in our hearts”:
What we have faith in indicates what we hold most precious, what values we cherish. It establishes our fundamental purpose and direction in life.
In other words, are we driven by egoism that seeks personal happiness at the exclusion and expense of others, or by compassion that is concerned with both our own and others’ welfare, refusing to build our happiness on the misfortune of others? The focus is on the transformation of our minds, our hearts, our values. It is the human revolution in a single individual. Without that, “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land” cannot be achieved. (January 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 39)
Mr. Fukuda asked the audience: “What does ‘establishing the correct teaching’ look like in our daily lives?”
Through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon and challenging ourselves to do SGI activities, we overcome our weaknesses, we transform our karma into our mission, and we open the way for a truly happy life.
It also means showing actual proof in our families, at work and in our society, and it means establishing strong faith in the Mystic Law.
“Moreover, we can also say that we ‘establish the correct teaching’ as we talk with our friends about the amazing benefits of Buddhist practice and carry out the practice of propagating this Buddhism far and wide,” he said.
In essence, the struggle to establish the correct teaching for the peace of the land is about expanding the network of those who are committed to doing their human revolution, he said.
“Our personal security is not something that can be established in isolation.”
Nichiren, in response to the host’s ninth question, writes, that “establishing the correct teaching” means to become someone who prays for the happiness and security of all people:
Emperors and kings have their foundation in the state and bring peace and order to the age; ministers and commoners hold possession of their fields and gardens and supply the needs of the world. But if marauders come from other regions to invade the nation, or if revolt breaks out within the domain and people’s lands are seized and plundered, how can there be anything but terror and confusion? If the nation is destroyed and people’s homes are wiped out, then where can one flee for safety? If you care anything about your personal security, you should first of all pray for order and tranquillity throughout the four quarters of the land, should you not? (WND-1, 24)
Mr. Fukuda said that the foundation of the SGI’s peace movement is based on this passage. The “four quarters” here refers to all directions—north, south, east and west—which points to the tranquillity of a nation and all that surrounds it, as well as peace in the world.
President Ikeda elaborates on the above passage:
Essentially, our personal security is not something that can be established in isolation. For each of us to enjoy a life that is safe and secure, it is crucial that both the natural environment and the society in which we live are flourishing in peace and stability.
Therefore, if we truly seek personal security, we must first transcend our lesser selves that are ruled by egoism and work to establish the peace and security of the society in which we live—in other words, “tranquility throughout the four quarters of the land.” This is the Daishonin’s message. (January 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 36)
Fostering youthful successors—leaders of a new age.
The struggle for kosen-rufu is not something that can be accomplished in 50 or even 100 years, Mr. Fukuda said. This is precisely why it is vital for us to have a spiritual guidepost that transcends generations and can be inherited throughout time.
This brings into sharp focus the importance of having disciples who carry on their mentor’s spirit, he said, as well as raising and nurturing successors and capable people who carry on this struggle far into the future.
“Today, the members in America are going all out to accomplish their goal of gathering 50,000 youth next year, 2018, when we will commemorate the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu,” Mr. Fukuda said.
“As we aim toward the great milestone of November 2018, and as we each vow to grow as true disciples of President Ikeda, let’s give our entire beings to raising the youth, the leaders of the next age.”