On this day 761 years ago, Nichiren Daishonin submitted his hallmark treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land” to Hojo Tokiyori, Japan’s de facto ruler. This work takes the form of a dialogue between a host and guest, representing Nichiren and Tokiyori, respectively. At the end of their dialogue, they resolve to work together for the people’s happiness.
Q: Why should I care about a treatise written more than 750 years ago?
A: In the opening lines, Nichiren Daishonin describes the conditions in 13th-century Japan:
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. … Over half the population has already been carried off by death, and there is hardly a single person who does not grieve. (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 6)
Over seven centuries later, we continue to face similar challenges. The principles taught in this treatise can guide us as we address our society’s problems and work for peace and happiness.
Q: What does it mean “to establish the correct teaching”?
A: “To establish the correct teaching” first means to apply in our own lives the Lotus Sutra’s teaching that all people possess the Buddha nature. And by developing the conviction in this teaching and sharing it with others, we can make this belief society’s foundation.
But this is easier said than done. It requires committed effort. That’s why Nichiren urges, “Quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart and embrace the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra]” (WND-1, 25).
For us today, embracing the Lotus Sutra means chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the sutra’s essence, and upholding the belief that all people are worthy of utmost respect. The practice of chanting and sharing Buddhism helps us break through our preconceived ideas and prejudices, and develop expansive hearts concerned for the happiness of all humanity.
Of course, not everyone has to chant. Rather, we aim to make the Lotus Sutra’s life-affirming philosophy the underpinning of society. As founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi says, we are engaging in “the process of purifying the negative ideas and thinking that prevail in the Latter Day of the Law … with the truth of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (February 2021 Living Buddhism, p. 60).
Q: What are some actions I can take toward this ideal?
A: When we change, our land will change. No matter how much science, technology or laws develop, without a fundamental shift in our hearts, we cannot transform our society. Improving ourselves and contributing to others’ happiness are key to this shift. Here are three ways we can foster positive change:
1. Chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for a peaceful society. Our own happiness is inseparable from the happiness of others. Ikeda Sensei says:
The key to establishing peace and prosperity in our world … lies in the human heart … A person who prays for a peaceful and secure society and is considerate toward others will naturally become aware of the need to contribute to society and will act on that awareness. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 4, revised edition, p. 245)
2. Share Buddhism. Sharing Buddhism with others is a courageous act that enables us to deepen our concern for those around us and create trusting relationships. Sensei says:
The important thing, first and foremost, is to chant earnestly to be able to share Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with those who are struggling or suffering, and to then go out and speak about Nichiren Buddhism sincerely and confidently with the people in your environment. (December 2018 Living Buddhism, p. 47)
3. Foster capable individuals. At the end of the treatise, the guest awakens a vow “to bring peace to the world without delay” by sharing what he has learned from the host (see WND-1, 26).
One committed person can inspire countless others. Sensei says:
If one nurtures a single seed, it will grow into a plant and in turn produce many seeds; each of those seeds is the source for a generation of countless more. In the same way, everything begins with one individual. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 5, revised edition, p. 109)
Through our daily efforts in faith, in challenging to improve ourselves and in helping others, we can create a bright future of harmony, understanding, respect and hope for all humankind.
—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department