For the Sake of Peace
About the Book
About the Author
Table of Contents
Chapter from Book
2002 NAPRA Nautilus Awards
Winner - Social Change Category
2002 ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Awards
Silver Winner - For Politics
ABOUT THE BOOK:
"Nothing is more precious than peace," writes Daisaku Ikeda, U.N. Peace Prize recipient, university founder, poet and, for the past two decades, president of the world's leading Buddhist lay association, the 12-million-member Soka Gakkai International. For the Sake of Peace: Seven Paths to Global Harmony, A Buddhist Perspective the culmination of 20 years of university lectures and proposals to the United Nations expresses Dr. Ikeda's passionate yet practical vision of the way to achieve peace in the new millennium.
With a vision informed by the life-affirming teachings of Nichiren, the 13th-century Japanese Buddhist teacher and reformer, as well as great world thinkers and philosophers like Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Tolstoy, Gandhi and others, Dr. Ikeda approaches the issue of peace from many angles. Prominent among the topics addressed are economics, the environment, the power of dialogue, the proper role of religion, the compassionate spirit of the bodhisattva, the importance of culture, the role of the United Nations, disarmament, the sovereignty of the people and the importance of global citizenship.
Through his own unceasing pursuit of humanistic values, Daisaku Ikeda has won the respect of educators, scientists, philosophers, artists and statesmen from every corner of the world. His dialogues over the years with noted world figures like Arnold Toynbee, Mikhail Gorbachev, Zhou En-lai, Rosa Parks, Henry Kissinger and dual Nobel prize-winner Linus Pauling add depth and scope to For the Sake of Peace's global approach.
Those searching for new answers to the persistent issues of our day will find invaluable Dr. Ikeda's clear, compassionate message: Peace is the prize of self-mastery and sincere dialogue, the ultimate expression of respect. It starts with the individual and spreads through all of society. This book is designed to help the reader master the art of personal spiritual quest that enhances the daily affairs of family, community and the world.
Back to Top
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
DAISAKU IKEDA is president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), one of the fastest growing and most dynamic Buddhist renewal movements in the world today. With 12 million members in 177 countries, the SGI promotes education, international cultural exchange and the establishment of world peace. The SGI philosophy is based on the teachings of Nichiren, a 13th-century Japanese Buddhist teacher and reformer who, based on the Lotus Sutra, taught the sanctity of human life above all else.
As the inspirational leader for millions, Daisaku Ikeda has worked to spread the peaceful and compassionate teachings of Buddhism throughout the world over his more than 50 years of practicing Nichiren Buddhism and 40 years of worldwide leadership of the Soka Gakkai. At age 19, he took faith in the teachings of Nichiren and went on to succeed his mentor, Josei Toda, as the Soka Gakkai president in 1960.
A peace activist, Mr. Ikeda has traveled to more than 50 countries meeting and holding dialogue with people, including political and intellectual leaders, applying his strong belief that international understanding and the realization of peace begins with people-to-people contacts. Among the hundreds of honors and commendations given him around the world, he received the United Nations Peace Award in 1983.
Mr. Ikeda is the founder of numerous cultural and educational institutes throughout the world, including the Soka Schools system in Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as Soka University, whose newest branch will open in Aliso Viejo, California, in 2001.
He has written more than 200 books in Japan, many of which have been translated into several foreign languages, including The Living Buddha; Buddhism, the First Millennium; The Flower of Chinese Buddhism; Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death; Choose Life (a dialogue with Arnold Toynbee) and A Lifelong Quest for Peace (a dialogue with Linus Pauling). He's also the author of numerous children's books and books of poetry.
Back to Top
Daisaku Ikeda has walked many paths as a Buddhist leader, educator, poet, philosopher and photographer. But all his paths lead to peace. He is a true citizen of the world and peace leader. In For the Sake of Peace, he describes a path to peace through individual commitment and self-control, dialogue and the creation of cultures of peace. Recognizing the considerable obstacles to creating a peaceful world, he inspires hope that such a world is possible. Any individual who has questioned whether he or she could actually make a difference should read this book, become inspired and walk the path of peace.
David Krieger, President, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
For the Sake of Peace is a passionate, intelligent plea for mindfulness in both individual and societal action…. If all practiced the principles of empathy, dialog, and awareness that Ikeda outlines, the world would experience true peace.
For the Sake of Peace is enthusiastically recommended reading for peace activists, students of Buddhist philosophy and those who have followed and appreciated Daisaku Ikeda's work and thought for the past three decades.
Midwest Book Review
In an engaging intersection of politics and spirituality, Ikeda's Buddhist perspective of compassion and the interconnectedness of all life infuse this work, creating a bridge to peace for all walks of life, all nations, and all creeds. His own dialogues with such noted world figures as Mikhail Gorbachev, Zhou En-Lai, Arnold Toynbee, and Linus Pauling add flavor and depth to the book's enlightened global approach.
Back to Top
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Foreword by Glen D. Paige, Center for Global Nonviolence
Chapter 1: The Prospect of Peace
Chapter 2: The Path of Self-Mastery
Chapter 3: The Path of Dialogue and Tolerance
Chapter 4: The Path of Community
Chapter 5: The Path of Culture
Chapter 6: The Path of Nations
Chapter 7: The Path of Global Awareness
Chapter 8: The Path of Disarmament
Appendix A: SGI's Initiatives for Peace
Appendix B: Proposals for Peace
Back to Top
from FOR THE SAKE OF PEACE
CHAPTER 2: THE PATH OF SELF-MASTERY
Peace cannot be a mere stillness, a quiet interlude between wars. It must be a vital and energetic arena of life-activity, won through our own volitional, proactive efforts. Peace must be a living drama-in Spinoza's words, "a virtue that springs from force of character." Eternal peace is a continuum consciously maintained through the interaction of self-restraining individuals within a self-restraining society.
No one will argue with this description of harmony. Its opposite arises when we strive ruthlessly to attain apparently conflicting aims, often driven by the "no justice-no peace" ethic that propelled revolutionaries of every creed during the twentieth century. In that context, self-restraint is not valued. But as we shall see, especially within such conflicts, self-restraint is essential, self-restraint that comes from introspection.
The ability to perceive the negative in oneself enables one to perceive the positive in others. As in relations between individuals, relations between countries cannot be managed on a mature level if one side insists on its own point of view without regard for the position of the other side. I do not mean to advocate a Manichaean concept of the duality of good and evil but only to emphasize that we must acknowledge the good and evil within each of us. Even as we lock horns with a rival, we should be seeking to manifest the good and obliterate the bad. The power of self-restraint can help us avoid conflict and estrangement and enable us to take a correct stance of mutual acceptance and respect.
Back to Top
The Fallacy of Relying on External Reform
The external approach to social change was declared suspect some sixty years ago when, alarmed by the advancing threat of fascism to humanist and democratic values, the British poet T. S. Eliot made a ringing appeal on radio. He said, in part:
One reason why the lot of the secular reformer or revolutionist seems to me to be the easier is this: that for the most part he conceives of the evils of the world as something external to himself. They are thought of either as completely impersonal, so that there is nothing to alter but machinery; or if there is evil incarnate, it is always incarnate in the other people-a class, a race, the politicians, the bankers, the armament makers, and so forth-never in oneself.
Eliot makes a very basic point that has been well illustrated in the domino-like ripplings of change throughout Eastern Europe. Communist regimes toppled because for too long they sought enemies outside of themselves, not attempting to see the evils they harbored within. And so the view of history as one of class struggle-that is, if class distinctions were obliterated, all social evils would be obliterated-has been bankrupted. Replacing "class" with "race," you have the diabolic Nazi myth that only the Aryan race was pure enough to rule. The myth dies hard. Even today, more than fifty years after World War II, ongoing ultrarightist resistance to the entry of foreign workers into Western European countries is tinged with racist overtones.
Dangers of the "Abstract Spirit"
Even those nineteenth-century revolutions born of "pure" motives-the quest for liberty, equality, fraternity-fell prey to what the great French thinker Gabriel Marcel calls the "abstract spirit." A vivid illustration of its insidious effects can be found in Anatole France's novel Les Dieux Ont Soif (The Gods Are Thirsty). Like many revolutionaries, Gamelin, the hero, was not born a cold-blooded human being. Quite the contrary, he was a gentle and compassionate young man, who, despite being severely hungry, calmly shared his meager bread with a starving mother and child. He was pure and giving, ready to sacrifice himself without a trace of regret. The frightening thing is that the purer and more idealistic a young person is, the more susceptible he tends to be to the spell of the "abstract spirit." Before long, appointed juror to the Revolutionary Tribunal and burning with revolutionary zeal, he passes his harsh judgments, putting aside all his personal feelings, and sends many of his enemies to the guillotine. But his own turn comes, and eventually he himself is beheaded, along with his mentor, Robespierre.
In a way, it is easy to revise the laws and reconstruct the system in such a way as to bid farewell to the ancien régimegime . But it is a far different matter to attempt the reconstruction of human beings. To put it in plain language, in human aVairs you cannot push things too far too quickly. To rush matters is to force them on people through violence and threats. We see this with political radicalism, which is virtually always shadowed by violence.
The theme was repeated with the Bolsheviks. Certainly, it seems impossible to doubt their sincerity. In fact, Lenin's wife, Krupskaya, and other key people involved with educational theory during Bolshevism's early stages were exceedingly well-intentioned optimists who served in the cause of natural education as espoused in Rousseau's Émile. But unless people thoroughly confront their own egoism, there's no telling when their simple good intentions will be transformed into a desire to rule, a desire that seeks approval by clothing itself in the fine costume of ideology. It was also the hidden evil of the "abstract spirit" that angered Dr. Zhivago in Pasternak's great novel:
Reshaping me! People who can say that never understand a thing about life, they have never felt its breath, its heartbeat, however much they have seen or done. They look on it as a lump of raw material that needs to be processed by them, to be ennobled by their touch. But life is never a material, a substance to be molded. If you want to know, life is the principle of self-renewal, it is constantly renewing and remaking and changing and transfiguring itself, it is infinitely beyond your or my obtuse theories about it.
The primary cause of that hidden evil lies in the tendency of the "abstract spirit" to attempt to impose order upon the human spirit from the outside, often by means of external pressure. Real progress or reform in the human condition cannot be effected unless it develops spontaneously through internal urges and internal strength. At most, external forces are mere secondary factors that serve to arouse the internal process. Nevertheless, those possessed by the "abstract spirit" have utterly neglected internal factors as idealistic. They have gone to the extreme, trying to squeeze everything into the premolded framework of an external ideology. The landslide collapse of socialist society witnessed at the twentieth century's close is testimony to the bankruptcy of this unreasonable attempt. And the spiritual desolation revealed once the disguise of ideology was torn away has demonstrated with horrible clarity just how cruelly the "abstract spirit" wreaks destruction in the human heart.
Back to Top
Radicalism and Violence
Why does the violence inherent in radicalism so often undercut the humanistic basis of revolution? Mahatma Gandhi and his successor, Jawaharlal Nehru, clearly perceived the evil of the political radicalism that arises from the "abstract spirit." Among Gandhi's famous words are the following:
This socialism is as pure as crystal. It, therefore, requires crystal-like means to achieve it. Impure means result in an impure end.... Therefore only truthful, nonviolent and pure-hearted socialists will be able to establish a socialist society in India and the world.
This penetrating insight hits directly on the true nature of socialism. To be sure, socialist theory espouses beautiful ideals that have an abstract kind of logical consistency. For that very reason, people urgently press forward to realize those ideals in concrete form. Obviously, if something is known to be good, the faster it is put into practice the better. As a result, people are in too much of a hurry to reform the system, and they tend to neglect human beings, the most important part of the reform process. The fatal flaw of socialism, therefore, lies not in failed efforts to nurture the "truthful, nonviolent, and pure-hearted" but rather in the total absence of effort to nurture such people.
Back to Top
Political systems aside, what can nurture truthful, nonviolent and pure-hearted people? The building of lasting peace depends on how many people capable of self-restraint can be fostered through religious practice. If a religion is worthy of the name, and if it can respond to the needs of contemporary times, it should nurture in its followers the spiritual base for becoming good citizens of the world.
In Mahayana Buddhism, there are ten potential conditions of life inherent in a human being, known as the Ten Worlds. According to this principle, people who start wars exist in the four lowest states of Hell, Hunger, Animality and Anger, known together as the "four evil paths." Controlled by instinct and desire, their thoughts and actions are inevitably foolish and barbaric. Therefore, from the Buddhist point of view, the issue of how to build, as the UNESCO Constitution says, the "defenses of peace" within the hearts of such individuals takes precedence over any external systemic factors and represents both the wellspring and the core of any attempt to build world peace.
Buddhism emphasizes the importance of the quality of our motivation, valuing that which issues spontaneously from within, as expressed in the simple phrase, "It is the heart that is important."
It teaches that the ultimate objective of the Buddha's life was revealed in the humanity he manifested in his behavior and actions. Thus the cultivation and perfection of a person's character are considered in the Buddhist tradition to be the true goals of religious training. Norms that are not inner-generated and do not encourage the development of individual character are ultimately weak and ineffective. Only when external norms and inner values function in a mutually supportive manner can they enable people to resist evil and live as genuine advocates and champions of human rights.
Back to Top
The Internal Republic
In examining internal and external norms, it may be illuminating here to look back at Plato's ideas on democracy. In the eighth book of The Republic, Plato describes five types of government-aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and tyranny. He analyzes each system, ranking them according to their pros and cons, and goes on to describe the types of human nature to which each system is best suited. In Plato's ranking, democracy comes fourth; the system for which he reserves the highest regard is the benevolent aristocracy committed to the love of knowledge.
Plato's low regard for democracy may stem from the fact that he spent his youth in the confused days of the decline of democracy in Athens. The Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta began just before Plato was born. When it ended almost thirty years later with the defeat of Athens, Plato was twenty-five or twenty-six. Thus the greater part of his youth was spent among the trials of this interminable war. Soon after its outbreak, Athens lost its great statesman Pericles to disease, and Athenian democracy rapidly deteriorated. An exceptionally sensitive and perceptive young man, Plato saw humanity at its ugliest. His view of his fellow men and of government must necessarily have been colored by what he observed, and it led him to a stern indictment of human egoism and to a critical view of reality.
The final blow for Plato must have been the execution of his beloved teacher, Socrates, by demagogues capable only of catering to a blind and easily agitated populace. As far as Plato was concerned, Socrates had been murdered by Athenian democracy. It had put to death the most righteous person. No wonder he was skeptical of democracy.
The deeply engraved experiences of his youth gave Plato rare insight into the nature of humankind and society. His detailed, at times comical, portrayal of democracy's innate tendency to transform itself into its exact opposite-tyranny-is a persuasive masterpiece of reason.
This brings us to the paradox of freedom. Advocates of democracy, says Plato, argue that freedom is the greatest virtue of democracy and that, therefore, a democracy is the only state suitable to human beings, whose nature is essentially free. Yet by supporting the insatiable pursuit of freedom, democracy nurtures a multitude of desires that gradually and insidiously "seize the citadel of the young man's soul" and lead him down the path of conceit. Modesty is dismissed as silliness, temperance is shamed as unmanly, and moderation and orderly expenditure are called boorish and mean.
Finally, the situation gets out of control and a strong leader is sought to restore order. From among the "idle drones," a single stinger-equipped creature is chosen, who at first emerges as the leader of the masses but who soon gives in to the diabolical lure of power and is inevitably transformed into a tyrant. And so as Plato astutely points out, "The excess of liberty, whether in States or individuals, seems only to pass into excess slavery" in the hands of a dictator. This summary of Plato's ideas is admittedly a bit simplistic, yet it vividly shows the pathology and the paradox of liberty. Its lure is irresistible, but it is very difficult to cope with; it continues to be a heavy burden to bear. Following the eloquent arguments of The Republic today, we are struck by how persuasively and truthfully Plato establishes his case. How faithfully its chapters record the patterns by which even the totalitarian regimes of our present day have come into being.
Plato's strong criticism of democracy has been attacked and refuted by many modernist ideologues who do not take kindly to his contention that women and children should be looked after communally, that the state should be dominated by a small number of philosophers, and that poets should be expelled, denouncing his ideal as an extreme form of communism.
The French philosopher Alain probably comes closest to correctly interpreting Plato's arguments when he asks whether anyone has even attempted to perceive Plato's Republic as the individual's guide to inner self-control. Alain sees Plato's opus more as a discourse on human nature than on government, especially in the way it revolves around the concept of the soul. He adds that the parts about government are capricious, saying they are purposely inserted to confuse the hasty reader. Plato would rather not be understood at all than be misunderstood, Alain says.
Back to Top
The Health of the Soul
Plato's pen shifts quickly from a discussion of institutions to the subject of human character. Immediately after his description of the five types of states and the sorts of human character suited to them in the eighth book of The Republic, Plato devotes the ninth book to matters of the "health of the soul" and the "harmony of the soul." This is the natural consequence of his main purpose in writing the work. Plato describes the soul as comprising three parts, the rational, the irascible and the concupiscent, and concludes that the health and harmony of the soul are realized only when the rational part governs and the irascible part obeys. By the end of the ninth book, it is obvious that Plato is directing our attention to "policy" within ourselves. After all, we cannot examine external policies until we have put our own internal policies in order.
This theme moves naturally on to the next, which is Plato's primary concern: the immortality of the soul. The Republic concludes with the tale of a hero named Er, risen from the dead after twelve days, who talks about what he has seen with his own eyes of the fate of the soul after death. This story reconfirms Plato's view that belief in immortality is essential to harmony and health of the soul. Here he comes very close to, though he does not actually enter, the realm of religion.
I have discussed Plato in such detail because I believe his idea of the ordering of the soul so that the rational part governs is a key point in establishing, firmly and widely, the age of the people's will and the tide of democracy. No authority, no matter how powerful, can go against the will of the people for very long.
Now the critical task we face is to divert the energy of liberation into the energy of building. We must begin by looking into ourselves, by examining, as Plato advocated, the "state within" even more rigorously than the "state without." That process of introspection will, I believe, offer us important insights in defining the universal meaning of human rights. Articulating such a definition will both serve as a symbol of the movement for freedom and democracy and answer one of our most pressing needs for the twenty-first century.
Back to Top
The Art of Self-Mastery
The effects of mastering "the state within" can be awe-inspiring. For example, the great Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci was in many respects the product of such self-mastery. Utterly free and independent, he was not only liberated from the strictures of religion and ethics but was also unconstrained by the bonds to nation, family, friends or acquaintances. He was a citizen of the world, untouchable and unsurpassed.
Leonardo was an illegitimate child and remained unmarried throughout his life. Little is known about his family, and his ties to the republic of Florence where he was born were weak. When he had completed his apprenticeship in Florence, he went right off to Milan, where he spent about seventeen years working under the patronage of its duke, Ludovico Sforza. Following Sforza's fall from power, Leonardo spent a short time working for the duke of Romagna, Cesare Borgia. He then moved to Florence, to Rome and back to Milan as his interests and projects led him.
Whatever his circumstance or course of action, Leonardo showed little interest in the divisiveness of contemporary judgments on patriotism, personal allegiance or benefit. Instead, he strove to secure a style of life that would enable him to look upon all things with detachment. He paid no heed to the lures of fame and wealth, yet he was not a rebel against established authority. In his singular devotion to his own affairs, he was impervious to worldly convention.
Leonardo was not an unemotional person, nor did he lack virtue, but a transcendence of the mundane and the directed, single-minded pursuit of his calling define his life.
Leonardo was a multitalented genius of amazing versatility and breadth of interest. In addition to painting, he was a master sculptor, civil engineer and inventor of myriad devices ranging from flying machines to military weaponry. The same person who studied hydrodynamics and plant physiology, and who analyzed the flight of birds, also possessed an avid interest in human anatomy.
Whatever one can say about Leonardo, the scale of his mind was too grand to be measured by the norms of society. The freedom with which he rose above worldly concerns provides a glimpse of the truly liberated world citizen. Leonardo's life itself captures the unique freedom and vigor of the Italian Renaissance.
What allowed Leonardo to achieve such freedom was surely his mastery of the self. He wrote, "You can have neither a greater nor a lesser dominion than that over yourself."
This was his first principle, upon which all others were based. Self-mastery allowed him to respond flexibly to any reality. The conventional virtues of the day, such as loyalty and goodness, were of secondary importance to him. He had no qualms, for example, about accepting an invitation from Francis I to go to France, even though this was the king responsible for the downfall of Sforza, his previous patron. Was this a betrayal, a violation of integrity? I see in Leonardo's action, rather, a broad-minded acceptance and generosity of spirit.
Leonardo's ability to detach himself from convention reminds us of the Buddhist teaching of "transcending the world." "World" refers to the realm of differences, as between good and evil, love and hate, beauty and ugliness, advantage and disadvantage. "Transcending the world" is liberating oneself from attachments to all such distinctions.
The Lotus Sutra, Buddhism's highest teaching, speaks of the need to guide living beings and "cause them to renounce their attachments." Nichiren, whose teachings inspire the activities of the Soka Gakkai International, comments on this sutra and tells us: "The word renounce should be read discern." It's not enough simply to liberate ourselves from attachments; we must regard them clearly and carefully to see them for what they really are. Hence, "transcending the world" means establishing a strong inner self that will enable one to make proper use of any attachments.
The last words of the Buddha, Shakyamuni, were: "All phenomena are fleeting. Perfect your practice, never growing negligent." Nichiren also urges: "Strengthen your faith day by day and month after month. Should you slacken in your resolve even a bit, devils will take advantage."
Another passage expresses life's deepest truth:
This is similar to a tarnished mirror that will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality.
Detachment from the transient and illusory is one mark of character, which is another name for human wholeness or completeness. The principles to which I have been referring are not just abstractions but something that must be sought inwardly by people striving to grow in character. Josei Toda emerged from a two-year imprisonment by the forces of Japanese militarism to initiate a new humanistic movement in Japan. He always focused on raising people of character, one person at a time, from among the populace. I have many fond memories of this compassionate man, whose love for youth knew no bounds and who encouraged us to be great actors on the stage of life. Indeed, the power of character is like the concentrated energy of an actor who has given himself or herself entirely over to the performance of the part. A person of outstanding character will always, even under the most difficult circumstances, retain an air of composure, ease and even humor. This is nothing other than the achievement of self-mastery or self-control. Goethe, who was an outstanding stage director in addition to his other talents, was once asked what he looked for in an actor, and he responded:
Above all things, whether he had control over himself. For an actor who possesses no self-possession, who cannot appear before a stranger in his most favorable light, has, generally speaking, little talent. His whole profession requires continual self-denial.
Goethe's idea of self-control corresponds to the concept of moderation in Platonic philosophy. Self-control is not only an essential quality for actors but is arguably the foremost prerequisite for the development of character.
Character and "Human Revolution"
The question, then, remains: What can bring about a change in character? In Buddhist practice, cultivating the awareness of one's "life-condition" and making a diligent, constant effort to elevate that condition constitute self-mastery, the practice of "human revolution." A central teaching of Buddhist philosophy bears directly on the question of character formation. As I mentioned earlier in this chapter, Buddhism classifies the states or conditions of life that constitute human experience into what is termed the Ten Worlds or Realms. From the least to the most desirable they are: the world of Hell, a condition submerged in suffering; the world of Hunger, a state in which body and mind are engulfed in the raging flames of desire; the world of Animality, in which one fears the strong and abuses the weak; the world of Anger, characterized by the constant compulsion to surpass and dominate others; the world of Humanity, a tranquil state marked by the ability to make reasoned judgments; the world of Rapture, a state filled with joy; the world of Learning, a condition of aspiration to enlightenment; the world of Realization, where one perceives unaided the true nature of phenomena; the world of Bodhisattva, a state of compassion in which one seeks to save all people from suffering; and finally the world of Buddhahood, a state of human completeness and perfect freedom.
Within each of these ten states is likewise to be found the full spectrum of the Ten Worlds. In other words, the state of Hell contains within it every state from Hell to Buddhahood. In the Buddhist view, life is never static but is in constant flux, effecting a dynamic, moment-by-moment transformation among the states. The most critical point, then, is which of these ten states, as they exist in the vibrant flow of life, forms the basis for our individual lives? Buddhism offers a way of life centered on the highest states, those of Bodhisattva and Buddhahood, as an ideal of human existence. Emotions-joy and sorrow, pleasure and anger-are of course the threads from which life's fabric is woven, and we continue to experience the full span of the Ten Worlds. These experiences, however, can be shaped and directed by the pure and indestructible states of Bodhisattva and Buddhahood.
The Soka Gakkai International is based on a philosophy of human revolution in which we hear echoes of Leonardo's spirit of self-mastery. Putting our beliefs into action, we support the United Nations and conduct many other activities for the cause of peace and culture, and through these eVorts we contribute to society as a whole. At the same time, we stress the importance of inner reform in the individual. "You are your own master," Buddhist scripture says. "Could anyone else be your master? When you have gained control over yourself, you have found a master of rare value."
A second passage reads: "Be lamps unto yourselves. Rely on yourselves. Hold fast to the Law as a lamp, do not rely on anything else."
Back to Top
The Greater and Lesser Self
Both of the above passages urge us to live independently, true to ourselves and unswayed by others. The "self" referred to here, however, is not the Buddhist "lesser self," caught up in the snares of egoism. Rather, it is the "greater self," fused with the life of the universe through which cause and effect intertwine over the infinite reaches of space and time.
The greater, cosmic self is related to the unifying and integrating "self" that Jung perceived in the depths of the ego. It is also similar to Ralph Waldo Emerson's "universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal One."
I am firmly convinced that a large-scale awakening to the greater self will lead to a world of creative coexistence in the coming century. Recall the lines of Walt Whitman, in which he sings the praises of the human spirit:
But that I,
turning to thee O soul,
thou actual Me,
And lo, thou gently masterest the orbs,
Thou matest Time,
smilest content at Death,
swellest full the vastness of space.
The greater self of Mahayana Buddhism is another way of expressing the openness and expansiveness of character that embrace the sufferings of all people as one's own. This self always seeks ways of alleviating the pain and augmenting the happiness of others, here, amid the realities of everyday life. Only the solidarity brought about by such natural human nobility will break down the isolation of the modern self and lead to the dawning of new hope for civilization. Furthermore, the dynamic, vital awakening of the greater self will enable each of us, as individuals, to experience both life and death with equal delight. Thus, as Nichiren stated: "We adorn the treasure tower of our being with the four aspects of birth, aging, sickness and death."
If we are in sufficient command of ourselves, we will not feel compelled to impose our own values upon others nor to trample upon the customs and values they hold dear. Self-control also prevents us from trying to rationalize everything in economic terms regardless of the conditions, perceptions and ramifications of other countries, saving us from being relegated to the ignoble company of economic animals.
Back to Top
Respect for All Humanity
In the Lotus Sutra, there is a bodhisattva named Never Disparaging. This bodhisattva believed that since all humans possess the Buddha nature, none could be despised; that all life, all humanity, had to be accorded the highest respect. Even when proud and boastful people denounced the bodhisattva, struck him with their staffs and pelted him with stones, he still refused to disdain them, believing that to belittle them would be to belittle the Buddha. He continued to preach this doctrine to the end, honoring respect for humanity in his every word and deed. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging's unshakable belief that humanity should never be despised exemplifies the kind of self-control we must learn to nurture in ourselves. In the Lotus Sutra, the story of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is a parable of the ultimate in Buddhist discipline. It also is akin to Plato's contention that we must learn to place our souls under the control of our "rational part" and illustrates the importance of self-control as a universal virtue of all humankind and the primary requirement for a world without war.
Back to Top