Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 1:
What Is True Happiness? [1.5]
1.5 Creating a Life of Genuine Freedom
At the 1st Nationwide Women’s Division Leaders Meeting in April 1988, President Ikeda proposed designating May 3 as Soka Gakkai Mothers Day. In his speech at this historic meeting, he discussed what it means to live with true freedom.
What is freedom? How can we fully enjoy freedom? Countless sages and philosophers over the centuries have pondered this. In fact, quite apart from this intellectual quest, all people long for freedom. People wish to live freely, without constraints or limitations. This is an innate human desire. Even if we can’t clearly define it, we all know that freedom is a vital condition for happiness.
And though all seek freedom, very few attain it in the truest sense.
How can human beings themselves change, and how can we gain an understanding of the real nature of life? These are the most fundamental challenges facing humanity. In this respect, the religious revolution we of the Soka Gakkai are carrying out based on the principles of Nichiren Buddhism is key. You are all noble trailblazers in this endeavor.
Our environment is important, but it is not everything, nor is it absolute. Mr. Toda attained a life state of eternal freedom in a prison cell, the most constrained of environments.
Some of you may feel as if you’re “fettered” by your mother-in-law, or “tied down” by your children! Or your husband, your household chores, or your job may at times all seem like heavy iron chains!
In your activities for kosen-rufu, too, things may happen that weigh you down so much that you feel bound and tied.
You might exclaim to yourself: “Ah, I’m just a prisoner!” “I’m a servant to my husband and children!”
You may envy some people for the apparent ease of their lives, but if you look closely, you will find that they have no real freedom either.
We must develop inner freedom—a true freedom that exists on a deeper level than what we can achieve by simply changing our intellectual outlook or point of view.
In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, the Daishonin states: “Outside of each instant of thought of our deluded minds there is no Buddha mind. The births and deaths of [us living beings of] the nine worlds are the true reality . . . , and hence we can ‘freely choose.’ Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is being ‘free to choose’” (OTT, 212). In other words, the world of Buddhahood does not exist apart from our deluded lives as ordinary people in the nine worlds [the life states of hell through bodhisattva]. Throughout the cycle of birth and death, we have been fettered by earthly desires, karma, and suffering, but when illuminated by the Mystic Law, our lives reveal their true inherent nature and become utterly free. By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the Daishonin tells us, we can live with absolute freedom.
Freedom is not found somewhere apart from the seeming constraints of the nine worlds, of life’s realities. Nor is true freedom found in escaping reality. Where is there to escape to? We can’t escape from the universe. And more important, we can’t escape from our own lives.
As long as we are fettered by karma, afflicted by weakness, defeated by suffering, and held back by misguided ways of thinking, we’ll never find freedom anywhere.
The Daishonin says: “Now is the time to break free from the bonds of this realm of birth and death” (WND-2, 333). The practice of the Mystic Law—chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—is the sword that severs the chains of delusion that shackle us.
The life state of Buddhahood brings us true freedom. It is a state of supreme freedom spanning the three existences—past, present, and future—that brims with the power and wisdom to develop our lives as we wish in accord with our determination in faith. The Mystic Law is the ultimate principle for attaining genuine freedom in the real world.
As the Daishonin states in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, “The Thus Come One eternally endowed with the three bodies [the Dharma body, reward body, and manifested body], his [eternal] life span, the distinctions of benefits, the benefits of responding with joy [on hearing the Mystic Law]—all these are matters that pertain to one’s own person. Hence the six sense organs that one received at the time of birth from one’s father and mother are all clean and pure and operate freely and without obstruction” (OTT, 235).
The Daishonin tells us that all these qualities and benefits he enumerates apply to us. They are taught in the “Life Span” (16th), “Distinctions in Benefits” (17th), “The Benefits of Responding with Joy” (18th), and “Benefits of the Teacher of the Law” (19th) chapters of the Lotus Sutra.
Each word and phrase of the Lotus Sutra has direct relevance to our lives. The teachings of Nichiren Buddhism are not abstract ideals.
In particular, the Daishonin states that the six sense organs—namely, sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and consciousness, which we are born with and comprise our physical and mental awareness—are originally pure, free, and unobstructed.
The purpose of our Buddhist faith and practice is to achieve such a state of untrammeled personal freedom. True and eternal freedom is attained by living aligned and in rhythm with the Mystic Law, by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and sharing it with others.
This is the way to become an awakened, liberated person, to achieve a free, expansive, unobstructed state of being, and lead a truly unencumbered life in which we can savor the utmost happiness and joy to our heart’s content. That’s why no matter what happens, we must never stop practicing.
The religious revolution the Soka Gakkai is carrying out is a struggle to liberate humanity, to liberate all people, so that they can enjoy eternal inner freedom.
Such inner freedom doesn’t come by sitting around and waiting for it; it must be fought for and won. To that end, I ask that each of you strive to gain mastery over yourself. A commitment to self-mastery is the foundation from which everything will follow in accord with the Buddhist principle of “consistency from beginning to end,” enabling you to create a life of genuine happiness and freedom.
From a speech at a nationwide women’s division leaders meeting, Tokyo, April 27, 1988.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.