Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 11: What Is Human Revolution? [11.7]
11.7 Developing Inner Strength
Natalya Sats, who was renowned in Russia as the “mother of the children’s arts movement” and served as the president of the Moscow Musical Theater for Children (now the Natalya Sats Musical Theater), was falsely imprisoned in her youth on politically motivated charges by the dictatorial Soviet state in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Encouraging her fellow prisoners, she transformed the jail into a school and a theater. Referring to the example of Ms. Sats, President Ikeda speaks of the significance of making our daily lives a drama of human revolution, and tells us that true human revolution is achieved amid the struggle to overcome life’s hardships and adversity.
When we change our state of mind, our environment also changes. Buddhism teaches this in the doctrines of “the oneness of life and its environment” and “three thousand realms in a single moment of life.”1
Looking around her in prison, Natalya Sats saw women with all kinds of diverse and wonderful talents. There was no use in regretting her situation. She thought: “Let’s make this an opportunity to learn from one another, each sharing our special talents. Let’s start a school. This one can lecture on science, and that one can teach us medicine.”
Ms. Sats had a beautiful voice. On one occasion, she recited a poem by Pushkin. Her fellow prisoners were deeply moved and encouraged.
The prison was dark and shut off from the rest of the world. That made it an ideal place for quiet study. It also became a stage where they could enjoy performances. A change in one’s state of mind can change everything.
Ms. Sats decided to try to make each day as enjoyable and meaningful as possible.
Truly wise individuals can create value under any circumstances.
Buddhism teaches that “the mind is like a skilled painter” (WND-1, 226). It can freely depict anything. Life itself is a great painting depicted by our minds. It is a work of art created by our minds.
Ms. Sats decided with her fellow prisoners that no one should be left sad and alone.
Being alone only intensifies our sadness and makes it harder to relieve.
People are social beings. Our interactions with one another are what make us fully human; they mutually enrich us.
Certainly, there may be times when being a member of an organization seems bothersome and we just want to be alone. But if we actually seclude ourselves from others, and that leads us to stop practicing, how much sadder and lonelier we would be!
We achieve growth through interacting with our fellow human beings, sharing one another’s ups and downs, joys and sufferings, in a lively human world.
As her example shows, Ms. Sats was a wise philosopher and humanist.
One need not profess lofty theories to be a humanist. All that is required is to truly believe in people and strive to bring them together. This is true humanism. It is none other than forging friendships.
Friendship is strong. The underlying strength of the Soka Gakkai is also friendship, fellowship, and solid unity in faith. The organizational structure comes after that. We must never get things the wrong way round.
The organization is a means for deepening friendship, fellowship, and faith. Reversing these priorities would be fatal. When the organization becomes a priority for its own sake, it will be afflicted by the evils of authoritarianism.
Through Soka Gakkai activities that spread friendship in our communities and in society, we are accumulating treasures in life day after day.
We are practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism. Let’s strive to live our lives in a way that inspires others to admire and want to emulate us, and enact our own personal dramas of human revolution in life in our own unique way.
The key is transforming ourselves.
There is no better life than one spent creating our own unique drama of human revolution, in our own unique way, day after day. The growth we display in the process is itself a wonderful way to communicate the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism to others.
Allow me to share with you a familiar passage from the Daishonin’s writing “The Opening of the Eyes”:
“Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbor doubts in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood. Do not have doubts [about the benefit of upholding the Lotus Sutra] simply because heaven does not lend you protection. Do not be discouraged because you do not enjoy an easy and secure existence in this life. This is what I have taught my disciples morning and evening, and yet they begin to harbor doubts and abandon their faith.
“Foolish men are likely to forget the promises they have made when the crucial moment comes.” (WND-1, 283)
The Daishonin assures us that if we keep striving in faith throughout our lives, we are certain to attain Buddhahood, and he therefore urges us to do so no matter what difficulties we may encounter along the way.
As the Daishonin writes, “This life is like a dream. One cannot be sure that one will live until tomorrow” (WND-1, 824). Given life’s uncertainty and our inability to control it, it’s important that we strive to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime, establishing an inner life state of limitless freedom that will endure throughout eternity. This is the purpose of faith. Our victory in this existence hinges on establishing such a state of life.
We cannot change our life state through science, politics, or economics—it can only be done through practicing the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism. And we have the great good fortune to have encountered this Buddhism in the present existence.
“Do not have doubts simply because heaven does not lend you protection,” writes the Daishonin. From the long-term perspective, benefit will definitely be forthcoming. Though the situation may seem bad, we are certain to be able to change poison into medicine.2
“Do not be discouraged because you do not enjoy an easy and secure existence in this life,” the Daishonin says. An easy and secure existence does not make us stronger. Being able to eat and sleep whenever we please can simply make us lazy and complacent.
By fighting against adversity, we establish a diamond-like state of life. That’s why the Daishonin writes: “Difficulties will arise, and these are to be looked on as [peace and comfort]” (cf. OTT, 115).
Buddhist practice is filled with difficult challenges, but it enables us to experience the great joy of human revolution, which would never be possible from a life of complete ease. That’s why the Daishonin sternly warns us not to forget at a crucial moment, the promises we have made in faith.
From a speech at a Soka Gakkai Headquarters leaders meeting, Tokyo, December 16, 1996.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.
- *1Three thousand realms in a single moment of life: A philosophical system established by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai of China based on the Lotus Sutra. The “three thousand realms” indicates the varying aspects that life assumes at each moment. At each moment, life manifests one of the Ten Worlds. Each of these worlds possesses the potential for all ten within itself, thus making one hundred possible worlds. Each of these hundred worlds possesses the ten factors and operates within each of the three realms of existence, thus making three thousand realms. In other words, all phenomena are contained within a single moment of life, and a single moment of life permeates the three thousand realms of existence, or the entire phenomenal world.
- *2Changing poison into medicine: The principle that earthly desires and suffering can be transformed into benefit and enlightenment by virtue of the power of the Mystic Law. This phrase is found in a passage from The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom, which mentions “a great physician who can change poison into medicine.”