Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 14: “Be Good Citizens!” [14.1]
14.1 Buddhism Teaches How to Live as a Human Being
Be good citizens!”—this is an eternal guideline that President Ikeda has consistently articulated.
The Soka Gakkai’s aim is to develop a wonderful network of good citizens—people of character and integrity who contribute to society while fulfilling their precious missions in their own unique way.
The good citizenship that President Ikeda emphasizes is synonymous with global citizenship. When President Ikeda signed the attendance book at the meeting announcing the Soka Gakkai International’s founding in Guam on January 26, 1975, he wrote “World” as his nationality. The Soka Gakkai is a proud gathering of global citizens, transcending ethnic and national differences, who work together at the grass roots as fellow human beings for the happiness of all people.
This chapter presents selections of President Ikeda’s guidance on the importance of good citizenship and global citizenship.
In this first selection, he emphasizes that Buddhism is a teaching for daily life, and does not exist apart from human life and society.
In “The Three Kinds of Treasure,” Nichiren Daishonin writes:
“The heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the “[Bodhisattva] Never Disparaging” chapter. What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being.” (WND-1, 851–52)
This is a passage from a letter the Daishonin wrote to his disciple Shijo Kingo in September 1277. At the time, the latter found himself in a dire situation, having angered his feudal lord, Ema, by trying to convert him to the Daishonin’s teachings. Ema fell seriously ill a short time later, and called on Shijo Kingo, who was well-versed in medicine, to treat him. Shijo Kingo was able to regain the favor of his lord as a result, but this provoked the jealousy of his fellow samurai, placing his life in danger.
In this letter, the Daishonin expresses heartfelt concern for the welfare of his disciple, whom he knew to be hot-tempered, and urges him to exercise all the more self-control and act with caution. This is an example of the Daishonin’s warm and encompassing spirit to embrace everyone and do absolutely everything he could to help them become happy. There is nothing authoritarian in his words. Addressing Shijo Kingo’s weak points, he offers caring and detailed advice to prevent his disciple from making a grave mistake and bringing about his own ruin.
We can easily imagine how the Daishonin’s deeply compassionate encouragement must have calmed Shijo Kingo down and broadened his perspective.
The behavior of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is described in the chapter of the Lotus Sutra bearing his name. No matter how people despised and attacked him, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging was never angered or resentful. Even when he encountered people of overbearing arrogance, he continued to respectfully acknowledge their Buddha nature.
The Daishonin refers to the behavior of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging in his letter to warn Shijo Kingo not to let his short temper cause him to speak or behave rashly, but instead to be discreet and act wisely. He concludes his advice by stating that the reason for Shakyamuni’s appearance in the world was to teach us how to behave as human beings.
Buddhism is ultimately a teaching about human life and conduct. In that sense, our Buddhist practice is expressed in our words and actions. The important thing is how we lead our lives in society, how we conduct ourselves each day, based on faith in the Mystic Law. Each of those actions helps pave the way for our attainment of Buddhahood.
There is a famous passage in the Daishonin’s treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land”: “You have associated with a friend in the orchid room and have become as straight as mugwort growing among hemp” (WND-1, 23).
An “orchid room” is a room filled with sweet-smelling orchids. Just as one who dwells in such a room will gradually be imbued with the fragrance of the orchids, those who associate with people of outstanding character who believe in the correct teaching of Buddhism will eventually be awakened to the validity of that teaching themselves. “Associate” here means to actually come into contact with their words and behavior.
In this treatise the host (Nichiren Daishonin) presents the correct teaching to a visiting guest. When the guest reacts emotionally, becoming enraged, the host remains unperturbed. When the guest is about to storm away angrily, the host smiles soothingly, urges him to stay, and continues patiently to explain the correct teaching.
Influenced by the host’s actions, which embody compassion and reason, as well as the “fragrance” of his noble character, the guest gradually begins to open his heart. In the end, he discards his attachment to erroneous views and seeks the correct teaching. Reading this treatise is like watching a drama of dialogue unfold before our eyes.
Buddhism doesn’t exist apart from the reality of society, or from people and their lives. No matter how valid the teachings of Buddhism may be, just loudly proclaiming that fact will not persuade people. If anything, that approach is quite likely to drive them away from the path of Buddhism, and that would be going against the intent of the Daishonin, who entrusted us with the mission of realizing kosen-rufu.
When we try to help people gain an understanding of the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism, the first thing they look at is our daily behavior. How do we live our lives? Are we people of character and integrity? People observe us very closely. If we are careless about money matters or lack good judgment, if we behave in an arrogant, conceited manner, then, irrespective of how wonderful this Buddhism is, people will not believe us.
Winning people’s trust and understanding is very important. Buddhism teaches that when we uphold the supreme Law, we can come to shine as people of unsurpassed character.
We of the Soka Gakkai have widely spread understanding of Nichiren Buddhism while polishing our own humanity so that it shines brightly. We have made efforts to be the “friends in the orchid room” to people in society.
It is by developing our humanity through our Buddhist practice—cultivating unshakable conviction, hope for the future, warm concern for others, rich wisdom, passion for our mission, and an expansive, all-embracing state of life—that we will inspire others and open their hearts to our message.
From a speech at an Okinawa Prefecture executive conference, Okinawa, February 8, 1991.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.