Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 14: “Be Good Citizens!” [14.7]

14.7 The “Greater Self” of the Bodhisattva Way

President Ikeda clarifies that to be a good citizen is to practice the bodhisattva way, transcending the small self of the ego and basing one’s life and actions on one’s greater self. In this excerpt from one of his peace proposals, he elaborates on this point, referring to the speech he made on the occasion of the SGI’s establishment.

My point in introducing the concept of the bodhisattva is this: Human rights will only become truly universal and indivisible when they span the most basic, existential division—that of self and other. And this can only occur when both the right to, and duty of humane treatment are observed, not in response to externally imposed norms, but through spontaneous action stemming from the naturally powerful desire to assist our fellows whose ability to live in a humane manner is under threat.

Twenty-three years ago (on January 26, 1975), I appealed to members of the newly formed SGI, saying: “Rather than seeking after your own praise or glory, I hope that you will dedicate your noble lives to sowing the seeds of peace of the Mystic Law throughout the entire world.” Just as unhappiness is not something only others suffer, neither can happiness be for ourselves only. In this sense, my appeal was a cry from the depths of my heart that we should live the bodhisattva way of life: overcoming the small self of the ego, developing an extended, more inclusive, “greater self”—seeing ourselves in others and feeling others to be part of ourselves.

As good citizens of their respective societies, the members of the SGI are working to advance a movement for peace, culture, and education. In the immediate context of their daily lives, they act with the bodhisattva spirit, refusing to ignore or abandon those who are suffering. They initiate and carry out countless acts for the benefit of others, striving to encourage this person, to relieve the anguish of that person, and to help those around them. I am proud of them and believe theirs are the kind of quiet, grassroots endeavors that will certainly help create the human rights culture that our times demand. It is my belief that if we can foster, in the depths of each individual human life, the kind of active, independent basis for altruistic behavior exemplified in the bodhisattva’s vow, we can establish the fundamental foundation for an ethic of responsibility and commitment upon which a genuine culture of human rights can flourish.

From a peace proposal commemorating the 23rd SGI Day, January 26, 1998.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.