Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 20: Encouragement for Youth [20.14]
20.14 Those Who Are Strong Stand Alone
President Ikeda stresses that what is vital in youth is the courage to stand alone.
The German poet and playwright Friedrich von Schiller declared that the strong individual is strongest when acting alone.1 I have treasured these words since my youth.
It is not good to blindly follow the crowd. Going along with something without any real thought, just because everyone is doing it, or being quite content with not having to make any decisions yourself, leads to mental laziness and apathy. And that’s dangerous. When everyone says that war is good, everyone rushes to war, without dissent or opposition, even if they know it spells disaster. No one has the courage to stand up and bravely declare: “War is wrong!” They just go along with the current social climate and whatever appears to be popular at the time.
But we mustn’t be led astray. We must never abandon our commitment to peace, our desire to learn, and our love for humanity. Putting those values into practice ourselves and encouraging others to share them, too, takes courage. Courage lies inside us. It is something we must rouse from within.
Mindlessly following the crowd is not courage, but cowardice. It’s fascism, not democracy. In a democracy, we each have to recognize that we are society’s protagonists and as such have a responsibility to fulfill. Instead, there’s too much self-interest—the attitude that “so long as I’m happy, that’s all that matters”—and too much blind following—the mentality that “it’s safer to go along with what everyone else says.”
Only when people have the courage to stand alone can they lead the world in the direction of peace and good. When such courageous individuals join forces and unite in strong solidarity, they can change society. But it all starts with you. You have to be courageous. The rest all follows from that.
Courage is inseparable from justice. It is the determination to do what’s right, to build a just society, and to follow the correct path as a human being. It is doing good, taking positive action, not only for ourselves, but for humanity and the world as well. To do this, we need the indispensable power of courage. Our efforts may not call attention to themselves but, in reality, they shine with unsurpassed brilliance.
It takes courage to put a stop to bullying. It takes courage to endure hardships and survive tough circumstances. It takes amazing courage to lead good, productive lives, day after day. And it also takes tremendous courage to share our opinions with our families and friends so that everyone, ourselves included, can move in a more positive direction.
Those with the courage to do what is right, no matter what others say, possess a “precious sword” of limitless power. In Buddhism, such people are called bodhisattvas and Buddhas.
People of genuine courage have no underhanded motivations. They are straightforward and honest—which is why they are often misunderstood and even treated as villains. In contrast, there are others who are skillful manipulators, who scheme and self-promote to gain popularity. Many people are fooled by their apparent success, and even envy them.
However others may be, those who have done what is right—even if misunderstood, scorned, or harassed as a result—have a clear conscience. They are victors.
True courage is defined by whether it is motivated by justice and compassion. Mr. Toda used to say:
“It’s hard for us ordinary mortals to have compassion. Emotions get in the way, or we just can’t be bothered. Though compassion is important, it’s difficult for us. But we can have courage. Practically speaking, having courage is our way of acting with compassion.”
And in fact, if we act with courage, we find that our compassion for others actually grows deeper. Courage is indeed the highest virtue.
From Discussions on Youth II, published in Japanese in September 2000.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.
- *1Cf. Friedrich von Schiller, Wilhelm Tell, translated and edited by William F. Mainland (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973), p. 24.