Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 23: Valuing Each Individual [23.3]

23.3 Treasuring Each Individual Is the Spirit of the Buddha

The Lotus Sutra presents the parable of the three kinds of medicinal herbs and two kinds of trees, describing how rain falls impartially on all vegetation, enabling each plant to flower and bear fruit in its own unique fashion. President Ikeda explains that this teaching lies at the heart of the Lotus Sutra’s humanistic philosophy of treasuring each individual.

In the great work of Buddhist literature that is the Lotus Sutra, the parable of the three kinds of medicinal herbs and two kinds of trees is of particular interest, because it stresses the diversity of living beings. It is the only one of the seven parables of the sutra to articulate this theme. At the same time, it highlights the all-embracing nature of the Buddha’s compassion.

The Buddha’s compassion is completely impartial; it does not discriminate. The Buddha sees all people as his children and seeks to elevate them to the same state of Buddhahood that he has achieved.

This is not to say that there are no distinctions among people; rather, it affirms that the Buddha does not discriminate among them. In fact, the Buddha fully appreciates their differences. He respects their individuality and wants them to be able to limitlessly express their uniqueness.

The differences among people are not a reason for favoring some and hating others. The Buddha loves, rejoices at, and affirms the individuality of each person. That is the compassion and wisdom of the Buddha.

It is important to realize that the Buddha’s preaching is grounded in his recognition of the diversity of human beings.

The Lotus Sutra clarifies the means by which real individuals, with their unique circumstances, personalities, and capacities, can gain enlightenment. It reveals the path to attaining Buddhahood, without ever straying from the reality of each individual’s life.

Treasuring each individual is the heart of the people-oriented philosophy, or humanism, of the Lotus Sutra. It is the spirit of the Buddha. The Lotus Sutra’s fundamental aim of enabling all people to attain enlightenment also starts with valuing each person, and it can be realized only by practicing this in every aspect of our lives and endeavors.

It is easy to speak abstractly of love for one’s fellow human beings or love for humanity, but it can be very challenging to have love and compassion for actual individuals.

A character in one of the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novels observes: “The more I love mankind in general, the less I love human beings in particular, separately, that is, as individual persons.”1 And a character in another of his novels states: “In an abstract love of humanity it is nearly always only oneself whom one loves.”2

The Soka Gakkai, maintaining its focus on actual people, has dedicated itself to helping each individual realize absolute happiness. This is a noble legacy that will shine brilliantly in human history.

From The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 2, published in Japanese in November 1996.

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

  • *1Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, translated by David McDuff (London: Penguin Books, 2003), p. 79.
  • *2Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot, translated by David McDuff (London: Penguin Books, 2004), p. 530.