Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 29: A Religion That Exists for People’s Happiness [29.8]

29.8 Buddhism Teaches a Path of Life and Humanity

President Ikeda explains that Nichiren Buddhism is a humanistic teaching that offers positive direction for our lives, and describes how the Soka Gakkai is putting the spirit of Buddhist humanism into action in the present day.

Nichiren Buddhism is about human beings. My focus is also human beings.

The human being, the individual, is of utmost importance. Nationality, social position, ideology—none of these matter. The human being is the foundation. My efforts, too, are always aimed at people.

Everything depends upon the person, the individual—how we act and behave as human beings.

I believe that the world as a whole is also moving toward humanism, toward giving top priority to human beings.

Buddhism’s original purpose was to teach human beings the best way to live.

Shakyamuni taught a path of humanity that all of us should follow.

Some may think of Buddhism as belonging to a realm separate from everyday human existence. And it is a fact that clerics often describe the Buddhist teachings in this way to reinforce their own spiritual authority.

But this is not genuine Buddhism. It is not Buddhism as conceived by Shakyamuni. His teaching revealed and elucidated an eternal, universal path of life and humanity.

Shakyamuni described his enlightenment under the bodhi tree as follows:

“Suppose a man wandering through a remote forest found a path traveled by people of former times. He followed it and came upon a once-populous ancient capital, now deserted. It was a splendid city surrounded by groves and dotted with beautiful lotus ponds. After returning home, the man informed the king of what he had seen and requested that he renovate the old capital. The king did so, and later many people followed that same path and went to live there, making it prosperous again. Similarly, while seated under the bodhi tree, I saw the ancient way traveled by the Enlightened Ones of the past. And I taught it to people, so that it became known to many, flourished, and spread as it has today.”1

Though Shakyamuni taught a path for human beings to live by, Buddhism gradually shifted away from this focus on people. It grew increasingly formalized and took on an air of mysticism. The extreme manifestation of this shift is that its spiritual leaders—members of the clergy—who should have been striving to lead lives of great dignity and substance, strayed farthest from the path of true humanity.

Shakyamuni rejected the highly ritualistic religions of his day and taught a way for human beings to live their lives to the fullest. But after his passing, his teachings eventually lapsed into decline.

The Latter Day of the Law is the period when this decline reached its lowest level, and it was at such a time that Nichiren Daishonin was born.

The Daishonin famously declared: “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, 852). This was a revolutionary statement—as groundbreaking as the observation by Copernicus that the Earth revolves around the sun. It returned to the fundamental spirit of Buddhism, a teaching that by the Daishonin’s time had become steeped in ritual and formality.

The essence of Buddhism lies in one’s behavior as a human being, and it was to set an example of such behavior that Shakyamuni made his appearance in the world. The Daishonin tells us that anything that strays from this truth is secondary and unimportant. He attempted to restore Buddhism, which over long centuries had grown formalistic and rigid, to its original spirit. He was ultimately leading a revolution to turn it back into the humanistic teaching it had been to begin with, a religion for the sake of human beings.

The Soka Gakkai has today revived Buddhism’s fundamental focus on the behavior of the human being—especially as expressed through bodhisattva practice. It has returned to the starting point of Buddhism, breathing new life into the Daishonin’s teaching. That is why the privileged ruling hierarchy within the priesthood has always tried to suppress or attack us. But we are firmly convinced that the path of humanism we pursue embodies the essence of the Buddhist way and the true spirit of religious reformation that the Daishonin cherished.

Therefore, as Soka Gakkai members upholding the correct teaching, let us continue to expand even further our united network of sincere and good-hearted individuals. I hope that each of you will strive to become a cornerstone of these endeavors, promoting solidarity among people of goodwill throughout society, whether or not they embrace the Gohonzon.

From a speech at an SGI-Philippines executive conference, the Philippines, May 9, 1993.

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

  • *1Cf. “Nidanasamyutta” [65 (5) The City], in The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2000), pp. 603–4.