Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 7: Happiness for Both Ourselves and Others [7.6]

7.6 The Bodhisattva Practice of Respecting All People

In his dialogue with Brazilian Academy of Letters president and renowned journalist Austregésilo de Athayde, President Ikeda discusses the actions of the bodhisattva as taught in the Lotus Sutra and the significance of the bodhisattva way in Buddhism.

Our happiness does not exist apart from the happiness of others. The Buddhist’s foundation for action is the spirit of compassion. Compassion has two aspects—relieving suffering and providing ease. It seeks to eliminate people’s anxieties and fears and impart joy, reassurance, and hope.

As a Buddhist—and, indeed, as a human being—taking action for people’s happiness is only natural. But sometimes the simplest things can be the most difficult. The essence of the teachings of Buddhism is simple: treasure each person. A Buddha is one who strives and works tirelessly for the happiness of every single individual.

In Buddhism, those whose actions are based on the spirit of benefiting others, or altruism, are called bodhisattvas. Numerous bodhisattvas appear in the Buddhist scriptures—for instance, Manjushri, Universal Worthy, Maitreya, Perceiver of the World’s Sounds, and Medicine King, to name but a few. Each of these bodhisattvas uses their unique qualities to serve living beings, working to protect and save them from various forms of suffering and misfortune. For example, Manjushri does so with wisdom, Universal Worthy with learning, and Maitreya with compassion. Perceiver of the World’s Sounds relieves the sufferings of living beings through his power to perceive what is taking place in the world. Medicine King, as his name indicates, cures illnesses with beneficial medicines.

Of all the many bodhisattvas, Nichiren Daishonin focuses on Bodhisattva Never Disparaging in the Lotus Sutra as a model for practice. As the bodhisattva’s name indicates, he never disparages anyone, showing the highest respect for all.

In the Lotus Sutra, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging greets people respectfully, saying: “I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance. Why? Because you will all practice the bodhisattva way and will then be able to attain buddhahood” (LSOC20, 308). This is a distillation of the Lotus Sutra’s spirit of respect for the dignity of all human beings. As described in the sutra, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging presses his hands together in reverence and bows to all whom he meets.

Nichiren Daishonin identifies the actions of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging as the essence of the practice of Buddhism, writing: “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” (WND-1, 851–52).

The behavior of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is based on his conviction that all living beings are noble because they possess the Buddha nature. By revealing their Buddha nature—the universal nobility or dignity inherent within them—any and every individual can open the way to an unparalleled life. Advancing on this path together with others is the practice of the bodhisattva way.

From A Dialogue on Human Rights in the 21st Century, published in Japanese in February 1995.

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