The Starting Point for Action
by Tripti Tandon
In March 2003, I attended my first meeting of Bharat Soka Gakkai and began practicing Nichiren Buddhism, a philosophy that teaches the sanctity of life and promises happiness for humankind. Six months later, I had my first encounter with Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International, through his photography exhibition, "A Dialogue with Nature," held in New Delhi. Of the many wonderful pictures, the one that especially caught my attention was that of a tiny bud sprouting. Alongside, Mr. Ikeda's caption read, "Every seed, no matter how small, has the potential to bloom. So it is with people." Experiencing a professional low at that time, the image filled me with renewed confidence. From then on, I started to understand Mr. Ikeda's philosophy, and my life opened up toward the path of self-improvement, victory and growth.
As a lawyer, I work for a nongovernmental organization in India that strives to protect and promote human rights through litigation, policy advocacy and research. Our clients--people living with HIV, sex workers, homosexual and transgendered persons and drug users--have neither social status nor legal standing. My work entails writing and public speaking, both abilities that I lacked. My drafts were staid and uninspiring and had to be rewritten several times. On stage, I froze with fright, fumbling through presentations. I felt incapable and had no enthusiasm to work, let alone any commitment to justice.
Mr. Ikeda's writings, especially the novels The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution, which describe his struggles as an ordinary person to realize world peace, filled me with hope. From Mr. Ikeda, I learned that great writing doesn't require fancy words or clever techniques, but the earnest resolve to reach out to people. As I started to express myself freely, the quality of my drafts improved. Today, I lead most of the writing work in my organization, and our documents are praised nationally and internationally.
Through undergoing my own "human revolution," I overcame my fear of public speaking. In April 2009, I was invited to give a plenary presentation on harm reduction and human rights at a prestigious international conference. Though nervous, I enjoyed every minute on stage. I was also able to express gratitude toward the people who made me capable for the task--my boss for the training in law, and Mr. Ikeda for the training in life.
Our campaigns involve addressing audiences that are hostile to human rights. Before, I used to cringe or avoid sharing our viewpoint. But now, by emulating Mr. Ikeda's compassion toward others and spirit of sincere dialogue, I am able to communicate with respect for others' views while having conviction in my own beliefs. Through this process, I have seen many people turn around to support our efforts for social justice.
There are many parallels between human rights and Nichiren's humanistic philosophy. Human rights are based on recognition of the fundamental dignity of each person. Likewise, Buddhahood is inherent in everyone. The challenge is to create conditions for people to realize their rights and their inner potential. In the development sector, results are slow and uncertain. Many people become disillusioned and give up. Others are drawn toward fame and recognition, losing sight of the original purpose of their work. I am indeed fortunate to have as my mentor Mr. Ikeda, whose writings inspire me to dream but also serve as a reminder to stay grounded.
As in that photograph in the exhibition, the small seed has begun to germinate. This year, we won two major legal battles--one in court, overturning a law that discriminated against Indian homosexuals, and another in parliament, defeating a bill that threatened the livelihood of poor women. Mr. Ikeda believes that people are the main protagonists--the driving force for change. I am determined to follow his lead, sink deep roots and realize a world where humanism is the starting point for action.
[Courtesy, January 2010 SGI Quarterly]