Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
History & Philosophy
Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
In 2003, I was, with my partner Mike, running a commercial design and photography business. However, our hearts were not in it, and we weren't making much of a success of it. We had many discussions about how we needed to change our lives at a fundamental level but were unsure how to go about it. I decided to attend a course at Trets, the SGI European Training Center in France. We were all encouraged to use our week there to seek out our unique purpose, that way of life that allows us to be truly happy.
SGI President Ikeda explains about this purpose in the following words:
"You must never slacken in your efforts to build new lives for yourselves. Creativity means to push open the heavy, groaning doorway of life itself. This is not an easy task. Indeed, it may be the most severely challenging struggle there is. For opening the door to your own life is in the end more difficult than opening the door to all the mysteries of the universe."
At the end of the week, I still had no idea what my mission was! On the plane home, however, I read SGI President Ikeda's 2002 Peace Proposal. In it, I came upon a section that talks about the Earth Charter. This is a "people's document" of ethical principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society that was created through over a decade of global cross-cultural dialogue among civil society. He stressed that "it is vital that there be ongoing grassroots efforts to raise awareness so that the Earth Charter may become the fulcrum for the common struggle of humankind," and that "the SGI is determined to continue working with the Earth Council and other organizations to publicize its ideas." When I read these words, all I could think was, "We could do that!" I shared my experience with Mike, and he wholeheartedly agreed that we should support President Ikeda's vision and use our skills to promote the Earth Charter in Scotland.
What happened over the next few years led to that fundamental change we had been seeking. In 2003, we hosted an Earth Charter Community Summit, raising local awareness of the Charter through speakers and workshops. After that, Mike went back to college to learn about social enterprise, and we subsequently founded a charity called Action for Change (Scotland). Our vision is to help create resilient, sustainable communities by finding ways to engage people to help them reconnect to themselves and to their environment. related article Global Issues, Practical Dilemmas by Viviane Ferraz For her public sector work with the environment, Viviane Ferraz has drawn inspiration from SGI President Ikeda's writings, particularly his peace proposal of 1992, which discussed the Earth Summit and its call for sustainable development.
The Earth Charter and Buddhist values are very similar in many ways; indeed the celebration slogan for the 10th anniversary of the Charter this year is "It starts with one." This focus on taking personal responsibility and changing ourselves from the inside as the starting point for change in the wider external environment is a basic tenet of Buddhism.
I returned to college to study Environmental Justice. In 2008, Earth Charter International created a network of affiliates in order to expand the Earth Charter movement, and Action for Change has become the first affiliate of the Earth Charter in Scotland. Our work centers on developing, educating and training organizations, communities and individuals in all aspects of sustainable development.
Through all the volunteering experience gained through my SGI and Earth Charter activities, I was successful in taking on a full-time post in community development in my local area.
All that we have achieved so far with Action for Change and the Earth Charter is based on President Ikeda's formula in life of "learn, reflect and empower." We will continue to engage in heart-to-heart dialogue with local people helping regenerate the landscape of the human heart.
[Courtesy, July 2010 SGI Quarterly]
Make Me Sound Amazing: Lessons in Life and Leadership
by James Greening, Australia
A Fierce Determination to Live
by Jharna Narang, survivor of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks
An Unfolding Story
by Nomsa Mdlalose, South Africa
Creating Ties of Friendship
by Liz Lorente, UK
by Nitin Upadhye, India
Embracing the Cycle of Life
by Gwen Harris, USA
Meeting My Life Purpose
by Fernanda Baumhardt, Brazil