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The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra

 

Lotus SutraA facsimile copy of an ancient Lotus Sutra manuscript

With the collapse of communism and a pervasive absence of philosophy in our age, humanity is now directing its gaze beyond the present in search of a powerful new philosophy. In other words, people are looking for something that will satisfy the spiritual emptiness they feel, something that will revive their weary, battered lives and fill them once again with hope and vigor. Humanity is searching for a wisdom that will provide true direction and purpose to the individual and society.

Some people say that the prevailing mood in the world today is one of powerlessness . . . Decisions about political, economic and environmental issues all seem to be made somewhere beyond our reach. What can the individual accomplish in the face of the huge institutions that run our world? This feeling of powerlessness fuels a vicious cycle that only worsens the situation and people's sense of futility.

At the opposite extreme of this sense of powerlessness lies the Lotus Sutra's philosophy of a single life-moment encompassing three thousand realms--known as ichinen sanzen--and the application of this teaching to our daily lives. The principle of one life-moment containing three thousand realms teaches us that the inner determination, or ichinen, of one individual can transform everything. It is a teaching that gives ultimate expression to the infinite potential and dignity inherent in the life of each human being.

Today, after the end of the Cold War, we are living in a "Great Interregnum of Philosophy," an era in which there is an absence of any guiding philosophy. That is why this is precisely the time to speak of the Lotus Sutra, long known as the king of sutras.

Religion must always be for the people. People do not exist for the sake of religion. This must be the fundamental rule of religion. To place supreme value on the human being is the teaching of the Lotus Sutra. It is the humanism of the Buddhist Law.

Wherever we are, it is necessary to begin with the revitalization, the revolution of each individual human being, one at a time. That is what we mean by the revolution of society and the world through the human revolution. That is the teaching of the Lotus Sutra. And actions directed toward that end represent the wisdom of the Lotus Sutra.

Life of Shakyamuni

The Lotus Sutra is a scripture that shows its true brilliance in periods of great transition . . . In India in Shakyamuni's time, the growth of cities was leading to a transcendence of old tribal divisions and to a new age in which people would live together in new, symbiotic relationships. It was a time of great intellectual confusion, with people teaching everything from pure materialism to hedonism, to asceticism. Against that background, Shakyamuni taught new principles of integration to unify humanity in this period of great change, and the Lotus Sutra is the living essence of that teaching.

Later, in China and Japan, when religion was in a state of chaos and people didn't know what to believe in, the Great Teacher T'ien-t'ai and Nichiren advocated the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and with this Sutra boldly confronted the issues of their respective eras and societies. The Lotus Sutra, one might say, represented the banner of unity with which they charged ahead in their struggles amid periods of great spiritual turbulence.

The Lotus Sutra--expounding the very essence of the Law--is the king of sutras. A king does not negate the existence of others; his role is to bring out the full potential of all. 

The Lotus Sutra teaches of the great "hidden treasure of the heart," as vast as the universe itself, which dispels any feelings of powerlessness. It teaches a vigorous way of living, in which we breathe the immense life of the universe itself. It teaches the true great adventure of self-reformation.

The Lotus Sutra has the breadth and scope to embrace all people on the way to peace. It has the fragrance of magnificent culture and art. It leads us to an unsurpassed state of life imbued with the qualities of eternity, happiness, true self and purity, so that wherever we are, we may say, "This, my land, remains safe and tranquil."

The Lotus Sutra has the drama of fighting for justice against evil. It has a warmth that comforts the weary. It has a vibrant, pulsing courage that drives away fear. It has a chorus of joy at attaining absolute freedom throughout the three existences of past, present and future. It has the soaring flight of liberty. It has brilliant light, flowers, greenery, music, paintings, vivid stories. It offers unsurpassed lessons on psychology, the workings of the human heart, lessons on life, lessons on happiness and lessons on peace. It maps out the basic rules for good health. It awakens us to the universal truth that a change in our heart, or attitude, can transform everything. It is neither the parched desert of individualism nor the prison of totalitarianism; it has the power to manifest a pure land of compassion, in which people complement and encourage each other.

Both communism and capitalism have used people as means for their own ends. But in the Lotus Sutra--the king of sutras--we find a fundamental humanism in which people are the goal and purpose, in which they are both protagonist and sovereign. Perhaps we could call this teaching of the Lotus Sutra a "cosmic humanism"?

Each passage and phrase of the Lotus Sutra is teaching about oneself, the entity of the Mystic Law. The sutra is not discussing something far removed from our own lives. I would like to explore the "wisdom of the Lotus Sutra" for the coming age. It is a journey to the truth that we ourselves are Buddhas. Life is an endless odyssey into the innermost sanctum of our own lives. 

 

--SGI President Daisaku Ikeda

Excerpted from a translation of comments made by Ikeda in a discussion with members of the Soka Gakkai study department in the February 1995 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai study journal. The discussion was later published as The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra (World Tribune Press, 2000).

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