Buddhism - The quiet transformers
by Attreyee Roy Chowdhury
Core concepts of Sokka Gakkai1. The inherent dignity and equality of all human life
2. The unity of life and its environment
3. The interconnectedness of all beings that makes altruism the only viable path to
"To live without spirituality is like being hungry in a pitch-dark room"
Buddhist philosopher, author and peace proponent, Daisaku Ikeda is president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI). Born in Tokyo in 1928, Ikeda experienced firsthand the human loss, anguish
Burning of firewood of deluded impulses, we behold the flame of enlightened wisdom —Nichiren Daishonin
The Buddhist approach to inner tranquillity, according to Nichiren Daishonin, the 13th century Japanese Buddhist monk whose thoughts form the base of the Soka Gakkai movement, begins by the fundamental act of surmounting deluded impulses or inner poisons. Then, through spiritual practice, the energy inherent in these impulses is transformed into an illuminating 'flame' of enlightened wisdom. In the resulting tranquil state, the light of enlightened wisdom shines brilliantly, unblocked and unhindered by the clouds of deluded impulses.
Deeply perturbed by the constant suffering all around despite the all-pervasive influence of Buddhism, Daishonin sought an answer in a thorough study of the various Buddhist sutras and treatises of renowned scholars. His studies brought him to the conclusion that the Lotus Sutra was the highest of Buddhist teachings and the misery of humankind emanated out of our disregard for this teaching.
(The Lotus Sutra holds that ''earthly desires are enlightenment''. Earthly desires in themselves are not enlightenment. They are an illusion. It is also a mistake to think that desires are purely evil. These two extremes are transcended by the Lotus Sutra. It also affirms that there is a single path to enlightmenment-that of the bodhisattva.)
Thereafter, Daishonin founded his own school of Buddhism and, throughout his life, debated and wrote a massive body of teachings to revive the true spirit of Buddhism, as a teaching to save people from misery rather than a ceremonial and ritualistic religion surviving on state sponsorship. Affiliated to the Soka Gakkai of Japan, Soka Gakkai Inter- national (SGI) follows the orthodox lineage of Daishonin's interpretation of Buddhism. Soka Gakkai means 'value-creating society'.
On a macro level, the SGI is a global association of grassroots organisations that seeks to promote the values of peace and respect for all people. At the heart of the movement is the ideal of education for global citizenship. Through a wide range of activities, the SGI seeks to foster awareness towards social and environmental responsibilities that we all share for the future of our planet.
Naveena Reddi, director-general of Bharat Soka Gakkai (BSG), the Indian chapter of the movement, states that the SGI also promotes cultural exchange and seeks to advance the search for common values, such as tolerance and co-existence, which are present in different forms in all traditions. ''These activities,'' says Reddi, ''are based on the premise that through direct interactions with people from different cultures-whose backgrounds and assumptions about life may differ greatly from our own-we strengthen our sense of common humanity.''
The most fundamental of all SGI activities, however, are the discussion and prayer meetings held and rooted in local communities. In today's society, where unrestrained egotism has brought profound disruptions to the human heart and where humanity is losing sight of the art of coexisting with nature, these small gatherings of people of all ages, races, interests and backgrounds offer a forum for rich and refreshing exchange.
The SGI has consistently focused on people and on the movement for human revolution through the bodhisattva practice. In the meetings, members strive to establish a condition of inner peace in daily life with the chanting of the mantra Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo, which means devotion to the mystic law of cause-and-effect. Members also seek to contribute to the realisation of peace in the world by enabling each individual to develop his or her unique qualities to the fullest.
Santanu Chowdhury, SGI member from Mumbai, explains how the Soka Gakkai philosophy benefited him: ''I had joined BSG in 1984 to overcome personal problems, which I was told was possible through practice of this philosophy. I soon surmounted them, but continued being a member for two reasons. First, I found that what I saw as my problem was the proverbial tip of the iceberg. I had far deeper problems to overcome, even within my family. Second, BSG made me sensitive to my social responsibilities and also gave me the confidence to believe that as an ordinary individual, I can make a difference to the 'world order'.''
According to Dr Akash K. Ouchi, SGI representative in India: ''Buddhism provides a means by which destructive tendencies can be transformed into altruistic virtues. A person's triumph over struggles and challenges, and the resultant unleashing of positive potential, is what is meant by 'human revolution'.'' Dr Ouchi also reinforces that becoming happy, mastering fear and appreciating how one's life affects others are the prime objectives of SGI members.
The sheer simplicity and practicality of the movement has made the SGI today the largest practising Buddhist organisation in the world, comprising over 12 million members and spread across 180 countries. Even in India, with its headquarters in New Delhi, the movement is not restricted to the metros but is spreading to smaller cities and towns.
SGI traces its roots back to 1930 when Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944) and Josei Toda (1900-1958), its first and second presidents respectively, founded Soka Gakkai in Japan as an association of teachers. The group sought to reform the Japanese educational system based on Makiguchi's theory of soka (value creation) and Daishonin's philosophy.
True to the principles of the movement, Daisaku Ikeda, the president of SGI since 1960, is more than just a Buddhist-he is a humanist who takes action based on the philosophy and wisdom of Buddhism. Under his direction, the SGI, which opposes all forms of violence, is promoting a movement for peace, culture, and education based on Buddhism and working to protect the sanctity of life and contribute to the welfare of humankind.
This movement has won sympathy from all quarters and has touched the hearts of people around the world. Laying a great emphasis on humanism, Ikeda feels that the happiness and security of the individual must be the end or the objective of any philosophy.
Contact: Dr Akash K. Ouchi, Naveena Reddi Ph: +91-11-6258125/6251016;
E-mail: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: connect with a group - 28 February 2014
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