This essay is part of a continuing series of translations from a volume of
inspirational writings by the founder of Rissho Kosei-kai. DHARMA WORLD will
continue to publish these essays because of their lasting value as
guidance for the practice of one's daily faith.
From the very beginning of Rissho Kosei-kai, we have taught about a "humble heart" as being crucial to our mental attitude about how to live. A humble heart means that everything we do should arise out of self-reflection and from a sense of contrition for our faults. The essential way through which we can bring happiness to ourselves and peace to the world around us is by putting aside our small self and acting according to the greater truth.
World-renewal through religion involves rebuilding the hearts and minds of all people. As we painstakingly strive to do this, the world will become steadily brighter and more harmonious. This is the Right Path. Rebuilding hearts and minds aims at creating people who seek eternal truth rather than immediate gain, who take joy in spiritual attainment rather than material prosperity. Such rebuilding is very difficult, and many people regard it as impossible, like waiting a hundred years for the Yellow River to run clear, as the ancient Chinese proverb has it. But actually, it is not that difficult at all. It is far easier in fact than to change an object from one substance to another. So for example, you would think it impossible if you were asked to change wood into iron, but on the other hand, if you were asked to do away with all the discord that possesses your mind, you wouldn't think that completely inconceivable, would you? You would probably feel you could do it if you tried.
From the distant past, there have been many instances where evil and cruel people have been quickly reformed through the words of eminent priests and persons of great virtue. If you want to change, you can, almost in an instant. Toward the end of chapter 12 of the Lotus Sutra, "Devadatta," we are told how the eight-year-old daughter of the dragon king (symbolizing people of different races who live in isolated places outside the mainstream of culture) attained enlightenment as a buddha.
When the bodhisattva Manjushri stated that the daughter of the dragon king could speedily attain enlightenment, Shariputra demurred, and said to the girl, "The Buddha Way is so vast that only after passing through innumerable kalpas, enduring hardship, accumulating good works, and perfectly practicing the Perfections can it be accomplished. How can a child of a savage tribe, a female with many hindrances, and one who is only eight years old, become a buddha?" Thereupon, the dragon king's daughter silently held out the precious jewel she was carrying and presented it to the Buddha, who immediately accepted it. She then said to Shariputra, "I offered my jewel and the World-honored One has accepted it. Was this action speedy?" He answered, "Most speedy." The girl said, "See me become a buddha even more rapidly than that," and she then and there transformed into the buddha of the world Spotless in the southern quarter. Shariputra and all the congregation were astonished.
This episode tells us that if you only would be honest in facing the truth, your heart can change in an instant. We might be inclined to believe that because people today are so caught up with material things that it might be difficult, or even impossible, for them to change how they think, but that is not so. I believe in people. I do not give up on them. I believe that they will approach truth, goodness, and the sacred without fail if they are exposed to a good and correct religious teaching. When the hearts of many are changed in this way, the realm of eternal tranquillity will be established in this world.
Perfect peace might be far in the future, but it is not a dream because the means to attain it are clearly laid out as various stages in our world today. The means may seem impossibly involved and the goal far beyond our imagining, but we will reach our destination step by step without fail. There is no doubt about this. There are, however, two important points we must remember. First, human happiness can be found not only after arriving at the final goal, the Land of Tranquil Light (the world in a state of perfect peace), but in each of the countless stages of practice it takes to get there. Attaining the first stage is to experience the happiness of that stage, and the same goes for the second, third, and all the rest. If we lose sight of this, our goal will seem so distant that we will be merely bewildered and anxious, and unable to take even the first step.
The second point is that we must not be under the illusion that only activities labeled "peace this-and-that" make up work that contributes to the goal of peace. Such activities are like the pinnacle atop the great hall of a temple complex that reflects in the morning and evening sun, drawing all eyes to it. However, if it were not for the auxiliary buildings surrounding it, making up the rest of the complex, and the foundations underpinning those buildings, it could not survive the blows of a sudden storm. In Rissho Kosei-kai, it is not the founder alone who works for world peace. Each and every member, like each pillar and each foundation of every building in a temple complex, works every day at his or her religious tasks to bring about peace. Unless we are all able to liberate people from the suffering caused by the defilements, and bring about a change of heart in those caught up in the waging of war, how can we ever achieve peace in this world?
The Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO states: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed." This is absolutely right. Tackling the violence in the hearts of people and converting it to peace and brightness is the way to realize peace.
People are born into this world with different roles. What each achieves by fulfilling his or her role to the maximum is essentially exactly the same. What do I mean by this? There are two ways of looking at it. The first is the personal aspect and the second is the social aspect.
Let us look at the personal aspect first. People's characters are gradually cultivated through their own efforts and practice, as they pursue their individual roles and values in society. The place they eventually reach as they build their character further and further is in modern terms "self-perfection," and in Buddhist terms, the attainment of buddhahood. Thus, however different people are in character, physical strength, talents, occupation, or position, they need only to demonstrate perfectly what they are made of for them all to perfect their potential as human beings, which in other words is to achieve buddhahood. In this, all people are absolutely equal.
And society also benefits. When we make serious efforts to fulfill our own goals, values, and roles, and achieve them to the full, our work blends harmoniously with the work that all other people are doing to bring about a great balance, so that all aspects of society function smoothly, and genuine progress is encouraged. We can say that this is social peace, or in Buddhist terms the Land of Tranquil Light. Thus, however different our roles in society are, you can be assured that if you fulfill yours to the maximum, you will be equal with all others in being responsible for bringing about the realization of peace and the manifestation of the Land of Tranquil Light in this world.