The Road to Peace through Self-Examination
by Keiji Kunitomi
Self-examination can perhaps be called a practice that is common to all
religions. In some religions, it might take the form of offering a
prayer to the deity; in others, it might take the form of meditation.
Indeed, the forms of self-examination can vary from person to person.
In Buddhism, too, self-examination takes different forms depending upon
the sect and the individual performing it.
Self-examination is a fundamental condition for human beings who seek a
higher level of existence. The reason for this is that in essence,
human beings are creatures whose lives are filled with contradictions.
For example, human beings unite in themselves two contradictory sides:
one that desires to realize personal goals regardless of the cost to
others, and one that seeks to cooperate with others in the belief that
one cannot live without their help. The point of departure on the road
of self-examination arrives when we understand that all humans lead
their lives embroiled in this dilemma.
To what degree can we control and overcome egoism, and come to value
others? In order to answer that question, and to move on to greater
personal growth, religion is a necessity, and daily self-examination is
However, the importance of self-examination does not stop at the
personal level. On the regional, national, and international levels,
when peace is being considered the most essential element is the
attitude held in each person's heart. The preamble to the UNESCO
Constitution states: ". . . since wars begin in the minds of men, it is
in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed."
This clearly means that unless we create a state of peace within our
own minds and hearts, we will never be able to attain lasting world
As Rev. Nichiko Niwano, the president of Rissho Kosei-kai, often
reminds us: "It may be that we ourselves turn our backs on the great
cause of peace--thus thoroughgoing self-examination by people of
religion is essential in the effort to achieve world peace." In other
words, we must all become aware that the spirit that engenders war and
various other conflicts exists within ourselves. Greed, anger, hatred,
envy, and jealousy--all of these emotions reside within the human
heart. In particular, it is because people of religion are people of religion that they must look within their own minds and hearts by careful and comprehensive self-examination.
Of course, there are many other causes of war and regional conflict in
addition to problems of the heart and spirit. Dissimilarities in
ideology and economic systems, and misunderstandings and prejudices
arising from differences in ethnic background or religious beliefs, as
well as disputes over territory or natural resources, are among the
factors that cannot be overlooked. Yet, as long as governmental and
financial structures are run by human beings, even such political and
economic factors all fundamentally arise within the human heart.
Most of the time when we engage in conflicts with others we have a
strong sense that we are not in the wrong, and it is the other party
who is at fault. And yet, if we take the time for true
self-examination, the thought will arise that perhaps we cannot state
unequivocally that we are in the right, that perhaps the other party is
somewhat justified, and that we too might be partly to blame. If we
even begin to suspect such a thing, then without a doubt a feeling of
forgiveness toward the other will arise in our hearts.
In every religion, believers confess and atone for their sins before
their deity or the Buddha in the hope of forgiveness. To the extent
that people become aware of their own foolish and ugly deeds, they can
gain a spirit of humility through which they can then forgive others.
Further, if they delve deeper into themselves by self-examination, I
believe that the deeper they go, the stronger the power of love and
compassion that will grow within them.
The road to peace sought by people of religion is one that we must all
tread together, even with people of different creeds and those with no
faith in anything at all, acknowledging our common humanity and common
spirit, and through the power of love and compassion move forward in
one spirit to establish real peace within the human heart.
Keiji Kunitomi is director of the General Secretariat of Rissho Kosei-kai and a member of the organization's Board of Directors.
This article was originally published in the April-June 2007 issue of Dharma World.