Some Quotes from Daisaku Ikeda and What They Mean to Me
Daisaku Ikeda, founder and current president of the Soka Gakkai International, (SGI) has a long history of fostering human growth and development and working for peace throughout the world. Whether one is willing to accept the tenets of the Buddhist faith that he embraces or practice it diligently in pursuit of happiness and enlightenment, one can appreciate the wisdom of his encouragement. For that reason, we are including four of many quotes from him found on a website dedicated to that purpose. Along with the quotes is the experience of editor, publisher and author John Maberry with these passages.
“The essence of Buddhism lies in developing oneself through one’s own determination and tenacious effort—not by depending on anyone or anything else. At the same time, neither is it to be confused with the arrogance to suppose, “I alone am correct and respectworthy.” To believe in the immense potential within oneself is at once to believe in the immense potential existing within all people. Buddhism teaches that we should treasure the lives of others just as highly as we treasure our own.”
When I began practicing Buddhism 38 years ago, I had been on a quest for several years to reacquire the idealism I had lost during a year spent in Vietnam as a participant in the unfortunate war that divided America. The innocence I lost then could never be recovered, of course, but at least I could perhaps find the means to make the world a better place. You can read my book, Waiting for Westmoreland to learn more about my perspective on what we did wrong in South Vietnam and how that weighed on me. What I will say is that college courses in history, social sciences, humanities, literature and more did not offer the answers I sought. Instead, it took my encounter with Buddhism, Ikeda and fellow practitioners to provide that. The realization came that I must change myself and through that process, learn how to influence others positively. It’s easy enough to find fault with others, especially political leaders, but much more challenging to find one’s own shortcomings. Once having done so and made an effort to reform oneself, then, and only then is it possible to engage others toward the goal of peace and happiness.
“One thing is certain: That is that the power of belief, the power of thought, will move reality in the direction of what we believe and conceive of it. If you really believe you can do something, you can. That is a fact.”
Despite difficulties I had faced, I believed that I could do anything that I set my mind to. Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out what that might be. Being decision- challenged, that belief had no practical use. I had graduated Summa Cum Laude from a state college (now a university) in Minnesota. When I learned of Buddhism in my final semester of study at Georgetown University’s Law Center, I still didn’t know my future path. I passed the bar on the first try but ultimately rejected practicing law for reasons not pertinent for this essay. Instead I chose to work in local government. This offered its own challenges but eventually provided a secure retirement. Along the way, remaining confident in my ability to do anything, I learned a whole host of homeowner skills that saved thousands of dollars: painting, plumbing, landscaping, electrical work and much more. I learned computer skills and knowledge of software sufficiently to be the “go to” person when the office IT person wasn’t available. Later, in retirement, I learned to create and manage my own websites and blogs. Being a jack of all trades doesn’t necessarily require a Buddhist practice, but for me, that practice goes a long ways toward confidence and success. Not that I could, nor would I try holding myself out as sufficiently skilled to charge other people for services, just safely and cost effectively proficient for my own household. Finally, the two most significant skills I acquired over time are financial planning and writing (my childhood dream)—including via social media, even in my 60s. I have seen the truth of Ikeda’s words in my life.
“Our lives inherently possess a boundless energy. Summoning this forth, we can break through the shell of the small self that constrains our lives. The process of revolutionizing our own lives and helping others to do the same, can transform society and ultimately elevate the state of humanity.”
Through the course of my own Buddhist practice I have gained the treasures of the storehouse (financial security), treasures of the body (health) and treasures of the heart (the most important and valuable of the three—happiness within my human environment, my family). Along the way, I have introduced a number of individuals to this practice. Through their efforts, fostered and encouraged at times by my example, they too have achieved these treasures. Many of them have moved beyond my level of organizational leadership as I moved to working behind the scenes. This enabled me to focus on my writing and to enable fresher or younger people to take the lead. Today, my efforts continue on the secular level by leading social media groups and aiding others in their pursuit of writing skills, as well as continuing to encourage members of my Buddhist community in making the most of their own practice. As those I have helped have grown, I see hope for the future of America and the world, despite the turmoil that is commonly shown on daily news programs.
“Life’s natural tendency is toward the flowering of potential, toward limitless advance. And faith is the key that enables us to open up the full realm of possibilities within our lives.”
To touch on one of the core changes in myself from the time when I began the practice of Buddhism many years ago, it is the ability to make decisions—my problem of long ago. In what Daisaku Ikeda and Josei Toda (his mentor) called human revolution, my change in character happened inconspicuously over time. Something that is common or typical of human revolution. It became apparent to me only when we moved to New Mexico from Virginia and began the process of building our dream house. That house had been a dream since my graduation from law school and the beginning of my journey on the path to enlightenment. The dream house is a wonderful thing, a “transient castle” in the Buddhist terminology, where visitors can escape the rigors and frustrations of their own journey through life. The wonder is in how a custom house can fulfill all one’s dreams for layout, functionality, energy efficiency, views, etc. The challenge lies in making decisions about every single component. Paint colors. Shades or blinds. Flooring. Doors, windows, light fixtures, appliances, plumbing. And much, much more. Remarkably, as time wore on, I became aware that as I met these challenges, I no longer had a problem with decision making. That problem had disappeared some time ago; I just hadn’t noticed. I didn’t need to specifically pray (chant daimoku—the Buddhist incantation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) for this change, it just came as an inevitable byproduct of my Buddhist faith and practice. For me it is not an inconsequential benefit. It may mean little to others who never had this shortcoming. But it is just one more example of the process of human revolution and the power of this practice to make one’s life better. It also is an example I use in encouraging others about the unseen and unnoticed benefits which accrue to those who persevere. All in all, the encouragement of Daisaku Ikeda in these quotes is something to which I can strongly relate. Whether you choose to share in the faith or not, you can still make use in your own life of the positive outlook Ikeda offers.