“Human revolution is a never-ending process of continual self-improvement. It describes a Buddhist way of life that eternally seeks growth and personal development. It is about how much we are growing and improving right now rather than what we have achieved in the past.”
Second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda used the term human revolution to describe the process of individual inner transformation that results from Buddhist practice. It addresses the real possibility for human beings to change, and in particular the development of the inner potential for enlightenment, or Buddhahood, the core purpose of Nichiren Buddhism. In that sense, human revolution can be seen as a modern expression of the principle of “attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.”
SGI President Ikeda explains: There are all sorts of revolutions—political, economic, industrial, scientific, artistic and those in distribution and communications. And there are many others. Each has its significance and, often, necessity.
But no matter what one changes, the world will never get any better as long as the people—the guiding force and impetus behind all endeavors—remain selfish and lack compassion. In that respect, human revolution is the most fundamental of all revolutions and, at the same time, the most necessary. ( Discussions on Youth, second edition, p. 256)
There are many ways to describe human revolution: A person preoccupied with the egoistic concerns of the “lesser self” transforms into one who lives according to his or her “greater self,” acting out of genuine concern for others’ well-being. Or someone who has caused nothing but trouble for others improves his or her behavior, begins helping others and becomes an asset to the community. There are endless ways in which we each can improve.
From the perspective of the Ten Worlds (see 2012 Introductory Exam Study Guide, pp. 16–22), we could say that human revolution means a change in our fundamental life state, from one characterized by the “four evil paths”—the worlds of hell, hunger, animality and anger—to one that exhibits the higher states, in particular, the worlds of bodhisattva and Buddhahood.
Human revolution is a never-ending process of continual self-improvement. It describes a Buddhist way of life that eternally seeks growth and personal development. It is about how much we are growing and improving right now rather than what we have achieved in the past.
The Mentor-Disciple Relationship: The Great Path of Human Revolution
The desire to become strong and unshaken by any difficulty propels our human revolution.
In “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” Nichiren Daishonin states, “Even though you chant and believe in Myoho-renge-kyo, if you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but an inferior teaching” ( The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 3). Nichiren Buddhism emphasizes seeking both the causes and solutions to our problems within our own lives. It stresses that by tapping the power of the Law innate within us we can change any situation for the better.
When we seek influences that help us stimulate and bring forth the natural strength and wisdom we possess, and that inspire us on the path of Buddhist practice, we carry out human revolution. To this end, we need to learn from the teachings and example of an excellent teacher or mentor who is thoroughly dedicated to correct Buddhist practice. President Ikeda writes, “The path of mentor and disciple is strict and demanding; it is itself the great path of human revolution and attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime” ( The New Human Revolution, vol. 17, p. 16).
What qualifies a mentor in Nichiren Buddhism is lifelong commitment to the happiness of all people through the spread of the Mystic Law, and dauntless action to fulfill that commitment in the face of all obstacles and opposition. To simply mimic the mentor or seek the mentor’s approval is not the way of mentor and disciple. Rather, this relationship is based on sharing the same vow as the mentor to relieve the suffering of all people and continuously taking action toward that end. In striving to develop and act upon that vow, we break through the constraints of our weaker “lesser selves” and develop our “greater selves”— our true selves that regard the happiness of others as our own.
One Person Can Change the World
Though self-discipline may take us a long way, fundamental change comes only from transforming our innermost weaknesses into deeply rooted strengths. Human revolution requires identifying and challenging that which keeps us from expressing our full potential and deepest humanity, and replacing these things with causes that bring forth our true potential and genuine humanism. Through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and earnestly striving in our Buddhist practice, we tap inexhaustible courage, wisdom and compassion, and learn to create value in any situation.
President Ikeda states, “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind” ( The Human Revolution, p. viii). The transformation of all humanity—that is a grand objective indeed. When we can demonstrate through our behavior and attitude how we have changed, this becomes an example of the power of Buddhism. Simply speaking of enlightenment or Buddhahood in the abstract is useless. We must clearly show that we are progressing in life and that we are never defeated.
“I want you to be assured that the challenge to which we set ourselves day after day—that of our human revolution—is the royal road to bringing about a reformation in our families, local regions and societies,” President Ikeda says. “An inner revolution is the most fundamental and, at the same time, the ultimate revolution for engendering change in all things” ( My Dear Friends in America, third edition, pp. 252–53).
Our practice as SGI members and the resulting inner transformation we achieve become the momentum for changing the destiny of all humanity.
[Courtesy August 2012 Living Buddhism]