“The unity of many in body, one in mind can be formed only among those who respect one another and cherish one another’s unique attributes and abilities, while working in harmony to compensate for one another’s weaknesses. To create this kind of unity, each person must set aside attachment to self and accomplish a profound inner transformation, what we call human revolution.”
Many In Body, One In Mind Unity has long been recognized as a vital human value, necessary to any successful endeavor involving more than one person. The philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Leibniz observed: “Reality cannot be found except in one single source, because of the interconnection of all things with one another . . . I do not conceive of any reality at all as without genuine unity.” 1
Buddhism sees the “single source” Leibniz alludes to as the Law, or Dharma, the principle that serves as the thread that connects all things. Nichiren Daishonin identified it as the Mystic Law, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Buddhism exists to awaken people to the vast power of this Law in each person’s life. And Nichiren Buddhism teaches that only in recognizing and striving to bring forth this power in both ourselves and others can we enjoy real happiness and move toward a peaceful world.
Nichiren emphasizes the importance of genuine unity among his followers who work together for this ideal, citing from Chinese literature the principle “many in body, one in mind” (Jpn itai doshin). He writes, “If the spirit of many in body but one in mind prevails among the people, they will achieve all their goals, whereas if one in body but different in mind, they can achieve nothing remarkable” (“Many in Body, One in Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 618).
“Many in body,” also translated as “different in body,” refers to the diversity among individuals—their unique personalities, qualities, abilities and roles.
Some associate the word unity with conformity, and hence view it as being negative. Unity that is forced and seeks to control people, however, is the complete opposite of the unity of many in body, one in mind. That might best be described as “one in body, different in mind.” The more people are coerced to conform, the less able they will be to genuinely unite in spirit. Under such circumstances, people may put on a show of unity but are in reality more concerned with protecting their own interests.
SGI President Ikeda comments: “I find it profoundly significant that Nichiren doesn’t use the term one in body, one in mind— which is commonly used in Japanese to signify unity in conformity— rather, he uses many in body, one in mind, signaling unity in diversity. In other words, though we may share the same purpose or aspiration, we do not suppress or deny our own individuality. When we each fully express our unique potential through the power of the Mystic Law, we can manifest the invincible strength of the unity of many in body, one in mind” ( The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, pp. 205–06).
The unity of many in body, one in mind can be formed only among those who respect one another and cherish one another’s unique attributes and abilities, while working in harmony to compensate for one another’s weaknesses. To create this kind of unity, each person must set aside attachment to self and accomplish a profound inner transformation, what we call human revolution.
“One in mind”—also “same mind” or “same heart”—means sharing a noble purpose, a common wish to realize a lofty goal. In the realm of Nichiren Buddhism, this means the wish to accomplish kosen-rufu, the wide dissemination of the Law for the happiness of all. Nichiren refers to this same mind or heart when he says: “If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 385); and “It is the heart that is important” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 1000). Ultimately, it is a spirit deeply rooted in the Mystic Law itself.
When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon with the “same mind as Nichiren”— based on the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple—we make this possible. The mentor stakes his or her life on the vow to accomplish kosen-rufu and constantly endeavors to awaken that spirit in others. As this vow awakens in our own lives, we begin to pray and work earnestly for not only our own happiness, but for that of our friends, family and fellow members, and more broadly, for all humanity. As a result, the Buddha nature inherent within us emerges.
Nichiren teaches that if we persevere in faith with the same spirit or heart as his and work together in mutual harmony and respect, the goal of kosen-rufu will definitely be realized. Thus, both the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple and the unity of many in body, one in mind are necessary if we wish to realize world peace.
President Ikeda writes: “The oneness of mentor and disciple and the spirit of many in body, one in mind are essentially inseparable principles; they are like the two wheels of a cart. If we do not share our mentor’s heart or spirit to realize kosen-rufu, there will be no genuine unity of purpose among our diverse membership. Nor can we be called disciples who truly embody our mentor’s spirit if we fail to cherish our harmonious community of practitioners and to make continuous efforts to forge and maintain unity” ( The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 203).
These are not mere static principles or points of doctrine. They describe relationships based on the Mystic Law that can be endlessly deepened, as can the power and wisdom they enable each of us to bring forth.
1. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Philosophical Writings (London: Dent, Rowman and Littlefield, 1965), p. 37 and p. 80.
[Courtesy June 2012 Living Buddhism]