Can Buddhism Change the World?

(Photo above by Guillaume Hankenne / Pexels)

Your solo practice can have a widespread, positive impact.

Q: Buddhism seems like a personal practice, but I keep noticing an emphasis on changing the world. How do these things connect?

A: From the Nichiren Buddhist viewpoint, the quickest way to improve the world is by changing yourself first. When you are able to recognize your own value, strength and courage, you can extend that to others in a compassionate, unconditional and authentic manner. You can also squarely face society’s broken, harsh realities, knowing you have the power to impact them for the better.

A field of sunflowers in the sunlight

Guillaume Hankenne / Pexels

Nichiren Daishonin explains how your own inner transformation leads to collective change by saying: “If the minds of living beings are impure, their land is also impure, but if their minds are pure, so is their land. There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds” (“On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 4). Basically, a society is only as virtuous as the people who occupy it. True reform happens when people polish and elevate their lives.

So, the good news is: change starts with you! And the bad news is: change starts with you! It’s a relief because it’s simpler than you’d expect and also intimidating because self-improvement is often hard. However, it’s only through processing your own negativity or hang-ups that you can be someone who helps others with theirs.

Nichiren Buddhists have a name for the social transformation that starts on an individual level: kosen-rufu. Daisaku Ikeda says:

Kosen-rufu is the process of actualizing the Buddhist spirit of compassion and the philosophy of the sanctity of life in the realms of government, economics, education, art and every area of human endeavor. The purpose of kosen-rufu is to build a society in which science, medicine, law and all other disciplines and systems created by human beings contribute to the happiness of humanity and produce genuine value.

The New Human Revolution, vol. 14, p. 20

The more you practice, the more you’re able to tap your Buddhability. The more you see your inherent worth, the more you’re able to recognize the same in others.

It all goes back to your Buddhability (the unique ability you have within yourself to change your life). The more you practice, the more you’re able to tap your Buddhability. The more you see your inherent worth, the more you’re able to recognize the same in others. The ripple effect of this process is what adds to kosen-rufu happening in the world.

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