Oct 25, 2009

You say you want a Revolution

When I hear the word revolution, I immediately think of the Beatles' song. But there is another kind of revolution that exist. "Human Revolution".

(From a series of essays by Daisaku Ikeda first published in the Philippine magazine Mirror, in 1998)

Life is about expressing and developing our individuality as fully as possible--it is about self-realization. This process is what I call "human revolution."

There are many kinds of revolutions-political, economic, industrial, scientific, artistic, and so on. But no matter how external factors change, the world will never get better as long as people remain selfish and apathetic. As John F. Kennedy said, in 1963, "Our problems are manmade--therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants."

The "human revolution" is a term used by Josei Toda, second president of the Soka Gakkai, to describe the process by which an individual gradually expands his life, conquers his negative and destructive tendencies, and ultimately makes the state of Buddhahood his dominant life condition. The idea of revolution as most people understand it usually refers to a political or economic revolution. Such a revolution usually imposes new ideas upon people at large, and thereby effects change. The idea and the goal of human revolution is very different.

Rather than changing society directly, through improving or reforming social or political systems, the object of change lies deep within the life of each individual. As Josei Toda states: "'The human revolution' I am talking about...refers to the establishment of one's ultimate purpose in life and working towards the perfection of self. We carry out our daily lives according to our own views on life and society. However, 'human revolution' refers to the change that we bring about in the way we view life, society and the world. A fundamental change occurs in the way one has led his or her life up until that point. The 'human revolution' of an individual becomes apparent when he or she establishes an unwavering and absolute conviction in the eternity of life. Rather than focusing on short-term goals which apply only to one's present lifetime, this conviction becomes the basis for the pursuit of loftier goals and greater good, in contrast to one's previous satisfaction with the accomplishment of lesser goals and good."

An inner change for the better in a single person is the essential first turn of the wheel in the process of making the human race stronger and wiser. This "human revolution" is, I believe, the most fundamental and most vital of all revolutions. This revolution-an inner process of self-reformation- is completely bloodless and peaceful. In it everyone wins and there are no victims.

Life is a struggle with ourselves; it is a tug-of-war between moving forward and slipping backward, between happiness and misery. We are changing constantly, but the real issue is whether we change for the better or the worse, whether or not we succeed in enlarging our narrow, self-centered focus to take a broader view.
Every day we are faced with countless choices and decisions. We have to decide which path to take in order to feel good about ourselves and become better, more generous-spirited individuals? If we just allow ourselves to be ruled by force of habit, the way we've always reacted to a given situation, we will be drawn down the path of least resistance and stop growing as a person.

But if we succeed in challenging ourselves on a fundamental level, we can change from someone who is buffeted about by the environment or the people around us, to someone who can positively influence our situation and surroundings. We actually create the unique shape of our lives by the infinite choices we make each day.  True individuality and character never come to full flower without hard work. I feel it is a mistake to think that who you are right now represents all you are capable of. If you passively decide, "I'm a quiet person, so I'll just go through life being quiet," you won't ever fully realize your unique potential. Without having to change your character completely, you can become a person who, while still basically quiet, will say the right thing at the right time with real conviction. In the same way, a negative tendency toward impatience could be developed into a useful knack for getting things done quickly and efficiently.

But nothing is more immediate, or more difficult, than to confront and transform ourselves. It is always tempting to decide "That's just the kind of person I am." Unless we challenge this tendency early in life, it will become stronger with age. But the effort is worthwhile in the end, as I believe that nothing produces deeper satisfaction than successfully challenging our own weaknesses. As the Russian author Tolstoy wrote, "Supreme happiness is to find that you are a better person at the end of the year than you were at the beginning."

Human revolution is not something extraordinary, or divorced from our daily lives. It often begins in a small way. Take a man who thinks only of himself, his family and friends. Then, one day, he makes a move to break out of these narrow confines just a little, going out of his way to help a suffering neighbor. This the start of his human revolution. But this process of human revolution cannot be undertaken alone. It is through our interactions with others that we polish our lives and grow as human beings. The only way to hone and polish our character is through our interactions with others.

By taking action for, and being positively engaged with others, we become better and more disciplined people. But this doesn't mean making others happy while ignoring ourselves or our own happiness. The happiness we create as individuals, and the strong bonds we create with each other, result in the happiness of all mankind. Transforming our own lives at the most fundamental level actually holds the key to changing society. A deep change in our outlook, the inner reality of our life, produces changes in the external workings of our life, in other people, and our community.

I firmly believe that a great human revolution in just a single individual can help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and enable a change in all humankind.

Every single person has tremendous potential which is largely untapped. Through the hard work of our human revolution, this potential can be revealed and we can establish an independent, unconquerable sense of self. We can deal creatively with any situation that life has to offer. This open-ended process enables us to keep growing and developing throughout our lives, and beyond. We will never meet a deadlock in our eternal journey of self-realization.

SGI President Daisaku Ikeda wrote these words in the foreword to his novel The Human Revolution: "A great revolution of character in just a single man will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will cause a change in the destiny of all humankind."

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