Mar 16, 2010

Happy Kosen Rufu Day

The Japanese phrase kosen-rufu expresses a centrally important concept for members of the SGI. It is often used synonymously with world peace, and has been informally defined as "world peace through individual happiness." More broadly, it could be understood as a vision of social peace brought about by the widespread acceptance of core values such as unfailing respect for the dignity of human life.

The phrase itself is of ancient origin and appears in the 23rd chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which states, "In the fifth five hundred years after my death, accomplish worldwide kosen-rufu and never allow its flow to cease." Here, the phrase kosen-rufu is written with four Chinese characters that could be rendered, respectively, as "widely," "declare," "flow" and "promulgate," and in its most literal sense it means the widespread flow and spreading--and application--of the teachings contained in the Lotus Sutra. Kosen-rufu implies an approach to Buddhist practice that is deeply engaged with the affairs of society and the world.

The stress placed by Nichiren on kosen-rufu typifies his approach to Buddhist practice; that our personal happiness--enlightenment--is inextricably linked with the peace and happiness of our fellow humans and of society as a whole. He rejected the idea that enlightenment is something to be cultivated as a private, inner virtue. He also rejected the idea that the proper goal of Buddhism is to garner reward in the afterlife. What these two ideas have in common is resignation regarding our ability to overcome suffering and positively transform society. For Nichiren, this represented an unacceptable turning away from the core Buddhist tenet that people are capable of realizing genuine happiness in this world. Both approaches were the target of his critique.

In Nichiren's view, enlightenment is not so much a goal or end in itself, as a basis for altruistic action. The life-state of Buddhahood--a condition of limitless vitality, wisdom and compassion--is one which is expressed, maintained and strengthened through committed action to contribute to the well-being and happiness of other people.

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