How Does Societal Change Happen?

Change Begins with the Individual

Nichiren Buddhists believe change in society begins with the inner transformation of an individual which then ripples out to affect people around him.

If you take up this Buddhist practice, you will embark upon a process of inner transformation called human revolution. Over time, using the twice daily practice, you’ll find yourself becoming stronger. Ultimately you can make the wisdom, compassion and unshakeable happiness of Buddhahood your everyday experience. Imagine this process as being like a little chick pecking its way through its egg shell and breaking free into a new way of life.

For example, one woman suffered from anxiety much of the time. Immobilized when faced with a challenge she would take to her bed for 2-3 days. She learned the chant and then encouraged by more advanced members she chanted about the school demands which frightened her. She found she could overcome them one after another. Repeatedly having had this experience, she changed. Now when faced with a new challenge, she talked to herself differently. Instead of dwelling on all the possible catastrophes she would remind herself of her past successes. She developed the ability to look at anxiety-creating situations with the confidence that she could handle them with the practice. In this way she stopped the development of the anxiety in its early stages. Before long, out of appreciation, she began to reach out to help other people.

You Can Do It Too

If you suffer from anxiety, you can use the chant to break through your challenges as well. It would be important to find chanting support from other members, as it is hard to maintain confidence when having anxiety. Then set your goal, how you want your challenge to turn out. Chant for that resolution 5-10 minutes a day and see what happens.

Another person felt his life was out of control financially. With regular chanting and support from the group, he proved to himself over and over that he could handle difficult financial obstacles. With that realization a deep sense of relaxation came into his life. He knew he no longer had to worry about finances. He could have what he needed. Once his life stabilized he branched out and found ways of contributing to the community, such as working with other newer members who were having financial problems.

According to President Toda, the second SGI president, this process of inner transformation is not dramatic but occurs when you chant. Then live life the best you can, where each day you improve yourself in the most natural and positive way for you. In this way new insights and new behaviors will grow gradually and naturally over time.

Inner Change Leads to Life Changes

Personal human revolution can lead to a better world. For example, one young woman was lonely and isolated with no friends when she began to practice. She chanted on a daily basis for several months to have better relationships. Little by little she pecked through that shell of isolation and began to reach out and ask about other people’s lives when she came into her workplace in the morning.

Next she stepped out and volunteered to help other people. She took meals to shut-ins, and sat and chatted with them. As time went on she realized she could do more. She lobbied for state money to support and expand the number of meals that could be distributed. She found more volunteers to chat with the shut-ins. Not only did she feel happier and more connected but her efforts improved the community around her. The change that began with her rippled out to benefit many people as she became able to support and care for others.

The Bigger Picture

In this way the inner transformation of one individual multiplied by many hundreds of thousands can result in the improvement of education, the promotion of tolerance, the protection of the environment and the end of war. But it all begins with the individual