The most basic wish of all people is to live happily. Yet human society is shaped by forces that work powerfully against this basic desire: from pervasive violence, to wanton environmental destruction, to the exploitation that structures such deep inequalities between people.
Buddhism sheds light on the inner dynamics of human life that lead us to create such an undesirable reality. One of the most pernicious and powerful desires inherent in human life, according to Buddhist thought, is the desire for power over others, the urge to subjugate other people to our will. In this condition, the ego finds its most unrestrained and destructive expression, regarding others simply as a means to satisfy its selfish objectives.
Buddhist compassion could be succinctly described then as the desire to relieve suffering and to give joy.
Because genuine compassion is about empowering others, helping them unlock strength and courage from within their lives in order to overcome their problems, it may sometimes appear stern or contradictory. For example, although resolving a difficult situation for someone may seem compassionate, if this ends up making them weaker and less self-reliant, this will not contribute to their actual happiness in life. The essence of compassion is empowerment.
The effort to offer others effective encouragement for their specific circumstances is what gives rise to wisdom. Compassion and wisdom are thus closely related. Furthermore, even small acts of kindness require a degree of courage.
Nichiren established the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a practical means for people to bring forth the strength and rich potential of their humanity and live with confidence and joy. Sharing this practice with others is therefore the most essential act of compassion for practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism.
The transformation of society can only occur through a transformation of people’s hearts. A life based on compassion means a staunch belief in the unrealized potential of others and ourselves. It is easy to give up on ourselves and others in the face of our failure and foolishness; such loss of faith in humanity is characteristic of our troubled world today. To continue to believe in and encourage the innate goodness and potential of our own and others’ lives is the core of the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism. It is also the bedrock of a firm optimism upon which all people can base their actions to bring about positive change in our world.
Courtesy July 2010 issue of the SGI Quarterly.
Source from Soka Global