Lotus Buddhism / FAQ / Human Revolution

Human Revolution

How could Shakyamuni Buddha reveal his enlightenment?

All schools of Buddhism agree in describing Shakyamuni’s enlightenment as the result of his victory over ‘illusions of the mind’.  History of Buddhism mentions that the Buddha had first to meditate to overcome and defeat the fierce negative forces in his mind - opposing his enlightenment.  What opposed his Enlightenment was referred to as the “devilish tendencies”, or “Mara”.

Enlightenment is inseparable from the triumph over the negative forces in one’s life.  But while the traditional Buddhist’s depiction of the process of Shakyamuni’s enlightenment is based on an epic (filled with mythological metaphors), SGI literature utilizes the concept of “Inner change” - or: Human Revolution as a contemporary and practical description of the process of: “inner transformation” - aiming at attaining  enlightenment.

“Therefore, the process of attaining Buddhahood is essentially not a struggle against an external enemy, but an unrelenting battle against the destructive forces or negativity that reside within our own lives. Only by vanquishing our inner negative tendencies can we achieve our human revolution and elevate our life state, opening the great path to happiness.”

SGI Newsletter No. 9734, The New Human Revolution––Vol. 27: Chap. 3, Fierce Struggle 31,

The Radical Process of enlightenment

While the traditional word “Enlightenment” gets frequently associated with metaphysical concepts, making its essence obscure, the process of Human Revolution - or: “Self-mastery” - is more direct and clear to understand by both Buddhist and nonBuddhist alike.  In an interview with Tricycle magazine, p. Ikeda was asked about the link between the expressions of “Human Revolution” and “Enlightenment”:

“I can’t think of anything more radical than enlightenment. It is both a return to our most natural state and a dramatic change. To quote Nichiren, ‘There is definitely something extraordinary in the ebb and flow of the tide, the rising and setting of the moon, and the way in which summer, autumn, winter, and spring give way to each other. Something uncommon also occurs when an ordinary person attains Buddhahood.’”

In his letter “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land”, Nichiren describes the process of “quick reformation” as the only path towards attaining security and peace of mind: 

“Therefore, you must quickly reform the tenets that you hold in your heart and embrace the one true vehicle, the single good doctrine [of the Lotus Sutra] “.  WND 1 p 6   

Shakyamuni’s Inner Struggle

According to Buddhist scriptures, Mara (personification of the negative functions in life) was alarmed at the prospect of Shakyamuni’s triumph, and tried to cast doubt about his efforts, creating in his mind uncertainty and self-doubt and projecting the goal of enlightenment as futile.  (This tendency of skepticism and making doubt can be perceived by us in situations where individuals in our surroundings, or also doubts in our minds -  oppose our practice of Buddhism).

When this failed, Mara turned to intimidation and threats to Shakyamuni, who responded with an indomitable fighting spirit and determination to win.  What Shakyamuni had to face in his struggle for attaining enlightenment was not a physical or external “devil” but a “negative tendency” that wells up within any person who is advancing toward the goal of enlightenment - trying to obstruct and hinder one’s progress.

In Nichiren Buddhism, the forces which appear to hinder one’s progress (and to deprive one of life force) are referred to as the obstacles originating from “Fundamental Darkness”.

Fundamental Darkness refers to the field of negative energies and destructive thoughts in one’s life, expressing foolishness, selfishness, fear, inferiority, doubts or disbelief in one’s Buddhanature. Although those negative forces emerge from inner illusions and personal ignorance, their influence, however, is very real.  In reality, the horrible events which take place in society, when dramatic incidents of harm (to self and others) occur - these evil actions are produced by the mind of fundamental darkness.  

Negative or devilish functions are causes for disharmony, creating division among people, inciting hatred, violence, foolish actions, inner doubts, intimidation, fear, lack of self-worth, arrogance or submission to arrogance…etc… Shakyamuni attained enlightenment only after defeating all the negative tendencies of his life, through a process of self-mastery, where the negative functions, although being inseparable part of his life, were deprived from the power to act in the life of the Buddha because of his determination to inwardly paralyze them, disabling them from having any influence on the Buddha.

Shakyamuni’s fierce determination to attain Enlightenment, the highest state of human life, was his “declaration of a revolution” against the obstacles hindering this attainment:

“He has wiped out even the very root of fundamental darkness, let alone the illusions of thought and desire that are as minor as branches and leaves”.WND1 p 233

Wiping out the roots of the three causes of evil:  Greed, Arrogance and Ignorance  (Ignorance of the Law of Cause and Effect) - is the very way to reveal one’s Buddha nature, through the process of one’s dedicated actions.  One’s Buddhist practice expresses inner revolution aimed at transformation and taking command of one’s own life.

The deceptive nature of negative forces is to try to appear through various ways. This was the case after Shakyamuni attained enlightenment as well, when the negative forces tried to persuade him to keep enlightenment “just to himself” -  without teaching others, a trial which he defeated through his determination and great compassion.

In today’s practice, some practitioners may get “self-satisfied” by their level of insight and do not feel the urge to cooperate with other for the sake of spreading Buddhism.  Such practitioners are deceived by their mind to ‘keep enlightenment for themselves’.  This may originate from a wrong idea that insight or enlightenment are static states, which do not require vigorous actions in society.  However, reality is governed by the dynamic Dharma of Cause and Effect - requiring continual freshness and actions:

“As we live in accord with the Dharma, or the Law, we can accomplish our own human revolution and attain enlightenment”. The Wisdom of the L.S. vol 6 p.117