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The Buddhist Concept of the Human Being: From the Viewpoint of the Philosophy of the Soka* *Gakkai
*By Dr. Mikio* Matsuoka
Researcher, Institute of Oriental Philosophy
Head of Doctrinal Studies, Association of Reformist Priests
_[Published in The Journal of Oriental Studies, Vol 15, 2005]_
Daisaku Ikeda, president of the Soka Gakkai International, in a dialogue withworld-renowned sociologist of religion Bryan Wilson, points out that modern social thought originating in the West retains vestiges of a Christian worldview. Ikeda asserts that even today, when belief in a Christian God has waned, national and ideological causes have taken the place of God, with mass slaughter often being justified and glorified in the names of those causes. Insisting that no causetakes precedence over the principle of the sanctity of human life, he underscores the important role Buddhism can play in creating a new civilizational framework.[1] The tendency in modern Western thought to place absolute value on such things as reason, freedom, equality, human rights, and the environment can lead to the value of human life being depreciated. In events ranging from violentrevolutionary movements such as the French and Russian revolutions to the curious recent phenomena of human rights fascism, eco-fascism, and peace fascism, we can discern thinking that gives priority over human beings to tenets similar to those used to justify attacks on heretics during the Christian Inquisition in the Middle Ages. President Ikeda calls for a reversal of the trend where people servethe ends of religion, and instead have religion serve people. The significance of this appeal extends beyond simple religious debate, and challenges the monotheistic paradigm regarding the human being that prevails, albeit largely unconsciously, in our modern world.
That said, however, a fundamental theoretical question remains. Does the Buddhist view of the human being contain a philosophy thatcan sublate this civilizational paradigm? In particular, can the Buddhist philosophy of the Soka Gakkai--Soka philosophy--fulfill this mission? This is the purpose of this paper. It is my wish to propose some stepping-stones from which a foundation for further research concerning Soka philosophy can be established. Specifically, I will focus on the view of the human being in Buddhism from a socialthought perspective, re-examining the words of the Buddha found in early Buddhist scriptures. I will also explore the relationship between early Buddhism and Soka philosophy and the significance of the Soka view of the human being in the context of contemporary thought.
Further, it should be noted that the term "subjectivity," which forms a keyword in this paper, is employed by the author in adifferent sense from the concept of subjectivity in modern philosophy and existentialist doctrine. It is employed in the Buddhist sense of human subjectivity, where the individual actively embodies the fundamental power of the Law that gives rise to the world in a web of mutually interconnected and interdependent relationships.
1. Buddhism as a human-centered religion
1.1 The path tohuman-centered social reform
Shakyamuni left home to set out on a journey to solve the questions of human existence. First he studied under Brahman teachers who had achieved a high level of awareness, and then he underwent a long period of austere practices, before abandoning that course as well. Finally, through intense meditation, he was able to grasp the ultimate truth and attain enlightenment.The truth that he discovered could be defined as the Law of non-self and dependent origination. He traveled throughout India preaching the Law, telling people that by becoming aware of this Law within their own lives, they could free themselves from the shackles of suffering. In other words, he taught that the fundamental cause of suffering in the world must not be sought in the external...
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