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A RELIGION THAT HELPS TO DEVELOP FULFILLED INDIVIDUALS

 

What is the purpose of religion? Primarily, religion was originated by the Love of God for the purpose of guiding unfortunate human beings to the fulfillment of true happiness. It is nothing other than that.

As you know, everybody living in this world is doing his best to become happy, but however hard he may try, things do not always work out as he wishes. Those who do attain happiness after striving toward it all of their lives number only a mere fraction of the entire human race. Most people, far from becoming fortunate, experience one unexpected misfortune after another. Thus, the things they have learned—while at school, from general moral standards, from lectures by or the biographies of great men, from reading such subjects in other books—they rarely find useful when they try to put such knowledge into practice. Indeed, we are impressed by fine theories, but when we apply them, things do not always follow the lines of those theories. I am sure many of you have realized this fact through experience.

To take a familiar example, if you try to live by the principle of honesty you are often regarded as soft-headed or foolish. If you change your policy and employ a little dishonesty you lose the trust of others, and if not extremely careful you may be caught by the law. So, you may be at a loss as to which path to take. Clever people think the best way to get on is to assume the appearance of honesty, to wear an air of complete innocence while acting dishonestly behind others' backs. They believe his is the best philosophy by which to live. It has spread so fast that most people today have become its strong supporters, and the strongest among them become the most successful. No wonder the general public wishes to follow their examples! I believe this is the reason social evils are not decreasing.

Because the world is like this, the majority of people have come to believe that honesty does not pay. This is a world in which honest people are considered unadaptable, rather outdated, and those who preach righteousness are usually placed at a distance, shunned. Thus they often become social failures.

I constantly advocate the importance of a sense of righteousness against such a world situation, so it is no easy effort I am making. Nonmembers may think it is a silly effort; or, perhaps to them I appear to be a cowardly or eccentric person with no self-interest, like a stereotyped spiritual leader.

For this reason, I have often been an object of contempt or ridicule in some newspapers and magazines, and sometimes have been summoned to court. The reason I have been tormented this way, I believe, is that I have boldly written about the shortcomings of the mass media with the motive of fighting social evil. Another reason must be that there is envy toward the church work because of its rapid expansion. As the saying goes, "Tall trees catch much wind."

Notwithstanding such oppression, however, our church has been steadily expanding. It seems this reassuring strength must have changed the attitude of some of our former critics, for we are most happy to say that the severe situation has greatly been lightened and matters are turning in our favor, This is, I believe, because we always stand firm and never waver in the face of any kind of assault, knowing that God is always behind us. The reason I say this is that our church is blessed with the strongest weapon that any religion has ever had.

As you study the religions of the past, you can see that there have been two ways, generally speaking, by which spiritual philosophies have been advocated. One is the religious attitude of advancing in the face of any opposition, brandishing righteousness like a weapon. A typical example of this kind was the Nichiren sect. It had to undergo a terribly severe religious persecution because of its attitude. This worked injuriously for the only after several hundred years that it began to expand, until it became as you can observe it today. Yet, if those who advocate a philosophy choose only a safe road in fear of persecution, it will take an exceedingly long time for it to expands at all, or it will disappear into oblivion. Herein lies the difficulty.

Thanks to the change of time, however, now that Japan has become more democratic we have freedom of religion. Our church is greatly blessed, for it is in a far different situation from that which it endured before World War II; that is why we were saved from meeting with fatal religious persecution. In this situation, I am doing my best to carry through my great policy of righteousness, of justice, trying to eliminate evil and to advance toward the goal of complete good in the world.

Now, let us proceed to the subject of the fulfillment of man, the focus of my article.

The most essential quality with which to bring about true happiness is goodness, of course, but in order to express that goodness at all times there should be sufficient power with which to overcome evil. In the past, there was not enough of this power because the time was premature, and so the followers of popular religions were not blessed with true, total happiness. So, people in general gave up the idea of attaining material happiness, but they retained their longing for spiritual peace. It was to satisfy this longing that Buddhism advocated resignation and spiritual awareness. Christianity encouraged its members to follow the example of Jesus, teaching that through a spirit of redemption they could release all desire for total happiness in this world. Jesus said, "Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also," because of his attitude of non-resistance toward evil. Thus, it was because they could not overcome evil that most orthodox religions formulated their practice of negating material blessings. They taught and still teach that religions which focus on material blessing are low-grade, that those which offer spiritual salvation alone are the only high-level philosophies. This is understandable. However, such teachings came into existence as temporary expedients, handy up to a certain time. Let me give a few examples of this point.

We often hear of people who have been suffering for a long time and yet are satisfied and happy, they say, because they have been saved spiritually. I believe they are only suppressing their true wish, having resigned themselves to fate. To me, this is a kind of self-deception. If I may state the truth, one can enjoy a feeling of satisfaction from the depths of one's heart only when one is completely released from illness or any other problem on the material level.

Also, since olden days there have been families whose members have been sincere devotees of certain religions, yet they have never been blessed with material things and they have been continuously assaulted by misfortunes. It was perhaps as the result of these facts that the mistaken idea has been fostered that spiritual salvation alone is primarily what religion has to offer.

The followers of our teachings receive material blessing as well as spiritual ones; we might say that sometimes the material blessing appear to be the greater. Think of the fact that our church is constructing miniature paradises in more than one place, including even art museums. Think of the fact that all are being built with donations from members, and that these have come through the members' free will, for it is the policy of our church not to collect money through solicitation; we believe every gift should be voluntary. Of course, we need a great amount of money in order to carry out such large-scale projects. That all the necessary funds are gathering at our church in spite of the above-mentioned policy is indeed a miracle. From this fact you can imagine how well supplied our members are. And the donations are not simply one-time gifts but are coming regularly in ever-increasing amounts, so we have never experienced any financial strain.

Another thing I would like to mention is the time, the age. In those old days when various religions were founded, it was all right to live by a Shojo* attitude of faith, so it was acceptable or even better for religions and their founders to do things frugally. As a Japanese saying goes, "Spiritual founders spend their lives clad in coarse paper clothes." But we cannot follow that style any more today. Now that everything is becoming worldwide, we must work on an inconceivably big scale if we wish to help save the entire human race. That is, the bigger the scale of our operation becomes, the larger the number of those who are saved will be. When people come to know of the great plan of our church, I am sure all will take a new look at our work.

*Shojo: The vertical, the narrow, the limited attitude.

 

June 10, 1953

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