Conviction Five

The Reform of Self Is Essential to the Reform of Society

This concept resides at the heart of the philosophy of value creation that guides the Center's work. First of all, this philosophy maintains that it is mistaken to wait for difficult external forces to improve before we ouselves take positive steps for the betterment of self and society. Admittedly, there are circumstances where an individual's options are limited, sometimes severely so, but the principle of always looking to create value is a powerful ideal. It also provides a strong point of resonance with the ethical core of the American Renaissance, a philosophical tradition that the Center often looks to for meaningful connections with humanistic Buddhism. Says scholar Ronald A. Bosco: “The most valuable lesson that Thoreau delivers to us today is that all cultural transformation begins with the individual, begins from within.” Daisaku Ikeda concurs that "efforts to improve systems or surroundings will be meaningless unless there is an inner change within people themselves."


[Toynbee and I] agreed that the root evil threatening human existence originates in the greed, violence, and aggression of human beings themselves. Ultimately, we agreed, such tendencies stem from self-centeredness; humanity’s survival will hinge on our collective success in overcoming such self-centeredness. (2004)

Finally, the fourth key area of convergence between the ideas of the American Renaissance and Nichiren Buddhism is to be found in the understanding of the connection between reform of the self and reform of society. (2004)

For Emerson and Thoreau, any thought of reforming society is based in a philosophy of self-transformation. Emerson stressed that reform must begin from humans themselves, from the inner realm of the human heart. Efforts to improve systems or surroundings will be meaningless unless there is an inner change within people themselves. (2004)

Our conversations [on Emerson and Thoreau] reaffirmed for me that unlimited promise and power lies within every individual; and that for this truth to take root and flower, one must develop a “self-culture” that transforms the very core of one’s being. What flowers from this self-culture is not the fragile, forlorn bud of the smaller self but the majestic blossom of the larger self — with its boundless capacity for empathy and understanding. (2009)

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