I am a Buddha. So are you, whether or not you are a Buddhist, have any knowledge of or belief in Buddhism, practice another religion entirely, or have no religious beliefs at all. At least, you have the potential to be a Buddha. Briefly, a “Buddha” is a human being who is enlightened to the eternal and ultimate truth that is the reality of all things, and who leads others to attain the same enlightenment.
Most Americans, when they hear of Buddha or Buddhism, think of the Dalai Lama or Zen. Or they may have read Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha. Or they may think of the various statues (the skinny Buddha with peaceful expression, or the fat happy Buddha of the restaurants). Or they may relate it to the concept of karma, usually understood as “what goes around comes around”, although there’s a lot more to it than that. The Buddhism that I practice is that of Nichiren Daishonin, who based his teaching on Shakyamuni’s Lotus Sutra. (Shakyamuni lived approximately 2500 years ago, and is considered the ‘historical’ Buddha from whom subsequent teachings flowed; he was not and is not the “only” Buddha.) Nichiren regarded this sutra as Shakyamuni’s most profound teaching, as it recognizes the potential of every person to become a Buddha. Not only can every person become a Buddha, it can happen in this lifetime and in one’s present form. This revolutionary concept is found nowhere else in Shakyamuni’s teachings; earlier sutras had excluded (for example) evil people, those who were excessively devoted to learning, those who reviled and slandered the sutra, and…oh yes, women.
Small wonder that I practice this form of Buddhism! I belong to a world peace organization, the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), of which you can learn more about here: www.sgi-usa.org. (You can also learn more about Nichiren Buddhism.) The SGI is the largest lay organization practicing in the world practicing a religion without being connected to any clergy. We have no temples or priests. We have no hierarchal distinctions amongst members. No one is more “connected” than anyone else. I’ll refrain from going into the whole history of how this came about, but henceforth any references to Buddhism or the Buddhist point of view should be understood to mean the Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism and no other. I have opinions about everything, but my opinion won’t necessarily be your opinion, and that’s not a problem. Everything I write about, be it art, music, politics, or life in general, will be from a Buddhist perspective. I am not an official spokesperson for the SGI, nor am I a Buddhist scholar; I am simply a practitioner of Buddhism, and I strive to see my life and the world through the eyes of a Buddha. Because being a Buddhist is not about removing oneself from society, or ridding oneself of desires, or spending one’s life performing austere practices. Being a Buddhist is about revealing one’s best self, experiencing life to the absolute fullest with fully opened eyes, and helping others do the same. There’s room under the Buddha umbrella for us all!
No statues, though.