A bodhisattva is literally a living being (sattva) who aspires to enlightenment (bodhi) and carries out altruistic practices. The bodhisattva ideal is central to the Mahayana Buddhist tradition as the individual who seeks enlightenment both for him- or herself and for others. Compassion, an empathetic sharing of the sufferings of others, is the bodhisattva's greatest characteristic. It is shown in the following incident from the Vimalakirti Sutra which concerns a prominent lay follower of the Buddha who had fallen ill. When questioned about his illness, Vimalakirti replied, "Because the beings are ill, the bodhisattva is ill. The sickness of the bodhisattva arises from his great compassion."
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Gongyo is one of the basic elements of the practice of Nichiren Buddhism. It consists of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and reciting portions of the Lotus Sutra. Gongyo literally means to "exert [oneself in] practice," and is performed twice a day by members of the SGI.
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The Lotus Sutra is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential sutras, or sacred scriptures, of Buddhism. Its key message is that Buddhahoodâ--a condition of absolute happiness, freedom from fear and from all illusions--is inherent in all life. The development of this inner life state enables all people to overcome their problems and live a fulfilled and active life, fully engaged with others and with society.
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Nichiren (1222-82) was a Buddhist monk who lived in 13th-century Japan, often referred to by the honorific title "Daishonin" or "great sage."
Nichiren was born in 1222, a time rife with social unrest and natural disasters. His intensive study of the Buddhist sutras convinced him that the Lotus Sutra contained the essence of the Buddha's enlightenment and that it held the key to transforming people's suffering and enabling society to flourish.
Based on his study of the sutra Nichiren established the invocation (chant) of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as a universal practice to enable people to manifest the Buddhahood inherent in their lives and gain the strength and wisdom to challenge and overcome any adverse circumstances.
Nichiren's claims invited an onslaught of often violent persecutions from the military government and the established Buddhist schools. Throughout, he refused to compromise his principles to appease those in authority.
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Shakyamuni (Gautama Siddartha), known as the Buddha or "awakened one," was the historical founder of Buddhism. Born in what is now Nepal some 2,500 years ago, he renounced his royal upbringing to embark on a spiritual quest to understand how human suffering could be ended. While in deep meditation, he experienced a profound awakening, or enlightenment. He then traveled throughout the Indian subcontinent for nearly 40 years sharing his enlightened wisdom, promoting peace and teaching people how to unleash the great potential of their lives.
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Imperial Rescript on Education
The Imperial Rescript on Education was promulgated in the name of Emperor Meiji in 1890, following the establishment of the Meiji Constitution, which created a system of parliamentary representation, the year before. The Rescript, written in a highly literary style that reinforced its special authority, was seen as defining the basis for morality in a more modern and democratic Japan. As such, it stressed the centrality of the emperor and the imperial lineage; encouraged harmonious relations among family and friends; and promoted a spirit of selfless sacrifice in wartime ("should emergency arise, offer yourselves courageously to the State"). From the time of its promulgation, the Rescript was recited on important occasions during the school year. As Japanese society became increasingly militarized, the Rescript took on more and more the character of a sacred text and symbol of the state, memorized and recited by school children throughout Japan.
Click here to download the official Ministry of Education English translation.
Peace Preservation Law
The Peace Preservation Law (chian ijiho) was enacted in 1925, the same year as the law granting universal male voting rights, which it was intended to counterbalance. The law set punishments of up to ten years' imprisonment for anyone joining an organization whose intent was to alter the system of private property or the "national polity" (kokutai) of Japan, i.e., the emperor system. The law was modified twice, in 1928 and 1941, to both expand the range of prohibited activities and increase the severity of punishment to include the death penalty. The Peace Preservation Law was the principal tool for the suppression of dissident thought in Japan, with tens of thousands of detentions, arrests and prosecutions. Although the death penalty was never officially imposed, a number of detainees died from torture or suicide. Following Japan's defeat in World War II in 1945, the law was abolished by the occupation authorities.
Special Higher Police
Japan's Special Higher Police (Tokko) were established in 1911 with the mission to investigate political groups and ideologies that were seen as threatening by the governing authorities. These originally included anarchists, communists, socialists and foreigners living in Japan. The passage of the 1925 Peace Preservation Law resulted in a major expansion of the role played by the Special Higher Police and in 1928, following the first election held with universal male suffrage, they led a massive crack-down against leftist students and labor organizers. Following the 1931 Manchuria Incident which initiated direct Japanese military intervention on the Asian mainland, pacifists, liberals and religious groups were also targeted.
The Special Higher Police used widespread networks of spies and informants to gather information, bringing to bear various forms of pressure and intimidation against anyone who spoke out. Once detained as a "thought criminal," people were subjected to extreme psychological coercion and physical violence designed to extract a public confession and renunciation of the offending ideas; even if released, they could expect to live under constant surveillance and supervision. Until they were disbanded by the occupation forces in 1945, the Special Higher Police were the key agency for suppressing all thought or expression seen as disruptive of Japan's war effort.