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Looking at the world today, it is easy to feel despair. A kind of powerlessness seems to be the prevailing mood. I do not believe that people are powerless. In fact i take exactly the opposite view. Buddhism teaches that each human life partake of the limitless life force of the cosmos. The same power, which moves the universe, exists within our lives. Each individual has immense potential, and a great change in the inner dimension of one individual’s life has the power to transform society.
My mentor, Josei Toda, called this process of inner transformation “human revolution”. An inner change for the better in a single person – one person becoming wiser, stronger, more compassionate – is the essential first turn of the wheel towards realising peaceful coexistence and fulfilment for the whole human race. I firmly believe that a great human revolution in just one person can be the start of a transformation in the destiny of whole societies and all humankind.
When we change our inner determination, everything begins to move in a new direction. The moment we make a powerful resolve, every nerve and fibre of our being will immediately orient itself towards the fulfilment of this goal or desire. But, if we think, “This is never going to work out,” then every cell in our body will be deflated, and give up the fight. Hope, in this sense, is a decision. It is the most important decision we can make.
Hope is a flame that we nurture within our hearts. It may be sparked by someone else, but it must be kept burning through our own determination. Most crucial is our determination to continue to believe in the limitless dignity and possibilities of both us and others.
Keeping faith in people’s essential goodness, and the consistent effort to cultivate this goodness in ourselves: These are the twin keys, as Gandhiji proved, to unleashing the great power of hope. The struggle to believe in us and others in this way can lead to the transformation of an entire society.
There may be times when, confronted by cruel reality, we verge on losing all hope. If we cannot feel hope, it is time to create some. We can do this by digging deeper within, searching for even a small glimmer of light, for the possibility of a way to begin to break through the impasse before us.
Josei Toda once wrote: “Great people of the past remained undefeated by life’s hardships. They held fast to hopes that seemed mere fantastic dreams to others. They let nothing stop or discourage them. The reason for this, I feel certain, is that their hopes were not directed towards the fulfilment of personal desires, but based on a wish for all people’s happiness, and this filled them with extraordinary conviction and confidence.”
Real hope is found in committing ourselves to vast goals and dreams – dreams such as a world without war and violence, a world where everyone can live with dignity.
We must each take action towards the goals we have set and in which we believe. Rather than passively accepting things as they are, we must embark on the challenge of creating a new reality. It is in this effort that true, undying hope is to be found.
The writer lives in Tokyo. He is honorary president, Soka Gakkai