As we came face to face with the destructiveness of authoritarianism, what happened on Sept. 11.
As we came face to face with the destructiveness of authoritarianism, what happened on Sept. 11 may serve as an opportunity for us to gain deeper insight into the nature of violence and learn the meaning of freedom from those who made a true sacrifice. As violence stems from the authoritarian character of submission and domination, which is in turn a manifestation of the enfeebled self, any attempt to suppress violence with further violence may only be described as foolishness. How many times must humanity repeat the same mistake of trying to cure violence with more violence? In this regard, the Daishonin warns us, “If you try to treat someone’s illness without knowing its cause, you will only make the person sicker than before” (WND, 774). This is the time that we must cure this greatest ailment of human civilization at its root. We must begin to seriously think about ways to empower people not only economically and politically, but also spiritually so that we may control human destructiveness. Each one of us must deeply reflect upon our own authoritarian tendency to give up so easily our freedom and power of reason to external authority.
In one sense, the Soka Spirit movement lies in our efforts to understand the nature of authoritarianism; it is a process in which we develop our ability to both self-reflect and think critically about what is happening in our environment. As we have learned from the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, even the humanistic teachings of the Daishonin’s Buddhism can become authoritarian depending upon its practitioners’ understanding and action.
This important lesson becomes genuine only when we realize that the absence of priesthood does not necessarily mean the end of authoritarianism, and that each of us is responsible to understand and practice the Daishonin’s Buddhism as the humanistic teaching it is intended to be.
Likewise, although the vast majority of religions in the world are founded upon the principles of love and peace, through the recent atrocities and numerous other tragedies in history, we have been repeatedly made aware how easily some irrational zealots can pervert any religion into authoritarian dogma that enslaves people. More than ever, it is crucial for us to reaffirm our commitment to the humanistic tenets of our beliefs and shun the forces of authoritarianism from within and without.
One of the most concrete and powerful ways to oppose violence and authoritarianism is prayer that sincerely affirms the power of life—both within our lives and in the lives of others. The ideas of nonviolence and humanism can change the way we live only when those ideas are understood not only intellectually but also felt deeply in our hearts’ core. As Gandhi eloquently said: “Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being” (Gandhi on Non-Violence, Thomas Merton, ed., p. 24). Prayer is our precious tool to discover the dormant dignity of life as the Daishonin states, “One who chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enters his or her own palace” (Gosho Zenshu, p. 787).
Prayer is a process in which we transform the abstract idea of life’s dignity into a concrete reality that is felt in the depths of our lives and into our personal conviction that is displayed in how we treat others as well as ourselves.
Whatever faiths we Americans embrace today, our prayers must be united in our love for life and peace. If we are to hate anything, let us hate hatred and violence with a single heart. From such united prayer of true strength and patriotism will emerge a new America that is free of violence. As many people have shown through their courage in the face of the recent tragedy, violence is weakness, and prayer is power.