Buddhism is a religion or philosophy that has now spread worldwide, and is attracting many new adherents in the United States. It is a philosophy that, more than any other in our current age, can provide the spiritual support for a new global society, as well as the foundation for a new American Dream.
Buddhism and The American Dream
What is it about Buddhism that makes it the ideal philosophy for the age in which we live?
First of all, it is free of much of the out-dated dogma and authoritarianism that pervades much of religion today. No one will ever tell you what to believe, what to have faith in, or how to lead your life. These are things you have to discover by yourself. What Buddhism does is provide a tool or a practice to connect you to your deepest self, that self which is connected to the very life of the universe itself, the life which is lying dormant within everyone and needs activating.
Second, Buddhism is based on reason. Religion and science are both trying to discover the basic laws that govern our life. If there is an underlying truth to life, then religion and science should both come to the same general conclusions about those laws. Science is even now continuing to validate the insights of Buddhism, regarding the nature of the universe around us. Buddhism and science are totally compatible, because they are based on observation and reason.
Einstein himself is often quoted as having said something to this effect:
“Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and the spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity.”
Third, Buddhism is grounded in day-to-day living. It seeks answers to the age-old questions right here and now, as they apply to our daily lives. It seeks to uncover the eternal in every aspect of our daily living.
When I speak of Buddhism, of course I am speaking of Buddhism in general; but I also have to single out one branch of Buddhism that is beginning to take its place upon the world stage, providing a philosophy whose ideals can unite the people of the world.
This is the Buddhism of the SGI, or Soka Gakkai International, whose approximately 13,000,000 million members are now active in 192 countries and territories around the world. This is a religion that transcends differences of race, gender, social standing, sexuality, ethnicity, and, yes, even differences of religion. It is based on an universal respect for the individual, and a deep commitment to the happiness of the peoples of the world. It is a philosophy and a practice that illuminates the life of the individual, and reveals, in concrete working terms, the secrets to overcoming problems of any kind, and to achieving an unshakeable state of life that can surmount anything and find joy in the very fact of living itself.
America needs such a philosophy. America is devoid of such a philosophy. Especially young people are today searching for answers. They are developing a world outlook, and they are searching, perhaps unconsciously, for a philosophy that provides answers for this changing world, and a broader vision of life by which to steer their lives.
The current President of the SGI is Daisaku Ikeda. He is well-known and friends to many leaders of the world, including Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorvachev, Rosa Parks, Linus Pauling, and countless others. Never having attended college himself, he has currently received over 320 honorary doctorates and degrees from universities around the globe for his efforts for peace, education, culture, and for building bridges of friendship around the world.
America is the birthplace of the American Dream. This Dream was never meant to be personal to America, it was meant to embrace the world and the world’s peoples. Immigrants coming to our shores felt that Dream in their blood and bones. It reverberated with their their own deepest personal dreams.
This Dream, though, was never simply about getting a job, or making money, or starting a business, or buying a house. These were the trappings of a surface American Dream.
The real Dream of America is a Dream that has lain dormant and buried beyond time – a Dream that has chosen its place and time to be revealed upon the shores and farms and prairies of this mythic land.
America is a Dream that reverberates with the Dream of the Universe itself. It is the unfolding of a great drama and personal revelation. It is the discovery that the individual and the universe are one.
This is the mission of Buddhism, and especially of the Soka Gakkai International, in America known as SGI-USA.
We have not yet seen what life can be. This is where it is all to unfold.
Here, in America.
James Hilgendorf’s latest book is “Poems of Death: Time for Eternity“. He is the author of five other books: “Life & Death: A Buddhist Perspective“; “The Great New Emerging Civilization“; “The New Superpower“; “A New Myth for America“; and “The Buddha and the Dream of America“. All of his books are available through bookstores, and online in paperback or in e-book format at Amazon.com.
Visit James Hilgendorf’s website.
Poems of Death: Time for Eternity