"This moment will never come again. It comes, it goes, all in an instant, a life-moment. Because we know how precious that instant is, we press the shutter. Photography is an art born of a passionate love of humanity."
Daisaku Ikeda is an avid amateur photographer with a particular knack for finding beauty and uniqueness in ordinary scenes. He began taking photographs in the 1970s while recuperating from illness, after a friend presented him with a camera and suggested it would be a good change of pace. A series of his photographs has toured some 30 countries in an exhibition titled "Dialogue with Nature."
Ikeda has written: "I am not and never have been a professional photographer and, due to my busy schedule, I end up taking many of my photos while traveling from one appointment to another; sometimes I stop the car for just enough time to take a photo."
Photography is probably the most accessible and democratic popular art form, he says. He describes it as a spiritual struggle, a challenge of capturing the eternal in the momentary. Photographs "mirror the inner depths of a photographer's life." The essays from the series "This Beautiful Earth" presented here offer insight into the poetic and philosophical sensibility of Ikeda's photography.
Ikeda writes, "I would be very happy if I am able to share, to some small extent, my joy at communing with nature, the 'mirror of the heart.' In this hectic age, it is important for us to stop from time to time, take a deep breath, and look closely at ourselves and the world around us." His wish in presenting his photographs, he writes, is that they may offer viewers a sense of hope and confidence.
Ikeda is an honorary member of France's Val de Bievres Photo Club, an overseas member of the Weiner Künstlerhaus (Austrian Artists Association) and an honorary life member of the Singapore Photographic Society.
Opening the window, the scent of the sea breezes in. As always, the beach at Waikiki is lively and bustling. The happy shouts of children. Voices calling to friends. People in brightly colored swimsuits running on the hot sand. Others lounging in the shadows of palm fronds. Looking toward this paradise of the Pacific, people come here from the East and West, gather and become friends.
"Enjoy!" This is the Aloha spirit. My eyes are drawn and riveted to a particular spot on the beach. There, from the sand, emerges the figure of a white horse. Who sculpted it? It seems as if it would gallop gracefully away at any moment. I bow with respect and appreciation to the nameless beach artist who created it.
Had the white horse been buried deep in the sand? Or had it been hidden deep in the artist's heart?
Once touched by creative hands, sand was no longer just sand. It ceased to be simply a substance, but took on the form of a beautiful white horse. It was a merging of matter and spirit.
In the moment something unseen becomes something seen, we discover the mystery of the creative force.
Human beings are works of art created by the universe from the same material as the stars.
This galloping horse, too, was created from the universal elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Void. Everything created by nature, including the human being, is a masterpiece.
The magnificent banyan tree. The crimson hibiscus. Rainbow-colored tropical fish. Nature itself aims at beauty. Life strives for beauty. Nothing is ugly that is vitally alive.
The intense sunlight of an endless summer beats upon my arms as I hold my camera. A strong fragrance wafts through the dry air. Is it ginger-grass? Plumeria?
If only one has the heart to perceive it, this world is filled with beauty. The waves, the clouds, are great artists.
The Earth calls out to us: "People! Be beautiful, be strong, like me! Give birth! Bring into existence things of value! Be generous! Don't hold back! Create! Create something wonderful!"
To give birth is a joy! To create is a joy! To encourage people is to create. To make friends--this too, is creation, as is fostering capable people! The joy of creation! This is the triumphant cry of life itself!
Dutch historian Johan Huizinga refers to the human being as "Homo Ludens"--one who plays--and suggests that culture is born of play.
To break away from a state of being bound by a quest for material things and freely create something--this is culture. This is what it means to be human.
Words suggesting play or enjoyment appear in many places throughout the Lotus Sutra.
For example, in one place it reads, "He will stroll about without fear like the lion king."
It also reads, "mounting the jeweled carriages, driving off in all directions, delighting and amusing themselves."
Still elsewhere, it says, "It will allow them day and night for unnumbered kalpas to find constant enjoyment."
There is even a figure in the sutra named Bodhisattva Lion Frolic World.
And the sutra speaks of the "sport carried out by the thus come one's transcendental powers," as well as the world being a place "where living beings enjoy themselves at ease."
Here the Lotus Sutra tells us that people appear in this world to enjoy themselves.
The sutra also refers to a bodhisattva who enjoys "[going] about among the lands saving living beings."
From among all the worlds that fill this vast universe, we have chosen and come to this Earth to create happiness. So even when suffering approaches, let us ride it like a surfer does a wave and enjoy surmounting it!
When our life force is strong, this world becomes a place to "enjoy ourselves at ease." We can pull this power from the "emerald sea" that exists inside our hearts. The name Waikiki means "surging spring."
When we cause our life force to well forth, to surge up like a spring, that time and that place becomes a paradise--a garden of enjoyment!
Pay no mind to trifling matters!
Don't become a tragic hero!
Overcome the sorrow in your heart!
Let's enjoy living!
It is for this purpose that we were born.
[Adapted from an essay in Our Beautiful Earth: Photos and Essays of My Travels, by Daisaku Ikeda, April 2, 2000, Seikyo Press, Tokyo, Japan.]