Create with Your Own Hands the Future You Envision (Times of India, November 25, 2023)
As extreme weather resulting from global warming continues to cause damage in many parts of the world, we need to summon our inner strength and hope in order to build a momentum for change to protect the lives and livelihoods of all people living on our shared planet. The UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) will be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from November 30, and we need to hold onto the goal of limiting the global average temperature increase to no more than 1.5°C set out in the Paris Agreement.
“Allow yourself to abandon apathy and be moved to action.” These are the powerful words of Wangari Maathai, who launched a tree-planting movement that has spread throughout Africa and the world. Her conviction echoes the Buddhist belief that each individual possesses unlimited potential and the power to generate change.
The Lotus Sutra includes a parable that depicts the essence of this philosophy: A young boy runs away from his father, and wanders from one place to another in abject poverty. His father, who has become very wealthy, discovers his whereabouts and sends a messenger to bring him back, but the son fears the messenger has come to arrest him and faints in terror. The father then sends his servants dressed in dirty clothes to offer the son work in his house.
Heartbroken to see his son’s lack of self-respect, the father hides his true identity and gives his son a humble job first, and gradually greater responsibilities. The son is eventually entrusted with the administration of the father’s property. On his father’s deathbed, the young man learns that he is the rich man’s true son and realizes that he has received invaluable treasures even without seeking them.
This is the message of the Lotus Sutra—that each human being innately possesses the spiritual treasures of infinite capacity and an enlightened state of life. In contemporary terms, this means that we should not give up before taking action, feeling powerless and small in the face of the magnitude of challenges such as climate change. Instead, we should summon unwavering belief in the power that exists within us to move our lives and society in a better direction and work together in solidarity with other like-minded people.
The global tree-planting movement, which has seen billions of trees planted worldwide, initially began with the planting of just a few trees by Maathai and her colleagues in her native Kenya.
Finding solutions to the challenges posed by climate change will not be easy. People at the grassroots need to take action in diverse fields as Maathai did. I believe that young people will play a pivotal role in this challenge.
While protecting children and young people from the impacts of disaster exacerbated by climate change is a challenge we must work on together, it is also vital that the young generation gets involved in these efforts as protagonists.
With young people in the forefront, we must all take action to create with our own hands the future we envision. In this way, our efforts for positive change will ultimately encompass the entire planet.
[Daisaku Ikeda contributed this article prior to his passing on November 15, 2023]