The Lotus Sutra

and the

Inherent Nature of Human Rights


What constitutes a “right” ? In philosophy and in the legal domain, a “right” of a human being is viewed as a ‘state’ to which an individual is entitled.


The reason why this “entitlement to rights” (by virtue of existence as a human being) is justified – is found in the concept of “inherent worth” of being a living entity, just as one is.  Because the individual’s life is precious, it follows that the individual deserves appreciation and respect.


Entitlement to Enlightenment: The Lotus Sutra fulfils the requirement of “what constitute a human right” in relation to the entitlement to enlightenment - as being inherent and not acquired by external authorities.


To arrive at this level of understanding of inherent rights, humanity had to wage a struggle throughout history to put a limit to the blind tendency for ego-based ideas and discrimination. Greed, arrogance and ignorance (ignorance of the consequences of one’s actions) - had lead to accepting slavery, and other violations of human dignity. 


The Lotus Sutra revealing the Right to Enlightenment

The United Nations Declaration of Human Right starts with a statement, which refers to two acknowledged qualities of rights: “equality” of people and “inherent dignity” of the individual. In various studies on the subject, those two qualities are referred to as “universality” and “independence”. 


- “Universality” of rights relates to the validity of their application to all people,

surpassing race, gender and social position.


  1. -Independence” of rights means that a right is a property independent of the opinion of others.  This concept was best explained by Eleanor Roosevelt:


        “A ‘right’ is not something that somebody gives you;

        it is something that nobody can take away”.


In other words, “rights” are an inherent property of citizen, and not something granted by external authority.


The concept of “inherent enlightenment of all people” was expounded in the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, and it expresses both the universality (all people) and the inherent property (of each individual). 

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Author:  Safwan Zabalawi (Darshams)



The Lotus Sutra’s Unique Teachings on Attaining Enlightenment


The Revolutionary Teachings of the Lotus Sutra


The Value of the Individual in the Lotus Sutra


Comparison between The Lotus Sutra and other spiritual scriptures


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