Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace

Leaders Who Guide Others to Happiness

Chapter 24 of The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace.




“The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace” is a three-part series that features key selections from SGI President Ikeda’s collected works, which thus far have been compiled into 150 volumes in Japanese. These selections introduce core concepts expressing the wisdom and universal message of Nichiren Buddhism. Through this series, SGI members throughout the world are able to simultaneously study the SGI president’s thought and philosophy.

This series has been designated as the material for monthly district study meetings throughout the SGI-USA.

The following is a breakdown of the three-year series, which began serialization in the July 2014 Living Buddhism.

  1. HAPPINESS discusses the differences between relative and absolute happiness; the teaching of the Ten Worlds as a principle for transforming our lives; the significance of carrying out the daily practice of reciting the sutra and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for making that transformation; and the Buddhist view of life and death, in which both are experienced with joy.
  2. HUMAN REVOLUTION focuses on the Buddhist way of life, in which people strive to bring forth their highest potential and shine with courage, wisdom and compassion.
  3. KOSEN-RUFU AND WORLD PEACE takes up the ideals and principles of worldwide kosen-rufu; the movement and humanistic organization of the SGI; the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple shared by the three founding Soka Gakkai presidents, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda; world peace; and respect for the dignity of life.


Leaders Who Guide Others to Happiness

(Part 1 of 2)


Introduction to the Chapter

SGI President Ikeda has striven wholeheartedly to protect his fellow SGI members, who are all inherently Buddhas. He has defended them from attacks by the “three powerful enemies” of Buddhism—arrogant lay people, arrogant priests and arrogant false sages—of which Nichiren  Daishonin warned. Speaking of his spirit and commitment in this regard, he once wrote: “There are no people more noble, beautiful and dear to me than my fellow Soka Gakkai members, with whom I have shared hardships  and joys. I will fight for them because that is the right thing to do.” And on another occasion, he wrote: “The Soka Gakkai is an organization of supreme humanity. Since we live in the time of the Latter Day of the Law, when the good are harassed and attacked, we must help each member become strong and self-reliant; and not only that— we must help empower people everywhere! This is the only way to secure lasting happiness for all humankind.”

In addition, in a speech he gave on January 2, 2001, he said:

What is my wish? What is the wish of every Soka Gakkai leader? It is that all our members may lead healthy, enjoyable and happy lives. I’m praying with all my heart for every single person to achieve a life of joy and fulfillment. That is the purpose of Soka Gakkai activities and kosen-rufu. Enabling everyone to lead such lives is the goal of the Soka Gakkai.

Through President Ikeda’s peerless leadership and commitment to helping people actualize happy lives, the Soka Gakkai has overcome every manifestation of the “three obstacles and four devils” to usher in the dawn of worldwide kosen-rufu.

This chapter focuses on President Ikeda’s leadership philosophy, which serves as an eternal guideline for all Soka Gakkai leaders.

24.1 ■ A Leadership Revolution

While introducing the leadership ideals of the Soka Gakkai’s first and second presidents, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, President Ikeda explains that SGI leaders are people who always respect, encourage and work for the happiness of others. Such people embody a revolution in leadership.

President Ikeda’s Guidance

From a speech delivered at the 21st SGI General Meeting, Florida, June 23, 1996.

In your respective communities and societies, you are volunteering your time and energy to chant and work for the members’ happiness, to support and encourage them with heartfelt care and concern. Your actions are those of great bodhisattvas; your spirit, that of noble Buddhas.

Nichiren Daishonin cites the following words [of the Great Teacher Miao-lo]: “The truer the teaching, the lower the stage [of those it can bring to enlightenment]” (“On the Four Stages of Faith and the Five Stages of Practice,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 785–86). [In other words, the more correct a Buddhist teaching, the greater the number of people it will lead to happiness.] If we apply this principle to the leaders who propagate the teaching, we can take it to mean that the deeper their faith, the more they will respect their fellow practitioners and the harder they will work to help even more people become happy.

In the light of the law of cause and effect, through the good fortune we accumulate by treasuring and caring for many people, we will be able to attain a state of life in which we are protected and supported by many others in this and future existences. Our Buddhist practice today is the cause for becoming great leaders in lifetime after lifetime.

In his Soka kyoikugaku taikei (The System of Value-Creating Education), founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi called for a leadership revolution. He insisted that we must bring to an end an age where those in positions of authority use people as a means for perpetuating their own power. And he stressed the need to produce a steady stream of new leaders who will dedicate their lives to contributing to people’s happiness.

Leaders must not place themselves above others. And they most certainly should never look down on people, thinking themselves somehow special. Only when one resolves to work together with others, respecting them and being willing to humbly learn from everyone, is one on the way to becoming a great leader. These were some of the key points of the leadership revolution envisaged by Mr. Makiguchi.

Are you taking action for the members’ happiness and for kosen-rufu, or are you using the SGI and its members for selfish purposes? There will be a huge difference in outcome depending on your inner attitude, which no one else can see.

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, once said:

Those of you gathered here today are Soka Gakkai leaders. I am sure all of you are striving not only for your own happiness, but are determined that everyone you are guiding becomes happy as well. Becoming happy yourself is no great challenge; it’s quite simple. But the essence of Nichiren Buddhism lies in helping others become happy, too. Only when you sincerely chant to the Gohonzon, strengthen your faith and have a spirit of selfless dedication to your Buddhist practice can you truly guide and lead others.

I hope that, as SGI leaders, you will strive with a passionate vow to help others become happy and win in their lives.

It’s especially important that you as leaders praise and encourage your fellow members. Never lose your temper and scold or berate people.

Those who praise their fellow members will build lives of boundless good fortune as indestructible as the Himalayas, king of all mountain ranges.

Nichiren Daishonin also writes: “The more one praises the blessings of the Lotus Sutra, the more one’s own blessings will increase. Bear in mind that the twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra contain only a few passages elucidating the truth, but a great many words of praise” (“The Blessings of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 673).

Let’s start by offering words of praise. All of us are human and bound to experience ups and downs in our moods and emotions from time to time. But as leaders, let’s always make a point of starting off by warmly greeting everyone and expressing our appreciation for their efforts. Doing so lifts not only others’ hearts but also our own, spreading joy and increasing benefit for everyone.

24.2 ■ Have a Big Heart

President Ikeda notes that a defining feature of Soka Gakkai leaders is their noble spirit to value others, learn from them, and impart assurance and joy to all.

President Ikeda’s Guidance

From a speech delivered at a gongyo meeting, Santa Monica, California, September 18, 1993.

Bighearted people are happy. Our Buddhist practice enables us to become such individuals. I hope all of you will become people who are generous and broad-minded.

The vast ocean has boundless capacity, whereas the capacity of a small pond is very limited.

Nichiren Buddhism is as all-encompassing as the universe itself. Let us who practice it lead wonderful, expansive lives, treasuring those around us—family, friends and fellow members— embracing all with our big hearts and enjoying life together.

Of course, we must fight firmly and unremittingly against inhumanity and injustice, but I hope you will always be generous toward your friends and fellow members, and have room in your hearts to think about the happiness of others.

Wishing to do whatever we can to support and encourage those facing illness or financial hardship; thinking about others, chanting for them and taking action to help them—this is the spirit of practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism. Striving to bring happiness and joy to others, even though we may be struggling with problems ourselves, is the mark of bodhisattvas.

I’d like you to become people with big hearts— people who remain strong and unshaken no matter what happens and, rather than focusing on themselves, are concerned with helping and imparting hope to others. This is the purpose of our Buddhist practice. When we persevere in Buddhist practice, we will accumulate solid good fortune without fail.

Always be open to learning from others. If you see someone whose faith or family life inspires you, for instance, have the spirit to learn from them. You can learn something from anyone. Always being humble enough to learn from others is a measure of a person’s true greatness.

Leaders, in particular, are susceptible to becoming arrogant, believing their position in the organization makes them better than others. This is a common tendency. In such cases, a person acts with self-importance and looks down on those of outstanding character or achievement. But those who behave this way only alienate others and erase their own good fortune.

The higher a leader’s position in the organization, the stronger must be that person’s willingness to learn from others. This is especially important because, from the perspective of Buddhism and the Law—from the perspective of faith—the members of the SGI are all “Buddhas and heavenly deities.” The role of leaders is to bring joy to others. That is the basic requirement of a leader.

In general, those who cause distress or pain to others, who try to dominate and control others, are not qualified to be leaders. This is all the more so in the realm of Nichiren Buddhism. Arrogant leaders who let their positions go to their heads will incur the dislike of others, and ultimately bring unhappiness upon themselves.

I’d like you to work hard to become the kind of leaders whom others regard as a source of reassurance, clarity, peace of mind and courage—people who inspire confidence and hope. Never issue
commands or orders from on high. Be kind and considerate leaders who warmly impart a sense of security to everyone. Be strict with yourselves and generous toward others. That’s the hallmark of
people with strong faith.

24.3 ■  Lead by Example

Through the example of Mahatma Gandhi (1889–1948), leader of the Indian independence movement, President Ikeda underscores the importance of first setting an example by changing ourselves, if we wish to help others change.

President Ikeda’s Guidance

From a speech delivered at the SGI Asia Peace and Culture Conference, Okinawa, Japan, February 21, 1999.

I would like to relate a story that Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson Arun Gandhi [co-founder of the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in the United States] shared from his childhood.

When he was about 6 or 7 years old, Arun lived in an ashram community with his grandfather. One of his friends was a boy of about the same age, who was living there with his parents. This friend was very fond of sweets, consuming them in great quantity. As a result, he started getting a rash all over his body. No matter how his parents nagged him to stop eating sweets, he wouldn’t listen. Since there were always sweets around, he would simply grab some to eat when nobody was looking.

Worried, his mother went to see Gandhi and urged him to speak to her son and explain to him that he should not eat sweets anymore.

After hearing the mother’s story, Gandhi said, “Please come back in 15 days and I will speak to him.”

Perplexed, the mother did as asked and returned 15 days later. Gandhi took the boy aside and spoke to him for less than a minute. That was all, but surprisingly, from then on the boy stopped eating sweets.

His mother was puzzled. What kind of miracle had Gandhi performed on her son, she wondered. A few days later, she went to ask Gandhi this question herself. He replied that it was no miracle. “The reason I asked you to come back in 15 days,” he said, “was that I had to give up eating sweets for 15 days before I could ask the child to give up eating them.” He had told this to the boy and added that he himself would not touch any sweets until the boy’s rash had healed and he was able to eat sweets again.

In other words, Mahatma Gandhi lived by the creed “I’ll challenge myself, so please do so, too.” This was the secret of his success in changing the young boy’s attitude.

Arun Gandhi further remarked that leaders and educators are only persuasive when they set a good example themselves. This was Mahatma Gandhi’s conviction, he said, and the secret to his charismatic leadership. He added that the essence of nonviolence is the ability to educate people, and education is about being a positive role model.

The key to the SGI’s development, too, has been the fine example set by the leaders themselves, their dedicated efforts and hard work. When leaders fail to exert themselves, they become bureaucratic and lapse into empty rhetoric.

As a country, Japan today is badly deadlocked, and all kinds of remedies are being recommended, each presented as the best or surest way to recovery. And while any advice is worth considering, many of those handing it out are overlooking one very simple but very important point: That is the need for those offering advice to set good examples themselves. If the people making fine speeches and proposals actually did what they preached, surely the country would soon be in fine shape. But the exact opposite is true. There are far too many political leaders who seek only personal gain and advantage while urging others to show patience and self-restraint.

We find a similar scenario in the case of the child in Arun Gandhi’s story. The reason there were always sweets around was that the child’s entire family loved sweets and were always eating them: it is hardly surprising that they could not convince him to give up sweets under such circumstances.

Why were people able to endure the bitter struggle for Indian independence? Despite the difficult hurdles to self-rule once thought impossible to overcome, people still followed Gandhi. Why? Because he never asked others to do anything he had never done himself. Gandhi always stood at the forefront of protests and marches. He always went where there was the greatest crisis or suffering. This, in fact, is the essence of nonviolence. In other words, it is to change oneself first and then, through that transformation, to change the hearts of others.

24.4 ■ Winning People’s Trust Through Compassion and Wisdom

President Ikeda says that value-creating leaders need to possess the compassion and wisdom to respond with thoughtfulness, sensitivity and flexibility to the situations and feelings of each person.

President Ikeda’s Guidance

From a speech delivered at a Soka Gakkai Headquarters leaders meeting, Tokyo, February 24, 1996.

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “Teaching another something is the same as oiling the wheels of a cart so that they turn even though it is heavy, or as floating a boat on water so that it moves ahead easily” (“The Wealthy Man Sudatta,” WND-1, 1086). These words contain an important lesson. If you keep pushing a heavy cart without oiling the wheels, it is bound to break. A similar principle applies when trying to teach someone something.

In giving guidance, leaders must continually ask themselves: “What can I say to lift this person’s spirits?” “What kind of encouragement can I offer, what can I do, to enable this person to advance joyfully?” Having this spirit of concern is crucial. There is no value in giving one-sided “guidance” that fails to take into account what the other person is thinking or feeling. If a leader rambles on endlessly when someone is hungry, or just tells someone to make greater effort when they’re not feeling well, their words won’t be appreciated, even by those ready and eager to do their best.

It is important to have the compassion to respond to others’ needs and situations, to give considered thought to how to best help them, and then to take appropriate action. Wisdom arises from compassion.

When speaking with a member of the young men’s division or student division, for example, rather than getting into a complex discussion, it may sometimes be more inspiring to say something like, “You must be hungry. Why don’t we go down to the corner and grab a bite to eat? I’ll treat you.” Or, when talking with a young women’s division member who is discouraged because she is having little success in achieving her goal in an activity for kosen-rufu, you might say something like: “Don’t worry, I’ll help you!” Addressing people in this way can give them great peace of mind. After all, merely having the wish to make a positive contribution to kosen-rufu is in itself a wonderful thing.

We can’t just give one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter guidance. All phenomena—the universe and everything in it—are manifestations of the Buddhist Law. Therefore, we have to consider things from a broad and lofty perspective. We need to be flexible and use our wisdom to make everyone feel invigorated. To do so is a genuine expression of strong faith.

Leaders need to have unshakable confidence in the Mystic Law, warm sensitivity and thoughtfulness, and the ability to respond to the hearts of others with wisdom and flexibility. Without such qualities, they cannot hope to win the trust of many people or realize kosen-rufu. In contrast, the more leaders there are who possess such qualities, the more our movement for kosen-rufu will expand.

24.5 ■ The Organization Hinges on Its Leaders

President Ikeda stresses that the organization’s development and growth depend primarily on leaders carrying out their human revolution and expanding their life state.

President Ikeda’s Guidance

From a speech delivered at a Gajokai Academy meeting, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, August 2, 1990.

As kosen-rufu progresses, the organization will also grow larger. The question is whether leaders can keep pace with the increasing scale and scope of the organization.

If they don’t continue to grow in tandem with its development, they will no longer be able to successfully steer the organization in a way that allows it to fulfill its true purpose—that is, as a means to help people attain happiness. Instead, the organization will succumb to the negative tendency of regarding its members as mere cogs in its machinery, as no more than a means to an end. We could say it comes down to a competition between humanity and the inclination to run things through bureaucratic structure and authority, to a tug-of-war between the inner spirit and outward form.

What is the key issue here? It is for leaders who take on responsibility for the organization’s development to strive continuously to expand their state of life. In a sense, an organization will not develop beyond what its leaders’ capacities allow.

The only way to improve an organization is for its leaders to study diligently, work hard, carry out their human revolution and elevate their state of life. They need to start by forming the causes within their own lives that lead to the growth and development of a humane organization, always returning to this fundamental principle of faith. This is a way of life that accords with the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of true cause.


What is the key issue here? It is for leaders who take on responsibility for the organization’s development to strive continuously to expand their state of life

In every struggle for kosen-rufu, I set forth immediately to take action and expanded my own state of life. I opened the stage for our movement so that everyone could advance with assurance and peace of mind. That’s why I have constantly urged you, our youthful leaders and successors, to thoroughly train and develop yourselves.

What is the practice that enables you, as leaders, to expand your state of life? Simply put—in addition, of course, to deepening your own faith in the Mystic Law—it lies in taking personal initiative to serve your fellow members who are striving earnestly for kosen-rufu, respecting and supporting them with an even more sincere and humble spirit, and directing your wisdom and efforts toward their happiness.

To be continued in an upcoming issue.

Translated from the January 2017 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai monthly study journal.

With President Ikeda’s permission, some minor edits and revisions have been made to the original Japanese, and excerpts of remarks originally in dialogue format have been recast as monologues for ease of reading.

—Selected Excerpts Editorial Committee

(pp. 57–63)



1. From Miao-lo’s Annotations on “Great Concentration and Insight.”
2. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha,1984), vol. 4, p. 378.

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