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What Is Kosen-rufu?

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Photo credit: Devora Kon

We often hear the phrase kosen-rufu being used in the SGI. So, what exactly is kosen-rufu and what does it mean?

First, let’s take a look at the meaning of this phrase. Ko of kosen-rufu literally means “wide” or “widely”; sen means “declare” or “disseminate”; ru means “let flow” or “transmit”; and fu similarly means “to spread broadly in all directions.” Therefore, kosen-rufu can be interpreted to mean “to widely declare and spread broadly.” Simply put, it means to spread and transmit Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.

But this concept expresses more than simply propagating a religious teaching. It points to the ceaseless efforts SGI members engage in to awaken all people to their inherent and unlimited value and potential. And it also means to make the philosophy of respect for the dignity of life the foundation of our society and, based on this foundation, to bring about peace, happiness and prosperity to humanity.

In the 23rd chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha says: “After I have passed into extinction, in the last five-hundred-year period you must spread it abroad widely throughout Jambudvipa and never allow it to be cut off” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 330). “Spread it abroad widely” in this passage is a translation of the characters that are pronounced “kosen-rufu” in Japanese.

Here, Shakyamuni is instructing his disciples to spread awareness of the Mystic Law throughout the entire world “in the last five-hundred-year period,” which is the age known as the Latter Day of the Law, or this present age.

Nichiren lived in the 13th century, which many at the time considered to be the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, a time that is described in the sutras as an age of conflict when the Buddhist teachings would be lost. He studied the entire known body of Buddhist sutras and commentaries, and concluded that the intent of Shakyamuni Buddha, which is to relieve all people of misery and enable them to become Buddhas, is encapsulated in the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren also identified Myoho-renge-kyo, the title of the Lotus Sutra, as the Law to which the Buddha awakened and taught that, by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, all people can bring forth their unlimited potential.

Nichiren refers to kosen-rufu in many writings, saying, for example: “The ‘great vow’ refers to the propagation of the Lotus Sutra” (The Record
of the Orally Transmitted Teachings
p. 82); and “If Nichiren’s compassion is truly great and encompassing, Nam-
myoho-renge-kyo will spread for ten thousand years and more, for all eternity” (“On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 736). Without
a doubt, the fundamental aim of Nichiren’s teaching is kosen-rufu.

Inheriting Nichiren’s spirit, the Soka Gakkai, under the leadership of its three founding presidents, has spread the Mystic Law to 192 countries and territories, and has continued carrying out the mission of kosen-rufu.

It is affirmed repeatedly that those who earnestly work to realize the great wish of Shakyamuni Buddha and Nichiren Daishonin will gain immeasurable benefits. When we chant and take action with the “same mind as Nichiren” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 385) to spread the Mystic Law, we can bring forth incredible power and strength from within our lives and illuminate the lives of those around us. Kosen-rufu is about increasing the number of people whose lives exude such inspiration and brilliance, thereby spreading evermore widely the light of hope, respect and peace throughout the world.