Gongyo the Wellspring of Victory
A “fighting gongyo” leads to absolute victory in life.
An Essay by SGI President Ikeda.
The following is an excerpt of SGI President Ikeda’s essay “Gongyo—the Wellspring of Victory,” which was originally published in the March 17, 2006, issue of the World Tribune.
Some members from Chiba sent me a photo of this year’s first sunrise over the Pacific Ocean. My wife and I often admire this beautiful picture together.
The Japanese author Doppo Kunikida, who was born in Choshi, Chiba Prefecture, wrote a short story titled “Sunrise.” I found this piece so inspiring that I went on to read many other of his works in my youth.
“Sunrise” tells of a meeting between seven or eight young Japanese men during the Meiji era, most of whom were graduates from prestigious foreign universities such as Oxford and Harvard. They ask a newcomer among them where he has graduated from. His reply: Oshima Elementary School—an elementary school that no one has ever heard of. As the others begin to smirk, the youth responds with dignity and firmness, telling them the history of the school.
According to this account, the principal was Shin’ichi Oshima and its founder, Gonzo Ikegami. In his youth, a despairing Gonzo had gone to the top of a high cliff with the intention of killing himself, when an old man approached and said, “Look, the sun is about to rise!” It was the first glorious sunrise of the New Year. “Don’t forget this sunrise!” he seemed to imply. “Live with courage, so that you can see the sun rise each day!” Gonzo’s encounter with this old man—who was called Jinzo Oshima—changed his life. Taking the exhortation “Look at the sunrise!” as his anchor and inspiration, Gonzo worked hard and made his fortune in farming. When old Oshima died, Gonzo built the Oshima Elementary School out of gratitude to him in the small village where they lived, and Oshima’s son Shin’ichi became the school’s principal. To this day, the youth explains, “Look at the sunrise!” lives on as the school’s motto and creed.
This is just one small scene from the story, but I wanted to share it with you.
Gongyo welcomes the primordial sun of Buddhahood to rise brightly in our lives each day.
“Look at the sunrise!”—to me this also seems to be a call to make the sun rise in one’s own heart.
Nichiren Daishonin likens the magnificence of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the sunrise. He writes, “When the sun rises in the eastern sector of the sky, then all the skies over the great continent of Jambudvipa in the south [i.e., the entire world] will be illuminated because of the vast light that the sun possesses” (“The Tripitaka Master Shan-wu-wei,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 169).
Gongyo (the recitation of a portion of the “Expedient Means” chapter and the verse section of the “Life Span” chapter from the Lotus Sutra, along with the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo), which forms a fundamental basis of our Buddhist practice, could be described as a ceremony in which we bring the primordial sun of Buddhahood to rise brightly in the vast skies of our lives each day.
In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, the Daishonin cites this significant passage from a Buddhist commentary: “Morning after morning we rise up with the Buddha, evening after evening we lie down with the Buddha. Moment by moment we attain the way, moment by moment we reveal our true identity” (p. 83).
Morning and evening, we vigorously carry out the practice of gongyo in front of the Gohonzon; as such, we are always living “together with the Buddha”—this is the teaching of Nichiren Buddhism. Further, at each moment we awaken to the great life force of Buddhahood that has been within us from time without beginning and powerfully manifest it in our lives.
A vibrant gongyo is performed with a prayer for the happiness of oneself and others.
Morning and evening,
joyously attune your lives
to the melody of the universe,
as you recite the “Expedient Means”
and “Life Span” chapters.
This is a poem I composed some years ago about gongyo. In autumn 2004, the Soka Gakkai inaugurated a new, simplified format for gongyo. The reason for this simplification was to create an even greater current of worldwide kosen-rufu in the 21st century. Indeed, because of requests by many members, the SGI organizations outside Japan led the way in adopting this new format.
In an explanation of gongyo, Nichikan, the 26th high priest, who is known as a great restorer of Nichiren Buddhism, describes the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the “primary” practice and the recitation of the “Expedient Means” and “Life Span” chapters of the Lotus Sutra as the “supplementary” or “supporting” practice.
Nichiren writes that in the midst of the life-threatening Tatsunokuchi Persecution, he “recited the verse portion of the ‘Life Span’ chapter” (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 768). Some of his lay believers also “continued to recite the ten factors of life [of the ‘Expedient Means’ chapter] and the verse section of the ‘Life Span’ chapter and chant the daimoku [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo]” (“The Fourteen Slanders,” WND-1, 756). This is almost the same as the gongyo format that we now follow.
Today, the vibrant sound of gongyo—performed with a prayer for the happiness of oneself and others—can be heard all over the world, in  countries and territories. Twenty-four hours a day across the planet, the voices of our members chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo never cease for even a moment. Despite different languages and nationalities, different customs and lifestyles, and different cultural and religious backgrounds, the network of SGI members who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo has spread widely throughout the globe.
When our fundamental mindset changes, we ourselves change. And when we change, the environment and the world change, too. The source of this great transformation is found nowhere but in a radical deepening of our own chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon.
How happy this would surely make the Daishonin, who declared, “It is certain that widespread propagation of the Law [kosen-rufu] will eventually be achieved throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world]” (Gosho zenshu, p. 816). There is not the slightest doubt that he would unstintingly praise all of our admirable SGI members.
Battles are won through a strong life force.
The Mystic Law is absolute. The only way to tap the infinite power of the Buddha and the power of the Law is to chant and exert ourselves for kosen-rufu with the intensity of a charging lion.
When [second Soka Gakkai President Josei] Toda’s business was in financial straits, I worked furiously to help him surmount the crisis. Pushing myself to the limit day after day took a serious toll on my health. I was a physical wreck. One day, Mr. Toda called me into the Gohonzon room and said: “Daisaku! You haven’t got an ounce of life force! You’re not going to win any battles in that condition. Let’s do gongyo together!”
He took me sternly to task as if seeking to banish my weak life state and free me from the devil of illness. Tears filled my eyes at my mentor’s compassion. As I sat in front of the Gohonzon and chanted alongside Mr. Toda—my voice and heart attuned to his—a powerful fighting spirit and a surge of courage welled up inside me.
During that tumultuous period, I had many opportunities to do gongyo with my incomparable mentor. They are now a precious treasure and a memory that continues to resonate in my life to this day, filling me with profound and undiminishing gratitude.
A “fighting gongyo” is the inexhaustible wellspring of absolute victory in both life and the struggle for kosen-rufu.
“When our fundamental mindset changes, we ourselves change.”
Through the Buddhist doctrine of “3,000 realms in a single moment of life,” Nichiren teaches that a great transformation in our attitude can bring about a transformation in all phenomena comprising the three thousand realms. When our fundamental mindset changes, we ourselves change. And when we change, the environment and the world change, too.
The source of this great transformation is found nowhere but in a radical deepening of our own chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon. This sort of prayer to the Gohonzon is completely different from that found in a dependent, supplicant faith; we do not weakly and passively beg someone for salvation or assistance.
Prayer in Nichiren Buddhism is fundamentally a vow. It is a pledge or commitment to follow a chosen course of action; it is a declaration to challenge a clear objective. As such, how could anything be more wonderful than the vow to realize our personal human revolution and actualize kosen-rufu with its goal of world peace?
While confronting and challenging our own problems, we chant for the happiness of others and for the victory of Soka. We chant to reach organizational activity goals. In our struggle against the three powerful enemies, we chant passionately that justice will definitely prevail; we also take bold and courageous action toward that end. Because we have steadfastly advanced based on such committed prayer and a “fighting gongyo,” the Soka Gakkai has won over all malicious plots against it and triumphed in every struggle for the sake of the Law. That is why our members brim with boundless wisdom and strength, and overflow with benefit that enables them to be victorious.
“Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other.”
“There is no such thing as retreat for a man of prayer,” declared Mahatma Gandhi.
February is the Soka Gakkai’s traditional month of propagation, and our members everywhere have been exerting themselves wholeheartedly to share Nichiren Buddhism with others. The fundamental source of victory for that very first February Campaign back in 1952—which triggered the dynamic growth of kosen-rufu—was also due to earnestly chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo based on a firm resolve to be victorious without fail.
Nichiren writes, “Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 1001). Deeply engraving this passage in our hearts, let us once again rise into action for the sake of victory, a brilliant future and the fulfillment of all our desires.
Onward! Forward! Let us forge ahead with the solid unity of “many in body, one in mind,” powered by a gongyo that is vibrant and vigorous like the rhythm of a galloping horse. Let’s make today, tomorrow and this year a resounding victory by challenging ourselves to the utmost on all fronts. Those who continue to strive and challenge themselves are happy, as are those who win. This is a fact of life.
I once presented this poem to my mentor. It is a poem infused with my vow:
I will walk the disciple’s path
and taking action.