Kosen-rufu Starts With a Single Individual
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“At first only Nichiren chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but then two, three, and a hundred followed, chanting and teaching others. Propagation will unfold this way in the future as well. Does this not signify ‘emerging from the earth’? At the time when the Law has spread far and wide, the entire Japanese nation will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, as surely as an arrow aimed at the earth cannot miss the target.” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 385)
At the start of any successful movement, there is one person who has the inspiration and courage to take initiative and the resolve to see it through.
The same applies to the history of the kosen-rufu movement, the effort to spread the ideals of Nichiren Buddhism in order to secure lasting peace and happiness for all humankind.
Nichiren Daishonin boldly declared his teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in April 1253 while knowing that opposition and persecution awaited him. Spurred by his vow to lead all people to happiness, he persevered.
When Nichiren wrote “The True Aspect of All Phenomena” to his disciple Sairen-bo in May 1273, he was in exile on Sado Island, a punishment tantamount to a death sentence.
Despite his circumstances, Nichiren maintained unwavering conviction that the Mystic Law would spread throughout Japan, elucidating the unchanging formula for propagation—namely, that it starts with a single individual, and that numerous others will rise and join in this endeavor.
“At first only Nichiren chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” is a declaration that Nichiren was the first to chant and spread Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the happiness of all people.
SGI President Ikeda writes:
The spirit to stand up alone, to take personal initiative, is the core spirit and essence of the SGI. My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, called out to young people: “Youth, just one of you stand! A second and then a third will definitely follow!” Our members around the world have indeed demonstrated that when one pioneering individual takes the lead, “two, three, and a hundred will follow” (see WND-1, 385). (February 2014 Living Buddhism, p. 26)
“Does this not signify ‘emerging from the earth?’ ” refers to the emergence of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, individuals who have forged their resolve to dedicate themselves to kosen-rufu. Today, this refers to the members of the SGI who are practicing in the same spirit as Nichiren, fulfilling the promise that the Lotus Sutra will spread far and wide “as surely as an arrow aimed at the earth cannot miss the target.”
To realize this grand, far-reaching vision of kosen-rufu, Nichiren teaches that we must start where we are now and take full responsibility for our lives, as we confront various challenges and continue spreading the teachings of the Lotus Sutra based on compassion for all people.
This translates to each of us showing actual proof in society by applying our Buddhist faith and practice to overcoming our problems and realizing our personal dreams and goals. In so doing, our family, friends and colleagues will come to respect Nichiren Buddhism through our behavior and accomplishments.
With the same conviction as Nichiren, on Oct. 2, 1960—just five months after becoming the third president of the Soka Gakkai—Daisaku Ikeda embarked on his first overseas trip to North and South America. He states:
In the early days of our movement for worldwide kosen-rufu, visiting places where there were not yet members, I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as if to permeate the land, convinced that eventually a mighty stream of Bodhisattvas of the Earth would emerge there . . . Bodhisattvas of the Earth will emerge without fail to fulfill the mission of kosen-rufu everywhere throughout the world—this was Nichiren’s conviction when he stated that it all starts with first one person chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. (November 2017 Living Buddhism, p. 43)
Through the dedicated efforts of President Ikeda and SGI members who have stood up with the same resolve, Nichiren Buddhism has spread to 192 countries and territories worldwide.
This passage is a reminder that wherever we are, no matter the circumstances, when we awaken to the awareness that we are Bodhisattvas
of the Earth, we can develop inner fortitude and deepen our sense of responsibility for creating a path to realizing peace in our homes, communities and society at large.
SGI President Ikeda’s Guidance
In The New Human Revolution, SGI President Ikeda (who appears in the novel as Shin’ichi Yamamoto) explains the importance of the stand-alone spirit in Nichiren Buddhism.
When he covered the passage “At first only Nichiren chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but then two, three, and a hundred followed, chanting and teaching others” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 385), Shin’ichi Yamamoto emphasized courageous, stand-alone faith.
“At all times, the fundamental and unchanging principle for kosen-rufu is the stand-alone spirit. The Daishonin and Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda all bravely stood up alone. This is the spirit of Buddhism and the heart of a champion of Soka.
“Concretely speaking, the stand-alone spirit in this regard means for each of us to take full responsibility for the spread of the Mystic Law in our family, in our community and in every part of our environment.
“We all have relationships with family members, relatives and friends that are particular to each of us. From the perspective of the Mystic Law, those relationships are the realm of our mission, and they are profound bonds that connect our lives with others. Each of us is alone, responsible and qualified to propagate the Mystic Law exactly where we are. That’s what makes the principle of standing up alone so important. We should keep in mind that we are here now as emissaries of Nichiren Daishonin. As Bodhisattvas of the Earth, we need to stand up, each in our own place, and take action. Never forget that this is the only way kosen-rufu is realized.” (vol. 24, p. 151)