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Daily Life

The Fresh Glow of Youth


The following is an excerpt of SGI President Ikeda’s essay, which was originally published in the June 12, 2009, World Tribune.

Trust is built and maintained through fulfilling our promises.

While the real world is a turbulent place, filled with discord and confusion, it is also the place where we find order and ethics. Society and social order rest on mutual trust and faith among people. This trust can only be built and maintained by the act of keeping and fulfilling one’s promises—be it delivering goods or services to a customer when due, or completing assigned tasks properly and on time. Moreover, it is vital that we keep the promises we make to ourselves. Work entails the fulfillment of promises. No matter how small or brief the task—whether it takes only five minutes, one page or one figure—once a promise is made, it must never be neglected. This is the proper way to go about one’s work.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda used to say that a young person’s greatest treasure is the trust of others. He was very stern about lies or deception, and he would angrily scold anyone who was devious or dishonest. Mr. Toda pointed out, “Though young people may not have fame or fortune, they should consider the trust of others as their greatest pride and success.”

Also, we shouldn’t try to cover up our mistakes. The right thing to do is to make an honest effort to rectify them. While we should sincerely reflect on our errors, we shouldn’t let them discourage us, but rather do our best so that we don’t repeat them and can make up for them.

One shouldn’t be a person whose presence causes problems, or whose presence or absence makes no difference at all. It is vital for young people to create value in the work place by striving to be indispensable.

“Be sure to greet people in a refreshing manner.”

First, be sure to greet people in a refreshing manner. You can always tell first-rate individuals by their behavior. All of the top world leaders I’ve met were people of refined character who were always extremely courteous and considerate in their interactions with others.

… When greeting others, speak clearly and distinctly. When starting out in the working world, it’s important to master good manners. For instance, be neat in your appearance. And when we have the occasion to meet people from other countries, we should take care that our words and actions express an attitude of heartfelt respect and consideration.

The renowned German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) had friends from many nations. He once noted: “The first [greeting] has more than thousand greetings’ worth, / So friendly greetings give to each who greets.”[1] He also wrote, “When someone does you a kindness / repay them, repay them swiftly.”[2]

Since the days of my youth, I have always greeted people sincerely and politely. Such actions accord with the essential spirit of the Lotus Sutra, which teaches us to regard the people we meet with the same respect as we would a Buddha.

“Winning in the morning is the key to success.”

Winning in the morning is the key to success. Of course, some people work at night, but what matters is starting the workday right, whatever time it begins. Mr. Toda was quite strict on this point: “Youth who oversleep and arrive late for work in the morning will not succeed. Morning is crucial. Brim with lively energy amid the fresh breath of morning. Therein lies the key to boundless growth.”

I have fond memories of coming to work at Mr. Toda’s company with fresh enthusiasm each morning. I was hired at his publishing company, Nihon Shogakkan, when I was 21. My first day of work was on the cold morning of Jan. 3, and I arrived at the office before anyone else. I started the day by polishing the windows and wiping down the desks. I wanted to make my workplace the best in Japan. As I cleaned the office, my affection for my workplace intensified.

… Nichiren Daishonin asserts, “Strengthen your faith day by day and month after month” (“On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 997). We who practice his teachings begin each morning with a vigorous gongyo and daimoku [chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] before setting out to win that day’s challenges. Our lives therefore shine like the morning sunlight and are as refreshing as the morning air.

Make the best use of your mornings. Putting the first hours of the day to good use leads to valuing time in general. As the Swiss philosopher Carl Hilty (1833–1909) remarked: “You can put every moment, even a spare minute or two, to a good and useful purpose. Many of the biggest decisions and actions take only a brief instant.”[3] How true that is. With a resolute mind of faith, we can concentrate our energies and create the utmost value with each moment available.

“Press staunchly forward, without complaining.”

Another bit of advice I’d like to offer to young people starting out is to press staunchly forward, without complaining. Sometimes your job may turn out to be far different from the ideal you had envisioned. At times you may find yourself envious of your friends. But the important thing is to win where you are now, to persevere in the task at hand and complete it successfully. The French author Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850) also observed how patience is necessary for the conception of a great work.[4]

Some young people start as contract or temporary workers. Some find themselves dealing with restructuring and job losses. Even the eminent scientist and mathematician Albert Einstein (1879–1955), who changed the way we see the world, suffered through a period of unemployment and rejection during his early 20s. Einstein’s unshakable conviction is summed up with these words: “There is only one road to true human greatness: through the school of hard knocks.”[5] Young people who rise to high positions without encountering adversity are actually very unfortunate, because they are sheltered from the true depth of human experience. Only by undergoing hardships and suffering can one gain real character. That is why we shouldn’t get discouraged and give up when things don’t go as we’d like. Even when we are experiencing difficulty, if we continue to do our best, we are certain to find a new way forward. As Mr. Toda indicated: “No matter how you’re trampled on, keep growing tenaciously. Isn’t that how youth should live?”

Nothing productive comes from complaining. The way to tap courage, strength and brilliant wisdom is to take our problems to the Gohonzon and chant about them. This activates the protective functions of the universe to work on our behalf. The teaching that earthly desires lead to enlightenment is essential to Nichiren Buddhism. And prayer is the key. As the Daishonin states, “[Pray] as earnestly as though to produce fire from damp wood, or to obtain water from parched ground” (“Rebuking Slander of the Law,” WND-1, 444). We should chant with that kind of perseverance and resolve.

“Strive to be a true professional, to shine among the best in your field.”

I’ve received some very gratifying news from a Soka University alumna who is also a member of the Business Professionals Division. She landed a job at a major manufacturer that has operations around the globe. When she first participated in meetings with veteran employees, she was overwhelmed by the specialized jargon. Though she was having a hard time adjusting to her new job, she carried on in the undaunted Soka spirit. She got up every morning at 5, chanted and studied assiduously for her job. She was always the first to arrive at the office, and her enthusiasm had a positive impact on her workplace. In her second year on the job, she became the company’s top salesperson in the country with [roughly $2 million] in annual sales. One of her superiors, who had been monitoring her progress, commented: “You’re always energetic and positive, and you lift the spirits of those around you. The Soka Gakkai must be a very fine organization.” And, moved by her example, he decided to join our organization.

Many of our members are overcoming great challenges and making significant contributions to society based on their faith and the spirit to respond as disciples. My wife and I are constantly praying for the health and success of all the noble members struggling alongside us.

The American steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919) once explained to a youth the secret of his success. He said it was all due to his having made a conscious decision to become an expert of his chosen field.[6] It’s important to strive to be a true professional, to shine among the best in your field.

I hope that the young people who are just now starting out in the working world will continue to advance dynamically with a fresh spirit, today and tomorrow, aiming to become experts of their workplace and profession. I’m watching and waiting eagerly to see you soar high as true and accomplished victors in life and work. Let’s make that our pledge to each other. Do your best, Soka youth!As noble
of Soka,
adorn your lives
with constant sincerity and integrity.


  1. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Poems of the West and East, translated by John Whaley (Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang, 1998), p. 123. ↩︎
  2. Translated from German. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Sprichwörtlich” (Proverbially), in Goethe Gedichte: Sämtliche Gedichte in zeitlicher Folge (Goethe Poems: Collected Poems in Chronological Order), edited by Heinz Nicolai (Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1982), p. 628. ↩︎
  3. Translated from Japanese. Carl Hilty, Nemurarenu yo no tame ni (For Sleepless Nights), translated by Heisaku Kusama and Kunitaro Yamato (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2006), vol. 2, p. 48. ↩︎
  4. See Honoré de Balzac, The Country Doctor, translated by Ellen Marriage (London: J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd., 1961), p. 212. ↩︎
  5. Albert Einstein, The Quotable Einstein, edited by Alice Calaprice (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 90. ↩︎
  6. See Andrew Carnegie, Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1920), p. 177. ↩︎

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