Skip to main content

Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

Buddhism Is a Compass for a Life Brimming With Joy

Buddhism of the Sun Installment 38

June is the birth month of founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. He once said: “The most important thing in life is to have a clear sense of purpose. This cannot be achieved without faith.”[1] This was a warning to us not to be swept away by the turbulent storms of life and lose sight of the goal of true happiness.

Mr. Makiguchi also said: “Self-negation is a lie. What is right is to seek happiness for both oneself and everyone else.”[2] He denounced the evil of self-negation leading to self-sacrifice in an age dominated by militaristic values that prioritized the nation over the individual.

The ultimate purpose that Mr. Makiguchi stressed was the happiness of both self and others. In other words, it is not solely about one’s own happiness, nor is it solely about the happiness of others. Everyone becoming happy together is the Buddhist concept of happiness.

The Purpose of Life

Why were we born? What is the purpose of our lives? It is the role of religion to provide clear answers to these ultimate questions.

Nichiren Buddhism is a compass giving us direction to navigate our way on the great ocean of life. It is a life philosophy that aims for the realization of happiness for oneself and others. It reveals the way to attain a boundless life state of eternity, happiness, true self and purity. It teaches that we can achieve a peaceful and harmonious society through the ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.” It asserts that we can tap potential as vast as the universe based on the principle of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life.”[3]And it explains that all people are equal and can shine in their own unique way based on the principle of “cherry, plum, peach, and damson” (see The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 200).

The wisdom of Nichiren Buddhism enables us to endlessly deepen and enrich our lives.

Ultimately, therefore, a life dedicated to the mentor-disciple vow of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth provides the true answers to the fundamental questions of where we have come from and where we are going.

In this installment, let us study the principles of human revolution taught in Nichiren Buddhism that enable us to build strong, unshakable selves.

Life Itself Is a Joy

There is no true happiness for human beings other than chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The sutra reads, “ … where living beings enjoy themselves at ease” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 272).[4] How could this passage mean anything but the boundless joy of the Law? Surely you are included among the “living beings.” “Where” means Jambudvipa [the entire world], and Japan lies within Jambudvipa. Could “enjoy themselves at ease” mean anything but that both our bodies and minds, lives and environments, are entities of three thousand realms in a single moment of life and Buddhas of limitless joy? There is no true happiness other than upholding faith in the Lotus Sutra. This is what is meant by “peace and security in their present existence and good circumstances in future existences”[5] [LSOC, 136]. (“Happiness in This World,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 681)[6]

The above passage is from Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “Happiness in this World,” addressed to Shijo Kingo.

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, succinctly explained the purpose of life: “Why were we born? To enjoy life, as indicated by the Lotus Sutra passage ‘where living beings enjoy themselves at ease.’ It would be a pity if we didn’t. The true goal of our Buddhist practice is achieving a state in which life itself is a joy.”[7] His confident assertion that we were born to become happy and that we can become happy without fail gave tremendous hope to those who were in the depths of suffering.

The practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables all people to savor a life where they can “enjoy themselves at ease.”

We all experience difficulties and problems. No life is completely free from suffering. But Mr. Toda often said, “Just like a pinch of salt enhances the flavor of sweets, experiencing suffering enables us to savor joy.”[8]

As practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, we transform our problems into joy and lead lives dedicated to creating value with a generous, openhearted spirit.
In another letter, Nichiren writes, “Wherever [she] may frolic or play, no harm will come to her; she will move about without fear like the lion king” (“Reply to Kyo’o,” WND-1, 412).

When we bring forth the life force of Buddhahood, we are invincible. When we rouse the strength and energy of a charging lion, we are unbeatable. We can enjoy everything.

Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables us to face all our problems and sufferings head-on. We who uphold the Mystic Law can summon the heart of a lion king to challenge and triumph over every difficulty we encounter.

That is why Nichiren says, “There is no true happiness for human beings other than chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (WND-1, 681). He assures us that nothing brings greater happiness than chanting vibrantly, no matter what happens.

We Are the Lead Player in Our Lives

We make our life what it is. Each of us is the lead player in the drama of our own victory.

Nichiren Daishonin explains this through the concept of the “boundless joy of the Law.”[9] Through experiencing the boundless joy of the Law, we can develop a state in which life itself is a joy. The pleasures afforded by such things as wealth and fame are fleeting, destined to eventually fade and disappear. But the “boundless joy of the Law,” which wells up from the depths of our being, is a state of true happiness that nothing can destroy. This state of indestructible and inexhaustible joy is none other than absolute happiness.

We who embrace the Mystic Law can personally experience this supreme state. We can attain it through our own efforts.

Nichiren also writes: “Could ‘enjoy themselves at ease’ [LSOC, 136] mean anything but that both our bodies and minds, lives and environments, are entities of three thousand realms in a single moment of life and Buddhas of limitless joy?” (WND-1, 681). The transformation of our own lives also transforms the world around us.

The Great Transformation From Unhappiness to Happiness

When we have a problem, we tend to think that no one else can understand our situation or our pain, and close ourselves off. We shut ourselves up in a shell of suffering.

When Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter, Shijo Kingo had fallen into displeasure with his feudal lord, Ema Mitsutoki, because of false rumors spread by his colleagues. No doubt he was feeling angry and frustrated.

Succumbing to negativity is the enemy of happiness. Failing to rise to the challenge and giving in when struck by adversity sets in motion a chain reaction of misery.

In the passage we are studying, Nichiren assures Shijo Kingo that he is without a doubt among the “living beings” who will “enjoy themselves at ease” (WND-1, 681), as the sutra promises.

If we fail to apply the teachings of Buddhism to our lives, they remain abstract theories. If we think they have no connection to us, then we are seeking the Law outside ourselves, and we will not be able to end the cycle of suffering. The “sharp sword” for severing this negative cycle is the Mystic Law, our chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Through our determination in faith, we can make the great change from unhappiness to happiness.

The Spirit of “Regarding Both Joy and Suffering as Facts of Life”

Nichiren Daishonin advises Shijo Kingo: “Though worldly troubles may arise, never let them disturb you. No one can avoid problems, not even sages or worthies” (WND-1, 681).

The key is to not be swayed by our troubles. We must cast away the common notion that difficulties equal misfortune. The Daishonin teaches us to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and remain calm, no matter what challenges arise.

The Mystic Law guarantees the benefits of “peace and security in the present existence and good circumstances in future existences.” Enjoying peace and security does not mean that our lives will be completely free of problems and suffering. Rather, it means continuing to fight and win with the unflagging courage of a lion king by maintaining steadfast faith.

As Nichiren states: “Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, no matter what happens” (WND-1, 681).

Having the spirit to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo throughout all is in itself the life state of experiencing the “boundless joy of the Law.” That is why Nichiren tells Shijo Kingo, “Strengthen your power of faith more than ever” (WND-1, 681).

I imagine that through every hardship and difficulty they faced, Shijo Kingo and his wife, Nichigen-nyo, would read the Daishonin’s letters again and again. With strong faith, they rose above their circumstances and fought with the same spirit as their mentor, demonstrating wonderful proof of their victory.

The World of Buddhahood Exists Undeniably in Our Lives

Neither the pure land nor hell exists outside oneself; both lie only within one’s own heart. Awakened to this, one is called a Buddha; deluded about it, one is called an ordinary person. The Lotus Sutra reveals this truth, and one who embraces the Lotus Sutra will realize that hell is itself the Land of Tranquil Light … This teaching is of prime importance, but I will impart it to you just as Bodhisattva Manjushri[10] explained the secret teaching of the attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present form to the dragon king’s daughter. After hearing it, strive even more earnestly in faith. One who, on hearing the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, makes even greater efforts in faith is a true seeker of the way. (“Hell Is the Land of Tranquil Light,” WND-1, 456–57)

The above excerpt is from a letter Nichiren Daishonin sent to the lay nun Ueno, whose husband, Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro, had passed away. He empathizes with her loss, grief and sorrow, assuring her her husband has attained Buddhahood and telling her the most important thing is that she does, too. Whether we perceive our environment as the pure land or hell, Nichiren says, comes down to a change in our own attitude or outlook. This is what is meant by the principle that “ordinary people are identical with the highest level of being” (OTT, 22)—that is, the life state of Buddhahood. Nichiren Buddhism teaches that those who have suffered the most can attain the greatest happiness. This is the tremendous power of the Mystic Law.

Even while in a freezing prison cell, first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi was able to write: “Concentrating utterly on my faith is my work at this time. As long as I do that, I have nothing to worry about. Depending upon one’s state of mind, one can be completely safe even in hell.”[11]

Because those who embrace the Lotus Sutra can bring forth the life state of Buddhahood irrespective of their circumstances, they can make the teaching that “hell is itself the Land of Tranquil Light” a reality in their lives. Mr. Makiguchi calmly and undeniably demonstrated this.

The Dragon King’s Daughter’s Enlightenment

The Daishonin further encourages the lay nun Ueno by making a reference to the dragon king’s daughter, who demonstrates the principle of “attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form”[12]in “Devadatta,” the 12th chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Allow me to summarize this story briefly.

In the sutra, Bodhisattva Manjushri states that in the palace of the dragon king, the 8-year-old dragon king’s daughter has attained enlightenment. Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated rejects this as unbelievable, asserting that endless eons of difficult, demanding bodhisattva practice are required to attain Buddhahood, and that women are excluded from doing so altogether.

At that moment, the dragon king’s daughter suddenly appears before Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated and makes the following vow to Shakyamuni:

[H]aving heard his [the Buddha’s] teachings, I have attained enlightenment—
the Buddha alone can bear witness to this.
I unfold the doctrines of the great vehicle [the Lotus Sutra] to rescue living beings from suffering. (LSOC, 227)

The Buddha alone knows that she has attained Buddhahood, she declares, and no matter what anyone else says, she will devote herself to relieving others from their suffering through the power of the Mystic Law that has enabled her to attain enlightenment. How incredibly powerful is her vow infused with deep gratitude!

Like the dragon king’s daughter, the members of the Soka Gakkai, with a wish to repay their debt of gratitude for the happiness they have gained through their Buddhist practice, are leading truly noble lives dedicated to kosen-rufu based on their vow.

People motivated by gratitude and commitment are strong and resilient. This is the cornerstone of a happy life.

Attaining Buddhahood in One’s Present Form

As Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated, Shariputra and others look on, the dragon king’s daughter presents a precious jewel to Shakyamuni (see LSOC, 227). The jewel is a symbol of the Buddha nature, indicating that all living beings, equally and without discrimination, possess the potential for Buddhahood within their lives.

The dragon king’s daughter demonstrates the principle of attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form, as a young woman, imparting infinite hope to all living beings.

No matter what our current circumstances, all of us have chosen to be born into this world with different kinds of karma in order to carry out the noble task of kosen-rufu and lead all people of the Latter Day of the Law to happiness.

When we are firmly convinced of this in the depths of our being, gratitude and joy are certain to well forth from our lives.

Going Among the People With “Hearts Filled With Great Joy”

The dragon king’s daughter declares to Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated and others in the assembly: “Watch me attain Buddhahood!” (LSOC, 227). The scene in which she attains Buddhahood, just as she is, after making this bold declaration calls to mind Soka Gakkai members who have battled and overcome illness and other hardships. They are proudly and confidently demonstrating the dignity of their own lives through their personal struggles with their karma, or destiny. This drama of transforming karma into mission is proof of the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism.

The sutra states that the dragon king’s daughter then “expounded the wonderful Law for all living beings everywhere in the ten directions” (LSOC, 228). And when those present witnessed her acting on her vow, “their hearts were filled with great joy and all from a distance paid reverent obeisance” (LSOC, 228).

The key is to have “hearts filled with great joy.” The brilliance of one person’s life brings joy to those around them. One light in the dark can at once spark hope that brightens everything.

From Buddhahood Back to the Nine Worlds

The great development of worldwide kosen-rufu we see today is due entirely to the experiences and actual proof of faith shared by SGI members everywhere, which cause happiness and victory to spread like waves.

This growth has been made possible because of Nichiren Daishonin’s revolutionary view of attaining Buddhahood.

The general view regards attaining Buddhahood as a distant summit that requires climbing a steep and arduous path. Reaching it is so difficult that we have no idea if we will ever make it, and the task is so all-consuming that we are unable to think of others. But Nichiren Buddhism offers a completely different view of attaining Buddhahood. It teaches that anyone can reach the summit of Buddhahood instantly. That is the great power of the Mystic Law—the teaching that embracing the Gohonzon is in itself observing one’s own mind,[13]or attaining enlightenment.

In other words, in any given instant, we can—just as we are and wherever we may be—attain Buddhahood and, from that lofty summit, serenely gaze upon our surroundings and circumstances.

But this is not the full extent of the benefit of Nichiren Buddhism. The true exhilaration of our practice is found in eagerly returning from the summit of Buddhahood to the foothills of the nine worlds and sharing our joy with others. We go out into society and tell others about the Mystic Law, show proof of the benefit of Buddhist practice through our own example and expand our movement of hope. Then, we bring others along with us as we climb again to the summit of great joy that is Buddhahood. Engaging in this continuous journey, along with many friends, from Buddhahood to the nine worlds and then back again, is how kosen-rufu unfolds.

The drama of the enlightenment of the dragon king’s daughter, who vowed to relieve the sufferings of all living beings, is not merely some fable from the past. This drama of bringing joy to others is taking place around the world now through the harmonious and inspiring efforts of Soka women.

Members of the young women’s and women’s divisions across the globe—who will celebrate SGI Ikeda Kayo-kai Day on June 4 and Women’s Division Day on June 10, respectively—are fulfilling their vow for kosen-rufu right where they are, as they cheerfully expand their network of joy. Nothing could make me happier.

Serving Human Happiness

The Russian author Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) offered a guide for religion to serve human happiness, saying, “Man requires for his happiness two beliefs: one, the belief that there is an explanation of the meaning of life, and the other—that he can find in this the very best explanation of life.” [14]

Nichiren Buddhism—with its complete view of life and its eternal nature encompassing the three existences of past, present and future—provides a sound explanation of life’s meaning. It also shows us the way to sever the chains of karma holding us back and lead a joyous life as we walk the great path of our mission.

This means dedicating ourselves to fulfilling our noble vow as Bodhisattvas of the Earth. It means striving for the happiness of ourselves and others, and expanding the Soka Gakkai’s grassroots network of ordinary people, with the resolve to bring peace and security to society and the world.

Through studying and practicing Nichiren Buddhism, we obtain a compass for advancing with courage and hope and leading a life of the highest good.

Let’s Advance With Joy and Energy!

Let’s conquer the stormy seas
and set forth anew!
With hope in your hearts,
never fear the raging storms of karma!
For with the teachings of Buddhism as our
compass to happiness,
a brilliant future awaits us!
Let’s advance with joy and energy
together with our friends around the world!

Translated from the June 2018 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.


  1. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmeisha, 1987), p. 7. ↩︎
  2. Ibid., p. 8. ↩︎
  3. Three thousand realms in a single moment of life (Jpn ichinen-sanzen): A philosophical system established by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai of China based on the Lotus Sutra. The “three thousand realms” indicates the varying aspects and phases that life assumes at each moment. At each moment, life manifests one of the Ten Worlds. Each of these worlds possesses the potential for all ten within itself, thus making one hundred possible worlds. Each of these hundred worlds possesses the ten factors and operates within each of the three realms of existence, thus making three thousand realms. In other words, all phenomena are contained within a single moment of life, and a single moment of life permeates the three thousand realms of existence, or the entire phenomenal world. ↩︎
  4. The full passage reads: “This, my land, remains safe and tranquil, constantly filled with heavenly and human beings. The halls and pavilions in its gardens and groves are adorned with various kinds of gems. Jeweled trees abound in flowers and fruit where living beings enjoy themselves at ease” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 272). ↩︎
  5. “The Parable of the Medicinal Herbs,” the 5th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, states: “Once these living beings have heard the Law, they will enjoy peace and security in their present existence and good circumstances in future existences” (LSOC, 136). ↩︎
  6. Dated June 27, 1276, “Happiness in This World” is a letter Nichiren Daishonin sent to Shijo Kingo, who was facing harsh persecution at the time. ↩︎
  7. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 4 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1989), pp. 95–96. ↩︎
  8. Ibid., p. 78. ↩︎
  9. Boundless joy of the Law: The supreme and ultimate happiness of the Buddha, the benefit of the Mystic Law. ↩︎
  10. Manjushri: A bodhisattva who plays an important role in the Lotus Sutra and other sutras. He is symbolic of the perfection of wisdom and is revered as chief of the bodhisattvas. ↩︎
  11. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), p. 284. ↩︎
  12. Attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form: This means attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime just as one is, without undergoing endless eons of Buddhist practice. ↩︎
  13. “Embracing the Gohonzon is in itself observing one’s own
    mind”: In other words, through faith in the Gohonzon, one can tap the Mystic Law inherent in one’s life and attain Buddhahood. ↩︎
  14. Leo Tolstoy, “Pascal,” in The Complete Works of Lyof N. Tolstoï, edited and translated by Nathan Haskall Dole (New York: Carton House, 1928), p. 388. ↩︎

Peace, Culture and Education: The Flowering of a New Humanism—Part 7