Skip to main content

Ikeda Sensei

Determination Is a Source of Strength and Leads to Success

Exploring the Life of Nanjo Tokimitsu

Members of South Zone celebrate the fi fth anniversary of the SGI-USA Atlanta Buddhist Center, April 6. Photo by ANTHONY WALLEN.

The following is a new series from SGI President Ikeda addressing members of the junior high and high school divisions. This installment originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of the Mirai [Future] Journal, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly newspaper for the junior high and high school divisions.

With the greatest admiration, I have always called you, my dear friends of the future division, “Young Phoenixes.” This is because I am confident you will grow to be like majestic phoenixes and lift your wings to soar high into the skies of your mission.

You, the young phoenixes of Soka, have two precious wings. They are the noblest, most beautiful and most powerful wings in the world. What are they? Your youth and your practice of Nichiren Buddhism.

It is a truly wonderful thing to encounter Nichiren Buddhism when you are young. I met my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, and started practicing Buddhism when I was still in my teens. I am deeply grateful for this, and believe there is no path for young people that is more fulfilling or worthwhile.

In this series, together with you, my successors on this brilliant path, I would like to focus on one of Nichiren Daishonin’s beloved young disciples—Nanjo Tokimitsu—while exploring the tremendous potential of youth and the profound teachings of Nichiren Buddhism.

• • •

Once, when youth division members were having an informal discussion with Mr. Toda, the question arose, “Who is your favorite among Nichiren Daishonin’s disciples?”

As people cited Shijo Kingo, the Sage Nichimyo, Toki Jonin, the lay nun Myoichi and others, Mr. Toda turned to me and asked, “Daisaku, who’s your favorite?” Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied, “Nanjo Tokimitsu.”

Nanjo Tokimitsu began practicing Nichiren Buddhism when he was a child, along with his parents. In that sense, he can be seen as a forerunner of today’s future division members.

When Nanjo Tokimitsu was 7, his father died of an illness. Nichiren immediately sent the family condolences and encouragement, and later made a special trip to visit Tokimitsu’s father’s tomb. It is thought that it was the first time Tokimitsu met the Daishonin.

Having lost his father at such a young age, Tokimitsu must have felt very sad and anxious. But he remained strong, carrying on his father’s faith with firm resolve.

Nine years later, at the age of 16, Tokimitsu visited Nichiren at his residence. The young man made the long journey, traveling over perilous mountain roads and through deep, impenetrable valleys—all so that he could express his gratitude and determination to the Daishonin in person.

Nichiren was overjoyed to see Tokimitsu again, and from then on, encouraged him on numerous occasions.

Tokimitsu looked up to the Daishonin as his mentor and, filled with youthful seeking spirit, received thorough training from him. With Nichiren’s guidance, Tokimitsu overcame many hardships, including the sudden death of his youngest brother and his own serious illness, and paved the way to a life of great victory.

There are many letters to Tokimitsu in the Daishonin’s collected writings.

The words, “My wish is that all my disciples make a great vow” (“The Dragon Gate,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1003), which members around the world have engraved deeply in their hearts, are from one of Nichiren’s letters to Tokimitsu.

The Daishonin sent this particular letter at a time when his disciples were facing harsh persecution, their lives threatened if they didn’t give up their faith. Tokimitsu did his utmost to protect them, providing shelter to some on his estate and fighting courageously on their behalf.

The “great vow” Nichiren speaks of here is the supremely noble determination to achieve the lofty ideal of kosen-rufu, to bring peace and happiness to all human beings.

Many of your parents have inherited that noble determination and are exerting themselves tirelessly for the happiness of both themselves and others.

The Daishonin sent some of the most essential teachings of Nichiren Buddhism to his youthful disciple Nanjo Tokimitsu.

Tokimitsu had embraced Buddhism from the time he was a boy. He chose and committed himself to this path and followed it with steadfast faith like flowing water. This is the key to achieving victory in life.

The Soka Gakkai spirit is the spirit of self-motivation—taking action on your own initiative, not because someone tells you to. Inner motivation is the key to success in all endeavors, from engaging in your studies to doing gongyo and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. And by tenaciously persevering, you will find a refreshing sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

I hope you will all demonstrate such self-motivation and perseverance in this precious time of your youth.

• • •

The heart, the mind, is mysterious, limitless and free.

Your future depends upon how big, deep and serious your determination is right now.

Some of you may think it’s better to wait until you’re older and more confident to make a determination. But strength doesn’t produce determination, determination produces strength.

Determination is like a root that usually can’t be seen. If its roots are strong, a plant will be able to flower. Flowers bloom because of the roots.

Youth is the time to cultivate the roots of determination. As long as you patiently keep trying to do your best, continuing to rouse your determination with an invincible spirit and rising to the challenge again and again, you will succeed in creating a brilliant future for yourselves.

Start by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and making a determination. If you find your determination wavering, just keep renewing it day after day. As you continue pressing ahead in your own unique way, the roots of your determination will become strong and unshakable.

Over the next year, as we study the youth and life of Nanjo Tokimitsu, who remained dedicated to the great vow for kosen-rufu as long as he lived, let us break through our limitations with ever fresh resolve.

Let’s make our motto: “Determination is a source of strength. Determination leads to success.”

Rebuilding My Life Based on My Vow

The Soka Gakkai Spirit of Environmentalism