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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

Building Humanity’s Future—The Noble Endeavor of Fostering the Next Generation

Buddhism of the Sun Installment 39

“Determined to carry on the baton,
I proudly await the time … ”

These are lines from “Torchbearers of Justice,” a song that I presented to my young successors, whom I entrust with carrying on the baton of kosen-rufu.

I composed the lyrics to this song four decades ago, in July 1978 in Okayama Prefecture, at a time when the Soka Gakkai was beset by fierce obstacles [arising from the first priesthood issue (see pp. 42–47)]. I said to a group of future division members then: “Please promise me to become people committed to justice, who seek out challenges and surmount them. I will be carefully observing to see whether you succeed in that goal.”

After Okayama, I visited Shikoku,[1] where I completed the song. It was performed for the first time at the 11th High School Division General Meeting, held at the Soka Gakkai Tachikawa Culture Center in Tokyo on August 3 [and became the high school division song].

The stirring voices of those promising youth rang out. They have now grown into wonderful leaders of kosen-rufu and society, active in diverse fields, with some making important contributions internationally.

Fostering Future Division Members

I presented this song “Torchbearers of Justice” to my precious disciples with the belief that each and every one of them would stay true to their convictions and lead lives of integrity and victory. My feelings remain unchanged today.

In July 2010, I revised the lyrics, and it was adopted as the future division song. It has also been translated into English, and is sung by young people not only in Japan but around the world. They represent the inspiring future of humanity and the hope of tomorrow.

I would also like to express my deepest appreciation to my treasured friends in the men’s, women’s and youth divisions who, sharing my spirit and commitment, are earnestly engaged in the noble task of fostering future division members, singing their song together with them.

In our increasingly troubled world today, the most important focus for leaders is raising capable people.

The Soka Gakkai has always encouraged and valued young people. Fostering capable individuals is the way to ensure the enduring development of our organization, which is dedicated to realizing the Buddha’s intent, and the way to solidify our movement for kosen-rufu.

In this installment, let us look at two passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings and reaffirm the key elements for fostering successors.

Ensuring the Eternal Transmission of the Law

At the Ceremony in the Air,[2] when the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions gathered together, the two Buddhas, Shakyamuni and Many Treasures,[3] nodded in agreement. What they decided on was nothing other than the perpetuation of the Law throughout the Latter Day. Many Treasures Buddha had offered Shakyamuni Buddha a place beside him, and when they unfurled the banner of Myoho-renge-kyo,[4] the two leaders of the entire multitude made their decision together. Could there have been anything false in their decision? Their ultimate purpose in meeting was to provide a way for all of us living beings to attain Buddhahood. (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 385–86)[5]

First, let us examine a passage from Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” in which he discusses “the perpetuation of the Law” (WND-1, 385). This concept appears in “The Emergence of the Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, in the form of the phrase, “To make certain the Law will long endure” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 216).

In this passage we are studying, Nichiren explains the purpose of the Ceremony in the Air. He begins by clarifying that Shakyamuni and Many Treasures appear seated next to one another in the treasure tower to ensure “the perpetuation of the Law throughout the Latter Day” (WND-1, 385)—in other words, the continuing development of kosen-rufu in the Latter Day of the Law.

A Wish to Enable All People to Attain Enlightenment

Nichiren Daishonin then explains that the two Buddhas meet together, “unfurl the banner of Myoho-renge-kyo” and decide to enable all living beings to attain Buddhahood (see WND-1, 385–86). In “The Opening of the Eyes,” elucidating why the innumerable Buddhas of the universe assembled along with Shakyamuni and Many Treasures in the Ceremony in the Air, the Daishonin states, “Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and the other Buddhas intend to ensure the future propagation of the Lotus Sutra so that it can be made available to all the children of the Buddha in times to come” (WND-1, 286). Here, we can see the fervent wish of the gathered Buddhas to relieve the suffering of all living beings into the eternal future.

The Lotus Sutra was expounded so that all may attain enlightenment.

Nichiren, appearing in the Latter Day of the Law to make this wish a reality, revealed Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the essence of the Lotus Sutra and the fundamental Law for the attainment of Buddhahood by all people, and he dedicated his life to propagating it.

The crucial point here is who will inherit this great teaching for the enlightenment of humankind and spread it widely.

Building a Growing Network of Successors

In “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” Nichiren Daishonin also declares: “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” (WND-1, 385). Elsewhere, he urges: “My disciples, form your ranks and follow me … !” (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 765)—a passage my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, marked in his copy of the Daishonin’s writings.

The first requirement for those who seek to spread the Mystic Law is to stand up of one’s own accord with the commitment of a successor and carry on Nichiren’s intention.

Building a steadily growing network of people united in the cause of realizing kosen-rufu—this is always the starting point of our movement. The remarkable development of the Soka Gakkai today is the result of these unflagging efforts to foster capable individuals.

Now, having entered the new era of worldwide kosen-rufu, fostering future division and youth division members is more important than ever. These young Bodhisattvas of the Earth are a source of hope for the future, people who will illuminate the world with the Daishonin’s Buddhism of the Sun and create an age of peace and harmonious coexistence.

Back in 1964, envisaging the development we have achieved today, the first group I established after my inauguration as third Soka Gakkai president was the high school division. Following that, I founded the junior high school division and the boys and girls division, and made fostering and encouraging the young people of the Soka Gakkai my top priority.

Growth Happens Through Mutual Inspiration

Josei Toda said: “We must respect children as full-fledged individuals. Even though they may not understand things right now, later on they’ll remember the meetings they attended and the encouragement they received. What’s important is that they personally see, hear and experience our Buddhist practice in action.”

I have always engaged with our future division members in a spirit of respect, treating them as young comrades.

Mr. Toda also stressed the importance of raising children within the “garden of the Soka Gakkai.”

Currently, there is an increasing focus on fostering the next generation, not just by the leaders of the future division, but throughout our organization. Members on the front lines, including parents and grandparents, are praying for and encouraging our future division members, believing in their unlimited potential. Those sincere efforts are certain to plant seeds of hope, growth and victory deep in the lives of our precious young people.

Buddhism teaches the importance of “good friends,”[6] or positive influences. As Nichiren says, “The best way to attain Buddhahood is to encounter a good friend” (“Three Tripitaka Masters Pray for Rain,” WND-1, 598). The Soka Gakkai is a gathering of good friends.

Growth happens through mutual inspiration. The conversations and interactions that our future division members have with members and friends at meetings and other activities have a profound impact on them.

Above all, the things they learn through their efforts for kosen-rufu will enable them to open a path forward in their lives. That is why we need to create and expand positive opportunities for future division members to connect with the Soka Gakkai, with fellow members and with the realm of faith. These tireless efforts will pave the way to the Soka Gakkai’s future.

Mr. Toda used to say: “Children are the treasures of the future. Think of them as emissaries from the future, and take the best care of them.”

Each and every one of today’s future division members has a profound karmic mission to advance kosen-rufu from the Soka Gakkai’s centennial (2030) onward, aiming toward the next 100 years.

Near the end of his life, Mr. Toda said, “I don’t need anything else—all I hope for are capable people!” I feel exactly the same way. As Nichiren Daishonin cites in his writings, “If you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 279). In that spirit, I am overjoyed and reassured daily by the growth of the youth of the Soka Gakkai.

Nanjo Tokimitsu, a Model Disciple

Though we may suffer for a while, ultimately delight awaits us. It is like the case of a crown prince, the only son of the king. Consider this: How can he possibly fail to ascend the throne? (“Protecting the Atsuhara Believers,” WND-2, 882)[7]

This passage is from “Protecting the Atsuhara Believers,” a letter Nichiren Daishonin sent to his young follower Nanjo Tokimitsu,[8] who sincerely persevered in the way of mentor and disciple.(see pp. 34–37) Tokimitsu was a model practitioner who embraced the Daishonin’s teachings from an early age, like today’s future division members.

Tokimitsu is believed to have first met Nichiren shortly after his father’s death. In his teens, he had to support his family as the head of the household when his older brother also died. Tokimitsu faced opposition and criticism because of his faith in the Daishonin’s teachings, and the authorities levied heavy taxes on his estate. His younger brother’s sudden death and his own serious illness were among the adversities that continued to assail him.

Nichiren’s ongoing encouragement enabled Tokimitsu to remain steadfast in his Buddhist practice through all of these hardships.

The Daishonin repeatedly stressed to him the importance of “faith for overcoming obstacles,” teaching him to have the heart of a lion king. Having received guidance and instruction from Nichiren for many years, when the Atsuhara Persecution[9]arose, Tokimitsu courageously continued to uphold Nichiren’s teachings and staunchly protected his fellow believers, shielding a number of them in his residence.

Faith Is Invincible Courage and Indomitable Conviction

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this passage to Tokimitsu amid the harsh circumstances of the Atsuhara Persecution. He assures his young disciple that though he may suffer for a time, in the end he will enjoy a state of great delight. The example he gives is of a crown prince who is the only son of a king and therefore certain to become king himself.

The Daishonin’s words arise from his powerful conviction that no matter how difficult things are now, in the future Tokimitsu will undoubtedly emerge victorious—or rather, he absolutely has the ability to make it so. This is the same message articulated in the passage “Winter always turns to spring” (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” WND-1, 536).

Faith is invincible courage; it is indomitable conviction infused with the spirit to never give up. Because our mission is great, so are our struggles. But by tenaciously fighting through all, we can become noble champions of life.

A Brilliant Philosophy of Humanity

Nichiren Daishonin’s words to Nanjo Tokimitsu were like a loving father, an elder in life and a mentor in Buddhism, issuing from his vast life state attained through faith.

He taught Tokimitsu a brilliant philosophy of humanity, a hope-filled philosophy for happiness and a philosophy for achieving victory in life. Above all, he taught him that unwavering faith is the foundation of Buddhist practice.

Nichiren writes:

Today there are people who have faith in the Lotus Sutra. The belief of some is like fire while that of others is like water. When the former listen to the teachings, their passion flares up like fire, but as time goes on, they tend to discard their faith. To have faith like water means to believe continuously without ever regressing. (“The Two Kinds of Faith,” WND-1, 899)

Continuing in Buddhist practice with faith like water, whatever the situation, is the path to attaining Buddhahood.

The Daishonin also told Tokimitsu, who had become the head of his family and assumed responsibility as a steward of the Ueno area (part of present-day Shizuoka Prefecture): “A person who upholds the Lotus Sutra is repaying the debt of gratitude owed to father and mother. Even if one does not feel in one’s own heart that one can do so, one can repay it through the power of this sutra [the Lotus Sutra]” (“Four Virtues and Four Debts of Gratitude,” WND-2, 638).

The Lotus Sutra reveals the teaching of universal enlightenment. When we dedicate our lives to the Mystic Law, we can lead our parents—the people who are closest to us and to whom we owe the greatest debt of gratitude—along the path to unshakable happiness without fail. We naturally and very clearly come to possess the power to protect our loved ones.

Changing Poison Into Medicine—A Hope-Filled Philosophy for Happiness

During the Atsuhara Persecution, Nichiren Daishonin encouraged Nanjo Tokimitsu: “My wish is that all my disciples make a great vow … Since death is the same in either case, you should be willing to offer your life for the Lotus Sutra. Think of this offering as a drop of dew rejoining the ocean, or a speck of dust returning to the earth” (“The Dragon Gate,” WND-1, 1003).

When Tokimitsu fell ill, Nichiren told him that, because he had deepened his faith and was assured of attaining Buddhahood, his illness was an attempt by devilish functions to obstruct him (see “The Proof of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 1109). Urging Tokimitsu to rouse strong life force, the Daishonin then addressed the negative forces afflicting him, saying: “And you demons, by making this man suffer, are you trying to swallow a sword point first, or embrace a raging fire, or become the archenemy of the Buddhas of the ten directions in the three existences?” (WND-1, 1109).[10]

At the time, Nichiren himself was battling against illness. From these fierce words, we can keenly feel his great compassion for his youthful disciple struggling with illness, and his determination to help him and enable him to attain victory.

As these examples show, the Daishonin consistently taught Tokimitsu to have courage based on faith. He also taught him to have hope—the unwavering conviction that he could positively transform all hardships and sufferings, changing poison into medicine and become happy.

Conviction Is Necessary in Faith

Josei Toda said: “What is the most necessary thing in life and faith? It is conviction. We must value above all the Daishonin’s absolute conviction.”

He also said: “We need to be patient in our Buddhist practice. Through faith, everything will definitely move in the direction of happiness. ‘No prayer goes unanswered’ (see “On Prayer,” WND-1, 345) and we can overcome all problems and sufferings.”

At the meeting where the high school division was established 54 years ago (on June 7, 1964), I said to the members: “I hope that all of you will exert yourselves in faith, chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in earnest and make Nichiren Buddhism—the supreme philosophy of life—your foundation.”

Kosen-rufu is a movement to enable each individual to achieve human revolution and realize happiness for themselves and others. It is the monumental and lofty challenge of transforming the destiny of humankind. How wonderful it is that young people who practice Nichiren Buddhism can participate in this great undertaking! If we can sincerely convey this message to our future division members, then they will surely come to appreciate the Soka Gakkai’s noble mission.

Mr. Toda often used to say that we should always inspire children with lofty ideals. The Soka Gakkai is the sole organization dedicated to actualizing kosen-rufu, the ideal of world peace sought by humanity. The first step in fostering successors is showing our commitment to our vow for kosen-rufu through our actions and sharing it with the youth.

Revitalizing Humanity

University of Denver Professor Ved Nanda remarked in the dialogue we held, “I believe that religion, by its very nature, must contribute to society.”[11]

Religion can be a revitalizing force for humanity. As I said in my lecture at Harvard University [in 1993, titled “Mayahana Buddhism and Twenty-first-Century Civilization”], the question we must ask is: Does religion make people stronger, or weaker? Does it encourage what is good or what is evil in them? Are they made wiser or less so by religion?[12] Our times increasingly call for religion to move in a more humanistic direction.

The youth of the SGI, who uphold the supreme life philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, are protagonists in an effort to promote a truly humanistic religion that will endure into the future.

People Are the Focus

Nichiren Daishonin states: “Just as all the different kinds of plants and trees come forth from the earth, so all the various teachings of the Buddha are spread by persons” (“Embracing the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 61). Buddhism always focuses on people. No matter how great the Law, without people to embrace and spread it, its power will not be revealed.

He also writes: “Even when … [Buddhist] priests set out from Japan to take some sutras [back] to China, no one was found there who could embrace these sutras and teach them to others. It was as though there were only wooden or stone statues garbed in priests’ robes and carrying begging bowls” (“On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” WND-1, 401).

In light of these passages, young people who embrace the Law and teach it to others are crucial.

The Soka Gakkai is an academy of humanistic education, dedicated to fostering world citizens. The Buddhism of human revolution has the power to elevate the life state of humankind. This is a source of hope and inspiration for building a world where all people can live with dignity.

Encourage the Future Division!

Shortly after the start of the new century (in January 2003), I presented a poem to the leaders of the future division. I would now like to present it anew to everyone who is supporting and fostering our future division members today:

The profound record
of the days of one’s youth
determines victory in life.
Encourage the future division!
Imbue them with great life force!

I wish to sincerely thank all our dedicated members engaged in fostering young successors, and offer prayers for their health and long life as well as for the brilliant victory of their families.

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


  1. Shikoku is the smallest of Japan’s four main islands. ↩︎
  2. Ceremony in the Air: One of the three assemblies described in the Lotus Sutra, in which the entire gathering is suspended in space above the saha world. It extends from “Emergence of the Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter, to “Entrustment,” the 22nd chapter. The heart of this ceremony is the revelation of the Buddha’s original enlightenment in the remote past and the transfer of the essence of the sutra to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who are led by Bodhisattva Superior Practices. ↩︎
  3. Many Treasures: A Buddha depicted in the Lotus Sutra. Many Treasures appears, seated within his treasure tower, in order to lend credence to Shakyamuni’s teachings in the sutra. According to “Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Many Treasures Buddha lives in the World of Treasure Purity in the east. While still engaged in bodhisattva practice, he pledges that, even after entering nirvana, he will appear with his treasure tower in order to attest to the validity of the Lotus Sutra, wherever it might be taught. ↩︎
  4. Myoho-renge-kyo is written with five Chinese characters, while Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is written with seven (nam, or namu, being composed of two characters). Nichiren Daishonin often uses Myoho-renge-kyo synonymously with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his writings. ↩︎
  5. Composed in May 1273, “The True Aspect of All Phenomena” was addressed to the Daishonin’s priest-disciple Sairen-bo Nichijo. In response to the latter’s question on “the true aspect of all phenomena,” the Daishonin presented the most profound teachings of Buddhism. He declared that all his disciples who were of the same mind as he were Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and stated his conviction that kosen-rufu would certainly be achieved. ↩︎
  6. Good friends: In Buddhism, the term good friends means positive influences that guide people toward goodness and Buddhist practice. ↩︎
  7. Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter in July 1280. Amid continued hardship associated with the Atsuhara Persecution, the Daishonin gives specific advice to Tokimitsu in case of further persecution. He encourages the youthful Tokimitsu by assuring him that while those who believe in the Lotus Sutra may suffer for a time, in the end delight awaits them. ↩︎
  8. Nanjo Tokimitsu (1259–1332): A staunch follower of the Daishonin and the steward of Ueno Village in Fuji District of Suruga Province. He was the second son of Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro. Tokimitsu lost his father at age 7, but from the time the Daishonin took up residence on Mount Minobu, Nanjo Tokimitsu enjoyed a close relationship with the Daishonin, frequently receiving guidance from him. He played an admirable role defending the Daishonin’s followers during the Atsuhara Persecution, for which the Daishonin dubbed him “Ueno the Worthy.” ↩︎
  9. Atsuhara Persecution: A series of threats and acts of violence against followers of Nichiren Daishonin in Atsuhara Village in Fuji District, Suruga Province (present-day central Shizuoka Prefecture), starting in around 1275 and continuing until around 1283. In 1279, 20 farmer disciples were arrested on false charges. They were interrogated by Hei no Saemon-no-jo, the deputy chief of the Office of Military and Police Affairs, who demanded that they renounce their faith. However, not one of them yielded. Hei no Saemon-no-jo eventually had three of them executed. ↩︎
  10. Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Now you have succeeded your father as his heir, and without any prompting from others, you too have wholeheartedly embraced these teachings. Many people, both high and low, have admonished or threatened you, but you have refused to give up your faith. Since you now appear certain to attain Buddhahood, perhaps the heavenly devil and evil spirits are using illness to try to intimidate you. Life in this world is limited. Never be even the least bit afraid! And you demons, by making this man [Tokimitsu] suffer, are you trying to swallow a sword point first, or embrace a raging fire, or become the archenemy of the Buddhas of the ten directions in the three existences?” (WND-1, 1109) ↩︎
  11. Ved Nanda and Daisaku Ikeda, Our World To Make: Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Rise of Global Civil Society (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Dialogue Path Press, 2015), p. 51./ref] In an interview, he also noted that religion, ideally, is a humanizing force, teaching people how to live their lives based on the loftiest ideals, and encouraging them to do good in every sphere—be it government, education or daily life.[ref]From an article in the Seikyo Shimbun, July 23, 2003. ↩︎
  12. See Daisaku Ikeda, “Mahayana Buddhism and Twenty-first-Century Civilization,” A New Humanism: The University Addresses of Daisaku Ikeda (New York: Weatherhill, 1995), p. 157. ↩︎

Peace, Culture and Education: The Flowering of a New Humanism—Part 8