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Ikeda Sensei

The Dawn of a New Era

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The following is an essay from SGI President Ikeda’s new series “Our Brilliant Human Revolution,” which originally appeared in the Feb. 4, 2019, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.

“Light enlightens,”[1] declared the great French writer Victor Hugo (1802–85). His masterpiece Les Misérables relates the quest for the light that makes people strong and happy. He sought to enable ordinary people to triumph over misery, to illuminate youth who were forced to endure suffering.

Hugo also said that daring is the driving force for progress.[2]

The courage to take action for justice and humanity makes our lives shine brilliantly.

In the Lotus Sutra, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth are praised for possessing “an immeasurable brightness” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 252).

Where today do we find the brightness of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth? Let’s proclaim to all the world that it shines in the members of the Soka Gakkai, who are bravely and vigorously exerting themselves to realize kosen-rufu and the ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land,” in accord with Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.

A new year has begun since I completed my novel The New Human Revolution, which was 25 years in the writing. The time has come for each of you, my precious fellow members, to demonstrate proof of your great human revolution in your lives.

Today, as our Soka network of global citizens is becoming increasingly active around the world, I would like to embark on this new essay series “Our Brilliant Human Revolution.”

Nichiren Buddhism is the Buddhism of the Sun.

Soka Gakkai founder and first President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi boldly communicated the truth about Nichiren’s teachings, even while imprisoned for his beliefs during World War II.

The interrogation transcripts from that time show that Mr. Makiguchi quoted from “Supernatural Powers,” the 21st chapter of the Lotus Sutra [describing the hallmarks of a Bodhisattva of the Earth who upholds and practices the Mystic Law]:

As the light of the sun and moon can banish all obscurity and gloom,
so this person as he advances through the world can wipe out the darkness of living beings. (LSOC, 318)

He also clearly stated that Nichiren was the great teacher who could lead all people to attain Buddhahood in their present form.[3]

Mr. Makiguchi’s courageous stance was in stark contrast to the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood who, fearful of persecution by the militarist authorities, agreed to delete numerous important passages from the Daishonin’s writings, including “I, Nichiren, am the foremost sage in all Jambudvipa [the entire world]” (“A Sage Perceives the Three Existences of Life,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 642).

Let us always be proud of the indisputable fact that the shining essence of Nichiren Buddhism has been protected and carried on through the lionhearted spirit of the Soka Gakkai.

The above-mentioned passage from the “Supernatural Powers” chapter, which Mr. Makiguchi personally embodied, contains the phrase “as he advances through the world” (LSOC, 318). Soka Gakkai activities exemplify this actual engagement in the real world. If we were to withdraw from society, we might spare ourselves from slander and abuse, and troublesome hardships. But, based on our vow as Bodhisattvas of the Earth from time without beginning, we have voluntarily appeared in challenging places to dispel the darkness of the people’s sufferings, the darkness of the age and the darkness of society.

Members of the Soka family throughout Japan and around the globe, donning the “robe of gentleness and patience” (see LSOC, 207), are courageously and sincerely “advancing through the world” carrying out their Buddhist practice.

I am certain that their brave efforts would be praised wholeheartedly by Nichiren and bring tremendous joy to President Makiguchi.

Sixty-seven years ago (1952), I threw myself into action as an advisor of Kamata Chapter.[4]

I sought to express my gratitude to Nichiren and second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda by crowning their birth month of February with a significant expansion of membership.

Focusing on the unit (today’s group), the smallest organizational component at the time, I strove alongside my fellow members united in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind.” As a result, we broke through all previous propagation records and opened the way forward in our movement for kosen-rufu.

I offered the members three guidelines: 1) Let’s start with chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; 2) Let’s share our experiences in faith; and 3) Let’s treasure our neighbors. This was the beginning of the Soka Gakkai tradition of making February a month for propagation activities.

We had no special strategy. Each member simply focused on those in their immediate environment and courageously engaged them in dialogue.

When we determine to work for kosen-rufu where we are, our attitude toward the people we encounter and to whom we are connected changes. As our prayers deepen, we see a change in them as well as in our circumstances. If we avoid practicing in this way, the place where we are will never become the true stage of our mission.

Treating those around us as friends with whom we share profound ties and transforming our community into a realm of happiness through the light of the Mystic Law constitute the great path to realizing Nichiren’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.”

While battling tremendous difficulties on Sado Island (in present-day Niigata Prefecture), the Daishonin declared calmly: “There can be none who overflow with joy as we do. Therefore, wherever we dwell and practice the single vehicle [the Lotus Sutra], that place will be the Capital of Eternally Tranquil Light” (“Reply to Sairen-bo,” WND-1, 313).

Just as no life is free from problems, no community is without its unique issues and challenges. But with the firm conviction that the places where we live are “excellent, excellent lands” (“The Receipt of New Fiefs,” WND-1, 945), we must bring forth our creativity and ingenuity to make them so, as Nichiren states.

Our continued efforts in that invigorating challenge will lead to the positive transformation of our communities into ideal realms.

My wife, Kaneko, and I are very happy to hear that places where I engaged in propagation efforts during the February Campaign—such as Ota in Tokyo, and Kawasaki and Tsurumi in Kanagawa Prefecture—are now flourishing vibrantly, and we are chanting for all our friends there.

Our theme for 2019 is the “Year of Soka Victory—Toward Our 90th Anniversary.”

The tradition of selecting an annual theme began 60 years ago, in 1959, with my proposal that the first year after Mr. Toda’s death be designated the “Year of Dawn.”

Dawn is the transition from darkness to light.

Back in those days, I was simultaneously serving as the Soka Gakkai’s general administrator and youth division chief of staff, and I had vowed and prayed to make the new year the dawn of Soka through the power of youth.

I strove tirelessly in the vanguard of this effort—determined to go to the front lines of our movement, visiting regions I hadn’t been to yet and meeting members I had never met before.

I believed that, since the Lotus Sutra is a teaching of challenging adversity as if in winter, it is up to leaders to take the initiative and go to areas where members are struggling the most. With that as my resolve, in January 1959, I set forth to visit the northern island of Hokkaido.

I arrived at my first Hokkaido destination of Otaru on Jan. 15, and from there traveled on to Asahikawa, Yubari and Sapporo, meeting members throughout that vast region. Thinking about the difficulties the members faced during the harsh winter, I strove to light a flame of hope in that place that had been home to my mentor.

On Feb. 1, I went to Kansai, then traveled on to Shikoku, where I visited Kagawa and Kochi prefectures. After briefly returning to Tokyo in mid-February, I went to Nagoya in the Chubu region and then Osaka in Kansai again. In between court appearances associated with the Osaka Incident,[5] I gave my all to encouraging my fellow members.

In March, I visited Hitachi and Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture, followed by Omiya in Saitama Prefecture. The Daishonin writes:

Although Nichiren and his followers are few, because they are different in body, but united in mind, they will definitely accomplish their great mission of widely propagating the Lotus Sutra. Though evils may be numerous, they cannot prevail over a single great truth [or good]. (“Many in Body, One in Mind,” WND-1, 618)

Wherever I went, I read Nichiren’s writings and reaffirmed with the members that the unity of “many in body, one in mind” was key to our victory.

In the latter half of March, I traveled to Aichi, Shiga, Fukui, Kyoto and Gifu prefectures, drawing encouragement from the Daishonin’s writings and engaging members in dialogue. Never allowing the briefest opportunity to slip by, I also devoted myself to offering personal guidance.

Members everywhere were grappling earnestly with problems of all kinds. Citing Nichiren’s writings and my mentor’s guidance, I did my best to impart the light of hope and courage, and thereby bring the light of a new dawn to their lives.

Nichiren writes, “A lantern [can light] up a place that has been dark for a hundred, a thousand, or ten thousand years” (“The One Essential Phrase,” WND-1, 923).

When we speak out tirelessly and confidently, we can help members and nonmembers alike forge connections with the Daishonin’s teachings, and brightly illuminate and warm their hearts.

Now, six decades since the Year of Dawn (1959), a fresh generation of members who will shoulder the new era of worldwide kosen-rufu has joined such core behind-the-scenes youth training groups as the Soka Group, Gajokai and Byakuren. Their endeavors herald the arrival of a new dawn.

Our youth division leaders in each region are striving—with the profound sense of responsibility that I had when I was youth division chief of staff—to encourage and foster capable individuals. I wish to praise and convey my sincere thanks to them.

The Soka Gakkai’s humanistic daily newspaper, the Seikyo Shimbun, has reached its milestone 20,000th edition (on Jan. 20, 2019). This January also marks 65 years since the system of volunteer correspondents was established throughout Japan.

I would like to once again express my gratitude for the noble contributions of these volunteers in chronicling and promoting the frontline activities of our grassroots Soka movement.

The Seikyo Shimbun column “My Dear Hometown,” presenting photographs taken by volunteer correspondents, recently featured a picture of swans on Lake Hyo in Niigata, a place with fond memories for me. The image of one of the swans spreading its wings in preparation for takeoff was especially striking.

Referring to the story of King Rinda, in which the king is invigorated by the neighing of white horses, who only do so when they hear white swans, the Daishonin writes: “The white horses are Nichiren, and the white swans are my followers. The neighing of the white horses is the sound of our voices chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (“King Rinda,” WND-1, 989). He also declares that the sound of chanting will brighten the light of Brahma and Shakra and all the heavenly deities, who will thus not fail to guard and protect us (see WND-1, 989–90).

No matter what hardships we encounter, let’s always remember that we can chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to overcome them.

The fearless advance of our members as they chant together, “transcending all differences among themselves” (“The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” WND-1, 217), causes the banners of the protective functions of the universe to blaze brilliantly and amplifies the great light of human revolution and the ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.”

Natural disasters, such as the record cold temperatures in the midwestern parts of the United States, continue, and the international situation remains unstable. I am chanting wholeheartedly for the health and safety of our precious members everywhere.

The American poet Walt Whitman (1819–92) called out powerfully: “Say on, sayers! sing on, singers!”[6]

The tenacious voices of youth, of the people and of solidarity have the power to change the world.

Our voices are a source of strength and light.

With the spirit that “our voice does the Buddha’s work” (see The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 4), let us speak out with strong conviction, our words resounding like a lion’s roar, and make this Year of Soka Victory shine brilliantly!


  1. Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, translated by Julie Rose (New York: The Modern Library, 2009), p. 486. ↩︎
  2. Ibid., p. 490. ↩︎
  3. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10, (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), pp. 195–96. ↩︎
  4. In February 1952, Daisaku Ikeda, then an advisor to Tokyo’s Kamata Chapter, initiated a dynamic propagation campaign, which led to 201 new households joining the Soka Gakkai. ↩︎
  5. The occasion when Daisaku Ikeda, then Soka Gakkai youth division chief of staff, was arrested and wrongfully charged with election law violations in a House of Councilors by-election in Osaka in 1957. At the end of the court case, which continued for more than four years, he was fully exonerated of all charges on Jan. 25, 1962. ↩︎
  6. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (New York: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1968), p. 190. ↩︎

Memories of the Nihon University Auditorium

The Magnificent Ceremony on March 16