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Gosho Study

Defeating Fundamental Darkness Through the Power of Faith

Anthony Wallen

The great demon of fundamental darkness can even enter the bodies of bodhisattvas who have reached near perfect enlightenment and prevent them from attaining the Lotus Sutra’s blessing of perfect enlightenment. How easily can he then obstruct those in any lower stage of practice! (“Letter to the Brothers,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 496)

Ikeda Sensei’s Guidance

All people have fundamental darkness[1] in their lives. Nichiren Daishonin says that it also exists in the lives of Buddhas. Therefore, even in the case  of bodhisattvas at the stage of near-perfect enlightenment, the fundamental darkness in their lives can activate the function of the devil king and prevent them from reaching the stage of perfect enlightenment, or Buddhahood. …

The devil king of the sixth heaven is the fundamental negative impulse that resides in the depths of people’s lives. This devilish nature or negativity gives rise to the desire to control others or even take others’ lives, and causes destruction and war. To conquer this devilish nature, we need to bring forth our inherent Dharma nature, or fundamental nature of enlightenment,[2] which exists along with our fundamental darkness. Toward that end, it is vital that we continue striving in faith, practicing Nichiren Buddhism ourselves and sharing it with others.

In one of his lectures, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda commented on the devil king of the sixth heaven being inscribed on the Gohonzon: “The devil king of the sixth heaven is depicted on the Gohonzon. So when we pray to the Gohonzon, the devil king obeys the Gohonzon. The devil king will issue orders keeping the leaders of his devilish forces in check. The original enlightened potential of the devil king is manifested through the Gohonzon. Indeed, all entities depicted on the Gohonzon display their innate dignified attributes when illuminated by Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.”

Continuing, he went so far as to say, “The devil king of the sixth heaven then changes for the first time into an entity that helps and benefits others.” These remarks embody a profound principle that is at the heart of Nichiren Buddhism.

In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren states, “The single word ‘belief’ is the sharp sword with which one confronts and overcomes fundamental darkness or ignorance” (pp. 119–20). As these words indicate, the sharp sword of faith allows us to defeat fundamental darkness. This means persevering and challenging ourselves in faith throughout our lives. It means seeing devils for what they are and constantly bringing forth the fundamental nature of enlightenment from within. (Learning From Nichiren’s Writings: The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 71)


  1. Fundamental darkness: Also, fundamental ignorance or primal ignorance. The most deeply rooted illusion inherent in life, said to give rise to all other illusions. Darkness in this sense means inability to see or recognize the truth, particularly the true nature of one’s life. ↩︎
  2. Fundamental nature of enlightenment: The original nature of the Buddha’s ultimate enlightenment with which life is originally endowed. Corresponds to the world of Buddhahood or Buddha nature. ↩︎

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