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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

Embodying the Spirit of “True Cause”

Moving Toward Victory Through Daily Renewal [45]

The golden sun rises on a new year, the days unfolding with vibrant freshness, one after another.

“Renew yourself each day, and do so day after day. Let there be daily renewal”—these words from the Confucian classic The Great Learning were cherished by founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi.

I also quoted them as I set forth together with my fellow members into the new year of my 70th birthday (January 2, 1998), vowing to exert myself bravely and vigorously again that year.

Each day, each morning, we renew ourselves and usher in our own new dawn.

Aiming Toward the Soka Gakkai’s 90th Anniversary

Many people are filled with fresh resolve at the beginning of a new year.

If you brought the previous year to a happy, successful close, determine to achieve even more in the year ahead. If, on the other hand, you still have lingering problems or regrets, firmly resolve to make the coming year a success, no matter what.

Making a fresh vow is the driving force for starting the new year powerfully.

This year (2019), as we scale the mountain of victory toward our 90th anniversary (on November 18, 2020), let us begin to advance anew alongside our fellow members throughout Japan and around the world with a fresh determination to “renew ourselves each day, and do so day after day.”

An Unforgettable Lecture by President Toda

On New Year’s Day in 1958, my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, gave an unforgettable lecture. His health had deteriorated in autumn the previous year, and he had spent the past months recuperating. On New Year’s Day, he made his way to the Soka Gakkai Headquarters (in Shinanomachi, Tokyo). I accompanied him from his home, and I remember how delighted I was to see him looking well again.

After gongyo that day, President Toda turned around to face those in attendance and began to speak about one of the most profound teachings of Buddhism.

The theme of his lecture was the “integration of the three mystic principles.”[1]The three mystic principles are the true cause, true effect and true land. The integration of these three means that the cause of the Buddha’s enlightenment in the remote past, the state of enlightenment he achieved and the land where he dwells are all implicit in the character myo (lit. wonderful or mystic) of Myoho-renge-kyo. The doctrine of the “integration of the three mystic principles” derives from “Life Span,” the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Our Struggle Is Always Here in the Real World

The basis for the mystic principle of the true effect is the following passage from the “Life Span” chapter: “Thus, since I attained Buddhahood, an extremely long period of time has passed” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 267). It reveals that the true effect, the life state of Buddhahood attained by Shakyamuni is eternal.

The mystic principle of the true land is based on another passage from the “Life Span” chapter: “I have been constantly in this saha world,[2] preaching the Law, teaching, and converting” (LSOC, 266).

Referring to this passage, Mr. Toda stressed: “The Buddha exists nowhere but in the real world. Indeed, a genuine Buddha dwells only in this evil realm defiled by the five impurities.”[3]

That the Buddha lives in the saha world even after attaining enlightenment was a revolutionary declaration.

Lastly is the all-important true cause. The Lotus Sutra states, “Originally I practiced the bodhisattva way, and the life span that I acquired then has yet to come to an end but will last twice the number of years that have already passed” (LSOC, 268). This passage reveals the true cause—the fundamental practice—that enabled Shakyamuni to attain enlightenment in the infinitely distant past.

Practicing the Bodhisattva Way Is the True Cause for Attaining Buddhahood

In his New Year’s Day lecture, Josei Toda used this profound doctrine of the three mystic principles to illustrate how Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, struggled as an ordinary person, in the real world and together with the people. He said:

Nichiren Daishonin’s inner enlightenment was that of the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. However, he did not display any of the extraordinary characteristics attributed to the Buddha. He taught and practiced the bodhisattva way as the true cause for enabling ordinary people to attain Buddhahood. That is why Nichiren Daishonin is called the “Buddha of the true cause.”

Nowhere in his writings does Nichiren say, “I am already a Buddha, I am going to save you all.” If the Daishonin had from birth manifested the characteristics of the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law and carried out his practice as such, then he would not have been able to pursue the bodhisattva way.

The Practice of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth Is the Heart of the Soka Gakkai

Why did Josei Toda decide to speak about the “integration of the three mystic principles” on that New Year’s Day? Many who were in attendance didn’t grasp his true purpose.

But as I listened to his lecture, I contemplated the significance of Soka mentors and disciples, linked by profound karmic bonds, practicing Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of true cause, and I had a realization. That is, this lecture was a declaration of my mentor’s determination to fight on. It was an expression of his resolve to forever take the lead in spreading the Mystic Law in the spirit of true cause, transcending the boundaries of life and death; to continue his struggle as a Bodhisattva of the Earth on the path of oneness of mentor and disciple and transform this saha world into a Buddha land—a realm of peace and prosperity for all.

The Buddha of the true cause engages in bodhisattva practice, the fundamental cause for attaining Buddhahood—that is, the practice of sowing the seeds of enlightenment, the great Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, in people’s lives—and eternally takes action in this strife-filled saha world for the happiness of all.

The essential mission of the Soka Gakkai also lies in engaging in bodhisattva practice. Soka Gakkai members, as Nichiren’s disciples, have opened the way for the Mystic Law to spread through their fierce struggles in the real world.

In this installment, together let’s study the spirit of true cause that pulses vibrantly in the actions of Soka mentors and disciples, of noble Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s Practice of Respecting Others Is the Fundamental Cause of Shakyamuni’s Original Enlightenment

Point Twenty, concerning the bow of obeisance related to the words “Originally I practiced the bodhisattva way” (chapter sixteen, Life Span).

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The word “I” here refers to Shakyamuni Buddha when he was carrying out the true cause of his original enlightenment. This passage concerning how the Buddha “originally practiced the bodhisattva way” refers to the practice of the bodhisattva Never Disparaging[4] [who was reborn as Shakyamuni]. Hence it indicates a place where the bow of obeisance is carried out. (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 161)[5]

This is a section from “Chapter Twenty: The Bodhisattva Never Disparaging: Thirty important points” in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings. It explains the doctrinal foundation of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s practice of bowing with respect to everyone he encountered.

As I noted earlier, the passage “Originally I practiced the bodhisattva way” (LSOC, 268) serves as the basis for the mystic principle of the true cause.

“Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,” the 20th chapter, is the only chapter in the Lotus Sutra describing the practice that enabled Shakyamuni to attain enlightenment in the remote past. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s practice is therefore regarded as the fundamental cause for Shakyamuni’s attaining that original enlightenment.

Behavior Expressing Respect for Others

For that reason, we can infer from the passage in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings that the practice of the true cause that Shakyamuni carried out in the distant past was, in concrete terms, identical to Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s behavior in showing respect to everyone out of his belief that all people possess the Buddha nature.

This is an extremely significant point.

As noted in the previous installment of this series, showing respect for others is how we put into practice the Buddha’s teaching to help all people attain Buddhahood, and is the fundamental cause for enlightenment. In other words, for us of the Soka Gakkai—in our practice of the Mystic Law, the teaching of the true cause for attaining Buddhahood—showing respect to others through our behavior, just like Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, is of utmost importance.

We can thus confirm the deep significance of the following passage from the Daishonin’s writing “The Three Kinds of Treasure”: “What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 852).

Neither the fundamental cause for attaining Buddhahood (the true cause, the cause for Buddhahood) nor the state of Buddhahood to be attained (the true effect, the fruit of Buddhahood) exists without the practice of showing respect for all people demonstrated by Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, based on the wish to awaken their inherent Buddha nature.

The Present Is the Starting Point for Creating the Future

Nichiren Daishonin quotes a passage from a sutra: “If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present”[6](“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 279).

The focus of this passage is the present.

If the present is the inevitable result of past causes, then we can say that the present is defined by the past. Indeed, the present is a mirror reflecting the past. At the same time, however, the present is the starting point of the future, the active cause for creating a new future.

The mystic principle of the true cause, in terms of the text of the Lotus Sutra, refers to the fundamental cause for Shakyamuni’s attainment of Buddhahood in the remote past. In Nichiren Buddhism, however, we are practicing that same fundamental cause, the Mystic Law, now in the real world. Thus, in this Buddhism of true cause, the remote past becomes the present time of the Latter Day of the Law. In each moment, we begin anew our practice of the eternal bodhisattva way.

As such, we are always standing at the fundamental starting point of everything. Drawing forth the boundless life force of our inherent Buddhahood, we can dynamically transform ourselves and our lives where we are right now. This is the essence of faith based on the true cause—of always starting afresh from this moment on.

Treasuring the Present Moment

The great Russian author Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910), who is said to have been deeply interested in Buddhism, wrote of how he believed life should be viewed: “The past does not exist. The future has not begun.”[7] He further observed: “Time does not exist. There is only a small and infinite present, and it is only in this present that our life occurs. Therefore, a person should concentrate all his spiritual force only on this present.”[8]

These are very profound insights. I strongly agree with Tolstoy’s assertion that we should devote our entire beings to this present moment.

Shakyamuni taught his followers to value the present, to treasure today: “The past should not be followed after, the future not desired … Swelter at the task this very day.”[9]

Winning in the present opens the way to future victory, to eternal victory enduring throughout past, present and future.

“Strive in Faith More Than Ever”

You should therefore strive in faith more than ever to receive the blessings of the Lotus Sutra. Listen with the ears of Shih K’uang and observe with the eyes of Li Lou.[10]

In the Latter Day of the Law, the votary of the Lotus Sutra will appear without fail. The greater the hardships befalling him, the greater the delight he feels, because of his strong faith. (“A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering,” WND-1, 33)[11]

In this passage, Nichiren Daishonin encourages us to strive in faith more than ever and feel ever greater delight.

Nichiren always stressed to his disciples the importance of strengthening their faith and making ever greater efforts in their Buddhist practice.

In this writing “A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering,” it appears that a disciple named Shiiji Shiro[12] had reported some very important news to Nichiren Daishonin, though its precise nature is not clear. The Daishonin seems to have confirmed Shiiji Shiro’s report and praises him for his accuracy. He urges him to make this a new starting point and strive harder in his Buddhist practice, so that he may receive even greater benefit.

Moving Forward With the Spirit of True Cause

As revealed in such writings as “The Opening of the Eyes” and “Letter from Sado,” which Nichiren Daishonin wrote during his exile on Sado Island, those who practice the Lotus Sutra and spread the Mystic Law are certain to undergo great difficulties. But by struggling fearlessly against those obstacles with the “heart of a lion king,” he states [in “Letter from Sado”], they can eradicate all negative effects of past offenses and attain Buddhahood (see WND-1, 302–03).

In the face of severe hardships, we need to look ahead with a positive attitude and joyfully take them on. Those with the “heart of a lion king” possess the courage to create and spread hope, no matter how adverse their circumstances. They can tap the wisdom to overcome every obstacle and sever the heavy chains of negative karma. They have an invincible power. This absolute conviction is the spirit of true cause.

Indeed, whenever our members have encountered difficulties in life, they have roused ever stronger faith, regarding such moments as opportunities for growth and for changing their karma, or destiny. Overcoming one challenge after another, they have moved forward in their lives with strength and resilience, and opened the way to a hope-filled future.

A Departure From the Traditional Theory of Karma

I believe the doctrine of the true cause to be the conceptual source for the possibility of transforming karma and the foundation for gaining true freedom.

The traditional theory of karma sees the past as determining and governing the present. This inevitably leads to a passive, backward-looking way of life, in which we are held captive by the past. It can also result in apathy and a feeling of powerlessness, in fatalistic resignation, in blaming everything on our karma and in giving up any effort.

Transforming Karma Means Doing Human Revolution

We of the Soka Gakkai, however, embrace the great philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, which enables us to change karma into mission, teaching the principle that transforming karma means doing human revolution. In other words, instead of being imprisoned by the past, by transforming our mind-set, or deep-seated resolve, we can change the meaning of our past; through our actions, we can create value and open the way to a new life starting from this present moment.

The philosophy of true cause means striving to build a brighter future.

Nichiren Daishonin declared that his life was not passively subject to “the general law of cause and effect” (“Letter from Sado,” WND-1, 305), the traditional theory of karma. What can we do to change our karma on a fundamental level? We can dedicate our lives to the great vow for kosen-rufu as practitioners of the Lotus Sutra. The Daishonin personally demonstrated this in the way he faced great persecutions in his own life. And we, the mentors and disciples of the Soka Gakkai, are his direct disciples.

Taking a Single Gosho Passage as a Source for Victory

Toward the end of 1981, amid the raging storm of the first priesthood issue, I shook off the fetters constraining me and began a counteroffensive to protect our precious members.

At the Third Kansai General Meeting (held in Osaka on November 22, 1981), one of the passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings that I shared with the members of Ever-Victorious Kansai was from “A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering”: “The greater the hardships befalling him [the votary of the Lotus Sutra], the greater the delight he feels, because of his strong faith” (WND-1, 33).

The Kansai members, who were completely united in spirit with me, had faced and triumphed over many great hardships. At the meeting, their faces were flushed with excitement, their eyes sparkled, and they brimmed with a spirit of powerful determination.

After everyone joined together in singing the Kansai Soka Gakkai song “Ever-Victorious Skies,” I stood up with a folding fan in my hand and led the members in the song, “Ah, the Dawn Approaches.” After days and months of bitter struggles, at last the dawn has come! Now is the time to open a new age shining with the sun of justice! On that day, at that moment, our Kansai members stood up decisively.

It was an unforgettable drama of the spirit of true cause created through our united efforts, linked by the bonds of mentor and disciple.

“What Are Your Plans?”

In our dialogue, Dr. Larry Hickman, an esteemed American educator and former president of the John Dewey Society, remarked: “It is said that when a traveler arrived in a town in the American frontier, the first question put to him would be not ‘Where are you coming from?’ but ‘Where are you headed? What are your plans?’”[13]

Whether travelers came in search of fortune, to start over or to redeem past mistakes was of little consequence. Here in the frontier, all that mattered was what they were going to do from now on.

In a similar vein, the champions of Soka always stand up with firm resolve to create new opportunities and take on fresh challenges from this moment, determined never to be defeated by any difficulty.

This is the invincible Soka Gakkai spirit embodying Nichiren’s stirring declaration: “Still I am not discouraged” (“The Essentials for Attaining Buddhahood,” WND-1, 748).

Writing the Story of a Victorious, Fulfilled Life

We are all writing the story of our own life. It is our story, and ours alone. We decide for ourselves where our narrative will begin, devise our own plot of the ups and downs we will face, what odds we will surmount and all the rest.

Praising the Ikegami brothers[14] for overcoming adversity through unity, Nichiren Daishonin writes, “Could there ever be a more wonderful story than your own?” (“Letter to the Brothers,” WND-1, 499).

Theirs was not a bitter story of being mercilessly attacked by the three obstacles and four devils.[15] Rather, it was a story of creating a new future. It was a story of the Ikegami brothers uniting to triumph over hardship, a story of achieving family harmony, and a story of the victory of truth and justice.

The starting point for writing such a new story are the principles of true cause and transforming karma taught in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of the Sun.

Brimming With the Boundless Life Force of the Sun of Time Without Beginning

Today, Soka Gakkai members, with their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, are emerging everywhere around the world and initiating an inspiring new drama of the victory of the people.

Start from where you are now! Keep moving forward! Continue striving forever!—this is what it means to lead a life based on the true cause, ever advancing from this moment onward.

Nichiren Daishonin declares: “Strengthen your faith day by day and month after month” (“On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” WND-1, 997). Brimming with the boundless life force of the sun of time without beginning, let us cheerfully and boldly create a new story of mentor and disciple depicting our effort to realize the vow for kosen-rufu and the victory of Soka!

The time for creating the future is now!

Translated from the January 2019 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai monthly study journal.


  1. The integration of the three mystic principles: The three mystic principles are the true cause, true effect and true land, indicated in “Life Span,” the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The first three of the ten mystic principles of the essential teaching (latter half of the sutra) formulated by T’ien-t’ai (538–97) in the part of The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra in which he interprets the character myo, meaning wonderful or mystic, of Myoho-renge-kyo, the title of the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law. The true cause is the practice that Shakyamuni Buddha undertook to reach his original enlightenment. The true effect is the original enlightenment that he attained. The true land is the place where the Buddha has been expounding his teachings since his original attainment of enlightenment. The fact that the “Life Span” chapter teaches these three together is called the integration of the three mystic principles. Concretely speaking, the integration of the three mystic principles reveals the Buddha’s true aspect, or the “actual three thousand realms in a single moment of life.” ↩︎
  2. Saha world: This world, which is full of suffering. Often translated as the world of endurance. In Sanskrit, saha means the earth; it derives from a root meaning “to bear” or “to endure.” For this reason, in the Chinese versions of Buddhist scriptures, saha is rendered as endurance. In this context, the saha world indicates a world in which people must endure suffering. ↩︎
  3. Five impurities: Also, five defilements. Impurity of the age, of desire, of living beings, of thought (or view), and of life span. This term appears in “Expedient Means,” the 2nd chapter of the Lotus Sutra. 1) Impurity of the age includes repeated disruptions of the social or natural environment. 2) Impurity of desire is the tendency to be ruled by the five delusive inclinations, i.e., greed, anger, foolishness, arrogance and doubt. 3) Impurity of living beings is the physical and spiritual decline of human beings. 4) Impurity of thought, or impurity of view, is the prevalence of wrong views such as the five false views. 5) Impurity of life span is the shortening of the life spans of living beings. ↩︎
  4. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is described in “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,” the 20th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. This bodhisattva—Shakyamuni in a previous lifetime—lived at the end of the Middle Day of the Law, after the death of the Buddha Awesome Sound King. He would bow to everyone he met and say: “I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance. Why? Because you will all practice the bodhisattva way and will then be able to attain Buddhahood” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 308). However, he was attacked by arrogant people, who beat him with sticks and staves and threw stones at him. The sutra explains that this practice became the cause for Bodhisattva Never Disparaging to attain Buddhahood. ↩︎
  5. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings is a two-volume record of lectures that Nichiren Daishonin gave on certain key passages of the Lotus Sutra while he was residing on Mount Minobu. It was recorded by Nikko Shonin. ↩︎
  6. A passage from the Contemplation on the Mind-Ground Sutra. ↩︎
  7. Leo Tolstoy, A Calendar of Wisdom, translated by Peter Sekirin (New York: Scribner, 1997), p. 378. ↩︎
  8. Ibid. ↩︎
  9. Discourse on the Auspicious (Bhaddekarattasutta), in The Collection of the Middle Length Sayings (Majjhima-nikaya), translated by I. B. Horner, vol. 3 (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1993), p. 233. ↩︎
  10. Shih K’uang, in Chinese legend, was a court musician whose sense of hearing was so keen that he could judge the quality of a newly cast bell, where ordinary musicians could not. Li Lou’s sight was so acute that he could see the tip of a hair at a hundred paces. ↩︎
  11. Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter in Kamakura in 1261, about two weeks before he was exiled to Ito in Izu Province. Virtually nothing is known about the recipient, Shiiji Shiro, though his name also appears in letters to two of the Daishonin’s leading disciples, Shijo Kingo and Toki Jonin, and it is assumed he was active from the 1250s through the 1280s. In this letter, the Daishonin tells Shiiji Shiro that one who practices the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law is certain to encounter difficulties, which is why he must strive to demonstrate strong faith. ↩︎
  12. See previous footnote for details. ↩︎
  13. Jim Garrison, Larry Hickman and Daisaku Ikeda, Living As Learning: John Dewey in the 21st Century (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Dialogue Path Press, 2014), p. 208. ↩︎
  14. The Ikegami brothers: Leading disciples of Nichiren Daishonin. The elder brother, Munenaka, was twice disowned by their father, who was a follower of Ryokan, the chief priest of Gokuraku-ji temple of the True Word Precepts school, a person hostile to the Daishonin. At the same time, their father tempted Munenaga, the younger brother, to abandon his faith in the Daishonin’s teaching and take his brother’s place as the next head of the family. Despite these adversities, the brothers persevered in their Buddhist practice. The father later rescinded Munenaka’s disinheritance, and in the end took faith in the Daishonin’s teaching. ↩︎
  15. The three obstacles and four devils are various obstacles and hindrances to the practice of Buddhism. The three obstacles are 1) the obstacle of earthly desires, 2) the obstacle of karma, and 3) the obstacle of retribution. The four devils are 1) the hindrance of the five components, 2) the hindrance of earthly desires, 3) the hindrance of death and 4) the hindrance of the devil king. ↩︎

Repeatedly Strengthening Our Resolve