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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

A Teaching That Enlightens and Empowers—Become Champions Who Can Stand Alone

For Our Wonderful New Members—Part 3 [42]

The American futurist Hazel Henderson once asked me why the Soka Gakkai movement had spread on such a global scale. I told her it was because we have always treasured and respected each individual.[1]

Dr. Henderson, who started out tackling various environmental problems and went on to lead numerous grassroots efforts, nodded in understanding.

She has stayed true to her conviction that a genuinely popular movement must awaken each person’s spirituality.[2]

A Movement That Draws Forth People’s Inner Strength

Our Soka network, with members in 192 countries and territories around the world, is the fruition of our sustained efforts to meet and talk with others, and help them elevate their consciousness and cultivate wisdom.

Through our steadfast efforts to carry out one-to-one dialogue and encourage others, we have enabled one person after another to change themselves from within. That is why we have grown into such a vibrant, socially engaged grassroots movement. This is the underlying strength of the Soka Gakkai, which has attracted the attention of people across the globe as an organization dedicated to world peace.

Humanity Longs for Happiness and Peace

As the devoted disciple of my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, I took my first step toward worldwide kosen-rufu, the cherished wish of Nichiren Daishonin, on October 2, 1960. The Cold War was intensifying, the threat of nuclear weapons was growing and armed conflicts and civil strife were occurring around the globe.

My mentor, grieved by the misery of people everywhere, entrusted us, his disciples, with the mission of illuminating the world with the light of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of the Sun and creating the happiness and peace humanity longed for.

Everything Starts and Ends With Human Beings

Everything that happens in society is the work of human beings. For that reason, though it may seem like a roundabout route, any effort to build a brighter future must begin with a change in human beings. All things, including attaining world peace and the happiness of humankind, start and end with people.

The fundamental purpose of religion is to revitalize people and enable them to lead lives of joy. What is truly needed, therefore, is a religion that teaches the worth and dignity of life, and enlightens and empowers each individual. This is the essence of a religion that exists for the sake of the people, rather than religion that exists solely for religion’s sake.

In this installment, I would like to focus on the principles of Nichiren Buddhism that enable us to transform our lives.

You Are Supremely Worthy!

In the Latter Day of the Law, no treasure tower exists other than the figures of the men and women who embrace the Lotus Sutra. It follows, therefore, that whether eminent or humble, high or low, those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are themselves the treasure tower, and, likewise, are themselves the Thus Come One Many Treasures. No treasure tower exists other than Myoho-renge-kyo. The daimoku of the Lotus Sutra is the treasure tower, and the treasure tower is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. …

Abutsu-bo is therefore the treasure tower itself, and the treasure tower is Abutsu-bo himself. No other knowledge is purposeful. (“On the Treasure Tower,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 299)[3]

You are the treasure tower! You are supremely worthy! That is the message of this passage from “On the Treasure Tower.” Founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi deeply studied this writing of Nichiren Daishonin and underlined many of its passages. It elucidates the fundamental teaching of humanism in Nichiren Buddhism, which places the highest value on the individual.

In this writing, Nichiren extols the dignity and limitless potential of all people and clarifies the means for making the infinitely noble Buddha nature inherent in their lives shine its brightest.

In “Emergence of the Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, a giant tower suddenly appears before the assembly. Mr. Toda described this ceremony[4] as follows:

The great and mystic life state of Buddha-hood is latent within our own lives. The power and condition of this life state is beyond imagination, defying all description. Nevertheless, we can actualize it in our own lives. This ceremony of the “Treasure Tower” chapter explains that we can, in fact, bring forth the latent state of Buddhahood from within our very own lives.[5]

Striving in Faith Just as We Are

Nichiren Daishonin tells us that in the Latter Day of the Law, those who uphold the Mystic Law and strive earnestly in their Buddhist practice are themselves great and magnificent treasure towers. He stresses this point by saying, “No treasure tower exists other than the figures of the men and women who embrace the Lotus Sutra” (WND-1, 299).

His message is that, though we all differ in appearance and physical form, and in our individual circumstances, each of us who embraces the Gohonzon, chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and works for kosen-rufu can—just as we are, in our present form—cause the treasure tower of life adorned with the seven kinds of treasures[6] to shine brilliantly.

This is what makes Nichiren Buddhism a universal teaching transcending all differences of nationality, ethnicity and gender.

And not only that, Nichiren teaches that we are all, just as we are, Many Treasures Buddha. Our efforts and behavior as we embrace the Mystic Law and engage in our Buddhist practice accord with those of Many Treasures Buddha. There are no requirements other than to “embrace the Lotus Sutra” (WND-1, 299). We don’t have to do anything special.

That’s why there is no need to try to be anyone other than who we are, to put on airs or to envy others. If we have problems, all we need to do is continue striving in our faith. A way of life in which we persevere in faith, no matter what happens, and never give in to defeat is itself proof of our victory and testimony to the power of the Lotus Sutra.

A Clear Mirror to See the Treasure Tower Within Us

Nichiren Daishonin tells Abutsu-bo: “Abutsu-bo is therefore the treasure tower itself, and the treasure tower is Abutsu-bo himself. No other knowledge is purposeful” (WND-1, 299).

The important thing is that we strive to manifest our inner life state of Buddhahood as treasure towers of the Mystic Law.

In another writing, Nichiren states: “Since [we] believe solely in the Lotus Sutra … [we] can enter the treasure tower of the Gohonzon” (see “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” WND-1, 832). He inscribed the Gohonzon as a clear mirror to enable us to see our inner treasure tower.

■  ■  ■

“You Yourself Are Nam-myoho-renge-kyo”

Josei Toda taught us: “Firmly decide that you yourself are Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.” The aim of our Buddhist practice is to establish the treasure tower of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in the depths of our lives.

The treasure tower is the life state of Buddhahood, which is revealed by vanquishing fundamental darkness[7] through strong prayer. It is the elemental force within life that enables us to rise up from all suffering and despair, and win.

We who embrace the Gohonzon can actualize this treasure tower within our lives anytime and anywhere, and transform our environment into the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light.[8] And not only do we try to bring forth the treasure tower in our own lives, but we also help others do the same. That is the purpose of the Gohonzon and faith in Nichiren Buddhism. The key to achieving this is the Soka path of mentor and disciple, the unity of “many in body, one in mind” and the organization dedicated to realizing kosen-rufu.

The surest and most fundamental way to achieve peace is to help more and more people around the world reveal the treasure tower—their inherent dignity—in their lives.

The Commitment to Leave No One Behind

The monolithic, complex structures of contemporary society can be said to weaken the power of the individual. This can instill in people a feeling of impotence and destroy their self-esteem and self-belief, causing them to feel unworthy and lose their sense of meaning in life.

By becoming aware of our dignity and finding a sense of purpose and pride, we are able to summon invincible courage to face any challenge, no matter what our circumstances may be. A tenacity to overcome all hardships is born within us. We can develop inner strength and fortitude. We can rise up and take on any obstacle, becoming “a person who falls to the ground, but who then pushes himself up from the ground and rises to his feet again” (“The Proof of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 1108).

The way we perceive our own lives is also the way we perceive the lives of others. When we have a sense of our own dignity, we recognize the dignity of others and value their lives, too.

“To leave no one behind” is a core principle guiding the efforts of the global community to attain the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).[9] This deeply resonates with the Soka Gakkai’s aim of making the dignity of every individual, without exception, shine its very brightest and bringing forth the treasure tower in the lives of ourselves and others.

It is no exaggeration to say that the world today is eagerly seeking a movement like ours based on altruistic bodhisattva practice, where individuals awakened to their own dignity strive to help others reveal the treasure tower in the depths of their lives.

“Pure Benefit Will Pour Forth”

There is nothing to lament when we consider that we will surely become Buddhas. Even if one were to become an emperor’s consort, of what use would it be? Even if one were to be reborn in [the world of] heaven, what end would it serve? Instead, you will follow the way of the dragon king’s daughter and rank with the nun Mahaprajapati. How wonderful! How wonderful! Please chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. (“The Bow and Arrow,” WND-1, 657)[10]

Josei Toda often used to say to new members:

We all have negative karma that has accumulated over countless eons from the infinite past. Our life is therefore like a garden hose that is clogged with debris. In the beginning, even if we bring the pure water of the world of Buddhahood to flow in our life by means of faith, it is the dirt in our life that will initially be forced out. This is why we have to struggle with our karma.

However, if we continue with our Buddhist practice, then eventually pure benefit will pour forth without fail. We will definitely be able to transform our karma, or destiny, in this life—that is, we will actualize the principle of “attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.” The Gohonzon is the great beneficial medicine with the tremendous power that enables us to do this. It is a supremely noble device for producing happiness.

Faith in Nichiren Buddhism enables us to become happy without fail. Encountering difficulties in the course of our Buddhist practice is proof that we are making progress in changing our karma and attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. This is absolutely assured.

Taking on Suffering to Fulfill Our Mission

In “The Bow and Arrow,” a letter addressed to the lay nun Toki, Nichiren Daishonin asks rhetorically what the use is of becoming an emperor’s consort, free from all wants, or of being reborn in the world of heaven (see WND-1, 657). The rapturous joy of the life state of heaven—one of the Ten Worlds—is fleeting and impermanent.

Nichiren Buddhism is not a religion that seeks happiness in some other place. It is a teaching that enables us to bring forth a pure, unsullied state of life that can withstand any hardship amid the harsh challenges of society, and to build enduring, indestructible happiness, just as beautiful lotus blossoms grow in muddy water.

The Daishonin encourages the lay nun Toki, assuring her with absolute conviction that as one who upholds faith in the Mystic Law, she will follow in the footsteps of the dragon king’s daughter,[11] who opened the way to the enlightenment of all women, and attain Buddhahood without fail. He also tells her that when she attains Buddhahood in the future, she will be on a par with Mahaprajapati,[12] Shakyamuni’s stepmother and first female disciple, who the Lotus Sutra predicts will become a widely admired Buddha named Gladly Seen by All Living Beings.

In addition, he explains the significance of encountering hardships and dealing with illness to the lay nun Toki, who herself had long been struggling with poor health.

Buddhism clearly sets forth teachings that inspire hope, revealing the quintessential power for overcoming adversity. These include such principles as lessening one’s karmic retribution,[13] changing poison into medicine[14] and voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma.[15]

When we are faced with difficulties, our tendency is to ask ourselves why this is happening to us and become caught up in our immediate suffering. That is why in this letter Nichiren is attempting to lift up the lay nun Toki’s life state.

If we simply view our problems or suffering as the result of karma from the past, then we are taking a rather backward approach. Instead, we need to revise our outlook and see suffering as something we have voluntarily taken on to fulfill our mission—something we have vowed to overcome through faith to demonstrate the tremendous power of the Mystic Law and thereby help many others achieve happiness. Faith in Nichiren Buddhism enables us to bring forth such dynamic life force. This is living with the spirit of changing karma into mission.

When awakened to our mission, we become infinitely strong. Not only can we surmount our own problems, but the story of our victory paves the way for helping many others attain Buddhahood as well. When we adopt this way of thinking, our hearts that were once shrouded in the darkness of suffering become filled with the light of courage and hope. Our life state expands tremendously and we become less focused on merely achieving our own victory and more focused on enabling others also to win in their lives. As a result, our lives take on a rich new meaning.

Mr. Toda used to say: “Becoming happy yourself is no great challenge; it’s quite easy. But the essence of Nichiren Buddhism lies in helping others become happy, too.”[16]

Being committed to others’ well-being enables us to transform our life state, and making efforts to encourage others is the driving force that propels our own human revolution and inspires others to do theirs.

Tapping Powerful Life Force

Nichiren Buddhism does not teach passive belief in something outside ourselves.

Prayer in Nichiren Buddhism is drawing forth hope with unwavering conviction. The practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the source of the wisdom and power of Buddhahood. Our ability to tap great life force comes down to the strength of our faith.

When you’re suffering, when you’re sad, when you’re hurting, just chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with an open heart. Keep chanting just as you are, as if sharing your feelings with a caring parent. In this way, you transform your problems into prayers.

Most important, as you chant, you will experience courage surging up from within, filling you with the conviction that you can triumph over what’s troubling you. Even if the problem isn’t resolved immediately, the time will come when “the sufferings of hell will vanish instantly” (“Lessening One’s Karmic Retribution,” WND-1, 199). When you look back, you’ll find that the difficulty that was causing you so much heartache became an opportunity to dynamically expand your life state. Your prayers to the Gohonzon will cause the joyous sun of your mission to rise in your heart and enable you to make your life in this existence shine with supreme brilliance.

Inner Strength That No One Can Take Away

Nothing and no one can ever rob us of the inner strength that is the life state of Buddhahood. It is invincible. That’s why, while dedicating ourselves earnestly to our Buddhist practice, we should “regard both suffering and joy as facts of life” (“Happiness in This World,” WND-1, 681) and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon. We need to chant tenaciously, refusing to be defeated. That spirit itself constitutes the life state of Buddhahood, and it will unmistakably be manifested as victory in the real world.

Prayers filled with conviction that powerfully activate the protective forces of the universe enable us to freely draw forth that life state from within.

Those who stand up with such inner strength are true champions. Because the lives of such individuals are so dynamic and vibrant, they are able to impart courage and hope to everyone they encounter.

The True Strength of a Bodhisattva of the Earth

Those who have suffered the most deserve the greatest happiness. Those experiencing the harshest karma can embrace the noblest mission and fulfill it.

The ancient Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius stated that the ability to lead a good life comes from within.[17] He also wrote: “Dig within. There lies the well-spring of good: ever dig, and it will ever flow.”[18]

We uphold the great Buddhism of human revolution. We possess within us a reservoir of powerful, limitless resolve and tenacity to realize our goals, no matter what obstacles arise.

When Mr. Toda’s businesses were in crisis, I took full responsibility to support and assist him through everything. During that time, I witnessed in my mentor’s solemn and dignified demeanor in facing those challenges the true strength of a Bodhisattva of the Earth and the real depth of humanity.

Mr. Toda said, “As far as faith is concerned, I am forbearing to the point of obstinacy.”

People who discover a mission to which they can devote their life without regret are free of all fear and anxiety. Being Mr. Toda’s disciple has been my life’s mission.

Nothing can destroy the bonds of mentor and disciple dedicated to the vow of kosen-rufu. Our lives, united as one, are eternally indestructible.

Champions of Human Revolution

To stand alone is to have absolute conviction in the nobility of your own life. It is having the inner strength to believe in your potential and live true to yourself.

Nichiren Daishonin declares: “This is my vow, and I will never forsake it!” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 281). The commitment to fulfill your vow opens the way to unlimited victory in your own life and the lives of others.

We have entered an age when our movement for worldwide kosen-rufu is advancing dynamically, when the “human flowers” (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 142) of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth are blossoming fragrantly everywhere across the globe.

Cherishing the great vow of mentor and disciple in our hearts, as self-reliant individuals who can stand alone, let us further expand our network of champions of human revolution!

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


  1. See Hazel Henderson and Daisaku Ikeda, Planetary Citizenship: Your Values, Beliefs, and Actions Can Shape a Sustainable World (Santa Monica, California: Middleway Press, 2004), pp. 46–47. ↩︎
  2. Ibid., p. 173. ↩︎
  3. Nichiren Daishonin sent “On the Treasure Tower” to his disciple Abutsu-bo of Sado in reply to a question from the latter about the meaning of the treasure tower. He explains that the treasure tower refers to the Gohonzon, and that those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are themselves the treasure tower and Thus Come One Many Treasures. He calls Abutsu-bo “a leader of this northern province” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 300) and praises his deep faith. ↩︎
  4. This refers to the 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. ↩︎
  5. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 6, (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1986), p. 275. ↩︎
  6. Seven kinds of treasures: Also, seven treasures or seven kinds of gems. Precious substances mentioned in the sutras. The list differs among the Buddhist scriptures. According to the Lotus Sutra, the seven are gold, silver, lapis lazuli, seashell, agate, pearl and carnelian (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 209). In “Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter of the sutra, the treasure tower adorned with these seven kinds of treasures appears from beneath the earth. ↩︎
  7. Fundamental darkness: The most deeply rooted illusion inherent in life said to give rise to all other illusions. The inability to see or recognize the ultimate truth of the Mystic Law, as well as the negative acts that arise from such ignorance. ↩︎
  8. Land of Eternally Tranquil Light: Also, Land of Tranquil Light. The Buddha land, which is free from impermanence and impurity. In many sutras, the actual saha world in which human beings dwell is described as an impure land filled with delusions and sufferings, while the Buddha land is described as a pure land free from these and far removed from this saha world. In contrast, the Lotus Sutra reveals the saha world to be the Buddha land, or the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light, and explains that the nature of a land is determined by the minds of its inhabitants. ↩︎
  9. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by a United Nations summit as development goals for the world from 2016 to 2030. It consists of 17 goals for realizing sustainable development and includes the pledge to leave no one behind. ↩︎
  10. “The Bow and Arrow” was written in March 1276 to the lay nun Toki, who lived in Shimosa Province (part of present-day Chiba Prefecture). Nichiren Daishonin entrusted her husband Toki Jonin, who was visiting the Daishonin on Mount Minobu with the ashes of his deceased mother, with presenting the letter to the lay nun Toki, who was ill. ↩︎
  11. Dragon king’s daughter: The 8-year-old daughter of Sagara, one of the eight great dragon kings said to dwell in a palace at the bottom of the sea. According to “Devadatta,” the 12th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the dragon girl conceives the desire for enlightenment upon hearing Bodhisattva Manjushri preach the Lotus Sutra in the dragon king’s palace. She then appears in front of the assembly of the Lotus Sutra and, declaring “I unfold the doctrines of the great vehicle to rescue living beings from suffering” (LSOC, 227), instantaneously attains Buddhahood in her present form. ↩︎
  12. Mahaprajapati: Also known as Gautami, Mahaprajapati was a younger sister of Maya, Shakyamuni’s mother. When Maya died seven days after Shakyamuni’s birth, Mahaprajapati became the consort of King Shuddhodana, Shakyamuni’s father, and raised Shakyamuni. After Shuddhodana’s death, Mahaprajapati renounced secular life, becoming the first nun to be admitted to the Buddhist Order. “Encouraging Devotion,” the 13th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, predicts that she will in the future become a Buddha called Gladly Seen by All Living Beings. ↩︎
  13. Lessening one’s karmic retribution: This term, which literally means “transforming the heavy and receiving it lightly,” appears in the Nirvana Sutra. “Heavy” indicates negative karma accumulated over countless lifetimes in the past. As a benefit of protecting the correct teaching of Buddhism, we can experience relatively light karmic retribution in this lifetime, thereby expiating heavy karma that ordinarily would adversely affect us not only in this lifetime, but over many lifetimes to come. ↩︎
  14. Changing poison into medicine: The principle that earthly desires and suffering can be transformed into benefit and enlightenment by virtue of the power of the Law. ↩︎
  15. Voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma: This refers to bodhisattvas who, though qualified to receive the pure rewards of Buddhist practice, relinquish them and make a vow to be reborn in an impure world in order to save living beings. ↩︎
  16. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 4, (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1984), p. 378. ↩︎
  17. See Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, translated by Maxwell Staniforth (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1964), p. 171. ↩︎
  18. Ibid, p. 115. ↩︎

The Profound Bond Between Mentor and Disciple