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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

Moving Forward With Our Fellow Members Around the World—The Soka Gakkai Is a Gathering of “Good Friends”

For Our Wonderful New Members—Part 4 [43]

November is the month of the Soka Gakkai’s founding, a time for celebrating the victory of mentor and disciple.

Five years ago (in November 2013), the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu (located in Shinanomachi, Tokyo) was completed. Since then, all around the globe, courageous Bodhisattvas of the Earth, fulfilling their vow to spread the Mystic Law, have made great strides in developing our kosen-rufu movement with youth in the lead. They have made the foundation for future generations ever more solid.

In accord with Nichiren Daishonin’s words “the time makes it so” (“On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 736), the time has come for us to further advance our movement for worldwide kosen-rufu, which continues to flow powerfully like a mighty river.

Building a Solidarity of Peace and Happiness

The Soka Gakkai is the organization advancing kosen-rufu based on the life-affirming principles of Nichiren Buddhism. The aim of kosen-rufu is to bring forth the positive potential inherent in people, elevate their life state and build a solidarity of peace and happiness.

The Soka Gakkai was founded in 1930, in the interval between two world wars, with the lofty mission to enable people everywhere to attain enlightenment and realize lasting peace. And the SGI (Soka Gakkai International) was established in 1975, in the midst of the Cold War, when nuclear war loomed as an imminent threat.

The “Soka Gakkai Is a World Affair”

The eminent British historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1889–1975) wrote a foreword to the English version of my novel The Human Revolution, published in 1972. In it, he states: “Already the Soka Gakkai is a world affair … [Nichiren’s] horizon and his concern were not bounded by Japan’s coasts. Nichiren held that Buddhism, as he conceived it, was a means of salvation for his fellow human beings everywhere. In working for the human revolution, Soka Gakkai is carrying out Nichiren’s mandate.”[1]

We have indeed entered an age when people are taking note of and holding high hopes for our movement of human revolution, which is now spreading throughout the world.

Let us seize this opportunity and continue to engage energetically in dialogue with one person after another, moving step by step toward realizing world peace and changing the destiny of all people as we each forge happy lives.

“The Soka Gakkai Will Transform This Troubled World”

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, declared: “The Soka Gakkai will transform this troubled world we live in. Let’s rouse our courage, unite and forge ahead on the great path of kosen-rufu!”

Obstacles are bound to arise whenever one attempts to achieve something unprecedented. That’s why we, as members of the Soka Gakkai, a noble gathering of Buddhas, need to firmly unite based on faith. Our duty is to build a citadel of kosen-rufu, of the people and of peace that can withstand the fiercest onslaughts of the three obstacles and four devils[2] and the three powerful enemies.[3]

A gathering of people who correctly practice the Buddha way and spread the Buddha’s teachings is called a sangha, or a harmonious community of practitioners joined together in an open and egalitarian spirit. It plays an invaluable role in helping people carry out their Buddhist practice. Today, it takes the form of an organization. An organization is indispensable for our Buddhist practice, our efforts to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime, and to realize the goal of worldwide kosen-rufu. The Soka Gakkai is a sangha in the truest sense in the present age.

In this installment, I would like to confirm the importance of the organization for kosen-rufu by referring to key passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings.

A Dialogue Between Shakyamuni and Ananda

When a tree has been transplanted, though fierce winds may blow, it will not topple if it has a firm stake [support] to hold it up. But even a tree that has grown up in place may fall over if its roots are weak. Even a feeble person will not stumble if those supporting him are strong, but a person of considerable strength, when alone, may fall down on an uneven path. …

Therefore, the best way to attain Buddhahood is to encounter a good friend.[4] How far can our own wisdom take us? If we have even enough wisdom to distinguish hot from cold, we should seek out a good friend. (“Three Tripitaka Masters Pray for Rain,” WND-1, 598)[5]

This passage from Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “Three Tripitaka Masters Pray for Rain” teaches that we can overcome all difficulties and hardships with the support of “good friends.”

A Buddhist scripture records an exchange between Shakyamuni and his disciple Ananda.[6] One day, Ananda asks Shakyamuni: “It seems to me that by having good friends and advancing together with them, one has already halfway attained the Buddha way. Is this way of thinking correct?” Shakyamuni responds unequivocally: “Ananda, this way of thinking is not correct. Having good friends and advancing together with them is not half the Buddha way but all the Buddha way.”[7]

This describes the essence of Buddhist practice. We need to have “good friends” who help and support us if we are to stay on the correct path of faith and lead a life of genuine victory.

The Importance of “Good Friends”

“Good friends,” or positive influences, are people who guide us to the correct teaching of Buddhism. They include a good teacher and good fellow practitioners.

“How far can our own wisdom take us?” (WND-1, 598), asks Nichiren Daishonin, stressing how important it is for us to seek out good friends in faith.

This is because the path to attaining Buddha-hood is the only way to resolve the fundamental human sufferings of life and death. With good friends who support and encourage us, we can strengthen our faith, bring forth the wisdom to become happy and attain the ultimate life state of Buddhahood.

Beware of “Evil Friends”

It is difficult to encounter good friends, who, as Nichiren Daishonin notes, are “fewer than the specks of dirt one can pile on a fingernail”[8] (WND-1, 598). At the same time, there are also “evil friends”—negative influences—who obstruct people’s Buddhist practice. In another writing, Nichiren warns against such harmful companions, stating, “Evil friends will employ enticing words, deception and flattery and speak in a clever manner, thereby gaining control over the minds of ignorant and uninformed people and destroying the good minds that are in them” (“On Reciting the Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-2, 221).

Founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi underlined this passage in his personal copy of Nichiren’s writings and urged his disciples to beware of such people.

Evil friends try to sow doubt and destroy people’s faith by various subtle and devious means. And in the corrupt age of the Latter Day of the Law, positive influences are rare, while negative influences are everywhere. That’s why it is great good fortune to encounter good friends and form a connection with them.

The Soka Gakkai Is a Safe Haven for All

Nichiren Daishonin cites the Lotus Sutra passage: “Thrust aside evil friends and associate with good companions” (“The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” WND-1, 832). For this reason, we need a bastion of good that enables us to see through evil friends and overcome obstacles.

The Soka Gakkai is an organization directly linked to the Daishonin, founded through the selfless struggles of Presidents Makiguchi and Toda. Brimming with Nichiren’s spirit to relieve the sufferings of humanity, it is a safe haven for all. It is a warm and humanistic organization where good friends gather and no one is left behind.

The Soka Gakkai is a bastion of ordinary people where individuals from all walks of life—regardless of gender, age, social standing, renown or economic status—can come together as fellow human beings, just as they are, without pretense or affectation, to encourage one another, grow together and build happy lives.

Mr. Toda often declared that the Soka Gakkai organization was more precious than his own life. This was his impassioned call to treasure the Soka Gakkai, the organization with the mission to realize the Buddha’s wish of actualizing worldwide kosen-rufu on an unprecedented scale.

Encouraging and Caring for Our Fellow Members

Josei Toda often said to leaders: “Take care of the members! I’m counting on you! The members are Nichiren Daishonin’s precious emissaries. They are Buddhas propagating his teachings. Do all you can to encourage and support them.”

There is one point we need to bear in mind when fostering our new, younger members, and that is to always strive alongside them.

Striving together is the heart of Nichiren Buddhism. Shared struggle is the essence of the mentor-disciple relationship. The Daishonin declares: “‘Joy’ means that oneself and others together experience joy … Both oneself and others together will take joy in their possession of wisdom and compassion” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 146).

It’s not enough to experience joy ourselves. Supreme joy is found in rejoicing with others and acting with wisdom and compassion together.

Many new members are doing their best to share Nichiren Buddhism with those around them. It is particularly reassuring to see our youth division members working and striving together for kosen-rufu.

Many are also standing up in earnest for the first time. Behind them are the tireless efforts of numerous fellow members who have given their all to encourage them, chant and study with them, and take action alongside them, based on a wish to walk the great path of kosen-rufu together. Those who support others are able to expand their own life state, and in turn, the capable individuals they foster will also go on to accumulate “treasures of the heart” (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” WND-1, 851) by following that example themselves.

It is through such a chain reaction of hope that we overcome our own problems and together achieve our human revolution with great joy.

An Eternal Formula for Victory

If the spirit of many in body but one in mind prevails among the people, they will achieve all their goals, whereas if one in body but different in mind, they can achieve nothing remarkable. The more than three thousand volumes of Confucian and Taoist literature are filled with examples. King Chou of Yin led seven hundred thousand soldiers into battle against King Wu of Chou and his eight hundred men. Yet King Chou’s army lost because of disunity while King Wu’s men defeated him because of perfect unity. …

[A]lthough Nichiren and his followers are few, because they are different in body, but united in mind [many in body, one 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)[9]

Let us now explore this passage from Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “Many in Body, One in Mind,” which discusses the unity that is crucial to the success of kosen-rufu. This writing clearly sets forth the eternal formula for victory that disciples of the Daishonin should always follow.

After Nichiren moved to Mount Minobu in May 1274, propagation activities continued in Suruga Province (present-day central Shizuoka Prefecture) under the leadership of his disciple and later successor, Nikko Shonin. As a result, numerous priests and lay people of other Buddhist schools began practicing Nichiren Buddhism.

This development alarmed Gyochi,[10] the deputy chief priest of Ryusen-ji temple [11] in Atsuhara Village in Suruga. Making use of his power and influence, he contrived a plot to persecute Nichiren’s followers.

In this letter, the Daishonin stresses the importance of the unity of “many in body, one in mind” as the key to his disciples overcoming the persecution directed at them by government authorities working in collusion with priests of established Buddhist schools of the day.

Respecting Each Individual’s Personality and Unique Qualities

The passage we are studying begins with Nichiren Daishonin stressing the importance of faith for achieving unity of spirit: “If the spirit of many in body but one in mind prevails among the people, they will achieve all their goals, whereas if one in body but different in mind, they can achieve nothing remarkable” (WND-1, 618).

“Many in body” means that we are all different in appearance, personality, abilities and qualities, while “one in mind” means that we have a shared aspiration, spirit and purpose.

In that sense, “many in body, one in mind”—which can also be expressed as unity in diversity—means uniting toward a shared purpose while fully respecting each person’s unique qualities and individuality. “One in body, different in mind,” on the other hand, means an outward appearance of uniformity, but complete disunity in heart and mind.

To illustrate this principle, Nichiren cites the examples of two figures of ancient Chinese history, King Chou of Yin and King Wu of Chou.[12] The Yin soldiers were actually hoping for the defeat of their leader King Chou, so, as the Records of the Historian[13] relates, they held their weapons upside down and opened the way for the advance of the soldiers of King Wu of Chou.

Malevolent forces may form alliances based on self-interest, but in the end such alliances break apart from within. Whether or not true unity can be achieved comes down to whether a body of individuals shares a wish for people’s happiness. A profound sense of purpose toward a lofty goal creates the unshakable unity of “many in body, one in mind.”

An Alliance United in the Cause of Good

No persecution, no matter how powerful the forces inflicting it, can destroy the “single great truth [or good]” (WND-1, 618) represented by our movement for kosen-rufu, a great alliance united in the cause of good. As long as we remain united through strong faith, we are certain to overcome all obstacles and triumph without fail.

How can we build this unity of “many in body, one in mind?”

Striving alongside my mentor in kosen-rufu, Mr. Toda, I always chanted and took action with the resolve to be firmly united in purpose with him.

Each of us needs to stand up and take the lead for kosen-rufu without waiting for someone else to do it. We need to work together with our fellow members and encourage one another as we move forward.

The “mind” of “many in body, one in mind” is the spirit to realize kosen-rufu, the spirit to respect our fellow Soka Gakkai members and the spirit of a lion king, unafraid of any opposition or obstacles. Ultimately, it is the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple.

“Transcending All Differences”

In “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” Nichiren Daishonin states:

All disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the spirit of many in body but one in mind, transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death. Herein lies the true goal of Nichiren’s propagation. When you are so united, even the great desire for widespread propagation [or the great vow for kosen-rufu] can be fulfilled. (WND-1, 217)

The “transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death” refers to the fundamental Law of the universe, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, being transmitted by the Buddha to all people. By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the unity of “many in body, one in mind,” the Daishonin tells us, we can attain Buddhahood in this lifetime and fulfill the great vow for kosen-rufu.

This entails working to create a harmonious and inclusive environment, “transcending all differences,” and cherishing each other as treasured friends who are indispensable to one another’s well-being and happiness, thus becoming “as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim.” The spirit of “many in body, one in mind” means chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the shared goal of kosen-rufu, and encouraging and supporting one another to the end.

Unity That Enhances Each Person’s Unique Qualities

Some might feel this emphasis on unity means suppressing our individuality and unique person-alities, but Nichiren Daishonin’s teaching of “many in body, one in mind” is completely different.

Nichiren Buddhism asserts the potential of each individual and teaches that all people possess the Buddha nature. This is articulated through the principle of “cherry, plum, peach, and damson” (see OTT, 200), which expounds the unique diversity and beauty of all living things. It is through our continuous efforts to respect each person’s individuality, foster mutual growth and reveal our potential together that we achieve the kind of unity the Daishonin describes.

It can thus be said that an organization embodying the beautiful unity of “many in body, one in mind” actually enables our individuality and unique personalities to shine ever brighter. When we develop ourselves in faith toward a shared purpose, the value of our individuality or diversity shines with special brilliance.

The Soka Gakkai’s diverse members, awakened to their mission and empowered by the support and encouragement of their friends in faith, are vibrantly giving expression to their individuality as they take active roles in every area of society. Mr. Toda often used to say: “With the unity of ‘many in body, one in mind,’ there is nothing we can’t achieve. But without it, we’ll be defeated in any endeavor, no matter what it is.”

Women and Youth Play a Central Part

In an interview with the Soka Gakkai newspaper Seikyo Shimbun this year (2018), the German theologian Michael von Brück expressed high hopes for social role of our organization. He noted that the Soka Gakkai has done many things for youth and women by giving them a place at the center of its activities. He also observed that it encourages ordinary people to participate and become a force in society, a fact that has led it to be criticized. But without such a force, he added, nothing will ever change.[14]

All across the globe, the Soka Gakkai is demonstrating the vibrant energy of unity in diversity, its members transcending ethnic, cultural and linguistic barriers. In discussion meetings, in particular, wonderful flowers of friendship and trust blossom as each person reveals their unique potential.

Dr. Brück has attended a few Soka Gakkai discussion meetings and said they resonated with him. He especially commended the active role taken by women in these gatherings.

Our philosophy of “many in body, one in mind” is certain to continue creating universal value as a guiding principle for promoting peace and harmony for humanity.

Fostering global citizens who help one another to grow and develop amid the Soka Gakkai’s community of “good friends” will lead to enduring peace and a secure future for global society.

Moving Ahead Together in the Soka Gakkai

Because we strive together in the unity of “many in body, one in mind” based on our vow for kosen-rufu, each of us can achieve our human revolution. Through our efforts to expand our movement dedicated to realizing the cherished hope of lasting peace, we are transforming the karma or destiny of our countries and all humankind. Creating hope is the Soka Gakkai’s mission.

Setting our sights on scaling anew the summit of kosen-rufu, let us move ahead together as we write a wonderful record of great triumph!

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


  1. Daisaku Ikeda, The Human Revolution (Tokyo: Weatherhill, Inc., 1972), vol. 1, pp. xi–xii (Foreword by Arnold Toynbee). ↩︎
  2. Three obstacles and four devils: 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. ↩︎
  3. Three powerful enemies: Three types of arrogant people who persecute those who propagate the Lotus Sutra in the evil age after Shakyamuni Buddha’s death, described in the concluding verse section of “Encouraging Devotion,” the 13th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The Great Teacher Miao-lo of China summarizes them as arrogant lay people, arrogant priests and arrogant false sages. ↩︎
  4. Good friend: Also, good companion. One who leads others to the correct teaching, or helps them in their practice of the correct teaching. In this sense, “good friend” may also be called good teacher. ↩︎
  5. This letter is thought to have been written at Mount Minobu in 1275 or 1276 and sent to the lay priest Nishiyama, who lived in Nishiyama Village in Fuji District of Suruga Province (present-day central Shizuoka Prefecture). In the opening of this letter, Nichiren Daishonin explains the importance of “good friends” who assist or encourage one in one’s Buddhist practice. ↩︎
  6. Ananda: One of Shakyamuni’s ten major disciples. He was a cousin of Shakyamuni and also the younger brother of Devadatta. For many years he accompanied Shakyamuni as his personal attendant and thus heard more of his teachings than any other disciple. He was known, therefore, as the foremost in hearing the Buddha’s teachings. In addition, he is said to have possessed an excellent memory, which allowed him to play a central role in compiling Shakyamuni’s teachings at the First Buddhist Council after the Buddha’s passing. ↩︎
  7. This episode has been creatively paraphrased here. See Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya (Boston: Wisdom Publishing, 2000), “Maggasamyutta” [2 (2) Half the Holy Life], p. 1524. ↩︎
  8. In “Three Tripitaka Masters Pray for Rain,” Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Encountering a good friend is the hardest possible thing to do. For this reason, the Buddha likened it to the rarity of a one-eyed turtle finding a floating log with a hollow in it the right size to hold him, or to the difficulty of trying to lower a thread from the Brahma heaven and pass it through the eye of a needle on the earth. Moreover, in this evil latter age, evil companions are more numerous than the dust particles that comprise the land, while good friends are fewer than the specks of dirt one can pile on a fingernail” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 598). ↩︎
  9. Neither the date of composition nor the recipient of “Many in Body, One in Mind” is known, though the fact that it mentions Nikko Shonin (1246–1333) and includes the phrase the “believers in Atsuhara have proved the strength of their resolve” suggests that it was sent to a follower living in Suruga Province (present-day central Shizuoka Prefecture) who was being persecuted by those in power. ↩︎
  10. Gyochi (n.d.): A lay priest and member of the ruling Hojo clan. Though not ordained, he acted as the deputy chief priest of Ryusen-ji, a temple of the Tendai school in Atsuhara Village in Suruga Province. His full name and title were Hei no Sakon Nyudo Gyochi. ↩︎
  11. Ryusen-ji temple: A temple of the Tendai school located in Atsuhara Village in Fuji District of Suruga Province during the Kamakura period (1185–1333). The temple’s deputy chief priest, Gyochi, displayed great hostility toward the Daishonin’s followers, who had won many converts in the area, including the temple’s young priests. That hostility grew and eventually led to the Atsuhara Persecution. ↩︎
  12. King Chou of Yin and King Wu of Chou: Two figures who engaged in a battle known as the Yin-Chou War or the Yin-Chou Revolution. The battle took place in the 11th century BCE King Wu of Chou, a vassal state of Yin, rose up against the misrule of King Chou, the last ruler of the Yin dynasty [also known as the Shang dynasty]. King Chou’s army was far superior in number than that of King Wu, which one would expect would have given the former an overwhelming advantage. The reality, however, was that the Yin soldiers had no will to fight, so they turned their weapons upside down and parted their ranks to let King Wu’s forces make their way through. King Chou was defeated because his despotic rule had fueled resentment and turned the hearts of his soldiers against him. Thus, as Nichiren writes: “King Chou of Yin led seven hundred thousand soldiers into battle … [yet his army] lost because of disunity” (WND-1, 618). In contrast, the forces of King Wu of Chou were firmly united in their righteous cause of toppling a tyrannical ruler—in other words, demonstrating the spirit of “many in body, one in mind.” ↩︎
  13. Records of the Historian: Historical work by Ssu-ma Ch’ien (Sima Qian: 145–87 BCE). China’s first comprehensive history, it was used as a model for later chronicles. The work describes the history from the legendary ruler Huang Ti (Yellow Emperor) through Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), when Ssu-ma Ch’ien lived. ↩︎
  14. Translated from Japanese. Article in the Seikyo Shimbun, March 24, 2018. ↩︎

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