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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

Soka Religious Revolution—Blazing a Great Path of Humanism to Unite All People

For Our Wonderful New Members—Part 5 [44]

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda declared: “Kosen-rufu is a religious revolution to enable people around the world to become happy.”

The “revolution” he called for is one free from the violence and bloodshed often associated with the word. Rather, it was an expression of his extraordinary determination to help each person achieve true happiness through their own human revolution and contribute to the realization of a peaceful society. Mr. Toda stressed this point to us, his youthful disciples, on numerous occasions.

Religious Revolution Starts With Individual Human Revolution

Religious revolution is nothing other than human revolution. It starts with the inner transformation of each person’s life.

The aim of Buddhism is to enable each person to change their karma or destiny, and bring forth power and potential that is as vast as the universe itself. The human revolution of a single individual can change the world. This, Mr. Toda taught me, is the essence of genuine religious revolution.

In writing my two serialized novels, The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution, I embraced as my own theme this message of my mentor: “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.”

The Buddhism of the People—Opening the Way for All to Attain Buddhahood

Since its founding (in 1930), the Soka Gakkai has resolutely carried out a religious revolution. The compulsory danka (temple parishioner) system,[1] which had been enforced in Japan during the Edo period, had caused the original spirit of Buddhism to be lost, reducing it to an empty shell. In response to this situation, Soka Gakkai founding President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi gave his all to reviving the heart of Nichiren Buddhism in modern times, declaring that “Religious reform is not difficult.”[2]

The Soka Gakkai’s religious reformation sought to revitalize the spirit of kosen-rufu in Nichiren Shoshu at a time when the priesthood had lost sight of the heart of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings and the admonitions of his direct successor, Nikko Shonin.[3] Its aim was to restore the pure flow of Buddhism by returning to the spirit of helping people become happy.

From its earliest days, therefore, the Soka Gakkai, dedicated to advancing kosen-rufu based on harmonious unity, has carried out a Buddhist renaissance movement to repudiate religious authoritarianism and restore the original spirit of Nichiren Buddhism.

Looking back, we see that Buddhism originated in Shakyamuni’s efforts to transform the prevailing trend of people serving the interests of religion, into one in which religion served the interests of the people. But as the centuries passed, and Buddhism lost its original spirit, many Buddhist teachers returned to the question of what is the true purpose of religion, and sought to reform Buddhism as a religion dedicated to human happiness. This is the history of Buddhism as a humanistic teaching.

And in the Latter Day of the Law, an age when the Buddha’s correct teaching had all but perished, Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of the Sun appeared. Returning to the Lotus Sutra, the essence of Shakyamuni’s teachings, it achieved an unprecedented religious revolution, establishing itself as the Buddhism of the people opening the way for all to attain Buddhahood.

A New Departure Toward 2020

The Soka Renaissance[4]we have carried out at the cusp of the 21st century can be seen as inevitable in light of this history of Buddhism. The Soka Gakkai’s struggle to break free from the fetters of authoritarianism and make the dignity of each individual shine enabled it to spread its wings and soar into the world as the humanistic religious movement people everywhere had been earnestly seeking.

Today, in this new era of worldwide kosen-rufu, our noble members throughout Japan and around the globe, firmly united in purpose, are achieving wonderful victories through their human revolution, directly contributing to the growth of our movement.
And now, many new Bodhisattvas of the Earth, linked by deep karmic ties, have joined our ranks with fresh resolve at this significant time as we set forth energetically toward our 90th anniversary in 2020.

Together with you, my friends who possess a wondrous mission, I would like to examine the true meaning of our Soka religious reformation based on passages from the writings of Nichiren Daishonin.

The Way of Life of a Wise Person

The heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the “Never Disparaging” chapter. 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 wise may be called human, but the thoughtless are no more than animals. (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 851–52)5

Buddhism is a humane teaching. A Buddha is none other than a human being who embodies the Law. The Law does not exist in some separate realm, apart from the actions of human beings. That is why Buddhism places such emphasis on a person’s behavior and state of life.

In this passage from “The Three Kinds of Treasure,” which reveals the way of life of a wise person, Nichiren tells Shijo Kingo, one of his most trusted and devoted followers, that the essence of Buddhism is found in our behavior as human beings.

The foundation for any genuine religious reformation lies in each person’s inner transformation, achieved through actions grounded in respect for others.

Sincerity Leads to Victory

Shijo Kingo was facing his greatest hardship when Nichiren Daishonin sent him this letter. His relationship with his feudal lord, Ema, had become severely strained due to malicious false accusations made against him by his fellow samurai retainers. Lord Ema pressed Shijo Kingo to write an oath renouncing his faith in Nichiren’s teachings; otherwise, he would confiscate his landholdings. These events took place several months before Shijo Kingo received this letter.[5]

But Shijo Kingo vowed to the Daishonin that he would never abandon his faith in the Lotus Sutra, no matter what the consequences. With his profound determination activating the protective forces of the universe, Shijo Kingo, who also had a knowledge of medicine, regained his lord’s trust after treating his illness. Nichiren wrote this letter in response to Shijo Kingo’s joyous report on the dramatic change in his situation.

Throughout this lengthy letter, he explains to Shijo Kingo how to behave as a human being, and sets forth guiding principles for practitioners of his teaching. Though you may have regained your lord’s trust, he tells his disciple, never boast about it. Always behave with sincerity and humility, he says. And he warns him that his jealous colleagues who seek his downfall are sure to be seething with rage, so he must remain vigilant and act with prudence.

Nichiren further teaches Shijo Kingo that true victory constitutes winning the trust and praise of others through one’s behavior as a member of society and a Buddhist practitioner. He urges him to live with the conviction that “the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all” (WND-1, 851).[6]

Teaching the Practice of Showing Respect to Others

At the close of this letter, Nichiren Daishonin states that the purpose of Shakyamuni’s appearance in this world was to preach the Lotus Sutra. He explains that the Lotus Sutra is “the heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings … and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the ‘[Bodhisattva] Never Disparaging’ chapter” (WND-1, 851–52).

“Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,” the 20th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, explains the practice of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,[7] who firmly believed that all living beings possess the Buddha nature and persisted in paying reverence to them, no matter how he was persecuted for his actions. Nichiren thus concludes that the purpose of Shakyamuni Buddha’s appearance in this world is to teach this practice of showing respect for others through one’s actions, as exemplified by Bodhisattva Never Disparaging.

In other words, in “The Three Kinds of Treasure,” Nichiren repeatedly stresses to Shijo Kingo the importance of behaving with sincerity and integrity at all times in order to triumph over the challenges facing him.

The Lotus Sutra’s  Philosophy of Respect for All

Let us further explore what it means to act with respect for all people.

Why did Nichiren Daishonin go so far as to declare that Shakyamuni’s “behavior as a human being” was the purpose of his appearance in this world? It was no doubt because he himself embodied the philosophy of respect for life and all people that pulses vibrantly in the Lotus Sutra.

The Lotus Sutra teaches that all people possess the Buddha nature. As such, all are equal, and the life of each person is infinitely respectworthy. That is why, despite being showered with curses and abuse, and attacked with sticks and stones by arrogant people, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging continued to believe in them and show them respect. As a result, he received the benefit of the “purification of the six sense organs,”[8] transformed his karma and attained the expansive life state of Buddhahood.

In other words, to always act respectfully toward others, no matter who they are, out of an unwavering belief in the Buddha nature of all people—that behavior is itself the fundamental cause for attaining Buddhahood.

Working Wholeheartedly for People’s Happiness

Nichiren Daishonin sent warm and compassionate letters to his followers, including those he never met in person, demonstrating his sincere care and concern, and encouraging them wholeheartedly.

At the same time, motivated by his determination to lead all people in the Latter Day of the Law to happiness, he fought resolutely against erroneous teachings and negative forces that caused people to suffer. He warmly supported each person while boldly remonstrating with the authorities. All these actions were rooted in compassion. His life was indeed the embodiment of showing respect to all people at all times.

Now, the mentors and disciples of Soka are carrying on this model of behavior set forth by Nichiren and putting it into action in their daily lives.

Praying for a Tranquil Society and a Peaceful World

Because we believe in the inherent Buddha nature of all people and respect the dignity of their lives, we behave with sincerity and integrity. We also actively engage in society to build a peaceful age in which honest, decent people can lead happy lives. In “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” Nichiren Daishonin writes, “If you care anything about your personal security, you should first of all pray for order and tranquillity throughout the four quarters of the land, should you not?” (WND-1, 24). In that spirit, we bravely rise to the challenge of doing our human revolution and transforming society.

We believe in the limitless potential of each individual.

We deeply treasure the person in front of us.

And we together demonstrate our immense capacities.

This noble way of life that Soka Gakkai members follow accords with the true spirit of Nichiren Buddhism, and the genuine respect we show to others creates a positive ripple effect in our environment. We have clearly demonstrated to people throughout Japan and the world that, by taking personal responsibility and acting of our own free will, we can, with strength and wisdom, open the way to happiness and victory.

Let us proudly tell others that this is the modern religious reformation we have undertaken to break free of empty formalism and authoritarianism.

The Buddhism of the Sun Flourishes in the Latter Day of the Law

The moon appears in the west[9] and sheds its light eastward, but the sun rises in the east and casts its rays to the west. The same is true of Buddhism. It spread from west to east in the Former and Middle Days of the Law, but will travel from east to west in the Latter Day.[10] (“On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” WND-1, 401)[11]

The actions of Soka Gakkai members are grounded in respect for all people, which is the correct path of Buddhist practice. Committed to this course, the Soka Gakkai today continues to carry out its movement of religious reformation, spreading Nichiren Buddhism, the Buddhism of the people, around the world.

It was in his writing “On the Buddha’s Prophecy” that Nichiren Daishonin predicts an age of worldwide kosen-rufu. In it, he states that he is the only person fulfilling Shakyamuni’s prediction of the widespread propagation of the Law, or kosen-rufu, in the Latter Day, and he makes his own prediction that the great teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the essence of the Lotus Sutra, will eventually make its way across the globe.

This worldwide spread of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of the Sun, with its teaching of respect for all people, is essentially what is meant by the statement that “[Buddhism] will travel from east to west in the Latter Day” (WND-1, 401).

The Soka Gakkai Appeared at the Time for the Widespread Propagation of Buddhism

In the summer of 1951, the year when Josei Toda was inaugurated as second Soka Gakkai president, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal, the Daibyakurenge, published his article titled “The History and Conviction of the Soka Gakkai.” In it, he referred to this passage we are studying from “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” and spoke of his conviction and joy at being able to spread the Mystic Law in the Latter Day.

Affirming his unshakable belief that Nichiren’s Buddhism of the people would spread throughout Asia and the rest of the world, he wrote: “Having encountered this auspicious time, we of the Soka Gakkai have made a great vow of selfless devotion and stood up with the powerful conviction that we must engage in a momentous effort to spread the Mystic Law. How fortunate we are to advance on this path that leads to Buddhahood and allows us to savor the joy of living!”[12]

Mr. Toda clarified Nichiren’s prediction of the “westward transmission of Buddhism” to mean realizing kosen-rufu in Asia and the rest of the world, and he entrusted the actualization of that goal to the youth.

As his devoted disciple, immediately after I was inaugurated as third Soka Gakkai President (in 1960), I began my journey for worldwide kosen-rufu, Mr. Toda’s photograph tucked into my breast pocket. I visited countries around the world, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as if to permeate the ground in every place I went to call forth Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

Chanting Resounds Continuously Across the Globe

Today, our humanistic network of Soka has spread to 192 countries and territories. The chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo resounds somewhere on this planet 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

In “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” Nichiren Daishonin states, “In Japan, China, India, and all the other countries of Jambudvipa [the entire world], every person, regardless of whether wise or ignorant, will set aside other practices and join in the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (WND-1, 736). With these words engraved in our hearts, we of the Soka Gakkai have opened the way for the widespread propagation of the Mystic Law.

In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren says, “Sanskrit and Chinese join in a single moment to form Nam-myoho-renge-kyo”[13](p. 4). He is suggesting that the teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will spread in both East and West—represented in this passage by the languages of India and China—and reach all humankind.

Today, in every corner of the world, people are revitalizing their lives through their Buddhist practice and the beneficial power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Their humanistic behavior is touching those around them, while the joy they experience through their practice is spreading, inspiring others to stand up in faith as well. This exemplifies the “benefit of the fiftieth hearer”[14] in a continuous chain reaction of joy as Buddhism is spread from one person to the next. Our movement of human revolution is actual proof of the religious reformation we are carrying out in today’s world.

An Elevated Humanity

Dr. Shin Anzai (1923–98), the late Japanese scholar of religion and professor emeritus at Sophia University in Tokyo, said: “Among the writings of Nichiren Daishonin, there are numerous letters written to nameless ordinary women living in rural areas, in which he offers highly detailed and compassionate encouragement and guidance. Instead of dogma, these letters overflow with a deep and rich humanity. I have witnessed the same elevated humanity among many Soka Gakkai members.”[15]

I am profoundly grateful for his deep under-standing of our movement.

Dr. Anzai also observed: “In recent years, the Soka Gakkai has begun to walk a new path as a lay religious organization separate from the priesthood. I view this as an inevitable result of the fundamental difference between the open, progressive Soka Gakkai and the closed, conservative priesthood. The priesthood has become an anachronism, showing no appreciation of the value of peace, culture and education, clinging to hidebound traditions and attempting to control lay followers through clerical authority and power. Had the Soka Gakkai not claimed its independence from the priesthood, it would have eventually been fated to become a self-righteous and closed religious organization, too, its bright future and global outlook perishing.”[16]

As Dr. Anzai and many other leading thinkers have noted, our religious reformation has been a process of severing the chains of the authoritarian, dogmatic and closed-minded Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, and establishing spiritual indepen-dence through each member standing up with lionlike strength and courage.

Spreading the Humanistic Teachings of Nichiren Buddhism

Since our spiritual independence, the humanistic ideals that the Soka Gakkai promotes have spread dynamically around the world. Our organizations in places such as Spain and Indonesia, where members suffered terribly during the trouble with the priesthood, have since experienced tremendous growth.

More than a quarter century since our Spiritual Independence Day,[17] members in Spain, striving valiantly in the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple and “many in body, one in mind,” have increased their membership sixtyfold. Soka Gakkai Indonesia has grown from one to 12 headquarters organizations and 49 chapters. Members in both nations are building trust and friendship in their communities and society. The development of kosen-rufu in countries and territories worldwide is gaining widespread praise.

Across the globe, our members are carrying out the great movement of religious reformation that is kosen-rufu through their behavior as human beings. People everywhere are longing to encounter the humanistic teachings of Nichiren Buddhism.

Our Movement of Soka Humanism

We have entered an age when our humanistic behavior is contributing positively to the realization of peace and a more humane world. Our movement of Soka humanism is shining ever more brightly upon the stage of the 21st century.

The victory of each of you, my trusted friends, in achieving your own human revolution, is the victory of the Soka Gakkai, which is illuminating humanity as a world religion. Let us continue moving forward in our shared struggle of mentor and disciple based on the unity of “many in body, one in mind,” and embrace the world with the great light of our Soka Renaissance!

—With prayers for the brilliant achievements of my fellow members everywhere

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


  1. Under this system, which was introduced by the Tokugawa military government in the mid-17th century as part of its drive to eradicate Christianity in Japan, Buddhist temples were effectively turned into part of the government bureaucracy and empowered with authority over danka or families living in the assigned district of a temple. It was compulsory for all households to register with a temple. This led to Buddhism becoming increasingly formalistic. Literally, dan means donation and ka, family. Danka means families that support a temple financially. Danto means individual members of the danka. ↩︎
  2. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, “Shukyo kaikaku zosa nashi” (Religious Reform Is Not Difficult), in Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), pp. 23–27. ↩︎
  3. Admonitions of Nikko Shonin: This refers to “The Twenty-six Admonitions of Nikko,” a document that Nikko Shonin, Nichiren Daishonin’s designated successor, wrote for the sake of both priests and laity of future generations to maintain the purity of Nichiren’s teachings. It outlines the fundamental spirit of faith, practice and study. ↩︎
  4. Soka Renaissance: This refers to the Soka Gakkai’s fresh start toward worldwide kosen-rufu after the organization received a notice of excommunication from the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood on November 29, 1991, which was dated November 28. ↩︎
  5. Lord Ema’s threat to Shijo Kingo was triggered by incidents surrounding a debate held in Kuwagayatsu, Kamakura, in 1277, between Nichiren’s disciple Sammi-bo and a priest named Ryuzo-bo, who was under the patronage of Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji temple. Ryuzo-bo was thoroughly defeated by Sammi-bo. Shijo Kingo merely attended the debate as an observer, and did not utter a word. However, it was alleged to Lord Ema that he had burst into the debate with a number of confederates with weapons drawn and disrupted the proceedings. This led to Lord Ema’s order that Shijo Kingo either write out a pledge saying that he had given up his practice of the Lotus Sutra. ↩︎
  6. Nichiren writes: “Live so that all the people of Kamakura will say in your praise that [Shijo Kingo] is diligent in the service of his lord, in the service of Buddhism, and in his concern for other people. More valuable than treasures in a storehouse are the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all. From the time you read this letter on, strive to accumulate the treasures of the heart!” (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 851). ↩︎
  7. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is described in “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,” the 20th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. This bodhisattva—Shakyamuni in a previous lifetime—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. ↩︎
  8. Purification of the six sense organs: Also, purification of the six senses or faculties. This refers to the six sense organs of eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind becoming pure, making it possible to apprehend all things correctly. “Benefits of the Teacher of the Law,” the 19th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, explains that those who uphold and practice the sutra acquire various benefits, and that through these benefits the six sense organs become refined and pure. ↩︎
  9. This refers to the fact that the new moon is first seen in the west just after sunset. On successive nights, as the moon grows fuller, it appears to have moved a little farther toward the east. Of course, the direction of the moon’s movement is from east to west, the same as that of the sun and stars, but because of its orbital motion, it appears each day to have moved slightly in retrograde, from west to east. ↩︎
  10. This is referred to as “the westward transmission of Buddhism.” ↩︎
  11. “On the Buddha’s Prophecy” was written on May 11, 1273, while Nichiren was residing at Inchinosawa on Sado Island, where he had been exiled. ↩︎
  12. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (The Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 3 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1983), p. 128. ↩︎
  13. “The nam[u] of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a Sanskrit word, while myoho, renge and kyo are Chinese words” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 3). ↩︎
  14. “Benefit of the fiftieth hearer”: “Benefits of Responding with Joy,” the 18th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, teaches the “benefit of the fiftieth hearer” in a chain of propagation (see LSOC, 286–91). An individual hears the teaching of the Lotus Sutra and rejoices. That person then shares their experience with another, who in turn shares this joy with yet another. This passage from the Lotus Sutra assures us that even the fiftieth person in that chain will receive great benefit. ↩︎
  15. Translated from Japanese. Article in the Seikyo Shimbun, July 28, 2002. ↩︎
  16. Ibid. ↩︎
  17. At a Soka Gakkai leaders meeting on November 30, 1991, the day after the Soka Gakkai received the notice of excommunication from the priesthood (dated November 28), President Ikeda referred to November 28 as the day of spiritual liberation, or Spiritual Independence Day, for the Soka Gakkai and the SGI, signaling the start of a fresh era of unprecedented development for kosen-rufu. ↩︎

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