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Ikeda Sensei

Perseverance Is Another Name for Unwavering Determination

Nanjo Tokimitsu


This guidance from SGI President Ikeda originally appeared in the July 1, 2018, issue of the Mirai [Future] Journal, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly newspaper for the junior high and high school divisions.

In this installment, I’d like to study with you one of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings that stresses the importance of perseverance, of continuing to try again and again.

In a letter to Nanjo Tokimitsu, who followed his father’s example in faith and grew into a fine young man, the Daishonin explains that there are two kinds of faith—“faith like fire” and “faith like water”:

Today there are people who have faith in the Lotus Sutra. The belief of some is like fire while that of others is like water. When the former listen to the teachings, their passion flares up like fire, but as time goes on, they tend to discard their faith. To have faith like water means to believe continuously without ever regressing. (“The Two Kinds of Faith,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 899)

Some people get very excited when they first hear about Buddhism and start practicing eagerly. Gradually however, they lose their enthusiasm, like a flame going out. This is “faith like fire.”

On the other hand, some have “faith like water,” steadily persevering in their faith no matter what, with the constancy of a flowing river.

The Daishonin warmly praises Tokimitsu, who strove earnestly in his Buddhist practice with faith like water.

For you, my young friends, persevering in your studies and various extracurricular activities can be challenging. Knowing that you are taking on a long, ongoing task can make you hesitant to even start. But the important thing is being willing to give it a try. How happy you’ll be when you try and gain the satisfaction of succeeding! That joy will give you the strength to continue.

Don’t worry, however, if you find yourself unable to follow through after a few days. Just refresh your determination and try again. Even if you quit and start again every few days, by repeating this process over and over, it will eventually add up to a full month’s effort. If you can keep trying for a month, you can do so for a year. By patiently making efforts each day, taking on your various challenges will become part of your daily routine. The key is whether or not you can keep renewing your determination without giving up for good.

Water flows constantly. When it encounters an obstacle, it simply changes its direction and finds a new way forward. Similarly, if you come up against a barrier that temporarily stops you, make a fresh determination and start moving forward again.

Nichiren encourages Tokimitsu to “believe continuously without ever regressing” and praises him for visiting him “constantly, regardless of the difficulties” (“The Two Kinds of Faith,” WND-1, 899). In the same way, I hope all of you will keep moving ahead and never give up.

As long as you continue to believe in your potential, the way forward will open for you. Even if you don’t achieve your immediate goal, each step you take toward it will shine as a wonderful accomplishment of your youth and lead to your next victory.

Perseverance is another name for unwavering determination. Always advance with confidence, ever resolved to strive harder.

Speaking of perseverance reminds me of the great British historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1889–1975). I first visited his home in London in May 1972. He had invited me there to discuss various issues facing humanity.

When I asked him what his motto was, he replied without a moment’s hesitation, “Laboremus” (Latin for “Let’s get to work!”).

Dr. Toynbee woke up every morning at 6:45. Each day, whether he felt like it or not, he sat down at his desk to work. He realized that if he waited until he felt like it, he’d never get anything done.

Actually, when Dr. Toynbee was in his teens, the age many of you are today, he didn’t like school. He was picked on by older boys, and he described the first day of a new school term as being like “execution day for a prisoner who has been condemned to death.”[1] But he gritted his teeth, and cultivated the ability to persevere and never be defeated.

My dialogue with Dr. Toynbee took place over 10 days in 1972 and 1973, and totaled some 40 hours. This year [2018] marks the 45th anniversary of our last exchange. When I asked him to share some parting advice, he gripped my hand firmly and said that he believed dialogue has an extremely important role to play in promoting harmony among different civilizations, ethnic groups and religions. He then urged me to continue engaging in such dialogues with people from places like Russia (then the Soviet Union), the United States and China, with the aim of bringing humanity closer together.

In order to respond to Dr. Toynbee’s call, I have continued to carry out dialogues with leading thinkers worldwide, creating a groundswell of peace. I am humbled that leaders across the globe have praised my dialogue with Dr. Toynbee as a “textbook for humanity.” Now, I would like to pass the baton of carrying out dialogues for peace to you, my trusted friends of the future division.

Dr. Toynbee remarked that the human spirit is always vulnerable to becoming apathetic, and constant effort is required to awaken us to our dormant potential. One of the purposes of religion, he observed, is to be a spiritual stimulant in this process.[2]

You all have the unparalleled practice of Nichiren Buddhism. When you do morning gongyo, you can start your engine for the day. When you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, you can tap the limitless power within you. Moreover, the encouragement you receive from fellow members of the Soka family can inspire you to move forward and grow.

This summer, I hope you will all challenge yourselves to do gongyo and chant every day!

Through the winning rhythm of chanting, please develop a challenging spirit and the strength to keep going, and achieve dynamic growth!


  1. Arnold Toynbee, Experiences (New York: Oxford University Press, 1969), p. 4. ↩︎
  2. Translated from Japanese. Arnold J. Toynbee, Nihon no Katsuro (For Japan to Survive). (Tokyo: Kokusai PHP Kenkyusho, 1974), p. 103. (Not published in English). ↩︎

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