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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

The Men’s Division, Invincible Pillars of Kosen-rufu

To My Friends of Each Division Engaged in Our Shared Struggle [47]

Spring, the season when nature comes alive, has arrived.

March is the month of the establishment of our men’s division. On March 5, 1966, the men of Soka set out together in high spirits on their voyage into the vast seas of kosen-rufu. March is a time of fresh, vibrant growth.

The men’s division held its first general meeting on March 16, 1969, three years after its founding, in commemoration of Kosen-rufu Day. At that meeting, I reminded the men’s division members present that March 16 is a day for deepening and strengthening our determination that we will be the ones to actualize kosen-rufu.

“The Soka Gakkai Is the King of the Religious World!”

I mentioned this for a specific reason.

At the ceremony of March 16, 1958, which took place just a short time before his death, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda sought to demonstrate that the time would come when society’s leaders—fulfilling the function of such protective deities as Brahma and Shakra—would applaud the life-affirming teachings of Nichiren Buddhism. Or rather, he entrusted his youthful successors with creating such a time.

On that occasion, Mr. Toda proclaimed our future victory in realizing kosen-rufu, declaring: “The Soka Gakkai is the king of the religious world!”

“The Assembly on Holy Eagle Peak Which Continues in Solemn State”

Therefore, the men’s division members, united in spirit with their mentor, needed to gain support and understanding for our movement from society’s leaders and eminent people in many fields, and to build the men’s division into a gathering of champions. I was certain that their decisive action would lead to the victory of kosen-rufu. I hoped they would walk the path of mentor and disciple throughout their lives, protect the Soka Gakkai—“the assembly on Holy Eagle Peak which continues in solemn state and has not yet disbanded”[1] (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 135)—and fulfill the vow of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. This was my wish as I spoke to the men’s division on that March 16, 1969.

I am happy to see that today, just as Mr. Toda hoped, leaders in every area of society are showing support for the ideals of Soka humanism and expressing praise and understanding for our movement. This is proof of the development of kosen-rufu arising from our efforts to put Buddhism into practice in society and challenge ourselves with the spirit that “Buddhism means being victorious.” The Soka Gakkai has clearly triumphed.

Conviction and Commitment

Josei Toda was the model of a true champion. In his heart stood two towering pillars—absolute conviction in the Gohonzon and lifelong commitment to kosen-rufu.

In this installment, let’s study passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings with regard to the core qualities of conviction and commitment that are vital for our men’s division members, the champions of Soka. For now is the time for our men’s division members to play an even more active role on the stage of kosen-rufu.

With Unwavering Faith, We Will Never Be Defeated

This [the Komatsubara Persecution][2] has only strengthened my faith in the Lotus Sutra. The fourth volume of the [Lotus Sutra] says, “Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even when the Thus Come One [Shakyamuni Buddha] is in the world, how much more will this be so after his passing?” [The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 203]. The fifth volume states, “It [the Lotus Sutra] will face much hostility in the world and be difficult to believe” [LSOC, 246]. In Japan there are many who read and study the Lotus Sutra … [However,] the upholders of the sutra in Japan are not yet worthy of these sutra passages. I alone have read the sutra with my entire being. This is the meaning of the passage that says, “We care nothing for our bodies or lives but are anxious only for the unsurpassed way” [LSOC, 233]. I am therefore the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan.

Should you [Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro] depart from this life before I do, you must report to Brahma, Shakra, the four heavenly kings, and King Yama.[3] Declare yourself to be a disciple of the priest Nichiren, the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra in Japan. Then they cannot possibly treat you discourteously. (“Encouragement to a Sick Person,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 81–82)[4]

Founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi underlined this passage in his personal copy of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, indicating that he studied it deeply.

Stating, “I alone have read the [Lotus Sutra] with my entire being” (WND-1, 82), Nichiren firmly declares that only he has suffered the persecutions predicted in the Lotus Sutra.

The Daishonin sent this letter to Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro, the father of his young disciple Nanjo Tokimitsu and a predecessor of today’s men’s division members. In it, he offers heartfelt encouragement to Hyoe Shichiro, who faced a situation that could cause him to waver in faith, urging him to follow his example. Hyoe Shichiro was originally a believer of the Pure Land (Nembutsu) teachings, but is thought to have converted to Nichiren’s teachings when he was residing in Kamakura [on an official tour of duty].

Though Hyoe Shichiro had practiced his faith in earnest, he had fallen seriously ill, prompting some of his relatives to pressure him to return to the Nembutsu practice.

Thus, in “Encouragement to a Sick Person,” the Daishonin urges Hyoe Shichiro to remain true to the correct teaching, stressing the importance of not being led astray by negative influences and that now is the time for him to arouse strong faith. Faith in the Mystic Law enables us to positively transform any illness or adverse situation, changing poison into medicine. As long as we maintain unwavering faith, we will never be defeated in life.

Reason, Passion and Courage

In this letter, Nichiren Daishonin thoroughly explains, through the “five guides for propa-gation,”[5] the doctrinal basis for the assertion that the Lotus Sutra is the great teaching that can lead all people of the Latter Day of the Law to enlightenment.

Men, generally speaking, tend to value logic and reason. Hyoe Shichiro must have renewed his commitment to faith in the Mystic Law as a result of the Daishonin’s clear explanation of Buddhist principles. But it is also often the case that while logic may make sense, it doesn’t always move people’s hearts.

After giving an account of how he weathered the Komatsubara Persecution just the previous month (in November 1264), Nichiren asserts, “This has only strengthened my faith in the Lotus Sutra” (WND-1, 81). In this way, he teaches the importance of having the courage to be passionate about faith and demonstrate actual proof of victory.

Great People Keep Challenging Themselves

I once asked Josei Toda what makes a person great. He replied without the slightest hesitation: “It’s having conviction. In life and in everything, it’s conviction that counts.”

Mr. Toda was a great man. From his own personal experience of having triumphed over business troubles, the death of family members, serious illness and imprisonment for his beliefs, he could state unequivocally that conviction is the key.

Conviction is unwavering resolve. It is courage, fortitude, hope and great compassion. Above all, it is absolute faith in the Gohonzon.

Those who keep challenging themselves with conviction—determined, for instance, to persevere in their Buddhist practice throughout their lives, to contribute to the development of their workplaces, to enable all with whom they share a connection to become happy, to help their communities flourish—are truly great individuals.

This accords with the three mottoes of the men’s division: “Lifelong seeking spirit,” “Winning in the workplace” and “Contributing to the community.”[6]

I am vividly reminded of something Mr. Toda said when his businesses were in a state of crisis: “I will be fine, even if I should fall into hell. Why? Because I would simply share the Mystic Law with the inhabitants there and transform it into the Land of Tranquil Light. Faith means having that kind of conviction.” This was the boundless conviction of a great lion king.

Determined to Never Retreat

We cannot possibly know all of the challenges others are facing in these difficult times and the struggles they are experiencing. Perhaps their jobs are extremely busy, or they are shouldering heavy responsibilities. They may be facing indescribable hardships.

In the days when I was supporting Josei Toda in his business troubles, there was a period when I was unable to participate in Soka Gakkai activities, and people unaware of the real situation criticized me behind my back. But precisely because I was so busy, I was determined not to retreat a single step.

Earnestly making efforts to find time, to take action and to meet with people is itself Buddhist practice. This is because the resolve underlying those actions leads to our human revolution and transforms our state of life. And by making such efforts amid our own busy schedules, we are able to empathize with others’ difficulties and inspire them with just a few simple encouraging words or a single visit.

Practicing Buddhism is an exercise of our right to be happy. It is not a duty or an obligation forced upon us. Depending on our attitude or mind-set, we can get the most out of the activities we are able to do and thereby fully recharge our life force. As a result, we can accumulate immeasurable benefit, as described by Nichiren Daishonin when he says, “A hundred years of practice in the Land of Perfect Bliss cannot compare to the benefit gained from one day’s practice in the impure world” (“On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” WND-1, 736).

Be Proactive

As we age, ill health or a decline in physical stamina can make us think we’ve done enough already and take a step back. Of course, it’s important to get sufficient rest and not overexert ourselves, but we must never let our inner fire go out. When we allow ourselves to become passive, it can give rise to doubts and indecision or make Soka Gakkai activities feel like a burden. That’s why it’s important to adopt a proactive attitude and continue making efforts to realize kosen-rufu and Nichiren Daishonin’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land” together with the Soka Gakkai and our fellow members. Unwavering lifelong commitment is the mark of true faith.

Never grow careless or complacent in faith. Defeat the devilish functions within your own life, remembering that “One should be neither influenced nor frightened by [the three obstacles and four devils]”[7](“Letter to the Brothers,” WND-1, 501), and live boldly, “[moving] about without fear like the lion king” (“Reply to Kyo’o,” WND-1, 412).

The Final Years Are Decisive

Our fulfillment in life is not determined by public opinion or other people; it’s entirely up to us.

Victory in life is not decided halfway through our journey, either. The essence of faith for attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime is that we can be confident of our victory in the end, no matter what we go through along the way. All of the suffering and sorrows we have experienced will be transformed into golden memories that fill our lives with joy and gratitude. Such is the immense beneficial power of the Mystic Law.

In the passage we are studying, Nichiren Daishonin tells Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro, from the perspective of the eternity of life, that when he meets King Yama after death he should announce to him that he is “a disciple of the priest Nichiren” (WND-1, 82). He is assuring Hyoe Shichiro that if he remains steadfast in his faith to the very end, he has nothing to fear.

This sincere encouragement from Nichiren enabled Hyoe Shichiro to stay true to his faith throughout his life. Later, in a letter to Nanjo Tokimitsu, the Daishonin praises his father’s faith, saying that he “ended his life in the frame of mind of a true believer [literally, had a correct and steadfast mind at the moment of death]”[8](see “On the Offering of a Mud Pie,” WND-2, 499). Enfolded in the good fortune and benefit accumulated by Hyoe Shichiro, each member of the Nanjo family was able to fulfill their mission.

Hyoe Shichiro’s intrepid example stands as a model for the triumphant lives of our men’s division members, who are striving with conviction.

The Heart of the Disciples Is the Deciding Factor

None of you who declare yourselves to be my disciples should ever give way to cowardice … Since countless kalpas in the past … [y]ou may have tried to practice [the teachings of the Lotus Sutra] to some extent, but whenever you were persecuted, you backslid and ceased to live by the sutra. That is like boiling water only to pour it into cold water, or like trying to strike fire but giving up halfway. Each and every one of you should be certain deep in your heart that sacrificing your life for the Lotus Sutra is like exchanging rocks for gold or dung for rice. (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 764)[9]

Whenever I read “The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” I am moved by Nichiren Daishonin’s noble spirit and passionate resolve as he declares to the effect: “Look at the life of a committed practitioner of the Lotus Sutra!” and “My disciples, fear nothing!” The path of the oneness of mentor and disciple—a central pillar of Nichiren Buddhism—is a path of transforming adversity into brilliant victory as we forge ahead with unshakable commitment.

“Declare yourselves to be my disciples” (WND-1, 764), says the Daishonin. Disciples must identify themselves as such. The victory of the mentor is achieved through the victory of the disciples. The determination and commitment of the disciples is the deciding factor.

I have actualized every one of Mr. Toda’s dreams and visions. I have lived on, persevering through all and fighting my hardest. Now I can declare without a single regret that the mentors and disciples of Soka have triumphed! That is my greatest source of pride.

“I Had Long Expected It to Come to This”

Even when facing a storm of persecution, Nichiren Daishonin wrote with composure: “I rejoiced, saying that I had long expected it to come to this” (WND-1, 764).

He taught that those who dedicate their lives to spreading the Mystic Law should be prepared to encounter great obstacles, and that his disciples should rejoice when hardships occur, regarding them as peace and comfort (see OTT, 115). We of the Soka Gakkai have forged ahead with just that spirit.

In this passage, Nichiren also says: “None of you … should ever give way to cowardice” (WND-1, 764). No one who calls themselves a disciple of the Daishonin, he strictly declares, should be cowardly.

Practicing Nichiren Buddhism inevitably calls forth the onslaughts of the three obstacles and four devils. That’s why the Daishonin says we should be firmly resolved, writing, “Each and every one of you should be certain deep in your heart” (WND-1, 764).

At life’s crucial moments, the determined courage to act opens the way to victory. Infinite power wells forth when we dedicate ourselves to the shared struggle of mentor and disciple.

Determination and Passion for Kosen-rufu

I will never forget the powerful lesson I learned from Josei Toda on November 19, 1957. He was scheduled to travel to Hiroshima the next day, but given his extremely weak and frail state, he was in no condition to make the trip. As he lay on a sofa in the reception room of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, I begged him to reconsider his plans. But he adamantly insisted: “Just let me go there. As the Buddha’s emissary, how can I go back on a decision once I’ve made it? That is what true faith is, isn’t it? … The rest is up to the Buddha.”

Even as he was battling fiercely against the devil of illness, my mentor was filled with determination and passion to continue striving to realize kosen-rufu.

We dedicate our precious lives to kosen-rufu, and in so doing, we align them forever, throughout eternity, with the Mystic Law, the fundamental rhythm of the universe.

To this day, I remain endlessly grateful to my mentor for helping me establish that pillar of conviction in my life.

Rise Up With Firm Resolve

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “Sacrificing your life for the Lotus Sutra is like exchanging rocks for gold” (WND-1, 764). Learning about Nichiren Buddhism and dedicating ourselves to the cause of kosen-rufu transforms the meaning of our lives. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who started practicing Buddhism at the age of 57, said of his own experience: “With an indescribable joy, I completely changed the way I had lived for almost 60 years.”[10]

Life is a series of decisions. At some point, we chose the way of life of “seeking the profound” (see “The Selection of the Time,” WND-1, 558), working for the happiness of ourselves and others based on the great vow for kosen-rufu. And this is how we are using our precious lives. What truly brilliant lives of noble value creation we are leading!

The Daishonin states: “I, Nichiren, am the first to embark on propagating [the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo][11] … My disciples, form your ranks and follow me”; and “If, while calling yourselves the Buddha’s messengers, you give way to fear, you will be the most despicable of persons!” (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 765). Be resolved to follow my example, he teaches.

Mr. Toda proclaimed: “All people face periods of despair. But if we endure such times and overcome them, then all our hardships will later seem small and insignificant. Nothing can obstruct the tremendous power of the Mystic Law. If you rise up boldly in the face of devilish functions with the firm resolve to battle them head-on, they’ll beat a hasty retreat. No matter what happens, just keep sending them flying!”

Eternal Karmic Bonds

When we dedicate our lives to the same great vow as our mentor, the heart of a lion king rises up within us. If we remain focused on our limited personal desires and wishes, we cannot harness that power. We will be confined to a small, narrow self. Therefore, we need to determine to forge an expansive life state and establish the great vow for kosen-rufu at the center of our lives.

Mr. Toda described the joy of faith in simple terms, saying: “Everything we experience in our lives comes to have meaning. We realize that nothing, not the smallest thing, is ever wasted. This is the great benefit of the Mystic Law.”

The Mystic Law allows us to make positive use of all our experiences, even the ones from before the time we embarked on the path of Buddhist practice.

From the standpoint of Buddhism, it is no coincidence that we have encountered Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings at this particular time and joined the movement for kosen-rufu. The karmic bonds of mentor and disciple are eternal. Based on the perspective of life spanning the three existences of past, present and future, we are all like-minded friends linked by deep ties, who have chosen to be born in this world to spread the Mystic Law.

Fulfilling Our Mission Is the Essence of Human Revolution

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “One whose presence pervades the realms of heaven, earth and humanity and who does not waver in the slightest is called [a king or champion]” (see “White Horses and White Swans,” WND-1, 1063). Each of us needs to stand up as a champion of humanity in our families, workplaces and communities.

In Josei Toda’s novel Human Revolution, the 45-year-old protagonist Mr. Gan [modeled on Mr. Toda] declares in his heart: “My life is now decided! I will spend it propagating this wonderful Lotus Sutra!” Referring to this passage, Mr. Toda once said that true human revolution means cherishing a wish for the happiness of all living beings based on the conviction that we are Bodhisattvas of the Earth. He also stated, “Being sure in the depths of your being about how you’re going to live your life and knowing your innate mission is the essence of human revolution.”[12]

As the great Indian champion of nonviolence Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) declared: “If we wake up now, the game is ours.”[13]

Victory Is Up to Us

You, the members of the men’s division, are my comrades in struggle, my noble friends and champions of humanity in whom I place utmost trust. Together, let us continue striving for kosen-rufu with even greater vigor and energy, carrying on the eternal mission of mentor and disciple! Let us ensure the victory of Soka through our own efforts!

May you all be invincible, golden pillars!

Translated from the March 2019 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.


  1. This passage from the writings of the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, quoted by Nichiren Daishonin in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, asserts that the assembly on Eagle Peak where Shakyamuni preaches the Lotus Sutra is eternal and never-ending. ↩︎
  2. Komatsubara Persecution: On November 11, 1264, Nichiren was on his way to visit a follower named Kudo in Awa Province. At dusk, he and a group of his followers were ambushed by the local steward and ardent Pure Land (Nembutsu) believer, Tojo Kagenobu, and his men in Tojo Village. The Daishonin suffered a sword cut on his forehead, and his left hand was broken; one of his followers was killed during the incident and another died of his injuries later. It is discussed in detail in “Encouragement to a Sick Person” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 76–84). ↩︎
  3. These are gods and kings depicted in Buddhist mythology. Brahma and Shakra are the two principal tutelary gods of Buddhism. The four heavenly kings serve Shakra and protect the four quarters of the world. King Yama is king of the world of the dead who judges and determines the rewards and punishments of the deceased. ↩︎
  4. Nichiren Daishonin composed this letter on December 13, 1264. Its recipient was Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro, who was the steward of Ueno Village in Fuji District of Suruga Province (present-day central Shizuoka Prefecture). At the time, Nanjo Hyoe Shichiro was suffering from a severe illness, and Nichiren wrote this letter to encourage him, telling him that if he persisted in carrying out genuine faith, Brahma, Shakra and the other heavenly deities would protect him even after death. ↩︎
  5. Five guides for propagation: The five criteria for propagating Buddhism. They are 1) the teaching, 2) the people’s capacity, 3) the time, 4) the country and 5) the sequence of propagation. The Daishonin established them as a standard to demonstrate the correct way to propagate his teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his time and in the future. It is also discussed in his writings “The Teaching, Capacity, Time, and Country” (WND-1, 48–54) and “What It Means to Slander the Law” (WND-2, 246–73) ↩︎
  6. These three mottoes were introduced at the Tokyo Men’s Division General Meeting, held on July 20, 1999. ↩︎
  7. 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. ↩︎
  8. “A correct and steadfast mind at the moment of death” is manifested by those who continue to follow the Buddha way, confident that they will attain Buddhahood in this lifetime, and thus greet death with a spirit of great fulfillment. In a letter to Nanjo Tokimitsu, Nichiren writes: “Although your late father was a warrior, he had an abiding faith in the Lotus Sutra, and thus … know that he ended his life in the frame of mind of a true believer” (“On the Offering of a Mud Pie,” WND-2, 499). ↩︎
  9. “The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra” was written in 1276 and describes the events in the preceding nine years of Nichiren Daishonin’s life from 1268. ↩︎
  10. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Works of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 8 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1984), p. 406. ↩︎
  11. Myoho-renge-kyo is written with five Chinese characters, while Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is written with seven (nam, or namu, being composed of two characters). The Daishonin, however, often uses Myoho-renge-kyo synonymously with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his writings. ↩︎
  12. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (The Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 1 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1992), p. 265. ↩︎
  13. Mahatma Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 75 (October 11, 1941–March 31, 1942), (New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1979), p. 258. ↩︎

The Bright Mirror of the Gohonzon