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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

The Women’s Division—Suns of Hope Illuminating the Century of Women

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

February is the Soka Gakkai’s traditional month of propagation.

I am deeply moved whenever I think of the many “uncrowned heroes” who deliver the Seikyo Shimbun,[1] in the cold of winter. I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for them daily, filled with profound gratitude for their efforts, while praying earnestly for their health and complete safety.

I would also like to express my most heartfelt admiration for the outstanding efforts of all our women’s division members.

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, said to me: “Our sincere women’s division members have built the Soka Gakkai. Never forget that. The women are the most important. Daisaku, praise and protect these noble members.”

Three Guidelines for the February Campaign

In the February Campaign[2]of Kamata Chapter in 1952, it was ordinary women and youth who were the first to stand up, united in spirit with me.

Twenty-four years old at the time, I set forth the following three guidelines for our struggle:

First, we will begin with prayer.
Second, we will treasure our community and society.
Third, we will enthusiastically share our experiences in faith with our friends.

At that time, a membership increase of 201 households in a single month was a remarkable, record-breaking achievement. It paved the way for accomplishing my mentor’s goal of 750,000 households. In addition, that momentous effort marked the beginning of the global spread of kosen-rufu that we see today.

It was a dedicated women’s division member who reported the news of the 201st household joining the Soka Gakkai in that chapter.

I am overjoyed that the children and grand-children of the members who began practicing at that time are now striving energetically as leaders of kosen-rufu in Japan and around the world.

The 10th Anniversary of the Women’s Division’s Five Guidelines

Ten years ago, in March (2009), I proposed the following five guidelines for the women’s division to achieve absolute victory:

1) Everything begins with prayer.
2) Advancing harmoniously with our families.
3) Fostering young successors.
4) Cherishing our communities and societies.
5) Joyfully sharing our experiences in faith.

These guidelines encompass all the key elements for advancing kosen-rufu that were established in the February Campaign. Reaffirming them together, women’s division members across the globe are expanding their harmonious network, dedicated to fostering capable individuals and making positive contributions to society.

Starting from this installment, together with you, my friends in our shared struggle, I would like to study passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings while focusing on one division of our organization each time.

First off, I would like to address the women’s division as we reconfirm the guidelines for victory in the February Campaigns of the new era of worldwide kosen-rufu.

Everything Begins With Prayer Based on a Vow

Though one might point at the earth and miss it, though one might bind up the sky, though the tides might cease to ebb and flow and the sun rise in the west, it could never come about that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered. (“On Prayer,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 345)[3]

The first passage we will study is from “On Prayer,” a writing in which Nichiren Daishonin teaches that the prayers of practitioners of the Lotus Sutra are always answered.

The first of the five guidelines for the women’s division is “Everything begins with prayer.” Prayer based on the Mystic Law—chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—means making a vow; it is the most powerful spiritual force. When such prayer fills our hearts, there is no room for any cowardice, resignation or complaint.

Prayer in Nichiren Buddhism means believing that we will achieve our goals without fail, and having the conviction that we will never be defeated. It breaks through the barrier of self-doubt that tells us we cannot succeed and gives us supreme courage to fight and win.

The Vow to Protect the Practitioners of the Lotus Sutra

In this passage, Nichiren says that even if such unlikely phenomena as pointing at the earth and missing it, binding up the sky, the tides ceasing their ebb and flow and the sun rising in the west were to occur, it would never happen that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered.

Why is this the case? He explains the answer in light of the Lotus Sutra.

Only in the Lotus Sutra does Shakyamuni reveal the true path by which bodhisattvas, people of the two vehicles of learning and realization, human and heavenly beings, and all other living beings, can attain Buddhahood.

That is why, at the assembly of the Lotus Sutra, all living beings, who owe a great debt of gratitude to the sutra, vow to never “cast aside the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra” and to “take upon themselves the sufferings of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra” (see WND-1, 343).

At the time of Shakyamuni’s death, they also vow to repay their debt of gratitude to him by defeating the enemies of the Lotus Sutra and never begrudging their lives in defense of the sutra (see WND-1, 345).

In other words, all living beings of the worlds of bodhisattva, the two vehicles of learning and realization, humanity and heaven, have made a vow to unfailingly protect those who practice the Lotus Sutra.

And this is why, Nichiren declares, the prayers of the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra who are dedicated to the vow for kosen-rufu will never go unanswered.

Strong Prayer Activates the Protective Functions of the Universe

It is therefore important for us to pray strongly, absolutely determined to fulfill our vow and thereby activate the protective functions of the universe.

Our firm resolve to carry out our vow awakens the vow of the heavenly deities to protect the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra.

As the Daishonin cites in a passage that first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi treasured: “The stronger one’s faith, the greater the protection of the gods” (“The Supremacy of the Law,” WND-1, 614).

In another of his writings, Nichiren asserts: “The fact that her [Nichigen-nyo’s] prayers have gone unanswered is like a strong bow with a weak bowstring, or a fine sword in the hands of a coward. It is in no sense the fault of the Lotus Sutra” (“The Royal Palace,” WND-1, 489). He consistently stresses that strong faith is the essential factor in having our prayers answered.

Nichiren himself, while being led to the place of execution during the Tatsunokuchi Persecution,[4] remonstrated with the heavenly deities and rebuked the Great Bodhisattva Hachiman for not fulfilling his oath to protect the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra (see “The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 766–67).

Ultimately, faith is not asking the heavenly deities for their support, but rather activating their protective functions within our own lives, which embody the Mystic Law.

The Daishonin cites a passage [from the Great Teacher Miao-lo of China]: “One’s body and mind at a single moment pervade the entire realm of phenomena” (“The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” WND-1, 366). Indeed, our mind, our lives, can pervade the entire universe. In other words, we can make everything in the universe, even the most negative and hostile forces, our allies. Such is the infinite power of the Mystic Law.

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Is the Fundamental Law of the Universe

The universe is never still for a moment. It is always in motion. The ultimate Law governing that ceaseless activity is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the essence of the Lotus Sutra. As Nichiren writes, “It is the power of the Buddhist Law that enables the deities of the sun and moon to make their rounds of the four continents”[5] (“Consecrating an Image of Shakyamuni Buddha,” WND-1, 685). Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the fundamental Law that gives form to all things in the universe.

By chanting and dedicating ourselves to the Mystic Law, our lives merge with the wondrous rhythm of the universe. Prayer is the way the microcosm of our lives communes with the macrocosm of the universe. Through prayers based on the Mystic Law, we bring forth the supreme power, wisdom and compassion of the universe in our own lives.

That is why the Daishonin constantly stresses to us, his disciples, the importance of one’s attitude in prayer. To fulfill our wishes, we need to continuously rouse courage and persevere in Buddhist practice until our prayers are answered.

Transforming Our Karma Through Activities for Kosen-rufu

The most important point is whether our faith is dedicated to actualizing kosen-rufu. The teaching of the Mystic Law is infused with the Buddha’s unchanging wish for the happiness of all people. That is why chanting earnestly for kosen-rufu and giving our all to each Soka Gakkai activity lead to our individual prayers being answered.

Carrying out the practice of human revolution—overcoming our own problems and achieving personal happiness—can be likened to the earth rotating on its axis, while advancing kosen-rufu and thereby contributing to the prosperity of society can be likened to the earth revolving around the sun. Just as these two movements of the earth are inseparable, Nichiren Buddhism teaches that individual happiness and social prosperity must be achieved in tandem. Our daily efforts for kosen-rufu, while protecting the Law and contributing to the well-being of society and others, at the same time enable us to achieve indestructible happiness for ourselves.

Josei Toda said: “When you practice Nichiren Buddhism, you will find that the length of painful times is shortened and the intensity of your suffering itself gradually diminishes, until finally it disappears completely. Therefore, please exert yourself wholeheartedly for kosen-rufu and become happy.”

He also said: “The deeper the mud, the more beautiful the flowers that bloom from its midst. The same is true of human beings. The greater the hardships, the more enormous and beautiful the blossoms of happiness that unfold.”

Embodying the Principle of the “Lotus Flower in the Water”

Women’s division members have always dedicated themselves to kosen-rufu in accord with Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings, undaunted by slander and abuse and undefeated by the three obstacles and four devils.[6] They are noble practitioners of the Lotus Sutra embodying the principle of the “lotus flower in the water” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 263).[7] Nothing is a match for their persevering, tenacious prayers.

As the Daishonin states: “Misfortune will change into fortune. Muster your faith, and pray to this Gohonzon. Then what is there that cannot be achieved?” (“Reply to Kyo’o,” WND-1, 412).

When a women’s division member carries out her human revolution based on prayer to the Gohonzon, she becomes a sun of hope illuminating her family, her loved ones, her community and society.

The Stage for Enacting the Drama of Kosen-rufu Is Right Here and Now

I entrust you with the propagation of Buddhism in your province. It is stated that “the seeds of Buddhahood sprout as a result of conditions, and for this reason they [the Buddhas] preach the single vehicle [the Mystic Law; Nam-myoho-renge-kyo]” [see LSOC, 75]. (“The Properties of Rice,” WND-1, 1117)[8]

The “province” in this passage from Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “The Properties of Rice” refers to the Fuji region, where the letter’s recipient resides. In contemporary terms, it is the communities where we live, our workplaces, our homes—all of the places where we engage ourselves.

For each of us who uphold the Mystic Law, the place we are now is our stage for realizing kosen-rufu. We each have our very own “field” of kosen-rufu that only we can open up and cultivate. Here, Nichiren is saying that he entrusts each of us with responsibility for the place of our mission. In other words, we need to develop the profound awareness that we ourselves, not someone else, are responsible for kosen-rufu in our respective communities.

No doubt the disciple, the letter’s recipient, was deeply inspired and spurred to action by the trust and expectations his mentor had placed in him in charging him with realizing kosen-rufu.

Drawing Forth the Life State of Buddhahood

Nichiren Daishonin then quotes the Lotus Sutra passage “The seeds of Buddhahood sprout through causation” (LSOC, 75), pointing out that the life state of Buddhahood inherent in each of us emerges in response to causes and conditions.

All people possess the life state of Buddhahood within, but unless they form a connection with the Lotus Sutra, which teaches this truth about the world of Buddhahood, it remains dormant in their lives. That’s why it is so important to “preach the single vehicle”—that is, teach others Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the Law of universal enlightenment.

“Preach the single vehicle” is also another way of saying spread the truth that activates the seed of Buddhahood.

The fundamental aim of Nichiren Buddhism is to enable all people to attain genuine happiness. There has never been more of a need than there is today for the humanistic teachings of Buddhism that expound universal respect for human dignity.

Let us move forward with absolute conviction that the humanistic act of engaging in life-to-life dialogue aimed at awakening the inherent Buddhahood of others is the sacred task entrusted to us by the Daishonin. Joyfully aware of our mission, let us continue striving with the wish for the happiness of those around us.

Though it may seem a modest endeavor, our efforts to promote greater one-to-one dialogue is the sure path to spreading happiness and ensuring victory for the people.

Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of Sowing

In another of his writings, Nichiren Daishonin states, “Because one has heard the Lotus Sutra, which leads to Buddhahood, with this as the seed, one will invariably become a Buddha” (“Those Initially Aspiring to the Way,” WND-1, 882). Nichiren Buddhism is the Buddhism of sowing.

Sowing the seed of Buddhahood in the hearts of others through Buddhist dialogue is the starting point for activating their innate Buddha nature.

Of course, there are times when, in spite of sharing Buddhism confidently with others out of a wish for their happiness, our sincerity is not communicated and they are resistant to our message. But the Daishonin teaches that even a person who creates a “reverse relationship”[9] with Buddhism by rejecting it will become happy in the end. We simply need to continue believing in others’ Buddha nature and engaging in dialogue to help people form connections to Buddhism.

Today, members around the world are forging bonds of trust and friendship through “cherishing their communities and societies” and “joyfully sharing their experiences in faith,” as per the women’s division’s guidelines. Taking responsibility for the happiness of those around them, they are standing up to actualize Nichiren’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.” Cultivating friendship is cultivating kosen-rufu.

Spreading encouragement is spreading positive connections.

Joyfully and confidently sharing Nichiren Buddhism with others, and chanting and taking action for their well-being will bring flowers of happiness to bloom in our lives and theirs as well.

Soka Women Inspire Limitless Hope

In our dialogue, peace scholar Dr. Elise Boulding (1920–2010) kindly said about her encounters with members: “SGI members always radiate their determination to improve their lives through their faith. They are really a source of hope for the world.”[10]

She also remarked: “Human beings are certainly capable of knowing one another better and caring for and helping one another. In this connection, SGI members are making fine contributions to society by helping each person be a good citizen.”[11]

We have entered an age when our members are shining as wonderful examples for our local communities and society at large. Dr. Sarah Wider, professor of English and Women’s Studies at Colgate University in the United States, with whom I also engaged in dialogue, additionally praised our efforts, declaring that Soka women gave her limitless hope. She was especially impressed, she said, by how they support and help one another across generations and cultures. She also affirmed the indispensability of being fundamentally connected with others, at the deepest and most universal level, in the desire for a culture of peace. Whenever she needs to feel hope, she said, she thinks of the women of the Soka Gakkai.[12]

Whether they are aware of it or not, each of our women’s division members is a constant source of bright hope and inspiration. The Daishonin declares: “The Lotus Sutra is like the lion king, who rules over all other animals. A woman who embraces the lion king of the Lotus Sutra never fears any of the beasts of hell or of the realms of hungry spirits and animals” (“The Drum at the Gate of Thunder,” WND-1, 949).

The Noblest Worries of All

Josei Toda said: “People worry about not having enough money. They worry about their health. They worry about their children’s grades. Moment after moment, worries are always arising in some area or another of our lives. This is life. Nevertheless, in addition to our own worries, we of the Soka Gakkai worry about how to spread the Daishonin’s teachings and help others become happy. Worries that arise from our efforts for the sake of the Law, the sake of others, the sake of the Soka Gakkai and the sake of kosen-rufu, based on faith in Nichiren Buddhism—these are the noblest worries of all.”

The worries of Soka women are the worries of the Buddha. Based on the principle that “earthly desires are enlightenment,”[13] their worries become the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha, embracing and guiding all their efforts.

The Solid Unity of the World’s Foremost Women’s Division Members

In my essay “To the Women’s Division,” which I wrote on February 11, 1963, I quoted a poem by Josei Toda:

A noble gathering
like fragrant white lilies,
pure-hearted friends.

And I said: “I hope, in the spirit of this poem, you will base yourselves on pure and consistent faith like flowing water as you strive to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. And I hope that you will work together in solid unity until kosen-rufu is achieved, becoming the world’s foremost women’s division members.”

My feelings today remain unchanged.

Please continue to press ahead together on the path of your mission as brilliant suns—illuminating your families, your successors in faith and the communities in which you live. Above all, please make this a century of women, a century of respect for the dignity of life and a century of peace.

Spreading a Joyous and United Network

Our prayers are focused on realizing peace throughout the world and the happiness of humanity.

We chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to fulfill the ultimate vow of Mahayana bodhisattvas, who practice for their own and others’ happiness, to help every single person attain enlightenment.

Daimoku [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] chanted by SGI members now resonates in every corner of the globe. Our prayers will continue to open the treasure tower in the life of one person after another, in increasing numbers, until a clear path is forged toward transforming the destiny of the places where we live.

Now is the time—based on our prayers to actualize the ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land” and through our efforts to build a treasure land in the place where we have vowed to fulfill our mission—to spread an ever-growing network of joyous and united global citizens!

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


  1. Seikyo Shimbun: The Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. ↩︎
  2. February Campaign: In February 1952, SGI President Ikeda, then an adviser to Tokyo’s Kamata Chapter, initiated a dynamic propagation campaign. Together with the Kamata members, he broke through the previous monthly record of some 100 new member households by introducing Nichiren Buddhism to 201 new member households. ↩︎
  3. “On Prayer” was written by Nichiren Daishonin in 1272, when he was in exile on Sado Island. It is thought to be a reply to questions raised by Sairen-bo, a former priest of the Tendai school of Buddhism, who was also living in exile on Sado at the time and who later embraced faith in Nichiren’s teachings. In this letter, the Daishonin distinguishes between the efficacy of prayer based on schools that prevailed in Japanese society of the day—including the Flower Garland, Dharma Characteristics, Precepts, True Word and Tendai schools—and prayer based upon the Lotus Sutra. He declares that it is impossible that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra should go unanswered. ↩︎
  4. Tatsunokuchi Persecution and Sado Exile: On September 12, 1271, the authorities arrested Nichiren and took him to a place called Tatsunokuchi on the outskirts of Kamakura, where they tried to execute him under cover of darkness. When the execution attempt failed, he was held in detention at the residence of the deputy constable of Sado, Homma Rokuro Saemon, in Echi (part of present-day Kanagawa Prefecture). After a period of about a month while the government debated what to do with him, he was exiled to Sado Island, which was tantamount to a death sentence. However, when his predictions of internal strife and foreign invasion were fulfilled, the government issued a pardon in March 1274, and he returned to Kamakura. ↩︎
  5. The four continents refers to the continents located in the outermost circular sea surrounding Mount Sumeru, according to the ancient Indian worldview. ↩︎
  6. 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 and 4) the hindrance of the devil king. ↩︎
  7. A passage from “Emerging from the Earth,” the 15th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The image of the lotus producing pure flowers in a muddy swamp is used to illustrate how the Bodhisattvas of the Earth are unsoiled by earthly desires, karma and suffering. ↩︎
  8. “The Properties of Rice” is addressed to a leading disciple in the Fuji region of Suruga Province (central Shizuoka Prefecture) and seems to be a fragment of a longer letter. It was once thought to be addressed to the lay priest Takahashi Rokuro Hyoe, but this cannot be confirmed. ↩︎
  9. Reverse relationship: Also, poison-drum relationship. A bond formed with the Lotus Sutra by opposing or slandering it. One who opposes the Lotus Sutra when it is preached will still form a relationship with it by virtue of opposition, and will thereby attain Buddhahood eventually. A “poison drum” is a mythical drum daubed with poison; this is a reference to a statement in the Nirvana Sutra that once the poison drum is beaten, all those who hear it will die, even if they are not of the mind to listen to it. Similarly, when the correct teaching is preached, both those who embrace it and those who oppose it will equally receive the seeds of Buddhahood, and even those who oppose it will attain Buddhahood eventually. In this analogy, the “death” that results from hearing the correct teaching is the death of illusion or earthly desires. This metaphor is used to illustrate the benefit of even a reverse relationship with Buddhism. ↩︎
  10. Elise Boulding and Daisaku Ikeda, Into Full Flower: Making Peace Cultures Happen (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Dialogue Path Press, 2010), p. 98. ↩︎
  11. Ibid., p. 93. ↩︎
  12. Translated from Japanese. From an article in the Daibyakurenge, May 2010 issue. ↩︎
  13. “Earthly desires are enlightenment”: A Mahayana principle based on the view that earthly desires cannot exist independently on their own; therefore one can attain enlightenment without eliminating earthly desires. This contrasts with the Hinayana view that extinguishing earthly desires is a prerequisite for enlightenment. According to the Hinayana teachings, earthly desires and enlightenment are two independent and opposing factors, and the two cannot coexist; while the Mahayana teachings reveal that earthly desires are one with and inseparable from enlightenment. This is because all things, even earthly desires and enlightenment, are manifestations of  unchanging reality or truth—and thus are non-dual at their source. ↩︎

The Driving Force for Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land