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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

Kosen-rufu—The Honor of Striving to Fulfill Our Vow as Bodhisattvas of the Earth

To My Beloved Youth—Part 5 [37]

Why did the Soka Gakkai appear in the world? What is its fundamental mission? The answer is none other than to realize kosen-rufu, the intent of Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.

Each year on the brilliant anniversary of May 3, Soka Gakkai Day, I am filled with a warm rush of emotions.

The lion’s roar of my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, resounds in my heart: “Let us set forth in our efforts for kosen-rufu again today! Join me in creating a new page of history! Let’s rise into action! Let’s strive together, upholding the great vow for kosen-rufu!”

Purifying the Prevailing Ideas of a Corrupt Age

The actualization of kosen-rufu is the essence of the vow shared by the three founding presidents of the Soka Gakkai, united by the bonds of mentor and disciple.

At a general meeting of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (Value-Creating Education Society; forerunner of the Soka Gakkai) held in May 1942, first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi resolutely called out for kosen-rufu to be achieved. This was at a time when Japan’s militarist government was clamping down on freedom of thought.

The following year, during interrogations after his unjust arrest (in July 1943), he was asked the meaning of kosen-rufu. He boldly replied that kosen-rufu is the process of purifying the philosophy and ideals prevalent in the corrupt age of the Latter Day—an evil age like today—with the truth of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.[1]

One-to-One Dialogue

On May 3, 1951, at his inauguration as second Soka Gakkai president, Josei Toda vowed to realize kosen-rufu, declaring, “I vow to achieve through my own efforts a membership of 750,000 households during my lifetime.” He also set forth the basic path for our efforts, stating that kosen-rufu in the modern age would be accomplished through one-to-one dialogue.

On May 3, 1960, I was inaugurated as third Soka Gakkai president, and began, as a representative of Mr. Toda’s disciples, to lead our organization in making another step toward the substantive realization of kosen-rufu. United in spirit with my mentor, I engraved these words of the Daishonin in my heart: “Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 280). With this as my foundation, I have single-mindedly dedicated myself to opening the great path to kosen-rufu, or world peace.

The Prayer of Bodhisattvas of the Earth

Today, noble and courageous Bodhisattvas of the Earth are gathering joyously from throughout Japan and around the world at the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters complex in Shinanomachi, Tokyo. There, they are offering prayers infused with their vow before the Soka Gakkai Kosen-rufu Gohonzon,[2] which bears the inscription “For the Fulfillment of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu through the Compassionate Propagation of the Great Law.”

In this installment, the final in this subseries addressed to my dear friends of the youth division, I would like to focus on kosen-rufu, the noble mission of the Soka Gakkai.

The Buddha’s Call for the Widespread Propagation of the Lotus Sutra

The seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra states, “After I [Shakyamuni] have passed into extinction, in the last five-hundred-year period[3] you must spread it [the Lotus Sutra] abroad widely throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world] and never allow it to be cut off” [The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 330]. On the one hand, it is deplorable to me that more than 2,220 years have already passed since the Buddha’s demise. What evil karma prevented me from being born in his lifetime? Why could not I have seen the four ranks of sages[4] in the Former Day of the Law, or [such great Buddhist teachers as] T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo[5] in the Middle Day of the Law? On the other hand, I rejoice at whatever good fortune enabled me to be born in the last five-hundred-year period and to read these true words of the sutra. (“On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” WND-1, 398)[6]

“On the Buddha’s Prophecy” is an important writing, which Nichiren Daishonin composed after “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind” (WND-1, 354) and “On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings” (WND-1, 391). It is a writing that we, as “disciples of Nichiren” dedicated to making his predictions for the Latter Day of the Law a reality, should study intently.

The Lotus Sutra quotation in this passage is from “Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King,” the 23rd chapter, and articulates Shakyamuni’s wish. In it, Shakyamuni is entrusting his disciples with the propagation of the Lotus Sutra throughout the world in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law after his death. These lines of the sutra show that kosen-rufu is indeed the Buddha’s intent.

Kosen-rufu is the mission of the Buddha’s disciples—that is, the mission to inherit and realize the Buddha’s wish to free people from the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death, and enable all humankind to attain a state of lasting happiness.

After quoting these words of the Lotus Sutra, the Daishonin says, “it is deplorable to me” (WND-1, 398), lamenting the fact that he was not born during the Buddha’s lifetime or during the time of the great Buddhist sages or teachers, but instead in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law.

He goes on to say, on the other hand, “I rejoice” (WND-1, 398), expressing his gratitude for having the fortune to be born in the Latter Day and there-fore witness the Buddha’s prophecy coming true.

This transformation from “deploring” to “rejoicing” has profound significance. At the time, Nichiren was undergoing a series of harsh persecutions. He was treated as a criminal and subsequently sentenced to exile, which was the equivalent of a death sentence, as he also attests in this writing:

During this period [since I began propagating the Mystic Law] I have suffered difficulties day after day and month after month. In the last two or three years, among other things, I was almost put to death. The chances are one in ten thousand that I will survive the year or even the month. (WND-1, 402)

Yet even under these circumstances, the Daishonin declares:

What fortune is mine to expiate in one lifetime the offenses of slandering the Law I have accumulated from the infinite past! How delighted I am to serve Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, whom I have never seen! I pray that before anything else I can guide and lead the ruler and those others who persecuted me. (WND-1, 402)

The word “rejoice” shows that his heart burned brightly with the spirit of a lion king to stand up alone for kosen-rufu in the Latter Day of the Law.

Even amid the harsh persecution he was experiencing, he was able to proclaim from his towering life state of Buddhahood:

It [Buddhism] 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 . . . I say that without fail Buddhism will arise and flow forth from the east, from the land of Japan. (WND-1, 401)

This is a declaration of the westward transmission of Buddhism and worldwide kosen-rufu.

Mr. Toda underlined this passage in his personal copy of Nichiren’s writings and frequently lectured on it.

The Transformation from Seeking Help to Helping Others

Let’s consider this great transformation from “deploring” to “rejoicing” in the context of our own lives.

For example, as human beings, we cannot choose the times or society into which we are born. Reality can be so cruel that we may lament the state of the world, and question why we have to live in such a corrupt, degenerate age. This spirit to deplore reflects the human mind that is controlled by its environment.

But human beings, no matter what their present circumstances or how difficult their environment, can live life on a completely different level through a transformation in their deepest attitude, or state of mind. That is the profound transformation from “deploring” to “rejoicing.” This is what happens when we actively engage in the movement for kosen-rufu. Only when we take initiative as the protagonist of our own life can we savor such joy.

The key to this great transformation is an awareness of our mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth.[7]

Through the process of human revolution, we change from people who seek help from the Buddha to people who work alongside the Buddha to help others become happy. Rather than deploring our karma to be afflicted by the pains of the evil age of the Latter Day, we take on the joy-filled mission of a bodhisattva, supporting and encouraging those around us and building happiness for ourselves and others, while challenging the raging waves of adversity.

This is the way of life of bodhisattvas who deliberately relinquish the reward due to them for their pure deeds and “voluntarily assume the appropriate karma”[8] to be born in an impure world in order to lead people to happiness (see LSOC, 200).

The Vow to Be Born In the Saha World

Unavoidably, each of us faces challenging situations or circumstances in our lives. We may experience painful hardships and sufferings. But the supreme way of life is to view these assaults of karma in a positive light, seeing them as having profound meaning and as situations that we ourselves are uniquely equipped to deal with.

This is the original spirit of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who vowed in the remote past to be born in the strife-filled saha world[9]in the Latter Day of the Law to propagate the Lotus Sutra.

While in prison during World War II, Josei Toda awakened to his mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth and, after his release, set out amid the devastation of Japan to fulfill the great vow to spread the Mystic Law. In the despair and misery of the postwar period, who else could have proudly vowed to carry out kosen-rufu at this moment?

Because our faith and Buddhist practice are dedicated to kosen-rufu, the Soka Gakkai is a religious organization actualizing the widespread propagation of the Mystic Law in accord with the Buddha’s intent.

A Scripture That Awakens Us to the Meaning of Life

In our discussions, I asked Dr. Margarita Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya, a leading Russian scholar of the Lotus Sutra, what she thought is the role or mission of the Lotus Sutra for humanity in the 21st century. She replied that the Lotus Sutra makes us reflect upon why we are doing what we do and where we as individuals and humanity as a whole are heading. It makes us think, she said, and that is its mission.[10]

The Lotus Sutra awakens us to the noblest and most fundamental meaning of life. It teaches that the supreme way of life is for each person to dedicate themselves to the great vow of kosen-rufu.

In the Lotus Sutra, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth are disciples from the remote past, whom Shakyamuni entrusts with the transmission of his teachings in the latter age after his passing.

Let us now examine a passage from “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” in which Nichiren clarifies the mission of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth who appear in the Latter Day of the Law.

All People Are Absolutely Respectworthy

There should be no discrimination among those who propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo[11] in the Latter Day of the Law, be they men or women. Were they not Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they could not chant the daimoku. At first only Nichiren chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but then two, three, and a hundred followed, chanting and teaching others. Propagation will unfold this way in the future as well. Does this not signify “emerging from the earth”? (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 385)[12]

There is no discrimination between men and women in the Lotus Sutra. They are equal. And all people, regardless of their social position, have the noble mission of kosen-rufu.

Nichiren Daishonin declares that “the figures of the men and women who embrace the Lotus Sutra” are each a treasure tower,[13]“whether eminent or humble, high or low” (WND-1, 299). He also praises his disciples, saying, “Anyone who teaches others even a single phrase of the Lotus Sutra is the envoy of the Thus Come One, whether that person be priest or layman, nun or laywoman” (WND-1, 33).

Everyone is a treasure tower, everyone is an envoy of the Thus Come One, an emissary of the Buddha. In other words, all people possess the supremely respectworthy Buddha nature and have infinite potential. The great teaching of Nichiren Buddhism clarifies this undisputable truth.

In the next sentence in the passage we are studying, Nichiren states that his disciples should chant and teach others in the same spirit as he, one who alone chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and practiced in accord with the Buddha’s teachings.

First one individual stands up, becoming the starting point, then that person speaks to another—this most basic connection between individuals is the foundation for the growth of kosen-rufu at all times and in all places, on into the future.

In the global development of the SGI that we see today, the steps for expanding kosen-rufu everywhere around the world, without exception, have started from this foundation of one person connecting with another. This is the path Nichiren refers to when he says, “Propagation will unfold this way in the future as well” (WND-1, 385).

The Joy of Taking Action of Our Own Volition

Through reading the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishonin realizes that he is one of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth who was present at the Ceremony in the Air.[14] Because of that, he says, “I feel immeasurable delight even though I am now an exile” (WND-1, 386).

When we are aware of our unsurpassed mission for kosen-rufu, stand up with faith infused with our vow, and strive to carry out our struggle with courage and wisdom, our lives overflow with “the greatest of all joys” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 212). As the Daishonin states, “Both oneself and others together will take joy in their possession of wisdom and compassion” (OTT, 146).

Making a great vow for kosen-rufu fills us with the joy of taking action of our own volition. There is joy in encountering the wonderful teaching of the Mystic Law and awakening to our profound mission on our own, without being forced or coerced. Because we are “overwhelmed with joy” (“Choosing the Heart of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-2, 485), we can’t help but tell others about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and “unrelentingly proclaim” (“On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings,” WND-1, 394) the power of the Mystic Law to those around us.

It was nothing other than Josei Toda’s awakening in prison to his identity as a Bodhisattva of the Earth that revived this spirit to strive for kosen-rufu that pulses within Nichiren Buddhism. His realization caused such joy to flow forth from his life that he was compelled to share it with people throughout Japan and around the world.

Nichiren writes that hearing someone rejoice causes us to rejoice as well (see “‘Expedient Means’ and ‘Life Span’ Chapters,” WND-1, 68). Joy creates a chain reaction. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo filled with joy, personal experiences of faith filled with joy, voices filled with joy—all resonate from one person to the next, creating a ripple effect from two to three to a hundred, and so on (see “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 385).

When I met Mr. Toda and felt his passionate commitment to kosen-rufu, I was electrified with joy. That fateful first encounter took place in the summer when I was 19.

I was also overjoyed when I heard him lecture on the Lotus Sutra, and was inspired to write in my diary: “Religious revolution is in itself human revolution … Youth, advance with boundless compassion! Youth, forge ahead, cherishing this great philosophy!”

And again, joy filled my being when I stood on the seashore in Atsuta Village in Hokkaido and Mr. Toda entrusted me with his dream for the future, telling me, “You must open the way of worldwide kosen-rufu in my stead.”

As these life-defining moments with my mentor accumulated, I deepened my resolve to dedicate myself to striving for kosen-rufu together with him, not only in this lifetime but throughout eternity.

“My Dear Disciples, Wondrous Comrades of the Assembly on Eagle Peak”

In his writings, Nichiren encourages the young Nanjo Tokimitsu[15] and others, stating, “My wish is that all my disciples make a great vow” (“The Dragon Gate,” WND-1, 1003). Taking these words to heart, I made a great vow and opened the way for kosen-rufu across the globe.

At the end of last year (2017), just before my 90th birthday (on January 2, 2018), I wrote, “My determination for the new year ahead is to strive together with all my dear disciples, wondrous comrades of the assembly on Eagle Peak,[16] to ensure that the Bodhisattvas of the Earth continue to emerge unceasingly into the eternal future of the Latter Day of the Law.”[17]

Kosen-rufu is the eternal adventure of mentor and disciple, a grand epic of a shared struggle unfolding throughout past, present and future.

Transforming the Land Through Imparting Courage and Hope

Our world today is rife with war and conflict. The threat of terrorism is growing. Social unrest caused by poverty and income disparity is intensifying, and the darkness of suffering is deep. As environmental destruction continues, so do terrible natural disasters.

But no matter how fiercely the storms of hardship rage or how daunting the obstacles in our path, in the light of the words of the Lotus Sutra, proud Bodhisattvas of the Earth are certain to appear, imparting courage and hope to all around them. If they did not, then the teachings of the Lotus Sutra would be false.

When one pioneering Bodhisattva of the Earth emerges, another and then another is guaranteed to appear and work together with those before them. As such people become vibrantly active in every corner of the world, they will produce a network of individuals striving for happiness and peace. This is the principle of “emerging from the earth” (see WND-1, 385). When a great alliance of Bodhisattvas of the Earth forms, it will change the destiny of an entire nation.

The time has come when, as the Lotus Sutra states, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth have “emerged at the same instant” (LSOC, 252).

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “‘Emerging’ indicates that at the time of kosen-rufu, living beings throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world] will be practitioners of the Lotus Sutra” (Gosho zenshu, p. 834).[18]

Carrying on the Baton of Kosen-rufu

Nothing can stop the steady flow of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, forming a mighty river of capable individuals bountifully nourishing the future of global society.

The members of the Soka Gakkai, Bodhi-sattvas of the Earth shining with faith dedicated to kosen-rufu, are emerging throughout the entire world as “Solemn, dignified … beings of great and lofty stature” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 253).

Our youth division members are courageously holding aloft the banner of truth and justice, and cheerfully building a network of peace and happiness.

I hope that you, my young friends, the successors to our movement around the world, will continue to advance in the unity of “many in body, one in mind” as you follow in the footsteps of the first three Soka Gakkai presidents and dedicate yourselves to fulfilling your vow as Bodhisattvas of the Earth. If you do, the Soka Gakkai will endure forever as the organization for kosen-rufu.

Sixty years have passed since I inherited the spiritual baton of kosen-rufu from my mentor, President Toda. I have devoted my life to kosen-rufu—this is my greatest honor as his direct disciple.

You, the youth, linked by wondrous karmic connections, are now inheriting this spiritual baton and striving together alongside me.

Creating a Realm of Happiness and Peace for Ourselves and Others

My dear young friends, united with me in spirit—I call on each of you to stand up with faith dedicated to kosen-rufu where you are right now!

I call on you to demonstrate actual proof of your faith as champions of life! I call on you to challenge your human revolution and steadily and patiently win the trust of others!

As long as we have you, the future of kosen-rufu is secure!

Please spread a realm of happiness and peace for yourselves and others around the world and into the future!

—With prayers for the health, victory and brilliant achievements of all my trustworthy, beloved disciples around the world.

Translated from the May 2018 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal, incorporating revisions from a compilation of the subseries “To My Dear Friends of the Youth Division” published in booklet form in Japanese in July 2018.


  1. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), pp. 199–200. ↩︎
  2. In addition to the words “For the Fulfillment of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu through the Compassionate Propagation of the Great Law,” this Gohonzon also bears the inscription “To Be Permanently Enshrined in the Soka Gakkai” (Jpn Soka Gakkai Joju). As a result, it is commonly called the Soka Gakkai Joju Gohonzon. It is also referred to as the Soka Gakkai Kosen-rufu Gohonzon. ↩︎
  3. Five five-hundred-year periods: Five consecutive periods following Shakyamuni’s death, during which Buddhism is said to spread, prosper and eventually decline. They are: 1) the “age of attaining liberation,” in which many people attain emancipation through practicing the Buddha’s teachings; 2) the “age of meditation,” when meditation is widely practiced; 3) the “age of reading, reciting and listening,” in which the people study and recite the sutras, and hear lectures on them as their central practice; 4) the “age of building temples and stupas,” when many temples and stupas are built, but the spirit of seeking the Buddhist teachings declines; and 5) the “age of quarrels and disputes,” also known as the age of conflict, when strife occurs among the various rival schools and Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings become obscured and lost. In terms of the three periods, the first thousand years correspond to the Former Day, the second thousand years correspond to the Middle Day and the last five hundred years correspond to the beginning of the Latter Day. ↩︎
  4. Four ranks of sages: Buddhist teachers upon whom people can rely. Though the four ranks represent the four levels of understanding, “the four ranks of sages” is often used as a generic term for such Buddhist teachers, irrespective of the level of their understanding. ↩︎
  5. T’ien-t’ai (538–97), also known as Chih-i, spread the Lotus Sutra in China, and established the doctrine of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life.” His lectures were compiled in such works as The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra, The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra and Great Concentration and Insight. Dengyo (767–822), also known as Saicho, was the founder of the Tendai (T’ien-t’ai) school in Japan. He traveled to China where he mastered the T’ien-t’ai teachings. ↩︎
  6. Nichiren Daishonin wrote “On the Buddha’s Prophecy” in 1273, during his exile on Sado Island. In it, he states that he alone has actualized Shakyamuni’s prophecy, and goes on to make his own prediction that the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is the essence of the Lotus Sutra, will spread widely throughout the world. ↩︎
  7. Bodhisattvas of the Earth: The innumerable bodhisattvas who appear in “Emerging from the Earth,” the 15th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, and are entrusted by Shakyamuni with the task of propagating the Law after his passing. In “Supernatural Powers,” the 21st chapter, led by Bodhisattva Superior Practices, they vow to spread the Buddha’s teaching in the saha world in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law. ↩︎
  8. Voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma: This refers to bodhisattvas who, though qualified to receive the pure rewards of Buddhist practice, relinquish them and make a vow to be reborn in an impure world in order to save living beings. They spread the Mystic Law, while undergoing the same sufferings as those born in the evil world due to karma. This term derives from Miao-lo’s interpretation of relevant passages in “The Teacher of the Law,” the 10th chapter of the Lotus Sutra: “Medicine King, you should understand that these people voluntarily relinquish the reward due them for their pure deeds and, in the time after I have passed into extinction, because they pity living beings, they are born in this evil world so they may broadly expound this sutra” (LSOC, 200). ↩︎
  9. Saha world: This world, which is full of suffering. Often translated as the world of endurance. In Sanskrit, saha means the earth; it derives from a root meaning “to bear” or “to endure.” For this reason, in the Chinese versions of Buddhist scriptures, saha is rendered as endurance. In this context, the saha world indicates a world in which people must endure suffering. ↩︎
  10. Translated from Japanese. Article in the Seikyo Shimbun, February 17, 1996. ↩︎
  11. Myoho-renge-kyo is written with five Chinese characters, while Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is written with seven (nam, or namu, being comprised of two characters). Nichiren Daishonin often uses Myoho-renge-kyo synonymously with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his writings. ↩︎
  12. Composed in May 1273, “The True Aspect of All Phenomena” was addressed to Nichiren’s priest-disciple Sairen-bo. In response to the latter’s question on “the true aspect of all phenomena,” he presented the most profound teachings of Buddhism, declaring that all his disciples who were of the same mind as he were Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and stating his conviction that kosen-rufu would certainly be achieved. ↩︎
  13. Treasure Tower: A tower decorated with the seven precious materials, which appears in “The Emergence of the Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Asserting that people who uphold the Gohonzon are treasure towers, Nichiren declares: “In the Latter Day of the Law, no treasure tower exists other than the figures of the men and women who embrace the Lotus Sutra” (“On the Treasure Tower,” WND-1, 299). ↩︎
  14. Ceremony in the Air: One of the three assemblies described in the Lotus Sutra, in which the entire gathering is suspended in space above the saha world. It extends from “Emergence of the Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter, to “Entrustment,” the 22nd chapter. The heart of this ceremony is the revelation of the Buddha’s original enlightenment in the remote past and the transfer of the essence of the sutra to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who are led by Bodhisattva Superior Practices. ↩︎
  15. Nanjo Tokimitsu (1259–1332) was a staunch follower of Nichiren and the steward of Ueno Village in Fuji District of Suruga Province. From the time Nichiren took up residence on Mount Minobu, Nanjo Tokimitsu enjoyed a close relationship with him, frequently receiving guidance. He played an admirable role defending the Daishonin’s followers during the Atsuhara Persecution, for which Nichiren dubbed him “Ueno the Worthy.” ↩︎
  16. The assembly on Eagle Peak: The assembly at which Shakyamuni preached the Lotus Sutra and which continues forever, as the Daishonin states, “The assembly on Holy Eagle Peak … continues in solemn state and has not yet disbanded” (OTT, 135). ↩︎
  17. See February 9, 2018, World Tribune, p. 3. ↩︎
  18. “Oko kikigaki” (The Recorded Lectures); not included in WND, vols. 1 or 2. ↩︎

Lions of Justice Vow