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Ikeda Sensei

Believe in Your Own Potential!

The Lay Nun Nichinyo

person climbing on gray rock
Davyd Bortnik / Pexels

The following is from Ikeda Sensei’s series addressing members of the junior high and high school divisions. This installment originally appeared in the May 1, 2019, issue of the Mirai [Future] Journal, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly newspaper for the junior high and high school divisions.

May, the month of fresh greenery and pleasant breezes, is here. Carp streamers, traditionally flown to celebrate Japan’s annual Children’s Day (on May 5), wave serenely against bright blue skies, lifting people’s hearts.

The custom of flying carp streamers is said to have originated from an ancient Chinese legend. According to the tale, a carp that succeeds in climbing the powerful rapids will turn into a dragon and soar freely into the sky. This symbolizes all of you, my dear friends of the future division, developing into outstanding individuals and taking flight into the skies of your mission.

Motivated by my wish for the wonderful growth of my beloved successors of Soka, on May 5, 1976, I joined representatives of the future division in releasing some carp into the pond on the grounds of the Kansai Toda Memorial Auditorium in Osaka. Earlier that day, I also suggested designating May 5 as Soka Gakkai Successors Day and presented the future division members with six guidelines. In 2013, I added one more, making a total of seven:

1. Let’s take care of our health
2. Let’s read books
3. Let’s always use common sense
4. Let’s have patience
5. Let’s make lots of friends
6. Let’s accumulate good fortune
7. Let’s cherish our parents

At the beginning of a new school year,[1] some of you may feel unsure of yourselves at times. But never forget that each of you possesses precious and infinite potential.

Let’s reaffirm this together in this installment through studying passages from one of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings.

Various calamities, including attacks by the Mongol forces, made the Kamakura period (1185–1333) one of great turmoil. In the midst of these times, Nichiren conferred the Gohonzon upon the lay nun Nichinyo, a disciple of steadfast faith. From the Daishonin’s letters to her, we can tell that Nichinyo was a person of deep faith and wisdom who studied Buddhism with an eager seeking spirit.

In August 1277, Nichiren wrote a letter thanking her for the sincere offerings she had sent him to express her gratitude upon receiving the Gohonzon.

In that letter, titled “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” he writes: “Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 832).

Living in those uncertain times, Nichinyo must have chanted earnestly to the Gohonzon each day for her own happiness and security, as well as that of her family members and those around her.

Here, the Daishonin clearly states that the Gohonzon does not exist outside of her but within her own life. How astonished and inspired Nichinyo must have been to hear that the wondrous Gohonzon and her own life were one and the same.

This is an essential teaching of Nichiren Buddhism.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda once responded to a question about the meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo from a young woman who had recently started practicing.

“That’s a good question,” he said with a smile, adding: “When you get right down to it, you could say that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the life of Nichiren Daishonin, and your life as his disciple is also Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Please live with self-confidence, pride and optimism.”

When we look at the Gohonzon, we find “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Nichiren” inscribed down the center, with the names of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, the gods of the sun and the moon, and other figures on either side. These symbolize functions and power we inherently possess within our lives. When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon, we can tap that vast, limitless power that embraces the entire universe. Therefore, we will never fail to become happy. We can fulfill all of our prayers and shine radiantly in our own unique way. There is no need to compare ourselves to others.

No matter what happens, steadfastly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and confidently tap the wisdom and strength that reside within you, and patiently continue making steady efforts.

In my dialogue with the acclaimed musicians Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, we discussed the importance of believing in oneself. Both of these jazz greats are SGI-USA members, who ceaselessly challenge themselves to open new frontiers in music.

Mr. Hancock said he still treasures a lesson imparted to him by one of the musicians that inspired him in his youth—that is, to “have the strength of your own convictions.”[2] If you have the strength to keep trusting yourself, you’ll always be OK, wherever you are, Mr. Hancock said.

Perhaps some of you aren’t doing as well as you would like in your studies or extracurricular activities. You may feel discouraged because no one is praising you or showing their faith in you.

But never give up on yourself. If you keep trying, you may succeed the next time. And if not, be determined to do so the following time around.

Encourage yourself in that way, and continue challenging yourself with a positive outlook. That’s the path to certain victory and to becoming a stronger, more capable person.

In the letter we are studying, Nichiren goes on to say: “This Gohonzon also is found only in the two characters for faith.[3] This is what the [Lotus Sutra] means when it states that one can ‘gain entrance through faith alone’ [The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 110]” (WND-1, 832).

To have faith is to believe and to continue believing until the end. By steadfastly chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and moving forward with the conviction that you are one with the Gohonzon, you will be able to open the way infinitely to hope, happiness and victory without fail.

Keep believing in your potential! Unleash your full potential while helping others do the same!—this is the spirit shared by members around the world; it is the heart of Soka that I wish to entrust to you, my dear young successors.


  1. In Japan, the new school year begins in April. ↩︎
  2. Herbie Hancock, Daisaku Ikeda and Wayne Shorter, Reaching Beyond: Improvisations on Jazz, Buddhism, and a Joyful Life (Santa Monica, California: World Tribune Press, 2017), p. 50. ↩︎
  3. The Japanese word for faith consists of two Chinese characters. ↩︎

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