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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

Carrying Out the Practice of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging on a Global Scale

Creating a Century of Humanism in Which All Can Shine—Part 1 [57]

The journey to propagate
the Mystic Law
is long;
let us encourage each other
and advance together.

I have very fond memories of this poem, which my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, composed at the start of a new year 65 years ago (in 1955) for his disciples striving alongside him. It is engraved on a monument in the northern courtyard of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu (in Shinanomachi, Tokyo), which will mark the seventh anniversary of its opening this year (in November).

Toward the Glorious Summit of Our Centennial

The journey of kosen-rufu is a journey to spread the Mystic Law. It accords with the westward transmission of Buddhism, the return of the essence of Buddhism from Japan back to India, the land of its origin, and on to the entire world.[1] Whenever I recite Mr. Toda’s poem to myself, I renew my determination to press ahead on the long journey of worldwide kosen-rufu, forever united with my mentor and my fellow members.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Soka Gakkai. In the course of our vast, unending journey of kosen-rufu, we have withstood countless storms of adversity and surmounted one towering peak of difficulty after another. That journey continues unflaggingly all around the world, and the glorious summit of our centennial (in 2030) is now clearly in view.

Encouragement Is an Expression of Respect and Trust

“Let us encourage each other / and advance together”—these words in Josei Toda’s New Year’s poem are the very essence of the practice of the humanistic teachings of Nichiren Buddhism.

Encouragement is by no means a one-way street. It is mutual; we encourage and are encouraged, striving and advancing together, as Josei Toda says.

And the foundation for encouragement is trust and respect for the other person. Genuine encouragement is born from a wholehearted belief in people’s inherent dignity and innate capacity for good.

It was based on this powerful conviction that President Toda tirelessly encouraged those overwhelmed by life’s sorrows or weighed down by karmic suffering. Regarding each person as a noble and precious individual possessing the Buddha nature, he continued to impart to them the light of hope. As Mr. Toda’s devoted disciple, I have also dedicated myself fully to encouraging others.

The actions of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,[2] who appears in the Lotus Sutra, stand as a model of this kind of encouragement.

“Never disparaging” signifies respecting others. Because we respect the life of every person we encounter, we can help them rouse courage deep from inside and powerfully bring forth their inherent life force. In addition, when we encourage others, we ourselves are also encouraged. Showing respect to others strengthens and endlessly enriches our own lives as well.

Buddhism Lies in Our Behavior as Human Beings

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “The heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the ‘Never Disparaging’ chapter. What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being” (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 851–52).

What this underscores for me is that we are not only carrying on the mission of kosen-rufu as Bodhisattvas of the Earth,[3] but are also joyfully spreading Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s practice of respecting all people in this troubled saha world[4] in the evil age after the Buddha’s passing. This sort of “behavior as a human being” is embodied in the action of encouraging the person right in front of us, and is at the core of our dialogue movement based on respect for the dignity of life and for all people.

In the following passage that we will study from “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” Nichiren Daishonin draws parallels between himself, as the votary of the Lotus Sutra of the Latter Day of the Law, and Bodhisattva Never Disparaging.

Becoming Happy Just as We Are

Under their protection [the protection of the heavenly gods and benevolent deities, as well as the bodhisattvas numerous as the dust  particles of a thousand worlds who emerged from beneath the ground], he [the votary of the Lotus Sutra] will [establish and] spread abroad widely throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world] the object of devotion of the essential teaching, or the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo.[5]

It was the same with Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, who lived in the Middle Day of the Law of the Buddha Awesome Sound King.[6] He propagated widely throughout his land the teaching of twenty-four characters that begins, “I have profound reverence for you … ,” and was attacked with sticks of wood by the whole population. The twenty-four characters of Never Disparaging and the five characters of Nichiren are different in wording, but accord with the same principle. The end of the Buddha Awesome Sound King’s Middle Day and the beginning of this Latter Day of the Law are exactly the same in method of conversion. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging was a practitioner at the initial stage of rejoicing; Nichiren is an ordinary practitioner at the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth.[7] (“On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” WND-1, 400)[8]

Josei Toda lectured on “On the Buddha’s Prophecy” at the Nakanoshima Civic Hall in Osaka in January 1956, at the beginning of the historic Osaka Campaign.[9] He also underlined the 24-character Lotus Sutra[10]—referred to in the above passage as “the teaching of twenty-four characters”—in his own copy of the Lotus Sutra.

In his lecture, he noted: “Neither Bodhisattva Never Disparaging nor Nichiren Daishonin had the appearance of a magnificent, light-emanating Buddha. The Daishonin was an ordinary human being. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging was a practitioner at the ‘initial stage of rejoicing,’ someone who had just started practicing.”[11]

In other words, he was declaring that we can become happy just as we are.

Maintaining the Joy of Faith

A Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law is an ordinary human being, not a resplendent Buddha with superhuman attributes, such as those described in sutras as expedient means. We do not need to try to impress others, put on airs or pretend to be something we’re not. We ordinary people living in the saha world are all inherently Buddhas, endowed with supreme dignity.

As the term “initial stage of rejoicing” indicates, faith is not measured by how long we’ve practiced Buddhism or our position in the organization. Through his lecture on “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” Josei Toda emphasized to the new members in Kansai the importance of maintaining the fresh joy of faith.

Reaching Out to Those Around Us

Many of those listening to Josei Toda’s lecture on that occasion were struggling with hardship and adversity in their lives. Some were in a state of utter despair or had lost self-confidence. But Mr. Toda gave them courage, assuring them that all they needed to do was share Buddhism with others confidently, and that, as stated in Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, they would definitely attain the great life state of Buddhahood and enjoy absolute happiness through their faith and practice. His insistence that they could attain Buddhahood and that they were “great ordinary people” deeply touched these honest, down-to-earth men and women. Filled with joy, they actively set out to share Nichiren Buddhism with others.

Emulating the behavior of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, they reached out to everyone they met, saw or knew, and courageously engaged them in dialogue. They explained to them that they could definitely become happy through practicing Nichiren Buddhism and solve their problems by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Such tenacious efforts in dialogue paved the way for their immortal achievement in the Osaka Campaign.

“It is like the situation when one faces a mirror and makes a bow of obeisance: the image in the mirror likewise makes a bow of obeisance to oneself” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 165). They put these words of the Daishonin—words that first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi had also underlined in his copy of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings—into practice and made “a bow of obeisance”—conveying utmost respect—to the Buddha nature in each person they encountered.

Be Sensible and Flexible

Never Disparaging was not by any measure an eminent bodhisattva. Nor is he described as a person of great learning. He simply persisted in bowing respectfully to people, declaring, “I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 308). Those he addressed, however, far from being grateful, were angered, deriding him for his ignorance and attacking him for what he said.

But even when some assaulted him with sticks and stones, he just ran to a safe distance and from there once again loudly proclaimed: “You are certain to become Buddhas!” He was sensible and flexible. He wisely avoided attempts to do him harm, but still said what needed to be said. No matter how harsh the verbal abuse showered on him, he didn’t become pessimistic or dejected. He remained calm and unruffled, and continued his efforts to reach out to others, day after day. His tenacious behavior shines with genuine humanity.

The Importance of One-to-One Dialogue

There is one more aspect of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s actions to which I would like to draw your attention.

While the people he addressed reacted with hostility, they also couldn’t help but recognize the truth of his words. Put another way, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging conveyed the essence of Buddhism by connecting with each person’s life.

“The Teacher of the Law,” the 10th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, states that one who can “secretly expound the Lotus Sutra to one person” is the envoy of the Thus Come One [the Buddha], carrying out the work of the Thus Come One (see LSOC, 200).[12]

Bodhisattva Never Disparaging did his best to engage and to share Buddhism with the person in front of him. Year after year, he tirelessly reached out and spoke with one individual after another. That is how he spread the “24-character Lotus Sutra”—that is, the Lotus Sutra’s humanistic philosophy of respect for all people.

Sincere Actions Change People

Point Ten, on the words “when they [the arrogant four kinds of believers] saw that [Bodhisattva Never Disparaging] had gained great transcendental powers, the power to preach pleasingly and eloquently, the power of great goodness and tranquillity, and when they heard his preaching, they all took faith in him and willingly became his followers.” [LSOC, 309–10]

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The word “heard” refers to the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth, the second of the six stages of practice. In effect, this passage concerns the daimoku [Myoho-renge-kyo] that [as volume ten of T’ien-tai’s Words and Phrases says] is “preached in a forceful manner, though it angers them.”

[Regarding the phrase “they all took faith in him and willingly became his followers” (Jpn kai shinpuku zuiju):] The word “all” [kai] refers to the four kinds of believers who were overbearingly arrogant. The word “faith,” shin, refers to the faith or belief that is without doubt. The word “willingly,” fuku [puku], which literally means “to submit,” indicates that one submits and gives full allegiance to the Lotus Sutra. The word zui in the compound of zuiju, which literally means “to obey and follow” and is expressed as “became his followers” in the text, means that one’s mind is dedicated to the Lotus Sutra. The word ju means that one’s body is dedicated to the Lotus Sutra.

In effect this is saying that now Nichiren and his followers, practitioners of the Lotus Sutra who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are the bodhisattva Never Disparaging of the Latter Day of the Law. (OTT, 155)[13]

This passage from The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings confirms the wonderful fact that each of us taking action for kosen-rufu is a “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging of the Latter Day of the Law.”

In it, Nichiren Daishonin states that the arrogant four kinds of believers—namely, arrogant monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen—who attacked and persecuted Bodhisattva Never Disparaging finally placed their faith in his words through the power of “daimoku that is preached in a forceful manner, though it angers them” (OTT, 155).[14]

Immediately preceding the phrase “when they heard his preaching,” the Lotus Sutra describes the arrogant four kinds of believers as seeing Bodhisattva Never Disparaging “gaining great transcendental powers” and other abilities (see LSOC, 309–10). These symbolize a brilliant character that leaves a deep impression on others and a powerful eloquence that convinces them. When they witnessed Bodhisattva Never Disparaging demonstrating these qualities, the arrogant people who had regarded him so contemptuously were astonished and realized their mistake, acknowledging just what an outstanding individual he was.

Buddhism is about emerging triumphant. If we allow ourselves to be defeated by persecution and abandon our practice of never disparaging others, we are surrendering to the devilish function of arrogance. Because Bodhisattva Never Disparaging persisted in his efforts to the very end, “all took faith in him and willingly became his followers” (LSOC, 310). This was the triumph of his sincere, wholehearted practice of believing in the Buddha nature of all people, no matter how much he was scorned or persecuted.

Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s actions of showing respect for all people enfolded everyone he met in the warm light of compassion and changed the minds of the arrogant people who had attacked him. This was due to the power of “daimoku that is preached in a forceful manner, though it angers them.”

Creating a Society Built on Respect for All

When I met with the renowned scholar of political science Glenn Paige (1929–2017), who dedicated himself to the realization of a “non-killing society,” we discussed the spirit and actions of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging.[15]

I explained that Bodhisattva Never Disparaging tenaciously endured both physical and verbal violence and, with a belief in the Buddha nature of all people, continued to respect everyone without disparaging them.

I commented that it is easy to respond to violence with violence, but that will not put a stop to the cycle of evil. At the same time, silently enduring  violence without taking some action to stop it only encourages its growth. Instead, we must fight uncompromisingly, with a strong commitment to nonviolence, against violence of any form that violates human dignity. That is the practice of Buddhism, I said.

The hearts of those who devote themselves to this struggle to protect the dignity of life resound with a song of victory, I added, affirming my belief that fostering such champions and creating a climate of nonviolence is the way to build the foundation for lasting peace.

Dr. Paige wholeheartedly agreed. Our global movement dedicated to the cause of good is carrying out the practice of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging in the present as we continue our struggle for peace.

“Because People Are There”

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the Soka Gakkai International in Guam in 1975 (on January 26).

It was in the midst of the Cold War, and the world was divided into Eastern and Western blocs. I attended the meeting that day with a deep resolve that we would overcome this icy division, bringing people together and paving a sure path toward uniting humanity.

That is precisely why the previous year (1974) I traveled to the two communist nations of China and the Soviet Union in an effort to open doors to friendship.

When asked why I was visiting nations that rejected religion, I replied: “Because there are people there. I am going to meet the people.”

A Network of Global Citizens Embracing the World

Nichiren Buddhism exists for the welfare of all people. We must therefore act as Bodhisattva Never Disparaging did, respecting people and wishing to see them shine their brightest. We are not here to build our own happiness upon the misfortune of others. Rather, the purpose of the Soka Gakkai is to create an age in which all people can live with true dignity, to bring peace and happiness to all and to ensure the safety and security of our global community. Our Soka network of world citizens has made its appearance with this wondrous and noble mission.

Forty-five years have passed since the SGI’s inauguration. Since then, our organization has grown from 51 to a present total of 192 countries and territories, with the activities of our members across the globe featured daily in the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s newspaper.

Embodying the Spirit and Practice of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging

We now have members in Ushuaia, Argentina, one of the world’s southernmost cities, as well as in Vladivostok in Russia; in the Republic of Cabo Verde in the Atlantic Ocean; and in historic Kraków, Poland.

Fellow Bodhisattvas of the Earth have also dynamically emerged in India, the place of Buddhism’s origins, and throughout Asia, as well as in Europe, Africa, the Americas and Oceania.

Wherever they are, our members are cheerfully engaging in Buddhist dialogue aimed at encouraging others. They are treasuring each individual, working for their own and others’ happiness, transforming their karma into mission and doing their human revolution together as they strive to expand our network for peace.

It is no exaggeration to say that these unfolding dramas epitomize the spirit and practice of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, who saw and revered the supremely noble Buddha nature within each person’s life.

What We Do Now Decides the Future!

On the occasion of the founding of the SGI, which marked a fresh start on our journey of kosen-rufu and peace, I called out to the assembled representatives, who together shared a great mission and profound karmic ties: “You may not yet feel it, but in the next 50 or 100 years, the significance of this day will shine ever more brightly. … What you do from this point on will determine our world’s future.”

Let us set forth anew with fresh determination, asking ourselves, “What can I do from today?”

The most important thing we can do is keep moving forward, reaching out courageously to those around us and cheerfully encouraging one another as Bodhisattvas Never Disparaging of Soka, for the sake of the happiness and victory of ourselves and others. Each step we take opens a great hope-filled path to the future.

Our challenge has just begun. Let us strive even harder in the spirit of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging to create a century of respect for the dignity of life, a century of humanism in which all people shine!

Translated from the January 2020 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.


  1. This refers to the westward transmission of Buddhism, also known as the westward return of Buddhism. In “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” Nichiren Daishonin predicted that his Buddhism of the Sun would flow from Japan toward the west, returning to the countries through which Buddhism had originally been transmitted and spreading throughout the entire world (see The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 401). ↩︎
  2. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is described in “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,” the 20th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. This bodhisattva—Shakyamuni in a previous lifetime—lived at the end of the Middle Day of the Law following the death of the Buddha Awesome Sound King. He would bow to everyone he met and say: “I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance. Why? Because you will all practice the bodhisattva way and will then be able to attain Buddhahood” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 308). However, he was attacked by arrogant monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen, who beat him with sticks and staves and threw stones at him. The sutra explains that this practice became the cause for Bodhisattva Never Disparaging to attain Buddhahood. ↩︎
  3. 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, Shakyamuni entrusts Bodhisattva Superior Practices, the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, with spreading the Law in the saha world in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law. ↩︎
  4. Saha world: This world, which is full of suffering. Often translated as the world of endurance. In this context, the saha world indicates a world in which people must endure suffering. ↩︎
  5. 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 often uses Myoho-renge-kyo synonymously with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his writings. ↩︎
  6. Awesome Sound King: A Buddha mentioned in “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,” the 20th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging appeared during the Middle Day of the Law of Awesome Sound King when Buddhism was in decline and arrogant monks held great authority. ↩︎
  7. The “initial stage of rejoicing” and the “stage of hearing the name and words of the truth” both refer to the initial stages of practice taught in Buddhism. ↩︎
  8. Written on May 11, 1273, while Nichiren was residing at Ichinosawa on Sado Island, where he had been exiled. In this writing, he predicts the westward transmission of Buddhism. ↩︎
  9. Osaka Campaign: In May 1956, the Kansai members, uniting around a young Daisaku Ikeda, who had been dispatched by second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda to support them, introduced 11,111 households to the practice of Nichiren Buddhism in a single month. ↩︎
  10. The 24-character Lotus Sutra: Words with which Bodhisattva Never Disparaging praised the people he encountered. According to “The Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,” the 20th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, whenever he saw monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen, he would bow to them in reverence, saying: “I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance. Why? Because you will all practice the bodhisattva way and will then be able to attain Buddhahood” (LSOC, 308). His words, which in Kumarajiva’s Chinese translation consist of 24 characters, sum up the teaching of the Lotus Sutra that all people can attain Buddhahood, and are therefore known as the “24-character Lotus Sutra.” ↩︎
  11. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 6 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1986), p. 487. ↩︎
  12. “The Teacher of the Law,” the 10th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, states: “If one of these good men or good women in the time after I have passed into extinction is able to secretly expound the Lotus Sutra to one person, even one phrase of it, then you should know that he or she is the envoy of the Thus Come One [the Buddha]. He has been dispatched by the Thus Come One and carries out the Thus Come One’s work” (LSOC, 200). ↩︎
  13. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings is a two-volume record of lectures that Nichiren Daishonin gave on certain key passages of the Lotus Sutra while he was residing on Mount Minobu. It was recorded by Nikko Shonin. This passage is the tenth point from the section “Chapter Twenty: The Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, Thirty important points.” ↩︎
  14. In T’ien-t’ai’s Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 10, it describes forcefully sharing the correct teaching with those who do not wish to hear it in order to help them forge a link with Buddhism. ↩︎
  15. Their encounter took place at the Seikyo Shimbun Building in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, on December 13, 1989. ↩︎

Maintaining Steadfast Faith at a Crucial Moment