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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

Sharing Nichiren Buddhism—The Compassionate Practice for Realizing Happiness for Ourselves and Others

Creating a Century of Humanism in Which All Can Shine—Part 2 [58]

February 11 (2020) marks the 120th anniversary of the birth of my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda.

That great leader of propagation called out to his beloved disciples: “My fellow Bodhisattvas of the Earth, let’s take on this challenge [of making kosen-rufu a reality]!”

Sharing the Mystic Law with others is the proud mission of the Soka Gakkai, the organization carrying out the Buddha’s intent, the gathering of Bodhisattvas of the Earth entrusted by Nichiren Daishonin with actualizing kosen-rufu in the Latter Day of the Law.

That mission is the essence and lifeblood of Nichiren Buddhism that enables us to realize happiness for ourselves and help others do the same.

The Shared Struggle of Mentor and Disciple to Spread the Mystic Law

During the winter of 1952, I urged my fellow members of Tokyo’s Kamata Chapter to celebrate February, the birth month of both Nichiren Daishonin (February 16) and Josei Toda (February 11), by achieving a new record of propagation.

As a disciple of Mr. Toda, a great mentor of kosen-rufu, I was determined to repay my debt of gratitude to him by significantly growing the Soka Gakkai’s membership. That effort later came to be known as the February Campaign,[1] in which we accomplished a stunning breakthrough in expanding our movement for kosen-rufu.

Advancing kosen-rufu is the best possible way to repay our debt of gratitude to our mentor.

“The Only Memory of Your Present Life in This Human World”

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Single-mindedly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and urge others to do the same; that will remain as the only memory of your present life in this human world” (“Questions and Answers about Embracing the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, 64).

The practice of chanting and spreading Nam-myoho-renge-kyo not only puts others on a course to happiness, but also imbues our own lives with good fortune and benefit. It is the direct path to happiness for both ourselves and others.

Our efforts to spread the Mystic Law contain every aspect of Buddhist practice and are the highest expression of faith.

In this installment, let us examine the mission and conviction of the Soka Gakkai, whose members are joyfully carrying out Buddhist dialogue around the world toward realizing happiness for all people.

We Have All Been Born as Envoys of the Buddha

Point Three, on the passage “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. He has been dispatched by the Thus Come One and carries out the Thus Come One’s work” [The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 200].

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The practitioner of the Lotus Sutra acts as the “envoy of the Thus Come One.” The “Thus Come One” is Shakyamuni, and “the Thus Come One’s work” is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

“Thus Come One” also refers to the living beings of the Ten Worlds and three thousand realms. Now Nichiren and his followers, who now chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are the true envoys. (From The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, pp. 82–83)[2]

Each of us has been born at this particular time and place as an envoy of the Buddha. As mentor and disciples, as comrades in faith, linked by profound karmic ties, we are living our lives together dedicated to a shared noble mission.

The above passage from The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says that, in light of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishonin and his followers who are spreading the Mystic Law in the Latter Day are the true envoys of the Buddha.

It further states that “ ‘Thus Come One’ also refers to the living beings of the Ten Worlds and three thousand realms” (OTT, 83), indicating that we living beings are all originally Thus Come Ones—in other words, Buddhas.

The “envoy of the Thus Come One,” therefore, is not some special being. Anyone who has faith in the Gohonzon, chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and encourages others to do the same is carrying out the “Thus Come One’s work,” which makes them a genuine envoy of the Buddha.

The Spirit of Sharing Buddhism Is the Spirit of the Buddha

Josei Toda had the highest praise for members who were sharing Buddhism with others. He said, “Always honor those spreading the Mystic Law and taking part in Soka Gakkai activities, because they are putting the essence of Nichiren Buddhism into practice.”

Warmly encouraging members who were finding it hard to introduce others to the practice, he said: “Don’t worry. The benefit you gain when you talk to someone about Buddhism, whether they start practicing right away or not, is the same. The time will come when your efforts will bear fruit, so keep on sowing seeds.”

The spirit of sharing Buddhism, whether or not we achieve immediate results, is the spirit of the Buddha. Such efforts themselves constitute the sacred endeavor to enable all people to attain happiness, which is the Buddha’s wish. We will gain immeasurable benefit from doing so, without fail.

Though your attempts to share Buddhism may meet with criticism stemming from people’s lack of understanding, the fact that you took action will plant roots of good fortune in your life. The key is to maintain an open heart and continue doing your best, praying that your sincerity will reach others and that you can fulfill your mission in this world as an envoy of the Buddha. All of your efforts enable others to forge a connection with Buddhism. All you need to do is joyfully share your faith.

Both the person sharing Buddhism and the person hearing about it will receive benefit. Please remember that “the voice carries out the work of the Buddha” (OTT, 4).

Enabling All to Attain a State of Absolute Happiness

Josei Toda was imprisoned for his beliefs and deprived of his physical freedom by militarist authorities during World War II. It was then that he came to realize he was in fact a Bodhisattva of the Earth who had taken part in the Ceremony in the Air[3] described in the Lotus Sutra.

Through his awakening in prison, Mr. Toda gained the powerful conviction that “I am a Bodhisattva of the Earth!” That moment opened the way for our worldwide kosen-rufu movement today.

He resolved that he would work to help all people awaken to their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, to their pride in being envoys of the Buddha, just as he had done in his prison cell.

Mr. Toda didn’t ask his disciples to propagate Buddhism. Instead, he strove to enable them all to achieve a state of absolute happiness in which life itself is a joy. To that end, he strongly urged them to live their lives as envoys of the Buddha.

Living Based on Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

I once asked Josei Toda if teaching others about Nichiren Buddhism is, in effect, teaching ourselves.

He responded by touching on the essence of faith, declaring that when we teach others about Nichiren Buddhism, we are living based on Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That’s all there is to it; there is no technique or trick to it, he added.[4]

How wonderful it is to live based on Nam-myoho-renge-kyo! It means we are dedicating ourselves to our mission as envoys of the Buddha, as Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

It means that the spirit of sharing the Mystic Law with others is at the core of our lives. When this is the case, the greatness of Buddhism will be apparent in our attitude toward living and our view of life and death. As long as this conviction and pride in our faith are our core, we will naturally want to speak to others about how wonderful our Buddhist practice is. At the same time, we can demonstrate the truth of Buddhism through our example. This is what it means to align our lives with the rhythm of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

We are never for a moment separate from the life state of Buddhahood. It is always with us, present in us, and one with us. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says, “The Buddha nature and the Buddha body are both none other than the bodies and minds that constitute living beings” (OTT, 236). Therefore, we will invariably attain a life condition in which we can freely employ the wisdom, power and courage of the Buddha.

The Great Life State of Buddhahood Flows Forth

Josei Toda declared: “Propagating the Mystic Law in the Latter Day of the Law simply means deciding, ‘My life is none other than Nam-myoho-renge-kyo!’”[5]

We are ordinary people inundated by all manner of problems and striving earnestly to navigate our way through the turbulence of society. But when we make Nichiren Daishonin’s wish for the compassionate propagation of the Mystic Law our personal mission, we unlock a powerful life force that can overcome even the fiercest onslaughts of karma. The life state of Buddhahood flows forth moment by moment.

One of the passages from The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings that first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi treasured is: “The Buddha of the true aspect of reality resides in the midst of the mud and mire of earthly desires. This refers to us living beings” (OTT, 91).

Nichiren promises us that we can surmount every obstacle and develop a state of unsurpassed happiness that will endure for eternity, and that our families, too, will enjoy good fortune for generations to come. There is truly no greater source of joy or pride.

The Practice of Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in the Latter Day of the Law Is for Oneself and Others

The term “daimoku” has two meanings: one indicates the daimoku of the Former and Middle Days of the Law, and the other indicates that of the Latter Day of the Law.[6]

During the Former Day of the Law, [the Indian Buddhist scholars] Bodhisattva Vasubandhu and Bodhisattva Nagarjuna chanted the daimoku, but they did this solely as a practice for themselves and went no further than that. In the Middle Day of the Law [the Chinese Buddhist teachers] Nan-yüeh[7] and T’ien-t’ai likewise chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; they did so as a practice for their own benefit, but they did not expound it widely for others. These examples may be called the daimoku of meditative practice.

Now, however, we have entered the Latter Day of the Law, and the daimoku that I, Nichiren, chant is different from that of earlier ages. This Nam-myoho-renge-kyo encompasses both practice for oneself and the teaching of others. Its five characters are the five major principles of name, essence, quality, function, and teaching.[8] (“On the Receiving of the Three Great Secret Laws,” WND-2, 986)[9]

This passage from Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “On the Receiving of the Three Great Secret Laws” teaches the nature of the practice of daimoku, or chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, in the Latter Day of the Law.

The Buddhist teachers who advocated the Lotus Sutra in the Former and Middle Days of the Law chanted daimoku for their own benefit, but did not teach it to others, the Daishonin says. In contrast, the daimoku he established involves not only practice for oneself. It is the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo both for oneself and for others, the way to relieve the suffering of all humankind in the Latter Day of the Law.

The only way to fundamentally free people from suffering in this evil age is to activate their inherent Buddha nature by teaching them about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and directly planting the seed for enlightenment in their lives. In other words, the teaching to be spread in the Latter Day is the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and the way to practice it is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo oneself and teach others to do the same.

Nichiren says that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo encompasses the five major principles of name, essence, quality, function and teaching. He does so to indicate that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the crystallization of the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha, who wishes to free all people from suffering, and further that it contains all possible benefit and good fortune.

What We Pray for Is Reflected in Our Life State

While facing great persecution, Nichiren Daishonin continued to pray for the happiness of all people. As he states, “The Buddha mind is a mind of great pity and compassion” (OTT, 164).

The heart of the daimoku of the Latter Day of the Law is “great pity and compassion” that seeks to relieve the suffering of humankind.

When we encounter problems and hardships, it’s all too easy to become wrapped up in praying only for ourselves. But our state of life reflects what we pray for.

When we broaden the focus of our prayers and chant for the lofty cause of kosen-rufu, this will also encompass all of our personal worries. Through the beneficial power of the Mystic Law, we can expand our state of life, transform our karma and change our problems into invaluable treasures.

Our prayers infused with a vow for kosen-rufu are what enable us to break through the shell of our lesser self that is dominated by suffering and lead a life based on our greater self. They are prayers of compassion that let us develop into people who can help others become happy, people who can contribute to world peace. They are prayers of courage that summon forth the heart of the lion king within us. And they are prayers of joy that enable us always to forge ahead positively on the path of our human revolution.

The Practice for Breaking Through Fundamental Ignorance

At the same time, our prayers directed toward sharing Nichiren Buddhism with others are prayers that set in motion an inner transformation. They conquer the fundamental ignorance[10] that is the root cause of all suffering and reveal our fundamental nature of enlightenment or Dharma nature.[11]

As Nichiren Daishonin states: “The element ku [meaning ‘merit’] in the word kudoku [benefit] … refers to the merit achieved by wiping out evil, while the element toku or doku [meaning ‘virtue’] refers to the virtue one acquires by bringing about good” (OTT, 148).

Sharing Nichiren Buddhism is a challenge to defeat the ignorance inherent in both our own and others’ lives, and together elevate our life state to reveal our innate enlightened nature. The term shakubuku, often used to refer to propagation in Nichiren Buddhism, originally has the meaning of “strict refutation.” In essence, however, it represents the intense spiritual struggle involved in vanquishing fundamental ignorance that is the ultimate source of all misery. Shakubuku is another name for dialogue based on compassion and friendship.

Josei Toda said: “Though we are suffering ourselves, we reach out to others to encourage them and help them become happy. That is how we become Buddhas and enfold our families and loved ones in great good fortune.”

How to relieve the suffering of others is the concern of a Buddha, the noblest concern of all. Based on the principle that earthly desires lead to enlightenment,[12] our concern for others enables us to forge and polish our lives, accumulate causes for attaining Buddhahood, and enjoy immeasurable good fortune.

Mr. Toda also said, “When we share Nichiren Buddhism with someone [even if they do not take faith], trust remains.” Through our patient and tireless efforts to chant and tell others about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we vanquish fundamental ignorance and attain a state of absolute happiness guided by our enlightened nature. In this way, we can sow the seeds of happiness and hope in the hearts of others.

We Owe a Debt of Gratitude to All Living Beings

The first of the four universal vows[13] that bodhisattvas make when they begin their Buddhist practice is the vow to save innumerable living beings.

The commitment to relieving the suffering of all, to dedicating oneself to the happiness of humanity— establishing this compassionate spirit in one’s heart is the first step on the path to attaining Buddhahood.

Becoming a person who can pray for the happiness of others puts us on the sure path to enlightenment, the way to eternal growth and victory in life.

Nichiren also writes: “Were it not for them [all living beings], one would find it impossible to make the vow to save innumerable living beings” (“The Four Debts of Gratitude,” WND-1, 43). He goes so far as to say that we owe a profound debt to the people of the world who are suffering, for they are the reason we make a vow to lead others to enlightenment and give our all to realizing it.

The principle of “leaving no one behind” underlies the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that global society is working together to achieve. It resonates with the spirit of compassion exemplified by the bodhisattva vow to free all people from suffering.

The time has come when our worldwide movement for peace will shine ever more brightly as a reliable light of hope for humankind.

Love and Consideration for Others

In a 1970 interview published by the Mainichi Shimbun (one of Japan’s leading daily newspapers), British historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1889–1975) replied to questions from Japanese readers. It was a few years before my dialogue with him (which took place in 1972–73). In that interview, a reader asked what the world’s suffering children could turn to for spiritual support and sustenance. Dr. Toynbee replied that all human beings, whether rich or poor, face the same sufferings—mental and physical pain, the inevitability of death, the loss of loved ones and so on. These sufferings are part of the essence of human existence, he said, asserting his belief that it was religion that could relieve them. He then added that by religion, he didn’t mean doctrines or rites, but rather love and consideration for the well-being of fellow human beings. Without following and believing in some form of religion that enables people to liberate themselves from the fetters of the ego, he concluded, leaife becomes difficult to endure for everyone.[14]

In our dialogue, Dr. Toynbee also stressed the importance of establishing respect for human dignity, which he said can only come about when compassion and love govern people’s actions.[15]

We are incredibly fortunate to be practicing the humanistic teachings of Nichiren Buddhism, which affirm the dignity and worth of all people, and to be dedicating our lives to the great vow for kosen-rufu, the shared vow of mentor and disciple. Our daily efforts in Buddhist practice are an indisputable source of compassion that enables us to work for the happiness of others and bring peace and security to society.

Worldwide Kosen-rufu Starts With the Person in Front of Us

Josei Toda said: “We are carrying out a great revolution. It is not a revolution waged by military force or political power. It is a nonviolent revolution—a human revolution. That is the true revolution.”

The grand goal of worldwide kosen-rufu ultimately starts with engaging in dialogue with the person in front of us.

Our efforts to talk with others about Nichiren Buddhism will shine throughout eternity as the brilliant legacy of the struggle shared by mentor and disciple that accords with the law of life.

“Since we are Bodhisattvas of the Earth, / we have a mission to fulfill in this world”—with these lines from the Soka Gakkai’s “Song of Human Revolution” resounding in our hearts, let us continue forging ahead freely in a vibrant dance of joy toward realizing our mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth!

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


  1. February Campaign: In February 1952, Ikeda Sensei, 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. ↩︎
  2. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings: A collection of Nichiren Daishonin’s oral teachings on the Lotus Sutra delivered while he lived on Mount Minobu. They were recorded and compiled in two volumes by his disciple and successor Nikko Shonin. This passage is from point three in the “Sixteen Important Points about ‘The Teacher of the Law’ Chapter.” ↩︎
  3. 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. ↩︎
  4. See Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (The Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 2 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1982), p. 466. ↩︎
  5. Ibid., pp. 466–67. ↩︎
  6. The time after Shakyamuni’s death is divided into three periods known as the Former, Middle and Latter Days of the Law. ↩︎
  7. Nan-yüeh: The teacher of T’ien-t’ai. ↩︎
  8. Five major principles of name, essence, quality, function and teaching: The five viewpoints from which T’ien-t’ai interprets the Lotus Sutra in his treatise, The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra. “Name” signifies the meaning of the title of a sutra. “Essence” signifies the ultimate principle of a sutra. “Quality” indicates the principal doctrines of a sutra. “Function” indicates the benefit and power of a sutra. And “teaching” refers to the position and influence of a sutra with respect to other sutras. ↩︎
  9. Addressed to Ota Jomyo (1222–83), “On the Receiving of the Three Great Secret Laws” explains the Three Great Secret Laws, which are the core principles of Nichiren Daishonin’s teaching. They are: the object of devotion of the essential teaching, the daimoku of the essential teaching and the sanctuary of the essential teaching. ↩︎
  10. Fundamental ignorance: The most deeply rooted illusion inherent in life, said to give rise to all other illusions. The inability to see or recognize the ultimate truth of the Mystic Law, as well as the negative acts that arise from such ignorance. ↩︎
  11. Fundamental nature of enlightenment, or Dharma nature: The unchanging nature inherent in all things and phenomena. It is identified with the fundamental Law itself, the essence of the Buddha’s enlightenment, or ultimate truth, and the Buddha nature inherent in life. ↩︎
  12. “Earthly desires lead to enlightenment” means that the wisdom for awakening to the ultimate truth for attaining Buddhahood (enlightenment) manifests in the lives of ordinary people who are ruled by earthly desires. ↩︎
  13. Four universal vows: Four vows made by bodhisattvas when they embark on Buddhist practice: 1) to save innumerable living beings, 2) to eradicate unlimited earthly desires, 3) to master inexhaustible doctrines and 4) to attain unsurpassed enlightenment. ↩︎
  14. Translated from Japanese. Arnold Toynbee, Toinbi to Anata no Taiwa (Dialogue between You and Toynbee), edited by Yoshitaka Hoshino (Tokyo: Mainichi Shimbun, 1971), pp. 186–88. (Published only in Japanese.) ↩︎
  15. Arnold Toynbee and Daisaku Ikeda, Choose Life: A Dialogue (London: I. B. Tauris, 2007), p. 342. ↩︎

Our Mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth