Skip to main content

Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

Putting Faith Into Practice and Showing Actual Proof of Happiness

Creating a Century of Humanism in Which All Can Shine—Part 3 [59]

Spring is here, the season when everything pulses with life.

In this significant year of the Soka Gakkai’s 90th anniversary, discussion meetings brimming with fresh vitality are being held everywhere.[1] They are attended by new members with whom we share deep karmic ties, as well as many friends and acquaintances. Discussion meetings are gatherings where Buddhist dialogue blossoms. Infused with the light of hope, they are always bright with smiles.

First Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi placed particular importance on discussion meetings. During World War II, authorities bent on repressing his just and humane activities filed charges against him. Those documents mention that Mr. Makiguchi conducted more than 240 discussion meetings at one Tokyo venue alone over a two-year period (between May 1941 and June 1943).[2] He was already in his early 70s at the time.

Discussion Meetings Proving the Way of Life of Great Good

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi called these gatherings “discussion meetings offering experimental evidence” and “discussion meetings proving the way of life of great good.” He regarded them as opportunities to share the process and results of putting the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism into practice.

Furthermore, by “great good,” he meant the highest good of all.

True to these descriptions, Soka Gakkai discussion meetings are gatherings where people enthusiastically discuss the actual proof they see in their lives from testing out the principles of Nichiren Buddhism.

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, said that if participants have firm faith, they can reveal the worlds of Buddhahood and Bodhisattva at discussion meetings. Our discussion meetings are bright gatherings filled with compassion, wisdom, conviction and courage.

Buddhism Is a Teaching for Daily Life

The validity of Buddhism is demonstrated only when it pulses vibrantly in people’s lives. Nichiren Buddhism is not a teaching to be practiced somewhere removed from daily life, cut off from other people and society. Rather, it teaches us to tend well to our daily lives while making steady efforts based on faith, to keep making progress as we encourage and support one another toward ushering in a springtime of victory. In doing so, we experience the benefits of Buddhist practice and strengthen our conviction in Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.

It is therefore important to practice and actualize the principles that “faith equals daily life” and “Buddhism is manifested in society.” With these principles as our theme, let us study Nichiren’s writings to deepen our understanding of Buddhism as a teaching for daily life.

The Path to Buddhahood Exists in Our Daily Lives

The true path lies in the affairs of this world. The Golden Light Sutra states, “To have a profound knowledge of this world is itself Buddhism.” The Nirvana Sutra states, “All of the non-Buddhist scriptures and writings in society are themselves Buddhist teachings, not non-Buddhist teachings.”

When the Great Teacher Miao-lo[3] compared these passages with the one from the sixth volume of the Lotus Sutra that reads, “No worldly affairs of life or work are ever contrary to the true reality,” he revealed their meaning and pointed out that although the first two sutras are profound, since their meaning is still shallow and fails to approach that of the Lotus Sutra, they relate secular matters in terms of Buddhism, whereas the Lotus Sutra explains that in the end secular matters are the entirety of Buddhism. (“The Gift of Rice,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1126)[4]

In this writing, “The Gift of Rice,” Nichiren Daishonin explains that the precious offering of rice, which sustains life, the “foremost of all treasures” (WND-1, 1125), is tantamount to offering one’s own life, and is therefore a source of boundless benefit. He also teaches that “earnest resolve” is the key for ordinary people to attain Buddhahood (see WND-1, 1125).

At the beginning of the above passage, the Daishonin refers to the “true path”—that is, the path to enlightenment for people of the Latter Day of the Law. This “true path,” he states, “lies in the affairs of this world.” The path to attaining Buddhahood is not found in some distant realm separate from our day-to-day affairs; rather, it is found right here and now, in our ordinary endeavors in the midst of society.

Buddhism and the Activities of Human Life

The pre-Lotus Sutra teachings hold that countless eons of practice are necessary to attain Buddhahood. They view the affairs of the world as an obstruction to enlightenment.

Nichiren explains here, however, that the Golden Light Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra[5] respectively interpret the relationship between Buddhism and daily life as follows: “To have a profound knowledge of this world is itself Buddhism,” and “All of the non-Buddhist scriptures and writings in society are themselves Buddhist teachings” (WND-1, 1126).

The Profound View of the Lotus Sutra

Next, citing a commentary by Miao-lo, Nichiren underscores the even deeper viewpoint of the Lotus Sutra, which teaches that, “No worldly affairs of life or work are ever contrary to the true reality” (WND-1, 1126).

Miao-lo indicates that the Golden Light Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra only relate the affairs of the world in terms of the Buddhist teachings, while the Lotus Sutra explains that ultimately all secular matters are the entirety of Buddhism (see WND-1, 1126). The Golden Light Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra teach that while Buddhism and worldly affairs have much in common, they are still distinct; in contrast, the Lotus Sutra declares that they are one and the same.

The words Nichiren attributes to the Lotus Sutra here—namely, “No worldly affairs of life or work are ever contrary to the true reality”—are actually a passage from a commentary by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai[6] paraphrasing a section in the sutra’s “Benefits of the Teacher of the Law,” the 19th chapter.[7] The Daishonin frequently cites these words in his writings. They indicate that all areas of human activity, from government to daily life, are in no way contrary to Buddhism, but in fact accord with it. Every aspect of our daily lives and the world we live in reflects the principles of Buddhism. Soka Gakkai members have engraved these words in their hearts as a guideline for contributing to their workplaces and society at large.

Contributing to Our Communities and Societies

Faith equals daily life and daily life equals faith. The joy of faith and the joy of living are not separate or different. They are one and the same. Nichiren Buddhism exists to make our daily reality and our lives better.

The light of Buddhist wisdom and compassion illuminates our troubled world and is a source of courage and hope. That’s why we work positively, based on the Mystic Law, for our own and others’ happiness, and for the welfare of our communities and societies. This is the “true path” (WND-1, 1126) to attaining Buddhahood that the Daishonin refers to in this letter.

The Mystic Law for Which “Humanity Is Collectively Thirsting”

In Kachi sozo (Value Creation), the journal of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (forerunner of the Soka Gakkai), Tsunesaburo Makiguchi wrote that before the organization was established, the teaching that Buddhism encompasses all worldly affairs had not been demonstrated in society, and Buddhism and secular matters were regarded as completely unrelated and separate.

He went on to say: “But when our members demonstrate the validity of this principle by actually putting it into practice, and when the supreme law of life for which humanity is collectively thirsting—that is, the Mystic Law for attaining Buddhahood— becomes easily accessible to all, then people will naturally want to share its benefit with everyone and help them attain unsurpassed happiness.”[8]

Practicing Buddhism as a way of life and sharing our experiences of receiving benefit—that is the essential practice of Nichiren Buddhism initiated by Mr. Makiguchi and the starting point of faith and practice in the Soka Gakkai.

Contributing to Global Peace, Security and Cooperation

That particular issue of Kachi sozo was published on December 20, 1941, just a few weeks after Japan plunged into World War II. At such a time, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi wrote of the way to help all people “attain unsurpassed happiness.” Less than two years later (in July 1943), both Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda were imprisoned for their beliefs.

Their noble struggle as mentor and disciple became the foundation for our great Soka movement that has now spread to 192 countries and territories.

Today, faith in “the supreme law of life for which humanity is collectively thirsting—that is, the Mystic Law for attaining Buddhahood,” of which Mr. Makiguchi wrote, is practiced all over the globe. And the bonds of our members committed to value creation as they strive to contribute to people’s happiness and global peace, security and cooperation are growing ever stronger.

The Soka Gakkai is causing the original spirit of Nichiren Buddhism to pulse vibrantly in contemporary society.

Understanding the Essence of All Worldly Affairs

When the skies are clear, the ground is illuminated. Similarly, when one knows the Lotus Sutra, one understands the meaning of all worldly affairs. (“The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” WND-1, 376)[9]

This is a passage from “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” elucidating the principle that Buddhism is manifested in society. Both Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda frequently discussed it. Just as clear skies brightly illuminate the earth below, having faith in and practicing the Mystic Law opens the way to victory in all worldly matters as well.

The phrase “knows the Lotus Sutra” means to have a deep understanding of the essence of Buddhism. Because of the relationship between Buddhism and worldly affairs, one who thoroughly grasps the teachings of Buddhism can also understand the essence of all matters in society.

In terms of our daily existence, this means that by embracing the Mystic Law we can bring forth wisdom and show actual proof of our Buddhist practice in our work, our lives and every aspect of society.

Let’s always remember Nichiren Daishonin’s words: “Regard your service to your lord as the practice of the Lotus Sutra” (“Reply to a Believer,” WND-1, 905); and, “Live so that all the people of Kamakura will say in your praise that [Shijo Kingo] is diligent in the service of his lord, in the service of Buddhism, and in his concern for other people” (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” WND-1, 851).

“I Completely Changed the Way I Had Lived for Almost 60 Years”

This passage we are studying from “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind” was one that made a profound impression on Tsunesaburo Makiguchi when he first decided to embrace faith in Nichiren Buddhism (in 1928). Many years later, he wrote: “When I made that great decision and finally committed myself to practicing Nichiren Buddhism, I came to fully comprehend and appreciate in my daily life the Daishonin’s words: ‘When the skies are clear, the ground is illuminated. Similarly, when one knows the Lotus Sutra, one understands the meaning of all worldly affairs’ (“The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” WND-1, 376). With an indescribable joy, I completely changed the way I had lived for almost 60 years.”[10]

Even for Mr. Makiguchi, an outstanding educator, taking faith in Nichiren Buddhism was a lifechanging event.

He reflected: “The anxiety that came from searching in the dark for life’s answers completely evaporated [once I started practicing Nichiren Buddhism], and my inborn reserve and diffidence disappeared. My goals in life became increasingly grander and loftier, and my fears dwindled.”[11]

Through our Buddhist practice, we find fresh hope and a clearer understanding of our life’s fundamental purpose. We build an unshakable foundation and unlock the courage to rise to life’s challenges and the strength to persevere. We experience boundless joy. This is the true benefit of faith. Nichiren Buddhism is a teaching of inner transformation, a religion of human revolution and a philosophy of genuine humanism.

Making Unceasing Efforts for Self-Improvement

Because we practice Nichiren Buddhism, whenever we encounter problems or difficulties, we chant earnestly, make efforts and come up with new ideas toward finding a solution. We bring forth tremendous wisdom and life force to overcome our hardships. We can thus be said to “understand the meaning of all worldly affairs” (see WND-1, 376).

Mr. Toda once commented in reference to the passage we are studying: “There are those who have the simplistic idea that because they have the Gohonzon, they’ll naturally receive benefit even if they don’t put any thought or effort into how they conduct their business. This is a big mistake and must be categorized as slander of the Law [because it goes against the teachings of Buddhism].”[12]

He continued: “People who fail to notice the weaknesses in their business or consider ways to improve it should seriously reflect on themselves. It’s vital that you keep studying and learning about your business and strive to do better. My wish is that you, my dear fellow members, will come to ‘understand the meaning of all worldly affairs’ as quickly as possible in the context of your own work and lead secure lives.”[13]

“Buddhism is manifested in society.” It is therefore important that we tap the enormous power of faith to bring forth wisdom and demonstrate wonderful actual proof.

A Movement to Transform Society

Many leading thinkers across the globe highly regard the Soka Gakkai’s ideals and activities, which are firmly rooted in the real world.

Dr. Bryan Wilson (1926–2004), former president of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion, with whom I published a dialogue, expressed his conviction that the true mission of religion is to encourage its adherents to put their beliefs into practice in their daily lives and to strive to make the world a better place.[14] In this way, he expressed his appreciation for our movement based on the principles that “faith equals daily life” and “Buddhism is manifested in society.”

He also praised our movement as one progressing soundly and steadily with the aim of world peace. He said that it was not difficult to imagine that, with the continued development of the Soka Gakkai, the inner change achieved by its members through their Buddhist practice would have an impact on the consciousness of others and bring about great positive changes in society.

Dr. Wilson felt that the spread of our movement to realize the human revolution of each individual would change the awareness of many others and lead to an eventual transformation of society as a whole—the very theme of my novel The Human Revolution.[15]

The Qualities for a Religion of the 21st Century

Dr. Karel Dobbelaere, another former president of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion, has suggested six qualifications for a religion of the 21st century:[16]

1) A communal basis and ability to invigorate the community and bring people together.
2) The ability to inspire people to live vibrant, joyous lives and bring forth dynamic energy.
3) The power to transcend the sphere of the individual and provide motivation to improve society as a whole.
4) The capacity to stem excessive individualism while emphasizing social responsibility.
5) Broad-mindedness.
6) Concern with the welfare of the global community, not just one’s own community.

After rigorously analyzing the qualities needed for a 21st-century religion, Dr. Dobbelaere concluded that the Soka Gakkai possesses all of these conditions.

He identified our discussion meetings as examples of communal gatherings that bring people together, and our daily practice of gongyo and our Soka Gakkai activities as sources of dynamic energy.

Each of Us Is an Agent of Change

The key to actualizing the principles of “faith equals daily life” and “Buddhism is manifested in society” is none other than our practice of gongyo and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo morning and evening. As the Daishonin states: “Morning after morning we rise up with the Buddha, evening after evening we lie down with the Buddha” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 83).

It is through this daily practice that we transform our lives. Our prayers enable us to powerfully carry out our human revolution, change our karma, continue making steady efforts to realize the Daishonin’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land” and achieve world peace.

In these troubled times, we of the Soka Gakkai have a truly lofty and noble mission. Each one of us is an agent of change and a great builder of peace.

Human Revolution as the Key to World Peace

The inner transformation of each person will bring about a great change in society as a whole.

Let us raise ever higher the banner of “human revolution as the key to world peace” as we boldly and triumphantly open the way of Soka humanism!

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


  1. This lecture was written prior to Soka Gakkai meetings going online due to the coronavirus pandemic. ↩︎
  2. See Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), p. 253. ↩︎
  3. Miao-lo (711–82): Also known as the Great Teacher Miao-lo. A patriarch of the T’ien-t’ai school in China. He is revered as the school’s restorer. His commentaries on T’ien-t’ai’s three major works are titled The Annotations on “The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra,” The Annotations on “The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra” and The Annotations on “Great Concentration and Insight.” ↩︎
  4. Nichiren Daishonin composed “The Gift of Rice” when he was residing on Mount Minobu. It is believed to have been addressed to a follower in the Fuji region, but any further details are unclear. In response to a gift of rice from the individual, Nichiren explains the significance of offerings and that the Lotus Sutra equates Buddhism with all secular matters, stressing that Buddhism is an integral part of our daily lives. ↩︎
  5. The Golden Light Sutra was known in China and Japan as a sutra for protecting the nation. The Nirvana Sutra is a Mahayana scripture said to have been preached by Shakyamuni just prior to his death. ↩︎
  6. T’ien-t’ai (538–97): Also known as the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai or Chih-i. The founder of the T’ien-t’ai school in China. His lectures were compiled in such works as The Profound Meaning of the Lotus SutraThe Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra and Great Concentration and Insight. In the latter work, a record of lectures he delivered, he presents the doctrine of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life.” ↩︎
  7. The original passage from the Lotus Sutra goes: “The doctrines that they preach during that time will conform to the gist of the principles and will never be contrary to the true aspect. If they should expound some text of the secular world or speak on matters of government or occupations that sustain life, they will in all cases conform to the correct Law” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 304). ↩︎
  8. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), p. 27. ↩︎
  9. “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind” was composed in April 1273 while the Daishonin was residing in Ichinosawa during his Sado Exile. In it, the Daishonin explains the significance of the object of devotion (Gohonzon) of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the fundamental Law that opens the way for the enlightenment of all living beings in the Latter Day of the Law. ↩︎
  10. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 8 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1984), p. 406. ↩︎
  11. Ibid. ↩︎
  12. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 1 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1981), p. 161. ↩︎
  13. Ibid., p. 162. ↩︎
  14. Paraphrased from Japanese. From the January 1992 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal, p. 28. ↩︎
  15. The main theme of the novel The Human Revolution is: “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.” ↩︎
  16. Paraphrased from Japanese. From a lecture by Dr. Karel Dobbelaere titled, “Thoughts on Contemporary Society and Religion,” delivered at the Seikyo Culture Lecture Series on December 15, 1984. ↩︎

The Trials of Winter Bring Forth Flowers of Victory

Before it is Too Late