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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

Youth Are the Hope of Society! Become Indispensable in Your Workplace!

Creating a Century of Humanism in Which All Can Shine—Part 4 [60]

A joyful SGI-USA July Youth Discussion Meeting in Chicago, 2019. Photo by Susan Forner

Whenever cherry blossom season comes around, I think of my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, who loved cherry blossoms. He deeply cherished young people, holding the highest hopes for them. He earnestly wished that each would devote their youth to creating value.

“A new age will be created by the passion and power of youth.”[1] This enduring lion’s roar is from my mentor’s “Guidelines for Youth.” In it, he called on young people to carry out a noble mission—to bring an end to human suffering through a religious revolution, creating true happiness and peace for all.

Today, in the same spirit as my mentor, I want to applaud the young people who are dynamically advancing our movement for kosen-rufu in the 21st century. It is my deepest wish that all your efforts and hard work will form the bedrock upon which you build an inner state of absolute freedom, and that you will lead lives Nichiren Daishonin would commend. I am praying for the growth and good health of all of you, my young friends around the world.

Faith for Changing All Poison Into Medicine

With the beginning of the new fiscal and school year in April,[2] I imagine many of you may be making a fresh start, perhaps entering the workforce for the first time, changing jobs, transferring to a new position or new location or advancing to a higher grade. In addition, many are dealing with enormous challenges in their work situations due to the inevitable changes we have had to make because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But Nichiren Buddhism teaches us to transform everything positively and change all poison into medicine.[3] Thanks to its immeasurable power, we can live wisely and find hope, even when the future is uncertain. We can turn everything that happens into a source of growth and victory. That is the benefit of faith in Nichiren Buddhism. I ask my beloved friends of the youth division to please advance, now more than ever, with confidence and pride.

A Youth of Struggle

My youth was also a time of painful struggles.

In my early 20s, when I had only been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for about three years, Josei Toda’s businesses fell on hard times due to the turbulent postwar economy. I was suddenly transferred from working as the editor for a children’s magazine, a job I loved, into finance, an area in which I had no interest.

It was a series of indescribable hardships, but I persevered, determined to ensure that Mr. Toda could freely devote himself to leading the movement for kosen-rufu.[4] I worked furiously, resolving each day to remain undefeated and come out triumphant, no matter what happened. Whenever I had a spare moment, I earnestly chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I forged ahead, overcoming every difficulty. Through that experience, I gained the absolute conviction that no prayer to the Gohonzon goes unanswered and that nothing is more powerful than chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Creating Value Out of Everything

I believe that it was during this period, when I strove wholeheartedly to support this great mentor of kosen-rufu, that I accumulated tremendous, lasting good fortune. I also gained invaluable insight into humanity.

Nothing is wasted in Buddhism.

The Mystic Law is a source of revitalization.[5] It enables us to remain undaunted by any hardship and ultimately triumph. It is also a teaching that allows us to create value out of everything and put all we experience to positive use. This is the incredible beneficial power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with a vow for kosen-rufu.

In this installment, let us reaffirm our attitude toward work and our Buddhist practice in light of passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings.

Nichiren Buddhism Is a Religion of Inner Transformation

It [the Vimalakirti Sutra] … states that, if the minds of living beings are impure, their land is also impure, but if their minds are pure, so is their land. There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds. (“On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 4)[6]

Let us begin with this famous passage from “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime.”

Buddhism is a religion of inner transformation. The pure realm in which the Buddha resides and the impure realm where ordinary people dwell are not two separate realms. There is no fixed difference between them; all apparent differences are expressions of the good or evil of the minds of those who live there. Human beings can, therefore, transform their environment by transforming their inner state of being.

In other words, the key to social change is people fundamentally transforming their mindset.

Transforming Delusion Into Enlightenment

In this writing, Nichiren Daishonin also states: “It is the same with a Buddha and an ordinary being. When deluded, one is called an ordinary being, but when enlightened, one is called a Buddha” (WND-1, 4). The difference between a Buddha and an ordinary being is nothing more than the difference between a deluded and an enlightened life state.

How, then, can we transform delusion into enlightenment? Through the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. By chanting, we conquer the fundamental ignorance[7] that is the root cause of delusion and bring forth the life state of Buddhahood originally inherent within us. We overcome every suffering and hardship and move everything in the direction of happiness.

Prayers based on the Mystic Law are guaranteed to activate the heavenly deities—the positive functions of the universe.

Nichiren writes: “The stronger one’s faith, the greater the protection of the gods” (“The Supremacy of the Law,” WND-1, 614). As this indicates, we must persevere resolutely in our Buddhist practice, no matter what happens. Doing so will strengthen the workings of the protective forces, which appear in our lives in such forms as support from our seniors in faith, fellow members and families. How fortunate we are to have fellow members who share our struggles and chant with us about them. We may also receive support and assistance from those who don’t practice Nichiren Buddhism. Our strong faith increases the protection of these positive functions.

It’s therefore important not to close yourself off from others and grapple with your problems alone. Reach out to someone you trust and seek their help and advice. People will appear in your life who act as protective forces, functioning like the bodhisattvas Universal Worthy, Medicine King, Perceiver of the World’s Sounds and others. If you chant in earnest and make efforts to solve your problems, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the universe are sure to respond. Young people who embrace the Mystic Law will be safeguarded without fail.

Your Jobs Are Training Grounds for Winning Trust and Respect

As I also mentioned in the previous installment, the following passage has served as an essential guide for members’ daily activities from the early days of our movement: “Regard your service to your lord as the practice of the Lotus Sutra. This is what is meant by ‘No worldly affairs of life or work are ever contrary to the true reality’[8]” (“Reply to a Believer,” WND-1, 905). Regarding their jobs as training grounds for forging themselves, members have striven to become indispensable assets to their workplaces. And there are countless examples of members showing remarkable actual proof of the power of Buddhist practice and winning the trust and respect of their employers and colleagues.

That is because they strove in accord with Nichiren Daishonin’s teaching that “The place where the person upholds and honors the Lotus Sutra is the ‘place of enlightenment’ [The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 364] to which the person proceeds” (see The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 192).[9] In other words, they bravely confronted their challenges and made persistent efforts in the place where they were, powered by none other than their Buddhist faith and practice.

Today, the experiences and actual proof of our members throughout Japan and around the world are testifying to the irrefutable power of Nichiren Buddhism.

The Values of Beauty, Benefit and Good

When Josei Toda encouraged young people who were considering what career to pursue, he stressed three important criteria set forth by first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi—the values of beauty, benefit and good.

In concrete terms, this means choosing a job that you like (beauty), that is financially secure (benefit) and that enables you to contribute to society (good). In reality, however, it is rare to find people who are truly satisfied with their jobs.[10]

Very few people start in their ideal career. Often they feel unsuited for the job they are hired for or just don’t enjoy it. It may not pay enough to make ends meet, or it may not give them a sense of contributing to society. In actuality, it isn’t easy to fulfill all three criteria of beauty, benefit and good in one’s job.

Becoming Indispensable

That’s why Josei Toda advised: “Young people should not be discouraged. Just put all your energy into your present job and become an indispensable person there. By chanting earnestly to the Gohonzon and continuing to strive your hardest, you will eventually find a job that you enjoy, offers financial security and contributes positively to society. This is the benefit of faith.”

He continued: “And that’s not all. When you look back, you’ll find that none of your hard work was wasted, but that it has all become a valuable asset for you. You’ll come to understand that everything had meaning. I can assure you of this from my own experience. Our faith is expressed in our lives and in society. That is the power of Buddhism.”[11] Of course, the times are very different now. The way we work is being fundamentally reassessed, and changing jobs [previously uncommon in Japan] is now quite often a positive step forward.

While the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism remain unchanging, the ways we can apply them in society are increasingly diverse. It’s important, therefore, to consult with trusted seniors and family members who share your faith to make wise life decisions. I hope you will show actual proof of a victorious and fulfilling life in a way that is true to yourself.

Adopting a Positive Attitude

Nichiren Daishonin offers the following guidance to Shijo Kingo, a leading disciple in the Kamakura area who was confronting his own troubles with work.

Shijo Kingo, a samurai retainer, had expressed to Nichiren his dissatisfaction with the lands granted to him by his lord. Having confirmed through his sources that the lands his disciple had received were fine, the Daishonin tells him that if he takes the attitude that “They are excellent, excellent lands” (“The Receipt of New Fiefs,” WND-1, 945), his good fortune is bound to increase.

This attitude he is recommending is neither one of resignation nor compromise. Rather, the Daishonin urges Shijo Kingo to view the situation clearly through the eyes of faith and, with deep resolve, make a firm vow to be victorious.

Nichiren Daishonin also teaches him many essential life lessons: to control his temper, remain vigilant at all times, avoid accidents, act with prudence, refrain from excessive drinking, create allies and treat women with consideration and all people with respect.

Trust Is a Precious Treasure

It’s imperative never to forget the spirit to keep moving forward and always strive to the best of one’s ability. That is how one earns others’ trust, and trust is a precious treasure for young people.

A diamond is always a diamond, no matter the setting. Likewise, I hope you will take pride as a Bodhisattva of the Earth and shine as a true Soka youth, whatever your situation. “Unseen virtue brings about visible reward” (“The Farther the Source, the Longer the Stream,” WND-1, 940). If you are always sincere, discerning people will take notice.

Worldly Affairs Are in No Way Contrary to the Mystic Law

Because Buddhism has gradually been turned upside down, the secular world also has been plunged into corruption and chaos. Buddhism is like the body, and society like the shadow. When the body bends, so does the shadow. (“A Comparison of the Lotus and Other Sutras,” WND-1, 1039)[12]

This passage affirms that the affairs of this world are in no way contrary to the Mystic Law.

Buddhism is the body, the foundation. Society should be grounded on a fundamental level by a philosophy that teaches the worth and dignity of life. If not, it will lose its guiding norms and fall into confusion, and the people will suffer. That was evident during Nichiren Daishonin’s lifetime, and it is why he committed himself to establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land. The world today, with its uncertain future, is in the same situation.

Bringing Forth the Rich Wisdom of Buddhism

Nichiren Daishonin also writes, “A person of wisdom is not one who practices Buddhism apart from worldly affairs but, rather, one who thoroughly understands the principles by which the world is governed” (“The Kalpa of Decrease,” WND-1, 1121).

Faith and daily life, Buddhism and society, are inseparable. They are in no way separate from each other.

In our daily Buddhist practice, when we find ourselves busy with work and other obligations, we may fall into thinking that we’ll focus on Soka Gakkai activities once we have more time. “Putting faith into practice in daily life,” however, means taking every challenge in life as part of our Buddhist practice. That’s why, no matter how busy we are, we need to chant with the determination to participate in Soka Gakkai activities as best we can.

When the “body” of our commitment in faith is firmly established, we will be able to steer the “shadow” of our work and our daily affairs in a better direction. For example, when facing difficulties at work and in other areas of our lives, if we take them on earnestly, steadily and persistently based on faith, we can bring forth the wisdom and strength to overcome them. And we will achieve tremendous personal growth in the process.

Iron, When Heated in the Flames and Pounded, Becomes a Fine Sword

In particular, your youth is a time to build the foundation for lifelong good fortune.

Josei Toda said, “The golden time of youth will pass you by if all you do is complain about your circumstances or fail to take action.”

Nichiren Daishonin states, “Iron, when heated in the flames and pounded, becomes a fine sword” (“Letter from Sado,” WND-1, 303). Indeed, a life forged like a fine sword will be invincible.

Wielding the sharp sword of the Mystic Law, let us sever the roots of suffering and expand a solid network of peace and hope throughout our communities and society as a whole.

Working Together for Change

In my peace proposal commemorating this year’s 45th SGI Day (January 26, 2020), I called on people everywhere, and young people in particular, to make the next 10 years a decade of action, engaging in a broad range of activities to realize the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by its target date of 2030.

The path to attaining those goals, which address such problems as poverty and climate change, is sure to be fraught with difficulty. But I firmly believe that there is no barrier that a global network of youth committed to change cannot surmount.

Both presidents Makiguchi and Toda believed in and treasured the immense potential and limitless power of young people. I have also devoted all my energy to fostering the youth. The steady stream of capable young people who have emerged, developed and become active as a result is the reason our Soka movement has spread across the globe. The human revolution of young people will dramatically change society, nations and the world.

Support for Our Human Revolution Movement

I met and spoke with Dr. Aurelio Peccei (1908–84), co-founder of the Club of Rome,[13] on numerous occasions. Our unforgettable first meeting took place 45 years ago, in 1975.

Dr. Peccei brought a copy of the English edition of my novel The Human Revolution to that meeting. He expressed a deep interest in the Soka Gakkai’s movement for human revolution aimed at realizing a fundamental transformation of human life. He said he had long advocated the idea of a humanistic revolution and that he saw in our movement the ultimate expression of that quest.

An Unchanging Tradition of Fostering Capable Individuals

Aurelio Peccei continued to emphasize the importance of such an inner revolution all his life, asserting that youth are the ones who can change the world, and that they would accomplish this through their own human revolution.

In our troubled world, the fresh energy of youth is key to building a strong current toward peace and opening the way to a brighter future for humanity.

Since its founding, the Soka Gakkai has tackled a great many challenges and advanced with youth in the vanguard. Ours is a movement for change led by young people firmly grounded in reality while dedicating themselves earnestly to the immediate demands of work and study. This tradition remains unchanged today and will continue into the future. The Soka Gakkai will always foster capable, talented individuals who will contribute to society and the world.

Young Bodhisattvas of the Earth Will Create the Future

The more our movement for peace, culture and education based on human revolution grows, the closer we will come to our goal of realizing kosen-rufu and Nichiren Daishonin’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.”

If young Soka Bodhisattvas of the Earth around the world continue to vibrantly take the initiative in the place they have chosen to fulfill their vow, bringing forth their passion and power, the future of our planet will be bright.

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


  1. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, “Seinen-kun” (Guidelines for Youth), Toda Josei zenshu (The Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 1 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1981), p. 58. ↩︎
  2. April is the start of the new fiscal and school year in Japan. ↩︎
  3. Changing poison into medicine: The principle that a life dominated by the three paths of earthly desires, karma and suffering can be transformed into a life replete with the three virtues of the Dharma body, wisdom and emancipation by virtue of the power of the Mystic Law. In other words, any adverse situation can be changed into a positive one through the power of Buddhist practice. This phrase is from volume 100 of Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom, attributed to Nagarjuna, which mentions “a great physician who can change poison into medicine.” ↩︎
  4. In August 1950, Josei Toda decided to step down as the Soka Gakkai’s general director in order to protect the organization from his business troubles. ↩︎
  5. Nichiren Daishonin states: “Myo [of myoho, the Mystic Law] means to revive” (“The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 149). ↩︎
  6. Composed in 1255, “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime” teaches that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the direct path to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. ↩︎
  7. 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 impulses that arise from such ignorance. ↩︎
  8. This passage appears in the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai’s The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra as a summary of the following passage from “Benefits of the Teacher of the Law,” the 19th chapter of the Lotus Sutra: “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). ↩︎
  9. This translation of The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings has been updated to reflect a revised English translation of the Lotus Sutra as it appears in The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras. ↩︎
  10. Translated from Japanese. From a lecture on the Lotus Sutra by President Toda to a group of youth division members who were students at Tokyo University, on April 18, 1953. ↩︎
  11. Ibid. ↩︎
  12. This letter was written at Minobu and sent to Toki Jonin in May 1280. Nichiren Daishonin explains to him the meaning of the passage from “The Teacher of the Law,” the 10th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which describes the sutra as “the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand” (LSOC, 203). ↩︎
  13. The Club of Rome was founded by Aurelio Peccei, an Italian industrialist, and Alexander King, a Scottish scientist, as an international think tank to focus on the problems posed by the limited resources of our planet, meeting for the first time in Rome in 1968. In 1972, it published a report titled The Limits to Growth, warning of the dire situation facing humanity. ↩︎

Everything Begins With Changing Our Own Attitude

America Will Be!