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Ikeda Sensei

Keeping Our Founding Spirit Alive Forever

Namibia, Region Khomas, near Uhlenhorst, Astrophoto, RIsing moon and Planet Venus embedded in glowing Zodiacal Light during dawn, constellation Orion upside down
The moon and Venus (above and to the left of the Moon) at dawn, Namibia. Ikeda Sensei in his essay writes of fall: “At this time of year, the morning star, Venus, shines brightly in the eastern sky before dawn. Sometimes it sits companionably alongside the moon, as they wait together for the sun to rise. ... In the same way, the benefits of the Mystic Law shine their brightest in the Latter Day of the Law, when the darkness of human suffering is its deepest” (p. 2). Westend61 / Getty Images

The following is Ikeda Sensei’s essay commemorating Nov. 18, the Soka Gakkai’s 90th anniversary. It was originally published in the Nov. 16 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.

At this time of year, the morning star, Venus, shines brightly in the eastern sky before dawn. Sometimes it sits companionably alongside the moon, as they wait together for the sun to rise.

In the assembly of the Lotus Sutra, Venus appears as the heavenly deity Pervading Fragrance (the god of the stars), along with Rare Moon (the god of the moon) and Jeweled Glow (the god of the sun)—all arriving on the scene with their retinues in tow to hear Shakyamuni preach his teachings (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 36).

Known together as the “three heavenly sons of light,” they are most certainly shining their compassionate light of blessings on our noble “uncrowned heroes” who quietly brave the chill morning winds to deliver the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.

Please take care not to catch a cold!

With deep gratitude for our Seikyo Shimbun deliverers, let us all join in praying for their safety, health and longevity, and for the security and prosperity of their families.

Hope is a precious treasure for life. Courage is a driving force for victory. Nichiren Daishonin teaches us how to powerfully, positively and wisely draw forth the hope and courage we need to face life’s challenges.

He writes: “The moon shines more brightly around dawn than it does in the early evening, and is more luminous in autumn and winter than in spring and summer. In a similar fashion, the Lotus Sutra is even more effective in bringing benefit to living beings in the Latter Day of the Law than it is during the two thousand years that make up the Former and Middle Days of the Law” (“The Essence of the ‘Medicine King’ Chapter,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 94).

The moon shines its brightest at the darkest hour just before the dawn and in the cold, clear skies of autumn and winter. In the same way, the benefits of the Mystic Law shine their brightest in the Latter Day of the Law, when the darkness of human suffering is its deepest, the Daishonin says.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage throughout Japan and the world, and uncertainty shrouds the future, the members of our Soka family are chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo tirelessly and encouraging others unstintingly. They are imparting the light of hope and courage to one person after another—to friends, fellow members and others around them. They are rising to the challenge and carrying out their great mission, wisely putting the principles of Buddhism into practice in society and daily life.

As we celebrate the Soka Gakkai’s 90th anniversary, our admirable members are shining brighter than ever as an indispensable source of support and reassurance in their communities and societies, forging wonderful networks of friendship and trust. Their efforts are certain to bear fruit as good fortune in rich and vast abundance. The Soka Gakkai’s founder and first president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, and second president, Josei Toda, would surely have the highest praise for everyone.

Along with our fellow members around the world, let’s celebrate our anniversary by commending and applauding one another for the tremendous efforts we have made and the resounding victories we have achieved, individually and together, with courage, perseverance and invincible determination!

Nov. 18 is the day when Mr. Makiguchi died in prison (in 1944), never surrendering to the oppression of Japan’s militarist authorities in his selfless dedication to propagating the Mystic Law.

Even though he was unjustly arrested and imprisoned, his faith remained unshaken. During his 16-month incarceration, he wrote to his family, “The hardships we are undergoing now are small and inconsequential compared to those encountered by the Daishonin.”[1] And in his personal copy of Nichiren’s writings, he had twice underlined the passage from “The Opening of the Eyes” “Here I will make a great vow” (WND-1, 280), writing “Great Vow” in large red characters in the margin.

Our founding spirit lies in making a vow.

No matter what the circumstances, Mr. Makiguchi never abandoned the vow he made on founding our organization—a vow to bring happiness and peace to all humankind. However fiercely the storms of adversity assailed him, he continued to advance bravely and vigorously, driven by the firm conviction that they were “no more than dust before the wind” (see “The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 280).

Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948), the father of Indian independence, was jailed on numerous occasions during the nonviolent civil disobedience movement he led to liberate the Indian people from colonial oppression. He was imprisoned for his role in the famous Salt March in 1930—the same year, incidentally, that the Soka Gakkai was founded.

While in jail, Gandhi wrote to one of his followers about the importance of a vow: “A vow means unflinching determination … To do at any cost something that one ought to do constitutes a vow. It becomes a bulwark of strength.”[2]

At the World Youth General Meeting (held on Sept. 27), youth division members around the globe engraved in their hearts the noble vow shared by the three founding presidents, as they made a fresh start toward the Soka Gakkai’s centennial (in 2030). Nothing could give me greater joy. Nothing is more reassuring.

Wherever young Bodhisattvas of the Earth take initiative with the vow “I will advance worldwide kosen-rufu!” the curtain rises on a new drama of human revolution and transforming karma.

To my dear young disciples and successors, who are bravely taking their place on the stage of their mission amid these trying times, I would like to share with you these words of Mr. Toda that I had recorded in my youth: “The greater one’s suffering, the greater the subsequent joy. Face suffering head-on and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Never forget the Gohonzon, in times of suffering or joy.”

Mr. Makiguchi’s The System of Value-Creating Education, the starting point of our organization, was published at a time when the world was in the throes of the Great Depression, and both he and his disciple, Mr. Toda, were weathering many personal struggles.

It was Mr. Makiguchi’s wish that value-creating education would enable each child to become happy, eventually leading to “an eternal victory for humanity.”[3]

Mr. Toda also looked to the wisdom provided by education to eliminate the dogmatism of religion and bring all humanity together as a global family illuminated by the universal light of peace.

As education faces unprecedented restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, students at Soka schools everywhere—including Soka University and the Soka elementary, junior high and high schools in Japan; Soka University of America; the Brazil Soka schools; and the Soka kindergartens in Sapporo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea—continue to study hard with an invincible spirit, developing themselves and growing with vibrant strength and energy.

British historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1889–1975) expressed high hopes for Soka education.

He also spoke of his admiration for the medieval historian Ibn Khaldûn (1332–1406), one of the great philosophers of the Islamic world, who lived through the scourge of the Black Death.

Ibn Khaldûn lost both his parents to that global epidemic of the bubonic plague when he was just 16, but he overcame his grief and awakened to his personal life mission to record the events he had witnessed for future generations. In his best-known work, The Muqaddimah, an introduction to history, he proudly declares that the work he has undertaken “should be a model for future historians to follow.”[4]

When young people rise above their personal sorrows and hardships, and hold fast to a vow to contribute to a better future for our planet, they gain immeasurable strength and can forge great wisdom, creativity and solidarity.

Today, Soka youth everywhere are rising to tackle the many issues facing the world. They are reaching out to one person after another in thoughtful, sincere dialogue to turn people’s hearts from division to cooperation, from anxiety to security, and from suspicion to trust. I am convinced that their determined, steady efforts to pave a new way forward will serve as a source of hope and a model for future generations.

Next year, 2021, marks 800 years since Nichiren’s birth.[5]

In his writing “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” the Daishonin refers to the saying “The farther the source, the longer the stream” (WND-1, 736) and then goes on to declare: “If Nichiren’s compassion is truly great and encompassing, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will spread for ten thousand years and more, for all eternity” (WND-1, 736).

Our unsung ordinary members, not least our sincere women’s division members, have directly inherited this immeasurably “great and encompassing compassion” of the Daishonin and spread the Mystic Law to 192 countries and territories around the world. This is the indisputable history of the Soka Gakkai.

Just as the flow of the eternal Ganges began from a single drop of water, our movement grew from dedicated individuals and small groups of people initiating efforts for kosen-rufu in the countries and communities in which they lived. Though tiny, that “single drop” they each represent is by no means ineffectual or insignificant. It is like “the single drop of dew that spells the start of the great ocean” (“The Blessings of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 672). In addition, the life of each individual involved in that effort possesses infinite, supremely noble potential. As the Daishonin writes, “It is like the water of the great ocean, a single drop of which contains water from all the countless streams and rivers” (“Expedient Means and ‘Life Span’ Chapters,” WND-1, 69).

We all battle storms of karma of some kind—be it economic hardship, unemployment, illness, family discord or other problems. In some cases, our societies may be afflicted by war, natural disasters or epidemics. The harsh reality of human existence is that our lives are filled with troubles.

When our organization began its reconstruction after World War II, many Japanese were leading lives of despair, with no hope for happiness. Our pioneer members of that time rekindled the warm, bright light of human dignity in the frozen hearts of many such desolate individuals and inspired them to bring forth the courage to start anew with pride and confidence.

And today as well, at this very moment, our members are chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and taking action for the happiness of themselves and others, deeply wishing to encourage and help those who are suffering. While struggling with their own problems, they wholeheartedly encourage and support others, determined to leave no friend behind and to lead victorious lives together. Their spirit is synonymous with the Buddha’s vast and infinite compassion, and their behavior mirrors that of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, who showed profound respect for everyone he met.

Inspired by the all-encompassing compassion of Nichiren, we are committed to spreading the respectful behavior of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging and the Bodhisattvas of the Earth throughout our communities and societies, and create a monumental groundswell toward the realization of lasting happiness and peace for all humankind. This is the great significance of our movement for kosen-rufu.

Mr. Makiguchi died just after 6 a.m. on Nov. 18, 1944. By some mystic coincidence, around that same period, Mr. Toda, who was also in prison, experienced a profound awakening to his mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth and opened a new phase in his life.The fighting spirit to stand up alone and take action for kosen-rufu ensures that the vow for kosen-rufu, the baton of the Mystic Law, is passed on.

Myo [of myoho, the Mystic Law] means to revive” (“The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 149). Based on the oneness of mentor and disciple, let us resolve to make the lionhearted spirit demonstrated by our founding president surge forth afresh within us every morning of every day.

Emulating Presidents Makiguchi and Toda, let us strive our hardest again today as champions of kosen-rufu—as value creators of justice, humanity and peace—and write another brilliant and triumphant page in the annals of the shared struggle of mentor and disciple!


  1. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), p. 278. ↩︎
  2. Mohandas K. Gandhi, Vows and Observances, edited by John Strohmeier (Berkeley, California: Berkeley Hills Books, 1999), pp. 148–49. ↩︎
  3. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 8 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1984), p. 365. ↩︎
  4. [Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History, translated by Franz Rosenthal, edited and abridged by N. J. Dawood (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1969), p. 30. 5. According to the traditional Japanese way of counting, a person is 1 year old on the day of their birth. ↩︎
  5. According to the traditional Japanese way of counting, a person is 1 year old on the day of their birth. ↩︎

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