Skip to main content

Daily Life

Peace, Culture and Education: The Purpose of Buddhist Study—Part 6

Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace—The Purpose of Buddhist Study

“The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace” is a three-part series that features key selections from SGI President Ikeda’s collected works, which thus far have been compiled into 150 volumes in Japanese. These selections introduce core concepts expressing the wisdom and universal message of Nichiren Buddhism. Through this series, SGI members throughout the world are able to simultaneously study the SGI president’s thought and philosophy.

It has been a Soka Gakkai tradition since the time of first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi to strive in the “two ways of practice and study” as taught by Nichiren Daishonin. In this selection, SGI President Ikeda reviews this noble history and stresses that practice and study are the heart of the bright path of mentor and disciple.

Excerpts From the Preface to the Spanish Edition of The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin

The writings of Nichiren Daishonin have been translated into more than 10 languages, making them available to people around the world. In his preface to the Spanish edition, published in 2008, Ikeda Sensei emphasizes the importance of interfaith dialogue and clarifies the significance of deepening our understanding of the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism today. From the preface to the Spanish edition of The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, published on May 3, 2008.

The essential purpose of all religions is to impart hope and give meaning to our lives. All religions basically aim to provide inner serenity and contribute to happiness and peace. In that sense, they share the fundamental goal of benefitting people.

I firmly believe that a profound recognition of this common ground is the requirement of religion in this age of globalization. It also serves as the foundation for interfaith dialogue, one of the pressing challenges facing human civilization.

Of course, each religion is unique and different. For example, each offers different views on what constitutes genuine inner serenity—ranging from experiencing the love of God to a feeling of reliance on an unseen higher power, following the dictates of one’s conscience, possessing a state of inner peace or the ability to control one’s desires and numerous other variants. The differences among religions have arisen from a host of complex causes, including innate human diversity, factors linked to particular places and times, and historical background.

But all of these differing religious teachings contain, in some form, insights and truths for enabling human beings to attain happiness. By learning from those respective insights and truths, while recognizing their mutual differences, all religions can improve their capacity for fulfilling their essential role in guiding people to happiness.

It is my sincere hope that all the religions of the world will continue to follow this path of dialogue and mutual self-improvement and, while demonstrating their unique value, join together as religions dedicated to the welfare of humanity and become a major force for world peace.

The 20th century has been described as the first century in which the religions of the world started to acknowledge and communicate with one another. It is certainly true that the tragedies wrought by the two world wars provoked deep reflection, reawakening the awareness of the happiness and peace of humanity as the great purpose of religion, and creating a new current of mutual recognition among religions based upon that perspective. It is the mission of religion in the 21st century to amplify that current into a real and meaningful groundswell.

The Soka Gakkai was founded between the two world wars of the 20th century. Religious groups in Japan at that time had for the most part been subsumed within the Japanese state apparatus, employed to support and promote the state’s policies and interests. As a result, they lacked either the moral courage or power to prevent the militarization of Japanese society and its slide toward war.

It was against such a backdrop that the Soka Gakkai rediscovered the potential of Nichiren Buddhism, and the Lotus Sutra upon which it is based, as a body of teachings for the happiness of all humanity, and began to put those teachings into practice. Because of this, the Soka Gakkai was subjected to harsh persecution by the Japanese militarist authorities of the day, and its founder, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, died in prison refusing to compromise his beliefs.

According to the Lotus Sutra—which is the essence of Mahayana Buddhism—the wish of the Mahayana bodhisattvas to realize happiness for both self and others is the fundamental wish of all human beings, and, indeed, of all living beings.

Awakening people to this fundamental wish and enabling them to bring forth their positive potential is, I believe, the essential mission not only of Buddhism, but of all religions.

The Lotus Sutra describes the emergence into the world of a great multitude of such bodhisattvas who embrace this essential mission—the so-called Bodhisattvas of the Earth. It articulates the extremely important point that, when awakened to this fundamental wish inherent in life, all people can become Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

The Lotus Sutra also teaches the shining example of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, who greeted every person he met with the words, “I have profound reverence for you” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 308), and persisted in this practice of revering others even when insulted and physically attacked. He exemplifies the essence of the bodhisattva practice—believing in our own Buddha nature and the Buddha nature of others, and profoundly respecting all people.

According to Nichiren Daishonin, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s practice of demonstrating profound respect for people is the core practice of the Lotus Sutra and the heart of Buddhism itself. He clearly proclaims:

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 “[Bodhisattva] 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)

Born in 13th-century Japan, Nichiren keenly perceived that he was living in an age when people were steadily losing sight of the Buddha’s great vow to lead all people to enlightenment—the expression of our highest potential. When this happens, people succumb to egoism. The three poisons of greed, anger and foolishness pollute their hearts and muddy society, triggering an intensifying cycle of misery and evil, which will eventually become pervasive and permanent.

The Daishonin declared that in order to fulfill the great vow of the Buddha in such a perilous age, we must carry on the mission of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth and the practice of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, and spread that mission and practice with deep confidence and conviction among people in society.

He went on to develop an extensive and detailed body of teachings for that purpose, and himself took the lead in putting them into practice. At the heart of the treatises and letters contained in this volume is Nichiren’s clarification of the mission and practice of bodhisattvas—that is, to work for the happiness of oneself and others—and also his instructions regarding how to encourage others to embrace this mission as well.

The Japanese text from which this Spanish edition is translated is the Soka Gakkai’s edition of the Nichiren Daishonin Gosho zenshu (Collected Writings of Nichiren Daishonin). It was published in April 1952, about a year after my mentor Josei Toda was inaugurated as the second Soka Gakkai president.

In a sense, the full-scale development of the Soka Gakkai that took place under President Toda’s leadership after World War II can be said to have begun in tandem with the publication of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings. In the decades since, members in Japan have made Nichiren’s writings their foundation in faith and life while striving wholeheartedly to realize the Daishonin’s vision of kosen-rufu to bring peace and happiness to humanity. In the process, they have brilliantly embodied the bodhisattva ideal presented in the Lotus Sutra.

• • •

Here, I would like to briefly discuss the spirit SGI members should adopt when reading Nichiren Daishonin’s writings as a means for deepening their faith.

Reading Nichiren’s writings means connecting with the lofty, noble spirit of the Daishonin himself, who gave his life to protecting and propagating the correct teaching of Buddhism in order to relieve people from suffering. We can see the brilliant light of this spirit throughout his writings.

For instance, whenever I read the following passage—“The sufferings that all living beings undergo, all springing from [the] one cause—all these are Nichiren’s own sufferings” (“On Reprimanding Hachiman,” WND-2, 934)—I am always struck and humbled by the breadth of the Daishonin’s compassion contained in this pledge and his resolve never to stand by in the face of people’s suffering.

Inspired by Nichiren’s spirit, Soka Gakkai members have stood up to emulate it in their own lives, even if only in some small way. They have empathized with others’ sufferings, shared the message of supreme hope that we all possess the Buddha nature, offered warm support and encouragement, and helped people revitalize their lives. Through these efforts, they have created a growing network of hope across the globe based on the shining philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism.

Another example of the Daishonin’s lofty spirit is found in the passage, “Even if it seems that, because I was born in the ruler’s domain, I follow him in my actions, I will never follow him in my heart” (“The Selection of the Time,” WND-1, 579). Whenever I read it, I am moved to the very depths of my being. It is, in contemporary terms, a powerful affirmation of freedom of the spirit, freedom of belief and freedom of thought.

The fundamental force for achieving those freedoms is fearlessness in the face of evil perpetrated by those in power. Nichiren describes this fearlessness as the “heart of a lion king” (“Letter From Sado,” WND-1, 302). We can truly claim to have embodied the aforementioned passage of the Daishonin when we succeed in summoning this lionhearted spirit to overcome all hardships and lead lives of integrity and conscience.

The aim of studying Nichiren’s writings is to connect with his spirit and deepen our faith. Studying the profound teachings of Buddhism strengthens our conviction in the enduring and immutable hope, peace and happiness that exist within us all. At the same time, by learning from the way the Daishonin triumphed over every obstacle, we can summon the courage to rise to the challenges we ourselves face. This is the eternal formula for practice-oriented Buddhist study.

It is my sincere hope that SGI members around the world will apply themselves to reading and studying Nichiren’s writings with an ever-fresh seeking spirit and deepening faith.

Translated from the February 2018 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.

With Ikeda Sensei’s permission, some minor edits and revisions have been made to the original Japanese, and excerpts of remarks originally in dialogue format have been recast as monologues for ease of reading.

—Selected Excerpts Editorial Committee

Awakening to the Interconnectedness of Life

Shakubuku: A Lion’s Roar of Great Compassion