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Ikeda Sensei

Strive With Joy at Each Moment (Part 2)

The following is the conclusion of Ikeda Sensei’s study essay on the “threefold transformation of the land” from “The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin and the Mentor-Disciple Relationship” series, which was originally published in the Dec. 12, 2008, Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, as well as the April 24, 2009, World Tribune. Part 1 was republished in the July 3 issue of the World Tribune.

“From [the] single element of mind spring all the various lands and environmental conditions.” (“The Unanimous Declaration by the Buddhas,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 843)

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, often used to say, “As far as faith is concerned, I’m persistent to the point of obstinacy.” Kosen-rufu is a momentous struggle that requires continuous effort and indomitable resolve. Our dedicated members everywhere have striven tenaciously, with incredible courage and sincerity, amid storms of slander and abuse, to positively transform their environments and communities. Their endeavors truly resonate with the principle of the “threefold transformation of the land” [also referred to as the “three-time purification of the lands”].

Why was it necessary for Shakyamuni Buddha to purify or transform the land in a threefold process? The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai of China identified the three stages involved in this purification as representing the progressive transformation from the Land of Transition to the Land of Actual Reward and to the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light. The Land of Transition is inhabited mainly by practitioners of the two vehicles—namely, the voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones, or persons of learning and realization; the Land of Actual Reward is inhabited by bodhisattvas; and the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light is the land where a Buddha lives.

T’ien-t’ai also interpreted the threefold transformation as corresponding to the eradication of each of the three categories of illusions,[1] respectively— illusions of thought and desire, illusions as innumerable as particles of dust and sand and illusions about the true nature of existence. He viewed it as being symbolic of triumphing over these illusions and manifesting the state of Buddhahood.

The important point, however, lies in the fact that Shakyamuni proceeded in swift succession, without any interval, to transform, first, one sphere of lands and then a second and then a third. Great change can only be realized through constant and continual effort.

Our Inner Resolve Can Vanquish Our Illusions

Viewed on an even deeper level, from the perspective of Nichiren Buddhism, the moment we decide to transform our environment, our lives undergo a tremendous change. This is because when we forge a deep and unwavering resolve to embark on this undertaking, we immediately vanquish all three categories of illusions. As a result, our environment, or the land, also changes without fail.

The “threefold transformation of the land” essentially represents the challenge of doing our human revolution to smash through the tiny shell of our lesser self. This means vigorously chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and courageously initiating efforts for kosen-rufu with the same spirit as our teacher or mentor in faith. Victory lies in taking action right here and now, not sometime in the future.

Kosen-rufu Means to Fundamentally Transform Society

From the standpoint of human society, the “threefold transformation of the land” could be deemed as symbolic of the harmonious coexistence of all humankind. In the Lotus Sutra, Buddhas from the infinite worlds of the ten directions gather and mingle peacefully in a single Buddha land. Accordingly, the Ceremony in the Air represents an ideal world in which people from all walks of life, transcending national and cultural differences, come together as one.

From the perspective of life, meanwhile, the Mystic Law is the Law of the universe. Thus, wherever we spread the Mystic Law, all Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the universe will gather joyously to praise and protect us. The teachings subsequently expounded by Shakyamuni in the Ceremony in the Air—which begin with the “threefold transformation of the land”—clearly attest to this.

Kosen-rufu is the process of spreading the Mystic Law in this troubled, strife-filled world. Dedicating our lives to kosen-rufu means taking on the struggle inherent in the “threefold transformation of the land”: the struggle to fundamentally transform society—a place afflicted by the three poisons of greed, anger and foolishness—into a Buddha land.

And, further, from the standpoint of life condition or state of being, the “threefold transformation of the land” is a demonstration of the boundless virtues possessed by the two Buddhas Shakyamuni and Many Treasures. It also represents the unification or merging of all the Buddhas throughout the three existences of past, present and future who are emanations of Shakyamuni. Buddhas and bodhisattvas from every corner of the universe, seeking the Law and their teacher, travel from afar to assemble in the saha[2] world. This gives us an indication of the towering life state of Shakyamuni, brimming with infinite wisdom and compassion, as he preached the Lotus Sutra. This is a testament to the greatness of the Mystic Law that underlies this life state—a life state that all of us who dedicate our lives to the Mystic Law are also able to attain.

Today, leaders from various spheres around the world are visiting the Soka Gakkai Headquarters and other Soka Gakkai centers. Guests from diverse cultural backgrounds and traditions are expressing their sincere support and understanding of the philosophy and activities of the SGI. They deeply appreciate the humanistic ideals and principles we uphold based on the Mystic Law and are forging close ties of friendship and cooperation with us.

As a representative of our entire membership, I have also received many awards from cities across the globe and academic honors from universities and other institutions of higher learning. The SGI has become a truly magnificent organization, a great harbinger of change in terms of bringing humanity closer together in accord with the principle of the “threefold transformation of the land.”

We Can Make a Difference in This Life

We are also now seeing more and more community leaders in each country attending SGI activities or events. Visitors flock to our centers, splendid citadels built with the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple. Through your noble efforts, Nichiren Daishonin’s confident assertion that the Mystic Law will flourish throughout the land (see “On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings,” WND-1, 392) is steadily becoming a reality.

Your unstinting efforts to talk with and encourage the members in your groups, districts and chapters, helping them transform their lives, are all part of a wonderful drama of victory that embodies the spirit of the “threefold transformation of the land.” Everything comes down to striving with a sense of joy at each moment, believing that the area we find ourselves in right now—no matter how small or how challenging it might be—is the shining stage on which we can make a difference in this life.

Mr. Toda asserted, “If Japan were filled with people who had the strength and mettle of great champions, it would undoubtedly be rebuilt by their unsurpassed abilities in industry, reconstruction, culture and the arts.” When he spoke of “great champions,” he meant people brimming with dynamism and life force, people challenging their own human revolution and showing actual proof of happiness. When people overflow with the vibrant, positive energy to win, to succeed, they can powerfully transform society and eventually even achieve a profound change in the destiny or karma of the world as a whole.

I gave my all as Mr. Toda’s disciple, completely united with him in spirit. Speaking out for truth, I helped one person after another bring about a fundamental inner change in their lives. I fought with the determination to permeate every place I went with my mentor’s spirit and life force. Nichiren Buddhism teaches that the saha world is in itself the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light, or the Buddha land. The condition of the land is also a manifestation of the “single element of mind.” It arises from our mind, our fundamental attitude, and is contained therein.

I have often spoken of the principle of the “threefold transformation of the land” to people living in places afflicted by earthquakes, typhoons and other natural disasters, and prayed together with them. The relief and reconstruction efforts selflessly undertaken by SGI members during such trials have served to spread hope and courage, and have contributed to building greater community cooperation and unity. I have received many messages of appreciation for the invaluable role our members have played in reconstruction efforts in communities that have been hit by disaster. All these members have done a brilliant job in changing poison into medicine.

In our dialogue, Zhang Kaiyuan, eminent Chinese historian and former president of Huazhong Normal University, spoke of how China had recently overcome a number of disasters, including severe snowstorms and a devastating earthquake in 2008, and gone on to make the Beijing Olympics a resounding success. He remarked: “Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao wrote an inscription to encourage those living in the quake-affected areas that said, ‘Much distress regenerates a nation.’ True to these words, the disaster focused the entire Chinese people, both inside and outside China, on the task of rebuilding their country. Because they rallied together, united and overcame hardship, they were able to triumph over a disaster of the kind that we might experience once-in-a-thousand years.”

The mental strength and inner fortitude of the people are tremendous. Based on the principle of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life,” it is possible for us to tap this strength without limit. It is Nichiren’s unshakable conviction that, if we each bring forth our inherent power as a Bodhisattva of the Earth, we will manifest a strength greater than that of all of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the ten directions and the three existences; we will definitely change our karma and transform the world around us into an ideal land of peace and security, safeguarded by the protective functions of the universe.

Summon the ‘Great Power of Faith’

Currently, Japan and the rest of the world are facing a serious financial crisis. However, Nichiren Buddhism teaches us of the “wonderful workings of one mind” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 30). I hope you will be confident, therefore, that with a strong determination in faith never to be defeated, you will find a way through any situation without fail. My wife and I are also wholeheartedly chanting for each of you to be staunchly protected, and for you to triumph and prosper in your lives.

In the Lotus Sutra, the process of purifying the lands takes place not once but in three stages; in other words, it was achieved only through repeated efforts. The challenge of transformation thus requires immense patience and perseverance.

When things get really tough, let’s always summon the the “great power of faith” (“Earthly Desires Are Enlightenment,” WND-1, 319), pray our hardest, keep on trying and challenging ourselves again and again, and thereby open the way to a victorious future!

The Indian poet and educator Rabindranath Tagore wrote: “A country is the creation of man. A country is not all land but all soul. It is only when its people are expressive that a country is fully expressed.”

Today, the Mystic Law has spread to 192 countries and territories. Our Soka movement is recognized widely as an exemplary global network dedicated to the cause of good. Our endeavors in the spirit of the “threefold transformation of the land” as Bodhisattvas of the Earth are beginning to have a meaningful impact on the world.

Kosen-rufu has entered a new stage. Just as the Daishonin called out: “My disciples, form your ranks and follow me” (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 765), the time has now come for fresh legions of capable individuals to boldly step forward and rise into action. Holding high the Soka banner of the oneness of mentor and disciple, our members throughout Japan and the entire world are making positive contributions to their communities and societies. I wish to applaud and commend them with all my heart as a great and noble gathering of Buddhas dedicated to actualizing the principle of the “threefold transformation of the land.”


  1. The three categories of illusions established by T’ien-t’ai are 1) illusions of thought and desire, which are distorted perceptions of the truth and base inclinations such as greed and anger; 2) illusions innumerable as particles of dust and sand, which are illusions that arise when bodhisattvas try to master innumerable teachings in order to lead others to enlightenment; and 3) illusions about the true nature of existence, which are illusions that prevent bodhisattvas from attaining enlightenment or from awakening to the truth of the Middle Way. ↩︎
  2. The saha world indicates a world in which people must endure suffering. It is also defined as an impure land defiled by earthly desires and illusions. ↩︎

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