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Ikeda Sensei

The Fighting Spirit of SGI Members

An oil painting by Hugo Schnars-Alquist. To commemorate May 3, 1960, the day Ikeda Sensei set forth into battle to spread the Mystic Law, he bought a replica of a similar painting by the German artist, depicting his spirit as he set out on his voyage for kosen-rufu, determined to reach the dawn of victory for all people. Photo by INTERFOTO / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO.

The following essay from the “Our Brilliant Human Revolution” series by Ikeda Sensei was originally published in the April 20 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.

I am chanting heartfelt daimoku [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] for all those who have lost their lives to the coronavirus (COVID-19) around the world, and I wish to offer my deepest condolences to their families and loved ones.

I would also like to convey my sincere gratitude to all the medical professionals and health care workers battling tirelessly day and night on the front lines to save lives, as well as everyone carrying out their noble mission in different areas of society. I am praying earnestly for everyone’s health and safety.

Today, April 20, marks the 69th anniversary of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. I remember a conversation I had with my mentor, Josei Toda, in 1950, during the period when his businesses were in dire straits.

We were discussing the idea of founding the Seikyo Shimbun and he asked me, “Daisaku, why do you think it is that Nichiren Daishonin’s disciples were able to overcome the persecutions they faced for their beliefs?” Mr. Toda then opened the pages of Nichiren’s writings to a letter the Daishonin had written from Mount Minobu to the lay nun Sennichi on distant Sado Island, at a time when Japan was racked by natural disasters, famine and epidemics. He pointed to the passage:

Though you remain in Sado, your heart has come to this province. The way of attaining Buddhahood is just like this. Though we live in the impure land, our hearts reside in the pure land of Eagle Peak. Merely seeing each other’s face would in itself be insignificant. It is the heart that is important. (“The Drum at the Gate of Thunder,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 949)

Through the power of the written word, the Daishonin was able to encourage and communicate heart-to-heart with his disciples, just as if he were engaging with them in person.

Mr. Toda said emphatically: “The Daishonin wrote letter after letter to encourage his disciples. That is why they were able to remain undefeated in the face of all adversity in both their personal lives and in society. Daisaku, let’s create a newspaper that fully embodies this spirit of the Daishonin!”

Nearly 70 years have passed since then. Every morning, every day, the Seikyo Shimbun brightly illuminates homes and other places throughout the community with the light of the Daishonin’s Buddhism of the Sun.

Though we may not be able to meet or gather together under the current emergency restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, our hearts as members of the Soka family are linked firmly together by the Seikyo Shimbun and its sister publications around the world. Through the inspiring articles and photos that appear in their pages, our precious members everywhere, who are facing this challenging time together, are strengthening their bonds of unity and shared purpose.

This is due, in no small part, to our noble “uncrowned heroes,” the men and women who deliver the Seikyo Shimbun, rain or shine. I would like to express my profound gratitude to them on this anniversary of the Seikyo Shimbun, the first to be celebrated since the completion of the new Soka Gakkai World Seikyo Center last year (in Shinanomachi, Tokyo). Thank you so much!

Because the Soka Gakkai advances in accord with the Buddha’s intent, there is a wondrous rhythm in its progression.

Our founding president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, was born in Niigata Prefecture, Japan, in 1871—600 years after Nichiren was exiled to Sado Island, also located in present-day Niigata Prefecture, in 1271.

The Nichiren Daishonin Gosho zenshu (Collected Writings of Nichiren Daishonin) was published by the Soka Gakkai at the initiative of our second president, Josei Toda, in 1952—the year in which the 700th-anniversary celebrations were held to mark the Daishonin’s establishment of his teaching (on April 28, 1253).

And as their successor and a representative of the youth, I became the third Soka Gakkai president and began to lead our organization forward in 1960—700 years after the Daishonin submitted his treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land” to remonstrate with the ruling authorities (on July 16, 1260).

Profoundly concerned about the “unusual disturbances in the heavens, strange occurrences on earth, famine and pestilence” (“On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” WND-1, 6) taking place in Japan, the Daishonin sought to “establish the correct teaching”— namely, the great principle of respect for the dignity of life—and realize “the peace of the land”—that is, building a treasure land of happiness and peace for people everywhere.

He thus threw himself even more earnestly into his struggle to transform the destiny of humankind. It was above all a struggle of words and ideas, powerfully championing truth and justice.

That is why, after my inauguration as third Soka Gakkai president, I put all-out effort into boosting the growth and expansion of the Seikyo Shimbun, and resolved to write my serialized novel The Human Revolution.

In “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” the Daishonin states, “If you care anything about your personal security, you should first of all pray for order and tranquillity throughout the four quarters of the land, should you not?” (WND-1, 24).

Our lives are inextricably connected: We cannot enjoy true happiness and security while others are suffering or imperiled. Based on this perspective of life, we are sharing in the Seikyo Shimbun the supremely humanistic philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, of praying and working for peace and security for society and the world. With this newspaper, we have expanded dialogue and solidarity for peace, culture and education far and wide.

Celebrating its 70th anniversary next year, the Seikyo Shimbun is a proud bastion of life-affirming journalism illuminating the great path of happiness for both oneself and others, and imparting courage and hope to its readers.

When I completed the 30-volume series of The New Human Revolution in 2018, I wrote an essay[1] in which I called on our members to continue together writing our epic story of kosen-rufu and the victory of ordinary people into the eternal future.

Each morning, filled with deep appreciation and reverence, my wife, Kaneko, and I view the inspiring reports in the Seikyo Shimbun of the efforts of our members in Japan and around the world. They are a golden daily record of human revolution.

Today, in particular, when humanity is confronting an unprecedented crisis, the Seikyo Shimbun has the incredibly important mission of transmitting the wisdom for changing poison into medicine and creating value. It must play a leading role in producing articles and writings that encourage and empower, and in uniting people’s hearts toward overcoming the challenges they face.

Every day, the paper brings news of the courageous struggles and selfless contributions to society of members throughout Japan and across the globe, serving as an inspiration for all who are fighting their hardest against adversity. It embodies the firm resolve of dauntless world citizens who are always thinking about how to uplift and bring joy to others.

This is synonymous with the Buddha’s constant wish to enable people to become wise and happy, and to live in peace, as expressed in the Lotus Sutra: “At all times I think to myself: How can I cause living beings to gain entry into the unsurpassed way and quickly acquire the body of a Buddha?” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 273).

As the Daishonin affirms: “The wonderful means of truly putting an end to the physical and spiritual obstacles of all living beings is none other than Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (“The Wonderful Means of Surmounting Obstacles,” WND-1, 842). Through the great beneficial power of the Mystic Law, we of the Soka Gakkai are striving in every corner of the globe to bring forth the limitless wisdom and power of the Buddha from within our own lives and those of others in order to “put an end to the physical and spiritual obstacles of all living beings.”

At my inauguration as third Soka Gakkai president six decades ago, on May 3, 1960, I gazed up at a large portrait of Mr. Toda. In my heart, I could hear him urging me to lead boldly as I pledged to advance another step toward the realization of worldwide kosen-rufu with the resolve “This is my vow, and I will never forsake it!” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 281).

To commemorate that May 3, the day I set forth into battle, I bought a painting from a shop near Nishi-Kanda, where the former Soka Gakkai Headquarters had been located. It was a reproduction of an oil painting by the German artist Hugo Schnars-Alquist (1855–1939), who excelled at maritime scenes, depicting a sailing ship riding over the rough seas. Fierce winds are blowing, and the sails are almost fully furled. The ship is tossed by the waves, the white foam drenching its deck. At risk of being submerged at any moment, it sails into the wind in a life-or-death struggle to overcome the peril.

The painting perfectly embodied my spirit as I set out on my voyage for kosen-rufu at the age of 32. I was determined to navigate the roiling sea of vicissitudes to reach the dawn of victory for all people together with my mentor and my fellow members.

To my great joy, not only the members gathered at my inauguration in Tokyo but members all around Japan and the world, sharing the vow of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, stood up with me to fulfill the Soka Gakkai’s mission.

They endured the raging onslaughts of karma. They experienced the fierce winds of slander and abuse, of hatred and jealousy, that are described in the Lotus Sutra. Still, never forgetting the vow they made on May 3, they rallied and joined me in praying and fighting with an invincible spirit and achieved brilliant victory.

I wish to pass on this fighting spirit of Soka Gakkai members—who are united by the bonds of mentor and disciple, and share the vow of Bodhisattvas of the Earth—to our trustworthy young successors who are resolutely facing the daunting challenges of our times.

Cranes soar
across the Himalayas,
the world’s highest
mountain range,
to fulfill their mission.

I composed this poem on the morning of May 3, 1960, the day of my inauguration.

When I was studying under my mentor at what I call “Toda University,” he shared with me the following passage from the Daishonin’s writings: “Birds that approach Mount Sumeru turn golden-hued” (“Offerings for the Object of Devotion,” WND-2, 671).[2] He said that Mount Sumeru is like the Himalayas, and that by setting our sights on such high peaks and giving our all to overcome the challenges along the way, our lives come to shine brightly.

How beautifully the birds flying toward snowy summits must shine! Mr. Toda’s words evoked the image in my mind of cranes soaring majestically in formation, wings spread wide.

No matter how daunting the summits we encounter on our path to kosen-rufu, we, the members of Soka, united by the bonds of mentor and disciple, will spread our wings of compassion and wisdom, and soar courageously onward.

With the most beautiful unity in all the world, let us triumph over every difficulty to create a life-affirming song of victory and impart the golden-hued light of hope to illuminate the future of humanity!


  1. See Oct. 12, 2018, World Tribune, p. 3. ↩︎
  2. According to The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom, living beings that approach Mount Sumeru lose their own colors and take on a golden hue. ↩︎

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