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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

The Student Division—Be Leaders of Wisdom and Courage Who Will Create a New Era of Hope

To My Friends of Each Division Engaged in Our Shared Struggle [50]

Founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi proclaimed: “Unless you have the courage to be an enemy of those who are evil, you cannot be a friend to the good.”[1]

Throughout history, multitudes of honest, decent people have been persecuted and countless people deserving of happiness have been oppressed.

The Soka Gakkai has battled against all forms of injustice that trample on people, persisting in its valiant struggle to protect the good. This is the shared spirit of President Makiguchi, President Toda and myself.

Igniting a Torch of Conviction and Courage in Members’ Hearts

The Yubari Coal Miners Union Incident that took place in Hokkaido in June 1957 was a case of such oppression. Hardworking Soka Gakkai members and their families in the mining town of Yubari were virtually shunned by the local community at the instigation of the coal miners’ union, because of their faith in Nichiren Buddhism. The union even threatened the mine workers with expulsion (which meant losing their jobs) if they didn’t leave the Soka Gakkai.

Embracing the spirit of my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, as a youth I rushed to Hokkaido and took the lead in supporting our members there. I visited them in their homes and urged them with all my might to join me in this struggle and to refuse to be defeated. Going from house to house to meet with these sincere members striving earnestly in their faith, I ignited a torch of conviction and courage in their hearts.

It was in the midst of these activities in Yubari that I received notice to appear at the Osaka Police Headquarters for questioning. That was the start of the Osaka Incident.[2]

A Long-Awaited Group

The Soka Gakkai student division was established at a time when our organization was being viciously attacked by the authorities.

On June 30, 1957, with Josei Toda in attendance, some 500 university students gathered at the Azabu Civic Hall in Tokyo for the new division’s inaugural meeting. Mr. Toda was overjoyed, stating that he had long been eager to create this group.

As I was still in Hokkaido, I sent a telegram, which read: “Congratulations on the inaugural meeting of the student division, a gathering of talented youth who will shoulder the next century! Under President Toda’s leadership, please embark on your journey in high spirits.”

Creating an Age of Respect for the Dignity of Life

The student division’s mission, deeply imbued with the Soka Gakkai’s history at that time, is to develop leaders of the Mystic Law who are committed to living their lives together with the people, protecting the people and fighting for the people.

My mentor solemnly wrote: “One of the fundamentals of Buddhism is to not inflict harm on anyone and to help free all people from suffering. Another is to bring joy to all people. This is the heart of the Buddha’s compassion.”[3]

Indeed, our wish as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism and the eternal starting point of my beloved student division is to realize human happiness and world peace, and to create an age of respect for the dignity of life with our humanistic philosophy and compassionate spirit of relieving suffering and imparting joy.

In this installment, let us explore the noble mission of our student division members, champions of the spirit of Bodhisattva Universal Worthy, who will lead the way in building a new era filled with hope.

Calling Forth Leaders of Immeasurable Wisdom

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says [in reference to the Lotus Sutra chapter title “Encouragements of the Bodhisattva Universal Worthy” (Jpn Fugen Bosatsu Kambotsu-hon)]: In the compound kambotsu, the element kan [or kam], or “encouragement,” refers to the conversion of others, while the element botsu (or hotsu), or “initiate,” refers to one’s own practice.

In the name Fugen, or Universal Worthy [or Universal Wisdom], the element fu, “universal,” refers to the true aspect of all phenomena, the principle of eternal and unchanging truth as embodied in the theoretical teaching. The element gen, or “worthy” or “wise,” expresses the idea of wisdom, the wisdom of the truth that functions in accordance with changing circumstances, as embodied in the essential teaching. Hence we see that here, at the conclusion of the sutra, there is expressed a veneration for the Law as it is implied in the two teachings, the theoretical and the essential.

Generally speaking, we may say that, now when Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they enjoy the care and protection of Bodhisattva Universal Worthy. (From The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, pp. 189–90)[4]

Bodhisattva Universal Worthy appears in “Encouragements of the Bodhisattva Universal Worthy,” the 28th and final chapter of the Lotus Sutra. He possesses immeasurable wisdom, which he uses to protect those spreading the Lotus Sutra and to advance kosen-rufu.

In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren Daishonin says that the Mystic Law is propagated in the Latter Day of the Law through the “authority and supernatural power” and the “care and protection” of this bodhisattva (see OTT, 190).[5]

The Lotus Sutra describes how, upon learning that Shakyamuni is preaching the Mystic Law, Bodhisattva Universal Worthy travels from the east to hear it, arriving with innumerable bodhisattvas playing wonderful music, just before Shakyamuni concludes his sermon (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 360).

Similarly, it was toward the end of Josei Toda’s life that the student division was established. I think we can say that each member of the student division is a Bodhisattva Universal Worthy of Soka, called forth to be entrusted with the important mission of initiating an age of the people.

Kosen-rufu Starts With Encouraging Those Around Us

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi underlined the passage we are studying from The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings in his copy of Nichiren’s writings, indicating that he felt it was deeply important.

Here, with respect to the chapter’s title, “Encouragements of the Bodhisattva Universal Worthy,” Nichiren discusses the meaning of “encouragement” (kambotsu) and “universal worthy” or “universal wisdom” (fugen).

First, he says: “The element kan [or kam], or ‘encouragement,’ refers to the conversion of others” and “the element botsu (or hotsu), or ‘initiate,’ refers to one’s own practice” (OTT, 189).

He then explains that fu (meaning “universal”) of fugen represents “the principle of eternal and unchanging truth,” while gen (meaning “worthy” or “wisdom”) represents “the wisdom of the truth that functions in accordance with changing circumstances” (OTT, 189).

In other words, “encouragement” (kambotsu) means rousing faith ourselves and, with the joyous life state we attain through doing so, urging others to practice as well. This is truly a process of life-to-life inspiration.

Possessing universal wisdom (fugen) means to have a thorough grasp of wide-ranging principles and to demonstrate broad wisdom. It is having the wisdom that allows one to impart comfort and hope, conviction and courage to others.

Nichiren Daishonin further states that the “Encouragements of the Bodhisattva Universal Worthy” chapter “expresses veneration for the Law as it is implied in the two teachings, the theoretical and the essential” (see OTT, 190).

For us, venerating the Mystic Law means first of all chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo strongly and earnestly to the Gohonzon. Through doing so, we will brim with joy and fulfillment and our lives will expand beyond measure. Further, when we experience the enormous joy that comes from engaging in Soka Gakkai activities, we will naturally want to tell others about our Buddhist practice.

When our lives abound with exuberant joy, we can awaken and draw forth the Buddha nature in others. Our compassionate concern for their well-being gives rise to infinite wisdom.

Sincere, heartfelt encouragement is also important. The first step toward realizing kosen-rufu is encouraging those around us.

Become Victors in Buddhist Practice

Arriving late for Shakyamuni’s sermon, Bodhisattva Universal Worthy begs him to preach the Lotus Sutra again and asks how people will be able to acquire the teaching after Shakyamuni’s death (see LSOC, 360). To this the Buddha replies that if they fulfill four conditions after his death, they will acquire the Lotus Sutra. Because Shakyamuni is reiterating the key points for practicing the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren says that the “Encouragements of Bodhisattva Universal Worthy” chapter is “a restatement of the Lotus Sutra” (OTT, 241).

Let us now examine the passages where the four conditions are set forth and their significance to us.

The first is “they [the people in the age after Shakyamuni’s passing] must be protected and kept in mind by the Buddhas” (LSOC, 361). This means receiving the protection of the Gohonzon [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] by embracing and upholding it.

The second is “they must plant the roots of virtue” (LSOC, 361). This means making good causes, as well as chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with absolute faith in the Gohonzon and teaching others to do the same.

The third is “they must enter the stage where they are sure of reaching enlightenment” (LSOC, 361). This means associating with people who are assured of attaining Buddhahood. In other words, remaining steadfast in faith as members of the harmonious community of Buddhists correctly practicing the teachings.

The fourth is “they must conceive a determi-nation to save all living beings” (LSOC, 361). This means making a vow to lead all people to enlightenment.

In short, these four conditions can be restated as: upholding the Gohonzon; chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; striving with the harmonious community of practitioners; and making a vow. They are all included in our commitment to living our lives together with the Soka Gakkai, dedicated to the great vow for kosen-rufu.

As Soka Gakkai members, chanting and spreading Nam-myoho-renge-kyo ourselves and teaching others to do the same, we can transform all hardships into great good fortune and attain the life state of Buddhahood without fail. Those who strive unflaggingly to propagate the Mystic Law will become true victors in Buddhist practice.

The Soka Gakkai has succeeded in spreading Nichiren Buddhism around the world because its members have put these four conditions into action.

Protecting the Practitioners of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law

When Bodhisattva Universal Worthy learns that by fulfilling these four conditions one can attain enlightenment, he vows to Shakyamuni that he will guard and protect the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra in the evil and corrupt age of the Latter Day, relieve their sufferings, bring them peace of mind and prevent devilish functions from taking advantage of them (see LSOC, 361). He also promises to guard and protect the Lotus Sutra and, after Shakyamuni’s death, cause it to be widely propagated throughout the world and ensure that it never comes to an end (see LSOC, 363).

In other words, he vows to staunchly protect the practitioners of the Mystic Law and devote himself to worldwide kosen-rufu.

He actively goes among the people, declaring that if anyone should forget a single phrase or verse of the Lotus Sutra, he will “join them in reading and reciting it” (see LSOC, 361).

Later in the chapter, Shakyamuni assures Bodhisattva Universal Worthy, “Before long this person [a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra] will proceed to the place of enlightenment” (LSOC, 364). Commenting on this passage, the Daishonin says: “The place where the person upholds and honors the Lotus Sutra is the ‘place of enlightenment’ to which the person proceeds. It is not that he leaves his present place and goes to some other place” (see OTT, 192).[6]Of utmost importance is where we are right now.

The essence of the universal wisdom that Bodhisattva Universal Worthy embodies is struggling courageously to transform the here and now. There is no room for abstract theories. The Soka Gakkai spirit has its roots in this dauntless spirit of Bodhisattva Universal Worthy.

Showing Others the Same Respect You Would a Buddha

In the “Encouragements of the Bodhisattva Universal Worthy” chapter, we find this well-known passage: “If you see a person who accepts and upholds this sutra, you should rise and greet him from afar, showing him the same respect you would a Buddha” (LSOC, 365). The Daishonin identifies this as “the foremost point [the Buddha] wished to convey to us” (OTT, 192).

Since those who accept and uphold the Lotus Sutra are guaranteed to attain Buddhahood, this passage tells us, we should show them the same respect we would a Buddha. In this way, we could say that the 28-chapter Lotus Sutra concludes with the declaration that the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law are Buddhas.

In Chinese, this famous passage consists of eight characters. Incidentally, the eight pillars on the north and south sides of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters complex in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, symbolize this eight-character passage, welcoming each precious member who visits the hall as a Buddha.

Our admirable student division members, possessing both wisdom and courage, are faithfully carrying on this spirit in everything they do, respecting and embracing as Buddhas those who are striving earnestly for kosen-rufu.

It is important that fellow members working for kosen-rufu respect one another and unite together, irrespective of what differences they may have. The wisdom that comes from believing in the Buddha nature of all people, no matter who they are, is the wisdom of the Buddha.

Because we believe in the Buddha nature of others, the compassionate wisdom to realize happiness for ourselves and others wells up boundlessly from the depths of our lives.

Be People Who Champion Justice and Human Dignity

As I mentioned earlier, Nichiren states that kosen-rufu is achieved through the “authority and supernatural power” of Bodhisattva Universal Worthy (OTT, 190), which represent courage, sincerity and wisdom borne from a sense of responsibility and passion to spread the Mystic Law. The source of these qualities is faith.

Mr. Toda said: “Great feeling gives rise to great reason. … Our feelings for our fellow citizens and the rest of humanity stem from the highest reason. Nichiren Daishonin’s spirit is itself the highest feeling and reason.” Our ardent wish to actualize Mr. Toda’s dream of eliminating misery and suffering from the world enables us to develop our wisdom and abilities and grow into compassionate leaders.

Our great, unyielding passion for kosen-rufu brings forth the universal wisdom to elevate and enrich the life state of humanity as a whole. Our unremitting struggle, based on our vow, against all that inflict suffering on the people causes the light of wisdom for justice to shine. Our belief in the Buddha nature of the person in front of us becomes the wisdom to respect all human beings.

This wisdom is never self-righteous. I hope that student division members will thoroughly study Nichiren Daishonin’s writings and the humanistic principles of Nichiren Buddhism, while at the same time devoting themselves earnestly to their learning and humbly absorbing insights from diverse sources of knowledge past and present.

Please strive to forge links between the vast, profound sea of Buddhism and the world’s foremost streams of thought and philosophy, thereby revealing the brilliance of universal wisdom that has the power to protect the people. This is our role as a global religious movement. Your self-development and growth will create a new era.

Repaying Debts of Gratitude

From the beginning, I pursued my studies because I wanted to master Buddhism and attain Buddhahood, and also to save the people to whom I am indebted. It seems to me that on the path to attain Buddhahood it may invariably be when one has done something like lay down one’s life that one becomes a Buddha. (“Banishment to Sado,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 202)[7]

When Nichiren Daishonin was sentenced to exile on Sado Island,[8] some of his followers, due to ignorance or fear, began to doubt that he was really the votary of the Lotus Sutra.

In “Banishment to Sado,” he writes that his motivation for studying Buddhism and striving to attain Buddhahood was to repay his debts of gratitude.

By opening the way for his own enlightenment, Nichiren wished to open the path to enlightenment for all people of the Latter Day of the Law. For that, he says, is the way to repay his gratitude to those to whom he is indebted. The persecutions he endured were also none other than the result of his efforts to open the great path to universal enlightenment. There can be no doubt about this.

Kosen-rufu is an eternal spiritual struggle with the devil king of the sixth heaven,[9] who tries to control, dominate and oppress people’s lives. That’s why the Daishonin says that on the path to attaining Buddhahood, one becomes a Buddha when one strives with the spirit to “lay down one’s life” (WND-1, 202). When we bravely face the difficulties we encounter, we are able to display lionlike courage, immeasurable wisdom and boundless compassion. In other words, we reveal the life state of Buddhahood.

It’s important that we wholeheartedly encourage and support our fellow members as we lead the way in advancing kosen-rufu. Fulfilling the mission of Bodhisattva Universal Worthy requires committing our lives to the great vow to spread the Mystic Law.

Don’t Get Lost in Your Own Labyrinth

The Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset (1883–1955) deplored how in modern times people had lost their way in life:

On the one hand, to live is something which each one does of himself and for himself. On the other hand, if that life of mine, which only concerns myself, is not directed by me towards something, it will be disjointed, lacking in tension and in “form.” In these years we are witnessing the gigantic spectacle of innumerable human lives wandering about lost in their own labyrinths, through not having anything to which to give themselves.[10]

Even today, many are trapped in what Ortega describes as a labyrinth of egoism.[11]There is also evidence of a growing tendency for people to close themselves off from others, but that only makes them feel powerless and diminishes their lives.

We of the Soka Gakkai, however, have a lofty goal to which we devote our lives—kosen-rufu. Our student division members who embrace the Mystic Law feel the joyous fulfillment that comes from dedicating their lives to a great aspiration, their lives brimming with pride, good fortune and benefit.

In “Banishment to Sado,” which he wrote while being held prisoner just before his exile, Nichiren teaches a follower in his home province of Awa that dedicating one’s life to the great vow to spread the Law is to repay the debts of gratitude one owes to others.

I hope that our trusted student division members, who are directly connected to Nichiren Daishonin, will continue to stand up for the happiness of the people throughout their lives. Never become what Nichiren calls “talented animals” (WND-1, 258). Don’t allow your learning to make you arrogant or look down on decent, hardworking people. Don’t cause problems with your fellow members because of jealousy, resentment or self-interest and be forced to leave the organization for kosen-rufu. When people forget to have gratitude, they lose their way.

May you all live with gratitude, the true path of humanity, and lead fulfilling lives without any regrets.

A Shared Wish for Creating an Age of Peace

When asked whether another major war would occur in Europe, the renowned physicist Albert Einstein (1879–1955) said: “If you don’t do anything it may come. It is not a question of ‘waiting’ but of ‘acting.’ World peace is possible with the proper organization and the right ideals.”[12]

From that perspective, all the more important are the efforts that you, our student division members, are making—efforts to actualize Nichiren’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land,” driven by the determination to make the 21st century, a century of peace.

In the early days of our movement, I once said to student division members, “Your division was established to enable you to lead the way to realizing the victory of the people, by the people and for the people.”

When wise and courageous leaders take active roles on the stage of their mission in every sphere of society, an age of the people’s victory will open widely. This is the wish of the first three Soka Gakkai presidents.

A Renewed Effort for Kosen-rufu

In June 1978, when we were assailed by a storm of attacks by forces seeking to sever the ties of mentor and disciple, I composed the Japanese student division song “Onward to Kosen-rufu.” At that time, I also presented the student division with three guiding principles: 1) You are all capable individuals; 2) You are all students with a mission; and 3) Your student division activities are training for you to develop into leaders of the age.

I still vividly remember student division members joyfully singing “Onward to Kosen-rufu” over and over again at the meeting where the song was introduced.

In the spirit of passing the baton of mentor and disciple, I’d like to sing it once again with you:

In this great river flowing mightily
Let us speak to one another, bathed in the silver waves
This ship is certain to make history
My friends, join me as we press onward to kosen-rufu

A Global Network of Bodhisattvas Universal Worthy

I hope that all of you, lives brimming with universal wisdom, will strive to expand our circle of friendship as you fulfill your responsibility to protect the people as Bodhisattvas Universal Worthy. Embracing your vow from the distant past, please build a global network of wisdom and courage to further the great undertaking of worldwide kosen-rufu. I entrust the entire future to you, the Bodhisattvas Universal Worthy of Soka.

Translated from the June 2019 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.


  1. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Works of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 6 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1983), p. 71. ↩︎
  2. Osaka Incident: The occasion when, in July 1957, SGI President Ikeda, then Soka Gakkai youth division chief of staff, was arrested and wrongfully charged with election law violations in a House of Councillors by-election in Osaka that year. At the end of the court case, which continued for more than four years, he was fully exonerated of all charges, on January 25, 1962. ↩︎
  3. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 1 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1992), p. 27. ↩︎
  4. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings: Nichiren Daishonin’s oral teachings on the Lotus Sutra, recorded and compiled by his disciple and successor Nikko Shonin. ↩︎
  5. In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren Daishonin says: “It is due to the authority and supernatural power of Bodhisattva Universal Worthy that this Lotus Sutra is propagated throughout Jambudvipa (the entire world). Therefore, the widespread propagation of this sutra must be under the care and protection of Bodhisattva Universal Worthy” (OTT, 190). ↩︎
  6. This is the revised translation based on the English translation of the Lotus Sutra as it appears in The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras. According to the Soka Gakkai Buddhist Scripture Translation Department, these revisions will be incorporated in a future revised edition of The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings. ↩︎
  7. Nichiren Daishonin composed this letter in October 1271, while in Echi in Sagami Province (present-day Kanagawa Prefecture). Addressed to an acquaintance at Seicho-ji temple, it stresses that encountering life-threatening persecution for the sake of the Law guarantees one’s attainment of Buddhahood. ↩︎
  8. Sado Exile: Nichiren’s exile to Sado Island in the Sea of Japan from October 1271, immediately following the Tatsunokuchi Persecution on September 12, 1271, through March 1274. In the two years and five months Nichiren was on Sado, he lacked sufficient food and clothing and his life was under constant threat from Nembutsu followers. During this perilous time, however, he composed many important works, including “The Opening of the Eyes” and “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” and offered encouragement to his followers. ↩︎
  9. Devil king of the sixth heaven: Also, devil king or heavenly devil. The king of devils, who dwells in the highest or the sixth heaven of the world of desire. He is also named Freely Enjoying Things Conjured by Others, the king who makes free use of the fruits of others’ efforts for his own pleasure. Served by innumerable minions, he obstructs Buddhist practice and delights in sapping the life force of other beings, the manifestation of the fundamental darkness inherent in life. The devil king is a personification of the negative tendency to force others to one’s will at any cost. ↩︎
  10. José Ortega Y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1993), p. 141. ↩︎
  11. Ibid., p. 142. ↩︎
  12. Denis Brian, Einstein: A Life (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996), p. 206. ↩︎

Action Is the Direct Path to Changing Our Karma