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Ikeda Sensei

The Women of Soka Are Shining Suns of Hope! 

Yellow Asiatic Lilies in a flower garden

Leer in Español

The following essay by Ikeda Sensei was originally published in the June 1 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. 

June 6 marks the 150th anniversary[1] of the birth of our founding Soka Gakkai president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871–1944), who died in prison for his beliefs.  

June 4 is the young women’s division SGI Ikeda Kayo-kai Day, while June 10 is the anniversary of the women’s division’s founding.  

In Japan, the members of both divisions are advancing together in high spirits with the shared theme of “Women’s Month—Connections of Hope.” My wife, Kaneko, and I feel this is truly a wonderful way to celebrate the month of Mr. Makiguchi’s birth.  

Mr. Makiguchi often shared these words of Nichiren Daishonin with women’s division members in the early days of our movement: “When the skies are clear, the ground is illuminated. Similarly, when one knows the Lotus Sutra, one understands the meaning of all worldly affairs” (“The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 376). He encouraged them, saying: “The moment the sun rises, the land is instantly illuminated. In the same way, I hope you will illuminate your daily lives with faith powerful enough to clear cloudy skies. Use your problems as a springboard!” 

With his youthful, openhearted spirit, Mr. Makiguchi always sought to brighten and enrich his own life and those of others, creating value together with them. Once when encouraging a young woman in her teens, he asked her about her interests. When she responded that she liked music, he said, “I’d like to hear some of your favorite music!”  

Today, young women’s division members around the world are using their creativity and ingenuity to encourage one another as they strive together with a positive, upbeat spirit. Their young lives shining with “eternal brilliance in their hearts”—like a line from the song “Vow of the Ikeda Kayo-kai”—they are undefeated by the various challenges and hardships they face. 

Their vibrant youthful endeavors, freely displaying their diverse and unique potential, are a source of inspiration for the entire Soka family, something that Mr. Makiguchi hoped for. 

The lily of the valley is the symbol of the young women’s division, while the white lily is the symbol of the women’s division. Just as these flowers bloom in early summer, Soka women are spreading their beautiful network, sharing bouquets of happiness with people in their communities, societies and the world. 

A noble gathering   
like fragrant
white lilies,   
for you are 
pure-hearted friends.  

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, composed the above poem as an expression of gratitude for the members who had prepared a lovely arrangement of white lilies for the inaugural meeting of the women’s division on June 10, 1951.  

He called on those gathered: “Someday, I’d like all of you to travel throughout Japan to share Nichiren Buddhism with others. Will you do that?”  

A member in her 20s immediately raised her hand and declared: “Yes, I will go anywhere!” At the time, she was struggling to make ends meet while caring for her two small children. Setting off to distant places had never occurred to her. But her heart burned brightly with the Soka Gakkai spirit. 

Mr. Toda was overjoyed by her seeking spirit to respond to his request, for as Nichiren says, “It is the heart that is important” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 1000). This pure-hearted spirit of mentor and disciple remains vitally alive in today’s women’s division Young White Lily Generation.[2]

At that inaugural gathering, a woman born in the city of Pusan (now Busan), South Korea, expressed her earnest wish for peace in her war-torn homeland, and the safety and security of everyone living there. 

Our women’s division members have always taken the lead in pioneering our movement for kosen-rufu in Asia and the rest of the world. 

The seeds of the Japanese mountain lily (Lilium auratum; also known as the golden-rayed lily) fall to the earth in autumn, but often have to weather two winters before they sprout, and it then sometimes takes another three years for the plants to bloom. 

With hearts like white lilies, our dedicated women’s division members have also weathered harsh winters to bloom triumphantly with refined dignity and fragrant good fortune. 

In these trying times, I am reminded of my mentor’s assertion that doing anything in the Latter Day of the Law requires perseverance. 

The first Buddhist “women’s organization” can be traced back to the time of Shakyamuni. It began with women linked by the bonds of mentor and disciple, with a circle of good friends. They offered care and support to other women who were confronting the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death, and together forged hope-filled connections.  

I am reminded of the vow that Queen Shrimala[3] made in the presence of the Buddha in the Shrimala Sutra: “If I see lonely people, people who … have lost their freedom, people who are suffering from illness, disaster or poverty, I will not abandon them. I will bring them spiritual and material comfort.”[4] It was a pledge to leave no one behind.  

The first woman to become a disciple of the Buddha was Mahaprajapati, Shakyamuni’s aunt and foster mother. Many other women followed in her footsteps.  

In “Encouraging Devotion,” the 13th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni declares that Mahaprajapati will in the future become a Buddha known as Gladly Seen by All Living Beings. 

The Daishonin mentions Mahaprajapati numerous times in his writings. In letters addressed to the lay nun Toki, the lay nun Myoho and the Sage Nichimyo, the mother of Oto, he says that they are on a par with this great forerunner and have a mission to open the way to happiness and victory for others. 

In one letter, he praises the strong unity and friendship of the lay nun Sennichi and the lay nun of Ko on Sado Island, saying, “You two are of the same mind” (“Letter to the Lay Nun of Ko,” WND-1, 595). 

And writing to Shijo Kingo’s wife, Nichigen-nyo, he voices his hope that she will read his letter together with another female disciple (see “The Gods Same Birth and Same Name,” WND-1, 315). 

In these passages, we can feel the Daishonin’s wish for his disciples to live out their lives together with fellow practitioners of the Mystic Law and advance in the unity of “many in body, one in mind.” 

No matter what hardships we may encounter, nothing can sever the bonds we share as members of the Soka family. 

At this very moment, members around the world are conveying their heartfelt concern to their fellow members and friends, connecting by phone, letter, email and other forms of communication, to see how they are doing and to encourage them. 

Empathizing with the sufferings of others and praying for their safety and well-being; showing care and consideration for those around us; warmly reaching out to others with wisdom and an open heart and sharing their joys—these are the ways to overcome the divisions in our societies, bring people’s hearts together, and build bridges of hope and trust. 

June 6 is also the Day of Mentor and Disciple of Europe.

Currently, through such series as “Our Members Around the World” and “Rising From Crisis,” the Seikyo Shimbun is introducing the contributions that members in Europe and other places are making to their societies amid the challenging circumstances of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They are all upholding the indomitable philosophy of respect for the dignity of life and Buddhist humanism. Their stories are inspiring people around the globe. 

On May 3 this year, in Spain, my lecture series on Nichiren’s writing “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime” was published in book form in two regional languages, Galician and Basque. 

A local newspaper in Galicia stated that the profound principle of “attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime” elucidates individual empowerment as the source of collective empowerment, calling it a concept that could open the way to a future full of hope in the 21st century.[5]

The article appeared on May 17, Galician Literature Day, which commemorates the publication of a collection of poems by the great Galician poet Rosalía de Castro (1837–85), who revived Galician literature in the 19th century. 

Galicia is located in northwest Spain and has a long, proud history with strong Celtic and Roman influences. De Castro praised her home region in her poetry as the most beautiful in the world, and urged her readers to smile and sing together in order to change suffering and pain into joy and consolation.[6]

The Galician translation of my lecture series on “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime” was done by a very insightful Spanish women’s division leader, who is originally from Galicia.   

Around the world, admirable women dedicated to kosen-rufu are putting down solid roots in society and making notable contributions. They are demonstrating the teaching that “attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime” leads to realizing the Daishonin’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.”  

On my first trip to Europe (in 1961), I purchased several reproductions of paintings while in Paris.  

One of them depicts a young woman with flushed cheeks conversing with a young man who seems to have come to visit her. The image exemplifies the shining vitality of youth. 

Whenever I looked at this work, I was always reminded of the characters Marius and Cosette from Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (1802–85), as well as our young men’s division and young women’s division members. On the back of the print, I wrote, “Be eternally youthful.” 

Another of the prints shows a couple and their children relaxing in their living room. The modestly dressed mother is busy with her sewing, while the children cling to their father, who is seated next to her. The family dog is also present. Though an unremarkable scene, it captures a happy family moment, the mother’s gentle smile serving as a central focus.   

With the hope that our busy Soka families would also enjoy such a warm family circle in which mothers are treasured, I called this painting “Harmonious Family.”  

The thick book that sits on the table next to the mother in the picture may well be a symbol of the desire for learning and self-improvement. 

Following in Mr. Makiguchi’s steps, we of the Soka Gakkai are thoroughly committed to learning and self-improvement. That is why our movement is never deadlocked.  

“On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime” is also one of the 30 writings of Nichiren that the young women’s division has taken as a study goal in Japan and other countries. These young women of seeking spirit have engraved the following passage in their hearts: “All your virtuous acts will implant benefits and roots of goodness in your life. With this conviction you should strive in faith” (WND-1, 4). 

“Whatever happens, as long as we have unshakable faith, we will become happy without fail! We can triumph over any kind of hardship and challenge!”—this is the conviction of women who uphold the Mystic Law. That is why they are strong. That is why they are never defeated. That is why they are dignified and positive. They see problems as opportunities to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This enables them to tap their wisdom, courage and strength, and to encourage others. In the end, they will realize genuine happiness for themselves and help others do the same.  

A woman from Japan’s Tohoku region, who started practicing Nichiren Buddhism the year I was inaugurated as third Soka Gakkai president (in 1960), is now 100 years old. Speaking of the key to true victory in life, she declared: “Have a diamond in your heart. Shine as brightly as you can. That’s what faith is for. … Don’t worry, just engage in faith with all your heart!”  

At the beginning of 1960, I wrote in my diary: “The world’s greatest women’s organization, cultural organization, women’s liberation organization, modern and humane self-determining organization and life-improving organization—these are all other names for the Soka Gakkai women’s division.”[7]

Today, just as I hoped—no, was confident would happen—our united network of Soka women shines as a beacon of peace and culture unsurpassed anywhere in the world. It is thanks to the prayers and the courageous and compassionate efforts of these noble women who share my spirit and commitment that we have triumphed over every obstacle throughout the past 60 years since my inauguration.  

I am praying wholeheartedly that every single one of you, my precious fellow members, will enjoy good health, happiness and longevity. 

And I am chanting earnestly each day that no matter how deep the night of suffering of the present times, you, the shining suns of Soka, will dispel the darkness and brightly illuminate our planet’s future, changing all poison into medicine. 


  1. According to the traditional way of Japanese counting, a person is counted as 1 year old on the day of their birth. ↩︎
  2. At the Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting held on Nov. 18, 2019, the women’s division leader announced that its members under the age of 50 would be referred to as the Young White Lily Generation in Japan. “White Lily” is one of the symbols of the women’s division. In conjunction with this new development, the Young Mother’s Group has been dissolved and absorbed into this larger group. ↩︎
  3. Queen Shrimala: Also known as Lady Shrimala or Queen Srimala. A daughter of King Prasenajit of Kosala and his consort Mallika, in the time of Shakyamuni. Shrimala married Mitrayashas (also known as Yashomitra), the king of Ayodhya. She is the protagonist of the Shrimala Sutra, which depicts her conversion to Buddhism by her parents, her encounter with Shakyamuni Buddha and her vows to him to propagate the one vehicle teaching. ↩︎
  4. See The Lion’s Roar of Queen Srimala: A Buddhist Scripture on the Tathagatagarbha Theory, translated by Alex Wayman and Hideko Wayman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974), p. 65. ↩︎
  5. “Filosofía budista no Día das Letras Galegas” (Buddhist Philosophy on the Day of Galician Literature), Xornal Galicia, <> (accessed June 5, 2020). ↩︎
  6. Translated from Galician. See Rosalía de Castro, Cantares gallegos (Galician Songs), (Madrid: Ediciones Akal S.A., 2000), pp. 31–35. ↩︎
  7. See Daisaku Ikeda. A Youthful Diary: One Man’s Journey from the Beginning of Faith to Worldwide Leadership for Peace (Santa Monica, California: World Tribune Press, 2000), p. 465. ↩︎

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