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Ikeda Sensei

Together on the Eternal Journey of Mentor and Disciple

Ikeda Sensei's Guidance

The following essay by Ikeda Sensei was originally published in the Sept. 22 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.

My wife, Kaneko, and I did gongyo and chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo together in memory of the deceased on the occasion of the autumn equinox.[1]

We solemnly offered prayers for the eternal happiness of all who in life contributed to the noble endeavor of kosen-rufu. We also prayed fervently for the safety and security of all our precious members as calamities of various kinds continue to buffet society.

Nichiren Daishonin declared: “Now, at the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law, I, Nichiren, am the first to embark on propagating, throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world], the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. … My disciples, form your ranks and follow me, and surpass even [such outstanding disciples of Shakyamuni as] Mahakashyapa or Ananda, [and such great Bud- dhist teachers as] T’ien-t’ai or Dengyo!” (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 764–65).

On Nov. 18, 1930, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, our first and second presidents, founded the Soka Gakkai with this great vow of the Daishonin for worldwide kosen-rufu—the happiness of all humanity and world peace—as their shared vow as mentor and disciple.

Thirty years later, on Oct. 2, 1960, I set off into the world on my journey of mentor and disciple, my vow one with that of my two predecessors.

It was in the midst of the Cold War. However, with a far-reaching vision of transforming the karma of all humankind, I reached out to people grappling with suffering and distress in the United States, Canada and Brazil. Many of those I met were struggling with loneliness and despair, or dealing with setbacks that made it hard for them to earn a living.

Praying deeply for their happiness, I awakened them to their vow as Bodhisattvas of the Earth that lay dormant in the depths of their lives.

We spoke of how prayer in Nichiren Buddhism means chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo infused with a vow. In other words, making a vow to carry out our own human revolution and to strive for kosen-rufu in the places to which we are deeply tied, and chanting to do our best in these endeavors. We summon forth wisdom through the power of faith, apply creativity and effort to challenges and show actual proof of victory. And by unflaggingly exercising the power of practice, we can break through resignation and apathy, and even transform karma into mission.

Prayer in Nichiren Buddhism was a revolutionary departure from the kind of dependent faith in which people simply wished for a godsend from on high or passively entrusted their prayers to priests.

A vow is something we ourselves make; it is active and autonomous. Our prayer, infused with our vow, resonating powerfully from the innermost depths of our lives, is the sound that vanquishes fundamental ignorance and reveals our originally inherent enlightened nature.

Six decades have passed since I took my first step for worldwide kosen-rufu. The daimoku of our members everywhere, infused with a shared vow, today widely and powerfully embraces our entire planet.

And now the time has come for us to embark on a new leg on our journey of mentor and disciple together with the youth of the world, with the flame of our vow for kosen-rufu burning brightly.

Throughout the assembly where Shakyamuni Buddha expounds the Lotus Sutra, disciples make vows to their teacher to propagate the Mystic Law.

When we take as our own the Buddha’s great vow to enable all living beings to attain enlightenment, the wisdom and power of the life state of Buddhahood well forth from within us.

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth, in particular, make a resolute and unflappable vow. They do so even after hearing the Buddha describe the six difficult and nine easy acts[2] and the three powerful enemies,[3] illustrations of how incredibly difficult it is to propagate the correct teaching in the Latter Day of the Law.

Seventy-five years ago (on July 3, 1945), carrying on the legacy of President Makiguchi, who died in prison for his Buddhist faith, Mr. Toda emerged from prison filled with the invincible spirit of a Bodhisattva of the Earth. And he embarked on the challenge of widely propagating the Mystic Law, with the same spirit as the Daishonin when he declared in “The Opening of the Eyes”: “This I will state. Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law. … I will be the pillar of Japan. I will be the eyes of Japan. I will be the great ship of Japan. This is my vow, and I will never forsake it!” (WND-1, 280–81).

This is the spirit of the Soka Gakkai, in perfect accord with the Buddha’s intent.

The Soka Gakkai is a gathering of Bodhisattvas of the Earth dedicated to realizing kosen-rufu through compassionately spreading the Mystic Law. We will continue striving to fulfill our vow with a fearless and indomitable state of life, linked in a vast, infinite web of connections to all Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the ten directions and three existences, transcending the bounds of time and space.

My wife, Kaneko, was deeply moved by a letter from a young woman that appeared recently in the “Readers’ Voices” column of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.

The author related how her great grandmother had decided to join the Soka Gakkai at a discussion meeting held in August 1952 in Sakai (a city in Osaka Prefecture in the Kansai region), which I had attended on my first visit to Kansai.

I also have unforgettable memories of that discussion meeting as it signaled the start of my first campaign in Kansai. At that gathering, I spoke of the greatness of our mentor, Josei Toda, and shared my experience of overcoming tuberculosis through my Buddhist practice. I also said that Nichiren Buddhism was certain to spread around the world and that someday schools dedicated to Soka value-creating education would be established.

Talking to others about Nichiren Buddhism, no matter how small the gathering, acts as a positive cause for the seeds of Buddhahood to sprout in people’s lives. Such efforts will become an indelible “memory of our present life in this human world,”[4] shining like a precious jewel.

The young woman noted that her great grandmother was the first of four generations in her family to walk the Soka path of shared struggle of mentor and disciple. She reported that she herself was now advancing united in faith with her fellow members toward the World Youth General Meeting (on Sept. 27).

Our pioneer members held fast to their vow for kosen-rufu, determined never to be defeated, striving with incredible fortitude amid the most daunting challenges. That vow has been inherited by our precious youth. And today, as they face the difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, they are actively engaged in creating value to usher in an ever-victorious new era with their passion and energy as young global citizens dedicated to worldwide kosen-rufu.

The upcoming World Youth General Meeting will be held online, linking young people around the globe in a grand gathering of Bodhisattvas of the Earth just like the “assembly on Holy Eagle Peak”[5] (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 135).

What connects and brings us together, no matter how far apart we may be physically or geographically? It is our vast resolve, the innermost working of life itself, which has limitless potential, and that embraces the entire universe.

Nothing is stronger or nobler than the earnest wish to encourage another person, than sincere dialogue that seeks to truly communicate with others. When we wish for others’ happiness and summon forth in our lives the wisdom of the Mystic Law that functions in accordance with changing circumstances, we are certain to find a way to connect with their lives.

Our challenge is to pass on the baton of our vow for kosen-rufu across eras, generations and national borders, and create a rainbow of hope in the skies over our blue planet.

I truly applaud and commend the youth, who have risen to shoulder the 21st century, for this great challenge they are undertaking [with the World Youth General Meeting]—an experiment to demonstrate actual proof of the benefit of Nichiren Buddhism. Proudly showing the world their spirit to never be defeated, they are making wonderful causes for the triumphant celebration of the Soka Gakkai’s centennial (in 2030).

The year 1960, in which I began my travels for worldwide kosen-rufu, was also the 700th anniversary of Nichiren Daishonin submitting “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” his treatise of remonstration to the authorities. It was also the beginning of the journey of mentor and disciple to “establish the correct teaching for the peace of the entire world.”

Since then, I have engaged in dialogues to unite the global family toward securing “order and tranquillity throughout the four quarters of the land” (“On Establishing the Correct Teaching,” WND-1, 24), reaching across barriers of culture, ethnicity and religion, and built bridges of unshakable trust connecting people heart to heart.

I am reminded of my discussions with one of those individuals, my friend Aurelio Peccei (1908–84), the co-founder of the Club of Rome, the renowned global think tank.

Dr. Peccei was a pioneer in identifying the threats facing the natural environment, but he remained an optimist about the future, because he saw human beings themselves possessing inexhaustible potential. In our dialogue, he voiced his belief that a human revolution that unearths our inner potential is vital to achieving positive progress for human society.[6]

I was delighted to read an interview with Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, current co-president of the Club of Rome and a noted South African social activist, published in the Seikyo Shimbun recently (on Sept. 17). In it, she voiced her conviction that human revolution is the key to overcoming the crises that afflict our world today and shaping a new human civilization. And Dr. Ramphele, like Dr. Peccei before her, places great hope in young people. I’m sure they would both be pleased to know that Soka youth across the globe are working together with many other organizations in partnership with the United Nations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our young people are truly “pillars of peace,” the “eyes of education” and a “great ship of culture.”

The new song for Soka Gakkai youth around the world [“Eternal Journey with Sensei!”], which was recently released (at the end of August), contains the lines:

Let us soar, you and I, into the dawning skies
Let us strive as long as we live, leaving no one behind
Forward, we advance, we arise![7]

There is a parable[8] in the Lotus Sutra that stresses the importance of moving forward. A group of travelers on a long and perilous journey are dispirited and about to turn back. The leader of their caravan then employs his wisdom, pointing to a destination that is within reach (the phantom city), bringing them joy and rest. As they recover their energies, the leader calls out to them, “Now you must push forward” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 180). He urges them to set forth anew and advance to their true destination of the treasure land (the life state of Buddhahood).

Based on this parable, Nichiren Daishonin states that as long as his disciples are together with him, they will reach the treasure land (see OTT, 78).

There is no greater joy than advancing together with youth “who can inherit the soul of the Lotus Sutra” (“The Hero of the World,” WND-1, 839).

To coincide with my visit to the Mie Training Center in Japan’s Chubu region in October 1985, youth division members built a small structure on the center grounds that they dubbed “Youth Academy,” where I could conduct study sessions. To show my appreciation, I presented them with several pieces of calligraphy, including one of the word Michi (Path) and another with the words Shitei-zan (Mountain of Mentor and Disciple).

At that time, I also wrote a calligraphy of the word Chikai (Vow), which I would now like to present to our youth division and future division members around the world who have risen as one.

A vow gives us wings. When we make a vow, the most proud and honorable flight of youth begins.

A vow creates a path. When we make a vow together, a most beautiful human network unfolds.

A vow is a source of hope and inspiration. When we strive to fulfill our vow, a glorious inner sun illuminates the future.

My beloved disciples, united with me in spirit, I am praying with full confidence that each of you without exception will live out your life with an unwavering vow and attain supreme happiness and honor. I have not the slightest doubt that jubilant cheers of victory will resound in the lives of all who take part in the Soka journey of mentor and disciple united in the shared struggle for kosen-rufu.


  1. Traditionally in Japan, Buddhist memorial services for the deceased are held during respective seven-day periods coinciding with the spring and autumn equinoxes. ↩︎
  2. Six difficult and nine easy acts: Comparisons expounded in the Lotus Sutra to teach people how difficult it would be to embrace and propagate the sutra in the Latter Day of the Law. ↩︎
  3. The three powerful enemies: Three types of arrogant people who persecute those who propagate the Lotus Sutra in the evil age after Shakyamuni Buddha’s death, namely arrogant lay people, arrogant priests and arrogant false sages. ↩︎
  4. See “Questions and Answers about Embracing the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 64. ↩︎
  5. This passage quoted by Nichiren Daishonin in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings asserts that the assembly on Eagle Peak where Shakyamuni preaches the Lotus Sutra is eternal and never-ending. ↩︎
  6. See Aurelio Peccei and Daisaku Ikeda, Before It Is Too Late: A Dialogue, edited by Richard L. Gage (London: I. B. Tauris, 2009), p. 123. ↩︎
  7. The English lyrics are not a direct translation and therefore differ slightly from the Japanese version. ↩︎
  8. The parable of the phantom city and the treasure land: One of the seven parables in the Lotus Sutra. ↩︎

Proudly Advancing on the Great Path to Victory

To My Beloved Young American Friends—Youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth