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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

Accumulating Treasures of the Heart—Wisely Creating Value Each Day

Toward a Century of Health: The Wisdom for Leading a Long Life of Good Fortune and Benefit—Part 3 [55]

The Soka Gakkai was established through the vow of mentor and disciple shared by our founding President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and his successor, second President Josei Toda.

They cherished the great wish for kosen-rufu and stood up resolutely to achieve it. The Soka Gakkai spirit shines with eternal brilliance in their momentous struggle of selfless devotion to propagating the Mystic Law without begrudging their lives.[1]

The Great Path of Kosen-rufu and Life

Of course, such selfless devotion does not mean recklessly throwing away one’s life. Rather, because our lives are infinitely precious, what matters is how and for what purpose we use them. Ultimately, this means choosing to live based on the philosophy of respect for all people taught in the Lotus Sutra and continuing to walk the great path of kosen-rufu and life. It is to dedicate our lives to the Mystic Law, to kosen-rufu and to fulfilling our mission—all supremely noble aims. This is the essence of “faith for health and long life.”[2]

Persevere Until the Very End

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi began practicing Nichiren Buddhism in 1928, when he was 57. He strove tirelessly to spread the Mystic Law, even traveling as far as Kyushu [the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands], at what was then the relatively advanced age of 69. Undeterred by pressure from Japan’s militarist government, he continued to take initiative for kosen-rufu and speak with people about Buddhism until the very end. This was how Mr. Makiguchi lived his life.

My mentor, Josei Toda, too, went on to achieve his cherished goal of 750,000 member households and unflaggingly led our movement right to the end. Through his own life, he taught us youth the invincible spirit of never letting up in our efforts for truth and justice.

Those Who Keep Striving Remain Young at Heart

Both Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda show us that those who keep striving remain young at heart.

Kosen-rufu is an eternal struggle between the Buddha and devilish forces. As Nichiren Daishonin states: “Strengthen your faith day by day and month after month. Should you slacken in your resolve even a bit, devils will take advantage” (“On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 997). It is crucial to keep moving forward. If our spirits grow old and we start to retreat, we’ll be unable to defeat the negative functions that seek to impede us.

Furthermore, there is no end to our mission for kosen-rufu.

Mr. Makiguchi always used the phrase “We, the youth,” in which he included himself. He always brimmed with a desire for self-improvement.

Nichiren promises that through Buddhist practice we “will grow younger” (see “The Unity of Husband and Wife,” WND-1, 464). Those who remain dedicated to their lofty mission regardless of their age will continue developing themselves and expanding their lives with a youthful spirit. They will come to enjoy lives of complete fulfillment and satisfaction.

In this installment, let us look further into the essence of faith and wisdom for leading a long and healthy life by studying passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings.

Bringing Buddhist Humanism to the World

Life is the foremost of all treasures. It is expounded that even the treasures of the entire major world system cannot equal the value of one’s body and life. Even the treasures that fill the major world system are no substitute for life. (“The Gift of Rice,” WND-1, 1125)[3]

We of the Soka Gakkai are spreading the humanistic principles of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of the Sun throughout the world.

Believing in the Buddha nature of each person we encounter, we make wholehearted efforts out of a genuine wish for their happiness. Treasuring each person is the way to carry on the principles of respect for all people and the dignity of life taught in the Lotus Sutra.

In this letter, “The Gift of Rice,” Nichiren Daishonin teaches life’s infinite preciousness and worth. Making an offering of food, which sustains and supports life, he says, is the same as making an offering of life itself. He also writes that “earnest resolve” (WND-1, 1125) is what enables ordinary people to attain Buddhahood. This is a very important passage, one that Mr. Makiguchi also underlined in his copy of Nichiren’s writings.

Nothing Is More Valuable Than Life

Nichiren Daishonin declares: “Even the treasures that fill the major world system are no substitute for life” (WND-1, 1125). Nothing is more valuable than a person’s life. Nichiren Buddhism sets forth a profound and luminous view of life, teaching that we should make respect for life’s dignity and worth our first priority.

In another letter [“On Prolonging One’s Life Span”] addressed to a disciple who was suffering from illness, the Daishonin states: “Life is the most precious of all treasures. Even one extra day of life is worth more than ten million ryo[4] of gold. … One day of life is more valuable than all the treasures of the major world system” (WND-1, 955). Here, Nichiren stresses life’s preciousness and encourages us to live it to the fullest.

Spreading the Teaching of Respect for Life

The profound awakening Josei Toda experienced while in prison during World War II led to the modern-day revival of the mission of the Bodhi-sattvas of the Earth[5] to spread Buddhism and its teaching of respect for life.

From the beginning of 1944, in addition to chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his prison cell, Mr. Toda devoted time to reading and contemplating the Lotus Sutra. As a result, he awakened to the truth that the Buddha is life itself. He also realized that he had been among those entrusted with the propagation of Buddhism in the Latter Day of the Law during the Ceremony in the Air[6] described in the Lotus Sutra. By mysterious coincidence, this profound conviction took form in Mr. Toda’s heart in November 1944, the same month that Mr. Makiguchi died in prison for his beliefs.

Leading Long and Healthy Lives as Bodhisattvas of the Earth

As successors of Presidents Makiguchi and Toda, we, too, were born together into this world as Bodhisattvas of the Earth having vowed to spread Buddhism and its philosophy of the dignity of life and respect for all people. Valuing the life of each person based on the belief that everyone possesses the Buddha nature is the heart of our efforts for kosen-rufu. At the same time, because each of our lives is so precious, we should aim to live them to the fullest and accomplish our missions.

“Distinctions in Benefits,” the 17th chapter of the Lotus Sutra says, “Our wish is that in future ages we may use our long lives to save living beings” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 280).

In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha who attained enlightenment in the remote past uses his long life to fulfill his great vow to lead all people to enlightenment. It is by making the same vow as the Buddha—“to use our long lives to save living beings”—and striving to carry it out that the Bodhisattvas of the Earth walk the path of the oneness of mentor and disciple.

In terms of our own practice, this is the determination and prayer to continue persevering no matter what and dedicating our lives to helping and supporting others.

Of course, death eventually comes to us all. For that very reason, we should strive in our own way to demonstrate the Buddhist principle of “prolonging one’s life through faith”[7] so that we have no regrets. To that end, we need to have the wisdom for leading a long and healthy life.

Japan’s Super-Aged Society

Japan now ranks as a “super-aged society,”[8] with many people likely to reach 100. This is already presenting us with numerous issues and challenges unique to modern times. But this is where the fortitude of Soka Gakkai members, who stand up to tackle them filled with hope and a profound sense of mission, is a growing source of inspiration.

In the defiled age[9] of the Latter Day of the Law, our actions grounded in respect for others, compassion and a belief in the potential of all people shine ever more brightly.

Experiences Attesting to the Nobility of Life

The new Soka Gakkai World Seikyo Center has at last been completed. It is a great bastion of the written word dedicated to communicating the message of Buddhist humanism to the world.

The Seikyo Shimbun introduces many experiences of Soka Gakkai members both in Japan and across the globe. Each day, the paper carries stories attesting to the nobility of a life based on faith in Nichiren Buddhism and how amazing people who practice it are.

The experiences and actual results achieved by these members are truly compelling. They include overcoming such diverse challenges as financial difficulties, problems with human relations and battles against illness. Recently, the paper has been carrying a series focusing on the lives of elderly members who are savoring the “boundless joy of the Law.”[10] It tells of individuals who, through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, are cheerfully living out their lives and “enjoying themselves at ease” (LSOC, 272),[11] while confronting the challenges of aging, sickness and even death.

Their lives are free and unconstrained. Their abundant wisdom about life and their warm humanity, along with their unflagging good cheer and optimism, brighten the hearts of all. Having dedicated their lives to value creation, they are people of true wealth, veterans in Buddhist practice, victors and inspiring examples of the teaching that ordinary people are Buddhas.

Though they may face the struggles of illness and aging, they use them as opportunities to carry out their human revolution and create value. Their actual proof shines with the light of wisdom for illuminating this age of longevity.

Health Comes From Wisdom

Living healthy, long lives is something we achieve through exercising wisdom. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the foundation for this, as it is the great beneficial medicine for all of life’s ills.

Health comes from wisdom. Getting sufficient sleep is critical to maintaining health. Wisely do what’s necessary to get a good night’s rest. Going to bed as early as possible and not becoming too worn out are an expression of wisdom arising from our determination in faith.

It’s also important to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo specifically to lead a healthy, long life. Pray to remain in good condition and keep the devils of illness at bay so that you can accomplish the great vow you promised to fulfill in this lifetime. Pray with the determination to stay healthy and live long for the sake of your loved ones, your fellow members and kosen-rufu. The all-embracing prayer to lead others to happiness will be communicated directly to the Gohonzon, and will activate the protective functions of the universe.

Nichiren Daishonin Is Aware of Your Sincere Efforts for Kosen-rufu

As you grow older, it’s only natural that you may not be able to do as much as you once did. But if you are resolved to do whatever you can and to chant as much as possible to support your capable successors, you can contribute without end to kosen-rufu.

Your presence at discussion meetings is powerfully reassuring to other members. The fact that you are still going strong in your advanced years is proof of the benefits of practicing Nichiren Buddhism. Your living a vigorous and long life is an inspiration and victory for everyone in your community.

Those who are not mobile enough to attend meetings can still help advance kosen-rufu by taking care of things at home. And someone who is bedridden can communicate their heart with just a smile or through their eyes, which can also sow the seeds of Buddhahood.

The sincerity of your efforts for kosen-rufu, even if unacknowledged by others, is known to the Daishonin. It will without a doubt adorn your life with tremendous benefit and good fortune.

The “treasures of the heart” (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” WND-1, 851) that you have accumulated through long years of Buddhist practice will never perish. Even if one should die at a relatively young age, or meet a sudden accident or succumb to dementia, the treasures of the heart one has built as a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra can never be destroyed. As the Nirvana Sutra says, “A mad elephant [an external obstacle that brings one harm] can only destroy your body; it cannot destroy your mind” (“On Reciting the Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-2, 220).[12]

Nichiren Daishonin also writes, “More valuable than treasures in a storehouse are the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all” (WND-1, 851).

The treasures of the storehouse (material wealth) and the treasures of the body (such things as physical health, practical abilities and social position) are not enduring, but the treasures of the heart are engraved in our lives and endure not only throughout this existence but eternally. That is why the Daishonin urges us to “strive to accumulate the treasures of the heart” (WND-1, 851). As people who embrace the Mystic Law, we can accumulate new treasures of the heart every single day.

In the conclusion to “The Opening of the Eyes,” Nichiren writes: “I have been condemned to exile, but it is a small suffering to undergo in this present life and not one worth lamenting. In future lives I will enjoy immense happiness, a thought that gives me great joy” (“On Reciting the Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 287).

Having the good fortune to be born in this world and encounter the Mystic Law, we have, without a doubt, already entered the path to happiness enduring throughout the three existences of past, present and future. All the difficulties of our present lifetime are “minor sufferings,” and we are guaranteed “immense happiness” in future existences.

Transforming the Four Sufferings Into the Four Virtues

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The words “four sides” [of the treasure tower] stand for birth, aging, sickness, and death. We use the aspects of birth, aging, sickness, and death to adorn the towers that are our bodies. And when, while in these four states of birth, aging, sickness, and death, we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we cause them to waft forth the fragrance of the four virtues [or four paramitas].[13]

Nam stands for the paramita of happiness, myoho for the paramita of true self, renge for the paramita of purity, and kyo for the paramita of eternity. (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 90)[14]

I referred to this passage from The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings during my lecture at Harvard University (in 1993).[15]

Birth, aging, sickness and death are the four fundamental human sufferings, which none of us can avoid. The teachings of Buddhism were expounded to enable people to overcome these sufferings.

Buddhism offers the way for all people to attain a life state pervaded by the noble virtues of eternity, happiness, true self and purity. Those who base their lives on the Mystic Law have nothing to fear. Aging, sickness and death become priceless treasures adorning the treasure tower[16] of our lives.

The passage from the Orally Transmitted Teachings states that the four sufferings compose the four sides of the treasure tower. Through the power of the Mystic Law, the Daishonin says, even these sufferings can be transformed into the fragrant breezes of eternity, happiness, true self and purity, enhancing the brilliance of the treasure tower of our lives.

The Four Virtues Constitute a Wonderful State of Absolute Happiness

Let us now look at each of the four virtues. “Eternity” means that the state of Buddhahood inherent in the life of the Buddha and all living beings is eternal throughout the three existences of past, present and future. “Happiness” is a state of ease free from suffering. “True self” means that Buddhahood is the true self, an autonomous strength that nothing can destroy. “Purity” means that, no matter how polluted and corrupt the age, our lives function purely, like a clear, free-flowing spring.

These four virtues constitute a wonderful state of absolute happiness and might also be described as the attractive aspects of a well-developed character. In the above passage from the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren correlates the four virtues to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. For us, the key to attaining a life state of eternity, happiness, true self and purity is the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo ourselves and encouraging others to do the same.

The purpose of our Buddhist practice is to expand our life through faith in the Mystic Law. Because we experience the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death, we chant to the Gohonzon, which gives us the courage to take on life’s problems. Just as a breeze intensifies the fragrance of incense, faith in the Mystic Law makes it possible for us, amid raging winds of adversity, to expand our life, forge great character and make it shine. The fragrance of the four virtues of eternity, happiness, true self and purity that adorn the treasure tower of our lives then spreads far and wide and brings joy and courage to many others.

The Tremendous Benefit of Chanting

Furthermore, when we are assailed by the four sufferings is precisely the time to strengthen our faith and chant strongly to the Gohonzon. Let’s be confident that by doing so we will develop the boundless life state of eternity, happiness, true self and purity.

Of course, the depth of our prayers is not measured by how much or how long we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Nichiren Daishonin assures us that there is tremendous benefit in writing:

If you recite these words of the daimoku [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] once, then the Buddha nature of all living beings will be summoned and gather around you. (“Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man,” WND-1, 131)

• • •

When we have faith such as this [believing that our lives are in fact Myoho-renge-kyo, or the Lotus Sutra], then it is taught that one chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is equivalent to one recitation of the entire Lotus Sutra carried out just as the sutra prescribes and with the correct understanding of its meaning, that ten chantings are equivalent to ten recitations of the sutra, a hundred chantings are equivalent to a hundred recitations, a thousand chantings are equivalent to a thousand recitations, all carried out just as the sutra prescribes. (“On the Ten Factors,” WND-2, 80)

There are times when your circumstances may not permit you to chant in a resonant voice. In such cases, you can chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo silently in your heart. Mr. Toda taught that we can still gain great benefit from chanting this way.

The important thing is having the desire and earnest resolve to chant. If your desire to chant is strong, you will definitely accumulate good fortune. Furthermore, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo yourself in the final chapter of your life, and supported by the prayers of your fellow members and loved ones, you can crown your life with complete fulfillment.

Building Inner Peace and Security

In a letter Nichiren Daishonin sent from Mount Minobu to an elderly couple [the lay priest Ko and his wife, the lay nun of Ko] who lived on faraway Sado Island, he declares: “No place is secure. Be convinced that Buddhahood is the final abode” (“Reply to the Lay Priest of Ko,” WND-1, 491).

“Final abode” refers to the safe haven one finally reaches through seeking the way. It is the indestructible life state of Buddhahood imbued with eternity, happiness, true self and purity that we strengthen within us—an everlasting palace of peace and security.

Mr. Toda said: “In life, hope is crucial. As long as you have hope, you can advance. You can take on any challenge. You can continue striving no matter what. You also need perseverance. Those who can persevere will not succumb to complaint and negativity. Those who keep moving forward brim with positive energy. If you forge ahead cheerfully with steadfast resolve, you are certain to win.”

He also said, “If you have a powerful life force, you can transform a state in which you complain about your problems, suffering, poverty and other misfortunes into a life state filled with light and joy.”

A Pacifist, Life-Affirming Philosophy

During one of our dialogues, Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi (1894–1972), a pioneer of European unification, expressed to me his hopes for the future role the Soka Gakkai would play: “What Japan needs to export to the world is not merely material goods or technology. Far more important is that it introduce other countries to its great philosophy—the pacifist, life-affirming philosophy of Buddhism that originated in India, passed through China and reached its culmination in Japan.”[17]

Forward, Ever Forward

With growing urgency, people across the globe are seeking a humanistic philosophy of respect for the dignity of life. That is why our Soka network committed to the cause of good has spread far and wide.

Dedicating ourselves wholeheartedly to realizing kosen-rufu, we are sure to enjoy a triumphant life brimming with the virtues of eternity, happiness, true self and purity.

Let us confidently keep pressing forward, ever forward, toward the Soka Gakkai’s 90th anniversary (in November 2020)!

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


  1. The concept of “selfless devotion to propagating the Law without begrudging one’s life” appears in “Encouraging Devotion,” the 13th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, and the Great Teacher Chang-an also refers to it in his Annotations on the Nirvana Sutra. ↩︎
  2. “Faith for health and long life” is one of the five eternal guidelines of the Soka Gakkai. ↩︎
  3. Nichiren Daishonin wrote “The Gift of Rice” when he was residing at Mount Minobu. A response to an offering of rice sent to him, it is thought to have been addressed to disciples in the Fuji area, but any further details are unclear. In the letter, Nichiren Daishonin discusses the significance of offerings, stating that the benefits of making offerings that sustain life, the “foremost of all treasures” (WND-1, 1125), are immeasurable, and he equates the polished rice he has received to life itself. ↩︎
  4. Ryo (Jpn): A unit of weight in Japan modeled after that of ancient China. One ryo was equivalent to about 37.5 grams, though the exact amount of one ryo differed according to the historical period. ↩︎
  5. Bodhisattvas of the Earth: The innumerable bodhisattvas who appear in “Emerging from the Earth,” the 15th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, and are entrusted by Shakyamuni with the task of propagating the Law after his passing. In “Supernatural Powers,” the 21st chapter, led by Bodhisattva Superior Practices, they vow to spread the Buddha’s teaching in the saha world in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law. ↩︎
  6. Ceremony in the Air: One of the three assemblies described in the Lotus Sutra, in which the entire gathering is suspended in space above the saha world. It extends from “Emergence of the Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter, to “Entrustment,” the 22nd chapter. The heart of this ceremony is the revelation of the Buddha’s original enlightenment in the remote past and the transfer of the essence of the sutra to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who are led by Bodhisattva Superior Practices. ↩︎
  7. Prolonging one’s life through faith: This is based on the passage in “Life Span,” the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, that reads: “We beg you to cure us and let us live out our lives!” (LSOC, 269). This is in the section that explains the parable of the outstanding physician, who gives “good medicine” to his children who have “drunk poison” (that is, succumbed to delusion), and who implore him to cure their illness. Through taking this good medicine (that is, embracing faith in the wonderful Law of the Lotus Sutra), they are cured and able to enjoy many more years of life. ↩︎
  8. The World Health Organization and the United Nations define a “super-aged society” as one in which more than 21 percent of the population is 65 years or older. ↩︎
  9. Defiled age: This term appears in “Expedient Means,” the 2nd chapter of the Lotus Sutra, and refers to the age when the five impurities or five defilements are prevalent. The five impurities are the impurity of the age, of desire, of living beings, of thought (or view) and of life span. ↩︎
  10. Boundless joy of the Law: The supreme and ultimate happiness of the Buddha, the benefit of the Mystic Law ↩︎
  11. In the “Life Span,” the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the world in which we dwell is described as a place “where living beings enjoy themselves at ease” (LSOC, 272). This indicates that the saha world, normally regarded as a realm of suffering, is actually the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light, or a Buddha realm, where all living beings can experience the greatest enjoyment. ↩︎
  12. We can interpret being killed by a mad elephant as meaning losing one’s life in an unexpected accident or disaster. ↩︎
  13. Four virtues: Four noble qualities of the Buddha’s life, also known as the four paramitas or four virtue paramitas—eternity, happiness, true self and purity. The word paramita means “perfection.” “Eternity” means unchanging and eternal. “Happiness” means tranquillity that transcends all suffering. “True self” means true and intrinsic nature. And “purity” means free of illusion or mistaken conduct. ↩︎
  14. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings is a two-volume record of lectures that Nichiren Daishonin gave on certain key passages of the Lotus Sutra while he was residing on Mount Minobu. It was recorded by Nikko Shonin. The present passage is “Point Three, on the passage ‘All four sides [of the treasure tower] emitted a fragrance of tamalapatra and sandalwood that pervaded the whole world,’ from “Chapter Eleven: The Emergence of the Treasure Tower, Twenty Important Points” (OTT, 90). ↩︎
  15. Ikeda Sensei’s second lecture at Harvard University, delivered on September 24, 1993, titled “Mahayana Buddhism and Twenty-First-Century Civilization.” ↩︎
  16. Treasure Tower: A tower decorated with seven precious materials, which appears in “The Emergence of the Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Asserting that people who uphold the Gohonzon are treasure towers, Nichiren Daishonin declares: “In the Latter Day of the Law, no treasure tower exists other than the figures of the men and women who embrace the Lotus Sutra” (“On the Treasure Tower,” WND-1, 299). ↩︎
  17. Translated from Japanese. Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi and Daisaku Ikeda, Bunmei: nishi to higashi (Civilization: East and West), in Ikeda Daisaku zenshu (The Collected Writings of Daisaku Ikeda), vol. 102, (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 2003), p. 197. ↩︎

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