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Our History

Young Phoenixes, Soar Into the Future


Deeply committed to the education and development of children and youth, SGI President Ikeda, as the third Soka Gakkai president, established the high school division in June 1964, the junior high school division in January 1965, and the boys and girls division in September 1965—which together comprise the future division.
The present generation of future division members will be the key protagonists of the kosen-rufu movement when the Soka Gakkai celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2030. With this recognition, the Soka Gakkai monthly study journal
Daibyakurenge (starting from its November 2010 issue) launched a series chronicling President Ikeda’s efforts to foster the future division members, along with graduates’ personal accounts and recollections of meetings and interactions with President Ikeda in their youth.

The solemn and joyous future division meeting came to an end.

Afterward, Ikeda Sensei was scheduled to deliver a lecture on Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 216–19) [for members of the high school division training group from the Tokyo metropolitan area].

The high school division members enjoyed the invigoratingly cool evening air as they hurried to the Sessen-bo lodging, where the lecture would be held.

They went up to the medium-sized tatami-mat room on the second floor. When they entered, they saw several senior Soka Gakkai leaders already seated at the front of the room. From the conversations the young people could overhear, the leaders had come because they also wanted to hear Sensei’s lecture.

The young phoenixes sat down, opened their copies of the writings of Nichiren Daishonin and waited.

At 8 p.m., Sensei entered the room.

Nobuyuki Kishi (Soka Gakkai academic and science division prefecture leader): As soon as Sensei arrived, he said to the top leaders sitting there: “Today, I’m giving an important lecture for those to whom I will entrust the future. If you wish to listen, then please do so outside the room.”

We were all taken aback. Sensei was indicating that we were about to participate in a solemn ceremony between mentor and disciple that was only for us. I never imagined that this would happen. It was with those words that he began his lecture on “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life.”


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Ikeda Sensei’s lecture on “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life” focused on the fundamental purpose of faith in the Mystic Law and how to manifest it through one’s actions.

The treatise is based directly on Nichiren Daishonin’s life state, and Sensei has said that it could be regarded as a manifestation of Nichiren’s life state itself.

Sensei began with a discussion of the title of “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life.”

He said: “‘Life and death’ (shoji) in this context has two meanings. One is that of ‘suffering,’ since the term life and death encompasses all four of the universal sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death. Another meaning is ‘life’ in the context of the repeated cycle of birth and death.”

“The ‘mind’ of ‘many in body but one in mind’ refers to faith in chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It is linked to the spirit or determination to realize kosen-rufu.

Sensei then explained the meaning of the “one great matter” (ichi-daiji, also translated as “ultimate”) in the title. “‘One’ (ichi) means ‘one and only.’ ‘Great’ (dai) means that everything—from the tiniest particle of dust to the motion of the universe itself—follows the rhythm of birth and death. ‘Matter’ (ji) means that the fundamental rhythm of birth and death underlying all life and the universe is not an abstraction, but the actual activity of life and the universe itself.”

In conclusion, Sensei said: “The ‘one great matter’ is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This ‘matter’ refers to the fundamental power by which ‘one’ life moment (ichinen) can in fact activate the ‘great,’ or whole, that encompasses the ten thousand phenomena of the three thousand realms. This ‘actual three thousand realms in a single moment of life’ is the ‘one great matter.’ In short, the Daishonin is telling us that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which could be called the very essence or power source of the Mystic Law, is the matter of ultimate importance.”

Sensei then explained the meaning of “heritage” in the title. He said: “‘Heritage’ means that the teachings are transmitted from the Buddha to living beings, from mentor to disciple. As such, ‘the heritage of the ultimate Law of life’ means transmitting the supreme teaching of life from mentor to disciple.”


■  ■  ■

Ikeda Sensei next moved into the text of the “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life.”

Young men of the high school division were asked to read passages of the writing aloud and explain them. The first young man, who was seated in the front row, stood up and read the opening passage energetically, “I have just carefully read your letter” (WND-1, 216).

It was a short statement, but Sensei offered some background context, observing: “In the very harsh and constrained circumstances [of his exile on Sado Island], Nichiren Daishonin carefully read each letter from his followers. He then replied with guidance and encouragement, into which he poured his whole life. Nothing could pose an obstacle for the Daishonin with his towering state of life.”

Emiko Tani (Soka Gakkai women’s division ward executive leader): Exactly four months after that lecture, I had the opportunity to meet Sensei at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters.

My father’s business had failed, and he had disappeared without a trace. Sensei was aware of my situation. “You have the Gohonzon, so you have nothing to worry about,” he said, warmly encouraging me. He was like a compassionate father.

■  ■  ■

Ikeda Sensei explained that the Mystic Law (myoho) is the Law that governs both life and the universe.

Myo represents death, and ho, life. Living beings that pass through the two phases of life and death are the entities of the Ten Worlds. (WND-1, 216)

It was a difficult passage for the young phoenixes to understand. Why does myo (mystic) correspond to death, and ho (law or phenomena) to life, they wondered.

Sensei’s explanation was clear and accessible: “Life manifests itself through various functions and forms. When someone ridicules us, we get angry. This is a natural law or phenomenon of life. Therefore, life corresponds to ho. But the inner emotional state of anger, as well as the causes and the process that lead up to it, are invisible to the eye and imperceptible. Because they are wondrous (myo) and invisible, they are likened to death.”

Then, Sensei spoke about the universe.

“Because the movement of the universe is visible, it corresponds to ho, and thus, life. Meanwhile, the fundamental power driving the movement of the universe is myo, and because we can’t see it, it is likened to death.”

Sensei continued, “Nichiren Daishonin goes on to explain how we can vibrantly manifest within us the ‘ultimate Law of life and death,’ which is the ultimate teaching of Buddhism, the Law to which the Buddha became enlightened, and also the very entity of our life itself.”

To put it another way, how can we awaken to and experience the universal truth that when our perspective changes, everything changes?

■  ■  ■

Ikeda Sensei identified the practice for awakening to the ultimate Law of life and death in three points.

First, he had the next student read the following passage:

Shakyamuni Buddha who attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago, the Lotus Sutra that leads all people to Buddhahood, and we ordinary human beings are in no way different or separate from one another. To chant Myoho-renge-kyo with this realization is to inherit the ultimate Law of life and death. (WND-1, 216)

He then said, “This passage describes the true spirit of faith.”

What is the true spirit of our faith?

Sensei said: “‘Shakyamuni Buddha who attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago’ refers to the Buddha, to the teacher and to Nichiren Daishonin. ‘The Lotus Sutra that leads all people to Buddhahood’ refers to the Lotus Sutra, or the Gohonzon. And ‘we ordinary human beings’ refers to us, our own lives. This section says that there is absolutely no difference among these three things.”

The young phoenixes felt that they grasped what he was saying intellectually, but not in practical terms.

Sensei continued: “Though the Daishonin says they ‘are in no way different or separate from one another,’ it is hard to awaken to this truth and understand it in actuality. So what does it mean to be awakened? It comes down to faith, or belief.”

In other words, by deepening our faith, the vast life of the universe connects with our individual life, and that great life force wells up within our own being.

He then said: “It is by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith in the Gohonzon that we inherit the ultimate Law of life and death. Faith in the Mystic Law holds the key to transforming our troubled world.”

■  ■  ■

Ikeda Sensei moved on to his second point.

Another student stood up to read the next passage:

The heritage of the Lotus Sutra flows within the lives of those who never forsake it in any lifetime whatsoever—whether in the past, the present, or the future. (WND-1, 217)

In other words, the heritage of the ultimate Law of life and death flows in the lives of those who faithfully uphold the Gohonzon (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) throughout the three existences of past, present and future. But what does doing so entail? This was a difficult concept for the youth to understand.

Sensei explained: “There is no reality existing throughout the three existences of past, present and future other than our very own lives. By simply chanting, we can bring forth the life state of Buddhahood of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo embodied in the Gohonzon, and this is achieved above all by making the spirit of the Daishonin, or our mentor, our own.”

Shogo Ohashi (Soka Gakkai Writers Division advisor; vice ward leader):
Sensei taught us that upholding the Gohonzon throughout the three existences is nothing other than earnestly chanting in this lifetime. He was able to explain even the most profound philosophy in a concrete way that anyone could put into practice.

■  ■  ■

Sensei moved on to the third point.

All disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the spirit of many in body but one in mind, transcending all differences among themselves[1] to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death. (WND-1, 217)

This passage elucidates the actual practice for transmitting the heritage enabling all living beings to attain Buddhahood.

Sensei said, “This is the most essential and fundamental of the Daishonin’s teachings.”

He continued with greater emphasis: “The heritage of the ultimate Law of life is transmitted through the shared commitment of mentor and disciple. It pulses in the life of each individual striving with this united spirit to achieve the lofty goal of kosen-rufu, based and centered on faith in the Gohonzon.

“The ‘mind’ of ‘many in body but one in mind’ refers to faith in chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It is linked to the spirit or determination to realize kosen-rufu.

“In today’s terms, it means that by joining the living organization of the Soka Gakkai, which is based on the Gohonzon, and by practicing Nichiren Buddhism, each individual can attain Buddhahood in this lifetime and establish eternal happiness. That is the ‘heritage of the ultimate Law of life.’”
Sensei’s words struck home in the hearts of those in attendance.

“I hope that all of you will engrave this passage in your lives and never forget it as long as you live. Please encourage one another as you strive to secure the foundations of kosen-rufu.”

Shigeru Asami (Soka Gakkai vice president): Filled with profound resolve, we all raised our hands and said, “We will!” I was deeply moved by the earnestness with which Sensei sought to entrust the future of kosen-rufu to his successors.

Kuniko Nakanishi (Soka Gakkai women’s division nationwide vice secretary; women’s division Study Department leader): Sensei said: “If anyone here today should find themselves deadlocked because of severe financial hardship, or in a miserable situation because they’ve left the Soka Gakkai, I hope everyone else will rush to that person’s side and encourage and help them. That’s what young phoenixes do. That’s what comrades in faith do.” I felt his profound compassion to prevent even one of us from falling by the wayside and becoming unhappy.

Hiromi Yabe (Soka Gakkai vice chapter leader): Though we were very poor, my parents bought me a copy of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings so that I could attend Sensei’s lecture. With careful concentration, I transcribed the essence of Sensei’s precious lecture into that book.

Next to the passage about the spirit of many in body, one in mind, I wrote: “The heritage of faith exists in the Soka Gakkai. If you stop chanting, it’s like getting lost in a maze. No matter how hard things are, keep chanting, until the last moment of your life.”

Sensei taught us that the heritage of faith in Nichiren Buddhism exists only in the Soka Gakkai and that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the driving force for lifelong practice in the Soka Gakkai.

To be continued in an upcoming issue.

Translated from the April 2011 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.


  1. The phrase transcending all differences among themselves could be rendered literally as “without any thought of self or other, this or that.” This is not a denial of individuality, but rather urges the bridging of the gaps between people that arise from self-centeredness. ↩︎

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