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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.

Urging his listeners to protect the realm in which the heritage of the ultimate Law of life and death vibrantly flows, Ikeda Sensei quoted the following passage.

Gold can be neither burned by fire nor corroded or swept away by water, but iron is vulnerable to both. A worthy person is like gold, a fool like iron. You are like pure gold because you embrace the “gold” of the Lotus Sutra. (“The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 217)

The young participants gained a profound recognition of their mission.

Sensei said: “The persecutions that befell Nichiren Daishonin were not mere verbal criticism and abuse. Religious authorities plotted to set the secular authorities against him, and they harshly persecuted him with the full force of their secular power.

“Should we face such persecution, it is crucial that you maintain your faith in the Gohonzon and protect the Soka Gakkai and support your mentor. This is very important. Never forget it as long as you live.”
And he added: “Don’t be like iron. You need to be like gold—pure gold!”

Mieko Kawai (Soka Gakkai women’s division vice prefecture leader): Sensei said, “Those who uphold the Mystic Law and seek to achieve kosen-rufu can build a strong character, forging an inner self like pure gold, which nothing can destroy.”

“Become strong people who can support your mentor”—that was his hope for us.

Noriko Hirahata (Soka Gakkai women’s division vice headquarters leader): Sensei said, “No matter what happens, have trust in me and stay true to the Soka Gakkai.” He taught us that leading the life of a “person of pure gold” means taking your mentor’s vision as your own and striving tirelessly to make it a reality.

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It must be ties of karma from the distant past that have destined you to become my disciple at a time like this. Shakyamuni and Many Treasures certainly realized this truth. (WND-1, 217)

Sensei said, “The true meaning of this passage, in the light of the profound principle of life throughout the three existences, is that becoming a disciple and sharing our mentor’s persecution is the result of profound ties from a previous existence.”

Kimiyo Muto (Soka Gakkai women’s division vice ward leader): When I heard this, I felt incredible joy rise in my heart, because Sensei was telling us that the fact that we were taking part in Soka Gakkai activities as high school division members while he was president was not just an accident, but the result of a promise we had made in the distant past, a karmic link forged by our own vow.

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The lecture continued.

The [Lotus] sutra’s statement, “Those persons who had heard the Law dwelled here and there in various Buddha lands, constantly reborn in company with their teachers” [The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 178], cannot be false in any way. (WND-1, 217)

“This is a famous passage,” Sensei said, adding, “We will always be born in a place where we can encounter the Gohonzon.”

Kayoko Oyama (Soka Gakkai women’s division national vice secretary): Sensei said nothing more about this passage. I can’t help but think that he hoped that as we lived our lives, we would come to understand its true meaning—that mentor and disciple are always born and struggle together throughout the three existences; that the ties of mentor and disciple are eternal; and that the heritage of the ultimate Law of life and death is alive in the bond of mentor and disciple. I think he believed in us and was waiting for that to happen.

Ikeda Sensei runs together with future division members in Shizuoka, Japan, August 1972. Photo by Seikyo Press.

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The lecture lasted 70 minutes in total.

Why did Sensei decide to give a lecture on “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life” for the young phoenixes? Because it was a writing that played a decisive role in his own life. He said: “Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda lectured on ‘The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life’ numerous times. … Eventually, it became a writing that shaped my destiny.”

In his diary entry for December 10, 1950, Sensei wrote: “In the afternoon, went to Mr. Toda’s house. He lectured for me on ‘The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life.’ Received guidance from him on various matters until late at night.”[1]

Earlier, Mr. Toda had stepped down as the Soka Gakkai’s general director. He had done so because he was concerned that the repercussions of his business failures, for which he bore legal responsibility, might adversely affect the public perception of the Soka Gakkai.

It was a dark period. Lecturing on “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life” was a crucial and earnest step he took to secure the Soka Gakkai’s future.

The day after Mr. Toda’s lecture, Sensei wrote in his diary: “After all, we must fight to the end in life—for the highest ideal, the realization of kosen-rufu.”[2]

Reflecting on that time many years later, he said: “For six months, I received no salary. My shoes were falling apart, I didn’t have any proper clothes, and I was in poor health. But if it meant I could protect President Toda, I was even willing to suffer in the worlds of hunger and hell. I was determined to have no regrets. I knew that to protect President Toda was to protect kosen-rufu.”[3]

Elsewhere he wrote: “I felt a strong conviction that I was building an invincible and indestructible citadel in my life as I exerted myself wholeheartedly for the sake of my mentor.”[4]

True disciples are those who are deeply committed to striving for kosen-rufu with the same spirit as their mentor.

When his fate was at a crossroads, Mr. Toda lectured on “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life” for his young disciple and successor.

Muneyoshi Ichiyanagi (Soka Gakkai vice president): When we strive to support our mentor, we can summon enormous power. When we strive alongside our mentor, we can break through the shell of our lesser self.

Through his lecture, Sensei earnestly encouraged us to start walking the path of fearless disciples united with their mentor, courageously manifesting the fundamental power inherent in our lives.

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What are the feelings of the mentor as he trains his disciples?

In The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, Sensei said: “[Like the lion] the mentor roars; but then it is up to the disciples to roar in response. Shakyamuni [the mentor] patiently waited and observed them.”[5]

The mentor watches and waits with anticipation for even one individual to stand up, for a disciple who will initiate a struggle cherishing the same spirit and determination as he does.

Sensei’s lecture was a call for the young phoenixes to rise up and take their places on the front lines of the shared struggle for kosen-rufu.

His next lecture was scheduled to take place at 3:30 p.m. on April 23, 1966, at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. It was announced that the writing to be studied would be “Letter from Sado.”

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

To read the concluding installments of this series, visit:


  1. A Youthful Diary, p. 68. ↩︎
  2. Ibid. ↩︎
  3. The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 6, p. 166. ↩︎
  4. From an essay that appeared in the December 6, 2003, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. ↩︎
  5. The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 3, p. 137. ↩︎

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