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Gosho Study

Achieving Spiritual Freedom

Eleanor Roosevelt reviews the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. Photo by FPG / Staff / Getty Images.

“Even if it seems that, because I was born in the ruler’s domain, I follow him in my actions, I will never follow him in my heart.” (“The Selection of the Time,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 579)


Nichiren Daishonin used words and ideas in his struggle for justice and the happiness of all people. And he was persecuted for it in various ways, including being exiled to the remote island of Sado, a punishment in those days equal to the death penalty. As the fear of a second Mongol invasion intensified, however, he was suddenly pardoned.

Returning to Kamakura, he didn’t back down but remonstrated with the country’s rulers for a third time in April 1274. He had been summoned by Hei no Saemon, the powerful official who was behind his attempted execution and subsequent exile to Sado. Nichiren remained unbowed, telling him, “Even if it seems that, because I was born in the ruler’s domain, I follow him in my actions, I will never follow him in my heart.”

It was a bold statement expressing the ideals of freedom of religion and freedom of thought rarely heard in 13th-century Japan. Interestingly, these words were included in a United Nations anthology celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.[1]

Although our body may be constrained, our minds and our sense of justice need never be shackled. Nothing and no one could suppress Nichiren’s selfless, fighting spirit. The three founding Soka Gakkai presidents inherited this spirit and have fought against the devilish functions of authority when those functions have threatened the people’s spiritual freedom. As SGI members, we are heirs to this same noble spirit, and it is our mission to work to realize a world of justice and peace.

Ikeda Sensei’s Guidance

The hearts of those enlightened to the highest truth of the Mystic Law cannot be controlled by even the most powerful secular authority. Even if their spirit may appear for a time to be shackled and oppressed by the powers that be, they continue to wage an unceasing inner struggle that eventually severs all chains and allows them to achieve a brilliant spiritual victory in this world. This triumph of human dignity and the sanctity of life is what will lead to the realization of a peaceful and prosperous land based on the correct teaching. (A Foundation for Your Life, pp. 44–45)


  1. The 1969 anthology, titled Birthright of Man, used a different translation of Nichiren’s words: “Having the honour to be born in your kingdom, I find my body obeying your Excellency, but my soul will never.” ↩︎

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