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April 2—A Time for Renewing Our Vow

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On April 2, 1958, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda died at the age of 58. The following essay by Ikeda Sensei was originally published in the April 8, 2009, Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, once said to me: “Buddhism teaches that ‘all phenomena are manifestations of the Buddhist Law’ (“The Unanimous Declaration by the Buddhas,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 843). I’m going to foster you so that you can converse fluently with top world scholars and leaders on any subject.” This took place during one of my private tutoring sessions with Mr. Toda, at what I fondly refer to as “Toda University.”

This spring, the number of academic honors I have received from universities and other institutions around the world surpassed 250 [now 397]. I credit this entirely to the training I received from Mr. Toda, and I dedicate all of these honors to my mentor and share them with my fellow members everywhere.

It has been 51 years [63 years as of 2021] since Mr. Toda’s death. Today, the banner of Soka flies high as the hope of all humanity.

• • •

Josei Toda passed away serenely in April 1958, having fulfilled his great life mission for kosen-rufu. He was a towering leader of the kosen-rufu movement, a movement to realize peace. He stood up alone amid Japan’s devastation following World War II and selflessly dedicated his life to spreading Nichiren Buddhism with the aim of eradicating suffering and misery from people’s lives. He spoke out forcefully against the evil of nuclear weapons, based on his staunch belief in the absolute sanctity of human life.

Mr. Toda accomplished all of his goals, starting with achieving a Soka Gakkai membership of 750,000 households. Through these efforts, he established the foundation for kosen-rufu in Japan and laid forth a vision of global citizenship for humanity. At the end of his life, Mr. Toda said to me: “My work is complete. Now it’s your turn. I’m counting on you!”

After the death of this noble champion, there was frenzied speculation in the media and among the general public that the Soka Gakkai would disintegrate and disappear. In the midst of this derisive tumult, 120,000 members from all over Japan attended Mr. Toda’s wake on April 8, and 250,000 attended his Soka Gakkai funeral service on April 20.

The members’ sorrow of losing their beloved mentor set my heart ablaze. I fiercely vowed to protect them and ensure that the Soka Gakkai, the organization striving in accord with the Buddha’s intent and decree, would never stumble or grind to a standstill. I vowed to see to it that kosen-rufu continued to advance and that I would vanquish the devilish forces and three powerful enemies that were sure to arise to obstruct our progress.

I thought and chanted long and hard, day and night. Then the first May 3 after my mentor’s death arrived. Standing on the stage at the general meeting held that day, I proclaimed the vision of the Seven Bells—seven seven-year periods marking significant milestones or goals in the Soka Gakkai’s development from the time of its founding (in 1930). I wanted to offer the grieving members a bright beacon of hope, to show them a future of shining new horizons.

• • •

The German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) wrote:

When others run in strange confusion,
[Your] gaze shall see through each illusion;
When others dolefully complain,
[Your] cause with jesting [you shall] gain,
Honor and right shall value duly,
In everything act simply, truly.[1]

Together with my fellow members, I initiated a “100-day struggle” to open the next stage of our movement based on the spirit of mentor and disciple, making our goal the 100th-day memorial of Josei Toda’s death.

• • •

May you, too,
as indomitable champions,
prove the greatness of our cause
for the sake of your fellow members
and your mentor.

While staunchly protecting our home base in Tokyo, I also traveled widely throughout Japan, going to Kansai, Kyushu, Tokaido and Hokkaido. In Kyushu, I urged the spirited youth there to be pioneers of the entire youth division.

In Sapporo, Hokkaido, I came across a young women’s division member from Yubari (also in Hokkaido) and promised her that I would visit that town. She had received personal encouragement from our late mentor on March 1, just before his death. At that time, physically weak though he was, Josei Toda had encouraged a large group of youth division members, directly addressing three young women.

“Where are you from?” he asked them. I stood by him like a shadow, doing my utmost to support him in any way I could. I immediately informed him that they were from Yubari. Recalling the Yubari Coal Miners Union Incident,[2] Mr. Toda then said in an impassioned tone: “We cannot allow the authorities to persecute the Soka Gakkai! I’ll go to Yubari myself. Youth in Yubari must stand up. They must rise into action!”

I went to Yubari in January of the following year (1959) to carry out my mentor’s wish. “I’m here to keep Mr. Toda’s promise!” I declared. I was determined to fulfill in his stead every promise he had made to the members, no matter how small. At the same time, throughout this 100-day struggle, I used every free moment to personally encourage the members with all my might.

Everything starts from a single individual. The important thing is to encourage each person with sincerity, warmth and kindness. This is the way to impart joy and to spread self-confidence and self-assurance. It will cause one person after another to stand up, creating a never-ending flow of champions dedicated to kosen-rufu.

• • •

“Become strong.
Become happy!”—
never forget
our mentor’s voice,
always encouraging us.

Looking back, no leader did more than Josei Toda to encourage mothers who had suffered so much in the war, or who inspired women to bring forth their tremendous inherent power. One woman dried her tears of grief when Mr. Toda told her with unshakable conviction, “You are certain to attain happiness.” He told another woman who was exhausted by her troubles, “You can change your karma without fail!” At these confident words, she lifted her head in hope and went on to break free from the chains of misfortune.

Thanks to Mr. Toda’s guidance and encouragement, many women who were suffering learned about the essence of Buddhism and were able to stand up with fresh confidence. They developed into women who strove joyously for the happiness of others and the betterment of society.

In Mr. Toda’s last editorial for the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study magazine, Daibyakurenge, published on April 1, 1958—the day before his death—he wrote about the danger of confusing knowledge with wisdom: “Basically, you have to understand that you can’t attain true happiness unless you gain mastery over your own life; for this you need strong life force and resilient wisdom.” The members of the women’s division are great sages who have overcome and vanquished all suffering and difficulty, exhibiting just the strong life force and resilient wisdom of which Mr. Toda spoke.

My mentor declared that kosen-rufu would be achieved through the power of women.

• • •

As you are well aware, when Josei Toda passed away, the Soka Gakkai became the target of unbelievable abuse and insult, mirroring the Lotus Sutra’s prediction of “hatred and jealousy” and “slander and abuse” assailing its practitioners. I firmly resolved at that time to let the world know of my mentor’s greatness, the validity of his teachings and his selfless conduct by speaking out hundreds and thousands of times more powerfully than before. The women’s division strove alongside me in the same spirit, committed to letting the world know the greatness of Mr. Toda and the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism, which Mr. Toda more than anyone had taught us. They courageously followed my lead in repaying the debt of gratitude we owed our mentor. Their pure and sincere voices reverberated far and wide across Japan.

That April, 51 years ago [63 as of 2021], when many sneered that the Soka Gakkai’s end was in sight, our organization continued its vigorous forward momentum unabated. The outcome of propagation efforts for the month of April 1958 had surpassed that of March by 5,000, with a total of 29,008 new households. In May, propagation results increased to 33,035 new households. And in June, results exceeded 32,000, for a total Soka Gakkai membership of 900,000 households. This bold and decisive victory completely overturned all malicious predictions and astonished the public. It was the courage and committed efforts of the women’s division that were the driving force behind this brilliant victory.

• • •

On July 6, 1958, at the end of the 100-day struggle, I wrote in my diary: “My entire life is dedicated to declaring and fighting to realize President Toda’s vision. This is my only mission in this world.”[3] The ceremony marking the 100th-day memorial of Mr. Toda’s death was held on July 10, 1958, with great solemnity. It was a ceremony devoted to spreading the spirit with which he had dedicated himself to kosen-rufu.

The end of one struggle is always the beginning of the next. One victory must be followed by another victory. A youthful revolutionary takes pride in living a life of constant challenge.

On July 12, I headed for my beloved Kansai from Yokohama to attend a Kansai youth division general meeting scheduled in Osaka the following day. Some 7,600 young men and 6,800 young women gathered there in high spirits. I called out to them: “The Soka Gakkai is Japan’s wellspring of courage, and the youth division is the wellspring of the Soka Gakkai!” Having concluded the 100-day struggle with my beloved fellow youth, I rang in a new, ever-victorious era from Kansai, the “hometown” of my youth.

and triumphing over
the three powerful enemies
alongside our mentor—
the smiles of Soka.

Recently, the members from Tokyo’s Toshima Ward sent me a photograph of Toshima Civic Hall surrounded by cherry trees in bloom, bringing back wonderful memories. The day after Mr. Toda’s death (April 3, 1958), a headquarters leaders meeting was held at this hall. Mr. Toda had instructed that the meeting take place. I communicated Mr. Toda’s stirring message from just a few days before his death to the members gathered: “You must never let up in your struggle against evil!” If we lose the spirit of refuting the erroneous and revealing the true, the harmonious body of believers that is the Soka Gakkai will be destroyed by envious and ungrateful people. As Nichiren Daishonin says: “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,” WND-1, 997). That is why we must never forget our mentor’s final instructions and always maintain our struggle against injustice.

• • •

With a photo
of my great mentor
inside my breast pocket,
I travel the world
sharing his deep commitment.

In “On Prolonging One’s Life Span,” Nichiren Daishonin writes:

All the sacred teachings of Shakyamuni’s lifetime are the golden words of the Thus Come One; for countless kalpas, they have never contained the slightest falsehood. The Lotus Sutra is the truth of all truths taught by the Buddha, for it includes his declaration of “honestly discarding expedient means.” (WND-1, 954)

It is the disciple’s responsibility to record the mentor’s true teachings. After Josei Toda’s death, I began to collect and organize all of his guidance and lectures, determined not to let a single word of his be lost.

In the spirit of the unity of mentor and disciple embodied by the phrase with which sutras begin, “This is what I heard,” I assembled all of my mentor’s teachings as eternal guidelines for the Soka Gakkai. I made recordings of his lectures on Nichiren’s writings. The very first of these was his lecture on “On Prolonging One’s Life Span,” in which the Daishonin states, “One day of life is more valuable than all the treasures of the major world system” (WND-1, 955). Each day of our lives is incredibly precious.

I suffered from tuberculosis in my youth, and the doctors said I probably wouldn’t live to the age of 30. Then, when I was 30, Mr. Toda passed away, and I virtually assumed the responsibilities of our movement as his successor. I regard every year of my life since then as a gift from him, for which I am profoundly grateful. As such, I have striven to make each day’s work equivalent to that which others may achieve in a month or even a year.

Mr. Toda deeply admired the brilliant prime minister and strategist Zhuge Liang (181–234) of China’s Three Kingdom period. The historian Pei Songzhi (372–451), who wrote a detailed commentary on the Records of the Three Kingdoms (in which Zhuge Liang’s story is conveyed), praised the human alliance centering on Zhuge Liang, people united together in life and death for their noble cause.

Buddhism, moreover, teaches the principle of the oneness of life and death. Accordingly, the lives of mentor and disciple are one on the most profound level, transcending life and death. When we realize this, our lives will brim with immeasurable strength.

The same principle applies to the family. Nichiren writes, “The body that the father and mother leave behind is none other than the physical form and mind of the child” (“Letter to Joren-bo,” WND-2, 572). As such, when the child attains Buddhahood so do the parents. The realm of the Mystic Law is bound together by ties linking past, present and future. For the deceased, their family members are not their “survivors” but their “successors.” The role of those successors is to “inherit” the deceased’s life legacy and good fortune and carry on their commitment to kosen-rufu in their own lives. There’s no need to dwell on the past. Instead, we should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo vibrantly and continue moving forward, living our lives to the fullest and creating brilliant value that shines throughout the universe each day. That is the way to show our genuine gratitude to our forebearers.

• • •

On April 2 this year (2009), I received an honorary professorship from Korea Maritime University (in Busan, South Korea). … On that occasion, the university president remarked to the effect: “April 2 is the anniversary of the death of second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, who fought fearlessly against Japanese militarism for the sake of peace during World War II. On this significant day, we wish to honor Mr. Toda’s disciple, who so selflessly supported his mentor in his hour of greatest need.” His profound spirit was imbued in the award he bestowed upon me.

The spacious campus of Korea Maritime University is located in the international port city of Busan. Speaking of Busan, I am reminded of a touching incident that occurred at the inaugural meeting of the Soka Gakkai women’s division in Japan in 1951, during the height of the Korean War (1950–53). At the meeting, a woman who had been born in Busan stood up and, with tears in her eyes, declared to Mr. Toda her strong commitment to work for kosen-rufu for the sake of the peace and prosperity of her beloved homeland.

I am happy to say that the conferral ceremony by Korea Maritime University on April 2 was attended by several SGI-South Korea members, including members from Busan, where our movement has experienced particularly dynamic growth. In addition, the many South Korean students studying at Soka University who were present for this event proudly gazed up at their nation’s flag while their national anthem was played. I am deeply grateful that I was able to dedicate this honor to my mentor in the company of so many beloved and respected friends from South Korea.

• • •

The women’s division in Japan is making a fresh start with a new leadership lineup in this spring of vibrant and dynamic advance. My wife and I are praying earnestly for the happiness and health of all women’s division members. To commemorate this occasion, five new guidelines for the women’s division were announced:

1) Everything begins with prayer.
2) Advancing harmoniously with our families.
3) Fostering young successors.
4) Cherishing our communities and societies.
5) Joyfully sharing our experiences in faith.

• • •

Prayer is the foundation for everything. Nichiren Daishonin declares: “It could never come about that the prayers of the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra would go unanswered” (“On Prayer,” WND-1, 345). Prayer is not just some halfhearted longing or vague wish. It’s a vow to make something happen and to win without fail.

Based on the principle of the simultaneity of cause and effect, when prayer is based on a profound pledge, a clear result is achieved, just as surely as a magnet attracts iron. As Nichiren says: “If only you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, then what offense could fail to be eradicated? What blessings could fail to come?” (“A Sage and an Unenlightened Man,” WND-1, 130).

Our women’s division members are true experts in the art of happiness whose sole weapon for achieving absolute victory is the strategy of the Lotus Sutra.

Betty Williams, the Nobel laureate who made such an important contribution to peace in Northern Ireland, said to the effect: “The Soka Gakkai knows the power of women. The women of the Soka Gakkai are part of a spiritual network of women around the world contributing to peace. Composed of mothers who are the nurturers of life, this network is one of shared understanding. I believe from the bottom of my heart that women can change the world. This is already beginning to happen.[4]

A wonderful network of women dedicated to kosen-rufu and sharing my spirit—a network committed to realizing peace and happiness for all—is now spreading across the globe.

• • •

This is the season when cherry blossoms begin to adorn our Soka Gakkai facilities across Japan, starting from the south and moving northward. At the Toda Memorial Cemetery Park in Atsuta, Hokkaido, the hometown of my mentor, some 8,000 cherry trees tenderly cared for by our fellow members bloom splendidly each year from around May 3, Soka Gakkai Day. It is a place beloved by the community, where members and their friends as well as many community leaders gather. I’m sure that Mr. Toda would smile warmly at this sight, his eyes shining.

I can still hear Mr. Toda’s voice as he spoke to the members of the young men’s division training group the Suiko-kai: “Don’t follow the path of might but the path of justice.” “Always advance with your gaze fixed 200 years into the future!” “Go out into the world and bring all people together! Unite with other youth!”

I have always acted in exact accord with the courageous lion’s roar of my mentor, and I have honored the anniversary of his death each year with the actual proof of my victories. The period from April 2 to May 3 is a time for disciples to demonstrate proof of their victories to their mentor. It is also a time for disciples to pledge fresh victory to their mentor and embark on achieving it.

Striving side by side
and winning victories
in this lifetime,
let’s advance joyously
in response to our mentor’s call.

Translated from the April 8, 2009, Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.


  1. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Poetical Works of J. W. von Goethe, in Two Volumes (Boston: Colonial Press, 1902), vol. 1, p. 258. ↩︎
  2. Yubari Coal Miners Union Incident (1957): A case of blatant religious discrimination in which miners in Yubari, Hokkaido, were threatened with losing their jobs on account of their belonging to the Soka Gakkai. ↩︎
  3. A Youthful Diary, p. 408. ↩︎
  4. From an article in the Seikyo Shimbun, June 9, 2007. ↩︎

Preface to The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace

Overcoming Great Obstacles Is the Key to Transforming Our Karma