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Ikeda Sensei

Chanting in Both Suffering and Joy (Shijo Kingo Part 1)

Shijo Kingo

Pictured are early blooming cherry blossoms at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters complex, marking the arrival of spring. Photo by Seikyo Press
Pictured are early blooming cherry blossoms at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters complex, marking the arrival of spring. Photo by Seikyo Press

This is from a series of Ikeda Sensei’s encouragement for the members of the junior high and high school divisions. It was translated from the Oct. 1, 2019, issue of the Mirai [Future] Journal, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly newspaper for the junior high and high school divisions.

On Oct. 2, 1960, I set out into the world on a journey for peace. Carrying a photograph of my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, inside the breast pocket of my jacket, I traveled to nine cities in the United States, Canada and Brazil.

It was a journey of dialogue, of spreading hope and courage. On that trip, I met many Japanese members who had left their homeland. They included sincere women who were striving tirelessly amid loneliness and economic difficulties. And there were men, sunburned from backbreaking farm work, who were living with all their might.

I wholeheartedly encouraged these noble pioneers of worldwide kosen-rufu: “You have the Mystic Law!” “Continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, no matter what!”

Nearly six decades have passed since then. Today, the light of the Mystic Law has spread to 192 countries and territories. Our members everywhere are chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo while contributing to society as good citizens and expanding solidarity for peace.

The practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo established by Nichiren Daishonin is the universal means by which all people can overcome hardships and achieve human revolution.

Shijo Kingo and his wife, Nichigen-nyo, are admired by members around the world as exemplary disciples brimming with invincible spirit. Over the next three installments, let’s take a close look at their lives and Nichiren’s encouragement to them.

Kingo was a samurai retainer who served the Ema family, a branch of the ruling Hojo clan.

It is said that he became a disciple of the Daishonin during his early years of propagation in Kamakura. There are more than 30 extant letters from Nichiren addressed to Kingo and Nichigen-nyo.

At the time of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution [on Sept. 12, 1271], when the authorities leveled trumped-up charges against the Daishonin and sought to have him beheaded under the cover of darkness, Kingo rushed to his side, ready to die with him. [The execution attempt failed and Nichiren was exiled to Sado Island.]

Later, in 1274, overjoyed by Nichiren’s return from exile on Sado,[1] Kingo tried to convert his feudal lord, Ema, to the Daishonin’s teaching. But Ema was a staunch follower of Ryokan,[2] the chief priest of Gokuraku-ji temple, who was hostile toward Nichiren. As a result, Kingo angered his lord and incurred his disfavor. In addition, some of Kingo’s fellow retainers spread false rumors about him. He became increasingly isolated, and attempts were also made on his life.

Kingo found himself in an extremely difficult situation, which he described as follows: “Great hardships have showered down on me like rain” (“The Difficulty of Sustaining Faith,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 471). It was during this challenging period that the Daishonin sent him the letter “Happiness in This World.” It includes the following passage that Soka Gakkai members across the globe have engraved deeply in their hearts:

Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, no matter what happens. How could this be anything other than the boundless joy of the Law? Strengthen your power of faith more than ever. (WND-1, 681)

Steadfastly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in both suffering and joy, and you will be able to attain a life of happiness without fail, Nichiren tells us.

Happiness is not the absence of problems or sufferings. True happiness shines in the lives of those who never give in to defeat, no matter what challenges or hardships they encounter. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo each day is the ultimate source of strength for living with such resilience.

In this letter, the Daishonin quotes a phrase from “Life Span,” the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which we recite daily: “Where living beings enjoy themselves at ease”[3] (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 272). These words indicate that even though the world in which we live may be rife with suffering, for those who uphold faith in the Mystic Law, it can become a place where being alive itself is a joy.

When we take on the challenges of reality and strive to overcome them based on chanting, we can transform wherever we are into the stage where we “enjoy ourselves at ease.”

Mr. Toda often used to say, “When we wholeheartedly believe in the Gohonzon, life becomes inherently enjoyable, and we can derive pleasure from everything we do.”

There may be times when you want to express aloud your feelings of suffering and sadness. But instead, give voice to those feelings through prayer. If you let them out as they are, they become complaints, but if you direct them toward the Gohonzon, they become prayer.

When you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, you can bring forth the courage not to be defeated. A firm resolve will form within you to do your best and win.

We could say that, like a parent who loves their child, the Gohonzon wants to make our wishes come true and our efforts come to fruition.

Therefore, pray with all your heart to the Gohonzon, like a child relying on their parents for support. It doesn’t matter how many wishes you have—just chant about each one specifically and concretely. Chant with a vow to realize your prayers and keep on doing your best to make them happen. Prayers and efforts based on a vow are the direct path to victory in one’s youth.

The great violinist Yehudi Menuhin (1916–99) once said, “Life is a continuous effort of self-refinement.”[4]

Mr. Menuhin first learned of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo from an SGI-UK women’s division member. As a musician, he was impressed by the beautiful sound and rhythm of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and he remarked that he had often repeated the phrase to himself during strolls and other activities.

When I met Mr. Menuhin, he commented that he felt chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was very similar to singing a song and was impressed by its resonance and power. He also felt it was wonderful that Soka Gakkai members chanted regularly each day.

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the fundamental power of the universe. When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo infused with a vow, we can align our lives with the rhythm of the universe and tap limitless vitality, courage and wisdom. We can realize our prayers and enfold everyone in our environment, our society and even the world in the wondrous sound and rhythm of happiness, of the Mystic Law.

Today again, as we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, regarding “both suffering and joy as facts of life” (“Happiness in This World,” WND-1, 681), let’s take on the challenges in front of us, vibrant in body and mind!


  1. Sado Exile: Nichiren Daishonin’s exile to Sado Island off the western coast of Japan from October 1271 through March 1274. After the failed attempt to take his life at Tatsunokuchi, the authorities sentenced him to exile on Sado Island, which was tantamount to a death sentence. However, when Nichiren’s predictions of internal strife and foreign invasion were fulfilled, the government issued a pardon in March 1274, and the Daishonin returned to Kamakura. ↩︎
  2. Ryokan (1217–1303): Also known as Ninsho. A priest of the True Word Precepts school in Japan. With the patronage of the Hojo clan, Ryokan became chief priest of Gokuraku-ji temple in Kamakura and commanded enormous influence among both government officials and the people. He was hostile to Nichiren and actively conspired with the authorities to have him and his followers persecuted. ↩︎
  3. In gongyo, the passage reads “Shujo sho yu-raku.” ↩︎
  4. Robin Daniels, Conversations with Menuhin (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1980), p. 169. ↩︎

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