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Our History

Lecture on the SGI’s Spiritual Independence

Photo by Seikyo Press.

The SGI prepared the following lecture to commemorate the 30th anniversary of our spiritual independence on November 28, 1991. The lecture details key moments in the Soka Gakkai’s history that led to it developing into a world religion that embraces all people’s equal ability to attain enlightenment as they are. In addition to the body of the lecture, the SGI-USA Study Department prepared an explanation of certain terms in the form of sidebars.

Part 1: The Essence of the Priesthood Issue

This November 28, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s spiritual independence.

We gained our spiritual independence from the Nikken sect[1] on November 28, 1991. Since then, the Soka Gakkai has progressed continually, expanding its presence to 192 countries and territories, thus spreading its wings throughout the world.

As we approach this milestone, let’s reaffirm the significance of our spiritual independence by reviewing some major events and topics pertaining to the priesthood issue.

This year marks the 800th anniversary (according to the traditional Japanese way of counting) of the birth of Nichiren Daishonin, the founder of Nichiren Buddhism. And, as we know, the Daishonin passed on his spirit and practice for the universal spread of the Mystic Law, or kosen-rufu, to Nikko Shonin, who inherited it and faithfully carried it on.

As time passed, however, Nichiren Shoshu, the school Nikko founded, allowed the spirit of the Daishonin and Nikko to decline. They began to place a higher priority on preserving the school itself than on upholding the spirit and practice of Nichiren Buddhism.

In short, the priesthood lost sight of their noble mission of kosen-rufu. Fabricating dogma became a means for them to maintain their status. For them, believers became “tools” for providing donations to ensure the livelihood of priests and the perpetuation of the priesthood.

The priesthood, while appearing to base itself on Nichiren Buddhism, was in fact acting contrary to the Daishonin’s teachings.

In contrast, the Soka Gakkai had maintained its commitment to fulfilling the Daishonin’s great vow for kosen-rufu, while supporting the priesthood and trying to reform it when necessary. Right after World War II, Nichiren Shoshu faced financial ruin, and the Soka Gakkai, out of the sincerity of its members, began to build and donate new temples. In all, up until its spiritual independence in 1991, the Soka Gakkai donated more than 350 temples.

While the Soka Gakkai dedicated itself to the great vow for kosen-rufu, the priesthood prioritized maintaining its own status and authority, and this naturally led to friction. Yet whenever such problems arose, the Soka Gakkai worked tenaciously to resolve them.

In 1972 the Soka Gakkai achieved a significant milestone in completing the Sho-Hondo, or Grand Main Temple, at the Nichiren Shoshu head temple. It then embarked on a new phase of development, which it termed “the second chapter of the kosen-rufu movement.”

This represented a new era of building a society based on Buddhist principles such as compassion and respect for the dignity of life. In other words, it was time to open to society at large the wisdom of Buddhism that pulsated within the Soka Gakkai, making this wisdom the shared possession of humankind.

Volumes 17 and 27 of The New Human Revolution describe the specific activities this involved. Concrete plans and actions toward the global development of kosen-rufu were set in motion. These included 1) solidifying Soka Gakkai organizations in various countries, 2) holding intercultural exchanges and interfaith dialogues and 3) developing programs to study the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism.

First, regarding the strengthening of Soka Gakkai organizations worldwide, Ikeda Sensei wrote:

Organizations of [Soka Gakkai] members steadily emerged in many countries and territories, and were carrying out their own activities in a way that suited local circumstances, creating an ever-growing garden of happiness of kosen-rufu. Gradually, these organizations began calling for ways to strengthen their connections to inspire and assist one another.

It was thus that, in May 1973, the European Conference was established. This was followed in August by the formation of the Pan-American League, and in December, the Southeast Asian Buddhist Cultural Council.[2]

After Soka Gakkai organizations on each continent were well-established, the Soka Gakkai International was founded in 1975.

Second, seeking to further intercultural and interfaith understanding, Sensei met and spoke with leaders and thinkers from various fields around the world, starting with the renowned 20th-century historian Arnold Toynbee and Aurelio Peccei, co-founder and first president of the Club of Rome.[3] Among these dialogues, the major ones alone comprise more than 1,600 sessions, through which Sensei has gained unwavering praise and support from around the world for his ideas and actions for peace.

And regarding the third aim, to develop clear programs for the study of Nichiren Buddhism in order to advance worldwide kosen-rufu, Sensei explained:

We must return to the starting point of faith, delving into and reaffirming the ideals of Buddhism, which will serve as the inspiration for building a new society and culture. …

Making an effort to study Buddhism and fully grasp Buddhist teachings and principles is indispensable for fresh development.[4]

At the time, humanity’s traditional values had led to an impasse, and people were seeking practical ways to reform their relationship with the environment and their understanding of the issues of life and death.

To that end, new approaches suitable for the times and based upon the fundamental principles of Buddhism would be necessary.

Through books and writings such as The Living Buddha and Buddhism, the First Millennium, Sensei tried to correct the prevailing image of Shakyamuni Buddha as a deity. He portrayed him in a realistic light—as a fellow human being who sought to challenge the fundamental sufferings all people face, those of “birth, aging, sickness and death.”

When someone with a spirit to seek the way awakens, they can become a superb human being with the wisdom to resolve humanity’s karma to be defeated by these four sufferings. Such an awakened person is called a Buddha. Sensei wished to affirm this view of Buddhism, religion and humanity. And, by doing so, he clarified that Buddhism is a philosophy that equally extolls the dignity of each individual.

In 1977, in the first of a series of lectures titled “Discussions on Buddhist History,” he stated that the essential character of Buddhism was that of a “religion that exists for the sake of human beings.” In the second, he explained that the Soka Gakkai fulfilled the function of both laity and clergy,[5] and in the third, he emphasized that Soka Gakkai centers and training centers function as temples of the modern age.

Of course, all these efforts were grounded in the original spirit of Buddhism. Rather than offering praise, however, the priesthood leveled accusations at Sensei, claiming that he was disparaging priests and temples, and deviating from Nichiren Shoshu’s traditional doctrines. In addition, priests at various temples began repeating unjust criticisms of the Soka Gakkai.

These events came to be known as “the first priesthood issue.”

The Soka Gakkai will always stand upon the fundamental Buddhist principle that “all people are equal, and all people can become Buddhas.” And with Nichiren’s writings, as its foundation, it will base itself upon faith directly connected to Nichiren Daishonin. The priesthood, in contrast, has put a priority on asserting its authority. It has sought to insert itself as an intermediary between lay believers and the Buddha by deifying Nichiren Daishonin and thereby distancing him from ordinary human beings.

Priests who place their own status and authority above all else seem to have no ability to understand the way of life of Soka Gakkai members, who dedicate themselves to making Nichiren Buddhism a religion for the world.

They feared that if believers formed a direct connection with Nichiren Daishonin, their value as priests would be lost. So, to preserve their authority and protect their interests, they sought to stifle the Soka Gakkai.

The priests targeted Sensei, in particular. They thought that if they could force him to resign as Soka Gakkai president, they could use their authority to lord it over the lay believers.

On top of that, a former Soka Gakkai lawyer, seeking power for himself, allied himself with the priests. Together they plotted to sever the mentor-disciple bond between Ikeda Sensei—the leader of kosen-rufu—and the members. In this way, the priests and their allies aimed to gain complete control over the organization.

This was the essence of the first priesthood issue.

Ikeda Sensei exerted himself to resolve the situation. And with the hope that it would serve to protect the members and restore harmony between priesthood and laity, he resigned as president of the Soka Gakkai in April 1979 and was appointed “honorary president.” (His role as president of the Soka Gakkai International, to which he was appointed in 1975, remained unchanged.)

At that time, the priesthood restricted Ikeda Sensei’s activities intending to sever the bond between him and the members. For example, he was no longer permitted to offer guidance at meetings or publish his words in the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.

However, as detailed in the “Great Mountain” chapter in The New Human Revolution, volume 30, Sensei’s conviction remained as unmoving as a great mountain. He visited the homes of members who had contributed significantly to the kosen-rufu movement, and, in each locale, took commemorative photos with the members. He exerted himself in these ways to encourage each member.

As covered in the “Awaiting the Time” chapter in The New Human Revolution, volume 30, he also prepared for his next move, which was to mount a counteroffensive to combat negative forces and make a fresh departure for worldwide kosen-rufu by visiting countries around the world. His moving encouragement during his travels, particularly to the youth, is detailed in the chapters “Launching Out” and “Cheers of Victory” in volume 30.

• • •

PART 2: Preparing to Take Flight as a World Religion

After Nikken assumed the office of high priest, the priesthood’s authoritarianism increased steadily. Their tendency to look down on believers and disregard the sincerity of the Soka Gakkai, which had supported the priesthood, took a marked turn for the worse.

And Nikken grew jealous and hostile toward the Soka Gakkai even as it continued to develop internationally. He also harbored similar feelings toward Ikeda Sensei, who was winning praise from thinkers and leaders worldwide.

This ultimately led to Nikken’s devising and putting into action a plot called “Operation C” (see sidebar, p. 20), intended to sever ties with the Soka Gakkai and place its members under the priesthood’s control.

This involved first announcing, with no prior discussion, their elimination of the position of chief representative of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations, which Sensei held, effectively dismissing him.

The Soka Gakkai sought to resolve the situation through discussion, but the priesthood declined.

Then, on November 7, 1991, they sent the Soka Gakkai a “Remonstrance to Disband,” followed on November 28 by a “Notice of Excommunication.” These events encapsulate what came to be known as “the second priesthood issue.”

Sensei discusses them in the following excerpt from the “Vow” chapter in The New Human Revolution, volume 30:

On November 8, 1991, a document from Nichiren Shoshu titled “Remonstrance to the Soka Gakkai to Disband” arrived at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. …

The Soka Gakkai, however, had already become an independent religious corporation, separate from Nichiren Shoshu, in 1952. This step had been taken based on the keen foresight of second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda, who was determined to fulfill the mission of kosen-rufu. Consequently, Nichiren Shoshu was in no position legally to compel the Soka Gakkai to disband. In fact, it had no authority over the organization at all.[6]

 • •

Shin’ichi Yamamoto consistently spoke to members about the correct path of faith, stressing the importance of always returning to the Gohonzon, the spirit of the Daishonin, and the original teachings of the Daishonin contained in the Gosho.[7]

 • •

On November 29, three weeks after the Soka Gakkai received Nichiren Shoshu’s “Remonstrance to Disband,” another document arrived titled “Notice of the Excommunication of the Soka Gakkai.”[8]

Their Notice of Excommunication contained not a single passage from the Daishonin’s writings and lacked any basis in the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism. It was simply a repetitive series of authoritarian and emotional assertions demanding that lay believers blindly follow the instructions of the high priest.

Then the priesthood went so far as to stop conferring the Gohonzon to Soka Gakkai members. They aimed to use the Gohonzon, the foundation of faith, as a tool to keep people obedient, effectively telling them that if they wished to receive the Gohonzon, they had better leave the Soka Gakkai and follow the priesthood. It was a sordid example of religious repression and intimidation.

Nichiren Shoshu sent its Notice of Excommunication on November 28, which we have since celebrated as the Soka Gakkai’s Day of Spiritual Independence. Sensei addresses its significance, writing:

A major catalyst for the dynamic development of the Soka Gakkai, which was energetically advancing worldwide kosen-rufu, was its attainment of spiritual independence from the corrupt and ossified Nichiren Shoshu priesthood. …

Priests of Nichiren Shoshu became increasingly dogmatic and flaunted their clerical authority. In the process, they even came to reject as slander of the Law the artistic and cultural works that were inspired by other faith traditions yet considered by people around the world as the heritage of all humanity. Growing ever more authoritarian, they adopted an unjust policy of extreme discrimination against the laity. They sought to establish a system in which lay followers were completely subjugated by the priesthood, with the high priest at its zenith. This was a betrayal of the Daishonin’s spirit and a violation of the Buddhist teachings of respect for the dignity of life and the equality of all people.

If this were to continue, the fundamental principles of Nichiren Buddhism would be distorted in a way that it no longer resembled a teaching for realizing happiness and peace for all humanity. With the rallying cry of “Return to the spirit of the Daishonin!” the Soka Gakkai rose up to carry out a religious reformation and remonstrated with the priesthood. …

November 28, 1991, the day Nichiren Shoshu sent that final notice, became the Soka Gakkai’s Spiritual Independence Day, marking its liberation from the fetters of the priesthood. The dark clouds hanging over the Soka Gakkai’s future were swept away and the path to worldwide kosen-rufu suddenly opened wide before us. It was the dawn of a new day when the Soka Gakkai would soar freely into the 21st century as a truly global religious movement.[9]


—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

From the mid-1970s, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood—jealous of the success of the Soka Gakkai and Ikeda Sensei in building a global network for kosen-rufu—plotted to control the lay organization. It tried to drive a wedge between Sensei and the members, and bring the Soka Gakkai directly under its control. In an attempt to resolve this situation, Sensei resigned as Soka Gakkai president in 1979.

The developments leading up to and immediately after this event are known as the “first priesthood issue.”

The fundamental nature of the priesthood, however, remained unchanged, and, in 1990, it hatched a plan known as Operation C (“C” meaning to “cut”), and excommunicated the Soka Gakkai and its members on November 28, 1991, a day that later came to be known as our Day of Spiritual Independence.

The developments leading up to and immediately after this announcement are known as the “second priesthood issue.”

On November 30, two days after the notice of excommunication was issued, a special Soka Gakkai leaders meeting to celebrate the organization’s spiritual independence was held, with Sensei in attendance.

At the meeting, he said that it’s important to look at the present changes from a longer perspective, 20 or 30 years hence, regarding everything that happens as according fundamentally with the Buddha’s intent. Sensei continued:

We believe in Nichiren Daishonin, not in some intermediary, as our foundation. We must be clear on this point. We will continue to work tirelessly to fulfill the great vow for “kosen-rufu through the compassionate propagation of the great Law” in exact accord with the intent of the Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day.

In “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” the Daishonin writes, “If Nichiren’s compassion is truly great and encompassing, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will spread for ten thousand years and more, for all eternity” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 736). We must remember that kosen-rufu advances due to the boundless compassion of the Daishonin. It is our supreme honor to shoulder that noble undertaking.[10]

• • •

PART 3: The Grave Offenses and False Doctrines of the Nikken Sect

The priesthood under Nikken grounded itself in false doctrines that go against the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin.

1) The first is “the slander of attempting to destroy kosen-rufu.”

Kosen-rufu—the wide dissemination of the Mystic Law—is the will of Nichiren Daishonin. And it is the Soka Gakkai that has been transmitting Nichiren Buddhism throughout the world. Nikken plotted to destroy the Soka Gakkai, which amounts to “destroying the harmonious order of believers.” Such actions, which divide or destroy the gathering of people committed to Buddhist practice and propagating the Buddhist teaching constitute one of the greatest offenses described in Buddhism.

2) Second is the misguided dogma of “high priest worship.”

In the doctrine of the Nikken Sect, as stated in one of their public documents, “The high priest and the Gohonzon are one and inseparable.” Based on this, they advocate reverence for the high priest, worshipping him as an absolute being. This fallacy of high priest worship led to Nikken, in the role of high priest, becoming a symbol of absolute authority as well as an object of faith.

But Nikko Shonin, the Daishonin’s direct disciple and successor, wrote, “Do not follow even the high priest if he goes against the Buddha’s Law and propounds his own views.”[11] Nikko declared that if even the high priest should stray from the correct Buddhist teachings and make arbitrary or self-serving pronouncements, we must reject these.

The Daishonin states, “Believe in this mandala with all your heart.”[12] In this way, correct faith means to believe in the Gohonzon. Regarding the high priest as absolute constitutes a falsehood that goes against the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin and Nikko Shonin.

3) Third is a mistaken view of the “heritage.”

The Nikken sect justifies the absolute authority of their high priest by holding a peculiar interpretation of the Buddhist idea of heritage, one that deviates from the essential principles of Nichiren Buddhism.

This view claims that a sitting high priest exclusively passes to his successor two specific items: 1) the Buddha’s “inner enlightenment” and 2) the “body of the Law,” or the Law of enlightenment itself.

Based on this occult interpretation, they hold that, through this transference alone, the successor automatically becomes a “Buddha.”

However, Nichiren Daishonin makes clear that the heritage for attaining Buddhahood is not something possessed by a selected individual. It is open and accessible to all people. The Daishonin calls this the “heritage of faith.”[13] In other words, the heritage is faith itself.

Therefore, the Nikken sect’s mysterious view of the heritage as a special privilege turning the person who receives it into a Buddha is also an erroneous dogma. It deviates from the essential principle of heritage taught in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.

4) The fourth error is based on the above three: It is the priests’ “discriminatory attitude toward the laity.”

The discriminatory notion that “priests are superior and lay believers, inferior” permeates the priesthood. In their biased, antiquated view, a lay believer of even the loftiest merit is inferior to any ordinary priest. This contrasts completely with the Daishonin’s words “For this reason, the Buddha surely considers anyone in this world who embraces the Lotus Sutra, whether layman or laywoman, monk or nun, to be the lord of all living beings.”[14] As this passage indicates, Nichiren Buddhism views all people as equals. In that light, it is clear that the discrimination against lay believers pervading the Nikken sect shows it to be an antiquated religious order incapable of adapting to the times.

As we’ve seen, with its view of the heritage as something mysterious passed only from one high priest to the next, the Nikken sect made “high priest worship” its foundation. Based on these ideas, it institutionalized discrimination against lay believers.

All of these constitute false doctrines that have nothing to do with the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. After the priesthood excommunicated the Soka Gakkai, its advocacy of unquestioning belief in the high priest became all the more apparent. Separation from the priesthood, therefore, became inevitable in light of the Soka Gakkai’s mission to accomplish the worldwide spread of Nichiren Buddhism.

Moreover, in 1998, the Nikken Sect gave the world a true picture of its devilish nature with its destruction of the Grand Main Temple.

The Grand Main Temple, built to last at least one thousand years, was hailed internationally as a masterpiece of architecture rivaling any religious structure of the 20th century. Nevertheless, Nikken, demolished it only 26 years after it was built, a cruel affront to the sincere faith of the 8 million believers who had offered donations for its construction.

In 2005, Nikken stepped down from his position as high priest and handed the office to a successor, Nichinyo. But the tainted lineage of Nichiren Shoshu only grew more corrupt. Today it has transformed entirely into a school of erroneous dogma completely at odds with the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism.

• • •

Part 4: Affirming the Gohonzon for Kosen-rufu

As the foolhardiness of the Nikken sect unfolded in the early 1990s, a number of priests separated themselves from the school and supported the Soka Gakkai. The chief priest of one temple, convinced that the priesthood under Nikken was violating the Daishonin’s teachings, requested that the Soka Gakkai confer to its members a Gohonzon his temple possessed that had been transcribed by Nichikan Shonin (1665–1726), a great restorer of Nichiren Buddhism.

In 1993, the Soka Gakkai accepted the priest’s proposal. In its capacity and responsibility as the only religious body dedicated to advancing kosen-rufu in exact accord with Nichiren Daishonin’s will, it accepted and recognized this Gohonzon as appropriate for advancing kosen-rufu and made the decision to confer it upon the Soka Gakkai members throughout the world.

• • •

Part 5: A Religion That Serves Human Beings

Since the Soka Gakkai achieved its spiritual independence, Ikeda Sensei has published a number of series related to Buddhist study, starting with The Heart of the Lotus Sutra and The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra. His efforts in this area continue today with his lectures on Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, serialized monthly in the Soka Gakkai’s study journal, Daibyakurenge. At the heart of Sensei’s writings on Buddhist study is his respect for human beings, his belief in the infinite potential and dignity of life and his view of religion as existing to serve humanity. SGI members around the world are together studying these humanistic teachings of our mentor.

• • •

Part 6: The Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu

By 2008, Soka Gakkai members were active in 192 countries and territories worldwide. Amid this global progress, The Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu was completed and opened in 2013.

Enshrined there is the Soka Gakkai Kosen-rufu Gohonzon, the Gohonzon that second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda requested for the accomplishment of kosen-rufu. On the right side, it bears the inscription “For the Fulfillment of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu Through the Compassionate Propagation of the Great Law,” and on the left side, “To Be Eternally Enshrined at the Soka Gakkai.”

Josei Toda prayed to this Gohonzon and accomplished his lifetime vow to achieve a membership of 750,000 households. And Ikeda Sensei prayed to this Gohonzon for the happiness, victory and human revolution of every Soka Gakkai member and the realization of worldwide kosen-rufu, for which he built the solid foundation.

The Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu is a focal point of faith and practice where members can pray to this Kosen-rufu Gohonzon for the fulfillment of the great vow for worldwide propagation. It was built to serve as a venue that members from throughout the world could visit and pray for their own and others’ happiness, for the peace and security of society and with a vow to establish the correct teaching for the peace of the land.

In his message to the meeting marking the completion of the Hall of the Great Vow, Sensei wrote:

The heart of the great vow for kosen-rufu and the life state of Buddhahood are one and the same. Therefore, when we dedicate our lives to this vow, we can bring forth the supreme nobility, strength and greatness of our lives.[15]

The vow shared by mentor and disciple is a promise to live the most joyful and honorable of lives.

• • •

Part 7: Solidifying the Organization Toward Becoming a Religion for the World

Since ushering in the “new era of worldwide kosen-rufu” in 2013, the Soka Gakkai has firmly secured its religious independence, as appropriate to a world religion.

First, in November 2014, the Soka Gakkai revised its organizational Rules and Regulations to make clear that it does not uphold as its main object of devotion the Gohonzon transcribed in the second year of Koan,[16] which is enshrined in a place of great slander, Nichiren Shoshu’s head temple.

Nichiren Daishonin revealed the fundamental Law of the universe, which also exists within our lives, as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. To enable all people of the Latter Day of the Law to attain Buddhahood, he actualized in concrete form the Three Great Secret Laws (see sidebar) fundamental to his teaching: the object of devotion of the essential teaching, the daimoku of the essential teaching and the sanctuary of the essential teaching.

The mandala in written script representing the Ten Worlds, the Gohonzon that Nichiren Daishonin inscribed for the happiness of all people in the Latter Day, is the object of devotion of the essential teaching, as is each Gohonzon members chant to in their homes. The daimoku of the essential teaching is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which one chants to the object of devotion of the essential teaching. And the place where one chants the daimoku is the sanctuary of the essential teaching.

Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is open to all people, and the Three Great Secret Laws must always be understood in terms of each individual’s faith.

The Nikken sect emphasizes that their head temple is an exclusive sanctuary, that the Gohonzon enshrined there is a special, ultimate Gohonzon. They claim that any Gohonzon must be connected to that special Gohonzon to have any power, comparing the relationship to that between an electrical outlet and a light bulb or appliance. But this view of the object of devotion can serve only to impede worldwide kosen-rufu.

Nichiren Daishonin called the Gohonzon he inscribed “the banner of propagation of the Lotus Sutra.”[17] Thus, it is the object of devotion for the happiness of all people, the Gohonzon for accomplishing kosen-rufu.

The head temple of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, on the other hand, has turned into a place of great slander, and therefore has absolutely no connection with the Soka Gakkai, whose aim is worldwide kosen-rufu. For that reason, the revised article on religious tenets in the Soka Gakkai’s Rules and Regulations makes clear that the object of devotion shall be the Gohonzon designated by the Soka Gakkai, and not the Gohonzon of the second year of Koan.

Also, in 2015, the Soka Gakkai took further action to affirm its spiritual independence based on the essential principles of Nichiren Buddhism by establishing its “Liturgy of the Soka Gakkai,” our present gongyo book.

The spirit to carry out the practice of spreading the Law even at the cost of one’s life demonstrated by the “three founding presidents”—the first president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi Sensei; the second president, Josei Toda Sensei; and the third president, Daisaku Ikeda Sensei—is the Soka Gakkai spirit. With that in mind, the Preamble to the Constitution of the Soka Gakkai has been amended. It now reads:

The three founding presidents of the Soka Gakkai—Makiguchi Sensei, Toda Sensei, and Ikeda Sensei—are the eternal mentors of kosen-rufu, having appeared in this world with the mission to realize the Daishonin’s call for worldwide kosen-rufu. The spirit of oneness of mentor and disciple and the practice of selfless dedication to propagating the Law demonstrated by the founding presidents represent the “Gakkai spirit” and serve as a timeless model for all Soka Gakkai members.[18]

Also, in November 2016, the term “Soka Gakkai Buddha”(see sidebar) was added to the Rules and Regulations, further confirming the Soka Gakkai’s religious independence.

In July of that year, Ikeda Sensei stated: “It is only the Soka Gakkai that embodies the vast compassion of the true Buddha [Nichiren Daishonin] and is spreading the Great Law in this tumultuous and confused saha world. That is why Toda Sensei declared that it would be called ‘Soka Gakkai Buddha.’”

Because this is a declaration of the Soka Gakkai’s religious independence, this statement was proposed to be included in the Soka Gakkai’s Rules and Regulations.

Then, in September 2017, the Constitution of the Soka Gakkai (see sidebar) was established as a fundamental standard for the Soka Gakkai as a global religious body.

From the beginning, the Soka Gakkai developed internationally as an affiliation of organizations and groups in each country. Today, with its future development in mind, it has become crucially important to stipulate in writing the fundamental standards of the Soka Gakkai, and to secure its framework as a global religious movement. For that reason, the “Soka Gakkai Constitution” was established to set down the ideals and standards for a global religious body based on the guidance of the three founding presidents. The Preamble to the Constitution reads:

Looking to the future of worldwide kosen-rufu into the twenty-third century, Ikeda Sensei shared his grand vision of establishing Shinanomachi as the Soka Gakkai’s global headquarters and entrusted its realization to his disciples throughout the world, under the leadership of each successive president.[19]

As indicated above, the Soka Gakkai ushered in the new era of worldwide kosen-rufu in 2013, after which it amended the article in its Rules and Regulations pertaining to doctrine (in 2014) to return to the essential principles of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. It then published the new “Liturgy of the Soka Gakkai” (in 2015), and revised the Preamble to the Rules and Regulations based on the guidance and spirit of the three founding presidents (also in 2015). In this way, the Soka Gakkai has taken up the task of securing its religious independence in a manner befitting a religion for the world. In addition, by establishing its Constitution (in 2017), the Soka Gakkai further solidified its framework to emerge as a global religion.


—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

The Three Great Secret Laws represent core principles of Nichiren Daishonin’s teaching. They are: 1) the object of devotion of the essential teaching, 2) the daimoku of the essential teaching and 3) the sanctuary of the essential teaching. Here, “essential teaching” refers to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and not to the essential teaching defined as the latter 14 chapters, of the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren established these three essential principles to enable people in the Latter Day of the Law to attain Buddhahood. They are called secret because they are implicit in the text of the “Life Span,” the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, and remained hidden or unknown until Nichiren revealed them.

The Three Great Secret Laws represent Nichiren’s embodiment of the Wonderful Law, to which he was enlightened, in a form that all people can practice and gain access to within their own lives.

The object of devotion refers to the Gohonzon, which embodies the teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The daimoku of the essential teaching refers to the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon. The sanctuary of the essential teaching is the place where the Gohonzon is enshrined and Buddhist practice is carried out.

Nichiren associated the Three Great Secret Laws with three kinds of discipline in Buddhism known as the three types of learning—precepts, meditation and wisdom (see The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 142). Specifically, the object of devotion corresponds to meditation, the sanctuary to precepts and the daimoku to wisdom.

Our understanding of the Three Great Secret Laws evolved following the SGI’s spiritual independence from the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood. The priesthood taught that the Three Great Secret Laws are 1) the Gohonzon inscribed in 1279, 2) the daimoku chanted to that Gohonzon and 3) the place where that Gohonzon is enshrined, which is Nichiren Shoshu’s head temple in Fujinomiya City, Japan. Implicit in this understanding is that only those who can chant to a particular Gohonzon in a particular location can access the Three Great Secret Laws and fully reveal their enlightened nature. This explanation of this core principle cannot be found in Nichiren Daishonin’s writings.

In 2014, the Soka Gakkai revised its Rules and Regulations [Chapter 1, Article 2] to clarify the essence of faith and practice of the Soka Gakkai, returning to the original spirit of Nichiren Buddhism. Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada said of this revision:

All Gohonzon—script or character mandalas of the Ten Worlds—inscribed by the Daishonin himself for all humanity, as well as transcriptions thereof, are equally the object of devotion of the essential teaching, embodying the fundamental Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo chanted to the object of devotion of the essential teaching is the daimoku of the essential teaching, and the place where that daimoku is chanted is the sanctuary of the essential teaching.[20]

The Three Great Secret Laws composes the concrete expression of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the Law inherent in all life and the universe. Nichiren revealed this principle to enable all people to have the ability to bring forth the power of this Law from within their lives.

• • •

PART 8: The History of Soka: Advancing a ‘Religious Reformation’

Viewed from a historical perspective, the Soka Gakkai, from its declaration of spiritual independence until today, has carried out “religious reformation” for the purpose of making a powerful new start. Sensei writes about this:

The Soka Gakkai’s religious reformation sought to revitalize the spirit of kosen-rufu in Nichiren Shoshu at a time when the priesthood had lost sight of the heart of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings and the admonitions of his direct successor, Nikko Shonin.[21] Its aim was to restore the pure flow of Buddhism by returning to the spirit of helping people become happy.

• • •

The Soka Gakkai’s struggle to break free from the fetters of authoritarianism and make the dignity of each individual shine enabled it to spread its wings and soar into the world as the humanistic religious movement people everywhere had been earnestly seeking.[22]

On December 15, 1991, seventeen days after our day of spiritual independence on November 28, Sensei penned calligraphy reading “Nichiren World Religion Soka Gakkai.” He did this for the sake of future generations, with the intent of reaffirming that the Soka Gakkai is the only religious body achieving kosen-rufu—the worldwide spread of the Daishonin’s Buddhism—in accord with the Buddha’s intent. And now, in line with these words, we have entered an age in which Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is flourishing throughout the globe.

Ikeda Sensei shared the following guidance concerning what will be required from here on to continue our progress as a religion for the world:

The Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin is the Buddhism of the Sun; it is a world religion illuminating all humanity. Viewed from every aspect, the Soka Gakkai’s development, as an organization whose members uphold this great philosophy, should also be global and universal. It mustn’t be held back within a narrow, closed, feudalistic framework. …

Drawing on remarks made by various scholars, thinkers and commentators regarding the issues the Soka Gakkai was facing with Nichiren Shoshu, Shin’ichi outlined the requisite qualities of a world religion:

1) Administration conducted in an open, democratic fashion.

2) Adherence to the fundamentals of faith while allowing free speech.

3) Egalitarianism that promotes mutual respect and the participation of all believers.

4) Emphasis on faith rather than ritual.

5) Leadership that is open to all members, based on ability rather than birthright.

6) Universal doctrines that are propagated using methods appropriate to the times.[23]

Based on the grand vision for the future that Ikeda Sensei has described for us, let’s accelerate our efforts in advancing worldwide kosen-rufu always based on Nichiren’s writings and united as many in body, one in mind together with our comrades around the world.


—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

In November 2017, 280 SGI representatives from 70 countries and territories gathered at the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, to ratify the Soka Gakkai Constitution.

This moment signified the Soka Gakkai’s new departure as a global religious organization dedicated to achieving the great vow for kosen-rufu.

The constitution serves as a foundational document, elucidating the basic standards of the Soka Gakkai as a global religious organization. It expresses in writing the common framework by which the Soka Gakkai shall continue to develop and states that the organization will correctly uphold at its core the guidance and spirit of the three founding presidents, the eternal mentors of kosen-rufu.

The constitution comprises a preamble and 15 articles, which include: Name of the Religious Organization, Religious Tenets, The Three Founding Presidents, Objectives, The Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu, President and The Soka Gakkai International.

The preamble details the achievements of the three founding presidents and the example they have set for Soka Gakkai members around the world. The constitution also affirms the religious independence of the Soka Gakkai based on the eternal guidance and spirit of the three founding presidents. It reads in part:

The three founding presidents of the Soka Gakkai—Makiguchi Sensei, Toda Sensei and Ikeda Sensei—are the eternal mentors of kosen-rufu, having appeared in this world with the mission to realize [Nichiren] Daishonin’s call for worldwide kosen-rufu. The spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple and the practice of selfless dedication to propagating the Law demonstrated by the founding presidents represent the “Gakkai spirit” and serve as a timeless model for all Soka Gakkai members. The Soka Gakkai, originating in Japan and now encompassing the entire world, embodies this spirit in every endeavor.[24]

On January 3, 2018, Ikeda Sensei visited the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu. On the altar was placed a book containing signatures of the SGI leaders who ratified the constitution. About this, Sensei writes:

I offered my heartfelt prayers that our members around the globe will further advance our movement for kosen-rufu in the united spirit of “many in body, one in mind,” and that each region will enjoy peace, security and prosperity.[25]

• • •

PART 9: A Time of Transformation for Humanity to ‘Cast Off the Transient and Reveal the True’

Ikeda Sensei, in his first essay of this year (2021), touched on the principle of “casting off the transient and revealing the true”:

This year will also mark the 750th anniversary of the Daishonin’s triumph over the Tatsunokuchi Persecution[26] in Sagami Province (present-day Kanagawa Prefecture), the moment when he “cast off the transient and revealed the true” (on September 12, 1271). …

There is no impasse we cannot break through with faith in the Mystic Law. There is no need to give up or be discouraged in the face of difficulty. Instead, serenely laugh off your troubles! Cause the invincible spirit of Soka to blaze up and burn bright. Rouse the great power of faith and practice, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and taking action. By challenging ourselves in our human revolution in this way, we “cast off the transient and reveal the true” in our own lives.

As humanity as a whole finds itself in a period of transition, the time has come for the Soka Gakkai to once again “cast off the transient and reveal the true.”

This is not something far removed from our lives. Please remember that it is made possible through our tireless, ongoing efforts as proud representatives of the Soka Gakkai, determined to win without fail.[27]

Nichiren Daishonin’s casting off the transient and revealing the true, which he accomplished in the course of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, has profound significance.

Upon overcoming the Tatsunokuchi Persecution—the attempt to execute him at Tatsunokuchi near Kamakura—he “opened up” his transient identity as an ordinary mortal beleaguered by karma and suffering and, while remaining an ordinary person, fully manifested his true identity as a Buddha overflowing with compassion, wisdom and courage, a state originally inherent in his life.

Nichiren wrote to a disciple, “If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth.”[28]

Nichiren Daishonin’s vow was to enable all people of the Latter Day to discard the transient and reveal the true, just as he himself had done. In other words, he taught the mission and way of practice of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, wishing deeply for everyone, by “revealing their true selves” exactly as he had, to manifest the life state of a Buddha.

It was the three founding presidents, Makiguchi Sensei, Toda Sensei and Ikeda Sensei, who persevered with selfless practice and action to fulfill this vow of the Daishonin. Makiguchi Sensei said again and again, amid his own unsparing great struggle, that “the Soka Gakkai must cast off the transient and reveal the true.”

And carrying on Makiguchi Sensei’s will, Toda Sensei, on the occasion of his inauguration as second president, vowed to achieve a membership of 750,000 households and took the lead as the entire Soka Gakkai commenced a tremendous period of advancement toward kosen-rufu. His was a lion’s roar proclaiming that the Gakkai had cast off the transient and revealed the true.

That vow was inherited and carried on by Ikeda Sensei, who led the Soka Gakkai’s great advancement of worldwide kosen-rufu to 192 countries and territories.

In light of this shared struggle of mentor and disciple, when disciples decide that striving for kosen-rufu is their supreme mission in life and resolutely engage in Buddhist practice, we can say that the Gakkai has cast off the transient and revealed the true.

In 2013, at the outset of the new era for worldwide kosen-rufu, Ikeda Sensei gave the following guidance:

I am counting on you to deeply and broadly develop your state of life and magnificently “cast off the transient and reveal the true” for yourselves and for the Soka Gakkai.[29]

And this year, he said:

As humanity as a whole finds itself in a period of transition, the time has come for the Soka Gakkai to once again “cast off the transient and reveal the true.”[30]

The Soka Gakkai has an immeasurably vast mission.

And now, together, why don’t we embark upon a new dauntless challenge! With heads held high, let’s take the greatest pride in being Soka Gakkai members and declare: “I am the Soka Gakkai!” “Watch what I do now!”


—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

When members of a Buddhist Order unite to spread Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in order to lead all people to absolute happiness, it amplifies the power of the Buddha and the Law in each individual.

The Lotus Sutra offers the example of a Buddha called Awesome Sound King, who preached the Law to many people (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 307–13). After the death of this Buddha, other Buddhas with the same name appeared, one after another, numbering twenty thousand million to save all living beings.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda said that these millions of Buddhas named Awesome Sound King represent the Buddhist Order. Likewise, he declared the Buddhist scriptures of future ages would record the efforts of Soka Gakkai members as Soka Gakkai Buddha.

Ikeda Sensei states:

The life of an individual is limited. But when the fundamental spirit of striving for kosen-rufu is passed on from mentor to disciples, and those disciples continue their efforts as a group or organization over time, that body of practitioners come to possess the enduring life force of the Buddha ceaselessly guiding people to happiness. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 30, p. 90)

The SGI pulses with the great vow of the Buddha to alleviate the suffering of all living beings. As we continue to unite in our efforts to awaken others to the Buddha nature, we display the qualities of a Buddha and ensure that Soka Gakkai Buddha endures far into the future.


Embodying My Mentor’s Heart

by Bruce Hudson

Living Buddhism: Bruce, thank you for sharing your experience with us today about Ikeda Sensei’s visit to Chicago in October 1980, following the first priesthood issue. What was your life like back then?

Bruce Hudson: I had joined the SGI three years before Sensei’s visit. At the time, my first wife had left me, and my finances were in ruins. I coped by spending one reckless year in the streets, selling and using drugs.

When I started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, my excitement and motivation for life returned. I began reading the SGI publications and attending study meetings, where I gained answers to the questions I had about life and death. After that, I was all in.

I took responsibility as a young men’s leader and focused on getting my life back on track. By the time Sensei came to Chicago in 1980 to attend the “Capture the Spirit” culture festival, I was fully involved. I helped prepare for the event behind the scenes, did security on the day of the festival and even performed in the chorus!

What do you remember most about that day?

Bruce: During Sensei’s visit, I remember him being constantly on the move to encourage the members. It was as if he didn’t want to miss out on meeting even one person. After the festival ended, I’ll never forget Sensei walking around the arena to encourage the members, shaking hands with each of them. He even went backstage to thank the performers. I was doing security and assigned to one of the balconies with another member named Milton. He really wanted to meet Sensei and express his appreciation, though we didn’t think we would have the chance. But just a few minutes later, as we were going down a back hallway, we saw Sensei walking toward us. He bowed deeply and thanked us with great humanity. Milton passed away several years ago, but until the end of his life, we talked about that moment we had with Sensei.

In your view, what set apart Sensei’s behavior from the Nichiren Shoshu priests?

Bruce: I remember going to the temple often back then to clean it with other members. The local priest and his family were always polite, but there was a clear distinction: He was the priest, and we were just regular people. They didn’t clean with us, they didn’t share Buddhism or visit the members. They had an air of entitlement.

On the other hand, with Sensei, I felt like we were in the struggle for kosen-rufu together as equals. So, when the priesthood excommunicated us in 1991, it was clear to me that the SGI was practicing Nichiren Buddhism correctly, based on a spirit of equality and the determination to achieve kosen-rufu.

How has the oneness of mentor and disciple guided your life?

Bruce: For me, the oneness of mentor and disciple means to have a self-motivated practice and take full responsibility for kosen-rufu, just as Sensei has done. Through striving to practice Buddhism with this spirit, I met my wonderful wife, Selma, who also walked the path as Sensei’s disciple until her passing in 2018. I also had a successful career and passed on this practice to the next generation of my family, who are actively participating in the SGI.

My goal now, at 68, is to live until 2050 and spend the next 30 years of my life encouraging young people, who will lead our kosen-rufu movement into the future.

‘You Must Win’

by Terry Mitchell
Long Beach, California

Living Buddhism: Terry, thank you for speaking with us. We understand you joined the SGI in 1967, and have had several experiences with Ikeda Sensei.

Terry Mitchell: I can’t believe I’ve been practicing for 54 years now!

I first met Sensei at 19, one year after I joined the SGI. I attended a training course in Japan with the young women’s performing group, the Fife and Drum Corps.

During our trip, we were going to perform at a major Soka Gakkai event. The day before, we were told we would meet Sensei at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. I didn’t know what to expect. But when he walked in, he immediately greeted and encouraged each of us. He treated us as important future leaders. I was truly moved by his behavior and quite unexpectedly shed tears of joy. I felt that this was someone who fully believed in my potential. During the remainder of the trip, we received messages, gifts and baskets of fresh fruit each day. Looking back, Sensei was teaching us the Soka Gakkai spirit of treasuring each person.

That’s incredible. Having practiced since the first decade of American kosen-rufu, you must have interacted with Nichiren Shoshu priests. What are your recollections of that time?

Terry: I visited the temple often until we were excommunicated in 1991, but never really developed a relationship with the priests. They always had a standoffish attitude. For example, when my mother passed away in 1990, we held a memorial for her at the temple. I made a financial offering to the priest and he led gongyo at the memorial, but that was it. There were no consoling words, no condolence letters, not even a “sorry for your loss.” In 2002, during a visit to Japan, after reporting about my mother’s passing, Sensei and Mrs. Ikeda sent me a card with my mother’s name on it that they had placed on their altar.

We never saw the priests go out and visit the members to encourage them. While Sensei spent his life encouraging the members and developing successors, the priests just spent time at the temple performing ceremonies, collecting donations and intimidating us if we didn’t fall in line.

We’re sorry to hear about your treatment, especially amid your mother’s loss. With the benefit of hindsight, what is your perspective today?

Terry: The oneness of mentor and disciple is the path to accomplishing kosen-rufu. It’s very difficult to embody the heart of a disciple all the time. But I do read Sensei’s writings each day, which give me the courage to continue living my vow as a Bodhisattva of the Earth.

In 2006, my daughter, Kimmy, visited Japan with friends and attended a meeting with Sensei. She received a gift with a poem and gave it to me out of appreciation.

In 2012, my loving husband, Guy, passed away after a serious battle with cancer. The weight of my grief was unbearable. I didn’t know how I could move on. At that time, I found the poem from Sensei, which gave me motivation to continue another day. To me, this is my personal poem from Sensei. It reads:

You must win,
Never allow defeat.
Winning leads to happiness,
Defeat to grief.
Remember the resolve in your
heart decides all.

Since that difficult time, I’ve been reciting this poem each day, and I renew my vow to use my suffering to fight for the happiness of others. Even during this challenging pandemic, I’ve been telling people about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo at any opportunity. I’m determined to strive for kosen-rufu until my last breath and be a source of inspiration for my beautiful grandchildren and future generations of our movement.


  1. Nikken Sect: Another way of referring to the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood after high priest Nikken excommunicated 10 million Soka Gakkai members on November 28, 1991. The priests came to revere Nikken more than the Daishonin. ↩︎
  2. October 2015 Living Buddhism, p. 46. ↩︎
  3. The Club of Rome was founded by Aurelio Peccei, an Italian industrialist, and Alexander King, a Scottish scientist, as an international think tank to focus on the problems posed by the limited resources of our planet. In 1972, it published a report titled The Limits to Growth, warning of the dire situation facing humanity. ↩︎
  4. The New Human Revolution, vol. 17, pp. 3–4. ↩︎
  5. The Sanskrit and Chinese word for someone who has entered the monastic system literally means to “leave the house,” with the implication of separating oneself from worldly concerns and distractions to fully devote oneself to the Buddhist way. The word for laity means to “stay at home,” meaning to practice Buddhism while maintaining one’s role in the family and society. Today, those distinctions are less meaningful, especially in Japan where Buddhist clergy maintain families and the temple functions as their “home.” Those who aspire to correct Buddhist faith, standing upon the spirit to strive to save ordinary people from suffering, are true practitioners of the original spirit of “leaving the home,” regardless of their specific religious roles. In his letter “Reply to Matsuno,” Nichiren points out that it is the role of priests to carry out the practice of shakubuku, battle the three powerful enemies and accomplish kosen-rufu. It is the role of lay practitioners to devote themselves to chanting daimoku, and according to their ability, talk to others about Buddhism. Based on that original spirit, today the Soka Gakkai is fulfilling both the function of laity (staying at home) and clergy (leaving the home). ↩︎
  6. NHR-30, 708. ↩︎
  7. NHR-30, 710–11. ↩︎
  8. NHR-30, 717. ↩︎
  9. NHR-30, 836–37. ↩︎
  10. The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 3, p. 276. ↩︎
  11. Gosho zenshu, p. 1618. ↩︎
  12. “Reply to Kyo’o,” WND-1, 412. ↩︎
  13. “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” WND-1, 218. ↩︎
  14. “The Unity of Husband and Wife,” WND-1, 463. ↩︎
  15. January 2014 Living Buddhism, p. 8. ↩︎
  16. The Gohonzon of the second year of Koan: A wooden Gohonzon held to have been inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin in the second year of the Koan era (1279), which is currently enshrined at Taiseki-ji (the head temple of Nichiren Shoshu in Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka prefecture, Japan). It has been commonly referred to as the Dai-Gohonzon. ↩︎
  17. “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” WND-1, 831. ↩︎
  18. <accessed on October 12, 2021>. ↩︎
  19. <accessed on October 12, 2021>. ↩︎
  20. December 12, 2014, World Tribune, p. 2. ↩︎
  21. This refers to “The Twenty-six Admonitions of Nikko,” a document that Nikko Shonin, Nichiren Daishonin’s designated successor, wrote for the sake of both priests and laity of future generations to maintain the purity of the Daishonin’s teachings. It outlines the fundamental spirit of faith, practice and study. ↩︎
  22. September 2019 Living Buddhism, p. 52. ↩︎
  23. NHR-30, 724. ↩︎
  24. <accessed on October 5, 2021>. ↩︎
  25. January 2019 Living Buddhism, p. 66. ↩︎
  26. Tatsunokuchi Persecution: The failed illegal attempt by powerful government figures to behead the Daishonin under the cover of darkness on the execution grounds near the beach at Tatsunokuchi, on the outskirts of Kamakura, on September 12, 1271. ↩︎
  27. February 19, 2021, World Tribune, p. 3. ↩︎
  28. “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 385. ↩︎
  29. January 6, 2013, Seikyo Shimbun. ↩︎
  30. February 19, 2021, World Tribune, p. 3. ↩︎

A Network of ‘Human Flowers’ Embodying Harmony in Diversity