Skip to main content

Ikeda Sensei

Our Founding Month and the Soka Gakkai Spirit

The first sunrise of 2021 seen over Mount Fuji, Japan. Photo by Seikyo Press
Hope—The first sunrise of 2021 seen over Mount Fuji, Japan. Photo by Seikyo Press

This essay by Ikeda Sensei was originally published in the Nov. 4, 2003, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

Revolution is the awakening of humanity,” said Sun Yat-sen, the father of modern China. “When people realize that only they can save themselves, they can bring forth great strength. With such great strength, they can triumph over even the most formidable resistance.”[1]

November is our founding month. On Nov. 18, 1930, our first and second presidents Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, mentor and disciple, established the Soka Gakkai in Tokyo.

Our founding month is a month of creating new history. It is also a month in which courageous, self-reliant champions of justice rise purposefully into action. Our founding month is not simply a time for reflecting on the past. It is not a page in some dusty old chronicle. Kosen-rufu is a process of endless creativity and forward momentum that does not permit even a moment’s cessation or stagnation. Our founding month lives on forever in the present, because our victory at each moment, right now, contributes to “founding” an ever-victorious Soka Gakkai that will solidly endure the next 50, next 100 years.

This November, please write an unprecedented page of history in your lives. Please make it a month of rebirth, of breaking out of your shell—a month in which you crash through your self-imposed limitations and bravely set forth with a stand-alone spirit.

Countless immortal pages of history overflowing with the Soka Gakkai spirit have been written in our main bastion of Tokyo in this founding month of November. I will especially never forget the outdoor Autumn Headquarters General Meeting we held here on Nov. 8, 1957. At the time, the Soka Gakkai was growing at an amazing pace, and President Toda’s lifetime goal of 750,000 member households was almost within reach. Although the arena where the meeting was held was bathed in bright autumn sunshine, President Toda’s face looked pale and he seemed exhausted.

Magazine and newspaper reporters had flocked to the meeting. Our organization was already being viewed with prejudice and unfounded suspicion by large sections of society. My mentor, however, calmly rose to deliver his address just as usual. He cut right through the various superficial analyses of the Soka Gakkai’s phenomenal development offered by the mass media, declaring simply:

The Gakkai has faith. … Everything we have achieved is a result of the benefit of our faith in the Gohonzon. Don’t they see that? … Faith is at the heart of everything. Practicing faith is what matters. As long as we have this firm conviction, nothing will ever startle us, no matter what anyone writes or says about us.[2]

It was the impassioned cry of a champion of humanity vanquishing the yammering hostile critics, just as the roar of a lion silences all other beasts. “Let us smash lies to pieces!”[3] wrote Romain Rolland (1866–1944).

No matter what people may say, do not be afraid, do not be swayed. The Soka Gakkai has unshakable faith. This was the message that President Toda conveyed to our entire membership on that day in Tokyo. This was the very last headquarters general meeting my mentor ever attended.

Mr. Toda used to call me over to him several times a day; he gave every spare moment he had to talking to me about faith, about life, about future plans and his numerous hopes, dreams and ideas. As a disciple who was truly one with his mentor, I was never happier than when discussing the future of kosen-rufu with him. We would talk tirelessly on this subject.

However, toward the end of 1957, even when he was at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, President Toda often took to resting on the sofa in the first-floor reception room, rather than going up to the president’s office on the second floor. Deeply aware of his worsening condition and praying earnestly for his health, I treated each of these discussions between mentor and disciple as a priceless treasure.

A week after the headquarters general meeting, on Nov. 15, I received instruction and guidance on various subjects from President Toda in the first-floor reception room. My mentor’s eyes flashed keenly as he said to me: “Once we have embarked on a struggle for kosen-rufu, we must win at all costs. To lose after having begun a battle is a huge disgrace.” These words still ring in my ears to this day.

Having begun a struggle, we must not lose. The only choice is to break through every obstacle and every intrigue that seeks to block our advance, and boldly and courageously win.

In the midst of that insidious plot by the priesthood in 1979, I stepped down as Soka Gakkai president. But resigning my organizational position didn’t mean that my mission for kosen-rufu had come to an end.

All alone, recalling my mentor’s words, I made a firm, resolute vow deep in my heart that I would triumph. And it was Tokyo that eventually offered me the opportunity to drastically change the oppressive situation we were in. This also took place during the month of the Soka Gakkai’s founding, the profoundly significant month of new determination and action.

On Nov. 2, 1981, members from Tokyo’s Tachikawa and Nishitama areas had assembled at the Soka University Central Gymnasium. Two days earlier, I had given a lecture to Soka University students entitled “Thoughts on History and Historical Figures: Living Amid Persecution,” and I burned with a fighting spirit for justice. I was undaunted by jealous attacks and malicious slanders, by persecution waged by villainous authorities. Look at what the ancient Chinese historian Ssu-ma Chien had undergone! Look at Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi and French writer Victor Hugo! Their lives had been a long series of such persecutions. How much more honorable it was to encounter persecution for the sake of the noble cause of propagating Buddhism! I was resolved. My heart blazed with the determination to usher in a brilliant new dawn that November.

At the joint general meeting for Tachikawa and Nishitama, I offered guidance on the theme that Buddhism is win or lose. Then I rose with fan in hand. Responding to the members’ request, I led them in a song marking our new departure, “Ah, the Dawn Approaches”:

Ah, the dawn approaches,
Ah, the dawn approaches,
Arise, my friends, children of liberty. …[4]

As we sang with all our hearts, we were united as one, and a powerful wave of emotion swept through the gymnasium. Everyone’s face shone with determination—the determination to fight resolutely. I was happy, my heart filled with joy. The members had been waiting for the day when I would once again boldly take the lead for kosen-rufu. “Friendship formed on account of integrity is true and perfect and eternal,”[5] wrote the Italian poet Dante Alighieri, who was also persecuted during his life.

The time of a new dawn had come—the time to break through the darkness that had fallen over our movement and to “found” the Soka Gakkai afresh. In our founding month, I bounded vigorously from Tokyo to Kansai, then to Shikoku, then back again to Kansai and Chubu, traveling nonstop. In December, I energetically carried the struggle to Kyushu.

The main battleground of Nichiren Daishonin’s struggle for kosen-rufu was Kamakura, then the most important city in Japan. As the seat of the military government, Kamakura was equivalent to the political center that Tokyo is today. Though the center of government, however, Kamakura was by no means a secure place; on the contrary, it was filled with danger. The city abounded in false rumors, intrigue and watchful enemies. But in spite of that—or perhaps, precisely because of that—Nichiren chose Kamakura as the place to launch his struggle of words to clarify truth from error in the realm of Buddhism. Herein lies a crucial key for victory in the unrelenting struggle for kosen-rufu.

We of the Soka Gakkai must always go to the most difficult and challenging areas and there win. It is also crucial that we build solid networks of people dedicated to good in the centers of influence of our age.

Our members in Tokyo must never forget this basic rule. Tokyo’s victory is everyone’s victory. It is my victory, too. It is vital that Tokyo triumph. Winning is Tokyo’s mission, its destiny and its responsibility.

My friends in Tokyo, the main bastion of our movement, fight resolutely and win! Create a record of shining personal victory!


  1. Translated from Chinese. ↩︎
  2. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda) (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1989), vol. 4, pp. 582–83. ↩︎
  3. Translated from French. Romain Rolland, Robespierre (Paris: Albin Michel, 1939), p. 186. ↩︎
  4. “Ah, the Dawn Approaches” (Aa, reimei wa chikazukeri) is a well-loved Japanese school song. ↩︎
  5. Dante, The Banquet, translated by Christopher Ryan (Saratoga, CA: ANMA Libri and Co., 1989), Book III, Chapter XI, p. 106. ↩︎

Commemorating November 18

Scaling a New Summit of Kosen-rufu Toward Our Centennial