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Ikeda Sensei

The Eternal Shared Struggle of Mentor and Disciple

meetings at the SGI-USA World Culture Center, Santa Monica, Calif., Jan. 27. Photo by Yvonne Ng.
SGI Women’s Leader Yumiko Kasanuki led women’s leaders meetings at the SGI-USA World Culture Center, Santa Monica, Calif., Jan. 27. Photo by Yvonne Ng.

This essay from Ikeda Sensei was originally published in the April 29, 2021, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, treasured and took great pride in the happy, smiling faces and the bright, compassionate voices of the women of Soka. In an age when there are far too many mean faces and unkind words, he enjoyed telling people to look at the smiling faces of Soka women and listen to their cheerful voices.

Soon after becoming the Soka Gakkai’s second president on May 3, 1951, Mr. Toda established the women’s division and the young women’s division.[1] And now, 70 years later, the time has come for these two groups in Japan to merge together into a new women’s division (Jpn josei-bu).[2]

In this tumultuous age shrouded in darkness, I call on the women of Soka to brightly illuminate all with the light of the “great wisdom of equality” of the Mystic Law. Please continue striving joyfully to expand our beautiful realm of warm smiles and encouragement—a realm of diversity and nurturing growth embodying the principle of “cherry, plum, peach, and damson” (see The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 200).

Nichiren Daishonin sincerely praised women who supported and encouraged one another in their Buddhist practice. On Sado Island, two elderly disciples, the lay nun Sennichi and the lay nun of Ko, both sought guidance from him and strove together united in spirit, making their golden years shine brightly.

In a letter to another female disciple, Nichiren conveys his best wishes for the happiness and well-being of her daughter (see “On the Meritorious Act of Filial Devotion,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 816). Indeed, his compassion for women and warm assurances that they will become happy without fail are evident throughout his writings.

Today, the women of Soka are advancing harmoniously and vibrantly in their activities, with small-group study of the Daishonin’s writings as their foundation. They exemplify the unity of “many in body, one in mind,” carrying on Nichiren’s spirit. Through these noble, grassroots connections, they are bringing the sun of hope, happiness and peace to shine in their communities.

In “Letter from Sado,” which he composed while in exile, the Daishonin mentions the lay nun of Sajiki in addition to such more well-known names as Toki Jonin and Shijo Kingo. The lay nun of Sajiki is thought to have been the same person as the lay nun Myoichi, to whom Nichiren addressed the famous words “Winter always turns to spring” (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” WND-1, 536). We can surmise that the Daishonin placed great trust in her as a linchpin of unity and was heartened that, with disciples like her, justice would prevail through even the harshest winters of persecution.

Looking back in the history of Buddhism, many women joined the community of practitioners during Shakyamuni’s time and assembled together. Urged by Shakyamuni to associate with good friends, they made “Delight in friends”[3] their motto. They strove in their Buddhist practice, cherishing opportunities to meet and talk with fellow practitioners and inspire one another.

Our movement for worldwide kosen-rufu in the 21st century, too, will continue to achieve limitless growth and development in tandem with our great network of Soka women, who take to heart Nichiren’s words “You should respect one another [as Buddhas do]” (see “The Fourteen Slanders,” WND-1, 757).

In November this year, the long-awaited revised edition of the Nichiren Daishonin gosho zenshu (Collected Writings of Nichiren Daishonin) will be published in Japanese. An additional 32 writings are included for the first time, and additional passages have been added to some previously published writings [as a result of new research findings].

Among them is a profoundly meaningful addition to “On Clothing and Food,” which the Daishonin sent to a female disciple. [Editors’ Note: The new portion is already included in the translation of this writing in volume 2 of The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin.] It reads:

When one lights a torch for someone at night, one brings light not only to another person but to oneself as well. Likewise, when one livens other people’s complexions, one livens one’s own too, when one gives them strength, one gives oneself strength too, when one prolongs their lives, one prolongs one’s own life as well. (WND-2, 1066)

When we light the way for others and brighten our communities, we illuminate our own way; when we encourage and energize others, we, too, are encouraged, inspired and invigorated, Nichiren says.

This is a perfect description of our Soka Gakkai activities and the steadfast “faith like water” demonstrated by Soka women on a daily basis.

Professor Helwig Schmidt-Glitzier of the University of Tübingen in Germany is the supervising editor of the German edition (first volume) of The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin. In a recent interview,[4] he noted the Daishonin’s firm resolve to never be defeated. He insightfully commented that Nichiren, wishing to pass on this spirit, urged others to recognize the dangers of the times and not be led astray by false teachings. In this present age when the goal of peace and prosperity for all humanity remains imperiled, the professor said, optimism, confidence and the realization that we can change karma through manifesting Buddhahood can help us in our lives and open new perspectives.

Because we believe in the infinite potential of Buddhahood that resides within our own and others’ lives, we have unwavering faith that a brighter future lies ahead, no matter how challenging our present circumstances may be. We press forward tirelessly on the path of value creation. This is our philosophy and practice as members of the Soka Gakkai, which more and more people are now seeking.

Let us always have pride and confidence that our steady efforts are opening the way to a future of genuine humanity and creative coexistence for global society.

One of the new writings to be included in the revised edition of the Daishonin’s writings is a closing portion of a letter. It contains the passage: “If you meet someone by chance, even though you wish you hadn’t, you should acknowledge them. Even if there is nothing to smile about, smile.”[5] We may dislike some of the people we encounter, but Nichiren instructs us to use our wisdom, urging us to be open and accepting and to greet them with a smile.

In a corrupt age rife with hatred and jealousy, the Daishonin said he had met with far more people than most [in the course of spreading his teaching] (see “Condolences on a Deceased Husband,” WND-2, 778). He was fully aware of the difficulties his disciples faced in society. Hence, he encouraged them to be pleasant and amicable in their interactions to help others form a connection with the correct teaching of Buddhism, however challenging the effort might be. This is the essence of a truly profound, openhearted human philosophy.

In this evil age of the Latter Day of the Law, the only way to guide others to happiness is to persevere with a “mind that is gentle and forbearing” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 205), as the Lotus Sutra teaches, sincerely and patiently sharing our convictions and beliefs through dialogue.

Every day, the vibrant smiling faces of our wise global citizens of Soka, now active the world over, greet us from the pages of the Seikyo Shimbun.

I know Mr. Toda would be truly delighted to see the Seikyo Shimbun celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. I am endlessly grateful to all our readers and everyone who supports the paper in any capacity. In particular, I am praying with all my might each day for the health, long life and safety of the “uncrowned heroes” who fulfill the noble mission of delivering the Seikyo Shimbun every morning.

I fondly remember when the author Sohachi Yamaoka (1907–78) allowed us to serialize his novel Takasugi Shinsaku in the paper. In another of his works, Yamaoka depicted the life of the heroic figure Mori Motonari (1497–1571), who unified the Chugoku region[6] during Japan’s Warring States period (1467–1615). There are many famous stories about Motonari, who died 450 years ago this year.

A monument connected to the Mori clan stands in Akitakata City, Hiroshima Prefecture, engraved with the characters hyakuman isshin, or “one million hearts united as one.” The characters are engraved in a distinctive way, so that they can also be read “one day, one strength, one heart”—meaning, in other words, that anything can be accomplished if we unite our timing, strength and minds.

In Yamaoka’s novel, Motonari says: “‘One million hearts united as one’ is unity in space. But unity in space is not enough to achieve a goal. Unity through time, indifferent to length, is also essential, a hundred generations united as one heart. Without that as well, nothing important can be achieved.”[7]

In the Soka Gakkai, we have “unity in space” in the form of the spirit of “many in body, one in mind,” but we also have the great vow of mentor and disciple carried on by the first three Soka Gakkai presidents, directly connected to Nichiren, and also shared by all Soka Gakkai members. This is “unity through time, indifferent to length” persisting into the eternal future of the Latter Day of the Law. That is what makes us strong.

On that glorious May 3 when Mr. Toda became president 70 years ago, he had a portrait photograph taken and later gave me a print of it with the following poem inscribed on the back:

Now and
in the future, too,
sharing joys and sufferings—
how wondrous our connection!

Those who forge ahead on the path of mentor and disciple, united by “an old and mystic bond,”[8] can bring forth boundless strength.

Let us always move forward in our endeavors, forever cherishing the great contributions made to kosen-rufu by the pioneer members who have passed away.

Now, across the globe, courageous Bodhisattvas of the Earth of every generation—with the young men and women of The New Human Revolution Generation in the forefront—are embarking on a new journey in our shared struggle of mentor and disciple. Dedicated to the ideal of value creation, they are striving to create a fresh record of victory in our movement for kosen-rufu. Our future division members, “torchbearers of justice” who have chosen to appear at this time, are also demonstrating astonishing growth.

Nichiren declared with a lion’s roar: “My wish is that my disciples will be cubs of the lion king, never to be laughed at by the pack of foxes” (“In the Continent of Jambudvipa,” WND-2, 1062).

Lions are strong.
Lions are dauntless.
Lions win without fail!

Celebrating May 3, a day when the mentor-disciple spirit of Soka burns bright, let us set forth into the future with courageous hearts like the lion king!

Together with our precious fellow members around the globe to whom we are linked by karmic bonds enduring throughout past, present and future, let us cheerfully continue our eternal journey of mentor and disciple. Let us press onward, ever onward, to realize peace in our lands and throughout the world through the life-affirming principles of Nichiren Buddhism!


  1. The women’s division and young women’s division were founded on June 10 and July 19, 1951, respectively. ↩︎
  2. At the Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting held on April 18, 2021, with the approval of Ikeda Sensei, it was announced that the women’s division and young women’s division in Japan would make a fresh start by joining together in a new women’s division (Jpn josei-bu). As the first step, from May 3, the Japanese name for the women’s division will change from fujin-bu to josei-bu [with the English translation remaining unchanged]. As the second step, from Nov. 18, the young women’s division will officially join with the new women’s division. This applies only to Japan. ↩︎
  3. See The Elders’ Verses II: Therigatha, translated by K. R. Norman (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 1995), p. 2. ↩︎
  4. Published in the Seikyo Shimbun, March 30, 2021; translation based on the German transcript. ↩︎
  5. Tentative translation. ↩︎
  6. The Chugoku region today encompasses Hiroshima, Okayama, Yamaguchi, Tottori and Shimane prefectures. ↩︎
  7. Translated from Japanese. Sohachi Yamaoka, Mori Motonari, in Yamaoka Sohachi zenshu (The Collected Works of Sohachi Yamaoka), vol. 23, edited by Tadachika Kuwata, et. al. (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1983), p. 347. ↩︎
  8. Words from a poem Sensei wrote and presented to second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda in 1950: “Still serving / an old / and mystic bond— / though others change / I alter not.” ↩︎

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