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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

The Journey of Mentor and Disciple for Worldwide Kosen-rufu—Creating a Global Network for Peace

Ikeda Sensei’s Lecture Series [66]

“A new age will be created by the passion and power of youth.”[1] These words express the absolute trust my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, had for young people.

Sixty years ago, on October 2, 1960, I embarked on a journey for worldwide kosen-rufu as his young disciple, brimming with the passion and power I inherited directly from him. Because I had become the third Soka Gakkai president only five months earlier, many felt it was too soon for me to go overseas.

But to realize the vision of worldwide kosen-rufu my mentor had entrusted to me, it was vital that we advance our movement simultaneously in Japan and abroad. I set out on my journey with that conviction, a photograph of Mr. Toda tucked in my breast pocket.

An Inner Dialogue With My Mentor

On that first visit to North and South America, I established a number of districts and chapters and a general chapter. I was determined to create in each continent an organization for kosen-rufu firmly based on the Soka path of mentor and disciple. Constantly engaged in an inner dialogue with Mr. Toda, I continued my journey, taking one step after another to lay the groundwork for the development of our movement.

Youth Are the Suns of Hope

Now, six decades later, embracing this same spirit, Bodhisattvas of the Earth throughout the world are making fresh strides for kosen-rufu as successors of our movement.

Despite the challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic, they have risen to action in accord with their vow from time without beginning. They are working to realize Nichiren Daishonin’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land”—that is, world peace. The future is bright as long as the young global citizens of Soka continue to press forward, pooling their passion and power while expanding their ties of solidarity. Youth are shining suns of hope, able to break through any adversity.

At this time of unprecedented growth for worldwide kosen-rufu, let’s reaffirm how Nichiren Buddhism is a truly universal teaching. Let’s examine some passages of the Daishonin’s writings highlighting the importance of taking personal initiative and the invincible unity of those who embrace the bodhisattva vow.

Relieving the Suffering of All People

Now for the past twenty-eight years, since the fifth year of the Kencho era [1253], cyclical sign mizunoto-ushi, the twenty-eighth day of the fourth month [April 28], until the present, the twelfth month of the third year of the Koan era [December 1280], cyclical sign kanoe-tatsu, I, Nichiren, have done nothing else, but have labored solely to put the five or seven characters of Myoho-renge-kyo[2] into the mouths of all the living beings of the country of Japan. In doing so, I have shown the kind of compassion that a mother does when she labors to put milk into the mouth of her infant child.

Moreover, this is the very time for such efforts, for we have already entered the fifth five-hundred-year period,[3] the time in which the Buddha predicted the Lotus Sutra would be propagated. At the time when T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo[4] lived, the fifth period had not yet begun, but because a certain number of persons already possessed the requisite capacity [to understand them], these men to some extent propagated the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. But now that the fifth period has begun, it is even more appropriate that such teachings be propagated. Even though there are those who have no capacity to receive them, but who oppose them as water opposes fire, how can one fail to propagate them? (“On Reprimanding Hachiman,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 931)[5]

“On Reprimanding Hachiman,” like “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” is a writing that conveys Nichiren Daishonin’s vow for worldwide kosen-rufu and his confident declaration of the future “westward transmission of Buddhism.”[6] I studied “On Reprimanding Hachiman” many times with Josei Toda.

“The fifth year of the Kencho era, cyclical sign mizunoto-ushi, the twenty-eighth day of the fourth month,” refers to the date April 28, 1253, on which the Daishonin first proclaimed his teaching, initiating his struggle to propagate Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

The assertion “I, Nichiren, have done nothing else” emphasizes his single-minded dedication to spreading the Mystic Law.

The words “I have labored solely to put the five or seven characters of Myoho-renge-kyo into the mouths of all the living beings of the country of Japan” convey his fervent wish to relieve people’s suffering. He likens this to the compassion of a mother giving milk to her child. His efforts to spread the Mystic Law are an expression of his great compassion, arising from his wish to lead all to happiness.

Here, Nichiren stresses that the appropriate time to spread the Lotus Sutra has now arrived. Though the sutra was transmitted during the times of T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo, it was taught only to a select group of people with the capacity to understand it. In this letter, however, the Daishonin says the time has come to make Nam-myoho-renge-kyo [the heart of the Lotus Sutra] available to everyone—to people of any capacity. It is a powerful declaration that the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the fundamental teaching by which all living beings can attain Buddhahood, and that he has striven tirelessly to propagate it for those in the Latter Day of the Law.

Following this passage, Nichiren writes: “Now, although one should meet with the kind of persecution experienced by Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,[7] they [the teachings of the Lotus Sutra] must be propagated; there can be no doubt of that” (WND-2, 931). He is saying that because the right time has now arrived, the appearance of steadfast practitioners who remain undefeated by any hardship would assure the widespread propagation of the Mystic Law.

The noble work of the Buddha, of guiding all people to enlightenment, is accomplished by the convergence of three elements: 1) the Mystic Law, the supreme teaching for attaining Buddhahood; 2) the time, when people long in the depths of their hearts for the Law to spread; 3) and the emergence of courageous practitioners, people who will spread the Law with selfless dedication.

Through the efforts of those who stand up in an age when the teaching and time align, Buddhism becomes a truly living religion. By the same principle, Nichiren Buddhism has spread around the world due to the appearance of the Soka Gakkai, the organization carrying out the Buddha’s intent.

Amid the unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, Soka Gakkai members everywhere are deepening their prayers for the peace and security of their lands. They are tirelessly encouraging those around them and forging an ever-widening network of good. In this way, they are carrying on Nichiren Daishonin’s great struggle to transform the destiny of humankind.

As we engage in our human revolution through our efforts to fulfill our vow for “kosen-rufu through the compassionate propagation of the great Law,”[8] we are giving people around the world hope and confidence that they can transform all poison into medicine.[9]

Dr. Winston Langley, former interim provost of the University of Massachusetts Boston, remarked that the Soka Gakkai’s movement of human revolution is awakening people to their inherent potential and giving them courage to put that potential into action.[10]

The Buddhism of the Sun Illuminating the Latter Day of the Law

Toward the end of “On Reprimanding Hachiman,” Nichiren Daishonin declares that just as the sun rises in the east and moves westward, his teaching, which appeared in Japan (in the east), will return to India (in the west), the land of Buddhism’s origin. He further asserts that his Buddhism of the Sun will continue to illuminate the long darkness of the Latter Day of the Law (see WND-2, 936).[11] We of the Soka Gakkai, united by the bonds of mentor and disciple, have validated these words.

Worldwide kosen-rufu is the great vow of the Soka Gakkai. Even when Japan’s militarist government clamped down on the freedom of speech during World War II, founding President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi continued to boldly proclaim the mission of the Soka Gakkai. To paraphrase, he said: “The Mystic Law is the supreme principle for living that all humanity is longing for and the means for attaining Buddhahood. Through the experiment of applying the Mystic Law to our lives, we Soka Gakkai members prove its great power and thereby make it easily accessible to everyone. Let’s widely impart the benefit of the Mystic Law and keep working until all people achieve unsurpassed happiness.”[12]

“Let Us Set Out on a Journey, Our Hearts Emboldened”

Josei Toda, who inherited his mentor’s spirit, composed the following poem in January 1952:

Now, let us set out on a journey,
our hearts emboldened
to spread the Mystic Law
to the farthest reaches
of India.

A month later, he articulated his idea of global citizenship[13] to youth division members during the February Campaign.[14] Amid his struggle to get the kosen-rufu movement on a solid track in Japan, Mr. Toda was also thinking of worldwide kosen-rufu and the future of humanity.

In the summer of 1954, my mentor invited me to accompany him to his hometown in Hokkaido. As we watched the sunset from the shore of Atsuta together, he said to me: “I will build a solid foundation for kosen-rufu in Japan, but you will pave the way for kosen-rufu throughout the world. I will create the blueprint; you will make it a reality. … You must do this in my place.”

Just before he died, Mr. Toda told me of a dream he’d had of visiting Mexico. Overflowing with profound compassion for humanity, he said: “They were all waiting, waiting … seeking Nichiren Buddhism. I would like to see the world, to take a journey for kosen-rufu … ”

I’m sure he would be delighted to see today’s development of kosen-rufu and the vibrant efforts of our young successors. I can imagine his affectionate expression as he says to me with great delight: “Dai, you did it!”

At the same time, there is no greater joy for me as a disciple than being able to report to him the proud victories and achievements of all my precious fellow members who have worked alongside me in our shared struggle to advance kosen-rufu.

“The Great Correct Law Will Spread Without Fail”

Great events never have minor omens. When great evil occurs, great good follows. Since great slander already exists in our land, the great correct Law [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] will spread without fail. What could any of you have to lament? Even if you are not the Venerable Mahakashyapa,[15] you should all perform a dance. Even if you are not Shariputra,[16] you should leap up and dance. When Bodhisattva Superior Practices [the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth][17] emerged from the earth, did he not emerge dancing? And when Bodhisattva Universal Worthy[18] arrived, the ground shook in six different ways. There is much to say, but as I am pressed for time, I will close. I will write again on another occasion. (“Great Evil and Great Good,” WND-1, 1119)[19]

The next passage we will study is from “Great Evil and Great Good,” in which Nichiren Daishonin expresses his firm conviction that the occurrence of great evil is a sign that the correct teaching of Buddhism will spread without fail. He states that we should not lament in the face of adversity but continue forging ahead with dauntless courage.

Great omens always precede great events, and great evil portends the arrival of great good, he asserts; it is amid truly challenging circumstances that the great correct Law is certain to spread. But it will not do so of its own accord, with us simply standing by and doing nothing.

When calamity strikes, it only becomes a sign of great good if we view it as an opportunity for growth and strive with unwavering determination and effort to transform it into something positive.

Summoning the Heart of a Lion King

In other words, it is how we react when something bad occurs that is important. If we make up our minds to enact a wonderful drama, summon forth the heart of a lion king and take bold action, we can transform great evil into great good.

At the time of this letter, the entire country of Japan was slandering the Law, and Nichiren’s disciples found themselves in a very hostile environment on account of their faith. Nichiren asserts that such times are a sign that the Mystic Law will spread widely.

The Great Joy of Encountering the Teaching for Attaining Buddhahood

Next, Nichiren Daishonin mentions Shakyamuni’s voice-hearer disciples Venerable Mahakashyapa and Shariputra and bodhisattvas Superior Practices and Universal Worthy.

In the Lotus Sutra, Mahakashyapa and Shariputra hear Shakyamuni’s teaching of enlightenment and dance with joy upon learning that practitioners of the two vehicles—a category to which they both belong as voice-hearers—can also attain Buddhahood [something that the pre–Lotus Sutra teachings had denied].[20] When, in the essential teaching (second half) of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni summons his disciples from the distant past to entrust them with the mission of propagating the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day of the Law, they appear in the form of innumerable bodhisattvas emerging dynamically from beneath the earth.

These are the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and Bodhisattva Superior Practices is their leader.

These bodhisattvas appear in the “Emerging from the Earth” chapter of the Lotus Sutra. One of the Chinese characters forming the word for emerging in the chapter title means to “well up.” In some transcriptions and copies of the Lotus Sutra, however, that character is replaced with a similar-looking character meaning to “dance,” yielding the title “Dancing Forth from the Earth.” Hence, Nichiren says, “Did he [Bodhisattva Superior Practices] not emerge dancing?” (WND-1, 1119). The way this bodhisattva leaps forth could be seen as an exuberant expression of his commitment, pride and responsibility to help all those suffering in the evil age after the Buddha’s passing and to enable everyone to attain a life state of happiness.

Nichiren Daishonin next refers to Universal Worthy, noting that when this bodhisattva appeared in the final chapter of the Lotus Sutra “the ground shook in six different ways” (WND-1, 1119). Universal Worthy is an important bodhisattva whose arrival prompts Shakyamuni to reiterate the essential spirit of the Lotus Sutra as he concludes his preaching.

It is deeply significant here that the Daishonin lists the Venerable Mahakashyapa, Shariputra, Bodhisattva Superior Practices and Bodhisattva Universal Worthy.

Mahakashyapa and Shariputra embody the profound realization experienced by the persons of the two vehicles. Assured of their future enlightenment, they awaken to the truth that they have always been carrying out the bodhisattva vow and striving together with their teacher from the distant past.

The appearance of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, meanwhile, shows where the essence of Buddhism lies. It is in practicing the eternal bodhisattva way, united with the Buddha of time without beginning.

Bodhisattva Universal Worthy also represents “universal wisdom.” The power of dialogue based on such wisdom is vital in terms of spreading the Mystic Law.

The lives of those awakened to the bodhisattva vow to help others become happy brim with unsurpassed joy. The image of dancing symbolizes this irrepressible and unbounded vibrant energy. When we base our lives on the bodhisattva vow, we can transform great evil into great good. The Daishonin teaches us that when we awaken to our true identity and power as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, we have nothing to lament.

The boundless vitality that comes from dedication to the bodhisattva vow is found today in the self-motivated actions of Soka Gakkai members. Shouldering the mission of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they are making worldwide kosen-rufu a reality. They are doing this through their joyful efforts to carry out their human revolution; through their contributions to peace, culture and education, brimming with the dynamic spirit of bodhisattvas; and through the power of grassroots dialogue based on universal wisdom to awaken people to the Mystic Law in a world filled with mistrust and disrespect.

The Hopes of Arnold J. Toynbee

My dialogue with renowned British historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1889–1975) took place in May 1972 and May 1973 and totaled 40 hours. As it drew to a close, I asked him if he had any personal advice for me.

I had a special reason for doing so. During my dialogue with Dr. Toynbee, Josei Toda was always present in my thoughts. I wondered how Mr. Toda would respond to my question, and I posed it to Dr. Toynbee with that in mind.

He looked at me intently and said with great humility that he thought it would be presumptuous for him to give me advice, since he was an academic and I was a man of action. He then said he hoped that I would continue to follow the Middle Way.

He added: “I think dialogues like this can play quite an important part in bringing the peoples of the world and the different religions together. And now we’re having a Japanese-British dialogue. I would like to see a Japanese-Russian dialogue, a Russian-American dialogue, [and] above all, a Chinese-Russian dialogue. If we could arrange this, it would help very much to bring things together. Perhaps Soka Gakkai can start some of these other discussions.”[21]

A Bridge to Peace Through Dialogue

Over the ensuing years, I followed Dr. Toynbee’s advice and engaged in dialogue with many leaders and thinkers around the world. My mentor had also entrusted me with this mission as his disciple.

During my discussions with Dr. Toynbee, I realized how everything my mentor taught me at what I call “Toda University” stood me in good stead, and I was filled with deep gratitude.

The Soka Gakkai aspires to be a truly global religious movement that serves as a bridge to peace by transcending differences through dialogue, forging friendships and inspiring one another to greater heights.

Today, our young successors are carrying on this work. I am sure that both Josei Toda and Dr. Toynbee are joyfully watching over the lively dialogues of Soka youth across the globe.

The Life-Affirming Philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism

On the long journey of kosen-rufu, a way of life dedicated to the shared struggle of mentor and disciple accords exactly with the bodhisattva vow. When we dedicate ourselves to the path of mentor and disciple and our vow as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, we can bring forth from within us the powerful life state of Buddhahood. Our lives will brim with the wisdom, courage and compassion that flow forth limitlessly from this life state. Today, the young lions of Soka are steadily following the supreme bodhisattva path of Nichiren Buddhism.

As humanity faces dire challenges, more and more people seek the life-affirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism and the warm humanity of Soka. Our work as Bodhisattvas of the Earth has only just begun.

Now is the time to summon our courage and engage in hope-filled dialogue. Let us continue, together with the youth and with an ever-youthful spirit, our positive efforts to bring peace and security to all!

Translated from the October 2020 Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.


  1. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, “Seinen-kun” (Guidelines for Youth), in Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 1 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1992), p. 58. ↩︎
  2. Myoho-renge-kyo is written with five Chinese characters, while Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is written with seven (nam, or namu, being comprised of two characters). Nichiren Daishonin often uses Myoho-renge-kyo synonymously with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his writings. ↩︎
  3. Fifth five-hundred-year period: The last of the five five-hundred-year periods described as following Shakyamuni’s death. It corresponds to the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law. The Great Collection Sutra predicts in some detail the course that the development of Buddhism will take in the twenty-five hundred years, or five half-millennia, following the Buddha’s death. The fifth five-hundred-year period indicates the first five hundred years of the Latter Day of the Law and is called “the age of quarrels and disputes” or “the age of conflict.” The sutra predicts that during this period, various rival Buddhist schools will quarrel incessantly among themselves, and Shakyamuni’s correct teaching will be obscured and lost. ↩︎
  4. T’ien-t’ai (538–97), also known as Chih-i, spread the Lotus Sutra in China and established the doctrine of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life.” Dengyo (767–822), also known as Saicho, was the founder of the Tendai (T’ien-t’ai) school in Japan. He traveled to China where he mastered T’ien-t’ai teachings. ↩︎
  5. Nichiren Daishonin wrote this work at Minobu in December 1280 and addressed it to all of his disciples. The previous month, the shrine to Great Bodhisattva Hachiman—regarded as the guardian deity of the Kamakura military government—had burned down, causing widespread alarm. In this writing, Nichiren rebukes Hachiman for negligence in failing to protect the votary of Lotus Sutra. He also mentions the principle of the “westward transmission of Buddhism.” ↩︎
  6. This refers to the westward transmission of Buddhism, also known as the westward return of Buddhism. Nichiren Daishonin predicted that his Buddhism of the Sun would flow from Japan toward the west, returning to the countries through which Buddhism had originally been transmitted and spreading throughout the entire world (see “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 401). ↩︎
  7. Bodhisattva Never Disparaging is described in “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,” the 20th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. This bodhisattva—Shakyamuni in a previous lifetime—lived at the end of the Middle Day of the Law following the death of the Buddha Awesome Sound King. He would bow to everyone he met and say: “I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparagement or arrogance. Why? Because you will all practice the bodhisattva way and will then be able to attain Buddhahood” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 308). However, he was attacked by arrogant monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen, who beat him with sticks and staves and threw stones at him. The sutra explains that this practice became the cause for Bodhisattva Never Disparaging to attain Buddhahood. ↩︎
  8. From one of the inscriptions on the Soka Gakkai Kosen-rufu Gohonzon enshrined in the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu. ↩︎
  9. “Changing poison into medicine” refers to employing the power of the Mystic Law to transform a life dominated by the three paths of earthly desires, karma and suffering into a life manifesting the three virtues of the Dharma body, wisdom and emancipation. ↩︎
  10. Translated from Japanese. Article in the Seikyo Shimbun, February 2, 2004. ↩︎
  11. In “On Reprimanding Hachiman,” Nichiren Daishonin writes: “The moon moves from the west eastward, a sign of how the Buddhism of India spread in an easterly direction. The sun rises in the east, an auspicious sign of how the Buddhism of Japan is destined to return to the Land of the Moon [India]. The light of the moon is not very bright, for the Buddha taught [the Lotus Sutra in India] for only eight years of his life. But the light of the sun is brilliant, outshining the moon, an auspicious sign of how the Buddhism of Japan is destined to illuminate the long darkness of [the Latter Day of the Law, which begins with] the fifth five-hundred-year period” (WND-2, 936). ↩︎
  12. See translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, “Kachi Sozo” (Value Creation), in Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), p. 27. ↩︎
  13. Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda first articulated his concept of global citizenship at a youth division study seminar in February 1952. It is the idea that all the people of the world are members of a global family and should seek prosperity through mutual cooperation and harmony, rather than engage in conflict and discrimination. ↩︎
  14. February Campaign: In February 1952, Ikeda Sensei, then an advisor to Tokyo’s Kamata Chapter, initiated a dynamic propagation campaign. Together with the Kamata members, he broke through the previous monthly record of some 100 new households by introducing Nichiren Buddhism to 201 new households. ↩︎
  15. Mahakashyapa: One of Shakyamuni’s ten major disciples, who was known as foremost in ascetic practices. ↩︎
  16. Shariputra: One of Shakyamuni’s ten major disciples, who was known as foremost in wisdom for his understanding of the true intent of the Buddha’s preaching. ↩︎
  17. Bodhisattva Superior Practices is the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, the innumerable bodhisattvas whom Shakyamuni calls forth in “Emerging from the Earth,” the 15th chapter of the Lotus Sutra and entrusts with the mission of propagating the Mystic Law in the Latter Day of the Law. ↩︎
  18. Bodhisattva Universal Worthy appears in “Encouragements of the Bodhisattva Universal Worthy,” the 28th and final chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Possessing immeasurable wisdom, he vows to protect the Lotus Sutra and its practitioners. He is the embodiment of all of the Buddha’s superior qualities, especially with regard to practice. ↩︎
  19. It is not certain whether this is the text of a short letter or a fragment of a longer piece. Neither its date nor its recipient is known. Judging from the content, however, it may have been sent to encourage disciples during the period when Japanese society was in turmoil following the first Mongol invasion in 1274. ↩︎
  20. Attainment of Buddhahood by persons of the two vehicles: In the first half of the Lotus Sutra, persons of the two vehicles—voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones—receive a prophecy from Shakyamuni Buddha that they will attain Buddhahood in future ages. This prophecy refutes the view of the provisional Mahayana teachings, which deny persons of the two vehicles the attainment of Buddhahood, for they seek only personal salvation and do not strive to save others. The Lotus Sutra says that they will practice the bodhisattva way and attain Buddhahood. ↩︎
  21. From a transcript of their dialogue. ↩︎

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