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Encouragement

Those With Lionhearted Faith Fear Nothing! Abutsu-bo and the Lay Nun Sennichi: Part 2 of 2

Building a Bright Future Based on Our Vow—Exploring the Lives of Nichiren Daishonin’s Disciples

BQLI, New York and New Jersey Zone gather for a Women's Division Leaders Meeting at the SGI-USA New York Culture Center in January 2020.
BQLI, New York and New Jersey Zone gather for a Women's Division Leaders Meeting at the SGI-USA New York Culture Center in January 2020. Photo by Dylan Golden.

Once again this year (2019), young leaders of worldwide kosen-rufu will gather in Japan to participate in the SGI Youth Training Course. I know that each of them has worked extremely hard, with an incredible seeking spirit, to make this possible. I wish to welcome them with my deepest respect.

My wife, Kaneko, and women’s division members throughout Japan are joyfully applauding the wonderful efforts of Soka women around the globe. When I visited the United States on my first overseas trip (in 1960), most of our pioneer members there, working to blaze new trails for worldwide kosen-rufu, were Japanese women, who had married U.S. servicemen.

Initially, they struggled to adapt to the new language and culture and often wept over their circumstances. However, through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they resolved to not be defeated by their problems and to encourage others facing similar struggles.

From the moment they transformed their karma into mission, a joyous drama of human revolution began to unfold, setting in motion the great development of worldwide kosen-rufu.

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, was convinced that women would achieve kosen-rufu. And now, true to that conviction, our network of Soka women is lighting the way to a future of peace and happiness for all on our planet.

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “There should be no discrimination among those who propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo[1] in the Latter Day of the Law, be they men or women” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 385).

Nichiren had many female disciples who strove together with him in battling adversity and opening the way for kosen-rufu. One of these dedicated women was the lay nun Sennichi, a leading figure among his disciples on Sado Island.

As we learned in the previous installment, Sennichi began practicing the Daishonin’s teachings with her husband, Abutsu-bo, during Nichiren’s exile on Sado.

“There should be no discrimination among those who propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo in the Latter Day of the Law, be they men or women.”

At the time, the Daishonin was living under extremely harsh circumstances, without sufficient food or warm clothing. Sennichi prepared food and other basic necessities and had Abutsu-bo deliver them to him regularly.

To support Nichiren, whose life was being threatened by the authorities and others hostile to him, meant that they had to be prepared to put their own lives in danger. And they worked together with dauntless courage to assist their mentor.

Vibrant azalea flowers bloom in profusion, just like the women of Soka. (Taken by Ikeda Sensei, Tokyo, April 2021)
Just like the women of Soka, vibrant azalea flowers bloom in profusion. Ikeda Sensei took this photo in Tokyo, April 2021.

Even after the Daishonin was pardoned from exile on Sado and moved to Mount Minobu (the southwest area of present-day Yamanashi Prefecture), Sennichi had Abutsu-bo take offerings to him on a number of occasions.

No doubt she was anxious and lonely while Abutsu-bo was away, but suppressing her own wish to see Nichiren, Sennichi prayed for the safety of her elderly husband on his long journey. Understanding the feelings of this sincere disciple, the Daishonin sent her many letters of encouragement.

In a letter dated October 1278, he writes: “The Lotus Sutra is like the lion king, who rules over all other animals.

“A woman who embraces the lion king of the Lotus Sutra never fears any of the beasts of hell or of the realms of hungry spirits and animals” (“The Drum at the Gate of Thunder,” WND-1, 949).

Women at the time were socially disadvantaged. We can assume that Nichiren’s female disciples came to Sennichi to seek her advice and guidance about various matters, including economic hardship and illness.

As if to dispel the anxiety and worry of these women, the Daishonin conveys through the encouragement in his letter to Sennichi: “You have nothing to fear!” He declares that faith in the Mystic Law exists for those who are suffering the most, who are in the depths of misery. Women who embrace faith in this teaching, he says, have nothing to fear like the lion king who rules over all other animals, and they will be protected without fail.

The bigger our problems, the bigger our mission. Through practicing Nichiren Buddhism, we can transform all hardship into an impetus for growth. Therefore, those who experience the greatest suffering can become the happiest.

The Daishonin praises the lay nun Sennichi as “a woman who embraces the lion king of the Lotus Sutra” (“The Drum at the Gate of Thunder,” WND-1, 949). Embrace here means to uphold the Gohonzon throughout one’s life, to never stray from faith, no matter what.

Embracing is also another word for practicing. It means chanting earnestly to the Gohonzon and doing our best to participate in Soka Gakkai activities aimed at advancing kosen-rufu. By steadfastly persevering in such efforts, we can forge a fearless self and the life state of a lion king that will not be defeated by any problem or challenge.

I am reminded of Madame Deng Yingchao (1904–92), the wife of late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai (1898–1976). A renowned leader in her own right, she was fondly known in her homeland as “the mother of the people.” Over the years, my wife and I shared a warm and friendly relationship with her.

Madame Deng once said to the young women who would shoulder the future of China: “Let’s do our best. We have the conviction and ideals of our revolution. Nothing can defeat us. If we give in to fear, all is lost. We are right, and right is never defeated.”[2]

Youth is a time when we are easily swayed by our emotions. Even the most outstanding or talented individual cannot display their full potential if they are ruled by fear. Don’t let fear defeat you.

When you rise above your fears to make full use of your abilities, you will experience fulfillment, growth, joy and pride. Even if at times you suffer disappointments or setbacks, please remember that those who win over themselves are true victors.

Moreover, all of you have embraced the unparalleled practice of Nichiren Buddhism at a young age. Should fear creep into your hearts, dispel it with daimoku. Continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo courageously like a roaring lion.

The new school semester is about to begin [in Japan]. Let’s set forth again today in buoyant spirits, starting with vigorous morning gongyo and daimoku! Let’s do so with the motto “Those with lionhearted faith fear nothing!”

This is from a series of Ikeda Sensei’s encouragement for the members of the junior high and high school divisions. It was translated from the Sept. 1, 2019, issue of the Mirai [Future] Journal, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly newspaper for the junior high and high school divisions. Part one appears in the June 11, 2021, World Tribune.

References

  1. Nichiren Daishonin often uses Myoho-renge-kyo synonymously with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his writings.
  2. Translated from Japanese. Kazuteru Saionji, Tou Eicho tsuma toshite, doshi toshite (Deng Yingchao As a Wife, As a Comrade), (Tokyo: Ushio Shuppansha, 1999), p. 119.

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