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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

“The True Aspect of All Phenomena”—Take the Lead in Spreading the Philosophy of Respect for the Dignity of Life!

To Our Future Division Members, the Torchbearers of Justice—Our Hope for the Future—Part 1 [62]

In these troubled times, people are seeking a new philosophy of hope. In our world filled with hardship, there is an urgent need for more capable people to come forth who are dedicated to creating value.

Humanity is presently engaged in a fierce struggle against an invisible enemy, the coronavirus. Everyone fervently wishes for an end to the pandemic as we all pool our wisdom to respond to this unprecedented challenge.

Where can we find the power to dispel the dark clouds shrouding people’s hearts and help them become stronger, wiser and better?

Religion began with people expressing their strongest, most compelling wishes as prayers. It is no exaggeration to say that people around the world today are once again reexamining the true value of religion.

The Lotus Sutra Enables All People to Attain Buddhahood

All of you, future division members across the globe who are growing up amid these turbulent times, have the profound mission to open a new age of respect for the dignity of life by firmly upholding the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of the Sun.

The Lotus Sutra depicts how the 8-year-old dragon king’s daughter[1] became a Buddha, indicating that all living beings can attain enlightenment, regardless of gender. The Soka Gakkai’s tradition of treasuring the future division is incredibly meaningful.

Emissaries From the Future

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, often said that children are emissaries from the infinite past, born in this world to enable their parents and others around them to attain Buddhahood. He also called them the treasures of the future, saying that we should think of them as emissaries from the future and take the best care of them.

Never have the hopes and expectations for you, our future division members, been higher. Why? Because by turning the challenges of the present into the main stage for your growth, your generation will be at the forefront when we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding (in 2030) and will determine the course of the 21st century. You are precious treasures tasked with the mission of creating a brighter future for humanity. Each of you is a great source of hope for global society.

For Your Future

In the next three installments, I would like to study passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings together with you, the torchbearers of justice who will carry on the baton of worldwide kosen-rufu. I wish to explore with you such topics as the meaning of faith, the correct way to live and the importance of having hopes and dreams.

The teachings of Nichiren Buddhism are profound and, though you may not understand them fully at first, the day will come when you will recognize the true meaning of what we’ve studied here. I hope you’ll absorb something of what I share in these lectures that will help you later in life.

In this first installment, let’s take a look at “The True Aspect of All Phenomena.” I once gave a lecture on this writing for some of your pioneering predecessors in the high school division (in 1966).

In it, Nichiren teaches us that, as disciples directly connected to him, we have a mission to carry out kosen-rufu for the sake of humanity, the world and the future.

The Teaching We Recite During Morning and Evening Gongyo

Now, no matter what, strive in faith and be known as a votary [practitioner] of the Lotus Sutra, and remain my disciple for the rest of your life. If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth. (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 385)

It is thought that Nichiren Daishonin sent this writing to a priest disciple named Sairen-bo in May 1273, nearly 750 years ago. Nichiren was 52 at the time and living in exile on Sado Island.[2]

The title of this writing is “The True Aspect of All Phenomena.” During our morning and evening gongyo, we recite three times the teaching of “the true aspect of all phenomena” (Jpn shoho jisso)[3] from the “Expedient Means” chapter of the Lotus Sutra (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 57). That’s how crucial this teaching is.

This letter was written in response to Sairen-bo’s query about the meaning of “the true aspect of all phenomena.” Asking questions is very important to the process of learning. Summoning the courage to seek answers from others is how we make new discoveries and experience the joy of understanding new things.

The Daishonin clearly replies that the true aspect (essence) of all phenomena (things, reality) is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. He says, “The ‘true aspect’ is another name for Myoho-renge-kyo”[4] (WND-1, 384).

The daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo that we chant is the name of the ultimate truth. It is the fundamental principle underlying the universe and life. It is the means by which all people can attain Buddhahood and the source of revitalization, harmony and happiness that fills us with boundless life force and good fortune.

All of you who embrace this Mystic Law have tremendous strength and potential. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith in the Mystic Law is the “switch” that enables you to activate these qualities without limit in the real world.

Our Prayers Are Always Answered

Youth is a time filled with worries and anxieties. I’m sure the challenges you face seem endless, whether they regard your studies, deciding what job to pursue in the future, friendships, family issues, relationships and so on. But ultimately, your Buddhist practice is the driving force for tackling and overcoming every one of those issues.

Prayer is a solemn act that is uniquely human. It is an expression of one’s innermost being, its power profound and unfathomable.

A Lotus Sutra passage states, “They [practitioners] will enjoy peace and security in their present existence and good circumstances in future existences” (LSOC, 136). This means that our present situation will improve and we will attain everlasting happiness without fail. Our prayers not only empower us to solve our immediate problems, but also spur our growth and help us lead lives dedicated to the happiness of others.

This is the fundamental power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. And it is the purpose of our daily practice of gongyo and chanting.

Faith in Nichiren Buddhism does not teach passive reliance on some external power. Rather, through earnest prayer and serious effort, we can bring forth our true inner strength, our unique inherent potential. In so doing, we can improve and develop ourselves.

Of course, in reality, things often don’t go as you might wish, and your prayers are not always immediately answered.

You can liken this to digging tirelessly to unearth a precious treasure buried deep underground and hitting a boulder that prevents you from reaching it. If you give up at that point, you will never gain the treasure.

To reach the infinitely precious treasure deep within the earth of your own life, you need to dig in the correct way—that is, to persevere patiently in correct Buddhist practice. As long as you continue digging, you will acquire strength and wisdom, dynamically forge your life force and lead a positive, productive life.

Speaking of the boundless and immeasurable benefits we receive through our faith in the Gohonzon, Josei Toda used to say that all our experiences have meaning in the realm of faith. In time we will realize with profound appreciation that nothing was wasted and everything had a purpose. From the early days of our organization until now, countless members have experienced this personally and can testify to its truth. Such actual proof demonstrated by members across the globe speaks volumes of the validity and profundity of Nichiren Buddhism.

That is why maintaining faith is so important.

Viewed in the long term, we come to see that our prayers are always answered. When we look back later, we can fully appreciate the experiences we’ve had, realizing that we achieved even more than we aimed for and that all of our struggles helped us to understand the suffering of others.

By striving in our Buddhist practice, we can turn all challenges into fuel for personal growth and opportunities to make great breakthroughs. There is not the slightest doubt that in the end our lives will exceed our expectations. It’s therefore crucial to persevere with steadfast faith until the last moment.

Nichiren writes, “Now, no matter what, strive in faith and be known as a votary [practitioner] of the Lotus Sutra, and remain my disciple for the rest of your life” (WND-1, 385).

Now is the time for you, the Soka Gakkai’s young successors, to concentrate on your personal growth, putting your studies and health first. I hope you will become people who can make outstanding contributions to kosen-rufu, others’ happiness and the welfare of society.

Building a Happy, Peaceful World

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth”[5] (WND-1, 385). The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are profoundly noble. Entrusted with spreading the Mystic Law in the evil age of the Latter Day, they appear in this world in accord with their vow to actualize kosen-rufu. Soka Gakkai members are all Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

Put simply, kosen-rufu means building a happy, peaceful world in which everyone is glad to have been born, appreciates their life and can lead an enjoyable, fulfilling existence in harmony with others. It is just as we say in our silent prayers at the end of gongyo every morning and evening, “I pray for peace throughout the world and the happiness of all living beings.”

This is why many of your parents and grandparents and other Soka Gakkai members in your communities are working so hard to share Nichiren Buddhism with others. The focus of their prayers and actions reach far beyond themselves and their families, encompassing their friends, neighbors and everyone in their communities.

When we expand the realm of our concern, we bring forth even greater courage, wisdom, and compassion, and are filled with a deep sense of meaning and purpose. Soka Gakkai members everywhere are striving day after day to elevate their own lives while contributing to the happiness of others and to society. This is the path to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime and the practice of human revolution.

Having “the Same Mind as Nichiren”

The key is to have “the same mind as Nichiren” (WND-1, 385). While undergoing numerous harsh persecutions, Nichiren Daishonin opened the great path of kosen-rufu into the eternal future out of his wish for the happiness of all humanity. The Soka Gakkai has acted in perfect accord with the Daishonin’s words. The fact that you are all now practicing Nichiren Buddhism is truly remarkable. The Soka Gakkai is striving in faith with “the same mind as Nichiren.”

With vast hearts that embrace the entire world, I hope you will continue to lead your lives together with the Soka Gakkai. Don’t let anything hold you back. Please keep moving ahead with big dreams.

A Life Dedicated to the People

Nichiren Daishonin states that we are without a doubt the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. We are all noble bodhisattvas who have appeared voluntarily in this world with a mission for kosen-rufu. Bodhisattvas are people who work actively for world peace and the happiness of others, bringing their own lives to shine in the process.

Bodhisattvas of the Earth are great bodhisattvas on a par with the Buddha who have chosen to be born in this evil age rife with problems and suffering. As a result, they experience the same problems and suffering as everyone. But their life state is different because they are proudly aware of their important mission.

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth never give in to adversity. While themselves going through hardships, they encourage and support those who are struggling and live in a way that inspires hope in others. Reaching out to those around them, they convey through their personal examples the truth that we can overcome all misfortune and become happy.

Everything in life has meaning. If our lives were perfect, we couldn’t demonstrate the greatness of Buddhism or life’s underlying power. The Bodhisattvas of the Earth exemplify the principle of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma.”[6]

Soka Gakkai members around the world embrace the vow of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who deliberately choose to fight amid hardship. They are bravely rising to their challenges, determined to transform karma into mission. No matter how trying our present circumstances or the difficulties we face, we advance with optimism and an invincible spirit.

Every one of you, without exception, has a great mission. I hope you will grow into leaders whom people will thank for helping them become happy. Though your efforts may be quiet and go unrecognized, I hope you will stay true to yourselves and dedicate your lives to the Soka path of mentor and disciple, working to contribute to people’s happiness and to society. That is my wish.

A Belief in the Equality of All People

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. Were they not Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they could not chant the daimoku [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo]. At first only Nichiren chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but then two, three, and a hundred followed, chanting and teaching others. Propagation will unfold this way in the future as well. (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 385)

Nichiren Daishonin states that “there should be no discrimination … be they men or women” (WND-1, 385). This declaration of gender equality in 13th-century Japan shines as a beacon in the annals of human history. In other words, every single person who embraces the Gohonzon and chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, regardless of gender identity or expression, can absolutely become happy.

That’s why it is important not only to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo ourselves, but to also teach others to do the same. That is what is meant by practice for oneself and others. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a practice open to all people, no matter who they are, what their background is, or where they’re from.

In fact, today Nichiren Buddhism has spread to 192 countries and territories worldwide, transcending language and cultural differences.

The light of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, a universal teaching that can lead all people to happiness, shines like the sun.

And it is the Soka Gakkai that has spread Nam-myoho-renge-kyo across the globe, just as the Daishonin proclaimed: “Were they not Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they could not chant the daimoku” (WND-1, 385).

Josei Toda declared: “We must foster fine young people who can work for the benefit of society and all humankind. That is the purpose of the Soka Gakkai.”

Kosen-rufu Starts With the Inner Transformation of One Person

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “At first only Nichiren chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but then two, three, and a hundred followed, chanting and teaching others. Propagation will unfold this way in the future as well” (WND-1, 385). Here, he assures us that kosen-rufu can be achieved and indicates how it will unfold.

Society is, ultimately, a collection of individuals. That is why all change begins with the inner transformation of one person.

It’s therefore essential to steadily create bonds of trust, first with one person, then another and another, fostering understanding and forging shared resolve. For you, our future division members, this means sincerely trying to build friendships.

Though at first this might seem like taking the long way around, as more and more people transform their lives, they will form a broad movement of ordinary people.

The renowned physicist Albert Einstein (1879–1955) said, “Confidence begets confidence, and without confidence fruitful co-operation will not be possible.”[7]

By fostering heartfelt bonds linking one person to another, our network for good grows ever stronger.

Chant With Sincerity

At the end of this writing, Nichiren Daishonin highlights the foundation of our practice: “Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others. Both practice and study arise from faith. Teach others to the best of your ability, even if it is only a single sentence or phrase” (WND-1, 386).

Chanting with a sincere and open heart brings forth strong life force. Studying Buddhism fills us with conviction and makes our inherent wisdom shine. I hope you will exert yourselves in the “two ways of practice and study,” making your lives shine their brightest and illuminating all around you with hope and courage.

Opening the Way for the Future

As Josei Toda’s disciple, I have made all his plans and dreams a reality. Today, there is no place on Earth the brilliant light of Nichiren Buddhism has not reached. I have demonstrated the greatness of the path of mentor and disciple with my own life. I have opened the way for you.

That is why I call on you to make your way confidently on the path of successors to open the way to the future development of kosen-rufu, to a century of peace and a secure world for all.

I am filled with excitement when I think about what you will accomplish in the years ahead. With the same spirit, your fellow members around the world are also praying for your growth.

I am chanting earnestly every day for each of you without exception to fulfill your mission.

The Path of Mentor and Disciple Is the Path to Victory in Life

You are all lions. You are suns. No matter what unpleasant, harsh or challenging situations you may encounter, hold your heads high and advance with confidence and pride along the path of your mission.

The Soka path of mentor and disciple is the path to victory in life and to happiness and peace for all humanity. That path opens widely before you!

Translated from the June 2020 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.


  1. Dragon king’s daughter: The 8-year-old daughter of Sagara, one of the eight great dragon kings said to dwell in a palace at the bottom of the sea. In the Lotus Sutra, she attains Buddhahood and vows to rescue living beings from suffering. ↩︎
  2. Sado Exile: Nichiren Daishonin’s exile to Sado Island in the Sea of Japan from October 1271, immediately following the Tatsunokuchi Persecution on September 12, 1271, through March 1274. Sairen-bo, the recipient of “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” was also an exile on Sado Island. Inspired by the Daishonin, he became his disciple. ↩︎
  3. In gongyo, we recite three times: “Sho-i shoho. Nyo ze so. Nyo ze sho. Nyo ze tai. Nyo ze riki. Nyo ze sa. Nyo ze in. Nyo ze en. Nyo ze ka. Nyo ze ho. Nyo ze honmak kukyo to.” This translates to, “This reality consists of the appearance, nature, entity, power, influence, internal cause, relation, latent effect, manifest effect and their consistency from beginning to end” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 57). ↩︎
  4. 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). The Daishonin often uses Myoho-renge-kyo synonymously with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his writings. ↩︎
  5. Bodhisattvas of the Earth: The innumerable bodhisattvas who appear in “Emerging from the Earth,” the 15th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, and are entrusted by Shakyamuni with the task of propagating the Law after his passing. In “Supernatural Powers,” the 21st chapter, Shakyamuni entrusts Bodhisattva Superior Practices, the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, with spreading the Law in the saha world in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law. ↩︎
  6. Voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma: This refers to bodhisattvas who, though qualified to receive the pure rewards of Buddhist practice, relinquish them and make a vow to be reborn in an impure world in order to save living beings. ↩︎
  7. Albert Einstein, Einstein on Peace, edited by Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden (New York: Avenal Books, 1981), p. 71. ↩︎

Winning Today, Here and Now

Into Full Flower