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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

“The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life”—Humanity Is Awaiting Your Growth

To Our Future Division Members, the Torchbearers of Justice—Our Hope for the Future—Part 2 [63]

Each of you, our future division members, is a light of hope for humanity and a treasure of the world. You are the protagonists of the 21st century who will open the way to a brighter future. You are the torchbearers of justice who will contribute to creating the age of victory for the people we call kosen-rufu and realizing world peace.

There are three reasons I am sure of this.

First, the Mystic Law that you have embraced while so young is the fundamental Law of the universe through which all people can become happy. It is the source for creating unlimited value. As practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, you can freely bring forth life’s tremendous potential.

Second, you are all Bodhisattvas of the Earth[1] who have emerged vibrantly in this world with the mission to spread the Mystic Law and build a network of happiness.

Third, people around the globe, including your families and local fellow members, have faith in your potential; they are praying for and looking forward to your growth.

“Oh, We Will Stand Tall as Pillars of Our Era!”

I want all of you to become outstanding leaders of kosen-rufu and society, courageous champions of noble, ordinary people. With that wish in mind, I composed the future division song “The Torchbearers of Justice.”[2] The line in that song “Oh, we will stand tall as pillars of our era!” expresses my confidence in your brilliant success and victory.

That’s because the future of kosen-rufu hinges entirely on you, our young successors.

Take a Bold Step Forward

Youth is the greatest of all treasures. It is also a time of many problems and hardships. But no matter what your situation or if things don’t go the way you’d hoped, because you are practicing Nichiren Buddhism now, the path before you is bright and full of possibilities. It is certain that in the future you will be able to spread your wings and soar freely. Otherwise, the teachings of Buddhism would be a lie. Therefore, with an invincible spirit, try to make the most of the present, and take a bold step forward. Chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in earnest, study hard and develop yourselves. Faith in the Mystic Law gives you the power to win in life.

A Promise From the Infinite Past

It is profoundly significant that you are practicing Nichiren Buddhism at a time when humanity is facing great crises. Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, made this clear in the remote past when he declared his disciples will “make certain the Law will long endure” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 216). In the Lotus Sutra, he promises that the Mystic Law will be transmitted eternally into the future by individuals such as you, my young friends, who will appear in a troubled age—when people’s minds are distorted and confused—to stand on the side of the people and work for their happiness.

In this installment, we will study the letter “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” which delves into this principle. It is a very important writing of Nichiren Daishonin that I have studied with the bright young members of the future division in the past [March 1966]. Together, let’s learn about the mission of those who embrace the Mystic Law, the bond of mentor and disciple, and the importance of the Soka Gakkai organization.

Nichiren Daishonin’s Disciple Sairen-bo

All disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the spirit of many in body but one in mind, transcending all differences among themselves[3] to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim.[4] This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death. Herein lies the true goal of Nichiren’s propagation. When you are so united, even the great desire for widespread propagation [or the great vow for kosen-rufu] can be fulfilled. (“The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 217)[5]

Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter to Sairen-bo,[6] a priest who became his disciple when both were living in exile on Sado Island. Amid these adverse circumstances, Sairen-bo also endured great hardships together with Nichiren. This letter is Nichiren’s reply to Sairen-bo’s question about the meaning of the extremely important teaching of the “heritage of the ultimate Law of life and death.”

The “Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life and Death” Is the Teaching for the Enlightenment of All People

The “ultimate Law of life and death” refers to the most essential and fundamental truth relating to our existence, which undergoes an unending cycle of birth and death.[7] “Heritage” refers to the essence of Buddhism passed from the Buddha to all people into the future, just as a family bloodline is passed on from parent to children.

In other words, the “heritage of the ultimate Law of life and death” is the transmission, from the Buddha to all humanity, of the Law or supreme teaching that enables all to attain Buddhahood.

Nichiren Daishonin begins this letter stating that the “heritage of the ultimate Law of life and death”—the ultimate teaching for relieving the sufferings of birth and death—is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. He states that the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo[8] constitute the eternal, fundamental Law and the teaching for the enlightenment of all people passed on from Shakyamuni to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth during the magnificent Ceremony in the Air at the assembly described in the Lotus Sutra.[9]

No doubt, when Sairen-bo learned of this essential truth of Buddhism, he was astounded and deeply moved.

The Gohonzon of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

The daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo that we chant each day is none other than the ultimate Law of life and the fundamental Law of the universe. The Gohonzon of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo we chant to is none other than the great life state of Buddhahood that Nichiren Daishonin embodied.

When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon, the sound of the Mystic Law reaches the realm of Buddhahood in the universe as well as the Buddha nature within us, unlocking its innate compassion, wisdom and courage. It fills us with the energy to face every difficulty, strengthens our life force and makes us unbeatable. It enables us to exercise our wisdom and intellect, sets us on a sure path leading to good fortune and benefit and allows us to advance toward victory. The true purpose of our Buddhist practice is to elevate our life state.

Nichiren Daishonin revealed Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—the ultimate Law of life and death—so that all people living in the Latter Day of the Law[10] could attain a state of indestructible happiness.

The Soka Gakkai is the sole organization widely spreading the great humanistic teachings of Nichiren Buddhism in our world today. The unprecedented development of worldwide kosen-rufu has been realized through the prayers and tireless efforts at dialogue of many of your grandparents and parents, united in spirit with the first three Soka Gakkai presidents.

How admirable and worthy of respect is a life spent chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and working for kosen-rufu!

You, young Bodhisattvas of the Earth, are carrying on this noble Soka tradition. Each of you has a mission to help others become happy. Sowing the seeds of happiness and peace in our world is the way that you will pass on the “heritage of the ultimate Law of life and death.”

Faith for Inheriting the Law

In this letter, Nichiren Daishonin provides three key points in our Buddhist practice for inheriting the “heritage of the ultimate Law of life and death.”

The first is having conviction in the truth that our lives are one with the Mystic Law.

The second is to maintain steadfast and unwavering faith that never forsakes the Mystic Law in any lifetime whatsoever throughout eternity (see WND-1, 217).

And the third is the unity of “many in body, one in mind.”

The words “All disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren” (WND-1, 217) can be interpreted as referring to a gathering of true mentors and disciples and the organization committed to realizing kosen-rufu. This is because, without the shared struggle of mentor and disciple, the “heritage of the ultimate Law of life and death” cannot be properly transmitted. Furthermore, only an organization of individuals united in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind” and imbued with the spirit of mentor and disciple can ensure victory in the struggle between the Buddha and devilish functions and open the way to kosen-rufu.

The Proper Attitude of Disciples Working for Kosen-rufu

In the passage we are studying here, Nichiren Daishonin clarifies the spirit his disciples need in striving for kosen-rufu. He says they should “transcend all differences among themselves,” become “as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim” and work together “with the spirit of many in body but one in mind” (see WND-1, 217).

“Transcending all differences among themselves” means eliminating any feelings of discrimination or antagonism. It can also mean making a constant effort to surmount the human tendency toward self-centeredness.

“As inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim” means that we can achieve great things together by respecting one another as irreplaceably precious and by supporting and trusting each other.

In the phrase “with the spirit of many in body but one in mind,” “many in body” means everyone has a unique personality, qualities and circumstances. “One in mind” means we share a sense of purpose and values. Making the most of our diverse characters and abilities, we encourage one another and work together toward our shared goal of kosen-rufu.

An Ideal Organization of “Many in Body, One in Mind”

Our wonderful unity of “many in body, one in mind” for the sake of kosen-rufu exemplifies the ideal of human harmony and cooperation. That is because we are an organization of diverse individuals who transcend differences of ethnicity, language and culture to come together based on our shared humanity. We respect, learn from and help one another. We do not tolerate any form of bullying or discrimination that tramples a person’s worth or dignity.

The Soka Gakkai has created an ideal organization of “many in body, one in mind.” My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, also perceived it as an organization holding the key to happiness for humankind.

For some of you, the word “organization” may evoke a feeling of constraint. But even learning and playing sports can’t be done alone. They require some type of organization, such as a school or team. Organizations are indispensable to human life. The organization of the Soka Gakkai exists to help us practice Nichiren Buddhism and attain happiness.

On the other hand, organizations that have lost a sense of purpose or direction can cause people to suffer. An organization’s goals and how it tries to achieve them are crucial. The Soka Gakkai is an organization that values the individual and aims to enable each person to become happy.

The Soka Gakkai is carrying out a movement to realize world peace and the happiness of all, spreading the philosophy of respect for life’s dignity across the globe. It accords entirely with the Buddha’s intent, faithfully achieving Nichiren Daishonin’s wish for worldwide kosen-rufu. In that sense, it originated with Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day.

President Toda used to say that the Soka Gakkai, the organization for kosen-rufu, was more important to him than his life. We have a mission to serve as a model of solidarity for global society.

A Religion That Brings People Together

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, I can imagine the frustration you, my young friends, must feel having to endure various restrictions on your freedom.

But the darkness is deepest just before the dawn. And as Nichiren Daishonin assures us, “Winter always turns to spring” (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” WND-1, 536). You can overcome any problem or difficulty without fail. The harder the challenge, the more you can grow and develop your abilities.

Overcoming division, bringing people together and building solidarity will surely become a crucial focus from here on.

Dr. Bryan Wilson (1926–2004), a noted scholar of the sociology of religion with whom I enjoyed many discussions, called the Soka Gakkai a movement that is strengthening ties among people when the fabric of society is being threatened and eroded.

I also spoke with the renowned scientist Linus Pauling (1901–94) on several occasions. He heartily praised our movement of dialogue aimed at encouraging people based on respect for the dignity of life. He said that the world was fortunate to have the Soka Gakkai.

We live in an age when our Soka movement is illuminating the world ever more brightly with the light of hope and courage.

“You Are Like Pure Gold”

Gold can be neither burned by fire nor corroded or swept away by water, but iron is vulnerable to both. A worthy [wise] person is like gold, a fool like iron. You are like pure gold because you embrace the “gold” of the Lotus Sutra. … It must be ties of karma from the distant past that have destined you to become my disciple at a time like this. Shakyamuni and Many Treasures[11] certainly realized this truth. The sutra’s statement, “Those persons who had heard the Law dwelled here and there in various Buddha lands, constantly reborn in company with their teachers” [LSOC, 178], cannot be false in any way. (“The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” WND-1, 217)

By becoming a disciple of Nichiren Daishonin, who was then facing harsh persecution, Sairen-bo was embarking on a difficult course.

This is why the Daishonin shows him warm concern, writing: “You have followed Nichiren … and met with suffering as a result. It pains me deeply to think of your anguish” (WND-1, 217).

Responding to his mentor’s compassionate encouragement, Sairen-bo remained unfaltering and persevered as a disciple. That is why the Daishonin praises him, saying, “You are like pure gold” (WND-1, 217).

Mentor and Disciple Are Born Together

The mentor-disciple relationship is a spiritual bond arising from the disciple’s resolve. It is a relationship that enriches and deepens people’s lives in every sense. This is something many of the leaders I have had discussions with over the years fully agreed with.

Josei Toda commented: “The Daishonin says that mentor and disciples are always born together without fail. In light of these words, I feel tremendous gratitude to all of you. We were born together in this world because of a promise we made in the past.”[12]

Following the path of mentor and disciple in Buddhism is solemn and profound, infinite and eternal.

The Bond of Mentor and Disciple Is Eternal

To illustrate the karmic bond of mentor and disciple, Nichiren Daishonin quotes for his loyal disciple Sairen-bo a passage from the Lotus Sutra: “Those persons who had heard the Law dwelled here and there in various Buddha lands, constantly reborn in company with their teachers” (LSOC, 178).

This passage highlights the sublime essence of the Lotus Sutra—that the mentor-disciple bond is not limited to this existence, that mentor and disciple are always born together, in lifetime after lifetime and ceaselessly take action to guide people to happiness. Together, they strive to transform wherever they are into a Buddha land and help all people change their karma. This is their promise and their vow from the infinite past.

The bond of mentor and disciple based on the Mystic Law transcends the bounds of life and death and is eternal, enduring throughout past, present and future. Mr. Toda referred to the same Lotus Sutra passage to describe his bond with his mentor, founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi.[13] Today, SGI members around the world are studying and carrying on that spirit of mentor and disciple.

A Wondrous Connection of Sharing Joys and Sufferings

To commemorate the occasion of his inauguration as second Soka Gakkai president on May 3, 1951, Josei Toda presented me with the following poem:

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

It is now six decades since I became the third Soka Gakkai president as Mr. Toda’s direct disciple [on May 3, 1960].

All of you, the future division members who have emerged at this time, are young people of profound mission joined by a deep connection and to whom I entrust everything.

Bodhisattvas of the Earth each choose the appropriate time to be born in order to demonstrate the greatness of the Mystic Law.

Aware of the bond of mentor and disciple, your seniors in faith are guided by a strong sense of mission. As a result, they have been undefeated by life’s difficulties. They have overcome such karmic sufferings as financial hardship and illness, led lives of supreme value and opened the way for today’s magnificent development of kosen-rufu.

My young friends, take your place boldly on that brilliant stage. Your rising to take action will contribute to our network of hope illuminating the future of humanity and expand it even further around the world.

Treasuring Each Individual

Nichiren Buddhism is a living, life-transforming religion. Treasuring the person before us, we believe in the potential of each individual. The Soka Gakkai is a realm of encouragement and trust. Our efforts in that spirit strengthen and deepen the ties between global citizens. The true worth of Nichiren Buddhism as a humanistic religion shines even more brightly when society is in turmoil.

The hopeful movement of Soka will continue to enrich the 21st century so that it truly becomes a century of life. You, my young friends, will play admirable vital roles in creating an age of the people when a song of the triumph of humanism resounds.

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


  1. Bodhisattvas of the Earth: The innumerable bodhisattvas that Shakyamuni Buddha calls forth to spread the Lotus Sutra in the evil age after his passing and eternally guide all people to happiness. They emerge from the earth in “Emerging from the Earth,” the 15th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, hence their name. Each is a great bodhisattva—golden-hued, magnificent and firm in intent—accompanied by a retinue of friends and companions equal in number to the sands of sixty thousand Ganges Rivers. ↩︎
  2. “The Torchbearers of Justice”: Ikeda Sensei composed this song in 1978 for the high school division, and revised the lyrics in 2010, after which it became the future division song. The lyrics of the third stanza are as follows: “With a sense of pride and mission in this lifetime / Our spirits glowing with a passion burning strong / You and I are proud bearers of flag of victory / As torchbearers spreading friendship, far and wide / Oh, we will stand tall as pillars of our era!” ↩︎
  3. The phrase “transcending all differences among themselves” could be rendered literally as “without any thought of self or other, this or that.” This is not a denial of individuality, but rather urges the bridging of the gaps between people that arise from self-centeredness. ↩︎
  4. The phrase “as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim” comes from a well-known passage in the Chinese classic San Kuo Chih (History of the Three Kingdoms) referring to a historical incident in which the ruler Liu Pei, having acquired the services of the able minister Chuko K’ung-ming, undertakes significant activities himself while also making it possible for K’ung-ming to fully manifest his abilities. ↩︎
  5. “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life” was written by Nichiren Daishonin in 1272, at Tsukahara, during his exile on Sado Island, and addressed to Sairen-bo, who was also exiled there. ↩︎
  6. Sairen-bo: A former priest of the Tendai school of Buddhism who, for an unknown reason, had been exiled to Sado. There, he met Nichiren Daishonin and converted to his teachings. ↩︎
  7. Buddhism teaches that our lives go through a continuous cycle of birth and death. In the Lotus Sutra, however, that cycle is not characterized by delusion and suffering but by an enduring state of happiness. ↩︎
  8. 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. ↩︎
  9. Ceremony in the Air: One of the three assemblies described in the Lotus Sutra, in which the entire gathering is suspended in space above the saha world. It extends from “Emergence of the Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter to “Entrustment,” the 22nd chapter. The heart of this ceremony is the revelation of the Buddha’s original enlightenment in the remote past and the transfer of the essence of the sutra to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who are led by Bodhisattva Superior Practices. ↩︎
  10. The Latter Day of the Law is the time period after Shakyamuni’s death when his teachings lose their beneficial power. It is an age of unending conflict. Nichiren Daishonin appeared in this age and taught the great teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo that can lead the people of the Latter Day of the Law to happiness for all eternity. ↩︎
  11. Many Treasures: A Buddha depicted in the Lotus Sutra. Many Treasures appears, seated within his treasure tower, in order to attest to the truth of Shakyamuni’s teachings in the sutra. ↩︎
  12. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 7 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1987), p. 472. ↩︎
  13. To give one such example, at a memorial service for founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, second Soka Gakkai Presdient Josei Toda said: “In your vast and boundless compassion, you let me accompany you even to prison. As a result, I could read with my entire being the passage from the Lotus Sutra: ‘Those persons who had heard the Law dwelled here and there in various Buddha lands, constantly reborn in company with their teachers’ (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 178). The benefit of this was coming to know my former existence as a Bodhisattva of the Earth, and to absorb with my very life even a small degree of the sutra’s meaning. Could there be any greater happiness than this?” ↩︎

Ensuring the Mystic Law Endures Forever

Peace, Justice, and the Poetic Mind