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Buddhism of the Sun

To Our Future Division Members, the Torchbearers of Justice—Our Hope for the Future—Part 3

Ikeda Sensei’s Lecture Series

To Our Future Division Members, the Torchbearers of Justice—Our Hope for the Future

Part 3 [64]

“On the Buddha’s Prophecy”—Young Phoenixes, Soar Into a New Age!

LECTURE

To my young friends, the members of the high school division, who are aiming for and will inherit the future! You are the young phoenixes who will accomplish kosen-rufu. Your growth, therefore, is the hope of the Soka Gakkai and the herald of a bright new dawn for Japan and the world.” This passage is from an editorial I contributed to the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal, in November 1965, titled “Young Phoenixes, Soar Into the Future!”

I firmly believed that the members of the future division[1] had a great mission to shoulder the future development of our movement. I wanted them to take responsibility for securing the foundations for kosen-rufu. That is why I had opened the way for them and would continue to do so with all my might as long as I lived.

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The Herald of a Bright New Dawn

Now, 55 years later, I wish to declare again to all of you—today’s members of the high school, junior high school, and boys and girls divisions—that your growth is the herald of a bright new dawn for the entire world. That is because, at this time when humankind is rising to the challenge of a global pandemic, your presence and your sound growth inspire people everywhere with fresh hope.

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Don’t Give in to Defeat! Advance With Confidence!

Elementary school division members enjoy the Florida sun at the Family Conference, Florida Nature and Culture Center, Weston, Florida, 2019. Photo by Mary Delia.

I am sure many of you are disappointed that you can’t spend your summer the way you usually do because of coronavirus restrictions. And I know some of you are struggling each day because your families face hardships due to pandemic-related disruptions to business or work.

That is why I call on you now: “Young phoenixes, don’t give in to defeat!” “Advance with confidence!” “It is in such challenging times that you can take flight bravely toward the future!”

While praying for your success in this regard, I would like to study some passages from the writings of Nichiren Daishonin together with you, my precious young friends who will bring a brighter future. Let’s do so as if enjoying a relaxed conversation in the shade of trees.

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The Noble Mission of Those Born in the Latter Day of the Law

The seventh volume of the Lotus Sutra states, “After I [Shakyamuni] have passed into extinction, in the last five-hundred-year period[2] you must spread it [the Lotus Sutra] abroad widely [realize kosen-rufu] throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world] and never allow it to be cut off” [The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 330]. On the one hand, it is deplorable to me that more than 2,220 years have already passed since the Buddha’s demise. What evil karma prevented me from being born in his lifetime? Why could not I have seen the four ranks of sages[3] in the Former Day of the Law, or [Great Teachers] T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo[4] in the Middle Day of the Law? On the other hand, I rejoice at whatever good fortune enabled me to be born in the last five-hundred-year period and to read these true words of the sutra. (“On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 398)[5]

Future division members make friends in faith at the Florida Nature and Culture Center, 2019. Photo by Mary Delia.

In this installment, we will study Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” in which he discusses the Buddha’s vision for the future. Very simply, the Buddha’s prophecy is the realization of kosen-rufu, the widespread propagation of the Mystic Law; it equates to the Buddha’s wish to bring true peace to humanity and guide people to eternal happiness.

Buddhism originated from a desire to relieve human suffering on the most fundamental level. It teaches that everyone possesses the supremely noble life state of Buddhahood and can overcome life’s ultimate challenges: the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death.[6]

Individuals awakened to the dignity of their own and others’ lives stand up to eliminate misery and misfortune from the world. Kosen-rufu is the effort to build a solid network of such empowered ordinary people committed to promoting a movement for happiness and peace.

Shakyamuni[7] preached the Lotus Sutra to elevate all people to the same enlightened life state he had attained. He also instructed that in the evil and corrupt latter age after his passing, his disciples must spread the Lotus Sutra and never allow it to stop being passed on. The Bodhisattvas of the Earth[8] were the disciples entrusted with the noble mission of faithfully carrying out this wish of the Buddha.

And in exact accord with the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishonin appeared in the Latter Day of the Law,[9] an age of the direst suffering, and taught and spread the great Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the essence of the Lotus Sutra. While enduring life-threatening persecution, he opened the way for the enlightenment of all humankind into the eternal future. That is why we revere him as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.

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Creating an Age of the Victory of the People

In modern times, the first three Soka Gakkai presidents,[10]

linked by the deep bonds of mentor and disciple, inherited this lofty spirit of Nichiren. Together with them, our dedicated members worldwide have given their all, day after day, for people’s happiness and peace and to build a safe and secure society.

This extraordinary lineage of Buddhist humanism dedicated to creating an age of the victory of the people began with Shakyamuni and the Lotus Sutra in India and has been carried on by Nichiren Daishonin and the Soka Gakkai.

In that sense, through studying “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” we can learn about the origins of the Soka Gakkai spirit, which is directly linked to the Daishonin.

I studied this writing with my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, and later with our young members many times over the years.

Whenever I read it, I am moved deeply by Nichiren’s boundless life state and fervent wish to relieve the suffering of all people. I hope that all of you, my young friends of the future division, will also engrave this spirit in your hearts.

Kosen-rufu is the effort to build a solid network of … empowered ordinary people committed to promoting a movement for happiness and peace.

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Nichiren Daishonin’s Prophecy

Instead of simply complaining when we find ourselves in a difficult environment or challenging circumstances, if we change our outlook and become proactive, we can transform the situation. Photo by Camille Tokerud Photography Inc / Getty Images.

Nichiren Daishonin wrote “On the Buddha’s Prophecy” in the intercalary fifth month[11] of 1273 while residing in Ichinosawa during his exile on Sado Island.[12] The Japanese title literally means to actualize what the Buddha predicted and left as a message for the future.

On one level, “prophecy” in the title refers to Shakyamuni’s prophecy, but the Daishonin’s true intent was to reveal his own prophecy.

First, what is Shakyamuni’s prophecy? It is none other than the fulfillment of the passage from the “Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King” chapter of the Lotus Sutra cited at the beginning of this writing: “After I [Shakyamuni] have passed into extinction, in the last five-hundred-year period you must spread it [the Lotus Sutra] abroad widely [realize kosen-rufu] throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world] and never allow it to be cut off” (LSOC, 330).

This is the Buddha’s instruction that the Lotus Sutra be spread throughout the world in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law and that its transmission never be allowed to cease.

Referring to this passage, Nichiren first says that “on the one hand, it is deplorable” that he has been born in the Latter Day of the Law after the Buddha’s passing. That is because it meant he could not directly encounter Shakyamuni who preached the Lotus Sutra or the other great teachers who had spread the correct teaching of the Lotus Sutra (see WND-1, 398).

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The Shift From Deploring to Rejoicing

But then Nichiren Daishonin says, “On the other hand, I rejoice,” referring to the immense good fortune to have been born in the Latter Day of the Law and to witness these words of the Buddha’s prophecy being fulfilled (see WND-1, 398).

At first glance, it may seem that the Latter Day of the Law is a deplorable age. Nichiren, however, takes a different view. He sees it as an age for rejoicing, in which the correct teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo spreads, obstacles are overcome and kosen-rufu is realized.

This great shift from deploring to rejoicing is very important. It is the result of the Daishonin’s powerful determination to resolutely spread the correct teaching of the Mystic Law [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] amid relentless persecution in order to lead those who are suffering to genuine happiness.

This offers us a profound lesson. For instance, instead of simply complaining when we find ourselves in a difficult environment or challenging circumstances, if we change our outlook and become proactive, we can transform the situation.

In addition, when we take action not just for ourselves but also for the happiness of other people and the betterment of society, real joy emerges. This is what it means to live a life of human revolution.

What makes Soka Gakkai members so strong? What makes them so bright and cheerful? It is their noble dedication to the unsurpassed goal of achieving world peace through the realization of kosen-rufu.

Today, members in every country and region around the world, though facing many of their own challenges, are reaching out to encourage their friends and fellow members.

Some people may wish only for their personal desires to be fulfilled and passively wait to become happy. But they can change into people who joyously and courageously strive for the happiness and well-being of others, with the same spirit as the Buddha. This is the great drama of human revolution, of inner transformation, enacted by those awakened to their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth. It is a drama that pulses with the noble spirit of respect for the dignity of our own and others’ lives.

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Be Courageous Successors

Nichiren Daishonin was determined to relieve the suffering of all people, without exception. This was his immense compassion. That spirit of boundless compassion and tolerance is the essence of Nichiren Buddhism.

But however excellent a teaching may be, without successors to inherit it, it cannot be passed on to many people.

In another part of “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” Nichiren writes: “Even when … [Buddhist] priests set out from Japan to take some sutras [back] to China, no one was found there who could embrace these sutras and teach them to others. It was as though there were only wooden or stone statues garbed in priests’ robes and carrying begging bowls” (WND-1, 401).

You, my young friends of the future division, are the successors, the people who will “embrace and teach” our ideals to others. I hope you will carry on the lofty Soka Gakkai spirit and continue to advance boldly into the 21st century, committed to fulfilling the modern-day prophecy of the realization of kosen-rufu and the global spread of Nichiren Buddhism as a teaching for all humankind.

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Nichiren Daishonin Actualized Shakyamuni’s Prophecy

The moon appears in the west and sheds its light eastward, but the sun rises in the east and casts its rays to the west. The same is true of Buddhism. It spread from west to east in the Former and Middle Days of the Law, but will travel from east to west in the Latter Day.[13] (“On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” WND-1, 401)

Just before the above passage, Nichiren Daishonin states: “Had Nichiren not appeared, the Buddha’s words would be false” (WND-1, 400) and “In all Japan, who but Nichiren can be called the votary [practitioner] of the Lotus Sutra?” (WND-1, 401). With these words, he declares that he alone has made Shakyamuni’s prophecy a reality. He also asserts that the great teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the heart of the Lotus Sutra, will spread throughout the world, actualizing the prophecy that could not be fulfilled in the age of Shakyamuni’s Buddhism.

The spread of Shakyamuni’s Buddhism here is likened to the moon, and the spread of Nichiren Buddhism, to the sun. The Daishonin writes, “The moon appears in the west and sheds its light eastward, but the sun rises in the east and casts its rays to the west” (WND-1, 401).

You may be thinking, Don’t the moon and sun both rise in the east and set in the west? While that is true, Nichiren’s words reflect the ideas of his time. One theory says that because the moon appears to move east bit by bit each day from where it first appears in the sky, it was regarded as rising in the west and illuminating the east. Another theory is that it was a metaphor for how the new moon appears low in the western sky shortly after sunset and illuminates the east before it quickly sets.

In the same way that the moon appears to move from west to east, Shakyamuni’s Buddhism spread from the western land of India, known as the land of the moon, to Japan in the east. This is called the eastward transmission of Buddhism. And just as the sun rises in the eastern sky and moves west, Nichiren Daishonin’s great teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will spread westward from the eastern country of Japan.

In “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” the Daishonin introduces his own prophecy: “I say that without fail Buddhism will arise and flow forth from the east, from the land of Japan” (WND-1, 401). This is what is called the westward transmission of Buddhism. It means realizing kosen-rufu in Asia and the entire world, guiding all people of the Latter Day to happiness through the universal teachings of Nichiren Buddhism.

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The Soka Gakkai Is Spreading Buddhism Throughout the World

Future division members forming heart-to-heart bonds at the Family Conference, Florida Nature and Culture Center, 2019. Photo by Mary Delia.

In the summer of 1951, shortly after his inauguration, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda published an article titled “The History and Conviction of the Soka Gakkai.” In it, he referred to the above passage about the westward transmission of Buddhism, saying, “The Soka Gakkai has demonstrated absolute faith in those words and taken action to make them a reality.”[14]

And it is the Soka Gakkai that has spread Nichiren Daishonin’s humanistic teachings throughout the world and actualized his prophecy of the westward transmission of Buddhism.

Speaking to a group of young members [in 1957, before the future division was established], Mr. Toda said: “In the future, we must build a peaceful world of global citizenship,[15] free of national and ethnic division—a world in which everyone can experience true happiness. I hope you will remember what I’ve said here today and contribute to achieving this dream, even in a small way.”

With this passage about the westward transmission of Buddhism from “On the Buddha’s Prophecy” engraved in my heart and Mr. Toda ever in my thoughts, I have sowed the seeds of the Mystic Law and encouraged many people in countries around the globe.

I also have spoken to future division members about this topic of the westward transmission of Buddhism.

At the first high school division general meeting, held in August 1968 and attended by high school division representatives from throughout Japan, I quoted this passage from “On the Buddha’s Prophecy.” I then urged the participants to try first to master a foreign language. I was confident that foreign language proficiency would be essential for fostering leaders who would shoulder the new age and world citizens who would build peace for global society.

The young people in attendance that day are now active in many fields in countries around the world.

It is my dearest wish that all of you, young people living in this new global age, will have even bigger dreams, hopes and ideals; that you will make study your top priority and learn everything you can, and that you will develop your potential, soaring freely into society and the world.

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Be People of Courage Who Lead Profound Lives

In the latter part of “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” Nichiren Daishonin quotes the words of the Great Teacher Dengyo: “To discard the shallow and seek the profound is the way of a person of courage” (WND-1, 402). I also once presented this passage as a guiding principle to the future division Young Phoenix Group[16] members.

These words call on us to reject a shallow life swayed by circumstances and solely concerned with pursuing pleasure and instead choose a noble, profound life dedicated to the lofty goal of kosen-rufu and world peace.

That is the “way of a person of courage.” In addition to being a practitioner who remains unwavering on the correct path, a person of courage possesses outstanding character. Their heart is filled with the courageous, challenging, lionhearted spirit to devote one’s life to fulfilling the great vow for kosen-rufu.

Our challenge as people who uphold the ideals of Soka humanism is to use our wisdom and creativity to forge heart-to-heart ties among people.

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A Grassroots Network Dedicated to Building an Age of Peaceful Coexistence

As humanity continues to face global challenges, people from all spheres express hope and praise for the SGI’s network of good in 192 countries and territories.

Dr. N. Radhakrishnan, a noted Indian human rights activist, said in the past that the SGI has developed into a wonderful movement with over 10 million passionate members. It sends the waves of peace to a world in which many countries are still torn by strife, he added, and it serves as a fine example of the power of people coming together for a great positive cause.[17]

Now more than ever, the world sorely needs a grassroots network of ordinary people dedicated to building an age of peaceful coexistence. The soka of Soka Gakkai means creating value.

Our challenge as people who uphold the ideals of Soka humanism is to use our wisdom and creativity to forge heart-to-heart ties among people, no matter our circumstances or how distance may separate us, and create value anew in the form of peace, human dignity and happiness.

As young phoenixes of the new era, please soar vibrantly on a magnificent journey to realize world peace.

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Soar and Dance Freely as Bodhisattvas of the Earth

I would like now once again to present our future division members everywhere with the closing words from my 1965 editorial “Young Phoenixes, Soar into the Future!”: “My young friends, may you always maintain pure-hearted faith and carry on the true Soka Gakkai spirit, and may you soar and dance freely on the foundation built through the wholehearted efforts of your predecessors.

“Please live each day with joy, confident that the time when you have all grown splendidly and stand up together as one will signal the time for the realization of the great vow for kosen-rufu.

“I pray that you develop wonderfully as young Bodhisattvas of the Earth who strive for the welfare of society, the Mystic Law and yourselves.”

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

References

  1. The high school division was established on June 7, 1964; the junior high school division, on January 15, 1965, and the boys and girls division, on September 23, 1965. The three divisions together compose the future division.
  2. The last five-hundred-year period: This refers to last of the three periods following Shakyamuni Buddha’s death. The first 1,000 years after his death correspond to the Former Day of the Law, the second 1,000 years correspond to the Middle Day of the Law and the last 500 years correspond to the beginning of the Latter Day of the Law.
  3. Four ranks of sages: Buddhist teachers upon whom people can rely. Though the four ranks represent the four levels of understanding, “the four ranks of sages” is often used as a generic term for such Buddhist teachers, irrespective of the level of their understanding.
  4. T’ien-t’ai (538–597), 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 the T’ien-t’ai teachings.
  5. “On the Buddha’s Prophecy” was written on the 11th day of the intercalary fifth month of 1273, while Nichiren Daishonin was residing where he had been exiled. It is not addressed to any particular individual and can be regarded as a message to all Nichiren’s disciples.
  6. Birth, aging, sickness and death are the four fundamental human sufferings, which none of us can avoid. The teachings of Buddhism were expounded to enable people to overcome these sufferings.
  7. Shakyamuni: Also known as Gautama Buddha, he is the founder of Buddhism.
  8. 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 60,000 Ganges rivers.
  9. The Latter Day of the Law refers to the period after Shakyamuni’s death when his teachings have lost their effectiveness and become ossified, and the world is afflicted by strife and conflict. Nichiren Daishonin appeared during this time and taught the great teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to relieve the sufferings of the people of the Latter Day of the Law for all eternity.
  10. The first three Soka Gakkai presidents: first President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, second President Josei Toda and third President Daisaku Ikeda. They are also referred to as the Soka Gakkai’s three founding presidents.
  11. Intercalary month: In pre-modern times, Japan, like China, recorded dates based on the lunar calendar. New Year’s Day on the lunar calendar, which was regarded as the beginning of the first month and of spring, varied from year to year, but always fell somewhere between what would have been January 21 and February 19 on the Gregorian, or solar, calendar. Because the months of the lunar year were shorter than those of the solar one, it was necessary to add an extra month at certain intervals so that the lunar year accurately reflected the seasons. Such a month is known as an intercalary month and occurred regularly about once every 33 months. In English translations, such months are indicated by the word “intercalary,” as in “the intercalary fifth month.”
  12. Sado Exile: Nichiren Daishonin’s exile to Sado Island off the western coast of Japan from October 1271, following the Tatsunokuchi Persecution on September 12, 1271, through March 1274. In the two years and five months the Daishonin was on Sado, he lacked sufficient food and clothing and his life was under constant threat from Nembutsu followers. During this perilous time, however, he composed many important works, including “The Opening of the Eyes” and “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” and offered encouragement to his followers.
  13. This is referred to as “the westward transmission of Buddhism.”
  14. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (The Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 3 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1983), p. 127.
  15. President Toda first articulated his concept of global citizenship at a youth division study seminar in 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 engaging in conflict and discrimination.
  16. Young Phoenix Group: A training group for high school division members formed in 1966.
  17. Translated from Japanese. N. Radhakrishnan, Ganji Kingu Ikeda; Hiboryoku to taiwa no keifu (Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Daisaku Ikeda as Champions of Nonviolence) (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 2002), p. 127.

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