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Q: What Is the Spirit of May 3?

Members in Guam celebrate the 45th anniversary of Ikeda Sensei establishing the Soka Gakkai International during a peace conference on the island, Jan. 26, 2020.
Members in Guam celebrate the 45th anniversary of Ikeda Sensei establishing the Soka Gakkai International during a peace conference on the island, Jan. 26, 2020. Photo by Johnny Salas.

May 3 is like New Year’s Day for Soka Gakkai members (see “Our History”). It is a day to refresh our resolve to contribute to the happiness of all humanity. Nichiren Daishonin established the simple yet profound practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the essence of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha’s highest teaching. This practice enables all people to bring forth our greatest potential, our Buddhahood.

Nichiren spread his teaching throughout his life, undaunted by relentless persecutions, always making the Lotus Sutra his guide. As his Buddhist movement grew, however, some began to criticize his approach. For instance, Nichiren noted in a letter that some followers felt that the first half of the Lotus Sutra (called its theoretical teachings) could be discarded, because they thought it could not lead people to enlightenment.

Such distortions of the Buddha’s teachings, Nichiren warned, leads only to suffering. Emphasizing that everything he teaches accords exactly with the Lotus Sutra, he implored his followers:

Those who call themselves my disciples and practice the Lotus Sutra should all practice as I do. If they do, Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, Shakyamuni’s emanations[1] throughout the ten directions, and the ten demon daughters[2] will protect them. (“On Establishing the Four Bodhisattvas as the Object of Devotion,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 978)

By practicing Buddhism correctly, just as he does, we can enjoy the benefits of the Lotus Sutra and put our lives in harmony with the universal rhythm of life.

How to Practice Like Nichiren

Sometimes, we may find it hard to believe that we can attain the same expansive life state as Nichiren. But he assures us that we can, encouraging us, “practice as I do.” Ikeda Sensei, in a May 3 message cites this passage, stating:

Our proud anniversary of May 3 is the day we set out to engage in new challenges, upholding our great vow for kosen-rufu with the same mind as Nichiren, just as he urges us to do in his writings.

The eternal message of May 3 lies in making the Daishonin’s heart our own and taking the initiative to spread the Mystic Law, unafraid of any hardships or obstacles we may encounter along the way. We of the Soka Gakkai always greet this day by renewing our vow and resolve for kosen-rufu. Our lives, therefore, blaze with the same powerful life force as [Nichiren]. (Sept. 24, 2004, World Tribune, p. 3)

The Soka Gakkai is a united network of ordinary people “practicing as Nichiren does.” While we are each unique and different, we take action based on the shared goal of creating happier families, a more prosperous community and a better world based on equality and respect—which is what kosen-rufu is all about.

Striving toward these aims requires strong resolve, hard work and courageously facing all obstacles. The Soka mentors—Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda—faced endless attacks and persecution. Yet they remained committed to protecting and advancing our movement to awaken and empower people.

Sensei says: “The path to achieving great things is never smooth or easy. Giving up is a source of despair and defeat, but persevering is a source of hope and victory” (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 3, p. 260).

As SGI members, we persevere amid our challenges by: 1) chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, 2) sharing Buddhism with others, 3) studying Nichiren’s writings and Sensei’s guidance, 4) uniting with our fellow members and 5) refreshing our vow to advance kosen-rufu.

As we apply these basics of faith to our daily lives, then with each passing year, we will see how much we have developed and progressed. Each May 3 we can refresh our resolve to continue expanding our state of life and achieving amazing milestones in our shared struggle to spread the life-affirming ideals of Nichiren Buddhism.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department


  1. Shakyamuni’s emanations: According to Mahayana belief, a true Buddha can produce infinite emanations who can simultaneously appear in innumerable worlds in order to save the people there. This reflects the idea of summoning the Buddha nature within us when we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and working to awaken those around us to their enlightened potential. ↩︎
  2. The ten demon daughters appear in “Dharani,” the 26th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, and are described as protectors of those who uphold the sutra. ↩︎

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