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Encouragement

Advancing With Courage

The morning sun illuminates the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu, Tokyo, Jan. 2, 2021.
Dawn—The morning sun illuminates the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu, Tokyo, Jan. 2, 2021. Photo by Seikyo Press

Happy New Year! My best wishes to you in the coming year.

There was a subject second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda often spoke about as if passing on a solemn legacy to his successors. That subject was courage. He once gave this clear-cut guidance:

The essence of Buddhism is compassion. We, too, need to have compassion but, as ordinary mortals, it’s often quite difficult for us to do so. Courage substitutes for compassion. I am speaking of the courage to help others become happy, to improve ourselves, to do our human revolution, to widely spread Nichiren Buddhism throughout Japan and the entire world. To practice Buddhism with courage translates into compassion.

I hope you will advance with courage this year for the sake of your own development and to accomplish great things for kosen-rufu.

Today, Jan. 8, is a solemn day of mentor and disciple—marking the date 57 years ago (in 1945) when Josei Toda first learned of the death in prison of his mentor, founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. Mr. Toda, who was also incarcerated, heard this news from one of the preliminary judges during routine questioning. He had been totally unaware of his mentor’s death until then. Back in his cell, he wept all through the night, shedding tears of bitter grief and anger. Such is the bond of mentor and disciple.

[Editors’ Note: President Makiguchi, who was arrested and jailed by the military authorities on suspicion of high treason and violation of the Peace Preservation Law died on Nov. 18, 1944. The cause of his death was malnutrition and old age, his health severely compromised by the privations of his long solitary confinement. Mr. Toda learned of his mentor’s death the following year, on Jan. 8, 1945. Later, Mr. Toda remarked: “When I learned that Mr. Makiguchi had died, I screamed, ‘Who murdered my mentor!’ And I resolved to exert myself wholeheartedly to introducing others to Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, and to give my life for the sake of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.”[1]

“The essence of Buddhism is compassion. We, too, need to have compassion but, as ordinary mortals, it’s often quite difficult for us to do so. … To practice Buddhism with courage translates into compassion.”

[08851-201504161424060021794319.jpg] A bust of second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda watches over the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu adorned by cherry blossoms. (Shinanomachi, Tokyo, March 31, 2015)
Mentor—A bust of second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda watches over the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu adorned by cherry blossoms in Tokyo, March 31, 2015. Photo courtesy of Seikyo Press.

From that day on, Mr. Toda became an indomitable fighter for kosen-rufu. He resolved in his heart: “I will not seek personal glory. I will take my martyred mentor’s place and devote my life to actualizing his spirit.”

As the third president of the Soka Gakkai, I also fought tirelessly for kosen-rufu with the same spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple. I took on the full brunt of persecutions like those Nichiren Daishonin describes will befall practitioners of the Lotus Sutra.

Engaging in a great struggle with selfless dedication to propagating the Law is the essence of the mentor-disciple spirit shared by Mr. Makiguchi, Mr. Toda and me, a spirit that runs through the Soka Gakkai.

I am delighted on this auspicious date, Jan. 8, to be able to report together with all of you to Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda on the immense actual proof of worldwide kosen-rufu that we have realized. Nothing makes me happier.

In “Flowering and Bearing Grain,” Nichiren Daishonin teaches the principle that the benefits the disciple obtains from spreading the Mystic Law always return to the mentor (see The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 909).[2]

Our strenuous efforts as disciples serve to repay our debt of gratitude to our mentor. This is the teaching of Buddhism. This is the path of humanity. It follows, then, that the very best way of repaying that profound debt is through striving earnestly to expand kosen-rufu.

In “The Selection of the Time,” the Daishonin writes:

Little streams come together to form the great ocean, and tiny particles of dust accumulate to form Mount Sumeru.[3] When I, Nichiren, first took faith in the Lotus Sutra, I was like a single drop of water or a single particle of dust in all the country of Japan. But later, when two people, three people, ten people, and eventually a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, and a million people come to recite the Lotus Sutra [chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] and transmit it to others, then they will form a Mount Sumeru of perfect enlightenment,[4] an ocean of great nirvana.[5] Seek no other path by which to attain Buddhahood! (WND-1, 579–80)

Where do we find the path to attaining Buddhahood? It is found only in efforts to expand the flow of kosen-rufu. Nichiren Buddhism teaches faith that is dedicated to advancing kosen-rufu. Faith equals daily life. Therefore, as long as we persevere in faith that is committed to kosen-rufu, it is possible for us to be successful and victorious in our daily lives and in society, no matter what trying times we may find ourselves in at present.

Today, as our members around the globe continue to develop exponentially, our organization is filled with ever more benefit, capable people and vibrant strength. A decade (now three decades) has passed since our split with Nichiren Shoshu (in 1991). The kosen-rufu movement has advanced throughout the world with ever-greater momentum thanks to the Soka Gakkai, which is carrying on the true spirit of Nichiren Daishonin. Our disassociation from the priesthood surely accords with the design and wisdom of the Buddha, enabling us to advance worldwide kosen-rufu freely and without hindrance. I firmly believe that we have at last entered an age when the Daishonin’s Buddhism of the Sun will begin to illuminate humanity, guiding the world toward peace, happiness and prosperity.

In a letter to a lay disciple, the Daishonin writes: “I entrust you with the propagation of Buddhism in your province” (“The Properties of Rice,” WND-1, 1117). I hope that each of you will accumulate boundless good fortune—fortune that is as vast as the legendary peak of Mount Sumeru—in the place where you have a profound mission that has been entrusted to you by the Daishonin.

Next, I would like to share a famous passage from a letter Nichiren Daishonin wrote to Shijo Kingo. It was a letter of encouragement to his disciple, who found himself in difficult circumstances when his fellow retainers began spreading false accusations about him, and his lord threatened to confiscate his estates. Nichiren writes:

This life is like a dream. One cannot be sure that one will live until tomorrow. However wretched a beggar you might become, never disgrace the Lotus Sutra. Since it will be the same in any event, do not betray grief. Just as you have written in your letter, you must act and speak without the least servility. If you try to curry favor, the situation will only worsen. Even if your fiefs [estates] should be confiscated or you yourself driven out, you must think that it is due to the workings of the ten demon daughters [guardian deities of Buddhism], and wholeheartedly entrust yourself to them.

Had I not been exiled, but remained in Kamakura, I would certainly have been killed in the battle.[6] In like manner, since remaining in your lord’s service will likely be to your detriment, this may well be the design of Shakyamuni Buddha. (“A Warning Against Begrudging One’s Fief,” WND-1, 824)

The Daishonin was harshly punished with exile on Sado Island. But because of this, he says, he avoided being caught up in armed conflict. His exile to Sado, therefore, was actually a benefit.

When viewed from the perspective of Buddhism, everything has profound meaning. We mustn’t lament. As long as we have strong faith, courageous faith, we can definitely transform all hardships into something positive, changing poison into medicine. Please engrave these words of the Daishonin in your hearts, and continue advancing resolutely forward, no matter what happens.

Buddhism concerns itself with winning. And it is crucial that we triumph. We must win over ourselves and win in life. That is the purpose of our faith and practice.

Nichiren Daishonin is surely aware of all your efforts as you struggle valiantly to overcome various hardships and strive for kosen-rufu with sincere dedication. Please put your minds at ease and live your lives of profound mission to the fullest.

I hope each of you will continue to move forward day after day in a way that is true to yourself, with dignity, courage and pride. I am praying with all my heart for your health, happiness and longevity, and that you will build a life filled with harmony and joy.

I hope you will all be leaders capable of giving wonderful guidance and encouragement that will uplift and inspire your precious fellow members, who are working so hard in these cold winter months. I pray for your happiness in the coming year! I deeply appreciate your efforts. Thank you all very much!

These are excerpts from Ikeda Sensei’s speech at the 13th Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting, held in Tokyo on Jan. 8, 2002. Video footage of the speech was broadcast during the Sixth Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting Toward Our Centennial on Jan. 8, 2022, marking the start of the Year of Youth and Dynamic Progress.

References

  1. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 3 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1983), pp. 474–75. (From a speech at the Soka Gakkai Spring General Meeting commemorating the 700th anniversary of the establishment of Nichiren Buddhism, held on April 7, 1952.)
  2. Nichiren Daishonin writes, “The blessings that Nichiren obtains from propagating the Lotus Sutra will always return to [his childhood teacher] Dozen-bo” (“Flowering and Bearing Grain,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 909).
  3. Mount Sumeru is the mountain that stands in the center of the world in ancient Indian cosmology.
  4. “Perfect enlightenment,” or Buddhahood, constitutes the last and highest of the 52 stages of bodhisattva practice. It is the stage at which one eradicates fundamental ignorance.
  5. “Great nirvana” represents the Buddha’s sublime state of enlightenment, absolutely calm and imperturbable, and endowed with profound compassion and wisdom.
  6. This most likely refers to the February Disturbance, a conflict that broke out in February 1272 between the de-facto ruler of Japan, Hojo Tokimune, and his elder half-brother Hojo Tokisuke.

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