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Ikeda Sensei

Arise and Create a New Era

Arise—SGI-USA members gather at the SGI-USA Philadelphia Buddhist Center, Philadelphia, Oct. 3, 2021. Photo by Jonathan Wilson

This essay was written by Ikeda Sensei as part of his series “The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin and the Mentor-Disciple Relationship.” It was originally published in the Feb. 5, 2009, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun, and in the June 19, 2009, World Tribune.

In the light of the Buddha’s prophecy, “the last five-hundred-year period” has already begun. I say that without fail Buddhism will arise and flow forth from the east, from the land of Japan. (“On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 401)

February marks the birthdays of both Nichiren Daishonin (Feb. 16) and my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda (Feb. 11). As such, for my wife and me, February is a month of repaying our debt of gratitude as disciples.

At the time of the February Campaign in 1952, I called out to the members of Tokyo’s Kamata Chapter in Ota Ward: “Let’s celebrate this month of Mr. Toda’s birth with a brilliant victory!” In this way, I expanded our network of disciples dedicated to achieving their mentor’s aims, starting from my hometown, Ota. The driving force of the February Campaign was a spirit of gratitude, and the record-breaking 201 new households that began practicing Nichiren Buddhism in that single month was the fruition of the gratitude of direct disciples.

I also visited India, the birthplace of Buddhism, in 1961, the first February after I had been inaugurated as the third president of the Soka Gakkai (in May 1960). It was a journey to repay my debt of gratitude to Mr. Toda, whose earnest wish was to realize kosen-rufu in Asia and “send the light of the sun” of Nichiren Buddhism to the people there. I carried a photo of my mentor in my breast pocket. As a disciple who perfectly embodied Mr. Toda’s spirit and commitment, I set out to realize Nichiren Daishonin’s prediction of the westward transmission of Buddhism.

As a disciple who perfectly embodied Mr. Toda’s spirit and commitment, I set out to realize Nichiren Daishonin’s prediction of the westward transmission of Buddhism.

Who will validate and fulfill the Buddha’s prophecy in the real world? This fundamental question is the focus of the Daishonin’s writing “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” which is presented in a question-and-answer format. At the outset of this document, he quotes a passage from the Lotus Sutra:

After I have passed into extinction, in the last five-hundred-year period you must spread it [the Lotus Sutra] abroad widely throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world] and never allow it to be cut off. (WND-1, 398)

This was Shakyamuni’s prophecy concerning the widespread propagation of Buddhism in the Latter Day of the Law, and it was Nichiren who made these words a reality.

The Buddhism of Shakyamuni was transmitted from India—first to Central Asia, then to China and the Korean Peninsula and finally to Japan. In other words, it moved from west to east. This is the momentous history of the transmission of Buddhism to the East.

In Nichiren’s day—the outset of the period designated as the Latter Day—Buddhism in Japan, however, had atrophied into empty formality, losing its power to help people overcome suffering and attain happiness. Many Buddhist writings continued to be brought to Japan, many grand ceremonies were performed and many imposing Buddhist temples were built. But the country lacked a genuine teacher and disciples who were imbued with compassion and a desire for justice aimed at helping the people. In fact, in the Kamakura period (1185–1333), during which the Daishonin lived, the Pure Land school’s practice of chanting the Nembutsu, or the name of Amida Buddha, in order to seek rebirth in an otherworldly paradise spread widely throughout the country. Because this teaching focused on the afterlife, many people grew deeply pessimistic and despondent about the present.

The Sun of Nichiren Buddhism Arose in the Darkness

Then, the sun of Nichiren Buddhism arose in the darkness of Japan, illuminating with its brilliant light the people of the Latter Day of the Law, an age that continues into the eternal future. By fighting tirelessly against the three obstacles and four devils and the three powerful enemies, spreading the Mystic Law in the midst of great persecutions,[1] Nichiren fulfilled Shakyamuni’s prophecy.

In “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” he boldly affirms this, his conviction resounding like a lion’s roar:

In all Japan, who but Nichiren can be called the votary of the Lotus Sutra? By denouncing Nichiren, you would make lies of the Buddha’s prophecies. Are you not then an extremely evil man? (WND-1, 401)

Who is fighting to protect and assert the truth of Buddhism? The Daishonin did not make this fearless declaration for his own personal aggrandizement. He did so because he treasured the Buddha’s golden words and was practicing the Buddha’s teachings correctly. His conviction brought forth the power to resolutely triumph over any persecution or attack.

Those who follow the path of the oneness of mentor and disciple with unswerving commitment are strong. The important thing is to burn with passion for what is right, to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo wholeheartedly and to strive our hardest. If we do so, there is no barrier we cannot break through, no struggle we cannot win.

In “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” Nichiren makes it clear that he is the one who has realized Shakyamuni’s prophecy. Acknowledging this fact, the questioner asks the Daishonin what his own prediction is, saying, “I have seen that the Buddha’s prophecy applies to you; now what do you yourself predict?” (WND-1, 401). In response, to reiterate, Nichiren says:

In the light of the Buddha’s prophecy, “the last five-hundred-year period” has already begun. I say that without fail Buddhism will arise and flow forth from the east, from the land of Japan. (WND-1, 401)

The “last five-hundred-year period” that has already begun refers to the defiled and evil age of the Latter Day of the Law, a time of conflicts and disputes. The Daishonin predicted that the great pure Law that can lead all people to enlightenment in this corrupt, turbulent age would arise from Japan.

Everything Always Starts With a Single Individual

So, who has actualized Nichiren’s prophecy that his teaching would spread across the globe? The members of the Soka Gakkai and the SGI. Nichiren Buddhism has spread to 192 countries and territories through the great shared struggle of mentors and disciples—first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, second President Josei Toda and me, the third president, working in tandem with all of you, our precious members.

Everything always starts with a single individual. When a teacher who truly upholds the correct teaching appears, a disciple will stand up to follow that teacher’s lead. In this way, a groundswell of “two, three, and a hundred” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 385) will arise and create a new age. The heritage of the Mystic Law flows and spreads only through the transmission of faith from mentor to disciple.

Because the Soka Gakkai faithfully follows the path of the oneness of mentor and disciple, we have been able to realize the Daishonin’s prophecy on a vast scale and build a community of practitioners unprecedented in the history of Buddhism. All of you, the members of the SGI who are engaging in dialogue with and earnestly encouraging others as you work hard for kosen-rufu, are the noblest and most respectworthy of all. Without you, how would Nichiren’s prediction have come to pass? You are sure to accrue eternal and immeasurable good fortune and benefit.

For that reason, anyone who attacks or persecutes such dedicated practitioners as you, the courageous protagonists of kosen-rufu, is what the Daishonin calls an “evil person.” Such a person is sure to reap the negative karmic results of his or her actions. This is Nichiren’s clear assertion. No doubt all of you have witnessed this stern law of cause and effect in action.

SGI Members Are Realizing Nichiren’s Prediction

Today, many leading thinkers around the world are taking note of the SGI’s development. Clark Strand, an American journalist and writer specializing in religious topics, has noted that new religious paradigms don’t arise very often, perhaps only once every 500 or 1,000 years, but when they do, they tend to spread very quickly through personal encounters. He described the SGI as embodying such a new paradigm. Mr. Strand has a deep and perceptive grasp of the significance of our movement.[2]

On one occasion, in a discussion about the profound mission of the Soka Gakkai, Mr. Toda referred to “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,” the 20th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. In the sutra, he noted, twenty thousand million Buddhas bearing the name Buddha Awesome Sound King taught and saved sentient beings for many long eons (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 307–08). This Buddha Awesome Sound King could be the name of a great Buddha, or it could also be seen as the name of a group or a body of Buddhas. In the same way, Mr. Toda said, in the sutras of the future, the Soka Gakkai’s name will be recorded with honor as “Soka Gakkai Buddha,” and everyone will forever venerate this Buddha as having realized the Daishonin’s prediction of the propagation of his teaching throughout the entire world.

To Be Continued in an Upcoming Issue


  1. The three obstacles and four devils are the various obstacles and hindrances to Buddhist practice, and the three powerful enemies are arrogant lay people, arrogant monks and arrogant false sages who persecute those who propagate the Lotus Sutra in the evil age. ↩︎
  2. Clark Strand has commented on the SGI’s rapid growth into the most dynamic Buddhist movement in the world today. He later detailed this point in his 2014 book, Waking the Buddha: How the Most Dynamic and Empowering Buddhist Movement in History Is Changing Our Concept of Religion. ↩︎

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