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Ikeda Sensei

Be Champions of Wisdom, Diligently Training in Practice and Study!

Wisdom—“Encouraging a single person sitting for a study exam opens the gateway of good fortune and wisdom for the future.” Photo by Johner Images / Getty Images.

The following is an essay from Ikeda Sensei, originally published in the Sept. 29, 2022, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

I recall an evening not long after the Seikyo Shimbun had been founded, when I was busily preparing for Josei Toda’s upcoming inauguration as second Soka Gakkai president.[1] A number of fellow young men’s division members and I gathered after work at someone’s house and were studying “The Opening of the Eyes” together. We were all very earnest, brimming with hope and thinking of the future.

That night, I wrote in my diary: “Although [‘The Opening of the Eyes’] is difficult to comprehend, the Daishonin’s conviction resounds in my heart. In these troubled times, how noble the sight of a group of impoverished youth studying Nichiren Daishonin’s philosophy in such a humble abode.”[2]

Our young men’s division members, poised for a fresh start [with a new national leadership lineup], are carrying on that tradition. They continue to demonstrate the passion and power of youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth as they exert themselves in the “two ways of practice and study” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 386), unconcerned with prestige or reputation, together with trusted comrades in faith. The youth of Soka—forging ahead spiritedly, holding high the banners of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of the people and humanistic religion—are my pride and treasure.

The essential foundation of history is popular thought,”[3] wrote the French historian Jules Michelet (1798–1874).

The beliefs and actions of each one of us ordinary people can change the world. 

Our Soka study movement has led to the flourishing of a vibrant philosophy of, for and by the people. In November, we will hold the Soka Gakkai’s traditional Study Department Introductory Exam for the first time in four years in Japan, due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Members across the country are gathering in their local areas for small-group study sessions to prepare for it.

The first Study Department Introductory Exam took place amid a surge of new members seven decades ago, in December 1952—eight months after the Soka Gakkai published the Nichiren Daishonin Gosho zenshu (The Complete Works of Nichiren Daishonin) at the initiative of my mentor, Josei Toda.

That year, enthusiastically studying and sharing the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism, the members of Kamata Chapter and I made a major breakthrough for the expansion of our movement through our success in the February Campaign.[4] 

The publication of the Gosho zenshu in April gave fresh impetus to our efforts to share our practice with others and, by the time of the Study Department Introductory Exam in December, our membership had leaped to more than 22,000 households from around 5,700 households at the beginning of the year. 

I contributed an article titled “The Joy of Studying the World’s Foremost Philosophy” to the Jan. 1, 1953, Seikyo Shimbun, the issue in which the results and significance of the exam were highlighted. In the article, I wrote that life is the essential factor, without which there would be no universe, no society or nation and no world; hence, a philosophy of life is essential for individuals and world peace. 

The joy of studying this unsurpassed life philosophy, whether or not one passes an exam, is the true goal of our Buddhist study—for it is the source of momentum for victory in life for both ourselves and others, as well as for a peaceful and harmonious society.

Seventy years later, as our movement for worldwide kosen-rufu continues to develop without bounds, sharing this joy with those just beginning to seek the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism is such a great pleasure. Today, as humanity stands at a crossroads, let us strive to illuminate even greater numbers of global citizens with the light of the life philosophy of the Buddhism of the Sun.

To the age of 40: Perfecting my study and practice of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings.” As I approached my 30th birthday, this was the spirit in which I studied Nichiren’s writings—while riding trains, while waiting to meet someone, during any spare moment I could find. Firmly embracing the “strategy of the Lotus Sutra” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 1001), I took leadership of our movement, my heart united with my mentor. I was the age of our young men’s division members today.

Studying Nichiren’s writings rouses the Daishonin’s indomitable fighting spirit in our hearts and causes our beings to resound with his great compassion to alleviate the sufferings of all people. When we read Nichiren’s writings, boundless courage surges within us, along with immense passion and wisdom for finding a way forward, no matter what difficulties or obstacles we face.

Studying Nichiren’s writings rouses the Daishonin’s indomitable fighting spirit in our hearts and causes our beings to resound with his great compassion to alleviate the sufferings of all people.

Mr. Toda once declared with unshakable conviction: “I will be fine, even if I should fall into hell. Why? Because I would simply share the Mystic Law with the inhabitants there and transform it into the Land of Tranquil Light.” 

Nichiren Buddhism is not abstract theory. It has real practical power to change people’s hearts and lives, and to transform society. 

Throughout the Osaka Campaign[5] of 1956 as well, I made the Daishonin’s writings my foundation, knowing that I could attain victory only by studying the principles of leadership for winning in every kind of struggle or challenge taught by the Daishonin. 

When spirits faltered in the face of some daunting obstacle, I shared Nichiren’s encouraging words that we should pray “as earnestly as though to produce fire from damp wood, or to obtain water from parched ground” (“Rebuking Slander of the Law,” WND-1, 444). This reignited everyone’s lionhearted resolve to make the impossible possible. 

Declaring that we could realize our great vow without fail if we were united in purpose, I shared the Daishonin’s words: “If the spirit of many in body but one in mind prevails among the people, they will achieve all their goals, whereas if one in body but different in mind, they can achieve nothing remarkable” (“Many in Body, One in Mind,” WND-1, 618). 

There were many inspiring passages from the Daishonin’s writings that the Kansai members and I engraved in our hearts and that powered us to our miraculous achievement. Reading them together, we clarified our daily goals and tried to achieve a week’s or 10 days’ results in a single day. That unity based on the Daishonin’s writings is what enabled us to accomplish such a brilliant, golden record of success. 

The study material for this year’s Study Department Introductory Exam includes three passages that I have many fond memories of studying with fellow members since my youth. [Editors’ Note: The passages are from “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” “Winter Always Turns to Spring” and “The Opening of the Eyes.”]

For example, I shared these words from “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime” with members at the inaugural meeting of Katsushika General Block in September 1957, 65 years ago: “Arouse deep faith, and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (WND-1, 4). 

At that meeting, I spoke about how to create a model organization, reaffirming that, just as Nichiren teaches in this passage, the key lies in doing gongyo and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. And in response to my call, everyone challenged themselves to help their fellow members develop a solid daily practice of gongyo and daimoku. Three years later, Katsushika had grown to three general blocks.

And at a meeting at the end of 1969, during a visit to Matsusaka Community Center in Mie Prefecture, the Chubu members and I engraved these golden words from “The Opening of the Eyes” in our hearts with deep resolve: “Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbor doubts in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood” (WND-1, 283). At the time, the Soka Gakkai was facing fierce winds, and I was personally suffering from poor health. I have also shared this passage with our members living on outlying islands and members of various divisions on numerous occasions.

A 103-year-old Many Treasures Group member from Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture, who was featured in a Seikyo Shimbun article recently, also treasures this passage. When I met her once at a discussion meeting [shortly after she joined the Soka Gakkai], she held a copy of the Daishonin’s writings, which she had scrimped and saved to buy, preciously in her hands. As I read aloud this passage from “The Opening of the Eyes,” she listened intently, her gaze repeatedly shifting from the text to my face and back again.

The Seikyo Shimbun article said that she had jotted “A disciple’s determination” in pencil in the margin near this passage, which she read again and again in painful and challenging times. Reading this, my wife and I joined our palms together in deep respect and admiration for her golden endeavors to help others form connections to Nichiren Buddhism and win friends and allies for our movement in her community. 

Our Many Treasures Group members—who have triumphed through all to “as a matter of course attain Buddhahood” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 283)—shine as sources of inspiration throughout Japan and the world. Nichiren Daishonin is surely applauding them, exclaiming “Excellent, excellent!”

The Soka Gakkai has a mission to promote Buddhist study.”[6] In accord with these words of my mentor, Josei Toda, our humanistic study movement, which started out as a bubbling stream, has now become a great river flowing through every continent. 

Many countries around the world are holding study exams this year. Exams have already been conducted in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Malaysia and South Korea—with 16,000 members in the latter taking the advanced-level study exam in June. This month [September 2022], exams have been held with great success in New Zealand, Colombia and Singapore. 

The first introductory study exam for members outside Japan was held about 60 years ago. It took the form of an essay exam, and many members composed impressive essays. 

From 1963, exams were held locally in the United States, Switzerland, Italy and other countries. I personally conducted some of the oral exams. 

When a delegation from Japan held an exam during a visit to Sweden, only one person—a young women’s division member—sat for it. That same young woman introduced a friend to the practice at a discussion meeting that evening and later went on to become one of the pioneers of our kosen-rufu movement in Scandinavia. 

“One is the mother of ten thousand” (“A Sage and an Unenlightened Man,” WND-1, 131), says Nichiren, citing a well-known proverb. Encouraging a single person sitting for a study exam opens the gateway of good fortune and wisdom for the future. 

The joy of studying Nichiren Daishonin’s writings has also spread widely throughout Africa, with members in over 30 countries participating in the All Africa Buddhist Study Exam. At first, many members were worried about how they would score on the exam. But as they studied the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism, their worry turned to excitement to share what they were learning, and they started inviting their friends and acquaintances to discussion meetings. 

Today, many scholars and thinkers around the world are impressed that so many young people find resonance with the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism, seek to deepen their understanding of them and strive to put them into action in society. 

Dr. Dennis Gira, the supervising editor of the French translation of the Daishonin’s writings, has called Soka youth a source of great hope, embodying the future of humanity. He also observed that any religion that is universal and open to the world will have youthful successors who faithfully and enthusiastically embrace its heritage and are nourished by its fundamental spirituality.[7]

The daimoku we chant for ourselves and others is the sound and rhythm of our unswerving faith in the Buddha nature of every member of the human race and our commitment to awaken one person after another to that enlightened potential with courage, sincerity and perseverance.

In this age torn apart by anxiety and mistrust, fear and animosity, the world more than ever needs a philosophy that places absolute trust in the goodness inherent in human life and teaches the way of human revolution. 

The verse section of “Life Span,” the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which
we recite every morning and evening in gongyo, concludes with the lines: “At all times I think to myself: How can I cause living beings to gain entry into the unsurpassed way and quickly acquire the body of a Buddha?”[8] (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 273). 

Referring to this passage, in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren Daishonin says: “The word ‘think’ indicates that the Buddha thinks of the Buddha nature inherent in all living beings” (p. 160).

The daimoku we chant for ourselves and others is the sound and rhythm of our unswerving faith in the Buddha nature of every member of the human race and our commitment to awaken one person after another to that enlightened potential with courage, sincerity and perseverance.

The study department in Japan has adopted a new mission statement: “Based on Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple and the unity of ‘many in body, one in mind,’ the study department will do its utmost to promote the flourishing of Soka Buddhist study, filled with pride in our global religious movement!”

Let us set forth with eager, open hearts into a season of Buddhist study. 

Champions of wisdom diligently training in practice and study, may you continue each day to read and connect with the life-affirming teachings of Nichiren Buddhism! Courageously reach out to others in dialogue and share the joy of studying Buddhism with people in your community, society and the world! That will generate the great passion and power for creating a century of peace and humanity.


  1. The Seikyo Shimbun newspaper commenced publication on April 20, 1951, and Josei Toda was inaugurated as second Soka Gakkai president the following month, on May 3.  ↩︎
  2. Diary entry dated April 24, 1951. ↩︎
  3. Translated from French. Jules Michelet, Histoire de la Révolution Française: Tome 3, juin 1791–août 1792 (History of the French Revolution: Volume 3, June 1791–August 1792), (Germany: BOD-Books on demand, 2020), p. 65. ↩︎
  4. February Campaign: In February 1952, the 24-year-old Daisaku Ikeda initiated a dynamic propagation campaign. Together with the Kamata members, he broke through the previous monthly record by introducing Nichiren Buddhism to 201 new households. ↩︎
  5. Osaka Campaign: In May 1956, the Kansai members, uniting around a young Daisaku Ikeda, increased their chapter’s membership by 11,111 households in a single month. ↩︎
  6. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 4 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1984), p. 65. ↩︎
  7. Translated from Japanese. From an interview article in the Seikyo Shimbun, Dec. 11, 2020. ↩︎
  8. In gongyo, the passage reads: “Mai ji sa ze nen. I ga ryo shujo. Toku nyu mu-jodo. Soku joju busshin.” ↩︎

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