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Ikeda Wisdom Academy

Encountering Great Obstacles is Proof of Propagating the Correct Teaching for Attaining Buddhahood in the Latter Day of the Law

Chapter 3

“On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings”—Part 3 of 3

Ikeda Sensei conveys in this lecture the importance of disciples who practice the Buddha’s teachings with the same spirit as Nichiren Daishonin.

Propagating the Correct Teaching Rouses Opposition From the Three Powerful Enemies

Now, in the Latter Day of the Law, who is carrying out the practice of shakubuku in strict accordance with the Lotus Sutra? Suppose someone, no matter who, should unrelentingly proclaim that the Lotus Sutra alone can lead people to Buddhahood, and that all other sutras, far from enabling them to attain the way, only drive them into hell. Observe what happens should that person thus try to refute the teachers and the doctrines of all the other schools [that base themselves on these provisional teachings]. The three powerful enemies will arise without fail. (“On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 394)

Prior to this section, Nichiren Daishonin explained the way of faith and practice for those who wish to correctly carry out the Buddha’s teachings in the Latter Day of the Law. He clarified that the way of faith true to the Buddha’s intent is to believe only in the Lotus Sutra—the one Buddha vehicle that enables all people to attain enlightenment. He also explained that the practice appropriate for the Latter Day of the Law is the practice of shakubuku as taught in the Lotus Sutra—the staunch refuting of those forces that slander the Lotus Sutra and seek to obstruct people’s happiness.

Having affirmed these essential points, Nichiren identifies the votaries who practice the Buddha’s teachings with correct faith and in a manner appropriate to this evil latter age.

First, in this section, he asks, “Now, in the Latter Day of the Law” indicates a time “when the true and the provisional teachings are utterly confused” (WND-1, 394). … Unless this confusion is rectified, it will give rise to an age when “quarrels and disputes prevail, and the pure Law is obscured and lost.” That is why the practice of shakubuku is crucial. It is necessary to clarify that the Lotus Sutra (the true teaching) alone can lead all people to enlightenment, whereas the other sutras (the provisional teachings) not only fail to do so but ultimately cause people to fall into a state of inner hell or suffering. …

During Nichiren’s time, which marked the start of the Latter Day of the Law, a wide assortment of Buddhist schools proliferated, with each asserting that the different provisional teachings on which they based their respective doctrines were the Buddha’s ultimate teaching. Consequently, far from guiding people to an understanding of the true Lotus Sutra teaching, these schools propounded doctrines that denigrated it. There was, as Nichiren noted, utter confusion among the provisional and true teachings. Therefore, it was necessary to refute the provisional sutras, clarifying that they do not lead to enlightenment and that only the Lotus Sutra does.

Nichiren says that when anyone—no matter who—carries out shakubuku, the three powerful enemies are sure to appear. The practice of shakubuku as taught in the Lotus Sutra indicates the kind of refutation I have just described, which is based on the correct teaching for attaining Buddhahood; it is not by any means motivated by intolerance or self-righteousness. …

Because carrying out shakubuku as taught in the Lotus Sutra is the correct way of practice in the Latter Day—serving to both protect the Law and free people from suffering—it is inevitable that opposition and resistance will arise from arrogant forces. Unless we grasp this principle, we will not understand the true nature of the great obstacles that befall the votaries of the Lotus Sutra.[1]

The Characteristics of the Three Powerful Enemies

To further clarify this point, let’s review the concept of the three powerful enemies once again. …

These are the three powerful enemies—arrogant lay people, arrogant priests and arrogant false sages. …

The arrogance of these ignorant, perverse and evil people, respectively, arises from the workings of the inherent darkness or ignorance in their lives. This inner darkness is the source of earthly desires and other deluded impulses, leading people to unhappiness and misery. The fundamental form of this darkness is ignorance to the truth that all things and phenomena are entities of the Mystic Law. It is this fundamental ignorance, for instance, that prevents a person from believing or understanding the correct teaching when they hear it and that creates tendencies to reject it or even seek to destroy it. Here, we see the fearfulness of ignorance.

The fundamental darkness inherent in human life gives rise to the ultimate devilish function—what Buddhism refers to as the “devil king of the sixth heaven.” Those who oppose and attack the votary of the Lotus Sutra are ruled by this insidious negative function. …

Elsewhere, Nichiren states: “The single word ‘belief’ is the sharp sword with which one confronts and overcomes fundamental darkness or ignorance” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, pp. 119–20). Mr. Toda also frequently emphasized that “the sharp sword of faith is the only means for defeating the devil king of the sixth heaven.” When we vanquish fundamental ignorance through faith in the Mystic Law, the fundamental nature of enlightenment, or Dharma nature, with which our lives are inherently endowed, will well forth. The Dharma nature is the ultimate truth of all phenomena to which the Buddha became awakened in his own life.

Attaining Buddhahood, in a sense, means winning in this struggle between darkness and enlightenment. Through the practice of shakubuku, those who uphold the Lotus Sutra can bring forth the fundamental nature of enlightenment in their own lives and help others do the same.[2]

Waging a Struggle of Profound Compassion Amid Great Obstacles

Our teacher, the Thus Come One Shakyamuni, practiced shakubuku during the last eight years of his lifetime, the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai for more than thirty years, and the Great Teacher Dengyo for more than twenty. I have been refuting the provisional doctrines for more than twenty years, and the great persecutions I have suffered during this period are beyond number. I do not know whether they are equal to the nine great persecutions suffered by the Buddha, but surely neither T’ien-t’ai nor Dengyo ever faced persecutions as great as mine for the sake of the Lotus Sutra. They encountered only hatred, envy, and slander, whereas I twice incurred the wrath of the rulers and was exiled to remote provinces. Furthermore, I was nearly beheaded at Tatsunokuchi, wounded on the forehead [at Komatsubara], and slandered time and again. My disciples have also been exiled and thrown into prison, and my lay supporters have been evicted and had their fiefs confiscated. How can the persecutions faced by Nagarjuna, T’ient’ai, or Dengyo possibly compare with these? Understand then that the votary who practices the Lotus Sutra exactly as the Buddha teaches will without fail be attacked by the three powerful enemies. (WND-1, 394–95)

Here Nichiren Daishonin looks at the kinds of persecutions that befell Shakyamuni and votaries of the Lotus Sutra of later ages, such as the great teachers T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo. All three encountered fierce opposition through proclaiming the correct teaching of the Lotus Sutra and refuting erroneous teachings. …

Because Nichiren Daishonin, the votary of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day, spread the Law of sowing (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo), which is the fundamental cause for attaining Buddhahood, he encountered far more intense persecution than that faced by T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo during the Middle Day of the Law. The crucial point is that overcoming adversity in the course of propagating the correct teaching is what marks one as a genuine votary of the Lotus Sutra. By triumphing over daunting obstacles, one can prove the power of the Law.

Even amid great persecutions, Nichiren demonstrates an invincible state of life brimming with the “boundless joy of the Law.” Speaking of his greatest crisis, he states: “I survived even the Tatsunokuchi Persecution. … By now, the devil king must be thoroughly discouraged” (Gosho zenshu, p. 843). These words reveal his triumphant state of life in having overcome all adversity and vanquished the devil king of the sixth heaven. …

[Nichiren] stood up alone and bore the full brunt of all obstacles and attacks—like a roof protecting the people from harm or a pillar supporting the nation amid disorder and confusion. He did so to create an enduring solidarity of good that would forever be dedicated to realizing individual and collective happiness. His efforts were coupled with his keen ability and wisdom to discern the invisible roots of evil and misfortune and to encourage suffering people in a way that would inspire them or revitalize their lives. No obstacles or powerful enemies could sway this towering spirit in which compassion and wisdom were one and inseparable.[3]

[Nichiren] stood up alone and bore the full brunt of all obstacles and attacks—like a roof protecting the people from harm or a pillar supporting the nation amid disorder and confusion.

The Shared Commitment of Mentor and Disciple to Practice as the Buddha Teaches

In the more than two thousand years that have passed since the Buddha’s advent, Shakyamuni himself, T’ien-t’ai, and Dengyo were the only three who perfectly carried out the Buddha’s teachings. Now in the Latter Day of the Law, Nichiren and his disciples and lay believers are just such practitioners. If we cannot be called votaries faithful to the Buddha’s teachings, then neither can Shakyamuni, T’ien-t’ai, or Dengyo. (WND-1, 395)

This is Nichiren Daishonin’s important conclusion to this writing. He clearly identifies the votaries or practitioners faithful to the Buddha’s teachings. …

The essential point here is that Nichiren does not say that it is him alone. He uses the word we, which includes all his disciples—priests and laity—clarifying that those who exert themselves in Buddhist practice with his same selfless and altruistic spirit to propagate the Law are also votaries acting in perfect accord with the Buddha’s teachings. Here, we can see the boundless compassion of the Buddha of the Latter Day.

The oneness of mentor and disciple is the cornerstone of Nichiren Buddhism. And true attainment of Buddhahood is found in the shared struggle of mentor and disciple to practice as the Buddha teaches. …

As the teacher, Nichiren Daishonin has but one wish and that is for dedicated disciples—a multitude of Bodhisattvas of the Earth—to appear and take action in all spheres with his same aspiration. Because he seeks genuine disciples, he urges his followers to pursue his same obstacle-fraught path. And being genuine disciples, they regard all hardships and trials for the sake of the Law as a source of pride. There is profound significance in the Daishonin identifying the votaries of the Latter Day as “Nichiren and his disciples and lay believers.” Doubtless, these words also arose from his immense compassion for those who had been striving alongside him through great adversities in a spirit of shared commitment to propagating the correct teaching. …

Putting the Buddha’s teachings into practice requires that genuine disciples stand up and take earnest action. From there, the great river of kosen-rufu flows powerfully. We of the SGI have inherited this great river of universal enlightenment and, in the present age, have continued to propagate the correct teaching in the same spirit as Nichiren, while battling various obstacles. …

Because we champion the highest good, we must keep fighting and win without fail. This is the Soka Gakkai spirit pulsing in the hearts of the first three presidents; the spirit of practicing as the Buddha teaches is the pride of the Soka Gakkai, the “king of the religious world.”[4]

Establishing the Eternal Life State of Buddhahood

Life flashes by in but a moment. No matter how many terrible enemies you may encounter, banish all fears and never think of backsliding. Even if someone were to cut off our heads with a saw, impale our bodies with lances, or shackle our feet and bore them through with a gimlet, as long as we are alive, we must keep chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Then, if we chant until the very moment of death, Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and the Buddhas of the ten directions will come to us instantly, exactly as they promised during the ceremony at Eagle Peak. Taking our hands and bearing us on their shoulders, they will carry us to Eagle Peak. … How can such joy possibly be described! (WND-1, 395–96)

When Nichiren’s disciples dedicate themselves to the Mystic Law with the same spirit as their teacher, who is the foremost votary of the Lotus Sutra, then, together with him, they will attain a state of absolute happiness over the three existences, guaranteeing victory as well as peace and security in both life and death. In “On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings,” Nichiren thus declares, “When our prayers for Buddhahood are answered and we are dwelling in the true land of Tranquil Light, we will experience the boundless joy of the Law.” He promises that those who base their lives on the Mystic Law can achieve this state of absolute happiness. Therefore, at the end of this passage, he writes, “How can such joy possibly be described!”

As disciples, there is nothing more honorable than steadfastly walking the path of faith we have vowed to our mentor we will follow. Nichiren assures his followers that their prayers for Buddhahood will be fulfilled and they will come to dwell in the “true land of Tranquil Light,” enjoying immense peace of mind. Therefore, no matter what great obstacles may arise, they have absolutely nothing to worry about or fear. From the eternal viewpoint of the Buddha of the Latter Day, he assures them that they will “experience the boundless joy of the Law.” There is no greater happiness than this.

As indicated by the line “If we chant until the very moment of death,” it all depends on whether we continue chanting wholeheartedly for the happiness of ourselves and others until the end of our lives. This is the essence of faith based on practicing the Buddha’s teachings in a spirit of oneness with our mentor.[5]

The Ikeda Wisdom Academy is an SGI-USA youth leaders advanced study movement. While the following material is for this study program, all SGI-USA members can read the following excerpts as part of their personal study of The Teachings for Victory, volume 2, by Ikeda Sensei.


  1. The Teachings for Victory,
    vol. 2, pp. 38–40. ↩︎
  2. Ibid., 40–41. ↩︎
  3. Ibid., 43–45. ↩︎
  4. Ibid., 45–47. ↩︎
  5. Ibid., 47–49. ↩︎

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