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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

Engage in Dialogue With the Unshakable Conviction That All People Embody the Mystic Law!

Ikeda Sensei’s Lecture Series [82]

Members engage in dialogue after a meeting at the New Jersey Buddhist Center, Teaneck, New Jersey, August 2022. Photo by Kevin lyden.

February is the month of Nichiren Daishonin’s birth. Last year (2021), to commemorate the 800th anniversary[1] of that occasion, the Soka Gakkai published a new Japanese edition of the Nichiren Daishonin Gosho zenshu (The Complete Works of Nichiren Daishonin) on November 18, Soka Gakkai Founding Day. 

From the time of our first and second presidents, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, we of the Soka Gakkai have continued to advance on the correct path of always basing ourselves on the Daishonin’s writings. 

We have forged ahead proudly and confidently, following the Daishonin’s instruction “Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 386). We have maintained a tradition of applying ourselves to our Buddhist practice and study with the seriousness and discipline of a master swordsman engaged in training, and striven in exact accord with the Daishonin’s spirit.

Nichiren’s Passionate Wish to Free All People From Suffering

Nichiren Daishonin’s writings constitute a scripture of peace and happiness for all people. They are the eternal light of wisdom of the Buddhism of the Sun. His words brim with his passionate wish to free people from suffering and resound with his lion’s roar of truth and justice.

That’s why when we read the Daishonin’s writings, his great life force pulses within our hearts and his voice reverberates in our beings with great lionlike conviction and compassion. Limitless courage surges within us. We are filled with hope for the future and fresh resolve not to be defeated by any hardship or adversity. 

Inspired by the Daishonin’s passionate conviction, Mr. Toda said: “Faith means us ourselves having the most powerful conviction. When we chant daimoku with the firm belief that the heavenly deities will protect us because we embody the Mystic Law, then that is precisely what will happen.”

In this trouble-filled saha world,[2] no one can escape the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death. We each have a unique set of problems and circumstances. Mr. Toda warmly embraced each person, offering encouragement that moved their hearts. He assured them that they could break through any negative karma. That great conviction was the key that made it possible for our pioneer members to change their destiny and carry out their human revolution, and for the Soka Gakkai to make kosen-rufu a reality. 

‘The Fundamental Life Force That Can Change the Universe’

Rephrasing this idea, Mr. Toda also said: “We call the fundamental life force that can change the universe Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This Mystic Law is within us. It is therefore quite natural that we can change our lives in the direction we desire.” 

My mentor’s words overflow with his great conviction in faith gained from having overcome persecution and obstacles like those described in the Lotus Sutra. 

If we remain steadfast in our faith, we are certain to lead lives of supreme fulfillment. Wherever we are, whatever our situation, we will savor a state of absolute happiness in which life itself is a joy and pleasure. Attaining Buddhahood, Mr. Toda affirmed, is to establish this life state of absolute happiness. He taught that this is the great benefit we accrue through our daily practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. 

In this installment, let us study two passages about the importance of having conviction in faith, which is the foundation of our Buddhist practice and the driving force for spreading the Mystic Law and expanding our movement. 

The Immense Benefit of Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

Question: How great are the blessings [benefits] contained within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo?[3]

Answer: The great ocean contains all the numerous rivers that flow into it, the great earth contains all sentient and insentient beings, the wish-granting jewel[4] is capable of showering down innumerable treasures, and the heavenly king Brahma[5] rules over all the threefold world [this saha realm]. The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo are comparable to these. All beings of the nine worlds, as well as those in the world of Buddhahood, are contained within them. And since all beings of the Ten Worlds are contained within them, so are their environments [lands]. (“The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 143)[6]

The first passage we will look at is from “The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” a letter addressed to a woman who is thought to have been a relatively new practitioner of Nichiren’s teachings. 

From the opening of the letter, Nichiren stresses the immense benefit of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. 

He affirms that it is possible “merely by chanting the five or seven characters of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo once a day, once a month, or simply once a year, once a decade, or once in a lifetime, to avoid being drawn into trivial or serious acts of evil, to escape falling into the four evil paths,[7] and instead to eventually reach the stage of non-regression”[8] (WND-1, 141).

No doubt this clear explanation would have deeply reassured and inspired the recipient to exert herself in faith, aware that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo even once produces immeasurable benefit.

He goes on to declare that “the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra … is the very heart of all the eighty thousand sacred teachings of Buddhism and the eye of all the Buddhas” (WND-1, 141). Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the essence of all the Buddha’s teachings and the one fundamental Law that enables all living beings to attain Buddhahood, he proclaims. 

The key to unlocking this ultimate beneficial power, he adds, is faith in the Mystic Law. 

Drawing Forth Immeasurable Treasures

Nichiren proceeds to quote various sutra passages and principles, such as “gaining entrance through faith alone” (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 110),[9] to back up his words. In a question-and-answer format, he dispels each doubt that is a hindrance to faith. 

In the passage we are studying, the Daishonin first poses the question: “How great are the blessings [benefits] contained within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo?” (WND-1, 143). He then responds by explaining that the Mystic Law includes all living beings of the nine worlds, as well as those in the world of Buddhahood, along with the environments, or lands, of all beings of the Ten Worlds (see WND-1, 141). Mr. Makiguchi saw this as an important passage, underlining it in his copy of Nichiren’s writings.

“The great ocean contains all the numerous rivers that flow into it” (WND-1, 143) is a simile for how the “single Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” encompasses all the living beings of the Ten Worlds and their environments—in other words, all phenomena. 

The Daishonin also writes that when one possesses a single wish-granting jewel, one can indeed possess all manner of treasures.

This is another simile for Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is the source of immeasurable benefits that we can tap and bring forth in our lives. All living beings of the Ten Worlds and their environments and the benefits of all Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the universe are contained in a single daimoku. 

In another of his writings, Nichiren states: “The blessings of the entire Lotus Sutra are all contained solely within the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo” (“Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man,” WND-1, 131). That is, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo contains the benefits of the whole 28-chapter Lotus Sutra.

The Daishonin describes the benefits of chanting daimoku in many passages throughout his writings. For example: “The benefits to be gained by reciting the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo are great indeed” (“On Reciting the Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-2, 229); and “Of those who so much as one time pronounce the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, not one will fail to become a Buddha” (“Not a One Will Fail to Attain Buddhahood,” WND-2, 1081).

The benefit of daimoku is vast beyond measure. When we vibrantly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo day after day and move forward in high spirits, we will never be deadlocked.

In addition, there is a passage from “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime” that we should bear deeply in mind: “Even though you chant and believe in Myoho-renge-kyo, if you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but an inferior teaching” (WND-1, 3). We must never seek the Mystic Law outside ourselves. 

The life of each one of us is essentially an embodiment of the Mystic Law, deserving of supreme respect. The practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables us to draw forth the boundless power that resides within us. 

Everyone Possesses the Buddha Nature

A little further on in “The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” the Daishonin explains the concept of the three meanings of myo [of myoho, the Mystic Law],[10] which many of you will know well.

The first meaning is “to open.” The Daishonin explains: “The character myo means to open. If there is a storehouse full of treasures but no key, then it cannot be opened, and if it cannot be opened, then the treasures inside cannot be seen” (WND-1, 145).

“The treasures inside” refers to the Buddha nature within each of us. Everyone possesses the Buddha nature. It is not limited to one group or special kind of person. By opening the treasure storehouse within us, we can all attain Buddhahood. In other words, Nichiren Buddhism opens the way to enlightenment for all people.

The starting point of our Buddhist practice is to exert ourselves in chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, firmly convinced that we possess that wonderful inner treasure.

A Universal Religion for the Enlightenment of All

Mr. Toda observed: “The fundamental spirit of Nichiren Daishonin is that everyone is a child of the Buddha, everyone is a treasure tower. That’s why Nichiren Buddhism can be called a truly universal religion capable of leading all people to enlightenment.” 

Through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we bring forth our inherent Buddha nature and carry out our human revolution. Awakened to the dignity and preciousness of life, we each dynamically spread the teachings of Buddhism and help others reveal their own Buddha nature. This is how we steadily advance kosen-rufu and realize the Daishonin’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.” 

Kosen-rufu means creating a growing network of people who engage in human revolution while helping others to do the same, not only bringing forth their own Buddha nature, but drawing out the Buddha nature of others, too.  

In this Year of Youth and Dynamic Progress, young people around the world are striving to do just that, setting in motion great waves of dialogue. Nothing could make me happier.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, worsening the chronic problems of division and isolation, we of the Soka Gakkai are uniting people’s hearts through courageous, sincere dialogue, bringing out one another’s goodness and helping everyone reveal their boundless potential. We have entered an age when the sound of our members’ chanting daimoku envelops our blue planet 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Supporting Nichiren Daishonin on Sado Island and Mount Minobu

He [Shakyamuni in a past existence] was a monarch, while you are of low station. He had nothing to fear from his kingdom, while you have been punished by your nation. You are an ordinary woman of the Latter Day of the Law, while he was a sage of a distant age. Yet your resolve already surpasses his. How could your future rewards not be equal to his? How could they not be equal to his? (“Reply to the Lay Nun Myoichi,” Gosho zenshu, new edition, p. 1693)[11]

Next, let us study a passage from “Reply to the Lay Nun Myoichi,” included for the first time in the revised Japanese edition of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings. 

At the letter’s close, the Daishonin writes “26th day of the fourth month,” and the content suggests that he composed it during his exile on Sado. It also mentions that “The priest Ben[12] is residing in Kamakura this year,” referring to one of the Daishonin’s senior priest disciples who was also known as Nissho. This indicates that circumstances now permitted Nissho to reside there [as persecution against the Daishonin’s disciples abated]—and it is thought, based on this and other factors, that the letter was written in 1273. 

The lay nun Myoichi, the letter’s recipient, was a disciple of purehearted faith who supported the Daishonin behind the scenes, continuing to send him sincere offerings even when he was on Sado Island and later at Mount Minobu. 

In 1271, the Daishonin faced harsh government attacks in the form of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and his subsequent exile to Sado.[13] At the same time, the authorities also unjustly targeted his disciples in Kamakura, confiscating or driving them from their estates and subjecting them to fines and other punitive measures. Many abandoned their faith amid this onslaught of persecution.

Myoichi’s husband was among those whose estates were confiscated. Nevertheless, wishing to support her mentor, Myoichi sent one of her attendants to serve and assist the Daishonin. 

Earthquakes and epidemics were wreaking havoc all over Japan. The country was also in turmoil over the threat of an impending Mongol invasion and the outbreak of infighting among the ruling clan. 

But the lay nun Myoichi, unperturbed by the difficult circumstances she was forced to endure, took resolute action to support her mentor. The Daishonin wrote this letter to thank her.

Highest Praise for the Lay Nun Myoichi’s Resolve

In this passage, Nichiren lavishes the highest praise on the lay nun Myoichi for her dedicated faith in continuing to support and assist him, the votary of the Lotus Sutra, likening her sincerity to that shown in the selfless offerings of his life that Shakyamuni made over many past existences.

Immediately before the passage we are studying, the Daishonin relates how a king of ages past served the seer Asita[14] for a thousand years and was able to learn the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo. This king, he explains, was later reborn as Shakyamuni. The devoted efforts in faith of Myoichi, an impoverished ordinary person, are far more valuable than those of that ancient king, he declares. He then poses the rhetorical question that since her resolve far surpasses that of Shakyamuni in that past existence, how could her reward not be equal to his? (see Gosho zenshu, new edition, 1693).

In this way, he seeks to assure Myoichi that, as a steadfast practitioner, she will never succumb to misery but will lead a life of victory and happiness. His words convey his powerful conviction and boundless compassion for her. How the Daishonin’s encouragement must have inspired Myoichi!

The “resolve” to which the Daishonin refers indicates Myoichi’s pure, strong faith and selfless efforts, demonstrated by her wholehearted commitment to kosen-rufu. Practicing in this manner day after day will surely bring about reward. That is the unerring Buddhist law of cause and effect.

Faith in the Gohonzon is key to working for kosen-rufu with unstinting dedication, confident that all Buddhas and bodhisattvas are praising our efforts.

Elsewhere, Nichiren writes: “The Lotus Sutra remains the same, but if you repeatedly strengthen your resolve, your color [radiance] will be better than that of others, and you will receive more blessings than they do” (“The Supremacy of the Law,” WND-1, 615). Strengthening one’s faith each day is the key to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. 

The Conviction That ‘Winter Always Turns to Spring’

Myoichi’s husband died while Nichiren was still in exile on Sado, and one of her children was sickly. She also was not in the best of health. 

A year after his return from exile [which lasted until March 1274], the Daishonin warmly encouraged the lay nun Myoichi, who remained constant in her faith, undaunted by the harsh onslaughts of karma. He presented her with these now-famous words: 

Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring. Never, from ancient times on, has anyone seen or heard of winter turning back to autumn. Nor have we ever heard of a believer in the Lotus Sutra who turned into an ordinary [unenlightened] person. (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” WND-1, 536)

Victory Is Certain

Winter always turns to spring. It never reverses course to autumn. Just like this law of nature, we will never be defeated by suffering or sorrow if we persevere in faith. We are certain to attain the magnificent life state of Buddhahood and demonstrate actual proof of a victorious turn of fortune. 

The Daishonin saw the Buddha nature in each of his disciples, and he declared that even if they were presently burdened with problems and sufferings, by upholding the Mystic Law they would succeed without fail, based on faith, in overcoming all hardships. 

Taking to heart this teaching of Nichiren Daishonin, let us encourage as many people as we can. Sincerity arising from genuine concern for others and words spoken with unwavering conviction in faith will rouse and inspire our fellow members facing challenges and hardships.

Nothing Is More Eloquent Than Personal Experiences in Faith

Nothing is more eloquent than personal experiences in faith. The experiences of benefits we have attained through practicing Nichiren Buddhism reinforce and deepen our own conviction, and their honesty resonates deeply in people’s hearts.

Our members in Okinawa [which this year marks the 50th anniversary of its return to Japan from U.S. occupation in 1972] are striving tirelessly to hold revitalizing dialogues filled with hope. They are doing so with great energy, wisdom and creativity, undaunted by the challenges and trials that beset the region. 

I have visited Okinawa in the month of February many times, including the meeting when February 8 was designated as Okinawa Day [in the Soka Gakkai in 1974].[15]

The saying embodying the Okinawa spirit, “Ichariba chode” (Once we meet, we are brothers and sisters), actually continues: “Nu fidatinu aga” (What barrier could stand between us?). In other words, we are all equal and precious beings—a message glowing with the spirit of respect for life expressed in another Okinawan saying, “Nuchi du takara” (Life is a treasure). 

Admiration for the Okinawan Spirit

I welcomed Dr. Joseph Rotblat (1908–2005), a physicist, Nobel Peace Laureate and former president of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, to the Okinawa Training Center in February 2000. 

Over 90 years old at the time, Dr. Rotblat, a tireless crusader for world peace, expressed his great admiration for the Okinawan spirit. I recall him saying on that occasion that humanity needs to turn its attention to the innate dignity of each person and all life. 

Embracing the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, which teaches that all people are worthy of the highest respect, we reach out to others in dialogue, believing in each person’s innate potential and worth. Such steady efforts are the fundamental way to build peace and the surest means for bettering our world. 

Making Our Precious Lives Shine

February is also the month of my mentor Josei Toda’s birth.[16] It is the month when I renew my vow to repay the debt of gratitude I owe him.

Myo [of myoho] means to revive” (“The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 149)—Nichiren Buddhism enables all people to revitalize their determination and brim with fresh, abundant life force.

“Winter always turns to spring.” The Mystic Law allows us to lead joyous, fulfilling lives—to advance steadfastly, brushing aside all obstacles, confident of the arrival of a springtime of victory. 

“Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the greatest of all joys” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 212). Our practice of Nichiren Buddhism enables us to demonstrate, with incomparable joy, the underlying power of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, certain that we and our fellow members are all Buddhas.

Advancing Together With the Youth, With an Ever-Youthful Spirit!

“In the Latter Day of the Law, no treasure tower exists other than the figures of the men and women who embrace the Lotus Sutra” (“On the Treasure Tower,” WND-1, 299), writes the Daishonin. 

We of the Soka Gakkai chant vibrantly for others’ happiness with the unshakable conviction that all people embody the Mystic Law. We confidently teach them about our philosophy of human revolution and the unsurpassed way of life dedicated to value creation. This is the essence of our dialogues directed toward realizing the Daishonin’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.” 

Treasuring our young people, let us advance alongside them with vibrant courage and an ever-youthful spirit—toward a springtime of dynamic progress, victory and brilliant achievements, toward a springtime abloom with beautiful Soka cherry blossoms!

Translated from the February 2022 Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.


  1. Nichiren Daishonin was born on February 16, 1222. According to the traditional Japanese way of counting, a person is counted as 1 year old on the day of their birth. Hence the 800th anniversary was celebrated in 2021. ↩︎
  2. Saha world: This world, which is full of suffering. Often translated as the world of endurance. In Sanskrit, saha means the earth; it derives from a root meaning “to bear” or “to endure.” For this reason, in the Chinese versions of Buddhist scriptures, saha is rendered as endurance. In this context, the saha world indicates a world in which people must endure suffering. ↩︎
  3. Myoho-renge-kyo is written with five Chinese characters, while Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is written with seven (nam, or namu, comprising two characters). The Daishonin often uses Myoho-renge-kyo synonymously with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his writings. ↩︎
  4. Wish-granting jewel: A jewel said to have the power to produce whatever one desires. It symbolizes the virtue and power of the Mystic Law of three thousand realms in a single moment of life. ↩︎
  5. One of the two main guardian deities of Buddhism along with Shakra. ↩︎
  6. This letter, dated January 1266, is addressed to an unidentified woman reluctant to abandon her attachment to the Pure Land (Nembutsu) teachings. Employing a question-and-answer format, the Daishonin outlines the benefits of chanting the daimoku, or title, of the Lotus Sutra, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. ↩︎
  7. Four evil paths: Also, four evil realms of existence. The realms of suffering one undergoes because of evil actions, or karma—the realms of hell, hungry spirits, animals and asuras. ↩︎
  8. Stage of non-regression: Also, stage of non-retrogression. One of the stages of bodhisattva practice. One who reaches this stage never backslides, always advancing in Buddhist practice toward the goal of Buddhahood. In the stage of non-regression, a bodhisattva neither retreats to a lower stage of bodhisattva practice nor regresses to the stages of voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones or to the four evil paths. ↩︎
  9. This phrase appears in “Simile and Parable,” the 3rd chapter of the Lotus Sutra, in which Shakyamuni tells Shariputra, who was regarded as the foremost in wisdom among his disciples: “Even you, Shariputra, in the case of this sutra were able to gain entrance through faith alone” (LSOC, 109–10). ↩︎
  10. “The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra” explores the three meanings of the character myo [of myoho, the Mystic Law]—namely, to open, to be fully endowed and to revive. “Open” means that the Lotus Sutra opens the way for the attainment of Buddhahood by all living beings and that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the key to open the storehouse of benefits. “Fully endowed” means that the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, is the source of all phenomena and is fully endowed with all benefits. “Revive” means that the benefits of daimoku enable those who, in the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, were excluded from achieving enlightenment to attain Buddhahood. In other words, the revitalizing power of the Mystic Law can fundamentally free all people from the chains of suffering. ↩︎
  11. Tentative translation. ↩︎
  12. Ben (1221–1323): Also, known as Acharya Ben and Nissho. One of Nichiren Daishonin’s disciples, counted as one of the six senior priests. After the Daishonin’s death, fearing persecution, Nissho claimed to be a priest of the Tendai school, betraying the Daishonin and Nikko Shonin. ↩︎
  13. Tatsunokuchi Persecution and Sado Exile: On September 12, 1271, the authorities arrested Nichiren Daishonin and took him to a place called Tatsunokuchi on the outskirts of Kamakura, where they tried to execute him under the cover of darkness. When the execution attempt failed, he was held in detention at the residence of the deputy constable of Sado, Homma Rokuro Saemon, in Echi (in present-day Kanagawa Prefecture). After about a month while the government debated what to do with him, he was exiled to Sado Island, which was tantamount to a death sentence. However, when his predictions of internal strife and foreign invasion were fulfilled, the government issued a pardon in March 1274, and he returned to Kamakura. ↩︎
  14. Asita: A seer mentioned in “Devadatta,” the 12th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, and referred to as a former incarnation of Devadatta. According to this chapter, when Shakyamuni was a king in a past existence, he renounced the throne to seek the Law. At that time, a seer named Asita came to the retired king and said: “I have a great-vehicle text called the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law. If you will never disobey me, I will expound it for you” (LSOC, 221). Overjoyed, the former king served the seer, carrying firewood, drawing water and making a couch of his own body for the seer to sleep on. One thousand years passed, and the king finally received instruction in the Lotus Sutra from the seer. In the “Devadatta” chapter, having related this story, Shakyamuni identifies the king with himself, and the seer with Devadatta. Moreover, he says that Devadatta acted as a “good friend” to him, or one who leads other people to the correct teaching, and that he was thus able to attain enlightenment. He then predicts that Devadatta will become a Buddha named Heavenly King. Kumarajiva’s Chinese translation of the Lotus Sutra carries the name of this seer, but his name does not appear in the extant versions of the Sanskrit text. ↩︎
  15. February 8 was designated Okinawa Day at the Okinawa General Meeting celebrating the 20th anniversary of the kosen-rufu movement in Okinawa on that date in 1974. ↩︎
  16. President Toda was born on February 11, 1900. ↩︎

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