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Ikeda Sensei

Engage in Lively Discussion and Spirited Dialogue!

Photo by Tomoko Uji/ Unsplash.

The following essay by Ikeda Sensei was originally published in the Oct. 26, 2022, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

Our movement for kosen-rufu is about building a culture of peace. As part of that endeavor, we hold a wide range of exhibitions around the world.

Twenty years have passed since the first showing of our “Books—Heritage of Humanity” exhibition.This month, coinciding with Reading Week[1] in Japan, it will go on display [from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3] in Nakano Ward, Tokyo, a place that has a profound connection with my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda.

This reminds me of the days I studied great works of world literature with Mr. Toda. I will never forget his stern yet warm encouragement when we were discussing the Chinese classic History of the Three Kingdoms: “Youth should think like Zhuge Liang! Bring forth wisdom! And win victory upon victory for the sake of the people.” 

Zhuge Liang (181–234), the brilliant statesman and strategist who features prominently in this work, once said to the effect: “A friendship in which people of true character have forged deep mutual understanding remains unchanged and undiminished throughout the seasons and grows stronger both in prosperity and adversity.”[2] This perfectly describes the lifelong friendship shared by Zhuge Liang and the general and later emperor Liu Bei (161–223), who were said to be “as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim.”[3]

Mr. Toda often remarked, “We create trust when we share Nichiren Buddhism.” He firmly believed that dialogue based on earnest prayer and a genuine wish for the happiness of others fosters true friendship, even if our sincerity is not appreciated at first.

If Nichiren’s compassion is truly great and encompassing, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will spread for ten thousand years and more, for all eternity” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 736). These words from “On Repaying Debts of Gratitude” are inscribed on the monument that adorns the entrance lobby of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu in Shinanomachi, Tokyo.

In accord with Nichiren Daishonin’s vow, which he made with a view toward the eternal future of the Latter Day, we of the Soka Gakkai have stood up to fulfill the mission of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, raising high the banner of kosen-rufu through the compassionate propagation of the great Law.

In October 75 years ago [1947], Mr. Toda wrote an article about propagation for the Soka Gakkai’s then journal Kachi sozo (Value Creation). Japan was still experiencing the turmoil and devastation of the postwar period. He expressed profound concern for his fellow citizens, who were struggling with the three calamities highlighted by the Daishonin in his treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land”—high grain prices or inflation, warfare and pestilence. And he called out to the youth: “The benefit of upholding the Mystic Law is that it invigorates the life force of all people. … That is why enabling as many people as possible to embrace this teaching through propagation is important. They will then go on to realize their full potential in various fields, such as business, culture and the arts, opening the way for rebuilding our nation.”[4]

Having just joined the Soka Gakkai that year at the age of 19, I took these words deeply to heart. The tireless efforts of young people united in purpose with their mentor to spread Nichiren Buddhism led to the emergence of a surging tide of Bodhisattvas of the Earth whose activities in society contributed immensely to Japan’s postwar reconstruction.

The eminent British historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1889–1975) praised the Soka Gakkai’s role during this period, saying that it must be credited with “a spiritual achievement that matches the Japanese people’s material achievement in the economic field.”[5]

Sharing Nichiren Buddhism with others is the most difficult of all undertakings. I recall many times in my youth when I was unable to clearly convey what I wanted to say or when the other person wasn’t interested, no matter how earnestly I spoke about our practice. It was an ongoing process of trial and error. There were also letters I sent that were returned unopened and times when I waited at an agreed-upon meeting place for someone who ultimately never showed up.

But I burned with a fighting spirit, wishing to please Mr. Toda by expanding our movement for kosen-rufu. My gratitude and appreciation for my mentor drove my efforts. “I’m young,” I thought. “I can’t let someone not being interested bring me down. I need to speak out with confidence and pride.”

In my diary at that time, I wrote: “Youth! Advance, no matter what anyone says. Carry out propagation with pride as disciples of Nichiren Daishonin, disciples of Mr. Toda.”

Each instance of helping someone embrace faith in Nichiren Buddhism amid such struggles shines as a “memory of [my] present life in this human world” (see “Embracing the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 64).

Sometimes our efforts to share the Daishonin’s teachings produce immediate results and sometimes they don’t. But just speaking to others about Buddhism is itself the noble practice of sowing the seeds of enlightenment.

In the verse section of the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra that we recite during gongyo, Shakyamuni says that his constant thought as he preaches the Law is how he can enable all living beings to “quickly acquire the body of a Buddha” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 273)—that is, attain enlightenment.

In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren says that the words “quickly acquire the body of a Buddha” have the same meaning as the phrase from the “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging” chapter, “you are all certain to attain Buddhahood” (p. 161).

Morning and evening, aligning our hearts with the Daishonin, we pray for the enlightenment of all people and reaffirm our mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth through our unwavering commitment to share Buddhism with others. That is why our gathering of human flowers, of treasure towers, has spread around the world. 

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “A person can know another’s mind by listening to the voice. This is because the physical aspect reveals the spiritual aspect” (“Opening the Eyes of Images,” WND-1, 86). Our voices communicate our sincerity, he says.

As Soka Gakkai members striving tirelessly day and night for our own and others’ happiness, our words resound with the compassionate voice of the Buddha.

Founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi said: “Sharing Nichiren Buddhism is an act of compassion. We must do so with a sincere wish to remove suffering and impart joy, in accord with the golden words ‘One who rids the offender of evil is acting as his parent.’”[6]

And Mr. Toda declared: “Your simple wish to help others who are suffering is enough to share your heartfelt convictions about the greatness of the Gohonzon with them. You don’t need fancy arguments.”

We have faith in the Gohonzon, which ensures that “no prayer will go unanswered.” We have the Mystic Law, through which we can turn sadness into hope, karma into mission and despair into the courage to move forward. We have the encouragement of our fellow members, friends with whom we “share as one our joys and sorrows” (see “Reply to the Honorable Konichi,” WND-2, 964).

With the joy of faith in our heart, all we need to do is positively and sincerely convey our passionate wish for our friends to become happy and our absolute conviction that they can. We just need to speak honestly, in our own way.

Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi (1894–1972), the Austrian thinker and proponent of European unification, declared: “Truth unites and connects.”[7]

I first met the count when he was visiting Japan, his mother’s homeland, in October 1967. He said to me: “I see the revival of Buddhism in Japan by the Soka Gakkai as a response to the materialism that prevails in our world. It is the opening of a new age in the history of religion.” He keenly perceived our movement of human revolution as offering direction for world religion in the future.

Three years later, in October 1970, I engaged in another dialogue with him. In total, we met on four occasions, our conversations spanning more than 10 hours. They were compiled into a volume titled Bunmei: nishi to higashi (Civilization: East and West), which was the first of some 80 dialogues I have published with thinkers around the world.

As a graduate of “Toda University,” I have spoken and forged heart-to-heart connections with people of all walks of life—from national leaders to ordinary citizens to children—as one human being to another, regardless of social position or beliefs. Through frank and open dialogue, I have clearly communicated the essence of our humanistic religion, our religion for the sake of all people.

Now, more than ever, when the cries of those torn apart by division and conflict can be heard everywhere, the world needs words grounded in the universal value of life, words of hope that can bring people together.

Nichiren declares: “Great evil portends the arrival of great good. If all of Jambudvipa [the entire world] were to be thrown into chaos, there could be no doubt that [the Lotus Sutra would] ‘be widely propagated throughout Jambudvipa’” (“The Kalpa of Decrease,” WND-1, 1122).

We are living in increasingly turbulent times, marked by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and instability worldwide. In spite of, or rather, precisely because of this, let us translate compassion into courageous action to “remove suffering and impart joy” as we continue striving steadily in the places of our mission to engage in Buddhist dialogue, the direct path to happiness for ourselves and others.

Right now, our youth, who will go on to become “bluer than the indigo,”[8] are preparing for the Study Department Introductory Exam [on Nov. 6 in Japan] and energetically sharing Nichiren Buddhism with others as they work toward their goal of the upcoming Soka Youth Festivals that will be held throughout Japan [in November and December]. How inspiring!

I wish to impart this message to our young men, lions who share my spirit; young women, Kayo sisters, flowers of kosen-rufu and suns of hope; and student division members, trailblazers of intellect and wisdom: The future of Soka opens expansively wherever capable young people are fostered. Your passion and power will boundlessly spread security throughout society and peace throughout the world.

The American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) wrote, “You are to be missionary and carrier of all that is good and noble.”[9] To accomplish this, character and humanity are important, as is the ability to harness the power of words and engage in dialogue.

Kosen-rufu is a struggle of words. It is a battle fought with words—words of truth and justice that vanquish falsehood and evil, words of wisdom and encouragement that impart the strength to triumph over adversity.

Mr. Toda said: “The Soka Gakkai is committed to protecting life, the world’s most precious treasure. Therefore, we count and keep track of how many people we have helped embrace the Mystic Law and become happy.”

Spreading this philosophy of respect for the dignity of life to one person after another, let’s make great fresh strides forward toward realizing happiness and peace, powerfully and brightly illuminating the world.

What joy it is to engage in lively discussion and spirited dialogue!

Together let us cheerfully write a golden chronicle of shared struggle, of spreading our movement through dialogue, as we each fulfill our noble mission!


  1. This reading promotion event is held annually from the end of October into early November. ↩︎
  2. See translated from Japanese. Shiro Nakabayashi, Shokatsu Komei goroku (Collected Words of Zhuge Liang), (Tokyo: Meitoku Shuppansha, 1986), p. 102. ↩︎
  3. “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 217. ↩︎
  4. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 1 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1981), p. 335.  ↩︎
  5. Daisaku Ikeda, The Human Revolution, vol. 1 (Tokyo: Weatherhill, Inc., 1972), p. x (Foreword by Arnold Toynbee). ↩︎
  6. From The Annotations on the Nirvana Sutra by the Great Teacher Chang-an. ↩︎
  7. Translated from German. Richard Nikolaus Coudenhove-Kalergi, “Wahrheitsliebe” (Love of Truth), Ethik und Hyperethik (Ethics and Hyperethics), (Leipzig: Neue Geist-Verlag, 1923), p. 48. ↩︎
  8. “Hell Is the Land of Tranquil Light,”  WND-1, 457. ↩︎
  9. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims, in The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, vol. 3 (London: George Bell and Sons, 1904), p. 230. ↩︎

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