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Ikeda Sensei

Human Flowers Blooming Undefeated by the Trials of Winter (Part 1)

Photo by Ben Slater / Getty Images.

The following essay was translated from the Feb. 21, 2022, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

This has been a particularly harsh and snowy winter in Japan.

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “I feel the eight cold hells[1] in my life now” (“Aspiration for the Buddha Land,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 213). Having endured many bitter winters himself, he understood the difficulties his disciples faced. 

Praising the seeking spirit and sincere devotion of a disciple [the lay nun Konichi] who sent him a letter during a winter of especially heavy snows, he writes, “It seemed almost like a message from Shakyamuni Buddha or from my departed parents, and I cannot tell you how grateful I was” (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 779). We can also read these words as an expression of Nichiren’s deep appreciation for the noble members of our Soka family in snowbound regions, who are persevering for kosen-rufu with unwavering dedication.

I am chanting wholeheartedly for the health, safety, good fortune and security of all our precious members. My thoughts go especially to our “uncrowned heroes” who deliver the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, as well as those working in the farming and fishing industries, who must constantly battle inclement weather.  

I would also like to express my profound gratitude to everyone in the health care professions and indeed all who are striving day and night to save and protect lives amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

I am also praying each day for the eternal happiness of all who have lost their lives in this global pandemic over the past two years. Let us pledge to do everything we can to bring this situation under control as soon as possible and overcome this crisis. 

“You must not only believe in [the Lotus Sutra’s teachings] yourself but also encourage others to do the same, so that you may save those who were your parents in all your past existences.”

I recall an event that took place on a sleeting evening in early winter of November 1950. My mentor, Josei Toda, and I were working tirelessly together to resolve his business difficulties. He turned to me and said with a smile, “It’s a cold world out there.”

We were engaged in a fierce struggle despite both suffering from poor health. My personal situation was also such that I couldn’t afford a new shirt or socks and didn’t even have an overcoat to protect me from the cold. 

Mr. Toda continued: “But Daisaku, we were both born in winter.[2] We can get through this together. I’m counting on you!” His words ignited a bright flame in my heart.

We fought our way through that trying adversity with everything we had, until finally Mr. Toda became the second Soka Gakkai president on May 3 the following year (1951). 

There is one particular passage from the Daishonin’s writings that we both proved the truth of in our lives. I would like to share it once again with all of you, my dear friends, who are valiantly taking on life’s challenges, including at work and at home, dealing with illness, caring for others or raising children: “Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring” (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” WND-1, 536).

This February marks the 800th anniversary of Nichiren’s birth (Feb. 16, 1222). His life of spreading the Mystic Law while enduring hardship is deeply inspiring. 

In a letter to his young disciple Nanjo Tokimitsu, he conveys his sentiments: “From the time that I was born until today, I have never known a moment’s ease; I have thought only of propagating the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo]” (“Persecution by Sword and Staff,” WND-1, 965). 

He also writes, “You must not only believe in [the Lotus Sutra’s teachings] yourself but also encourage others to do the same, so that you may save those who were your parents in all your past existences” (WND-1, 964–65). 

Since the beginning of this Year of Youth and Dynamic Progress, our young men and women, precious successors, have been making wonderful efforts to expand our movement. 

I am sure the Daishonin would be overjoyed to see the courageous endeavors of these youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth who are compassionately spreading the Mystic Law and bringing fresh hope and inspiration to the world. 

The Soka Gakkai tradition of making February a month of renewed efforts to share Nichiren Buddhism is imbued with the spirit of breaking through walls of ice. It is the pioneering work to ignite the light of hope in the hearts of those who are suffering by sharing our conviction that “winter always turns to spring” (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” WND-1, 536).

At the beginning of the February Campaign[3] 70 years ago (in 1952), I prayed deeply that every Kamata Chapter member without exception would experience the inner transformation of human revolution and gain strong conviction in faith. I knew that the joy they felt as a result would lead to accomplishing the noble task of sharing Nichiren Buddhism to realize Mr. Toda’s vow to achieve a membership of 750,000 households.

When we set the goal of achieving two new households per unit (present-day groups), some said it was impossible. “How can we say it’s impossible before we even try?” I responded. “Why don’t we try and see first?”

What would enable the members to courageously engage others in dialogue? Mr. Toda had offered three clear steps: understanding, recognition and action. In other words, they needed to:

  1. Understand that sharing Buddhism was their own responsibility and not something to be left to others.
  2. Recognize that doing so would enable them to change their karma.  
  3. Act based on that conviction.[4]

With that in mind, I took the lead by reaching out to my neighbors in my apartment building and others close to me. Whenever I learned of an opportunity for such dialogue, I rushed happily with fellow members to take part. 

Some members were disappointed when their efforts didn’t produce the results they’d hoped for. At such times, we all praised their efforts and assured them that everything they did was creating good fortune in their lives.  

Just making the effort to speak to someone about Buddhism produces great benefit. It sows the seeds of Buddhahood in that person’s heart. Such endeavors will not go unrecognized by the Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the universe.

I therefore devoted myself to warmly encouraging everyone I met at discussion meetings or anywhere else, so that each member could move forward with a positive, upbeat attitude.

As they spoke with one person after another, before they knew it, they found they had reached their goal.

The momentum in Kamata Chapter grew day after day, spreading throughout Japan. There were countless stories of revival and good fortune gained by those they introduced to Nichiren Buddhism. Notably, a member of a family that began practicing at that time went on to become a top leader of kosen-rufu in the United States. 

To be continued in an upcoming issue


  1. Eight cold hells: Hells, according to ancient Indian and Buddhist cosmology, said to lie under the continent of Jambudvipa next to the eight hot hells. Those who reside there are tormented by unbearable cold. ↩︎
  2. Josei Toda was born on Feb. 11, 1900, and Ikeda Sensei was born on Jan. 2, 1928. ↩︎
  3. February Campaign: In February 1952, Sensei, then an advisor to Tokyo’s Kamata Chapter, initiated a dynamic propagation campaign. Together with the Kamata members, he broke through the previous monthly record of some 100 new households by introducing Nichiren Buddhism to 201 new households. ↩︎
  4. Translated from Japanese. See Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 1 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1981), p. 74. ↩︎

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