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Ikeda Sensei

Living a Life of Dedication (Part 2)

Photo by Karsten Winegeart / Unsplash

The following essay was written by Ikeda Sensei as part of his series “The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin and the Mentor-Disciple Relationship,” originally published in the July 31, 2009, World Tribune. Part one appears in the Sept. 9, 2022, World Tribune. 

Therefore, I say to you, my disciples, try practicing as the Lotus Sutra teaches, exerting yourselves without begrudging your lives! (From “The Selection of the Time,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 583–84)

While we speak of “not begrudging our lives,” this certainly does not mean recklessly discarding our lives or treating them lightly.

Buddhism teaches “dedication,” or kimyo in Japanese. Ki, or “return,” means returning to the unchanging truth of Buddhism, and myo, or “life,” means basing one’s life on the Buddhist wisdom that functions in accordance with changing circumstances (see The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 3). Kimyo, then, means dedicating one’s life to the fundamental Law of the universe, to the ultimate truth of the Mystic Law. At the same time, it means bringing forth the wisdom deriving from that truth and vibrantly applying it in real life. This cycle of returning to the absolute truth and then coming back again to daily reality is the true meaning of kimyo, or dedication, in Buddhism.

A single drop of water by itself stands to evaporate and disappear, but if it joins the great ocean, it endures, gaining as it were a measure of eternity. By dedicating our lives to the Mystic Law, we can discard our “lesser self” and base ourselves on our “greater self,” thereby bringing our true innate brilliance to shine forth even more brightly. When we undergo such a transformative rebirth, we are able to live out our lives to the absolute fullest. This is the ultimate significance of our faith in the Mystic Law of time without beginning.

No one can avoid death. Everyone dies at some point or another. But if we devote our lives to the Mystic Law, their essence becomes one with the great life state embodied by Nichiren Daishonin, the great life state of Buddhahood of the universe as a whole. Those who dedicate their lives to the Mystic Law, working hard to uphold, protect and propagate it, can fuse their lives with this supreme realm of Buddhahood. They can attain a state of being that no amount of education or wealth can bring about.

A single drop of water by itself stands to evaporate and disappear, but if it joins the great ocean, it endures, gaining as it were a measure of eternity.

And after death, the lives of those who have been wholeheartedly dedicated to the Mystic Law to the very end will be free and unfettered, permeating the entire universe. The Mystic Law transforms everything into “the greatest of all joys” (OTT, 212). By basing ourselves on the Mystic Law, we are able to attain a state of absolute happiness in which we can experience joy in both life and death alike. This is the purpose of our Buddhist practice and all our struggles in this existence.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda said: “I triumphed during my two years in prison because I didn’t think about myself. I won because I accompanied Mr. Makiguchi there and resolved to give myself completely for the sake of kosen-rufu. From the moment I made that decision, all confusion and fear left me.”

Our hardships and challenges are barely anything when compared to the selfless struggles of first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Mr. Toda.

Those who are sincere win.

I’ve observed many people over the course of my long life, and I have to say that genuinely great individuals are rare. Nichiren asserts that of all the people he had met, there were “fewer than one in a thousand who impress me as truly admirable” (“Condolences on a Deceased Husband,” WND-2, 778).

During Nichiren’s lifetime, there were many arrogant disciples, including the five senior priests, who secretly thought themselves better than their teacher and looked down on him. There were even disciples who, far from respecting the Daishonin, were envious of him, as Devadatta was of Shakyamuni. [After Nichiren’s death, five of the six senior priests designated as Nichiren’s principal disciples betrayed his teachings. Nikko Shonin was the only one among these original senior disciples to correctly carry on Nichiren Buddhism.]

When Mr. Toda’s businesses fell on hard times, some in the Soka Gakkai showered him with abuse and insults as they turned their backs on him. This is the way of the world, unfortunately.

Those top leaders who abandoned their faith and betrayed the Soka Gakkai, to which they ought to have been indebted, were invariably people who neglected their daily practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and reciting the Lotus Sutra and who didn’t participate regularly in Soka Gakkai activities. They were defeated by their inner negativity and became victims of their own arrogance. As a result, their lives went off track, leading them to sad ruin, as many of you have witnessed.

In Buddhist practice, those who are earnest and sincere win. Those who move forward to the very end together with the Soka Gakkai, an unparalleled organization of “good friends,” or positive influences, are victors. How truly immense is the life state we can attain through exerting ourselves unsparingly for kosen-rufu. We can experience and demonstrate this for ourselves.

I knew that carrying out a revolution was a matter of do or die and that the spiritual revolution we sought to embark on as Mr. Toda’s disciples especially meant a willingness to dedicate our lives entirely to the Mystic Law. With this commitment, I personally gave my all to supporting and assisting my mentor, protecting the Soka Gakkai and encouraging my fellow members, thereby expanding our noble movement.

Having a position in the organization doesn’t automatically make a person great. The most admirable are those who strive the hardest for kosen-rufu. The Soka Gakkai is itself the embodiment of a Buddha. I have always believed that showing utmost respect for one’s mentor and the Soka Gakkai is to show utmost respect for Nichiren.

Selfless dedication is not something that can be coerced. It all comes down to our own commitment and whether we are ready to fight with a stand-alone spirit. Where serious commitment is lacking, carelessness sets in, and devilish functions take advantage. And when the entire organization is in earnest, it can demonstrate clear proof of victory in all struggles, even those against great injustice. In particular, nothing is stronger than the focused prayers of the women’s division members.

Those who excel in their fields are dedicated individuals.

To protect the Law, one’s mentor and one’s fellow members with an ungrudging spirit is to lead a truly admirable life. It represents the noblest essence of humanity in all the universe.

While exerting myself tirelessly to support Mr. Toda, I wrote in my diary as a young man: 

Each day, a fierce struggle. Youth go to battle, with all their might. 
Noble and beautiful are they. 
Eyes look up from their weariness. 
There, hope is kindled and future is born. 
There, the music of the heavens resounds.[1] 

I hope that my disciples in the youth division will boldly continue along this noble path.

The oneness of mentor and disciple is meaningless if it remains an empty, abstract theory. What matters is whether disciples actually embrace and enact the same commitment as their mentor at the core of their beings. This is the most important thing.

The German pianist Clara Schumann said, “In the end, doesn’t each person give his life for his calling?” Whatever our unique purpose or mission may be, by devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to it, we are creating something that will shine with eternal brilliance. Those who excel in their field—be it in the arts, scholarship and education, sports, politics or business—are usually extremely dedicated. They don’t begrudge their lives. They make excruciating efforts to keep improving, pushing themselves to the limit. They devote themselves wholeheartedly to their chosen field and continue to challenge themselves, which is why they are able to produce enduring works and achievements.

Let’s strive side by side with the heart of a lion king.

The Buddhist Law is the fundamental Law of the universe operating across the three existences of past, present and future. When we uphold and practice this Law with ungrudging commitment, our lives will be endowed with vast and immeasurable benefit and honor. The Daishonin likens the power of the Mystic Law to a spring in which “stones are changed into jewels” (“White Horses and White Swans,” WND-1, 1064). A life dedicated to the Mystic Law is the complete opposite of a shallow, self-centered life spent in pursuit of personal fame and fortune.

Mr. Toda said: “The movement for human revolution must be spread around the world. Daisaku, I want you to give your life to opening the way for global kosen-rufu. This is my heartfelt wish.” I have done just as he asked.

Similarly, all of you, my beloved fellow members, are exemplifying the spirit of “not begrudging one’s life” in contemporary society, based on this selfless commitment of the first three Soka Gakkai presidents. You are all striving tirelessly for the sake of Buddhism and the welfare of others, even in these difficult economic times. When you learn of friends in trouble, you hurry to encourage them, leaving your own worries aside. You sincerely chant until deep into the night. You courageously share Nichiren’s teachings with others in order to change society for the better. You confront unscrupulous individuals who seek to mislead the people, refuting the erroneous and revealing the true. Where else, apart from our worthy members, can one find such heroic individuals practicing Buddhism with such selfless commitment for the sake of others’ happiness?

“The Selection of the Time” as a whole focuses on the question of just who, in the 3,000-year history of Buddhism, are the votaries of the Lotus Sutra practicing with an ungrudging spirit just as the Buddha teaches. And it is the Soka Gakkai that is putting this writing into practice today.

All of you who are advancing kosen-rufu based on faith directly connected to Nichiren are embodiments of the foremost philosophy of our age. You are supremely noble practitioners striving with selfless dedication. Please be absolutely assured that the good fortune and benefit you are accumulating as a result is boundless and immeasurable, and will shine for all eternity, including in the lives of your descendants for infinite generations to come.

Advance together with me in the spirit of “not begrudging one’s life.” Let’s strive joyously side by side with the heart of a lion king. Commit yourselves deeply to Nichiren Buddhism.

Boldly inheriting
the legacy of Soka, 
the victory of 
our selfless struggles 
will endure eternally.


  1. A Youthful Diary, p. 31. ↩︎

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