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Ikeda Sensei

Moving From a Focus on Self to a Focus on Others

Altruistic—Statue of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement, in Gandhi Park, Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India. Gandhi says, “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his [fellow human beings].” Photo by Darren Robb / Getty Images.

The following excerpts are from Ikeda Sensei’s speech at a youth division leaders meeting held at the Soka International Friendship Hall in Tokyo on April 13, 1993. Video footage of the speech was broadcast during the most recent Soka Gakkai Headquarters leaders meeting on Aug. 27, 2022. This was translated from the Sept. 6, 2022, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the great first prime minister of independent India, lauded the achievements of the ancient Indian king Ashoka,[1] who ruled according to the principles of Buddhism: “Ashoka became an ardent Buddhist and tried his utmost to spread the Dharma [the Law]. But there was no force or compulsion. It was only by winning [people’s] hearts that he sought to make converts.”[2]

King Ashoka spread the Law by winning people’s hearts. This way of propagation is the hallmark of a Buddhist leader. It is the spirit of our movement for kosen-rufu.

Winning people’s hearts is the key. Genuine leaders are loved by the people. In their presence, people feel happy and secure; they are filled with hope, confidence and courage.

Only by winning the hearts of the youth, of the people, can we create a new history. There is no other way.

Let us always advance with sincerity and conviction. And let us expand our network of friendship with wisdom and creativity and in a joyful, positive way. 

I have spoken on many occasions of Mahatma Gandhi, the preeminent leader of the Indian independence movement, and I would like to do so again today for the sake of our young people.

Gandhi said: “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his [fellow human beings]”;[3] and “[My activities] all have their rise in my insatiable love of [humankind].”[4]

Gandhi took action for the welfare of his fellow citizens. He worked and toiled day and night for the welfare of humanity. He gave his entire life for the happiness and benefit of others. That is why he was great and also happy.

“For the sake of others”—those who strive with this spirit are strong. They fear nothing; they have no need to fear.

This is how I have overcome every obstacle and how I have won in every struggle. I was never defeated.

Those who care only about themselves are on a downward path. They never improve, are never fulfilled and never know true happiness.

In contrast, the Soka Gakkai is committed to making ever greater efforts as an unwavering ally of the people. I’d like you to do the same and lead great lives based on love for humanity.

Nichiren Buddhism is the wonderful teaching that enables all people equally to attain Buddhahood.

Nichiren Daishonin left us the Gohonzon so that we could gain the same life state as he did.

The spirit of a disciple is to strive with the same hope, commitment and efforts as the mentor. By doing so, the disciple is able to attain the same life state as the mentor. This path of mentor and disciple is the foundation of Buddhism and the eternal and direct way to the betterment of humankind.

Gandhi worked hard to open the way to peace and happiness for the people. His example inspired countless others to do the same.

I hope you, too, will follow the example of admirable seniors in faith and that, in turn, you will become a wonderful example for others.

You, our visiting SGI members attending here today, are also forging a path that will endure for all time in your respective countries and territories through your own human revolution. Please have confidence in your noble mission.

At the time of the harsh crackdown on the Daishonin’s followers known as the Atsuhara Persecution,[5] the young Nanjo Tokimitsu stood up fearlessly. In a letter, the Daishonin encourages the 21-year-old[6]Tokimitsu [by sharing a passage from the Lotus Sutra]: “We beg that the merit gained through these gifts [the benefit gained through making offerings in Buddhism] may be spread far and wide to everyone, so that we and other living beings all together may attain the Buddha way”[7] (“The Dragon Gate,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1003).

Your dedication to kosen-rufu is the greatest offering you can make to the Buddha. The benefit you derive from taking action for the Mystic Law enables not only you but also your parents, your siblings and all those connected to you to attain Buddhahood. You can help move everyone’s life in the direction of happiness.

That’s why all it takes is one person. Everything starts with one individual. Everything is decided by that person’s courageous and confident faith. I want to strongly impress this upon you today.

Also, the more you pray for others’ happiness, the greater happiness you will come to enjoy. When you pray for the health of others, your own health will also be protected. This is the wondrous power of the Mystic Law.

A person’s greatness is determined by whether they are focused on benefiting themselves or benefiting others. This also determines whether one’s faith is genuine or not.

I hope you will take action based on sincere prayer for the sake of the Law and the happiness of your friends and fellow members, and achieve a dynamic inner transformation—a great human revolution—moving from a focus on self to a focus on others.

The Daishonin says, “You must not spend your lives in vain and regret it for ten thousand years to come” (“The Problem to Be Pondered Night and Day,” WND-1, 622).

Our present life is short. But life itself is everlasting. Through our efforts in this brief existence, we can accumulate eternal good fortune and benefit. That is why we mustn’t allow ourselves to have any regrets in our work for kosen-rufu in this lifetime. What’s the point of faith if we die with regrets?

A life dedicated to kosen-rufu is extremely busy and may entail a lot of hard work. But it is ten or a hundred times more meaningful than an ordinary life. Be assured that, just as the Daishonin teaches, a life dedicated to kosen-rufu shines with eternal honor.

I close my speech today with my sincere prayers for your growth and successful endeavors.

Thank you to all our youth division members for your efforts and keep up the good work!


  1. King Ashoka (reign approximately 268–232 BCE): The third ruler of the Maurya dynasty and the first king to unify India. During the early years of his reign, he was a tyrant, but he later converted to Buddhism and governed compassionately in accordance with Buddhist ideals. ↩︎
  2. See Jawaharlal Nehru, Glimpses of World History (New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, 1995), p. 63. ↩︎
  3. See Mahatma Gandhi, Quotes of Gandhi, compiled by Shalu Bhalla (New Delhi: UBS Publishers’ Distributors, 1991), p. 140. ↩︎
  4. Ibid., p. 163. ↩︎
  5. Atsuhara Persecution: A series of threats and acts of violence against followers of Nichiren Daishonin in Atsuhara Village in Fuji District, Suruga Province (present-day central Shizuoka Prefecture), starting in around 1275 and continuing until around 1283. ↩︎
  6. According to the traditional Japanese way of counting. ↩︎
  7. This passage is from the Lotus Sutra’s seventh chapter, “The Parable of the Phantom City,” The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 168. ↩︎

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