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Ikeda Wisdom Academy

Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism: Wisdom for Realizing Happiness for All Humanity

Young men’s division members deepen their faith through study in Chandler, Arizona, June 2022. Photo by Ryan Hayashi

Chapter 9

“The Kalpa of Decrease”

Ikeda Sensei explains in this lecture that Nichiren Buddhism has the power to help people transform great evil into great good.

“The Kalpa of Decrease,” the writing we will study in this chapter, affirms that putting into practice the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism constitutes the “fundamental path to happiness for all people.”

A “kalpa of decrease” refers to a period when people’s vitality or life force wanes both spiritually and physically, owing to the three poisons of greed, anger and foolishness intensifying in their lives. The present era in which we find ourselves is regarded as belonging to a kalpa of decrease.

In such an age, the wisdom of Nichiren Buddhism is indispensable if we are to live with strength and integrity, unaffected by the three poisons, and achieve true happiness. This is because Nichiren Buddhism offers profound and perceptive insights into how we can overcome the inner delusions—characterized by the three poisons—that are the root cause of unhappiness.[1]

The Intensity of Three Poisons in the Latter Day of the Law

The present age [of the Latter Day of the Law] is such that neither the non-Buddhist scriptures, the Hinayana sutras, the Mahayana sutras, nor the one vehicle of the Lotus Sutra has any effect. The reason is that the enormity of the greed, anger, and foolishness in people’s hearts is equal to the superiority of the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment [Shakyamuni Buddha] in great good. … The extremity of greed, anger, and foolishness in people’s hearts in the impure world of the latter age makes it difficult for any worthy or sage to control.

This is because, though the Buddha cured greed with the medicine of the meditation on the vileness of the body, healed anger with the meditation on compassion for all, and treated foolishness with the meditation on the twelve-linked chain of causation, teaching these doctrines now makes people worse and compounds their greed, anger, and foolishness. (“The Kalpa of Decrease,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 1120–21)

In this writing, the Daishonin indicates that the three poisons of greed, anger and foolishness are the fundamental evil that weakens people’s vitality or life force. Because these poisons intensified in the Latter Day of the Law, the influence of people’s “evil wisdom” had come to outstrip that of the “good wisdom” of Buddhism (see WND-1, 1120). …

Nichiren declares that, in the Latter Day, the three poisons could not be controlled even by the wisdom of great good of Shakyamuni expounded in the teachings thus far. This was because, although people followed Shakyamuni’s teachings, their attachment to partial or expedient provisional doctrines had caused them to lose sight of the all-important aims of universal enlightenment and overcoming suffering that are the Buddha’s true intent. In the Latter Day, the Daishonin notes, these teachings of Shakyamuni no longer had the power to make positive use of and spread the wisdom of Buddhism and revitalize people’s lives and society as a whole.

When we come to deeply understand the Buddha’s intent of universal enlightenment as articulated in the Lotus Sutra, we realize how important it is for each of us to develop our full potential and take action for kosen-rufu, which carries the struggle of human revolution forward from one person to another.[2]

A Person of Wisdom and a Worthy Ruler Acting in Tandem for the People’s Welfare

Now in this latter, evil age, great evil arises less from secular wrongdoing than in connection with the doctrines of the religious world. When people today, who are unaware of this, endeavor to cultivate roots of good, events that lead to the ruin of the world occur all the more. Although superficially it may seem to be an act of good to provide support to the priests of the Tendai, True Word, and other schools of the present age, in reality it is a great evil surpassing even the five cardinal sins and the ten evil acts.

For this reason, in order that peace reign in the age, if a wise man existed in the world with wisdom like that of the World-Honored One of Great Enlightenment, and if he met with a worthy ruler like King Sen’yo and if together they devoted themselves to putting an end to these acts of good and committed the great evil of censuring, banishing, cutting off alms to, or even beheading those persons of the eight schools [of Buddhism] who are thought to be [persons] of wisdom, then the age may be pacified to some extent. (WND-1, 1121)

Here, Nichiren asserts that error in the realm of Buddhism causes more harm and suffering to the people than wrongdoing in the secular realm. He denounces the Buddhist schools in Japan of his day for espousing erroneous teachings that contributed to the misfortunes of the people. These schools, he said, were guilty of slandering the Law by going against the Buddha’s intent set forth in the Lotus Sutra—that is, discrediting the teaching that all people have the potential to attain enlightenment.

Shakyamuni’s basic wish was to enable all human beings to attain Buddhahood, as expressed most succinctly in his great vow in the Lotus Sutra “to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 70). The essence of this Buddhist ideal is for us to recognize all people can bring forth their infinitely noble Buddha nature and, based on that, to respect each other and build a peaceful society. …

Unfortunately, during the Daishonin’s day, the existing Buddhist schools had lost sight of the Buddha’s true intent and the fundamental ideals of Buddhism. They had become attached to partial or provisional teachings from the sutras expounded prior to the Lotus Sutra. Moreover, in the process of touting the teachings of their own schools as the ultimate truth of Buddhism, they slandered the Lotus Sutra and rejected the Buddhist wisdom that teaches respect for all human beings. …

The lay followers of the various Buddhist schools … were taken in by the priests’ religious authority and appearance of respectability and failed to see the true situation. As a result, though they thought they were accumulating good causes through their Buddhist practice, they were in fact, frighteningly enough, steeping themselves in the poison of slander of the Law. It was as if the healing medicine that people thought they had been prescribed was actually toxic. …

The Daishonin indicates that the only way for this situation to be remedied was for a wise person possessing the wisdom of the correct teaching and a worthy ruler to join together to put a stop to this great evil. …

A true person of wisdom in the Latter Day of the Law must embody not only the great good wisdom of the correct Buddhist teaching but also be able to detect error, fight against it and strive earnestly to free people from the hold of false teachings. Nichiren stood up as that person to engage in this struggle without begrudging his life. He was determined to convey the fearful nature of slander of the Law to the people of Japan. Undeterred by any obstacles or persecution, the Daishonin continued his efforts to educate people to the fact that the seemingly devout, self-renouncing priests of the day were actually guilty of the great evil of destroying Buddhism. …

A “worthy ruler” here represents a social entity that acknowledges a person of wisdom. Today, in our democratic society, the “worthy ruler” corresponds to a wise and awakened citizenry. Such a citizenry is vital if a peaceful and prosperous society is to be realized. As people grow wiser and stronger, the ideals of the sanctity of life and the absolute importance of peace will become more widely and deeply accepted and established in society. And this will lead to more people rejecting self-centered ideas that give rise to discrimination and war, which inflict human suffering. In other words, even if corrupt priests go unpunished, if the people become wise and are able to recognize evil for what it is and stop its spread, it will be cut off at its root. Ultimately, people themselves must strive to prevent the negative workings of life from manifesting and holding sway. … To create such a society, it is crucial to widely spread the philosophical principles of the sanctity of life, respect for all people and peacebuilding.

We, as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, have a personal mission and social responsibility to appeal to others’ conscience through the power of words, dialogue and ideas, and actualize a peaceful and prosperous society.[3]

To Know the Fundamental Causes and Manifestations of Good and Evil

This is explained in the first volume of the Lotus Sutra where it says, “The true aspect of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddhas. In the phrase “consistency from beginning to end,” “beginning” indicates the root of evil and the root of good, and “end” indicates the outcome of evil and the outcome of good. One who is thoroughly awakened to the nature of good and evil from their roots to their branches and leaves is called a Buddha. … The Lotus Sutra states, “[The doctrines that they preach … ] will never be contrary to the true [aspect]” [LSOC, 304]. T’ien-t’ai commented on this, saying that “no worldly affairs of life or work are ever contrary to the true [aspect].” A person of wisdom is not one who practices Buddhism apart from worldly affairs but, rather, one who thoroughly understands the principles by which the world is governed. (WND-1, 1121)

In this section of “The Kalpa of Decrease,” the Daishonin refers to the doctrines of the “true aspect of all phenomena” and “three thousand realms in a single moment of life” expounded in the Lotus Sutra. The “true aspect of all phenomena” is the reality of the world exactly as the Buddha wisdom perceives it. The Buddha wisdom perceives the true aspect of not only visible external phenomena but also the good and evil life conditions of living beings in the Ten Worlds, as well as the causes behind them.

When meeting people, a Buddha ponders the true reality of their life condition, the goodness or evil in their heart, their suffering and joy, the causes that have led them to unhappiness and misfortune. By doing so, a Buddha can accurately grasp what they need to do to positively transform their state of life, and then compassionately preaches the teaching that will help free each person from suffering—a teaching designed to inspire the particular individual to embark on a path of inner transformation.

Stated another way, a Buddha is one who thoroughly understands the root of good (enlightenment to the essential nature of phenomena) and the root of evil (fundamental darkness or ignorance), as well as the branches and leaves that sprout from those roots (the diverse manifestations of good and evil, suffering and joy, that express themselves in the real world). The correct teaching of Buddhism by its very nature is a teaching of transformation that allows each person to move out of negative cycles and onto a beneficial path of good.

In this section, the Daishonin quotes a passage from “Benefits of the Teacher of the Law,” the 19th chapter of the Lotus Sutra: “[The doctrines that they preach … ] will never be contrary to the true [aspect]” [LSOC, 304], and T’ien-t’ai’s commentary on this asserting that “no worldly affairs of life or work are ever contrary to the true [aspect].” …

The affairs of daily life, all without exception, are in themselves Buddhism. The illuminating light of the wisdom of Buddhism shines in the midst of the darkness of our troubled, tortured world, imparting hope, courage and reassurance. …

Buddhism does not exist apart from human society. A truly wise person is one who takes action to contribute to society and guides it in a positive direction through the power of Buddhist wisdom and compassion. Meanwhile, a society imbued with the wisdom of Buddhism will prosper and thrive.[4]

Great Evil Portends Great Good

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 [this sutra would] “be widely propagated throughout Jambudvipa.” (WND-1, 1122)

A society’s growth and development depend upon the ideals and philosophies valued by the people who make up that society.

The society of the Daishonin’s day refused to recognize the truths he presented to it. It condoned slander of the Law that brought suffering down upon the people. It was difficult for such a society to grow and prosper soundly, given that it granted legitimacy to erroneous Buddhist schools that either ignored or made an empty pretense of working for people’s happiness.

But the light of wisdom of the correct teaching of Buddhism shows its true worth in times of great confusion and turmoil. The Daishonin clearly believed that the darkest hour of night was but a prelude to a dawn of people’s awakening—an opportunity for change, a turning point. “Great evil portends the arrival of great good,” he writes. He is saying in effect: “There’s no need for pessimism. I, Nichiren, possessing the sun-like wisdom of the Buddha, have appeared in response to this dark time. Great evil portends the arrival of the great good of kosen-rufu.” How inspired and heartened the Daishonin’s followers must have been by his resolute conviction. …

Precisely because the Latter Day of the Law is a time of seemingly insoluble challenges, we can take action to transform things, overturning evil practices of the past, carrying out radical reevaluations and starting at the source to find solutions for change. Such thoroughgoing transformation will, quite naturally, meet with resistance, but it is the only way to open a new path forward. The Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin is a teaching of unwavering commitment to the positive transformation of reality—a teaching that makes it possible for us to change this troubled saha world into a realm of peace and happiness without fail.[5]

The Ikeda Wisdom Academy is an SGI-USA youth leaders advanced study movement. While the following material is for this study program, all SGI-USA members can read the following excerpts as part of their personal study of The Teachings for Victory, volume 2, by Ikeda Sensei.


  1. The Teachings for Victory, vol. 2, p. 144. ↩︎
  2. Ibid., pp. 146–47. ↩︎
  3. Ibid., pp. 148–50. ↩︎
  4. Ibid., pp. 151–52. ↩︎
  5. Ibid., pp. 154–55. ↩︎

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