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Ikeda Wisdom Academy

Striving for Kosen-rufu in the Spirit of the Oneness of Mentor and Disciple Is the Key to True ‘Peace and Security in This Existence’

Photo by JJ Chien.

Chapter 1

“On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings”—Part 1 of 3

Nichiren Daishonin addressed “On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings” to all his followers, urging them to courageously uphold and spread the Buddha’s teachings, taking on any opposition they are bound to face along the way. 

The title of this letter literally translates as “On Practicing as the Buddha Teaches.” Here, “as the Buddha teaches” can also be interpreted to mean “as the teacher expounds.” Nichiren set an example for his disciples by reading the correct teaching of the Lotus Sutra with his life and practicing as the Buddha teaches. He waged a confrontation of words to “refute the erroneous and reveal the true,” holding high the banner of universal enlightenment. …

Mr. Toda made a large double circle in red next to the title “On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings” in his copy of Nichiren’s writings to indicate the special importance of this writing. As his loyal and devoted disciple, I also read this letter countless times, engraving in my heart Nichiren’s spirit to refute error in the realm of Buddhism. …

“On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings” outlines how genuine disciples strive to realize Buddhism’s lofty ideals, unafraid of hardships, just as their teacher instructs. It is an important writing that contains the essence of the oneness of mentor and disciple. Let us engrave it deeply in our lives for the continuing development of kosen-rufu and the SGI’s enduring victory into the eternal future of the Latter Day of the Law.[1]

The Challenges of Propagating the Mystic Law in the Latter Day

Dated the fifth month of 1273, “On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings” was composed at Ichinosawa on Sado Island during Nichiren Daishonin’s exile. As the postscript indicates, it is addressed “To all my followers,” along with the instruction, “Keep this letter with you at all times and read it over and over” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 396). In this writing, Nichiren encourages his disciples to emulate his example of practicing the Lotus Sutra as the Buddha teaches and to diligently uphold their faith.

In his day, exile to Sado was tantamount to a death sentence; most people condemned to this remote isle never returned alive. During his time there, Nichiren’s life was in constant danger. In “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” dated one month later, he writes, “The chances are one in ten thousand that I will survive the year or even the month” (WND-1, 402). 

Undaunted by indescribable hardships and privations, Nichiren proclaimed his struggle as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law to illuminate the darkness shrouding humankind with the light of universal enlightenment. The previous year, in the second month of 1272, he had composed “The Opening of the Eyes,” which reveals the object of devotion in terms of the Person. This was followed in the fourth month of 1273, just one month prior to “On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings,” with “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” which reveals the object of devotion in terms of the Law. With the completion of these two important treatises, Nichiren had established the doctrinal framework for his teaching for the enlightenment of all people into the eternal future.

The rest was now up to his disciples. He knew that everything would hinge on individuals genuinely committed to the correct teaching. If such dedicated disciples rose to action, kosen-rufu could be achieved without fail. …

At the beginning of this writing, Nichiren states, “Those who are born in this land and believe in this sutra when it is propagated in the Latter Day of the Law will be subjected to hatred and jealousy even greater than that which arose in the lifetime of the Thus Come One.” This is based on the Lotus Sutra passage “Since hatred and jealousy toward this sutra abound even when the Thus Come One is in the world, how much more will this be so after his passing?” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 203).

His purpose in making this statement is to deepen his followers’ awareness of their mission to propagate the Mystic Law in this latter age and to prepare them for the opposition they are bound to incur along the way. Those fainthearted and afraid of hardship cannot realize the momentous undertaking of kosen-rufu. True disciples are those who stand up with the same ardent commitment as Nichiren to guide people to enlightenment and who have the dauntless strength to face obstacles head-on with selfless dedication. The joy of struggling together with one’s mentor, sharing the same purpose, is also a source of boundless strength that helps one rise above all manner of hardships.[2]

“No Matter What Happens, Be Fearless!”

What is more, once you become a disciple or lay supporter of the votary who practices the true Lotus Sutra in accord with the Buddha’s teachings, you are bound to face the three types of enemies. Therefore, from the very day you listen to [and take faith in] this sutra, you should be fully prepared to face the great persecutions of the three types of enemies that are certain to be more horrible now after the Buddha’s passing. Although my disciples had already heard this, when both great and small persecutions confronted us, some were so astounded and terrified that they even forsook their faith. Did I not warn you in advance? (WND-1, 391)

Nichiren clearly states that those who practice as the Buddha teaches are bound to be assailed by the three powerful enemies and meet with persecutions even more severe than those during Shakyamuni’s lifetime. …

As for the three powerful enemies, these are manifestations of the workings of the devil king of the sixth heaven, or heavenly devil—the most fearful of the three obstacles and four devils. As the teacher waging an unremitting battle against the onslaughts of these enemies, Nichiren constantly warned his followers that they were certain to encounter obstacles far worse than those experienced during Shakyamuni’s time. Nevertheless, some grew fainthearted and stopped practicing. It got to the point, writes Nichiren, where “999 out of 1,000 people … gave up their faith” (“Reply to Niiama,” WND-1, 469).

Whether disciples triumph over devilish functions or are defeated by them will have a decisive impact on the spread of the Mystic Law in the Latter Day. Nothing is more painful for the teacher than to see disciples defeated by such obstacles.[3]

The True Nature of the “Battle Between the Provisional and the True Teachings”

This is indeed an accursed time to live in this land! However, the Buddha has commanded me to be born in this age, and it is impossible for me to go against the decree of the Dharma King. And so, as the sutra dictates, I have launched the battle between the provisional and the true teachings. Donning the armor of endurance and girding myself with the sword of the wonderful teaching, I have raised the banner of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, the heart of the entire eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra. … (WND-1, 392)

The Daishonin indicates that, far from simply waiting to be subjected to hardships, he has actively embarked on the “battle between the provisional and the true teachings.” …

The Latter Day is a time when Buddhism falls into serious decline and all but perishes. Confusion reigns as to what constitutes the Buddha’s correct teaching, with rival schools incessantly quarreling and disputing the validity of the different teachings they advocate. In addition to this confusion and disorder in the realm of Buddhism, people also become confused and disordered, and the land is imperiled as a result. …

In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni states that among his teachings there are those he expounded as expedient means (the provisional teachings, or the three vehicles) and one that contains his true intent (the true teaching, or the one vehicle). He then instructs that, after his passing, his disciples should honestly discard the expedient teachings and spread the one vehicle of the Lotus Sutra. It is, therefore, the duty of votaries of the Lotus Sutra who appear in the Latter Day, when the Law is in danger of disappearing, to carry on the “battle between the provisional and true teachings” so as to make a clear distinction between them. The purpose of this battle is solely to prevent the correct Buddhist teaching from perishing.

Those who clarify the differences between the provisional teachings and the true teaching in the Latter Day, when the Buddha’s teachings are in complete disarray, are certain to incur resentment and hostility from the established Buddhist schools, whose religious authority is based on the claimed supremacy of various provisional sutras. It is sure to unleash a storm of criticism, misunderstanding, and persecution. Consequently, those who wage this battle must do so with the recognition that this is “an accursed time” and don the “armor of endurance” so that they can withstand the inevitable fierce onslaughts.

The most powerful weapon in this battle is the Lotus Sutra itself, in which the Buddha clearly distinguished between the provisional teachings and the true teaching. Hence, Nichiren uses the expression, the “sword of the wonderful teaching.” Nothing can cut through or refute error as incisively as the Buddha’s own words. The practice of refuting erroneous teachings in the realm of Buddhism is ultimately a struggle of compassion fought with the force of reason. If it were to be waged with anything other than reason—for example, authority or brute force—then it would not be the battle of ideas commanded by the Buddha. …

The “banner of the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, the heart of the entire eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra” refers to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the essence of the Lotus Sutra. It is the banner of the forces who champion the correct teaching. It is the “banner of propagation of the Lotus Sutra” (“The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” WND-1, 831), carried by the practitioners who widely proclaim the Mystic Law—a teaching of universal enlightenment—and refute error that plunges people into suffering. 

The “five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo” constitute the name of the Buddha nature of all living beings, and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the practice that makes it possible for both ourselves and others to manifest this Buddha nature from within. This means that each of us has the power to unfurl the banner of victory in our lives. Ultimately, the “battle between the provisional and the true teachings” is a struggle for human victory, one in which we aim—through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo based on strong faith in the Mystic Law—to overcome all suffering and misfortune and open the way to happiness for everyone. …

In this passage, Nichiren also speaks of repulsing the attacks of enemies and defeating them. I would especially like our youth division members to emulate this spirit and have the unflagging determination to eradicate all roots of evil that cause people suffering and misery. To achieve kosen-rufu, we need to defeat the devilish nature or negativity that resides and proliferates in the human heart.[4]

Whether disciples triumph over devilish functions or are defeated by them will have a decisive impact on the spread of the Mystic Law in the Latter Day.

Tenacious Dialogue and Shining Humanity

“The Lotus Sutra is the teaching of shakubuku, the refutation of the provisional doctrines.” True to the letter of this golden saying, in the end, every last one of the believers of the provisional teachings and schools will be defeated and join the retinue of the Dharma King. The time will come when all people will abandon the various kinds of vehicles and take up the single vehicle of Buddhahood, and the Mystic Law alone will flourish throughout the land. … There cannot be the slightest doubt about the sutra’s promise of “peace and security in their present existence.” (WND-1, 392)

Nichiren Daishonin is not saying here that one school of Buddhism will gain dominance over all the other schools—even though he noted that the “eight and ten schools” of the day were in disarray and quarreled endlessly among themselves, a defining feature of an age of conflict. What he means is that the Mystic Law—the ultimate essence of the Buddha’s enlightenment, which is also the original source of the various Buddhist schools—will come to function as the fundamental guiding principle of society without opposition or impediment.

[This passage] refers to a situation where people readily accept the correct teaching upon hearing it, without slander or opposition. It is a time when the benefit of this teaching—the Law for the enlightenment of all people that the Buddha demonstrated with his life and taught to others—spreads widely among the people. This also signifies “establishing the correct teaching” in terms of Nichiren’s principle of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.”

Mr. Makiguchi referred to “major good” as an aspect of the spiritual value that would be realized through spreading the Mystic Law. Mr. Toda, meanwhile, espoused “human revolution” for all humankind. Inheriting their legacy, I have taken the further step of emphasizing the “dignity and sanctity of life” as the spiritual value to be shared and toward which all humanity should aspire.

Kosen-rufu is the most difficult of undertakings. It involves an inner transformation in people’s lives. Faith in the Mystic Law is a self-motivating force. Steadfast efforts in one-to-one dialogue are indispensable to nurturing that faith, giving each person confidence in his or her potential to change from within.

Nichiren speaks of all people abandoning the various other vehicles and taking up the single vehicle of Buddhahood. The Law does not spread through coercion. As such, the ideal described in the aforementioned quote will only be realized when the humanism of Nichiren Buddhism gains widespread acceptance, becomes the philosophical current of society and develops into humankind’s shared value. Kosen-rufu cannot be accomplished without tenacious dialogue and the shining humanity of those who spread the Law. …

When we exert ourselves in our Buddhist practice, our Buddhahood is powerfully activated. Our lives come to brim with supreme joy. There is no tragic self-sacrifice in the Nichiren Buddhist spirit of “selfless dedication” or “not begrudging one’s life.” When we vigorously challenge ourselves, joy always pulses vibrantly in our lives.[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, pp. 1–17. ↩︎
  2. Ibid., pp. 5–6. ↩︎
  3. Ibid., pp. 7–8. ↩︎
  4. Ibid., pp. 9–12. ↩︎
  5. Ibid., pp. 12–15. ↩︎

The Power of Hope

District Study Meeting Material