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Ikeda Sensei

Striving With Lion-Hearted Courage on the Noble Path of Mentor and Disciple

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The following excerpts are from Ikeda Sensei’s speech at the 13th Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting held at the Tokyo Makiguchi Memorial Hall in Tokyo, on July 9, 1997. Video footage of the speech was broadcast during the 11th Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting Toward Our Centennial held on Nov. 12, 2022. This was translated from the Nov. 22, 2022, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun. 

Nichiren Daishonin writes:  

Everywhere other than the Capital of Tranquil Light is a realm of suffering. Once you leave the haven of inherent enlightenment, what is there to bring you joy? I pray that you will embrace the Mystic Law, which guarantees that people “will enjoy peace and security in their present existence and good circumstances in future existences” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 136). This is the only glory that you need seek in your present lifetime, and is the action that will draw you toward Buddhahood in your next existence. Single-mindedly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and urge others to do the same; that will remain as the only memory of your present life in this human world. (“Embracing the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 64)

True joy is found in working for kosen-rufu, in taking action for our own and others’ happiness. 

Nichiren Daishonin says that the Lotus Sutra is the great teaching of perpetual youth and eternal life (see “Reply to Kyo’o,” WND-1, 413). Aging and death will not be a source of suffering. As long as we keep the flame of faith alive, the fire of life force will forever burn brightly within us. Faith is the engine that enables us to live with great confidence, transcending the sufferings of birth and death, our hearts filled with hope to the very end.

The Soka Gakkai offers a model for today’s world where people are living longer. There is no more wonderful path in life [than the path of Soka]. 

Human connections and personal interaction are vital. It’s important that we connect and interact with many others, both inside and outside the organization. 

How can we expand our state of life? By expanding our human relations. I hope that as leaders, each of you, therefore, will form strong connections with others. Genuine leaders have a solid connection with their members and with people around them. 

Human connections and personal interaction are vital. It’s important that we connect and interact with many others, both inside and outside the organization. Doing so expands and enriches our lives. 

Just before his death, the Russian author Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) called for his beloved youngest daughter, Alexandra, and dictated some notes to her. One important thing he mentioned at that time was that the more we unite or connect with others, the more we truly exist.[1] He wanted to record these words for posterity. 

In the Soka Gakkai, this means engaging in dialogue, sharing the Daishonin’s teachings with others and advancing kosen-rufu. 

The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) once said: 

It is a great folly to hope that other men will harmonize with us. … For it is in conflict with natures opposed to his own that a man must collect his strength to fight his way through; and thus all our different sides are brought out and developed, so that we soon feel ourselves a match for every foe.[2]

Those who make the effort to engage in dialogue with as many people as possible are victors in life. Our victory is determined by how much energy we put into caring for and supporting others. The more we form solid connections with diverse individuals and inspire them to work for kosen-rufu, the greater our own victory.

From the time of our founding president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the aim of the Soka Gakkai has been kosen-rufu.

When did Mr. Makiguchi first use the term kosen-rufu in public? When did he proclaim the Soka Gakkai to be an organization dedicated to realizing kosen-rufu? It was not at a time when all was going well for the Soka Gakkai but when it was in the midst of persecution.

In May 1942, the organization’s fourth general meeting was held—just six months after Japan started the Pacific War.  

Initially, Japan won a string of military victories. But that was not to last. Soon, it reached an impasse. Then, the tide began to reverse as one defeat followed another. Yet the government broadcast nothing but lies to its citizens. Ignorant of what was really happening, people congratulated themselves on Japan’s military prowess and divine mission, and an intoxicated mood of triumph spread throughout the land.  

But Mr. Makiguchi saw the truth and already perceived that Japan would be destroyed—that it would be utterly defeated. He possessed discerning faith and character, enabling him to see the real nature of things as if reflected in a clear mirror—possessing what might be described in Buddhist terms as the “eye of the Law” or the “eye of the Buddha.”

At the general meeting, he declared: “We must guide the country in the direction of great good. This is like making a landing in the face of the enemy.”[3] He was saying, in other words, that trying to engage with corrupt, close-minded individuals and show them the way to good is the equivalent of making a military landing on hostile shores.

He stated: “I believe that, by working for the happiness of our families and the welfare of society, we can contribute in part to the realization of kosen-rufu.”[4] This was his first public mention of kosen-rufu. It was a declaration that he would dedicate his life to that cause until it was achieved.   

And Mr. Makiguchi truly strove tirelessly for kosen-rufu, spreading the Mystic Law. Amid persecution by the authorities and while already at an advanced age, he conducted more than 240 discussion meetings (from May 1941 to June 1943, when he turned 72). He also traveled alone to different regions and personally introduced some 500 people to Nichiren Buddhism (from 1930, the year of the Soka Gakkai’s founding, to July 1943, when he was arrested).   

Setting to work at the most difficult times and in the most difficult places is the way to achieve great things, to open a new page of history. We should deeply take to heart this Soka Gakkai spirit.  

The more difficult the challenge, the more bravely we must tackle it. This is the essence of the Soka Gakkai spirit. When we personally go to the most challenging places, a way forward will open.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, too, stood up in the most challenging time of postwar Japan, with the resolve: “Now is the time for kosen-rufu.” When we face a tough situation, that’s the time we need to summon our courage.  

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “When an evil ruler in consort with priests of erroneous teachings tries to destroy the correct teaching and do away with a man of wisdom, those with the heart of a lion king are sure to attain Buddhahood” (“Letter from Sado,” WND-1, 302). Cowards will not attain Buddhahood; only those who possess the heart of a lion king will do so, he teaches. 

The more difficult the challenge, the more bravely we must tackle it. This is the essence of the Soka Gakkai spirit. When we personally go to the most challenging places, a way forward will open.  

While Mr. Makiguchi was calling for kosen-rufu, what was the priesthood doing? They were undermining kosen-rufu—just as they are again today.  

During the war, the priesthood banned publication of Nichiren’s writings and deleted 14 key passages from them, including “I, Nichiren, am the foremost sage in all Jambudvipa [the entire world]” (“A Sage Perceives the Three Existences of Life,” WND-1, 642). 

The priesthood also enshrined the Shinto talisman at their head temple, Taiseki-ji, and pressed Mr. Makiguchi to accept the talisman as well. What gross slander of the Law! When Mr. Makiguchi adamantly refused, the priesthood secretly allied itself with those persecuting the Soka Gakkai.  

What about Mr. Makiguchi’s other disciples? How did they respond? They were astonished and alarmed at how forcefully their mentor was moving forward. They were not lions; they were cats and mice.  

While Mr. Makiguchi called out for the realization of kosen-rufu and for remonstrating with the national authorities, his disciples were gripped with fear, saying: “It’s too dangerous now,” “It’s premature,” “We’ll be arrested by the military police.”

Mr. Toda alone remained unperturbed, proudly identifying himself as Mr. Makiguchi’s disciple and affirming his commitment to stand by Mr. Makiguchi, whatever happened. He offers us a truly solemn example of the mentor-disciple spirit. 

Later, Mr. Toda expressed his gratitude to his mentor, saying, “In your vast and boundless compassion, you let me accompany you even to prison.”[5] When he was imprisoned, far from complaining, Mr. Toda had profound appreciation. He was honored to share persecution with his mentor. This is the true spirit of mentor and disciple.  

After he was released from prison, Mr. Toda stood up alone and raised anew the banner of kosen-rufu that his mentor had held aloft. Because he was one in spirit with his mentor, he was able to overcome the tragedy of Mr. Makiguchi’s death and create a powerful groundswell for kosen-rufu.

We of the Soka Gakkai must never forget this path of the oneness of mentor and disciple.

In our movement for kosen-rufu today, too, when the leaders advance, everyone advances. When the leaders grow, everyone grows. But if the leaders are all words and no action, there will be no victory. 

When a leader resolves, “I will challenge my human revolution! I will develop myself!” and then personally initiates action, the driving force for continual victory is born. That is the only formula for being ever victorious. 

Nichiren Daishonin says: “The Law does not spread by itself: because people propagate it, both the people and the Law are respectworthy” (Gosho zenshu, p. 856).[6]

In our movement for kosen-rufu, everything depends on capable people. We have to find, raise and gather fresh talent. Those who can succeed in this endeavor are themselves people of outstanding ability. I would like the Soka Gakkai to redouble its energies in these efforts—a “revolution in fostering capable people”—for the 21st century. 

On that note I will conclude my remarks today. Thank you for listening so patiently.

December 9, 2022, World Tribune, p. 2


  1. Alexandra Tolstoy, Tolstoy: A Life of My Father, translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1953), p. 520. ↩︎
  2. Johann Peter Eckermann, Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann, translated by John Oxenford and edited by J. K. Moorhead (New York: Da Capo Press, 1998), p. 59. ↩︎
  3. Translated from Japanese: Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), p. 147. ↩︎
  4. Ibid., p. 148. ↩︎
  5. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, “Makiguchi Sensei san-kaiki ni” (On President Makiguchi’s Third Memorial), Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 3 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1983), p. 386. ↩︎
  6. From “Hyaku Rokka Sho” (The One Hundred and Six Comparisons); not included in The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vols. 1 and 2. ↩︎

This Month in Soka Gakkai History (December)