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The Engaged Intellects of the Student Division

65 Years of the Student Division

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William Shakespeare declared: “Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful.”[1] Leaders possess a serious mission and responsibility to steer a course through stormy seas while shouldering the harsh challenges of reality.

The French writer André Maurois asserted that he could not imagine a society without leaders. Victor Hugo, reflecting on his own mission as a poet, cried out:

A curse on those who put on their sandals
when hatred and scandals
torment the agitated people;
Shame on those thinkers who injure
and set out, futile singers,
through the gates of the city![2]

Hugo’s impassioned rebuke reaches out over the ages to indict the leaders of today. As an old saying goes, “A fish rots from the head.” When the ranks of society’s leaders are filled with corrupt people driven by egotism and self-interest, dark times will prevail.

One cannot be considered a genuine leader unless one has an unshakable commitment to stand up resolutely for the welfare of the people, and has the solidly forged character and strength to courageously struggle together with them.

Han Yongun (1879–1944), the poet and champion of Korean independence, declared: “No family, society or nation anywhere can be sound unless its young people have real strength and ability.” This is absolutely true.

The last group that second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda established during his lifetime was the student division, a gathering of engaged intellects to whom he hoped to entrust the future of kosen-rufu.

Youth, who are the future! Students possessing outstanding intellect! Battle against social evil and strive to keenly discern and resolve society’s contradictions. Develop relentless strength in criticizing injustice, along with a formidable ability to refute error and remonstrate against irresponsible speech and journalism, and the arrogant attitudes of those who think they are better than others. This is as befits a youth, a student. For that reason, hone your intellect and wield it with pride for the sake of truth and justice.

My friends, please do not simply indulge in abstract intellectualism, or allow yourselves to become intellectual posers who seek only popularity. Do not lead shallow, mediocre lives. Each person has his or her own particular mission. I hope you will be young champions of the spirit who strive to fulfill your missions.

The German physicist and Nobel laureate Manfred Eigen said: “The new university cannot afford to remain isolated. It must direct its efforts toward the outside and be open to the world.”[3]

My young friends, challenge the new frontiers of kosen-rufu! Never forget that second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, with the profoundest of expectations, called on the members of the student division to become powerful forces of justice and wisdom, people dedicated to truth and good.

This year [2004] marks the 10th anniversary of democracy in South Africa, and this month [August] saw the opening in that country of the Gandhi, King, Ikeda: A Legacy of Building Peace exhibit, co-sponsored by Morehouse College’s Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel of Atlanta.

South African Minister of Arts and Culture Pallo Jordan was among those who viewed the exhibit. He commented that a long road had to be walked in order to realize the great ideal of peace, and emphasized that we must never hesitate to move forward in that journey. I heartily agree with his words. The courage to overcome fear and cowardice is essential, as are indomitable perseverance and tenacity.

South Africa was also the starting point of Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance movement.

Over the years, I have engaged in many memorable discussions with South African leaders, including former presidents Nelson Mandela and Frederik W. de Klerk, as well as current president Thabo Mbeki, motivated by my deep concern for peace in South Africa and the happiness of all of its people.

One of the crucial events in the struggle to end the nightmare of apartheid, the South African policy of enforced racial discrimination widely denounced as a crime against humanity, occurred when the burning passion of students ignited a new awareness in the hearts of Black South Africans. This was the Black Consciousness Movement led by Steve Biko, a medical student at the University of Natal.

Biko once declared: “Material want is bad enough, but coupled with spiritual poverty it kills.”[4] Spiritual poverty—this indicates the feelings of powerlessness and inferiority that had been instilled over centuries of colonial rule in South Africa. “You are either alive and proud or you are dead,”[5] wrote Biko, and that is why he strove “to rekindle their hope.”[6] The movement Biko initiated could be described as a movement for the inner transformation, or human revolution, of the South African people.

And the people, until then bowed and oppressed, rose up with firm resolve, facing the future, their eyes shining with hope and triumph. This alarmed the authorities, who had long ridden on the people’s backs. The courage exhibited by Biko and his fellow students spread to countless others, eventually moving South African society to dismantle the apartheid system.

Whatever the age or era, students command the power to change the times. This power serves as a force for vigorously awakening society and bringing about momentous transformation. History bears eloquent testimony to this truth.

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “It is the heart that is important” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1000). This is one of his most essential teachings. When our heart, the source of everything, is blazing with an ardent commitment to truth and justice, it can ignite the hearts of many others.

All of our members, both young and old, feel immense hope, peace of mind, courage and pride when they see our valiant student division members, young people of intellect burning with passion and striving toward the future. Therefore, I would like our student division members, for whom everyone has such high expectations, to plunge into the midst of the people and live out their lives there. Joining hands together with many others, please earnestly proclaim our cause.

Learning is light, and knowledge is power. Scientific principles and intellectual reason transcend national boundaries and possess a universality that can be appreciated by anyone. They have the power of truth that can even bring down tyrants.

Nichiren Daishonin says that we should regard the widespread propagation of the Mystic Law throughout the world as being “due to the authority and supernatural power of Bodhisattva Universal Worthy” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 190). This bodhisattva represents universal wisdom, a quality that is essential. We live in the defiled age of the Latter Day of the Law, when the harmful actions of pseudo-intellectuals—no better than “talented animals” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 258)—grow increasingly prevalent.

That is why there must be an emergence of champions of genuine wisdom, an emergence of engaged intellects of unlimited ability who refuse to condone such evil. “Is not a person of wisdom one who admonishes the ruler when the country is endangered or corrects others’ mistaken views?” (“The Letter of Petition from Yorimoto,” WND-1, 807), declares Nichiren. This is an important passage that our wise student division members should take to heart.

Nichiren Daishonin made a great vow to become the wisest person in all Japan so that he could lead people to the royal road of genuine happiness. Seeking to clarify the fundamental Law, he traveled to different parts of the country in his youth to study all the Buddhist scriptures.

Please study in order to benefit others and achieve victory in life. Study voraciously so that you may help suffering individuals find happiness. Whatever dark nights of hardship you may encounter, never lose sight of this fixed polestar, the purpose of your studies.

Mr. Toda once worked as a hauler while putting himself through school. Years later, he gave a youth in Kansai a photograph of himself engaged in that work, with an inscription encouraging the young man to advance intrepidly through the tempests that lay ahead of him.

I, too, worked my way through school, attending night classes while holding down a day job. And then I had to stop attending even night school so that I could more fully support my mentor. But I never gave up my struggle to gain an education. I continued my studies at that rare private study forum called “Toda University,” where my mentor personally tutored me.

Mine was the happiest youth imaginable, without the slightest regret, illuminated by the light of the mission of mentor and disciple to achieve victory.

Each of you, the members of the student division, has a noble mission. First and foremost, it is essential that you develop yourselves. Strike while the iron is hot. Now is the time to thoroughly polish your hearts and minds.

Today, our network of student division members extends across the globe. In North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania, students who uphold the Mystic Law are studying the unparalleled philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism and promoting honest and open dialogue.

My young friends of the student division, each of you has an alma mater of which you can be proud. And you also have the lifelong pride of having been a student division member—a starting point to which you can always return.

Now, advance kosen-rufu! Your generation is responsible for kosen-rufu in the 21st century, shouldering the next 50 years. I hope therefore that with bright cheer and courage, you will widely expand your circle of friends to encompass the entire world. Remember that this is the key to stirring a huge groundswell of kosen-rufu and attaining the historic victory of Buddhist humanism that is our dream.

The 19th-century French historian Jules Michelet, who also struggled as a young man while pursuing his studies, called out to the youth: “Responsibility for the future rests with you, the world needs you.”[7]   

My young friends of the student division, who uphold the Mystic Law and possess a profound mission! Please strive for greatness. Develop strength. Win in all your endeavors. While striving to vanquish wrongdoing and injustice for the sake of peace and people’s welfare, build great and noble lives adorned with brilliant smiles.

I am watching you with my sincerest prayers as you advance joyously from one triumph to the next.


  1. William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, in The Complete Works (New York: Gramercy Books, 1975), Act III, Scene 1, p. 112. ↩︎
  2. Translated from French. Victor Hugo, “Fonction du poëte,” in Ouevres Complètes (Paris: Le Club Français du Livre, 1971), p. 27. ↩︎
  3. Translated from German. Manfred Eigen, Die Idee der Universität (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1988), p. 110. ↩︎
  4. Steve Biko, I Write What I Like (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1978), p. 28. ↩︎
  5. Ibid., p. 152. ↩︎
  6. Ibid., p. 137. ↩︎
  7. Translated from French. Jules Michelet, L’Étudiant (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1970), p. 151. ↩︎

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