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Ikeda Sensei

The Future Is Now!

The Lay Nun Toki

New dawn—The sun rises over Chicago in May, when we celebrate Soka Gakkai Day, New Year’s Day in the SGI, a day members refresh their resolve to work for the happiness of all people. Photo by Bob Nardi

This is from a series of Ikeda Sensei’s encouragement for the members of the junior high and high school divisions. It was translated from the Jan. 1, 2020, issue of the Mirai [Future] Journal, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly newspaper for the junior high and high school divisions.

Happy New Year!

Each and every one of you, my dear members of the future division, is the protagonist of this Year of Advancement and Capable People [2020], because you are capable individuals who are the hope of humanity. Your advancement, your development, will shape our world’s future.

Jan. 26 is SGI Day. On this day in 1975, the Soka Gakkai International was founded at the First World Peace Conference held on Guam.

On that occasion, I pledged with representatives from 51 countries and territories to illuminate global society with Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of the Sun. And I urged them: “Rather than seeking after your own praise or glory, I hope that you will dedicate your noble lives to sowing the seeds of peace of the Mystic Law throughout the entire world. I shall do the same.”

In the 45 years since then, the pioneer members who made a vow for kosen-rufu at that time have encouraged one person after another and sown the seeds of peace in people’s hearts around the globe. Today, our movement has spread to 192 countries and territories, bringing fragrant flowers of happiness and trust to bloom in profusion.

World peace is not found somewhere far away. It starts with engaging in openhearted dialogue with the person in front of you and building a sincere friendship with them.

The Soka Gakkai is a great humanistic movement that vibrantly keeps alive and puts into practice Nichiren’s spirit of treasuring each individual.

In this installment, let’s study a letter that the Daishonin wrote to the lay nun Toki (the wife of Toki Jonin) and learn about the infinite potential of every human being and how precious and irreplaceable each day is.

Toki Jonin became a central figure among Nichiren’s disciples early on. The Daishonin addressed many important writings to him, including “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind.” 

The lay nun Toki steadfastly exerted herself in faith alongside her husband, while also devotedly caring for her elderly mother-in-law. Later, when she herself fell ill, Nichiren encouraged her repeatedly. 

In his letter “On Prolonging One’s Life Span,” he writes: “Life is the most precious of all treasures. Even one extra day of life is worth more than ten million ryo of gold” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 955).

It was a time of extreme uncertainty in Japan. Anyone could lose their life at any moment. There were frequent natural disasters such as destructive rains and winds and severe drought. People were also unsettled by the threat of another Mongol invasion.

On top of this, the lay nun Toki was suffering from a long illness. She may well have felt helpless and afraid she would never recover.

The Daishonin sent her inspiring encouragement to rouse her life force. With the words “Life is the most precious of all treasures” (“On Prolonging One’s Life Span,” WND-1, 955), he was telling her: “You yourself are precious. You are worthy of the highest respect.”

I myself suffered from tuberculosis during my youth, and I copied this passage in my diary. It inspired me to renew my determination to survive no matter what and continue striving to make fresh achievements again tomorrow.

I worked very hard alongside my mentor, Josei Toda; threw myself into Soka Gakkai activities; ardently chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo; and continued my studies whenever I could find a spare moment.

Some of you may also be struggling with illness. I am always praying strongly with all my heart that the positive forces of the universe will protect each of you, who have such a profound mission.

In the same letter, Nichiren also writes, “One day of life is more valuable than all the treasures of the major world system” (WND-1, 955).

As you continue to chant earnestly and take a step forward with a tenacious challenging spirit day after precious day, the treasures of your life filled with infinite potential will shine with the light of happiness and success.

Even if the path you have chosen doesn’t seem to be opening as hoped, please never give up on yourself. Your Buddhist faith and practice will enable you to create a story of reversing adversity into victory.

The Kenyan environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai (1940–2011) changed history through her tireless steady efforts.

Her homeland was suffering from severe environmental destruction. She rallied women in rural areas to plant trees together, one by one. This Green Belt Movement eventually succeeded in planting tens of millions of trees throughout Kenya. Because of her efforts to protect the environment and human rights, however, Dr. Maathai was targeted with violence and even arrested.

But the movement she started, firmly rooted in the community, inspired countless capable individuals and set in motion a groundswell for environmental protection throughout the world.

In 2005, I welcomed Dr. Maathai together with a group of youth division members at the Seikyo Shimbun Building in Tokyo. While wishing the youth a bright future, she urged them to realize that if they wanted change, they must start with themselves and initiate that change. She also encouraged them to always remember that life itself is a wonderful experience that they should enjoy.

Buddhism teaches that through a change in the depths of our own life, a change in a single life moment, we can transform our self and our environment and move everything in the direction of hope, happiness and victory.

In other words, your determinations and prayers right now can tear down seemingly insurmountable barriers and open a broad gateway to growth.

Your greatest potential, my young friends, lies in the fact that you can create an amazing future starting from this moment, this day and this year. And your daily practice of gongyo and chanting daimoku are the most powerful driving force for your efforts to plant the wonderful seeds for that future.

When you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the brilliant sun of a new year rises within you and dispels the darkness of suffering. For those of us who uphold the Mystic Law, every day is New Year’s Day.

My dear friends, capable people shining with the bright hope of a new day, let’s advance together with the sun, embracing as our motto “The future is now!”

Trusting My Prayer