Skip to main content

Ikeda Sensei

Toward a New Year of Dynamic Progress!

Photo by Artem Sapegin/Unsplash

This essay by Ikeda Sensei was originally published in the Dec. 27, 2021, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

Each December, there is a poem of my mentor’s that I recall with boundless gratitude:

Winning and losing
are both
part of life,
but I pray to the Buddha
for final victory.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda presented me with this poem in December 1957. After overcoming numerous daunting hurdles, he had finally seen the attainment of his cherished lifetime goal of a membership of 750,000 households. Yet because of his declining health, he was forced to rest and recuperate, unable to make the visit to Hiroshima that he had set his heart on.

I myself was engaged in a series of intense efforts to protect the Soka Gakkai and our members, especially in connection with the Yubari Coal Miners Union Incident[1] and the Osaka Incident.[2] And my trial to prove my innocence in that latter matter had begun.

Just as described by Nichiren Daishonin in his writings, the three obstacles and four devils[3] had descended in a frenzy, and the Soka Gakkai was at a turning point in whether it would achieve further dynamic growth.

Mr. Toda, therefore, took even more deeply to heart the Daishonin’s words “Buddhism primarily concerns itself with victory or defeat” (“The Hero of the World,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 835).

Despite his illness, he encouraged me, saying: “No matter what happens, let’s chant dauntlessly with the heart of a lion king and fight on! Whatever troubles might come our way, let’s triumph in the end! Let’s make every single Soka Gakkai member a winner!”

Galvanized by these words, I made a deep and powerful determination as his faithful disciple: “I will take the lead and press ahead year after year in the struggle for kosen-rufu, always focused on the future, unperturbed by the vagaries of public opinion. I will open the way for every single one of our noble members without exception to transform all poison into medicine and triumph in the end.”

That is why nothing makes me happier than to see the members of our Soka family lead lives of victory.

Just recently (in its Dec. 18, 2021, issue), the Seikyo Shimbun shared the story of a Many Treasures Group member in Hokkaido, where both founding President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and President Toda grew up. She will soon turn 103. Her photograph showed her smiling with noble strength and dignity. She had overcome countless hardships, and her life glowed with the conviction expressed by Nichiren, “Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbor doubts in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 283). With deep respect and admiration, my wife and I applauded her proud declaration that she has won in life.

Such inspiring examples of ultimate victory are found among our members all over Japan and throughout the world. I would like to present their triumphs to Presidents Makiguchi and Toda as an expression of my gratitude to them both.

I am well aware of the difficulties our members living in the colder regions of the northern hemisphere face in the snowy winter months. I am praying for everyone to stay safe and well amid severe cold waves and heavy snows.

I am also praying, in particular, for the safety of our treasured “uncrowned heroes” who deliver the Seikyo Shimbun in the cold predawn hours throughout Japan, and I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to them for their sincere efforts this past year.

When the Toda Memorial Cemetery Park opened (in 1977) in Atsuta Village, Mr. Toda’s hometown, I attended a meeting there with Hokkaido members and spoke about a passage from the Daishonin’s writings: “Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring. Never, from ancient times on, has anyone seen or heard of winter turning back to autumn” (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” WND-1, 536).

We vowed together to tenaciously continue tackling the challenges of life, confident that winter always turns to spring—that by triumphing over a winter of adversity as a practitioner of the Mystic Law, a spring of immeasurable hope and joy will come.

The lay nun Myoichi, to whom this passage was written, remained firmly committed to her faith despite facing persecution, losing her husband and having to nurse her sick child. She is a model for all Soka women.

While Nichiren was exiled on Sado Island, she sent a servant there to support and assist him. A letter the Daishonin wrote to thank her for this is included in the recently completed new Japanese edition of Gosho zenshu (The Collected Writings of Nichiren Daishonin).

In the letter, the Daishonin compares Myoichi’s offering to those made by Shakyamuni in his many past lives and praises her admirable intent in supporting the votary of the Lotus Sutra: “Your intent surpasses his [Shakyamuni’s in his past lives], so how could your future reward be any different from his?” (Gosho zenshu, new edition, p. 1693).[4]

There is no doubt that the women of Soka—and indeed all our members—striving in solid unity to spread the Mystic Law far and wide will enjoy great benefit without bound or measure.

In the earlier-mentioned letter to Myoichi about winter always turning into spring, the Daishonin goes on to cite a passage from the Lotus Sutra, “If there are those who hear the Law, then not a one will fail to attain Buddhahood”[5] (WND-1, 536).

These words express the Buddha’s wish to free all people from suffering, to help all people attain Buddhahood, leaving not a single person behind.

Nichiren Buddhism is the religion of kosen-rufu based on the fundamental vow to overcome every barrier and obstacle to spread the Mystic Law—the teaching of universal enlightenment—throughout the world and lead all people to happiness.

It is a religion of humanism, in which practitioners respect and value one another’s unique individuality, treating all equally and without discrimination, recognizing all as supremely noble beings who possess the Buddha nature.

On the morning of May 3, 1979, just before the meeting at which I officially stepped down as third Soka Gakkai president, I took up my writing brush with a serene heart, rising above the maneuverings within and without the organization, and wrote this calligraphy: “The fragrance of cherry and plum / The perfume of peach and damson” (see calligraphy).

Diversity—This calligraphy inscribed by Ikeda Sensei on May 3, 1979, reads: “The fragrance of cherry and plum / The perfume of peach and damson.” Courtesy of Seikyo Press.

I vowed in my heart to create peaceful and harmonious gardens of human flowers around the world, where everyone would bloom in their own unique way like “cherry, plum, peach, and damson” (see The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 200), triumphing over the harsh winter to usher in a brilliant springtime, just as Nichiren teaches.

And I am delighted to see our movement for the happiness of all people continuing to spread in just this way across the globe, with all of our members, in their rich diversity “illuminating and manifesting their true nature” (see “The Essentials for Attaining Buddhahood,” WND-1, 746).

Thirty years have passed since the Soka Gakkai gained its spiritual independence (on Nov. 28, 1991), casting off the chains of the authoritarian and discriminatory Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, which trampled on Nichiren Daishonin’s “great wisdom of equality” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 209–10).

From October through December 1991, I traveled to cities and regions across Japan to offer encouragement and guidance to members. This took place alongside many culture and music festivals filled with rousing Soka Gakkai songs and lively dancing.

Those festivals brimmed with the dynamic energy of the people, embodying the Daishonin’s words “You should all perform a dance. … When Bodhisattva Superior Practices emerged from the earth, did he not emerge dancing?” (“Great Evil and Great Good,” WND-1, 1119).

Culture and art are the brilliant flowering and the diverse expression of humanity. The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood rejected great art out of dogmatism and narrow-mindedness, suppressing this creative expression innate in life. By severing our ties with the priesthood, however, we have been able to advance with refreshing freedom and vigor. We have brought people around the world together through the power of culture and art.

When I visited Hachioji recently (Dec. 2, 2021), I was treated to a view of a majestic snowcapped Mount Fuji in the distance.

I thought of our indomitable members in Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures, which Mount Fuji straddles. Our members of Fujinomiya Special District (who live in the area near the Nichiren Shoshu head temple in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture) had gathered to celebrate the 30th anniversary of our independence day (on Nov. 28, 2021).

I applauded their inspiring victory, calling out to them in my heart: “Bravo, my faithful disciples in Fujinomiya!”

Recently, youth division members of the Tokaido region (Kanagawa and Shizuoka prefectures) sent me a collection of interviews they had conducted with seniors in faith who had taken part in that struggle three decades ago. They conducted and compiled the interviews out of a wish to leave a record for posterity of the fighting spirit of these members, who stood up to proclaim the justice of the Soka Gakkai. I was deeply reassured by the spirit of these young people, the successors of our movement.

The great composer Ludwig van Beethoven wrote, “Art unites the world.”[6]

This year, undefeated by the coronavirus pandemic, our orchestras and Fife and Drum Corps have continued to inspire people with their music and performances.

Members of the Music Corps, youth division and other groups around the world—joined together via video—to sing and perform the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Soka Gakkai headquarters leaders meeting celebrating our organization’s founding last month (Nov. 18, 2021). Their performance filled the hearts of all who saw or heard it with the uplifting spirit of dynamic progress.

Beethoven also composed an opera titled Fidelio. It tells the story of Leonora, who assumes the name Fidelio and dons men’s clothing to surreptitiously free her husband who has been unjustly imprisoned. In the face of a terrible crisis, Leonora sings: “Come, hope—do not let the last star of the weary fade! Illuminate my goal.”

Leonora’s brave actions prompt even the villain seeking her husband’s death to exclaim: “What unheard-of courage!”

At the opera’s end, Leonora’s husband and all the other political prisoners are pardoned, and the chorus sings, “Praise with greatest joy and warmth Leonora’s noble mind.”

This praise belongs as well to all our Soka women around the world, who selflessly reach out to encourage those who are suffering and strive to transform all great evil into great good. Assured that your successors will appreciate and laud your efforts, please continue advancing enjoyably in harmony and high spirits.

No doubt some of you have lost dearly beloved family members in this tumultuous year.

Nichiren Daishonin wrote to Shijo Kingo, who had sent offerings to the Daishonin for a memorial service for his deceased mother: “No doubt [your mother] is now in the presence of Shakyamuni Buddha, Many Treasures Buddha, and the Buddhas of the ten directions. Perhaps they are saying, ‘So this is the mother of Shijo Kingo!’ and, with one accord, patting her on the head and praising her joyfully” (“The Origin of the Service for Deceased Ancestors,” WND-1, 191).

Please be confident that Soka Gakkai members who have striven wholeheartedly for kosen-rufu, as well as their families and relatives, will be warmly embraced forever by the Daishonin, as well as praised and protected by the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions and three existences.

Let us advance from the Year of Hope and Victory into the Year of Youth and Dynamic Progress—making our way from a winter of quiet endurance and inner growth to a springtime of richly blossoming friendship and benefits!

Soon the cherry trees will start blooming in Okinawa.

Filled with the joy of shared struggle and with our youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth in the lead, let’s make fresh strides forward!

New Year—
deepening the vow
of mentor and disciple.


  1. Yubari Coal Miners Union Incident: A case of blatant religious discrimination in which miners in Yubari, Hokkaido, were threatened with losing their jobs due to their Soka Gakkai membership. ↩︎
  2. Osaka Incident: The occasion when Ikeda Sensei, then Soka Gakkai youth division chief of staff, was arrested and wrongfully charged with election law violations in Osaka in 1957. At the end of the court case, which began on Oct. 18, 1957, and concluded on Jan. 25, 1962, he was fully exonerated. ↩︎
  3. Three obstacles and four devils: Various obstacles and hindrances to the practice of Buddhism. The three obstacles are 1) the obstacle of earthly desires, 2) the obstacle of karma and 3) the obstacle of retribution. The four devils are 1) the hindrance of the five components, 2) the hindrance of earthly desires, 3) the hindrance of death and 4) the hindrance of the devil king. ↩︎
  4. SGI Newsletter tentative translation from the new Japanese edition of the Nichiren Daishonin gosho zenshu: shinpan (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin: New Edition), which was published in November 2021. This writing is not included in the two existing published English volumes of The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin. ↩︎
  5. The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 75. ↩︎
  6. See Ludwig van Beethoven, Beethoven: Letters, Journals, and Conversations, translated by Michael Hamburger (London: Thames and Hudson, 1951), p. 197. ↩︎

Sincerity Is the Key to Vibrant Growth (Shijo Kingo Part 3)

Hearts Ever Youthful and Filled With Limitless Hope