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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

A Hope-Inspiring Life Philosophy for the Real World

Ikeda Sensei’s Lecture Series [90]

Members attend a kosen-rufu gongyo meeting in Atlanta, June 2023. Photo by Anthony Wallen

“Each day is an unrelenting struggle. No option but to forge ahead, praying fervently for victory.” This is from a diary entry I made in October 1950. In that still turbulent period following World War II, I strove with all my might to support and assist my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, whose businesses had encountered serious setbacks. He was forced to delay paying our monthly salaries, and my co-workers quit one after another. I, however, was not discouraged.

In that same diary entry, I also wrote: “Work is important, but I mustn’t forget to make a point of studying the Daishonin’s writings.” I was firmly determined not to slacken in Buddhist study. I told myself: “I have a great mentor who has given purpose to my life! I have a lofty mission to which I will devote my youth! I have a profound philosophy to guide me in developing my life’s full potential!”

Despite being exhausted and in poor health, I would summon my energy to read Nichiren Daishonin’s writings late at night. Each passage filled my young life with hope, courage and the vow for kosen-rufu.

Those Who Embrace the Lotus Sutra Are Equal to the Buddha

I would like to warmly praise all the admirable individuals who are devoting time and energy to studying the basics of Nichiren Buddhism for the upcoming Study Department Introductory Exam in Japan [in November 2022].

Among them are Many Treasures Group members and future division members. Many are busy with school, work and other responsibilities, such as raising children. Others are struggling with financial hardship or illness.

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Those who believe in and practice [those who embrace] the Lotus Sutra are equal to Shakyamuni Buddha” (“Letter to the Sage Nichimyo,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 323). A passionate seeking spirit to grasp the essence of the Mystic Law will surely give rise to great benefit equal to the Buddha’s.

Our daily practice of gongyo and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables us to bring forth indomitable life force. When we use our eyes, ears, voices and hands to read, hear, recite and write down passages from Nichiren’s writings, we engrave those words in our hearts and beings. Nichiren’s words become a source of wisdom for our efforts in daily life and society, showing their true worth in the diverse situations and circumstances we encounter. Please be assured that all Buddhas and bodhisattvas will applaud you and all heavenly deities will protect you, people who are earnestly exerting themselves in practice and study.

Buddhist study in the Soka Gakkai instills in us the great compassion and conviction of Nichiren Daishonin, who triumphed over life-threatening persecutions as he tirelessly spread the Mystic Law to lead all people to enlightenment.

My wife and I are praying each day with all our hearts for the happiness and victory of those preparing for the study exam, as well as everyone assisting and supporting them, as they read and study Nichiren Daishonin’s writings in our harmonious community of practitioners directly connected to the Daishonin.

Discovering the Law of Cause and Effect Within Our Lives

October 1 is the Day of the Soka Gakkai’s academic and science division, whose members are champions of the search for truth and the creation of value based on the Mystic Law. The division’s origin can be traced to 1972, a half-century ago, when I began a dialogue series with scholarly members of our organization, titled “The Philosophy of Life,”[1] which was serialized in our study journal, the Daibyakurenge. The feature article that Mr. Toda wrote for the very first issue of the Daibyakurenge in 1949, incidentally, was also titled “The Philosophy of Life.”

The real value of a religion is found in how it explains life and illuminates its eternity.

In one of his writings, Nichiren Daishonin says of the non-Buddhist teachings of the day, “In fact they are no more than infants who cannot understand the principles of cause and effect” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 223). Buddhism excels in that it identifies the principle of cause and effect governing life throughout past, present and future as being internal rather than external. Nichiren Buddhism reveals the fundamental Law for turning the causes and effects of the past in the best, most valuable direction. It also sets forth the way for all people to build a state of indestructible happiness.

Two years have passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While taking utmost precautions for everyone’s health and safety, study exams have been conducted in the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea and Malaysia this year [2022]. Exams will also be held later this year in the United States, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan and numerous countries in South Asia, Latin America and Africa.

More than ever, people are eager to discover the life-affirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism. We need to accelerate our efforts to realize a Century of Life.
In this installment, we will study one of Nichiren’s writings on the Ten Worlds, the foundation of the life philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism.

The Ten Life States We All Possess

When we look from time to time at a person’s face, we find him or her sometimes joyful, sometimes enraged, and sometimes calm. At times greed appears in the person’s face, at times foolishness, and at times perversity. Rage is the world of hell, greed is that of hungry spirits, foolishness is that of animals, perversity is that of asuras, joy is that of heaven [heavenly beings], and calmness is that of human beings. … The fact that all things in this world are transient is perfectly clear to us. Is this not because the worlds of the two vehicles [voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones] are present in the human world? Even a heartless villain loves his wife and children. He too has a portion of the bodhisattva world within him. Buddhahood is the most difficult to demonstrate. … That ordinary people born in the latter age can believe in the Lotus Sutra is due to the fact that the world of Buddhahood is present in the human world. (“The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” WND-1, 358)[2]

This is a passage from one of Nichiren Daishonin’s major writings “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind” composed when he was in exile on Sado Island.[3]

Earlier in this treatise, he says that “observing the mind” means seeing the Ten Worlds within one’s own life. And he goes on to explain that, in the Latter Day of the Law, the practice for observing the mind to attain Buddhahood is chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith in the Gohonzon, the object of devotion of the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra.

In the passage we are examining, Nichiren responds to a hypothetical questioner who finds it difficult to believe that the Ten Worlds exist within us, offering an accessible explanation.

The Ten Worlds are ten states or conditions of life. They can be divided into two categories: the six paths (hell, hungry spirits, animals, asuras, human beings and heavenly beings) that deluded ordinary people repeat in existence after existence; and the four noble worlds (voice-hearers, cause-awakened ones, bodhisattvas and Buddhas), the enlightened states that those engaged in Buddhist practice can achieve.

The sutras prior to the Lotus Sutra taught the Ten Worlds as ten separate states or realms and asserted that practitioners of the two vehicles (voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones) could not attain enlightenment. With these teachings, the Buddha’s earnest wish for the enlightenment of all living beings could not be realized, and attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime would be impossible.

In contrast, the Lotus Sutra teaches that all living beings can attain enlightenment. This presumes that the living beings of the Ten Worlds—from the world of hell to the world of Buddhahood—possess within them the potential for all the Ten Worlds. The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai,[4] based on this principle of the “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds,”[5] formulated his doctrine of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life.”[6]

Since these ideas were such a radical departure from the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings, the questioner in this writing objects, telling the Daishonin: “You seem to be saying that fire is water, or that black is white. Although they are the teachings of the Buddha, I find it difficult to accept them” (WND-1, 358). Certainly, from the perspective of one who has only known these earlier teachings, it would be hard to entertain the idea that not only the life state of bodhisattva but also Buddhahood are inherent within the lives of human beings.

An Ever-Changing Whirl of Emotions

Nichiren Daishonin first discusses the six paths, explaining those life states in terms of feelings and emotions we experience from day to day, such as joy (heaven or heavenly beings), rage (hell), calmness (human beings), greed (hungry spirits) and so forth. To a greater or lesser degree, we undergo an ever-changing whirl of emotions. It is because these emotions lie within us that they can emerge when triggered by the right conditions.

The four noble worlds are not as readily apparent as the six paths, or lower six worlds. The Daishonin explains the life states of the two vehicles (voice-hearers and cause-awakened ones) as being evident in the clear awareness that all things of this world are transient. He then goes on to say that even a heartless villain who nevertheless loves his wife and children represents “a portion” of the world of bodhisattva. But the highest life state, Buddhahood, the Daishonin says, “is the most difficult to demonstrate” (WND-1, 358). It is the most difficult to manifest and to explain.

In preparing for study exams and also in sharing Buddhism with others, I’m sure many of you deeply consider how best to explain that the life state of Buddhahood is inherent within us.

Believing in the Mystic Law Is Proof of Our Inherent Buddhahood

How does Nichiren Daishonin explain this? He writes, “That ordinary people born in the latter age can believe in the Lotus Sutra [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] is due to the fact that the world of Buddhahood is present in the human world” (WND-1, 358). The fact that ordinary people of the Latter Day of the Law can have faith in the Lotus Sutra proves that the world of Buddhahood is inherent in the world of human beings.

The Lotus Sutra is a teaching preached in accord with the Buddha’s own mind,[7] directly revealing the truth to which he became enlightened. It is the great teaching for the enlightenment of all people, leaving no one behind. Through the principle of “substituting faith for wisdom,”[8] believing in the Lotus Sutra is equivalent to awakening to the truth that the Buddha’s wisdom is inherent within us. In Nichiren Buddhism, believing in the Lotus Sutra is the same as embracing the Mystic Law, which itself constitutes revealing the life state of Buddhahood.

Now, let us consider from two perspectives the Daishonin’s assertion that “ordinary people born in the latter age can believe in the Lotus Sutra” (WND-1, 358).

In the first, our focus is the time of the Latter Day of the Law. This is described as “an age of quarrels and disputes when the pure Law will become obscured and lost.”[9] In such a time, how wonderful it is to encounter the Buddha’s true teaching!

In the second perspective, we focus on the teaching that can benefit ordinary people in the Latter Day of the Law. How can all the living beings of the Latter Day of the Law, many of whom, the Daishonin says, have not formed ties to the Buddha in past lifetimes and have little capacity to understand the Lotus Sutra, be led to Buddhahood?

Opening the Way to Enlightenment for All

Nichiren Daishonin awakened to the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the fundamental Law for attaining enlightenment, and established it as the essential teaching of the Latter Day. The daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the seed of Buddhahood that enables all people to become Buddhas. By embracing the Mystic Law, ordinary people of the Latter Day, even those completely lacking “good roots,” or good causes from past existences, can reveal the world of Buddhahood within and attain enlightenment.

Therefore, the Daishonin’s statement that “ordinary people born in the latter age can believe in the Lotus Sutra” (WND-1, 358) refers to people born in this troubled age having the wondrous good fortune to encounter, embrace faith in and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the ultimate Law for attaining enlightenment.

As Soka Gakkai members, we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, vibrantly put our Buddha wisdom to work in society and dedicate ourselves to spreading trust and friendship. Our way of life is clear proof that all people possess the life state of Buddhahood.

All around the globe, our members are sharing the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism in ways relevant to our times, revealing their innate Buddhahood, and thereby showing actual proof that “the world of Buddhahood is present in the human world” (WND-1, 358). Bravely striving in their Buddhist practice, each is a noble protagonist proclaiming the greatness of the Mystic Law, each a powerful ambassador for kosen-rufu. In this, there is absolutely no discrimination of age, gender, nationality or ethnicity.

The Essence of the Soka Gakkai Spirit

The true significance of the principles of the “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds” and “three thousand realms in a single moment of life” is apparent only when we make Buddhism the basis for transforming our lives, not by simply mastering its doctrines as a system of abstract thought.

The essence of the Soka Gakkai’s philosophy of life is its focus on actual practice, on transforming our life state and that of others, and on improving society as a whole.

We study Nichiren Daishonin’s writings to learn from his boundless compassion and put it into practice in our lives. We read his words as personal encouragement to help us in our human revolution. And we strive to embody the great life philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism and walk the path of right action.

Let’s always maintain this Soka Gakkai tradition of practice-oriented Buddhist study and further strengthen our Soka Gakkai spirit of making Nichiren’s writings our foundation and staying directly connected to him. With that aim, let us now study a passage from “Rely on the Law and Not upon Persons,” one of Nichiren’s writings included for the first time in the new Japanese edition of Nichiren Daishonin gosho zenshu (The Complete Works of Nichiren Daishonin).

Three Things That Sway People in the Latter Day

The people of our day do not know who is correct, so on occasion they may support the [mistaken] majority opinion and disregard a single voice of truth, or they may support the opinion of an eminent priest and disregard the voice of truth of an individual of lowly status. At times, they may support the pronouncements of those with authority and disregard the voice of truth of someone lacking authority. The Buddha warned, “Rely on the Law and not upon persons,”[10] but people in the latter age rely upon persons, not on the Law. The Buddha also instructed, “Rely on sutras that are complete and final and not on those that are not complete and final,”[11] but the people of this defiled age rely on the sutras that are not complete and final and reject those that are complete and final. (“Rely on the Law and Not upon Persons,” Gosho zenshu, new edition, pp. 2146–47)[12]

In this letter, Nichiren Daishonin asserts that the reason the people of the Latter Day—an age of turmoil and confusion “when the pure Law will become obscured and lost”—distance themselves from his teaching is that they allow themselves to be swayed by three things. The first is the majority opinion, the second is the words of influential and respected people and the third is the words of people with authority.

In contrast, the Daishonin was but one person, a commoner lacking any connection to society’s powerful authorities. That is why, no matter how vigorously he proclaimed the truth, people ignored him. It is the way of the world that people tend to follow what the powerful and high-ranking have to say, even if it has no real basis. We still see this happening today.

Nichiren Daishonin Proved the Truth of the Lotus Sutra

Next, Nichiren quotes two of the “four standards”[13] of Buddhist practice taught in the Nirvana Sutra—namely, “Rely on the Law and not upon persons” and “Rely on sutras that are complete and final and not on those that are not complete and final.” Buddhists are to rely on the Law, not on people, and to rely on sutras that fully reveal Shakyamuni’s true intent, not other sutras. That is, we should rely on the Lotus Sutra, the scripture that reveals the Buddha’s true teaching, and not allow ourselves to be swayed by popular opinion, social status or authority.

No one has read the Lotus Sutra with their life—put its teachings into practice—to the degree that the Daishonin did. In the course of his efforts to propagate the Mystic Law, he experienced life-threatening persecutions exactly like those the sutra describes, including being attacked with swords and staves (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 232) and banished again and again (see LSOC, 234).[14] He proved the truth of the predictions of Shakyamuni and the Lotus Sutra. He put the two standards of “Rely on the Law and not upon persons” and “Rely on sutras that are complete and final and not on those that are not complete and final” into practice in his life with selfless commitment.

We of the Soka Gakkai, united by the bonds of mentor and disciple, are carrying on the legacy of Nichiren Daishonin’s lofty spirit and actions, with his writings as our foundation and guide. Drawing strength and inspiration from his words for our lives and efforts for kosen-rufu, we are actualizing his prophecies of the global spread of the Mystic Law. In accord with his vision for the “westward transmission of Buddhism,”[15] we are enacting the exciting drama of the inner transformation that is human revolution around the world.

We of the Soka Gakkai are building happiness for ourselves and others, helping each person awaken to the life state of Buddhahood inherent within and bring forth wisdom and compassion. We are producing a steady stream of wise, strong and good world citizens. Ours is a network of people awakened to the true worth and dignity of human beings and impervious to the vagaries of public opinion, to what Buddhism refers to as the “eight winds.”[16] Our members around the world are actualizing the ideal of enlightenment for all people taught by Shakyamuni in the Lotus Sutra. They are advancing energetically along the great path leading to the happiness of humanity revealed by Nichiren Daishonin while expanding our movement of hope and peace.

A Compassionate Revolution Spreading Hope

Dr. Carlos Rubio, the supervising editor of the Spanish translation of The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, has said:

I believe that in the face of the current crisis [of theCOVID-19 pandemic], we, too, can raise our voices [like Nichiren did] and, in our lives, be examples of the transformative power of Nichiren Buddhism and create a revolution of compassion in our hearts and the people around us. …

The Soka Gakkai, an independent lay organization, has a very important mission. Its activities are an inspiration and source of hope for people around the world.

And hope is what the world needs in these times of pandemic and insecurity, in this new state of mappo [the Latter Day of the Law] in which humanity is living.[17]

Dr. Rubio, who has spent over a decade translating the Daishonin’s writings and the Lotus Sutra, has a profound grasp of Nichiren Buddhism. He has observed the astonishing rise of the Soka Gakkai to become a global religious movement.

People are looking to Nichiren Buddhism more than ever as a religion that develops the rich inner resources and limitless potential of the individual. The curtain is now rising on an age of Soka when “human flowers” bloom to their fullest.

Our Joyous Network of Bodhisattvas of the Earth

Soka Gakkai members are people of wisdom dedicated to fulfilling their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth. They embrace, study and practice the world’s foremost life philosophy. Each is a proud champion engaged in the challenge of realizing the Daishonin’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.”

With our feet firmly planted on the ground, our heads held high and our hearts filled with confidence and pride, let’s continue to greatly expand our joyous network of Bodhisattvas of the Earth to create a century of respect for the dignity of life!

Translated from the October 2022 Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.

From the August 2023 Living Buddhism


  1. The series was later published in book form under the title Seimei o kataru (Discussions on Life). ↩︎
  2. “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind” was composed in April 1273 at Ichinosawa, while Nichiren Daishonin was exiled on Sado Island. In this writing, he explains the significance of the object of devotion (Gohonzon) of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the fundamental Law that opens the way for the enlightenment of all people in the Latter Day of the Law. ↩︎
  3. Sado Exile: Nichiren Daishonin’s exile to Sado Island off the western coast of Japan from October 1271—immediately following the Tatsunokuchi Persecution on September 12, 1271—through March 1274. ↩︎
  4. T’ien-t’ai (538–97): Also known as the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai or Chih-i. The founder of the T’ien-t’ai school in China. His lectures were compiled in such works as The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra, The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra and Great Concentration and Insight. In the latter work, a record of lectures he delivered, he presents the doctrine of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life.” ↩︎
  5. Mutual possession of the Ten Worlds: The principle that each of the Ten Worlds possesses the potential for all ten within itself, the foundation for universal enlightenment taught in the Lotus Sutra. “Mutual possession” means that life is not fixed in one or another of the Ten Worlds, but can manifest any of the ten—
    from hell to Buddhahood—at any given moment. The important point of this principle is that all beings in any of the nine worlds—that is, from hell through bodhisattva—also possess the Buddha nature. This means that every person has the potential to manifest Buddhahood, while a Buddha also possesses the nine worlds and, in this sense, is not separate or different from ordinary people. ↩︎
  6. Three thousand realms in a single moment of life (Jpn ichinen-sanzen): A philosophical system established by T’ien-t’ai based on the Lotus Sutra. The “three thousand realms” indicates the varying aspects and phases that life assumes at each moment. At each moment, life manifests one of the Ten Worlds—from hell to Buddhahood. Each of these worlds possesses the potential for all ten within itself, thus making one hundred possible worlds. Each of these hundred worlds possesses the ten factors and operates within each of the three realms of existence, thus making three thousand realms. In other words, all phenomena are contained within a single moment of life, and a single moment of life permeates the three thousand realms of existence, or the entire phenomenal world. ↩︎
  7. Preaching in accord with one’s own mind: The Buddha’s direct preaching of his enlightenment, irrespective of the capacity of his listeners. It contrasts with “preaching in accordance with the minds of others,” or preaching that accords with the capacities of the listeners. ↩︎
  8. Substituting faith for wisdom: The principle that simply by having faith in and practicing the correct teaching to which the Buddha awakened through wisdom, we can without any wisdom attain the same benefit and life state as the Buddha. ↩︎
  9. This refers to “an age of quarrels and disputes when the pure Law will become obscured and lost,” a description that originally appears in the Great Collection Sutra. The sutra predicts that in the fifth five-hundred-year period after the Buddha’s passing—the age corresponding to the Latter Day of the Law—rival Buddhist schools will quarrel endlessly among themselves and Shakyamuni’s correct teaching will be obscured and lost. ↩︎
  10. Nirvana Sutra. ↩︎
  11. Ibid. ↩︎
  12. Tentative translation. Only a fragment of this letter survives, and the date and recipient are unknown. The style of the brushwork, however, suggests it was composed sometime during the Bun’ei era (February 1264 to April 1275). ↩︎
  13. The four standards are taught in the Nirvana Sutra for correct practice after Shakyamuni’s death. They are: 1) to rely on the Law and not upon persons; 2) to rely on the meaning of the teaching and not upon the words; 3) to rely on wisdom and not upon discriminative thinking; and 4) to rely on sutras that are complete and final and not upon those that are not complete and final. ↩︎
  14. These two examples appear in “Encouraging Devotion,” the 13th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, describing the persecutions directed at practitioners of the Lotus Sutra. The first refers to violence perpetrated by arrogant lay people, and the second to banishment and exile instigated by arrogant false sages. ↩︎
  15. Westward transmission of Buddhism: Also, westward return of Buddhism. Nichiren Daishonin predicted that his Buddhism of the Sun would flow from Japan toward the west, returning to the countries through which Buddhism had originally been transmitted and spreading throughout the entire world (see “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” WND-1, 401). ↩︎
  16. Eight winds: Eight conditions that prevent people from advancing along the right path to enlightenment. According to The Treatise on the Stage of Buddhahood Sutra, the eight winds are prosperity, decline, disgrace, honor, praise, censure, suffering and pleasure. In “The Eight Winds,” addressed to Shijo Kingo, the Daishonin writes: “Worthy persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds. … The heavenly gods will surely protect one who is unbending before the eight winds” (WND-1, 794). ↩︎
  17. From an interview in the Seikyo Shimbun, February 16, 2021, issue. Translated from the original Spanish transcript. ↩︎

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