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Ikeda Sensei

Building an Unshakable Foundation for Human Happiness and Peace

Endurance—Sculpture of Ludwig van Beethoven in Vienna. Photo by Olgalngs/ Gety Images.

The following essay excerpts were published in the Dec. 28, 2022, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

At the November headquarters leaders meeting commemorating the Soka Gakkai’s founding [held on Nov. 12, 2022], the Soka Gloria Wind Orchestra and Kansai Wind Orchestra gave a stirring performance of the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Fifth, or “Fate,” Symphony.

This symphony—which inspires us to break through suffering and arrive at joy—was one of the great works that I listened to on my hand-cranked gramophone in my youth. I played the record so often that I wore it out.

At that time, the businesses of my mentor, Josei Toda, were in dire straits, and I was also ill with tuberculosis. But the powerful strains of Beethoven’s music inspired me to overcome that winter of hardship and usher in a joyous spring of the triumph of mentor and disciple.

It is well known that Beethoven’s life was a series of trials and hardships. But he took pride in his mission as a composer who was forced to battle with a harsh destiny. In a letter dated December 1822, exactly 200 years ago, he exclaimed of himself: “Beethoven … can write [music]—if he can do nothing in the world besides!”[1]

This was around the time that he was engaged in composing his Ninth Symphony, which includes the famous choral section “Ode to Joy.” This soul-stirring gift that he bestowed upon humanity was not born from a life of ease and comfort but from a fierce battle against the winds of adversity and from an indomitable will.

Life is full of ups and downs. There is no end to worries about illness, work struggles, conflicts at home and in our relationships with others and concerns about the future. The important thing, however, is to be confident that our present difficulties have profound meaning for our lives. As long as we have strong determination in faith, we can change karma into mission without fail.

Life is full of ups and downs. … The important thing, however, is to be confident that our present difficulties have profound meaning for our lives. As long as we have strong determination in faith, we can change karma into mission without fail.

Filled with compassion for his fellow members, Mr. Toda said: “If you’re having problems, give your all to your Buddhist practice for one year. I guarantee that by this time next year you will see a change.”

The Mystic Law has the power to change things for the better. Indeed, it is in order to change things for the better that we practice Nichiren Buddhism.

In the new year ahead, let’s again put this conviction into action and write another triumphant page in the annals of our personal human revolution!

My mentor offered this advice for leaders: “We live in turbulent times, in a crucial age. Those who build a solid foundation will succeed. This is an unchanging rule.”

It’s especially important in challenging times to take care of the things in our immediate environment that serve as our foundation. So, let’s continue fostering trust and friendly relations wherever we are—at home, with loved ones, in the community and at work. This may seem unremarkable, but it is the surest way to build happiness for ourselves and others.

It was in December 65 years ago [in 1957], just after the achievement of his cherished goal of 750,000 member households, that Mr. Toda presented us with these guidelines: “Faith for a harmonious family,” “Faith for each person to achieve happiness” and “Faith for overcoming obstacles.”[2]

Solidifying our foundations—by supporting our families, achieving personal happiness and overcoming our difficulties—enables us to triumph in life and in kosen-rufu. This will form the unshakable foundation for peace and happiness for all humankind.

I recall a member once sharing with me her distress over her family’s opposition to her faith. I reassured her, saying: “It only takes one person to turn on a light switch. But with that action, everyone else in the room is illuminated. It’s the same when only one person in a family practices Nichiren Buddhism.”

Nichiren Daishonin cites the proverb “One is the mother of ten thousand” (“A Sage and an Unenlightened Man,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 131). The light of good fortune and benefit of a single individual with steadfast faith will illuminate their entire family and all connected to their life. That’s why it is so important to offer the warmest encouragement to each person in front of us.

The Daishonin himself, after moving to Mount Minobu, engaged in warmhearted conversations with his elderly neighbors about daily affairs, including the unprecedented cold weather (see “A Harsh Winter Deep in the Mountains,” WND-2, 806). Let us emulate his example of treasuring his neighbors and those in his community. 

I, too, have always made an effort to foster friendship by going out and greeting our neighbors and visiting the local shops in Shinanomachi, where the Soka Gakkai Headquarters is located. Likewise, I have fond memories of cheerfully greeting our neighbors around the Tachikawa Culture Center in Tokyo, the Kanagawa Culture Center in Yokohama and many of our other facilities around Japan.

Seventy years ago, at the general meeting held at the end of 1952, Mr. Toda declared: “Why were we born as human beings? To enjoy life.” 

He taught us that the Lotus Sutra passage “living beings enjoy themselves at ease” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 272) [which we recite during gongyo][3] applies to our own lives.[4]

But he also noted: “Sweets need a pinch of salt to enhance their sweetness. Similarly, without a pinch of hardship, we cannot experience true happiness.”

So even if it feels like there is too much salt in your life at times, please remember that it will someday become a memory you will savor.

Back in 1952, I wrote in my diary: “Workplaces, social reform movements, labor unions, the times, politics, education and science will not achieve success unless they make allies of the youth. Success in every endeavor depends on whether we gain the support of the youth or antagonize them.”

When I was appointed the leader of the young men’s division First Corps the following year, I worked together with my fellow young Bodhisattvas of the Earth with that firm conviction to greatly expand our network of youth.

The curtain will soon rise on the Year of Youth and Triumph.

The Japanese word for “triumph” is gaika, meaning a song of triumph. Gai also means “victory cheer” or “to enjoy.”

When we win, a joyous song arises from the depths of our beings.

May a new and glorious song of triumph resound in your hearts! With joy and high spirits, let us make our voices of courage, hope and wisdom ring out!

March 10, 2023, World Tribune, pp. 2–3


  1. Johann Wolfgang von Beethoven, Beethoven’s Letters (1790–1826), translated by Lady Wallace, vol. 2 (New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1867), p. 93. ↩︎
  2. Ikeda Sensei later expanded these into the five eternal guidelines of the Soka Gakkai, adding “Faith for health and long life” and “Faith for absolute victory.” In addition, “Faith for each person to achieve happiness” became “Faith for achieving happiness.” ↩︎
  3. This passage comes from the verse section of “The Life Span of the Thus Come One,” the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. In Japanese it reads, “Shujo sho yuraku.” ↩︎
  4. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 3 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1983), p. 509. ↩︎

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