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Celebrating 10 Years of The Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu

46th HQLM- A bright rainbow over the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu (August 13, 2020). Photo by Seikyo Press.

In the years following World War II, Josei Toda’s office in the Nishi-Kanda neighborhood of Tokyo functioned as the Soka Gakkai Headquarters after business hours. When
rebuilding the Soka Gakkai, he was asked whether he would purchase a headquarters building, to which he replied: “We don’t need a building. That’s just an outward form. Wherever I am is the headquarters!”[1]

As the Soka Gakkai developed, however, Mr. Toda knew that the members would benefit from having its own facility, a sentiment he expressed to his disciple Daisaku Ikeda, saying, “Let’s build a magnificent headquarters building someday.”[2]

That day came in November 1953, when the Soka Gakkai opened its first dedicated headquarters in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, a location that held profound significance. A decade earlier, Mr. Toda visited a friend’s home in Shinanomachi who became a Soka Gakkai member. He lived at 33 Shinanomachi, just a stone’s throw from where the headquarters was opened.

Shortly after that visit, where Mr. Toda shared Buddhism with his friend, he was arrested on July 6, 1943, under the military government’s so-called Peace Preservation Law. His mentor, Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, was arrested the same day.

Three months later, at a nearby park just south of Shinanomachi Station, 70,000
college-age men marched to symbolize Japan’s growing military might.

In the place where the marching boots of war resounded, and where Mr. Toda engraved his spirit to save a single human being, the Hall of the Great Vow opened in November 2013—70 years after President Makiguchi and Mr. Toda were arrested as “thought criminals.” “The completion of this grand and stately Hall on this significant milestone,” Sensei said, “is an indisputable testimony to the victory of the mentors and disciples of Soka.”[3]

Since the Hall’s opening, thousands of members from throughout the world have attended daily gongyo ceremonies there, refreshing their vow to advance kosen-rufu. 

After being closed for 3 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Soka Gakkai announced that this November 1, the month marking the Hall’s 10th anniversary, it will reopen to members visiting from overseas.

The Eight Columns

When visitors approach the Hall, they are greeted by eight columns that represent the eight-character passage in the Lotus Sutra “You should rise and greet [them] from afar, showing [them] the same respect you would a Buddha,”[4] signifying the heart of the Soka Gakkai to treasure each person.

In the lobby, visitors can view the calligraphy penned by Ikeda Sensei for “Kosen-rufu,” under which stands a dedication to the Hall. Members are then led to the main prayer room, which seats 1,400, to attend a gongyo meeting, chanting in unison to the Soka Gakkai Kosen-rufu Gohonzon and strengthening their commitment to achieve kosen-rufu in their respective locales.

Origins of the Hall

Ikeda Sensei first mentioned plans for constructing the Hall of the Great Vow at a meeting in September 2008, stating:

After the war, the Soka Gakkai made its headquarters in a small wooden structure in Nishi-Kanda, Tokyo. Mr. Toda said with great feeling, “It will be wonderful when the day arrives that the Soka Gakkai can construct its own buildings.” I said to him, “I’ll see to it that fine buildings for kosen-rufu are constructed throughout Japan and the world.” And I fulfilled this pledge to my mentor. Today, we have some 1,200 community and culture centers in Japan and another 500 or so in countries and territories across the globe. … I firmly promise you that we will build a completely new and unprecedented citadel of Soka, a bastion of kosen-rufu, including a new facility where SGI members from around the world can also relax and enjoy themselves when visiting Japan.[5]

As construction progressed, SGI members viewed the completion of this edifice as a symbol of SGI’s unshakable foundation as a world religion. To ensure that the building would be as strong as possible, a foundation was dug 72 feet into the bedrock.

Sensei’s original inspiration for constructing such a building came when Mr. Toda was experiencing severe business difficulties. He and the young Daisaku got caught in the rain as they were walking in Tokyo’s Hibiya area, where the Dai-ichi Mutual Life Insurance Building stood. The building, constructed with a foundation set directly into the bedrock, was selected as the general headquarters of the Allied occupation forces after World War II. He wrote about this:

I looked up at that building and told my mentor that someday I would build magnificent facilities just like it for our organization. … The important thing is to have a solid foundation, as I also conveyed in a poem I wrote many years ago: “The foundation—make it deep, make it deep; / dig right down to the very bedrock.”[6]

The immovable foundation of the Hall represents each member developing faith strong enough to remain unshaken by any difficulty and emerge victorious.

Significance of the Name

Religious structures have often been used as tools of coercion, for instance, by emphasizing that those closest to a sacred location have a stronger connection to it and are therefore special. What’s important in Nichiren Buddhism, however, is the vow in one’s heart for the happiness of humanity, not proximity to a certain location.

Many, too, will not be able to visit the Hall due to geographic, health or other reasons; this in no way weakens their connection to the Mystic Law, which is rooted in a personal vow to accomplish kosen-rufu. Sensei emphasizes this point in his opening message to the Hall, writing: 

There will probably be members who, because of health, age or other reasons, will not be able to come to this Hall. But please remember that all of us who have exerted ourselves for kosen-rufu and contributed to the development of today’s Soka movement have definitely accumulated boundless and immeasurable benefit and good fortune in our lives, and constructed a brilliant inner palace of eternity, happiness, true self and purity.[7]

This spirit is also imparted through the name of the Hall, which in Japanese is Kosen-rufu Daiseido. Daiseido typically refers to a cathedral. Sensei, however, changed its meaning by providing this alternative writing for the Hall:

Dai: Great, grand

Sei: Vow, pledge

Do: Hall, auditorium

The character sei, meaning “sacred” or “saint,” is often used in the word daiseido, or “cathedral.” Sensei, however, chose an alternative character for sei, meaning “vow.” Therefore, the name of the Hall suggests that it is a place for each person, as a protagonist of our kosen-rufu movement, to bring happiness and harmony to our planet rather than seeking salvation from outside.[8]

The Soka Gakkai Kosen-rufu Gohonzon

The Soka Gakkai Kosen-rufu Gohonzon enshrined in the Hall was transcribed at the request of Mr. Toda shortly after he became the second Soka Gakkai president on May 3, 1951. On that day, he pledged to achieve a membership of 750,000 households before his death—a determination that revived Nichiren Daishonin’s great vow for the
happiness of humanity. 

Mr. Toda felt that the Soka Gakkai needed a Gohonzon that would serve as its focal point and axis for the compassionate propagation of the Mystic Law. He petitioned for this Gohonzon on May 12, 1951. Sensei writes of this time: “The petition was infused with Toda’s undying resolution—‘I myself will achieve kosen-rufu’—as well as with his unrelenting sense of mission.”[9] Two days later, on May 14, 1951, Mr. Toda received the Soka Gakkai Kosen-rufu Gohonzon on behalf of Soka Gakkai members. The inscription on the right side of the Gohonzon reads: “For the Fulfillment of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu Through the Compassionate Propagation of the Great Law”; and, on the left: “To Be Eternally Enshrined at the Soka Gakkai.”

In “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” Nichiren Daishonin writes that the Gohonzon “is found only in the two characters for faith.”[10] Sensei has repeatedly emphasized this point, saying on one occasion that grand buildings or physical splendor are not what make a religion; rather, it’s the faith of the people.

Shin Anzai, a scholar of religion, once asked Sensei what he ultimately sought. Anzai remarked: “I thought he would answer ‘The Gohonzon—the mandala,’ but instead he said, ‘The eternal and fundamental Law that has existed since time without beginning.’ I was deeply impressed that President Ikeda’s goals were not fixed on something narrow like the wooden mandala, but that instead, he sought the source of all eternity. I felt then that I had discovered the universality of the SGI and the reason for its amazing growth.”[11]

‘I Will Fight On!’

Having completed his life’s mission, President Toda passed away peacefully on April 2, 1958. As his successor, Sensei initiated a fresh struggle to expand the kosen-rufu movement throughout the world. The Human Revolution describes how the 30-year-old Daisaku Ikeda [appearing in the novel as Shin’ichi Yamamoto] chanted to the Soka Gakkai Kosen-rufu Gohonzon immediately following Mr. Toda’s funeral:

As heir to Toda’s legacy, Shin’ichi Yamamoto was painfully aware of his inescapable destiny to take full responsibility for the Soka Gakkai’s future and advance along the noble path of the oneness of mentor and disciple. Deeply fatigued as he was, he could not help feeling the heavy burden of responsibility now resting on his shoulders. It was an almost intolerable amount of pressure for a young man of thirty.

To encourage and energize himself, he faced the Gohonzon in the main hall and began to chant, his sonorous voice resounding in the empty room: “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo…” As he chanted, the inscriptions down both sides of the Gohonzon—“For the Fulfillment of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu Through the Compassionate Propagation of the Great Law” on the right and “To Be Eternally Enshrined at the Soka Gakkai” on the left—seemed to glow in the light of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. More keenly than ever before, Shin’ichi felt the deep significance of the Soka Gakkai’s mission and of his own mission as Toda’s disciple. … “I will dedicate my life to kosen-rufu,” he vowed in his heart. “The torch that [President Toda] lit to illuminate the darkness and lead humanity toward happiness must never die out. I will fight on!”[12]

Recalling that pledge, Sensei later wrote:

I went out into the world to make the “fulfillment of the great vow for kosen-rufu through the compassionate propagation of the great Law” a reality.

President Makiguchi, who resisted wartime militarism and died in prison for his beliefs, had vowed to realize the Daishonin’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.” Making his vow my own, I began and developed a diverse global network of people committed to the values of peace, culture and education.[13]

In visiting the Hall and chanting to the Soka Gakkai Kosen-rufu Gohonzon, members
strive to inherit this spiritual legacy of Nichiren Daishonin and the three founding Soka Gakkai presidents to ensure the eternal perpetuation of the Law.

A Religious Revolution

In November 2014, a year after the Hall opened, Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada announced an important change to the Rules and Regulations of the Soka Gakkai, a legal document that delineates its administration and legal tenets.

In one sense, this revision was a technical matter that brought in line the Soka Gakkai’s Rules and Regulations with the existing reality of the SGI’s faith and practice. At the same time, it served to clarify the central principle of Nichiren Buddhism, the Three Great Secret Laws, comprising the essential elements of our Buddhist practice.

The revision affirmed what SGI members already understood through their faith and practice: that the object of devotion is the Gohonzon, the daimoku is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo chanted for our own and others’ happiness, and the sanctuary is the place where we chant to the Gohonzon. In particular, the revision dispels the belief that there is one special Gohonzon that “powers” all other Gohonzon, namely, the Dai-Gohonzon (also referred to as the Gohonzon of the second year of Koan [1279]) enshrined at the Nichiren Shoshu head temple, Taiseki-ji.

Just before President Harada made the announcement at the SGI Autumn Training Course, which was attended by 250 SGI leaders representing 55 countries, Sensei and Mrs. Ikeda drove by the courtyard of the Hall of the Great Vow where the representatives were gathered. “You are all making great efforts,” Sensei called out to them. “Please stay in high spirits.” He later wrote about this encounter, saying: 

They are the noblest Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Transcending national and ethnic boundaries, they all gathered with the spirit of “many in body, one in mind.” Meeting these members, I felt as though I were meeting all those who had supported them and sent them off to Japan.[14]

Over the past ten years, the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu has come to symbolize a place where the mentor and disciples of Soka wage a shared struggle to actualize the heart of Nichiren Buddhism by compassionately sharing the Lotus Sutra’s message that all people are Buddhas and thereby elevating the life state of humanity. This spirit is expressed in one of the poems Sensei penned to members throughout the world to mark the Hall’s opening:

Our lofty realm of Soka—
a family united by the vow
of time without beginning,
sharing joys and sorrows,
imparting courage to the world.[15]

—Prepared by the Living Buddhism staff


  1. The New Human Revolution, vol. 8, revised edition, p. 197.  ↩︎
  2. Ibid., p. 198. ↩︎
  3. November 29, 2013, World Tribune, p. 3. ↩︎
  4. See The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 365. ↩︎
  5. October 24, 2008, World Tribune, p. 5. ↩︎
  6. May 3, 2013, World Tribune, p. 8. ↩︎
  7. See this issue, p. 24. ↩︎
  8. See The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 2, p. 158. ↩︎
  9. The Human Revolution, p. 574. ↩︎
  10. The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 832. ↩︎
  11. Translated from the May 5, 1993, Seikyo Shimbun. ↩︎
  12. The Human Revolution, pp. 1941–42. ↩︎
  13. See this issue p. 24. ↩︎
  14. December 12, 2014, World Tribune, p. 1. ↩︎
  15. November 29, 2013, World Tribune, p. 1. ↩︎

Let’s Make Songs of Victory Resound From Our Districts

On Shift at the Hall