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District Meeting

District Discussion Meeting Material

October 2023

Illustration by Ardeaa / Getty Images

Please base your study for your monthly discussion meetings on:

1) Writings for Discussion Meetings (pp. 38–41)
2) Material from any recent issue of the World Tribune or Living Buddhism

Have a great discussion meeting!

Learning From the Afterword to The New Human Revolution


In support of members and guests taking the SGI-USA Introductory Exam this month, we will study excerpts from Ikeda Sensei’s Afterword to The New Human Revolution published in the exam study guide, pp. 39–45. The highlighted passages indicate key points.

What was Ikeda Sensei’s motivation in writing The Human Revolution?

Fifty-four years have passed since I began writing The Human Revolution on December 2, 1964, and 25 years since I started writing The New Human Revolution [on August 6, 1993]. I am sure my mentor, Josei Toda, is smiling and nodding in approval at the completion of this “day-to-day record” (“The Unanimous Declaration by the Buddhas,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 843), or chronicle, of the Soka Gakkai’s efforts for kosen-rufu that his disciple poured his heart and energy into writing.

The Human Revolution begins just a short time before Japan’s defeat in World War II, on July 3, 1945—the day that Toda, who had been incarcerated by the country’s militarist authorities, was released from prison. Inheriting the legacy of his mentor—first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who had fought against government persecution and died in prison for his beliefs—Toda set about rebuilding the Soka Gakkai, which was in a state of virtual collapse, and eventually took the lead as its second president. The novel goes on to describe how Toda, joined by his disciple Shin’ichi Yamamoto, achieved his lifelong goal of increasing the Soka Gakkai’s membership to 750,000 households and laid the foundations for kosen-rufu in Japan, before his death on April 2, 1958. It concludes with the inauguration of his successor, Shin’ichi, as the third Soka Gakkai president.

I decided to write The Human Revolution as a biographical novel about Mr. Toda to present the truth about my mentor, who bore the brunt of the public’s misunderstanding and criticisms of the Soka Gakkai, and to let the world know about his life and achievements. I also wanted to record for posterity the true history of the Soka Gakkai spirit and the path of genuine faith.

Why did Sensei write the 30-volume novel The New Human Revolution?

I began writing The New Human Revolution on August 6, 1993, at the Nagano Training Center. Karuizawa, where the center is located, is a profoundly memorable place for me, for I spent my last summer with Mr. Toda there in August 1957, and it was during that stay that I vowed in my heart to write a novel about Mr. Toda’s life. That August 6 also marked 48 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the first use of nuclear weapons in history. This was the place and time I decided to begin writing The New Human Revolution.

I started writing my earlier novel, The Human Revolution, on December 2, 1964, in Okinawa, which had been the site of brutal ground fighting during World War II. I opened that novel with the words: “Nothing is more barbarous than war. Nothing is more cruel.”

In The New Human Revolution, I began with the words: “Nothing is more precious than peace. Nothing brings more happiness. Peace is the most basic starting point for the advancement of humankind.”

The aim of worldwide kosen-rufu is the realization of peace and happiness for all humanity. In these opening lines of my two novels, I wanted to leave an eternal record of my vow as a disciple to carry on the spirit and ideals of the first two Soka Gakkai presidents and change the direction of history from an age of war to an age of peace. …

Each day was a battle into which I poured my heart and soul. Calling to mind my precious fellow members in Japan and around the world striving so earnestly in faith, I tapped the deepest recesses of my being to write my tale, as if I were sending a letter of encouragement to each one of them. At the same time, I was also engaging in an inner dialogue with my mentor as I wrote. His voice would echo in my mind, urging me to transmit the Soka Gakkai spirit for posterity and fulfill my mission in this life. That would sweep away all weariness and fill me with courage.

How did the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood betray Nichiren Daishonin’s spirit?

A major catalyst for the dynamic development of the Soka Gakkai, which was energetically advancing worldwide kosen-rufu, was its attainment of spiritual independence from the corrupt and ossified Nichiren Shoshu priesthood.

The Soka Gakkai had stoically endured the terrible treatment by priests who were openly contemptuous of believers. It had sought to maintain harmonious relations between the priesthood and the laity and continued to sincerely support Nichiren Shoshu. All of this had been solely for the sake of advancing kosen-rufu, the cherished wish of Nichiren Daishonin. But priests of Nichiren Shoshu became increasingly dogmatic and flaunted their clerical authority. In the process, they even came to reject as slander of the Law the artistic and cultural works that were inspired by other faith traditions yet were considered by people around the world as the heritage of all humanity. Growing ever more authoritarian, they adopted an unjust policy of extreme discrimination against the laity, and sought to establish a system in which lay followers were completely subjugated by the priesthood, with the high priest at its zenith. This was a betrayal of the Daishonin’s spirit and a violation of the Buddhist teachings of respect for the dignity of life and the equality of all people.

If this were to continue, the fundamental principles of Nichiren Buddhism would be distorted in a way that it no longer resembled a teaching for realizing happiness and peace for all humanity. With the rallying cry of “Return to the spirit of the Daishonin!” the Soka Gakkai rose up to carry out a religious reformation and remonstrated with the priesthood. Nichiren Shoshu’s response to the Soka Gakkai, the organization striving for kosen-rufu in exact accord with the Daishonin’s intent, was to issue a call for it to disband, followed soon after by a notice of excommunication.

November 28, 1991, the day Nichiren Shoshu sent that final notice, became the Soka Gakkai’s Spiritual Independence Day, marking its liberation from the fetters of the priesthood. The dark clouds hanging over the Soka Gakkai’s future were swept away and the path to worldwide kosen-rufu suddenly opened wide before us. It was the dawn of a new day when the Soka Gakkai would soar freely into the 21st century as a truly global religious movement.

What Is the central theme of both The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution?

The main theme of both The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution is: “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.”

What awakening did Josei Toda have while in prison that opened the way for us to change our destiny or karma?

The profound awakening that Josei Toda experienced while in prison holds the answer to this question. Wishing to grasp the truth of the Lotus Sutra, [Josei Toda] carefully read its passages again and again and chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo each day in his prison cell. In the course of doing so, he eventually awakened to the fact that he had been present along with Nichiren Daishonin at the Ceremony in the Air depicted in the Lotus Sutra and was a Bodhisattva of the Earth entrusted with propagating the Law in the Latter Day. With inexpressible joy at this realization, he vowed to dedicate his life to kosen-rufu.

What does the concept of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma” explain?

The “Teacher of the Law,” the Lotus Sutra’s 10th chapter, states, “These people voluntarily relinquish the reward due them for their pure deeds and, in the time after I have passed into extinction, because they pity living beings, they are born in this evil world so they may broadly expound this sutra” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 200). The Great Teacher Miao-lo of China identifies this passage as articulating the principle of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma.”

Just as this principle explains, we have chosen, in accord with our vow as bodhisattvas, to be born into the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law with all sorts of destinies, or karma—illness, financial hardship, family discord, loneliness, low self-esteem and the list goes on—to help guide others to enlightenment. But by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, striving in our Buddhist practice for ourselves and others and dedicating our lives to kosen-rufu, our vibrant life force as Bodhisattvas of the Earth and the expansive life state of Buddhahood well forth within us. Our lives will brim with the wisdom, courage, strength, hope and joy to overcome every hardship and daunting obstacle that arises. As we bravely triumph over the onslaughts of karma, we demonstrate the validity of the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism and the tremendous benefit of our Buddhist practice, and further advance kosen-rufu. In fact, we have willingly taken on these hardships and sufferings in order to do just that.

Karma and mission are two sides of the same coin, and our karma directly becomes our unique and noble mission. That is why, when we dedicate our lives to kosen-rufu, there is no destiny that we cannot change.

We are all Bodhisattvas of the Earth and have a right to become happy. We are the lead players and stars in a glorious drama performed on the grand stage of life—a drama of changing the icy winds of winter into the warm sunshine of spring, transforming suffering into joy.

Suggested Questions:

1) How do you apply the central theme underlying both The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution to your life?

2) What experiences have you had of changing your karma into your mission?

From the October 2023 Living Buddhism

District Study Meeting Material

Great Path—Volume 28, Chapter 2