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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

Key Passages From The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings (Part 1)

Part 1: Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—Hold High the Banner of Respect for the Dignity of Life! Share the Great Path of the Buddhism of the People!

Members enjoying a meeting in Miami, July 2023. Photo by Roxy Azuaje

Teach others to the best of your ability, even if it is only a single sentence or phrase” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 386). We have engraved these golden words of Nichiren Daishonin deep in our hearts. Propagation—spreading the teachings—is the life of religion.

Discussing religion, the renowned British historian Arnold Toynbee wrote: “The more important something seems to a human being to be, the more eager he is to share it with his fellows.”[1]

Religion is part of human history. Whatever the society or culture, it has never been solely a personal matter but has been shared with and spread to others. It has been passed down through the ages and transmitted over great distances, surviving countless hardships. Professor Toynbee accurately perceived a powerful human impulse driving the spread of religion.

We have entered an age when Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of the Sun is brightly illuminating the world with the great light of compassion and profound philosophy. Our members around the globe seek to introduce this great teaching to as many people as possible. They are advancing each day with boundless hope and enthusiasm, motivated by an irrepressible desire to share the Mystic Law and the joy of faith.

Freely and Dynamically Lecturing on the Lotus Sutra

Beginning with this installment, I would like to study with you, my fellow Bodhisattvas of the Earth, The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, a work that encapsulates the essence of Nichiren Buddhism.

Nichiren Daishonin is the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law who, as an ordinary human being, awakened to, embraced and embodied the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the great teaching by which all people can attain Buddhahood. Based on his enlightenment to this ultimate truth, he freely and dynamically lectured on the Lotus Sutra and its opening and closing sutras,[2] giving a living interpretation of them. Nikko Shonin[3] is said to have compiled these precious words and statements of the Daishonin to his disciples. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings is a compilation created through the unity, or oneness, of mentor and disciple.

What is most important in reading The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings? It is having the firm conviction that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the fundamental Law of the universe and life to which the Daishonin awakened, and the principle of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life.”

Soka Gakkai founding President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi deeply read The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings and put it into practice in his life. His copy of it, which he always kept at hand, along with his cherished copy of Nichiren’s writings,[4] were both confiscated during his persecution by the wartime militarist authorities.

According to prison interrogation records, in response to the question “What kind of teaching is the Lotus Sutra?” he confidently answered: “The Law is without beginning or end. Extending from the infinite past without beginning to the eternal future without end, it is always in motion and ceaselessly activating all phenomena in the universe. Acting in rhythm with this Law itself is Buddhism, the way of life of the Mystic Law.”[5]

Mr. Makiguchi was describing Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and how to live in accord with this fundamental Law of the universe and life. His faith in the Mystic Law allowed him to remain serene and undisturbed when confronted with the brutality of the ultranationalist authorities.

Our second president, Josei Toda, also waged a tenacious struggle in prison after being arrested for his beliefs. There, he had a profound spiritual awakening. Intensely pondering the true nature of the Buddha, he suddenly realized that the Buddha is life itself. Also, as he persisted in contemplating the profound essence of the Lotus Sutra, he awakened to his identity and mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth.[6] Based on these realizations, he examined the view of life presented in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings and began to interpret and teach the Lotus Sutra as a philosophy of life.

This is the starting point of Soka Buddhist study. Namely, by making this profound view of life our foundation, each of us reveals our infinite potential and unlocks our dynamic power and free-flowing wisdom.

Three Defining Characteristics of Nichiren Buddhism

By studying The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, we gain a clear picture of a religion committed to people’s happiness that humanity has long yearned for. Nichiren Buddhism in this respect has three defining characteristics.

First, it is a Buddhism of the people. In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, we find this articulated as “ordinary people are identical with the highest level of being [i.e., Buddhahood]” (OTT, 22) and “the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, is an ordinary mortal” (OTT, 157).

These passages are a declaration that the Buddha is never separate from or above human beings. Ordinary people are the foundation of everything. Each embodies the principle of “the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds”[7] and therefore inherently possesses the supremely noble life state of Buddhahood. The Buddha, too, exists to help ordinary people. This is a dramatic shift—rejecting authoritarian religion and religion for its own sake and advocating a Buddhism of the people, a religion for people’s happiness. This is the message that runs through The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings.

Second, Nichiren Buddhism is a religion of mentor and disciple.

The phrase “Nichiren and his followers” appears frequently in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings. The same meaning is expressed in the words “I and my disciples” from “The Opening of the Eyes.”[8] Explaining the term “lion’s roar,” the Daishonin says: “The ‘roar’ is the sound of the teacher and the disciples chanting [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] in unison” (OTT, 111). Courageously and energetically stepping forward in the shared struggle of mentor and disciple to spread the Mystic Law is the direct path to attaining Buddhahood.

Third, Nichiren Buddhism embodies a philosophy of respect for the dignity of life.

Every human being possesses the supreme Buddha nature, and each person’s life itself is a treasure tower.[9] The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings repeatedly affirms that everyone is irreplaceable and worthy of the highest respect.

The Lotus Sutra also teaches that “not a one will fail to attain Buddhahood”[10] (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 75). This compassionate wish to not leave anyone behind—to help everyone, without exception, attain enlightenment—is the spirit of Nichiren Buddhism, reflecting the great wisdom of equality.

In these tumultuous times of the 21st century, for the sake of world peace, I hope you will join me in learning from the endless wisdom in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings. Together, let’s gain a clearer, deeper understanding of Nichiren Buddhism, a teaching of genuine humanism and respect for life.

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Is the Basis of Everything


The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings (Ongi kuden) says: Namu or nam is a Sanskrit word.[11] Here it means to dedicate one’s life, that is, to the Person and to the Law. In terms of the Person, one dedicates one’s life to Shakyamuni Buddha; in terms of the Law, one dedicates one’s life to the Lotus Sutra. “Dedication” means dedication to the principle of eternal and unchanging truth of the theoretical teaching, and “life” means that one’s life dedicated to that principle bases itself on the wisdom of the truth of the essential teaching that functions in accordance with changing circumstances. In essence, one dedicates one’s life to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. (OTT, 3)

The opening section of The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings is titled “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.” This is deeply significant.

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (Myoho-renge-kyo)[12] here does not simply indicate the title of the Lotus Sutra. It is the essence of the Lotus Sutra. It is none other than the fundamental Law, the eternal Law of life. It is the heart of the Daishonin’s enlightenment, which is the essential standpoint of The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings.

Dedicating One’s Life to and Basing One’s Life on the Mystic Law

The original Sanskrit word for nam in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was translated into Chinese as “dedicate one’s life” (Jpn kimyo), meaning to dedicate one’s life to the Buddha and his teachings. That is, to believe and practice with one’s whole heart and being.

In every society and culture, human beings have always believed in something, whether a philosophy or a religion, science or an ideology. The crux is whether those things genuinely answer the questions of life and death. But Nichiren Buddhism, which we might call the Lotus Sutra of the Latter Day of the Law, offers a clear way to resolve those fundamental issues.

Professor Toynbee deeply investigated Buddhism in his later years in search of such answers.

Here, Nichiren Daishonin says that there are two objects of dedication in Buddhism, the Person and the Law. He then discusses the Chinese characters comprising the term “dedicate one’s life” (Jpn kimyo). He says that “dedication” (ki) means “dedicating one’s life to” the principle of the eternal and unchanging truth of the theoretical teaching and that “life” (myo) means “basing one’s life on” the wisdom of the truth of the essential teaching that functions in accordance with changing circumstances (see OTT, 3).

In other words, “dedication” means seeking to understand the unchanging truth and striving to enter that realm of truth. Grounding ourselves in that truth, we then return to the real world and engage in activities “basing our lives on” the wisdom we draw forth in response to changing circumstances.

This is what it means to “dedicate one’s life” to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Founding Presidents Makiguchi and Toda Constantly Referred to The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi said: “The Lotus Sutra is the truth of the universe that encompasses all phenomena of heaven and earth. It is the fundamental Law that serves as a code of conduct for living our lives as human beings.”[13] He further stated that his theory of value[14] came alive by basing it on the Mystic Law.[15]

In other words, he is saying, a way of life that is “dedicated to” and “based on” the Mystic Law allows us to create the values of beauty, benefit and good, bringing them to flower in the reality of our daily lives.

In addition, we can also understand Mr. Toda’s realization in prison—that the Buddha is life itself and that he was a Bodhisattva of the Earth—from the perspectives of “dedicating one’s life to” and “basing one’s life on” the Law.

Through seeking the ultimate truth of Buddhism, he perceived that the Lotus Sutra embodies the eternal Law of life spanning past, present and future. And basing himself on that fundamental Law as a Bodhisattva of the Earth, he dedicated his life to fulfilling the great vow for kosen-rufu to relieve people’s suffering.

Mr. Toda lectured on the Lotus Sutra based on The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings. Deeply moved and inspired by one of these lectures about a year after I had started practicing Nichiren Buddhism, I wrote in my diary [in September 1948]: “How fortunate I am to encounter the infinitely profound and immeasurable doctrines of the Lotus Sutra! … To be a practitioner of the Mystic Law. Am I really taking action I can be proud of? Am I really free of doubt in the depths of my heart? Faith depends on me.”

And I resolved that dedicating oneself to the Mystic Law is the true path of life.

In the same diary entry, I also wrote: “Youth, advance with boundless compassion! Youth, forge ahead, cherishing this great philosophy! At the age of 20, I have found the path for leading the most noble and honorable youth.”

With the Mystic Law as our supreme foundation, let us take pride in being able to perform a glorious drama on the stage of our mission, the drama of human revolution and “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.”

Soka means creating value. As fellow Bodhisattvas of the Earth, let us freely bring forth wisdom based on the Mystic Law to create happiness and peace so that growing numbers of beautiful human flowers blossom radiantly in all their diverse hues.

A Grand Vision of Worldwide Kosen-rufu

The nam[u] of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a Sanskrit word, while myoho, renge, and kyo are Chinese words.[16] Sanskrit and Chinese join in a single moment to form Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. (OTT, 3–4)

In this next passage from The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren Daishonin says that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo combines Sanskrit and Chinese, languages representing two different cultures. I feel that, in this new era of worldwide kosen-rufu, our members around the globe can truly appreciate the meaning of being “joined in a single moment.”

From the perspective of Japan in Nichiren’s time, India and China together represented the extent of the world. The statement that “Sanskrit and Chinese join in a single moment to form Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (OTT, 3–4) can also be seen as expressing the Daishonin’s conviction that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a universal teaching, a teaching for all humankind.

In its journey during Buddhism’s eastward transmission, the Lotus Sutra was translated into many languages. It illuminated the lives of countless people with its compassionate light of hope and revitalization, transcending ethnic, cultural and regional differences. With that in mind, while exiled on Sado Island in the Latter Day of the Law—an evil age rife with the five impurities[17]—the Daishonin predicted the westward transmission of Buddhism.[18] He asserted: “I say that without fail Buddhism will arise and flow forth from the east, from the land of Japan” (“On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” WND-1, 401).

This is the Daishonin’s great declaration that the Mystic Law would spread around the world with him at the vanguard.

In “Gonin shoha sho” (On Refuting the Five Priests),[19] Nikko Shonin stated: “Just as Sanskrit texts were translated into Chinese and Japanese when the Buddhism of India traveled eastward, the sacred scriptures of this country [Japan] should be translated from Japanese into Chinese and Sanskrit when the time for widespread propagation arrives” (Gosho zenshu, new edition, p. 2190).

Here, Nikko Shonin declares that the Daishonin’s writings—composed using a mixture of Chinese characters and easily understandable Japanese phonetic script—would be translated into other languages and transmitted widely. The aim is to relieve the suffering of all people.

I am certain the Daishonin and Nikko Shonin must have discussed, as mentor and disciple, their grand, far-reaching vision of worldwide kosen-rufu to help all people attain enlightenment.

Today, the Soka Gakkai has produced translations of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings in English, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Korean and many other languages, enabling people worldwide to study them.

“The ‘great vow’ refers to the propagation of the Lotus Sutra [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo]” (OTT, 82). We have inherited the Daishonin’s “great vow,” spreading his philosophy of respect for the dignity of life and sharing his wisdom for peace and happiness with people around the globe. The Soka Gakkai is indisputably the organization advancing worldwide kosen-rufu in accord with the Buddha’s intent. This is our great pride as Soka Gakkai members united by the bonds of mentor and disciple.

‘The Words and Voices of All Living Beings’

Kyo [of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] represents the words and voices of all living beings. A commentary [by Chang-an][20] says, “The voice carries out the work of the Buddha, and this is called kyo, or sutra.” (OTT, 4)

In this passage from The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren states that “the words and voices of all living beings” are the sutra, or kyo, of Myoho-renge-kyo. Words and voices, here, are not restricted to human utterances, but encompass the words and voices of all living beings. All are functions and expressions of the Mystic Law.

“The voice carries out the work of the Buddha” (OTT, 4), cites the Daishonin. Namely, the voice guides living beings to attain Buddhahood. Our words and voices can save people from suffering and lead them to happiness.

During a completion ceremony he held for attendants at the end of his lecture series on the Lotus Sutra, Mr. Toda declared: “I will achieve kosen-rufu!” His voice resounds in my heart to this day.

He also called to us: “Let cowards depart. Those who press on, press on with courage!” Responding to his lion’s roar, I vowed to carry on the struggle with the unshakable commitment “I am a follower of Nichiren Daishonin. I am a disciple of Josei Toda.”

Mr. Toda’s powerful words arose from deep inner resolve. His voice did the Buddha’s work, enabling each of us, ordinary young men and women, to lead lives of mission and triumph as Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

Our voices are power. Our voices reflect our state of life. Our voices open the way for kosen-rufu. Our voices do the Buddha’s noble work, helping others break through their karma and build happiness.

The Sound of Daimoku Can Change the World

“The voice carries out the work of the Buddha” (OTT, 4) also means that our voices chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo awaken and activate the life state of Buddhahood within us and others.

I am reminded of the Brazilian astronomer Ronaldo Mourão once telling me that in the sound and rhythm of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo he sensed a fundamental creative energy of the universe.[21]

Voices chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo have tremendous power.

The Daishonin teaches: “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is like the roar of a lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle?” (“Reply to Kyo’o,” WND-1, 412). Daimoku has the essential power to defeat and keep away the devilish functions of illness. Even when we can only chant silently to ourselves, the reverberations of our Buddha nature rising from the depths of our beings will conquer such negative workings.

The Daishonin also states: “There is no place among the worlds of the ten directions that the sound of our voices chanting daimoku cannot reach” (Gosho zenshu, new edition, p. 1121).[22] People who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo activate the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions and three existences, tapping their protective powers.

He also says: “Now when Nichiren and his followers perform ceremonies for the deceased, reciting the Lotus Sutra and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the ray of light from the daimoku reaches all the way to the hell of incessant suffering and makes it possible for them to attain Buddhahood then and there” (OTT, 17). The daimoku we chant for the eternal happiness of the deceased has the power to illuminate their lives, transcending the boundaries of life and death.

Just as the Daishonin wished, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth have emerged around the world. Today, the sound of our voices chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo reverberates widely as our network of hope and happiness spreads.

Everyone Is a Shining Treasure Tower

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings explains that we ordinary people are Buddhas. Because we embody the principle of the “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds,” it tells us, the supremely respectworthy life state of Buddhahood exists within us. This teaching is a source of boundless courage and revitalization.

Everyone is a shining treasure tower, able to surmount the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death and build a victorious life imbued with the noble virtues of eternity, happiness, true self and purity.[23]

Let us bring a triumphant song of life to resound far and wide as we study The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings and communicate “the greatest of all joys” (OTT, 212)—the joy of realizing that our lives are Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—to our friends in our communities, around the world and into the future!

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

From the September 2023 Living Buddhism


  1. Arnold Toynbee, “Preface,” in John Cogley, Religion in a Secular Age (New York: New American Library, 1968), p. xi. ↩︎
  2. The opening and closing sutras of the Lotus Sutra are the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra and the Universal Worthy Sutra, respectively. ↩︎
  3. Nikko Shonin (1246–1333): Nichiren Daishonin’s direct disciple and successor. ↩︎
  4. Mr. Makiguchi’s copy of Nichiren’s writings was the so-called Ryogonkaku edition. It was published under the title Nichiren Shonin go-ibun (Writings of the Sage Nichiren). ↩︎
  5. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), p. 192. ↩︎
  6. Bodhisattvas of the Earth: The innumerable bodhisattvas who appear in “Emerging from the Earth,” the 15th chapter of the Lotus Sutra and are entrusted by Shakyamuni with the task of propagating the Law after his passing. In “Supernatural Powers,” the 21st chapter, Shakyamuni entrusts Bodhisattva Superior Practices, the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, with spreading the Law in the saha world in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law. ↩︎
  7. Mutual possession of the Ten Worlds: The principle that each of the Ten Worlds possesses the potential for all ten within itself. “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. ↩︎
  8. In “The Opening of the Eyes,” Nichiren Daishonin writes: “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” (WND-1, 283). ↩︎
  9. Treasure tower: A tower adorned with seven kinds of treasures or gems, which appears in “The Emergence of the Treasure Tower,” the 11th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Asserting that people who uphold the Gohonzon are treasure towers, Nichiren Daishonin declares: “In the Latter Day of the Law, no treasure tower exists other than the figures of the men and women who embrace the Lotus Sutra” (WND-1, 299). ↩︎
  10. The original passage from the Lotus Sutra states: “If there are those who hear the Law, then not a one will fail to attain Buddhahood” (LSOC, 75). ↩︎
  11. Namu or its phonetic change nam derives from the Sanskrit namas. ↩︎
  12. Nichiren often uses Myoho-renge-kyo synonymously with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his writings. ↩︎
  13. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), p. 195. ↩︎
  14. Drawing inspiration from the Kantian value system of “truth, good and beauty,” first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi postulated his own theory of value based on the principles of “beauty, benefit and good.” ↩︎
  15. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), p. 244. ↩︎
  16. Namu or its phonetic change nam derives from the Sanskrit namas. Myoho-renge-kyo is the Japanese transliteration of the Chinese Miao-fa-lien-hua-ching. ↩︎
  17. Five impurities: Also, five defilements. Impurity of the age, of desire, of living beings, of thought (or view) and of life span. This term appears in “Expedient Means,” the 2nd chapter of the Lotus Sutra. 1) Impurity of the age includes repeated disruptions of the social or natural environment. 2) Impurity of desire is the tendency to be ruled by the five delusive inclinations, i.e., greed, anger, foolishness, arrogance and doubt. 3) Impurity of living beings is the physical and spiritual decline of human beings. 4) Impurity of thought, or impurity of view, is the prevalence of wrong views such as the five false views. 5) Impurity of life span is the shortening of the life spans of living beings. ↩︎
  18. Just as the moon appears to move from west to east in the night sky, Shakyamuni’s Buddhism spread from the western land of India, known as the land of the moon, to Japan in the east. This is called the eastward transmission of Buddhism. And just as the sun rises in the eastern sky and moves west, Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is destined to spread westward from the eastern country of Japan. This is known as the westward transmission of Buddhism. ↩︎
  19. “Gonin shoha sho” (On Refuting the Five Priests): A writing clarifying the integrity of Nikko Shonin and refuting the error of the five senior priests who transgressed the Daishonin’s spirit after his death. Not included in WND, vols. 1 or 2. ↩︎
  20. Chang-an (561–632), a disciple of the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai. These words appear in the commentary accompanying The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra, lectures of T’ien-t’ai that Chang-an recorded and compiled. ↩︎
  21. Translated from Portuguese. Ronaldo Rogério de Freitas Mourão and Daisaku Ikeda, Astronomia e Budismo: Uma jornada rumo ao distante Universo (Astronomy and Buddhism: A journey into the distant universe), (São Paulo: Editora Brasil Seikyo, 2009), p. 117. ↩︎
  22. “Oko Kikigaki” (The Recorded Lectures); not included in WND, vols. 1 or 2. ↩︎
  23. Eternity, happiness, true self and purity are known as the four virtues or four virtue paramitas. They describe the noble qualities of the Buddha’s life. The word paramita means “perfection.” “Eternity” means unchanging and eternal. “Happiness” means tranquility that transcends all suffering. “True self” means true and intrinsic nature. And “purity” means free of illusion or mistaken conduct. ↩︎

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Be Like the Sun