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Ikeda Sensei

Our Courageous Propagation of Buddhism

Thoughts on The New Human Revolution

Photo by Dmytro / Pexels.

The following essay from Ikeda Sensei’s series “Thoughts on The New Human Revolution” was translated from the Oct. 7, 1998, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

Propagation is the lifeblood of religion. A religion without propagation efforts has abandoned the basic function of religion—to reach out to people and help them. Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda declared that the Soka Gakkai is an organization for propagating Buddhism. In doing so, he was declaring the Soka Gakkai’s mission: to spread the principles of true humanism and to realize happiness for all humankind and peace on Earth.

When I visited Soka University [in Hachioji, Tokyo] in the autumn of last year [1997], I had an opportunity to talk at length with some of our student division members. One of them said to me, “I am having a hard time introducing Buddhism to my friends.” He was deeply troubled by this, and I was impressed by his seriousness. Here he was, worrying about how he could teach Buddhism to his friends and thereby plant the seed of happiness in their lives. What a fine, noble thing to be concerned about!

With the greatest respect for him, I encouraged him with all my heart: “Everything is hard in the beginning. This is only more true of propagating Buddhism, which Nichiren Daishonin’s writings describe as the most difficult of all difficult things.

“When I was young, my efforts were really just trial and error, but they became the foundation for future success. The important thing is to be determined, positive and optimistic, and to never stop challenging ourselves, no matter the circumstances. Let’s be invincible optimists!”

I will never forget his face, as he nodded with a smile.

Five months later, he reported happily that he had been successful in introducing another person to Nichiren Buddhism. I was so happy to hear that; I was happy because of his sincerity.

When I look back, the first person who began to practice Nichiren Buddhism through my introduction was a teacher at an elementary school in Ota Ward. This happened just a short while after I began working at Mr. Toda’s company. Until then, I had spoken about Buddhism with several of my friends. Mr. Toda had even met with one of them and talked to him about Buddhism. But so far none had taken faith and begun to practice.

I was so frustrated that I searched very hard for the best ways to talk about Buddhism to others. I prayed wholeheartedly, and I continued to propagate the Daishonin’s teachings, each time with the firm resolve to bring one more person to this faith. I can’t begin to measure what valuable experience and training this gave me.

And how overjoyed I was when I finally was able to successfully convince someone to embrace Nichiren Buddhism! I could never describe my elation in words. I decided that I would thoroughly look after them and make sure that they triumphed in life. I had the elementary school teacher come to my home every morning, and we did gongyo and read Nichiren’s writings together before going to work. I also remember fondly how I used to stop by after work to teach my friend gongyo. 

The advance of kosen-rufu lies in the repetition of such patient, painstaking efforts to awaken one friend after another to faith in Nichiren Buddhism. This is true Buddhist practice.

When Mr. Toda became the second president of the Soka Gakkai and made his vow to attain a membership of 750,000 households, I pledged, “Mr. Toda is my mentor in propagation; as his disciple, I vow to become a true champion of propagation.” And having made that pledge, I threw myself wholeheartedly into this challenge, creating the groundswell for unprecedented propagation in Kamata, Bunkyo, Osaka and Yamaguchi.

I remember one discussion meeting at which all of the seven or eight young men in attendance decided to join the Soka Gakkai. I told them that Nichiren Buddhism was the only way to absolute happiness, and I earnestly assured them that I wanted them to accept those teachings only because I wanted each of them to have the best lives possible.

Such conviction and sincerity will open our friends’ hearts and make them receptive to our message.

Propagation must always take place in the context of deepening friendship and earning the trust of others. Today we live in an age in which there are superficial discussions, but true dialogue is lacking. Propagating Nichiren Buddhism, however, is a true dialogue: a stimulating exchange, based on consideration and concern for our friends, as we invite them to walk with us on the path of true and complete happiness.

Genuine Buddhist dialogue is discussing such crucial matters as the true values of life and what is right and wrong, based on our daily lives and our personal experiences. This is the ultimate practice of humanism, and this is propagating Buddhism. At the same time, propagating Nichiren Buddhism, which involves teaching others the most fundamental solution to sufferings, is the ultimate act of altruism, as well as the fastest way for us to do our human revolution and break out of the shell of our own ego.

Those who propagate Buddhism are the true disciples of Nichiren Daishonin, those who have inherited his spirit. Nikko Shonin praised all who courageously propagated Nichiren’s teachings, declaring: “You should revere a teacher of the Law who engages in its propagation as a sacred priest, even though he may be your junior” (“Twenty-six Admonitions of Nikko,” Gosho zenshu, p. 1618). And the benefits attained by those who propagate the Law are boundless and immeasurable. 

Out of our single-minded concern for the happiness of others and our ardent desire to attain world peace, we have held high the banner of kosen-rufu and continued to shed the compassionate light of Buddhism throughout the world, undeterred by slander or abuse. This is the proud and noble history of the Soka Gakkai. 

In the “Song of Indomitable Dignity,” there are the lines: 

Today and again tomorrow
as our march of
propagation progresses
our hearts, too, burn even brighter.

How true. Here, unbeaten by any trials or tribulations, lies the pulse of momentous vitality, the source of supreme joy.

Today once more, our great and lofty dialogue to propagate Nichiren Buddhism rings through the clear autumn sky. 

August 11, 2023, World Tribune, pp. 2–3

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