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Buddhist Study

Our Mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth

Photo by Joey Liao.

The following excerpts are from Ikeda Sensei’s lecture on Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” originally published in the November 2013 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study magazine, to commemorate the opening of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu in Tokyo. It can be found in Teachings for Victory, vol. 6, pp. 31–43.

Bodhisattvas emerging from the earth—what a powerful, vibrant, free and dynamic image! Great bodhisattvas completely without pretense or conceit, infinitely honorable and noble!

Bodhisattvas of the Earth—the very name conveys the inherent, underlying strength of human life.

Bodhisattvas of the Earth—here we find the starting point of the Soka Gakkai’s mission.

In 192 countries and territories around the world today, our admirable members, Bodhisattvas of the Earth one and all, are joyously active, holding high the banner of the Mystic Law.

The self-confident strides of ordinary people awakened to their noble mission for kosen-rufu and to their inherent potential as they forge ahead, breaking through every obstacle!

The vigor of our young men, burning with a commitment to truth and justice!

The inspiring endeavors of our pure-hearted young women!

The shining smiles of our cheerful women! The purposeful steps of our dauntless men!

The ringing voices of our lively future division members!

Our great Soka movement, a gathering of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, is forging ahead steadily everywhere—in North and South America; in Europe; in Russia; in Africa; in the birthplace of Buddhism, India; and in all of Asia, in Oceania and all around the globe. …

Toward a New Era of Worldwide Kosen-rufu

With the completion of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu, [which opened in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, in November 2013], the time has come for all SGI members to joyously make fresh strides. I declare that we have now solidly secured the magnificent foundations for kosen-rufu and embarked with vigor on the second phase of worldwide kosen-rufu.

On this momentous fresh start, let us study a section from Nichiren Daishonin’s “The True Aspect of All Phenomena” and pledge together to open new horizons in our movement. …

The section I would like to study with you this time is a very famous passage in which the Daishonin proclaims the great mission of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

Demonstrating the Principle of “Emerging from the Earth”

Now, no matter what, strive in faith and be known as a votary of the Lotus Sutra, and remain my disciple for the rest of your life. If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth. And if you are a Bodhisattva of the Earth, there is not the slightest doubt that you have been a disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha from the remote past. The [Lotus] sutra states, “Ever since the long distant past I have been teaching and converting this multitude [of bodhisattvas that has emerged from the earth].” There should be no discrimination among those who propagate the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo in the Latter Day of the Law, be they men or women. Were they not Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they could not chant the daimoku. At first only Nichiren chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but then two, three, and a hundred followed, chanting and teaching others. Propagation will unfold this way in the future as well. Does this not signify “emerging from the earth”? At the time when the Law has spread far and wide, the entire Japanese nation will chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, as surely as an arrow aimed at the earth cannot miss the target.

But now you must build your reputation on the Lotus Sutra [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] and give yourself up to it. (WND-1, 385)

The SGI has put this passage into practice in its entirety. …

As disciples directly linked to the Daishonin through eternal ties that can never be severed, we of the SGI are comrades who have joined together in dedicating our lives to the vow of kosen-rufu. We have striven selflessly, in “the same mind as Nichiren,” to realize the Daishonin’s will and decree.

Moreover, we are fulfilling our noble mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth to propagate “the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo,” or the Mystic Law, in a spirit of equality and mutual respect, in accordance with the Daishonin’s admonition that there should be no discrimination between men or women. …

The spirit to stand up alone, to take personal initiative, is the core spirit and essence of the SGI. My mentor, Josei Toda, called out to young people: “Youth, just one of you stand! A second and then a third will definitely follow!” Our members around the world have indeed demonstrated that when one pioneering individual takes the lead, “two, three, and a hundred will follow.” In many localities and regions, kosen-rufu has started from a single individual and from there spread to one person and then another. Through such steady, persevering efforts to share Buddhism, we have created the great current of kosen-rufu we have today.

Most importantly, the pioneering spirit of the early days of our movement is now being faithfully carried on by our youth. Young Bodhisattvas of the Earth everywhere are energetically taking the lead in propagating Nichiren Buddhism with a sense of responsibility for realizing kosen-rufu in their areas. What a wonderful age this is! What deep karmic ties these young people share!

The SGI has indisputably demonstrated the Daishonin’s principle of “emerging from the earth.” The Daishonin’s assertion that “propagation will unfold this way in the future as well” is, I believe, nothing other than a prediction of the future emergence of SGI members.

The Miraculous Emergence of the Soka Gakkai

The “time” for the Bodhisattvas of the Earth to carry out their mission is the evil age of the Latter Day, and the “place” where they will do so is this saha world. Having chosen the most challenging circumstances, they rise into action here and now to help those experiencing the greatest suffering attain enlightenment.

Nichiren Buddhism teaches the principle of voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma.[1] This represents the transformation from a passive life to an active, self-motivated life—one based on the conviction that we have voluntarily chosen to be born into difficult and challenging circumstances to lead others to enlightenment. By making a vow for kosen-rufu based on this principle, we can transform our karma into our mission. When we awaken to our mission from the remote past, we will gain a new sense of self. We will be able to “cast off the transient and reveal the true” in our own lives and enable our real potential to shine forth.

Those who have awakened to their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth fear nothing. When we take on the mission to help others become happy, courage and strength well up spontaneously from within us. How wondrous are the karmic ties we share as Bodhisattvas of the Earth and how noble the vow for kosen-rufu!

I will never forget the impassioned words of Chingiz Aitmatov (1928–2008), the Kyrgyz writer with whom I met and spoke on many occasions:

Is there no end to animosity and hatred in this human world? We are always looking for enemies, forced into feelings of mutual hostility. Many behave self-righteously, too, rejecting dialogue, insisting on their own truth and refusing to recognize the good in anyone else. Ours is a world of darkness in which fellow human beings war with one another and destroy nature.

Amid this stark reality, the SGI—an ideal organization that could rightly be called a modern utopia—has emerged, a fact that may be difficult to immediately fathom.[2]

Mr. Aitmatov also lauded the SGI for “not destroying others but spreading the light of humanism to every corner of the world through a flexible approach based on firm convictions and building a network of mutual understanding that allows others to live fully and freely.”[3] He further declared: “The Soka Gakkai emerged in a time of great upheavals in human history [such as war, conflict, and unending bloodshed]. That is truly amazing. Its emergence is the hope of humanity.”[4]

The mission of Bodhisattvas of the Earth is truly great and noble beyond measure. It transcends all differences, including those of ethnicity, race, nationality and gender. It is a mission that emanates from the vast creative life force that pervades the very depths of the lives of all human beings. One who is awakened to this is called a Bodhisattva of the Earth.

Each person is an entity endowed with the supreme Buddha nature. By encouraging and respecting one another as fellow human beings living together on this planet, we can bring forth the power to tap the limit-less potential within ourselves and others; we can bring forth the power to create the values of happiness and peace. This is also our profound mission.

We of the SGI have appeared in this world, having vowed to dedicate our lives to this mission.


  1. Voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma: This refers to bodhisattvas who, though qualified to receive the pure rewards of Buddhist practice, relinquish them and make a vow to be reborn in an impure world in order to save living beings. They spread the Mystic Law while undergoing the same sufferings as those born in the evil world due to karma. This term derives from Miao-lo’s interpretation of relevant passages in “The Teacher of the Law,” the 10th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. ↩︎
  2. Translated from Japanese. Article featuring Ikeda Sensei’s September 5, 1992, meeting and dialogue with Chingiz Aitmatov at Soka University in Hachioji, Tokyo, in Seikyo Shimbun, September 7, 1992. ↩︎
  3. Ibid. ↩︎
  4. Ibid. ↩︎

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