Skip to main content

Ikeda Sensei

Soka: Never Being Defeated (Part 1)

Photo by Mak / Unsplash.

The following was written by Ikeda Sensei as part of the series “The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin and the Mentor-Disciple Relationship.” It was originally published in the Sept. 4, 2009, World Tribune. 

“Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other. ‘All others who bear you enmity or malice will … be wiped out.’ These golden words [of the Lotus Sutra] will never prove false.” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1001)

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda often said strictly: “For the sake of kosen-rufu, you must win in all of your struggles. You must win, whatever the circumstances!”

Nichiren Buddhism is a philosophy of victory that enables us to conquer our own weaknesses, win in our personal lives and triumph over wrongs and injustices, and thus walk the great path of happiness and truth. When we embark on a struggle, we should be firmly resolved to win. Soka means never being defeated.

On March 30, 1954, I was appointed Soka Gakkai youth division chief of staff. I was 26, the age of many of our young men’s division members today. Devoting my energies to powering the Soka Gakkai’s successful development, I came up with all kinds of plans to further kosen-rufu, and I boldly carried them out. I spearheaded efforts to help as many people as possible become happy by introducing them to Nichiren Buddhism, to gain trust and understanding in society through sincerity and integrity, and to rebut false reporting of our movement and set the record straight about our aims and intentions. I was filled with a deep sense of pride in being a member of the youth division, which Mr. Toda declared was his most trusted force.

Fifty-five years have passed since then. Maintaining the same passion and enthusiasm of my youth, I have continued to strive wholeheartedly for the Soka Gakkai’s development and the happiness of my fellow members, creating a brilliant record of successive triumphs.

The strategy of the Lotus Sutra is the strategy for absolute victory based on faith in the Mystic Law. The ultimate purpose of the Lotus Sutra and the ardent wish of Nichiren Daishonin are to enable everyone, without exception, to lead happy and victorious lives.

Addressed to Shijo Kingo, Nichiren Daishonin’s letter “The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra” is a short yet important writing containing profound guidance on the essence of faith for achieving ultimate victory.

In explaining the supreme strategy for success and victory in life, Nichiren cites examples that will drive home his point to Shijo Kingo, a samurai. He thus notes that the renowned Japanese general Taira no Masakado, though skilled in the art of war, was nevertheless defeated in battle, and that the strategies of the famous ancient Chinese warriors Fan K’uai and Chang Liang sometimes proved to no avail. “It is the heart that is important” (WND-1, 1000), stresses the Daishonin. And, in conclusion, he urges Shijo Kingo, “Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other” (WND-1, 1001).

No strategy surpasses that of the Lotus Sutra. The power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo even once is incredible. Faith itself is the unrivaled strategy for achieving absolute victory in all of our struggles for kosen-rufu. Being firmly convinced of this is the first step.

To uphold the Lotus Sutra is to vanquish devilish functions.

Nichiren Daishonin assures us that when we employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra in our struggles, Shakyamuni’s statement that those forces that bear us enmity or malice will be wiped out[1] will prove to be true. This statement appears in “Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King,” the 23rd chapter of the Lotus Sutra. It describes one of the benefits of upholding the Lotus Sutra as vanquishing all hostile or malicious forces—that is, all devilish or negative functions—that assail us. In terms of our personal lives, these forces can be understood as the workings in life that cause unhappiness and suffering, and include the devilish functions of sickness and death. In terms of society, meanwhile, they refer to the three powerful enemies—forces that resent and harass the practitioners of the Lotus Sutra.

The strategy of the Lotus Sutra—in other words, faith in the Mystic Law—enables us to completely wipe out causes that create suffering and bring forth a state of sublime happiness and victory from the innermost depths of our lives.  

SGI members are testaments to the power of faith.

Our members everywhere have experienced and demonstrated the great power of employing the strategy of the Lotus Sutra. Whether it be in dealing with serious illness, accidents or natural disasters, or financial, career or relationship problems, they have emerged victorious. They have done so by taking on these difficult challenges with the determination “Now is the time to chant and open a way forward!” while continuing to make steady, positive efforts. Their victories are shining testaments to the power of faith in Nichiren Buddhism.

Mr. Toda once remarked humorously: “Outwardly, we might look like a ‘Bodhisattva Poverty’ or ‘Bodhisattva Sickness,’ but that is merely a role we’re playing in the drama of life. We are in fact bona fide Bodhisattvas of the Earth! Since life is a grand drama, we should thoroughly enjoy playing the role we have undertaken and demonstrate the greatness of the Mystic Law.”

The Soka Gakkai was established through the life-and-death struggles of its first and second presidents, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda. If we make our way together with the Soka Gakkai as long as we live, we will be able to bring forth the power of the Mystic Law to transcend any of the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death, and transform our karma into mission. Our lives will be a magnificent journey imbued with the four virtues of eternity, happiness, true self and purity.

Mr. Toda also said: “Those who strive for kosen-rufu are genuine champions of humanity. Please always have this spirit and pride.” A person’s worth is not measured by their organizational position or social status. Truly admirable are those who have exerted themselves all-out for kosen-rufu.

In my 20s, I shouldered full responsibility for the Soka Gakkai, fought my hardest and replied to my mentor by achieving resounding victories.  

Raise youth for the sake of the next 50 years.

The Soka Gakkai is a supremely noble gathering of Buddhas. Mr. Toda often told the youth division: “The Soka Gakkai was called forth by the Daishonin. It is an organization carrying out the Buddha’s intent and decree that is far greater than you can imagine.” 

The importance of our harmonious community of practitioners dedicated to actualizing kosen-rufu should not be underestimated. To take the Soka Gakkai lightly is to take the Gohonzon and Nichiren lightly. To cherish and protect the Soka Gakkai, on the other hand, is to protect Nichiren Buddhism, and those who do so will in turn be protected by the heavenly deities—the positive forces of the universe. 

My focus now is on earnestly training the youth for the sake of the next 50 years. The Soka Gakkai will only continue to flourish in the future if we succeed in fostering an unending stream of youthful disciples who will carry on the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple and who will have the strength to actively champion the cause of good.

Nichiren concludes “The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra” with these words: “The heart of strategy and swordsmanship derives from the Mystic Law. Have profound faith. A coward cannot have any of his prayers answered” (WND-1, 1001). He is telling the valiant Shijo Kingo that the Mystic Law is the foundation for victory in all things. 

Buddhism is manifested in society. Faith is manifested in our daily lives. All aspects of human life unfold in accord with the workings of the Mystic Law, the fundamental Law of the universe. The principles for maintaining health, succeeding at work, leading a happy life, creating peace, harmony and prosperity for all—each of these, ultimately, is governed by the Mystic Law. When we manifest the powerful life force of Buddhahood from within us through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can bring forth the courage to move forward, the wisdom to triumph and the compassion to encourage and support others. 

Mr. Toda also said, “Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and living with strong faith day after day injects our life with diamondlike brilliance and strength every day.”

Buddhism is about winning.

Life is filled with struggles. Individuals, families and even companies face various struggles. The task of raising and caring for children, too, is an enormous struggle. Striving to maintain our health and enjoy a long life also entails an unceasing struggle. 

The sun shines, clouds form, breezes blow, streams flow. All of these activities are dynamic workings of the natural world that is connected to the universe as a whole. In other words, all phenomena arise from a dynamic struggle.

That is why Nichiren declared that Buddhism is a struggle to be victorious. We must win in order to attain happiness, reveal our Buddhahood, gain enlightenment in this lifetime and realize kosen-rufu. 

When Shijo Kingo received this letter from Nichiren, he was on the verge of making a breakthrough after a long period of bitter struggle. He had initially fallen out of favor with his feudal lord, Ema, because of his faith in the Daishonin’s teaching. Envious fellow retainers had also slandered him to his lord, and the situation eventually reached the point where he was in danger of having his estate confiscated. Behind these developments was the devious plotting of Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji temple [a priest of the True Word Precepts school] and others who were hostile to Nichiren. Despite these many hardships, Shijo Kingo did not give up. He continued to seek guidance from the Daishonin and remained true to his faith. Eventually, he regained the trust of his lord and was even awarded a larger estate.

Why did Shijo Kingo triumph? At the beginning of this letter, Nichiren Daishonin notes that his disciple had been attacked by powerful enemies but had successfully survived due to his “usual prudence and courage, as well as [his] firm faith in the Lotus Sutra” (WND-1, 1000). In other words, the key ingredients for victory are none other than constant vigilance, courage and strong faith—with strong faith, naturally, the most important of all.

Through the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can drive cowardice, carelessness and arrogance from our hearts. We can then forge ahead with invincible courage—the kind of courage that refuses to be defeated by any obstacle—or rather, that only burns more fiercely the greater the difficulties we face.

Win through the shared commitment of mentor and disciple.

A character in one of French author Romain Rolland’s novels cites the following words: “Arise, and fight with a resolute heart. … Fight with all [your] might.”

Life is a struggle, and ultimate victory is decided only in its final chapter. That is why it’s important not to grow conceited in victory or become disheartened in defeat. Those who keep pressing onward toward a lofty goal with tireless patience and persistence win in the end.

I will never forget these words of my mentor: “Winning is exhilarating and joyful. Winners’ smiles are beautiful. Losing is depressing and painful. That’s why it’s so important to win in life. The very purpose of our faith and the Buddhism we practice is to win.” 

“Let me strive together with my mentor for the sake of kosen-rufu! Let me present him with great victories!”—this has been the prayer with which I have forged ahead in life. And it is through this spirit of shared commitment that I have won. 

Today, I continue to pray with all my heart that my treasured fellow members everywhere will enjoy good health and longevity, and lead wonderful lives of victory by walking the same path of mentor and disciple.

To be continued in an upcoming issue.

April 7, 2023, World Tribune, pp. 2–3


  1. See The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 329. ↩︎

This Month in Soka Gakkai History (April)