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Ikeda Sensei

Sound the Bells of Courage and Hope for a Brighter Future!

Photo by Erika Parfenova / Getty Images.

The following essay by Ikeda Sensei was translated from the May 18, 2023, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

On May 3, Soka Gakkai Day, we made a joyful, united fresh start in our journey for kosen-rufu with our fellow members around the world. 

It was in May 750 years ago that Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, composed “On the Buddha’s Prophecy” while in exile on Sado Island. In that writing, he quotes two passages from the Lotus Sutra that clearly refer to kosen-rufu, or the widespread propagation of the Law. 

The first is from “Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King,” the 23rd chapter of the Lotus Sutra, in which Shakyamuni imparts the following instruction: “After I have passed into extinction, in the last five-hundred-year period you must spread it [the Lotus Sutra] abroad widely throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world] and never allow it to be cut off” [The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 330] (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 398).

The second passage is from “Encouragements of the Bodhisattva Universal Worthy,” the 28th chapter. It comprises Bodhisattva Universal Worthy’s vow to Shakyamuni: “After the Thus Come One [Shakyamuni] has entered extinction, I will cause it [the Lotus Sutra] to be widely propagated throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world] and will see that it never comes to an end” [LSOC, 363] (WND-1, 401).

The first passage is the teacher entrusting kosen-rufu to the disciple, and the second is the disciple vowing to the teacher to widely spread his teaching. 

The shared struggle of mentor and disciple to actualize kosen-rufu without fail in accord with their vow is what ensures the teaching of the Mystic Law will live on for all eternity. 

United by the bonds of mentor and disciple, we of the Soka Gakkai are fulfilling the great vow to realize worldwide kosen-rufu through the compassionate propagation of the Mystic Law. From the 20th century into the 21st century, we have advanced resolutely in our tumultuous world, imparting the brilliant light of human triumph and respect for the dignity of life. Our honor is higher than the heavens and our benefit and good fortune deeper than the ocean. 

Youth are decisive in securing a future where the Law endures and continues to be transmitted. The time has now come when Shin’ichi Yamamotos of the new era are taking their place in the forefront and creating a record of great achievements.

Discussing the Daishonin’s writing “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, said, “It is the Soka Gakkai’s mission to ensure that [the Daishonin’s prediction of] the ‘westward transmission of Buddhism’ is not made a lie.”

On April 5, I received an honorary doctorate of letters from India’s Maharaja Surajmal Brij University. I humbly accepted this honor as Mr. Toda’s disciple and a representative of all our members around the world. 

I have very fond memories of my meeting [in Tokyo in October 2000] with the university’s vice-chancellor Ramesh Chandra, who recommended me for this honorary degree. Reflecting on the history of Buddhism in India, he remarked at that time that it was unfortunate that Buddhism had almost disappeared from India but that thanks to the SGI, many people around the world have come to embrace Buddhism and are practicing the essence of Shakyamuni’s teaching today.[1]

To me, his words are like a modern-day testimony from Many Treasures Buddha, praising the Soka Gakkai for realizing the Buddha’s prediction of the “westward transmission of Buddhism”: “The moon appears in the west and sheds its light eastward, but the sun rises in the east and casts its rays to the west” (WND-1, 401).

Today, kosen-rufu is developing at a truly phenomenal pace in India, the land of Buddhism’s origin, and in South Korea, which my mentor regarded as having a profound mission connected to the “westward transmission of Buddhism.” I can picture him smiling happily. 

I am reminded of an event in the life of our first president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. In May 1923, 100 years ago, he and seven other Tokyo elementary school principals traveled in a delegation to observe elementary schools in Kyoto, Osaka and Hyogo prefectures. Fifty years after this visit, our Kansai Soka Junior and Senior High Schools in Katano, Osaka, opened [in April 1973].[2] The bright students entering the schools this year will be the 51st class, while the schools’ graduates, who are so dear to me, are playing key roles in society and in their local communities. As the schools’ founder, nothing could make me happier.

The shared struggle of mentor and disciple to actualize kosen-rufu without fail in accord with their vow is what ensures the teaching of the Mystic Law will live on for all eternity.

At a time when militaristic indoctrination dominated children’s education throughout Japan, Mr. Makiguchi resolutely declared that the true purpose of education is children’s happiness. His disciple, Mr. Toda, also firmly believed in the potential of young people, proclaiming his resolve to enable every student to excel and become happy. This is the starting point of Soka education, the ideals of which have spread around the world.

It is my earnest hope, as we press ahead into the next 50, the next 100 years, that Soka education will continue to hold high the banner of putting students first and foster a steady stream of global citizens who will contribute to the welfare of humanity and work to build a peaceful, harmonious world. 

Half a century has passed since my dialogues with British historian Arnold Toynbee.[3] Professor Toynbee took a keen interest in the Soka Gakkai as a vibrant global religious movement. During one of our conversations at his home in London, he expressed his hope that religion would be revitalized through challenging society’s many problems and thereby positively contribute to overcoming the crises of modern civilization. Based on Professor Toynbee’s view of history, which asserts that civilizations grow by responding successfully to challenges, religion, too, will make new strides forward by responding courageously to the challenges of the times. 

Professor Toynbee lived his life with the resolve to always learn and gain something positive even from hardships and suffering.

Let us make the Buddhist wisdom of the Middle Way, in which Professor Toynbee placed great hope, shine even more brightly in our world and powerfully transform even the greatest challenges into a springboard for creating hope and happiness for humanity.

In our movement for kosen-rufu, the sincere prayers and tireless efforts of Soka women always bring fresh hope for triumphing over obstacles and create powerful momentum for changing poison into medicine. 

Attending a discussion meeting in 1979, the last year of the first Seven Bells,[4] my wife, Kaneko, inscribed a decorative card at the members’ request, writing:

in the culminating year
of the Seven Bells

That was the vow of all Soka women throughout Japan and around the world. Remaining true to that deep, impassioned vow while braving every storm of obstacles with unwavering faith, they continue to this day to encourage and support their fellow members and strive their hardest for their communities. That is why the Soka Gakkai, our great bastion of mentor and disciple, remains unshakable.

Soon it will be June, the month of Soka women. June 4 is SGI Ikeda Kayo-kai Day and June 10 is Women’s Division Founding Day.[5] Hundreds of thousands of small-group women’s general meetings will be held throughout Japan, bringing flowers of dialogue, smiles and friendship to bloom in richly diverse and beautiful profusion. For many group leaders, this will be the first time to lead such gatherings.

“If you have deep faith, your life will change radically. You can change your destiny.”

Our women’s small-group meetings are designed so that small numbers of participants can come together and engage in one-to-one dialogue. They are informal, openhearted gatherings where members can be themselves, bringing inspiration and happy smiles to everyone with the joy and hope radiating from their lives. They are gardens of beautiful harmony in diversity, exemplifying the Buddhist teachings of “cherry, plum, peach, and damson” (see The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 200) and “illuminating and manifesting one’s true nature” (see “The Essentials for Attaining Buddhahood,” WND-1, 746).

In a lecture on “On the Buddha’s Prophecy,” Mr. Toda cited the Daishonin’s statement “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging was a practitioner at the initial stage of rejoicing” (WND-1, 400). He then explained it in a very accessible way, saying that Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, as someone who had just embarked on Buddhist practice, engaged in spreading the Law with irrepressible joy. He added that we, too, as ordinary people, are spreading the Law and are certain to attain Buddhahood. So we should just be ourselves and act naturally, he said.[6]

Joyful small-group meetings—where members and guests talk together freely and openly and everyone leaves feeling glad to have attended—are an active embodiment of a culture of peace. 

On May 16, seven decades ago (in 1953), just after my appointment as Bunkyo Chapter’s acting leader, we held a high-spirited chapter leaders meeting attended by Mr. Toda. Hearing the women’s leader earnestly share her convictions, Mr. Toda was deeply moved and said that she had completely grasped his own feelings.

The next day, May 17, at an Adachi Chapter general meeting, he presented her remarks—to which he had personally added an introduction—to all Soka women under the title “Guidelines for the Women’s Division” which read in part: “The time has come for us to gain a thorough grounding in the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism. Let us seize the moment and take time to study every chance we have. … Sound faith gives rise to the desire to study the Daishonin’s teachings.”

As these words were greeted with joy, Mr. Toda called out to the ever-dependable Adachi members: “If you have deep faith, your life will change radically. You can change your destiny.”[7]

Nichiren Daishonin teaches that our legs correspond to kyo [literally “sutra” or “teaching”] of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (see OTT, 28)[8]—meaning to take action to spread the Law. Embodying these words, our members are walking on the front lines of our movement for kosen-rufu in buoyant spirits. Encouraging one another, they forge ahead and steadfastly engage in dialogue to realize the Daishonin’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.” Each noble member of our Soka family is a model of “the two ways of practice and study” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 386).

The Daishonin declared that women open the gateway (see “The Treasure of a Child,” WND-2, 884). My wife, Kaneko, and I are praying for the success of the June women’s general meetings and that they will open countless gateways leading to a wealth of happiness in an increasingly diverse society, just as the Daishonin said. We are also praying for everyone’s health, long life, harmony and good fortune. 

The activities of our Music Corps and Fife and Drum Corps, the best performing groups in Japan, are truly astonishing. I would like to express my sincere appreciation and praise for the spectacular musical and marching performances they have given in parades around the country. 

Once, while discussing the characteristic of various countries’ march music with Music Corps members in the early days after its establishment, I suggested that a defining feature of the Music Corps’ performances was imparting courage. I fondly remember the young musicians nodding proudly in agreement, their eyes shining. 

Accompanied by the wonderful sounds created by our musical heroes of kosen-rufu, the Music Corps, and our delightful messengers of peace, the Fife and Drum Corps, we will always march forward united in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind,” brimming with the unsurpassed courage that is “the heart of a lion king” (“Letter from Sado,” WND-1, 302).

Mr. Toda said, “As travelers of old would make their way from one milepost to the next, let’s advance along the path of kosen-rufu from one seven-year milestone to the next.” We are advancing in rhythm with the second Seven Bells, which began in 2001. In addition, the Soka Gakkai’s centennial lies in wait only seven years from now in 2030. 

Who will ring the bells of victory in life and kosen-rufu? You must resolve that you will be the ones! 

First, you need to engage in your human revolution and do your utmost to ensure that your families, Soka Gakkai districts and your wider communities thrive and prosper. I hope you will cherish great aspirations, set concrete goals and challenge yourselves to achieve them one by one with joy and perseverance. 

The grand stage of the second Seven Bells lies before us—the grand stage for building the foundations for world peace. The time for spreading the life-affirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism is now.

Again today, ringing the bells of hope and courage in our lives, let us advance in good cheer, from one milestone to the next, aligned with the Mystic Law and in rhythm with the triumphant song of Soka!

June 16, 2023, World Tribune, pp. 2–4


  1. Translated from Japanese. From an article in the Oct. 16, 2000, Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. ↩︎
  2. The schools originally began as the Soka Girls’ Junior and Senior High Schools, which later became coeducational and were renamed in April 1982. ↩︎
  3. The dialogues took place in London in May 1972 and May 1973. ↩︎
  4. The first series of Seven Bells refers to the seven consecutive seven-year periods in the Soka Gakkai’s development from its founding in 1930 through 1979. On May 3, 1958, shortly after second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s death (on April 2), Daisaku Ikeda, then Soka Gakkai youth division chief of staff, introduced this idea and announced targets for subsequent seven-year periods. On May 3, 1966, Ikeda Sensei spoke of a new series of Seven Bells that he envisaged unfolding in the 21st century. Also, in 1978, just before the end of the first series of Seven Bells, he elaborated further on this second series of Seven Bells, stating that it would begin from May 3, 2001, and continue through 2050. ↩︎
  5. SGI Ikeda Kayo-kai Day was inaugurated to commemorate Sensei and Mrs. Ikeda’s first visit to the new Soka Young Women’s Center in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, on June 4, 2009. Women’s Division Founding Day commemorates the inaugural meeting of the women’s division held on June 10, 1951, shortly after Mr. Toda became second Soka Gakkai president on May 3. ↩︎
  6. Translated from Japanese. See Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 6 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1986), p. 487. ↩︎
  7. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 4 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1984), p. 41. ↩︎
  8. In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren Daishonin states: “Our head corresponds to myo, our throat to ho, our chest to ren, our stomach to ge, and our legs to kyo. Hence this five-foot body of ours constitutes the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo” (p. 28). ↩︎

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