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Ikeda Sensei

Studying Buddhism in Our Youth

Thoughts on The New Human Revolution

Photo by Hiếu Hoàng / Pexels.

The following essay from Ikeda Sensei’s series “Thoughts on The New Human Revolution” was translated from the Aug. 19, 1998, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun. 

Inazo Nitobe (1862–1933), early purveyor of Western thought to Japan and under-secretary-general of the League of Nations, once said, “Philosophy makes the world go round.” He also said, “Ideals that arise in the purity and innocence of one’s youth, when one is free of worldly ambition, untainted by desires for fame or wealth, are truly noble.” 

Nitobe’s friendship with our founding president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, is well known and, if the above remarks are any guide, the convictions of these two would seem to resonate. 

Ideals forged in our youth sparkle like diamonds, lighting our hearts and our minds. On Sept. 6, the second-level study exam for the youth division will be held throughout Japan. Many youth have spent the summer studying hard for this exam. 

The highest philosophy, that which fosters people of the highest humanity, is the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism. The power and passion of youth who possess this priceless philosophy will shape the new century. 

Why is study of Nichiren’s teachings so important for young people? There are many arguments, but I think the answer can be summed up in the following three points.  

First, Buddhist study deepens faith. I will never forget second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda once remarking, with acute regret, that the reason the majority of his fellow members abandoned their faith when pressured by the military authorities during World War II was that they hadn’t gained a solid grounding in the teachings of Nichiren  Buddhism. 

“Without study,” he declared, “the members didn’t really understand faith. They became frightened and were defeated by persecution. It was very unfortunate. I’m determined that mistake will not be repeated.” Study is a torch that illuminates the path of faith. Even the subtle and complex onslaughts of negative forces become clear when illuminated in the bright light of Buddhism. Study builds a solid framework for our faith and spurs our human revolution. That is why Mr. Toda made study of the Daishonin’s teachings the focus of his efforts to rebuild the Soka Gakkai after the war, as is evidenced in his in-depth lecture series on the Lotus Sutra.  

Second, study gives impetus to the advance of kosen-rufu. The Gosho, Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, sets forth the validity of Nichiren Buddhism and the method of propagation based on refuting the erroneous and revealing the true. It teaches us in comprehensive detail the commitment required by those who seek to widely spread the Mystic Law, the qualities of Buddhist leaders and the key to fostering capable successors. To study the Gosho is to come into contact with the spirit of the Daishonin; it is to receive supreme encouragement and guidance directly from the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law about faith and the propagation of Buddhism. Only when we take action in accord with the Gosho can we say that we have grasped the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism. Study without practice is meaningless. A thorough knowledge of Buddhist principles provides us with a source of infinite courage and aids our ability to realize our highest human potential. 

Third, study is the key to establishing a new humanistic philosophy. Today we face many extremely serious problems: the threat of nuclear war, ethnic conflict, environmental problems and the collapse of educational systems. People are searching for peace and happiness, but the situation grows more confused with each passing day. This comes from the lack of a philosophy that expounds the true nature of life and its functions.

And this is where Buddhism comes in. Only by returning to such principles as the ultimate dignity of life, compassion, the oneness of body and mind and the indivisibility of life and its environment can we begin to open the way toward a new humanism. 

Mr. Toda’s Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons was also an expression of the compassionate principles of Buddhism that seek to protect humanity from harm. Unless the members of the youth division, our leaders of the future, gain a solid grounding in Buddhist philosophy, there will be no bright future for the human race.  

Ours is a supreme philosophy dedicated to bringing happiness to all people of the world. It was Mr. Toda’s firm belief that youth who championed Nichiren Buddhism would become world leaders in various realms of human activity. 

The earnest devotion that Mr. Toda brought to his lectures on Buddhism always reminded me of the diligence and intensity with which a master swordsman carries out his practice.  

Once, Mr. Toda went to Osaka to deliver a lecture to the members there, but he was in such poor physical health that he instructed the study department chief to be prepared to give the lecture in his stead. But when evening came, Mr. Toda got out of bed and declared: “I’m going to give the lecture myself after all. The ‘Life Span’ (Juryo) chapter of the Lotus Sutra says, ‘This, the Buddha’s work, I have never for a moment neglected’ (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 226). A Buddha works continuously to save all suffering beings, never taking a moment’s rest. I’ve come all this way to give a lecture, and I can’t very well now turn it over to someone else. It’s my wish to give this lecture, even if I should die doing it.”

From my mentor’s example, his willingness to go so far as risking his health and his life to deliver a study lecture, I learned how gravely serious is the work of transmitting Nichiren Buddhism. 

In my youth, I studied the Gosho diligently. I studied so hard that I ended up memorizing many of the major writings. This study has become the foundation of my life today. Study exams are the best encouragement there can be to study Buddhism. To the examinees I say: “Do your best! May you make this summer one of hard work and growth that you will remember fondly for years to come, as you strive to become winners in faith and unrivaled experts on the humanistic teachings of Buddhism.” 

September 8, 2023, World Tribune, pp. 2–3

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