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Gosho Study

The Great Wish for the Happiness of All

Photo by Geneva Lewis.

“My wish is that all my disciples make a great vow.”

—“The Dragon Gate,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1003

In Nichiren Buddhism, a vow is an earnest, indomitable wish and promise to achieve peace, happiness and enlightenment, and enable others to do the same. 

To willingly share this wish or vow with the Buddha and our eternal mentors in faith is the driving force for genuine happiness. In that sense, it is a promise we make to ourselves, not an obligation to someone else.

Nichiren Daishonin wrote “The Dragon Gate” on Nov. 6, 1279, to his 21-year-old disciple Nanjo Tokimitsu, who was supporting fellow practitioners amid the Atsuhara Persecution. Nichiren’s teachings had spread widely in the Atsuhara area, alarming priests of established Buddhist schools and their powerful patrons in the ruling Hojo clan. They schemed to intimidate and attack Nichiren’s disciples so they would abandon their faith. 

That autumn, authorities arrested 20 believers on false charges and tortured them. Later three were executed, but none gave up their faith. 

Tokimitsu risked his life by sheltering fellow believers in his residence. In retaliation, the government levied unjust taxes on him, which left his family in poverty. 

To overcome obstacles and attain Buddhahood require tremendous resolve. To illustrate this, Nichiren recounts the legend of the Dragon Gate. The story goes that a carp can become a dragon if it can overcome fishermen, predators and all other obstacles along the way to ascending this 1,000-foot waterfall. 

Thus, Nichiren expresses his wish that his disciples, too, will make a great vow—to practice and create happiness for themselves and those around them. 

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Ikeda Sensei’s Encouragement

1. Inherit the Great Vow Through the Joint Struggle of Mentor and Disciple

In his personal copy of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi double-underlined the passage, “Here I will make a great vow,” and also wrote “great vow” in large characters in the margin next to it. He lived out his life true to this great vow, never succumbing to the persecution of Japan’s militaristic authorities. A letter that Mr. Makiguchi sent to his family from prison just a month before he passed away conveys the serene state of mind of one who has truly dedicated his life to spreading the Mystic Law. He wrote: “It is only natural that the three obstacles and four devils should have assailed me; it is just as the sutra states.”[1]

Josei Toda, his disciple and future second Soka Gakkai president, accompanied Mr. Makiguchi to prison, carrying out a two-year struggle behind bars before standing alone in the ravaged landscape of postwar Japan to rebuild the Soka Gakkai. …

Mr. Toda also declared: “No matter what enormous hardships might arise, I will never forsake the great vow for kosen-rufu. … I will do what I have to do—that is, strive to save the poor and the sick and those who are suffering. For that purpose, I will keep speaking out with all my might.”[2]

In my youth, I stood up alone as Mr. Toda’s loyal disciple and did everything I could to support and assist him. In the course of those struggles, I inherited this great vow from my mentor. The great vow for kosen-rufu is inherited only through the joint struggle of mentor and disciple.

My spirit of waging a shared struggle with my mentor has continued to this very day. There has never been a day when Mr. Toda was absent from my heart. (Learning From the Writings: The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, pp. 116–17)

2. True Happiness Is Happiness Shared With Others

We Soka Gakkai members are forging ahead with unwavering commitment toward the realization of worldwide kosen-rufu. Our desire is to bring happiness to everyone in our lives—our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors and others in our communities.

It is through our relationships with others that we develop and grow, learn from one another, help and support one another and cultivate genuine humanity. Therefore, we cannot enjoy happiness for ourselves alone. True happiness is happiness that is shared with others. 

Reaching out to teach another person about Nichiren Buddhism is an expression of our wish for their happiness. Through our sincere, earnest, wholehearted efforts to talk one to one with those around us about our Buddhist practice, we expand our network of happiness and open the way to peace. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 30, pp. 1–2)

July 21, 2023, World Tribune, p. 9


  1. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi) (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), vol. 10, p. 301. ↩︎
  2. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda) (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1989), vol. 4, pp. 61–62. ↩︎

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