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Ikeda Sensei’s Lectures

A People-Centered Religion—Transmitting the Philosophy of Respect for Life to the Future

Ikeda Sensei’s Lecture Series [89]

Photo by Allen Zaki.

Today I would like to state clearly my feelings and attitude regarding the testing of nuclear weapons, a topic that is currently being debated heatedly throughout society.”[1] With these words, my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, launched into an impassioned declaration before 50,000 young people gathered at Yokohama’s Mitsuzawa Stadium, on September 8, 1957, under blue autumn skies washed clear by the previous day’s typhoon. His Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons is the starting point of the Soka Gakkai’s peace movement. It was just seven months before his death.

At that time, the Cold War arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union was intensifying, with both sides developing nuclear weapons capable of targeting anywhere on the planet. In response to these circumstances, Mr. Toda emphasized that it was totally unacceptable for any nation to employ nuclear weapons. He voiced his wish to rip out the “claws” hidden behind the rationales that justify the possession of such arms.

He believed that whatever grand justifications might be made for them, nuclear weapons fundamentally threaten humanity’s right to exist and are an absolute evil. As such they must be rejected entirely. With keen foresight, he urged us to spread this thinking throughout the world and pave the way to ensuring that nuclear catastrophe will never happen. And he entrusted this mission to the youth.

Spreading Josei Toda’s Message for Peace Throughout the World

In his declaration, Josei Toda said, “I hope that, as my disciples, you will inherit the declaration I am about to make today and, to the best of your ability, spread its intent throughout the world.”[2] He closed by expressing his “eager expectation that you will spread this, the first of my declarations, to the entire world.”[3]

As a youth, as a faithful disciple of Mr. Toda, I pledged deeply and powerfully to realize my mentor’s wish for the abolition of nuclear weapons, to bring his thinking on this issue to prevail throughout the world.

When I became the third Soka Gakkai president, I began my full-fledged struggle to actualize this shared ideal of mentor and disciple, striving with my treasured fellow members in Japan and around the world. Together we have built a global grassroots people’s movement to promote peace, culture and education, grounded in the principle of respect for the dignity of life.

In my dialogues with world leaders and thinkers, which represent the pursuit of universal values beyond all differences, and in my proposals for peace and disarmament over the years, the passionate declaration my mentor made with every ounce of his being always echoed in my heart.

Now I would like our young people everywhere to join in inheriting and passing on to the future the spirit entrusted to us by Mr. Toda—namely, the courage to speak out against evil in authority, the commitment to speak out to defend life and the wisdom to speak out to bring people together.

And we must always remember that the essential way to make Mr. Toda’s hopes a reality is through our day-to-day efforts to share and spread the Buddhist philosophy of human revolution.

Vanquishing the Ignorance That Resides in the Human Heart

Peace begins with helping each person recognize and develop their highest potential. Expanding our network of people committed to dialogue is a process through which we draw forth our own and the other person’s infinitely noble Buddha nature. That is the most fundamental action and surest step to root out the evil behind nuclear weapons.

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “Nichiren’s followers are like roaring lions” (“On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 997).

The Daishonin revealed the great Law for vanquishing the fundamental ignorance[4] residing in the human heart. Amid life-threatening persecution, he strove to spread the correct teaching in the Latter Day of the Law by speaking out courageously—through the power of the written and spoken word and the power of dialogue. His focus was always on the happiness of each individual and respect for life. It was on bringing peace to the land by establishing the correct teaching—that is, on creating a secure and peaceful world.

Nichiren Buddhism is a thoroughly people-centered religion. The Buddhism of the Sun shines its light of peace and compassion on all people, transcending all differences and distinctions.

With this installment, let’s reaffirm the importance of dialogue and respectful behavior as the requisites for a religion that works for people’s happiness, starting with a passage from “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land.”

A Writing Dedicated to Peace for All

The host exclaimed with delight: The dove has changed into a hawk, the sparrow into a clam.[5] How gratifying! You have associated with a friend in the orchid room and have become as straight as mugwort growing among hemp.[6]

But a person’s heart may change with the times, and the nature of a thing may alter with its surroundings. Just as the moon on the water will be tossed about by the waves, or the soldiers in the vanguard will be cowed by the swords of the enemy, so, although at this moment you may say you believe in my words, I fear that later you will forget them completely.

Now if we wish first of all to bring security to the nation and to pray for our present and future lives, then we must hasten to examine and consider the situation and take measures as soon as possible to remedy it. (“On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” WND-1, 23–24)[7]

“On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land” takes the form of a one-to-one dialogue. It is about religious awakening and realizing world peace. Its purpose is to bring security and happiness to all people. In it, the “guest” awakens to the correct teaching of Buddhism through dialogue with the “host” and commits to further dialogue for peace. It is a writing that inspires such hope-filled, positive action.

It begins with the host (Nichiren Daishonin) and the guest (the country’s ruler) expressing their shared sorrow over the suffering and destruction inflicted on the people by a series of natural disasters. In exploring the matter at some length, the host reveals the root cause of these disasters to be disbelief and slander of the Law expounded in the Lotus Sutra, which teaches the infinite potential of human beings and the preciousness of life. The guest, however, initially reacts negatively to this refutation of fundamental evil and threatens to leave. But, with a smile, the host calmly and rationally persuades him to stay, and their dialogue continues.

As the host confidently presents the correct understanding of Buddhism, the guest gradually awakens to the truth and undergoes a change of heart. In the end, he pledges with the host to take action to save the people from disaster. The passage we examine in this installment is the host’s joyful response to this change in the guest’s thinking.

Soka Gakkai Members Are ‘Friends in the Orchid Room’

It is said that when one enters a room filled with fragrant orchids, one becomes imbued with that fragrance. “A friend in the orchid room” (WND-1, 23) is a person of virtue who has the power to influence those they come in contact with—in other words, what Buddhism calls a “good friend.”[8]

Mugwort usually grows loosely, spreading out haphazardly, but when planted among straight-standing hemp, it, too, grows straight. Likewise, when people encounter positive influences, they become good and upright. Good friends function to lead everyone they interact with to the path of happiness.

Today, the Soka Gakkai is a gathering of such good friends—“friends in the orchid room.” As good friends in the shared challenge of human revolution, our members strive to awaken the goodness within themselves and others as they help one another grow and develop. They accomplish this through practical efforts to hold conversations brimming with warm encouragement, especially at our discussion meetings.

The Soka Gakkai Tradition of Working Among the People

Josei Toda often said: “[First Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo] Makiguchi went among the people and regularly held discussion meetings, devoting himself to helping one person after another overcome their problems and sufferings. This is the Soka Gakkai’s proud history.” He also said: “Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is the highest form of democracy, and discussion meetings are the epitome of that democracy.”

Holding high the banner of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land,” we of the Soka Gakkai have worked to change society through dialogue, the steadiest and surest way forward. With one-to-one dialogue based on sincerity and trust, we have opened paths of peace and friendship. Valuing rational and respectful discussion is a hallmark of a religion genuinely dedicated to people’s happiness.

Activating People’s Innate Goodness

In “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” the “fragrance” of the host’s sincere, compassionate intent noticeably changes his dialogue partner, the guest. The power of character, humanity and sincere behavior are the keys to opening people’s hearts and broadening dialogue.

These are a reflection not of one’s title or social position but of how one lives as a human being. As we persist in dialogue to realize kosen-rufu and the ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land,” we, too, before we know it, will attain the noble life states of bodhisattva and Buddhahood, fragrant as an orchid. When we reach out and forge connections with others, we activate the goodness inherent within them.

Josei Toda held that a crucial condition for a religion to spread is that its practitioners are respected for their humanity. Precisely because we embrace the true teachings of Buddhism, it is crucial first of all to win others’ trust. This is because, as the Daishonin writes, “All the various teachings of the Buddha are spread by persons” (“Questions and Answers about Embracing the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 61).

Our Soka movement now encompasses 192 countries and territories because members have faithfully put this guideline into action. They have made positive contributions to their societies as good citizens, earning the trust and friendship of those around them.

Timely and Decisive Action

Nichiren Daishonin goes on to note that people’s hearts may change with the passing of time. Though one may profess faith now, that determination may diminish or be forgotten later, he says. That is why he stresses the importance of timely and decisive action. One person standing up and taking action will inspire another to revitalize their life, and that person will initiate a new dialogue, in an ever-growing ripple effect.

Change comes from having faith in people’s positive potential and actively going among them to forge heart-to-heart bonds. Starting in our communities, let us make even greater efforts to reach out to others with courage, open hearts and unflagging commitment. Now is the time for us to confidently create waves of dialogue that inspire and revitalize people’s hearts.

Dialogue that brings people together and efforts to support and encourage others based on a wish for their happiness are the essence of humanistic religion.

Overcoming Obstacles Through Unity in Faith

Although it is the Latter Day of the Law, you [Ikegami Munenaga] are not only wise but were born unselfish. Because of this, you are a person who has enabled all three of you [you, your brother, and your father] to become Buddhas and all your relatives on both your mother’s and father’s side to attain enlightenment.

Please be assured that your children and descendants as well are certain to flourish and prosper eternally. I could write countless pages citing passages from the Buddha’s lifetime teachings but still not finish saying all I wish to about this. My wasting illness, however, is causing me severe discomfort, so I will not go on and on. I truly, truly wish to see you in person and speak to you again. (“The Prosperity of Your Family and Descendants,” Gosho zenshu, new edition, p. 1498)[9]

Next, let’s examine “The Prosperity of Your Family and Descendants,” one of the writings included for the first time in the new Japanese edition of the Nichiren Daishonin gosho zenshu (The Complete Works of Nichiren Daishonin). It is addressed to Ikegami Munenaga.

The experience of the Ikegami brothers—the elder Munenaka and the younger Munenaga—overcoming obstacles and devilish functions by staying united in faith offers a model for all practitioners of future generations.

Their father, instigated by Ryokan,[10] the chief priest of Gokuraku-ji temple, demanded that his elder son Munenaka abandon his faith in the Daishonin’s teachings and disinherited him twice for refusing to do so. If the younger brother, Munenaga, had complied with his father’s wish that he, too, give up his faith, he would have become the new heir and successor in his brother’s place.

The Daishonin was especially worried about Munenaga’s faith, and sent him firm but loving encouragement on several occasions. Both brothers and their wives, however, followed the Daishonin’s guidance, refusing to discard their Buddhist practice. Ultimately, their father revoked the disinheritance and later embraced the Daishonin’s teachings. This letter is thought to have been written in 1278, around the time of the father’s conversion, when relations between him and his sons had taken a positive turn.

Flourishing and Prospering Eternally

In the letter, Nichiren praises Munenaga, saying, “Instead of becoming a person who harmed both your elder brother and father and as a result would have ended up like Devadatta,[11] … you are a person who has enabled all three of you to become Buddhas and all your relatives on both your mother’s and father’s side to attain enlightenment” (GZ, new ed., 1498). He wholeheartedly applauds the united struggle of the Ikegami brothers and their wives, who faithfully followed his strict, clear-cut guidance, never giving in to external pressure or temptation.

Because of what they have achieved, Nichiren tells them: “Please be assured that your children and descendants as well are certain to flourish and prosper eternally. I could write countless pages citing passages from the Buddha’s lifetime teachings but still not finish saying all I wish to about this” (GZ, new ed., 1498).

Toward the end of the letter, the Daishonin expresses the happy hope of meeting and talking with them again, saying that were it to come true, “I will be too overcome with joy to speak” (GZ, new ed., 1498).

The Ikegami brothers and their wives must have been overjoyed and moved by the Daishonin’s sincere encouragement in saying that he cannot write enough to express his feelings fully. No doubt, this inspired them with fresh determination.

When we read such words of encouragement in his writings, we can’t help but be struck by the Daishonin’s great compassion in empathizing with people and his sincere wish to awaken their belief in their potential. He imparts to his disciples the boundless confidence and courage to overcome the hardships and challenges they may encounter as they practice the great teaching for the enlightenment of all people. His words convey an incredible degree of care and concern for each person.

The Soka Path of Mentor and Disciple Teaches the Art of Living

Dr. Lou Marinoff, founding president of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association with whom I have published a dialogue,[12] has remarked that the Soka mentor-disciple relationship represents a way of transmitting the art of living.

The art of living, he observed, is the art of how to live life, the art of living with values and purpose. Contributing to the happiness of others and realizing that this is the way to achieve our own happiness are very important in this regard. And this is the SGI’s message to the world, he said. Leading a good life, he continued, is to connect with others and impart a positive message. That may seem like a small thing, he added, but it is vitally important. When we inspire one person, that person goes on to exert a positive influence on someone else. This, Dr. Marinoff concluded, is how goodness spreads through a society.[13]

In other words, leading a good life with the aim of achieving happiness for both ourselves and others is the way to change society for the better.

One Wave Stirs Another

Through our practice for ourselves and others, we are striving surely and steadily day after day to change the destiny of all humankind, working to create a world without nuclear weapons, where peace prevails. Kosen-rufu ultimately lies in such tenacious daily efforts.

Josei Toda offered this guidance for advancing kosen-rufu: “Introducing Buddhism to others one-to-one is the unchanging formula for realizing kosen-rufu. It is also a formula that accords completely with democratic ideals. It may seem a painstaking course, but it is the surest way forward. One wave stirs another, eventually creating a thousand, then ten thousand waves. That’s how kosen-rufu is achieved.”

Describing kosen-rufu in modern times as a movement to relieve each person’s suffering, he further stated: “There is no other way but to persevere in one-to-one dialogue to share the correct teaching of Nichiren Buddhism, convince each person of its truth and thereby help them free themselves from suffering. We of the Soka Gakkai have made that work our mission.”

The Humblest and Noblest of Efforts

Our dedicated members are earnestly persevering in sincere one-to-one dialogue to relieve the suffering of one person after another. Leading this humblest and noblest of efforts are our admirable women of Soka. Thanks to all our members’ efforts, a steady stream of capable people awakened to their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth is emerging in regions and countries around the world in accord with the Daishonin’s teachings. Worldwide kosen-rufu has thus become a reality. This process will forever remain unchanged. We will always listen patiently to each suffering or struggling person and teach them how they can achieve absolute happiness.

Action Based on a Prayer for World Peace

Embracing faith in the Mystic Law and treasuring the people in our lives, we take action founded on our prayer for world peace. Our resolve to do so accords with the principle that “One’s body and mind at a single moment pervade the entire realm” (“The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” WND-1, 366), encompassing the entire world and the universe.

“The voice carries out the work of the Buddha”[14] (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 4). Inspiring hope in others and conducting refreshing dialogue that brings people closer is essential to our mission as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism.

As noble Bodhisattvas of the Earth, let us advance together toward November, the month of the Soka Gakkai’s founding, and make even greater efforts to engage in courageous and sincere dialogue with those around us!

Translated from the September 2022 Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.

From the June 2023 Living Buddhism


  1. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda) vol. 4 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1984), p. 565. ↩︎
  2. Ibid. ↩︎
  3. Ibid., pp. 565–66. ↩︎
  4. Fundamental ignorance: Also, fundamental darkness. The most deeply rooted illusion inherent in life, said to give rise to all other illusions. The inability to see or recognize the ultimate truth of the Mystic Law; also, the negative impulses that arise from such ignorance. ↩︎
  5. Expressions taken from early Chinese literature that indicate dramatic change. ↩︎
  6. “A friend in the orchid room” indicates a person of virtue. The implication is that the company of a virtuous person works as a good influence, just as one is imbued with fragrance on entering a room filled with orchids. It is said that mugwort supported by hemp plants grows upright. ↩︎
  7. “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land”: A treatise of remonstration that the Daishonin submitted to Hojo Tokiyori, the retired regent but still the most powerful figure in Japan’s ruling clan, on July 16, 1260. It takes the form of a dialogue between a host and a guest, regarded as representing Nichiren Daishonin and Hojo Tokiyori, respectively. In it, the Daishonin predicts that, unless the correct teaching of the Lotus Sutra was followed, the country would in the near future suffer the calamities of internal strife and foreign invasion—the only two calamities among the “three calamities and seven disasters” that had not yet assailed Japan. ↩︎
  8. In Buddhism a “good friend” is an upright, virtuous person who leads people to Buddhism. It is contrasted with an evil friend or negative influence that leads people astray or obstructs their practice of Buddhism. A mentor who teaches Buddhism and fellow practitioners are examples of good friends. ↩︎
  9. Tentative translation. Because the end of this letter is missing, the date and recipient are unspecified, but from its content it is assumed to have been written to Hyoe no Sakan—Munenaga, the younger of the two Ikegami brothers—in 1278. In it, the Daishonin thanks Munenaga for the offerings he sent and tells him that his unity with his elder brother, Munenaka, is the foundation for the entire family’s lasting prosperity. ↩︎
  10. Ryokan (1217–1303): Also known as Ninsho. A priest of the True Word Precepts school in Japan. With the patronage of the Hojo clan, Ryokan became chief priest of Gokuraku-ji temple in Kamakura in 1267. He ingratiated himself with government officials, gaining important and lucrative positions. He was hostile to the Daishonin and actively conspired with the authorities to have the Daishonin and his followers persecuted. ↩︎
  11. Devadatta: A cousin of Shakyamuni who, after Shakyamuni’s enlightenment, first followed him as a disciple, but later became his enemy. Devadatta committed a series of grave offenses, including attempting to kill Shakyamuni. ↩︎
  12. Lou Marinoff and Daisaku Ikeda, The Inner Philosopher: Conversations on Philosophy’s Transformative Power (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Dialogue Path Press, 2012). ↩︎
  13. Translated from Japanese. From the September 7, 2006, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun. ↩︎
  14. From Miao-lo’s Annotations on “The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra.” ↩︎

Great Path—Volume 28, Chapter 2

King Rinda