Skip to main content

Ikeda Sensei

A Life Dedicated to Dialogue (Part 2)

Photo by Nazar Rybak / Getty Images.

The mighty cry
of Okinawan champions
reverberates through the heavens.
The Buddhas and heavenly deities
rejoice and protect them.

The mighty cry
of Okinawan champions
reverberates through the heavens.
The Buddhas and heavenly deities
rejoice and protect them.

On July 16, 1960, the 700th anniversary of Nichiren Daishonin’s submission of his treatise of remonstration to Japan’s ruling authorities, I flew to Okinawa. At that time, Okinawa was still under U.S. control, so I needed a passport to go there. When I landed in Naha, I was greeted by our valiant members in Okinawa, noble Bodhisattvas of the Earth. The driving rains that had fallen just before my arrival had revived the island’s greenery, and a refreshing breeze was blowing.

Having recently been inaugurated as the third president of the Soka Gakkai (on May 3, 1960), I wished to visit Okinawa as soon as I could. This was also something that Mr. Toda had entrusted me with doing.

“I’m here at last!” I said with emotion to the members who had come to welcome me. I’ll never forget the excitement I felt when I took my first step on Okinawan soil. As the Okinawan expression goes: “All whom we meet are our brothers” (Ichariba chode). The people of Okinawa are known for their rich and welcoming spirit to treasure each encounter and cultivate it into a lasting friendship.

Where people regard each other as family, relationships are warm and friendly. When people communicate with each other as equals, it is refreshing like a sea breeze, a blue sky or a starry night. The Okinawa spirit is the true spirit of dialogue. I meet people from Okinawa wherever I go in Japan and around the world, and we instantly become good friends. In Peru, Chile and Bolivia, members born in Okinawa have opened the way as trailblazers of kosen-rufu. …

The Okinawan word for helping one another is yuimaru. “Yui” means “ties.” The Okinawa spirit to connect people, to “tie” hearts together, is a unifying power that has now transcended oceans and borders. The time has indeed come for the Okinawa spirit to vigorously unite the world. 

On Dec. 2, 1964, at the Soka Gakkai Okinawa headquarters in Naha, I wrote “Dawn,” the first chapter of my novel The Human Revolution, which begins with the words: “Nothing is more barbarous than war. Nothing is more cruel.” It was my prayer and my vow that the dawn of a century of peace must be proclaimed from Okinawa, that the construction of an eternal citadel of the victory of the people must begin from Naha.

In later years (in 1991), when South African poet Oswald Mtshali visited the small room where I began to write my novel, he commented that great achievements invariably have small beginnings.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, as they say. We can never achieve victory in a journey toward a distant aspiration if we don’t take that first step. Similarly, human revolution, or an inner transformation in people’s hearts, which we of the SGI espouse as the way to lasting peace, starts with sincere dialogue with a single individual. Engaging in dialogue is a struggle to positively transform our own life as well as that of others. It is the act of breaking out of the shell of our lesser self, surmounting the wall of our callous ego, and creating and expanding positive connections with others. When we have the courage to meet and talk with people about our ideals, we are taking the first and surest step in our human revolution.

Members in Naha and throughout Okinawa continue their noble and dedicated efforts in this endeavor while advancing proudly as the world’s foremost champions of kosen-rufu. 

With vigor
and good cheer,
you and I
press onward fearlessly 
as friends from time without beginning.

Dialogue doesn’t happen if we just sit and wait for it. We need to reach out to others and speak to them. The SGI–Hong Kong Cultural and Recreational Centre is located amid a beautiful natural setting, commanding a gorgeous view of the glimmering sea below and backed by lush, green mountains. An elderly woman used to live right next to the entrance to the grounds. My wife and I would often greet her when we went out on walks with youth division members there. On one occasion, we thanked her for her support and asked if our center was too noisy or was causing her any problems. The woman smiled and said, “No, I like energetic people.” Sometimes her grandchildren would join in our conversations, too. 

The SGI–Hong Kong Cultural and Recreational Centre, which this year [2008] celebrates its 13th anniversary, is now well known and admired throughout the local community and society at large.

Connections can be formed through even the briefest encounter. This is the perspective of Buddhism. And the wisdom of Buddhism teaches us to strengthen and deepen those connections.

Fear not,
for the deceptive words
of the ill-intentioned 
only serve to strengthen 
our faith.

No sound is more beautiful than a person speaking earnestly of their convictions. The Lotus Sutra describes the voice of a bodhisattva preaching the Law for the sake of others as a “deep, pure, and wonderful voice” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 260).

Talking with others over the phone is also an opportunity to demonstrate the power of one’s voice. The telephone operators at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters and the Seikyo Shimbun Building are often praised for their vibrant voices and the high level of service they provide to callers.

The realm of the Soka Gakkai reverberates with wonderful voices speaking and spreading the truth. We will therefore never be defeated. 

Thirty years ago, the switchboards at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters and the Seikyo Shimbun Building were flooded with calls, overwhelming the system. This took place on April 24, 1979, the day I stepped down as president of the Soka Gakkai.[1] Members called wanting to know why I had to resign. More than 3,000 calls were answered at the Seikyo Shimbun Building that day, calls expressing members’ shock, outrage and sadness at this sudden development. My sincere fellow members all expressed their unchanging support for me at this crucial moment. The operators, many fighting back tears themselves, reassured them, saying, “Sensei will always be our mentor.” My wife and I will never forget this outpouring of support. 

In our daily lives and activities, too, a single phone call can have a tremendous impact. Because we can’t see the other person’s face, the tone of our voice and the words we choose are extremely important. Our staff telephone operators have come up with three guidelines for their phone interactions: 1) Speak with a warm and friendly tone; 2) listen carefully to what the other person is saying; and 3) say one more thing that will leave the caller with a positive feeling.

“The voice does the Buddha’s work” (see The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 4). That’s why we should regard each phone conversation and face-to-face conversation as part of our Buddhist practice to connect people to Buddhism and accumulate good fortune in our own lives. 

Dr. Ronaldo Mourão, the Brazilian astronomer with whom I recently published a dialogue, treasures these words his father taught him: “No one goes through life without ever changing their ideas. Prejudices can be changed with the passage of time.”[2] Dr. Mourão believes that dialogue is the way to deepen understanding and overcome prejudice. He has also said: “The dialogues being conducted by members of the SGI throughout the world don’t try to loudly call attention to themselves, but are like a calm undercurrent, like a river’s flow, an unceasing stream of dialogue.”[3]

Especially, the earnest and continuous efforts of young people to engage in dialogue have the power to change the world. We also know that the voices of women have played a tremendous role in dramatically transforming history as well. And the dialogues carried out by men of integrity who are braving the turbulent waves of society are also extremely significant.

There’s no need to shout or rant at people. Rather, it is important to make consistent efforts to engage in meaningful dialogue with others, talking with them steadily and tirelessly, like the flow of a river. This is a sure way toward realizing victory in our movement for kosen-rufu.

The Lotus Sutra states: “We will be envoys of the World-Honored One, facing the assembly without fear” (LSOC, 195). We are striving as emissaries of the Buddha and disciples of the great teachers of kosen-rufu. With pride in our lofty mission, we are reaching out to others. What have we to fear? Let’s strive boldly and courageously to win in every struggle we face, bringing forth our truly amazing strength and potential.

Let’s be proud of living a life of dialogue, confident that our efforts will contribute to the creation of a world of beautiful human harmony. 

On the vast stage of the world,
let us further strengthen
our network of Soka 
and win 
in all our endeavors.

March 8, 2024, World Tribune, pp. 2–3


  1. On April 24, 1979, Daisaku Ikeda stepped down as Soka Gakkai president to shield members from the perverse machinations of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, which had colluded with corrupt former Soka Gakkai leaders to wrest control of the lay organization.  ↩︎
  2. Translated from Japanese. Daisaku Ikeda and Ronaldo Mourão, Temmongaku to buppo wo kataru (A Dialogue on Astronomy and Buddhism) (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 2009), p. 42. ↩︎
  3. Ibid. ↩︎

This Month in Soka Gakkai History (March)