Skip to main content

Ikeda Sensei

Always Basing Ourselves on Nichiren’s Writings

Photo by aapsky / Getty Images.

The following essay by Ikeda Sensei was originally published in the Jan. 6, 2000, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

The majestic sun of a new millennium has begun to appear over the horizon. Today, the humanistic light of Nichiren Buddhism has spread to 148 countries and territories [192 as of 2024]. And a realm of indestructible, everlasting peace—of the widespread propagation of the Mystic Law throughout the entire world—is beginning to come into view through the darkness and confusion. The stars of hope and glory shine brightly in the heavens. We are indeed approaching the dawn of an age of Soka. The living breath of the music of the Mystic Law, playing a melody of eternal harmony, will infuse fresh life into all things and give rise to a new world of creativity. How wonderful and exciting this is!

From the far-reaching, penetrating view of Buddhism, a thousand years is not a long time. Nichiren Daishonin writes, “If Nichiren’s compassion is truly great and encompassing, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will spread for ten thousand years and more, for all eternity” (“On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 736).

Should lightning crash and thunder roar, the great movement of the SGI will not be daunted in the least. Ours is a momentous journey to realize lasting peace and happiness, in which we advance with joy and boisterous good cheer.

As we stand on the threshold of a new century, I would like to reconfirm the basic path of the Soka Gakkai. And that is that the Soka Gakkai will always advance in complete accord with the Lotus Sutra and the Gosho, the writings of Nichiren Daishonin. It has been the Soka Gakkai’s firm and unchanging position since the time of its first and second presidents, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, to practice in accord with the Buddha’s teachings, just as Nichiren instructed. 

That is precisely why, as the sutra warns, the three powerful enemies[1] and the three obstacles and four devils[2] have appeared. It is also why we were able to crush the plot to destroy the SGI hatched by the priests of the Nikken sect,[3] those “animals dressed in priestly robes” (see “The Fourteen Slanders,” WND-1, 760). And it is why, as proof of its commitment to upholding the Buddha’s will and decree, the SGI today enjoys infinite good fortune.

Nichiren stressed the importance of faith, practice and study. Without study, without a firm understanding of Nichiren Buddhism, we are likely to be swept away by our emotions or circumstances when some crisis arises and waver in faith. We saw this happen during World War II, when the majority of the Soka Gakkai leaders abandoned their faith, bowing to pressure from the military authorities. This was because they didn’t have a truly solid grounding in Buddhist study to draw on.

When Mr. Makiguchi was moved to what was to be the place of his death, the Tokyo Detention House in Sugamo, the very first thing he asked his family to bring him was the writings of Nichiren Daishonin. He specifically asked for a clean copy, one that he hadn’t already made notations in. He wanted to take a fresh look at Nichiren’s writings during his stay in prison. This was an expression of his profound commitment. 

In his letters from prison, Mr. Makiguchi wrote many times that his imprisonment constituted persecution on account of his efforts to uphold the Mystic Law, a fact, he said, that the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren’s writings confirm. 

A month before he died, in what was to be his last letter, he observed that, by connecting his theory of value to faith in the Mystic Law, several thousand people [the members of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, forerunner of the Soka Gakkai] had shown actual proof of faith in the form of benefit. He declared: “Because of this, it is quite natural that the three obstacles and four devils will vie to attack us; it is just as the sutra states.” Such was the unshakable conviction of the Soka Gakkai’s noble founder.

Josei Toda, Mr. Makiguchi’s successor, awakened to his mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth while in prison, and he rose up to begin his struggle, basing himself on the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, to widely propagate the Mystic Law. 

Before Mr. Toda became president of the Soka Gakkai, starting from the time his business was in dire financial straits, he made a supreme effort to instruct me on Nichiren’s writings, not caring what it might cost his physical health. 

When I look at my diary entries from that time, I see that he lectured me on such works as The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, “The Enlightenment of Plants,” “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life,” “On Establishing the Correct Teaching,” “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” “Receiving of the Three Great Secret Laws,” “The Unanimous Declaration by the Buddhas,” “On the Buddha’s Prophecy” and “On Reprimanding Hachiman.”

His home and the old Soka Gakkai Headquarters in Nishi-Kanda were the main classrooms for his Gosho lectures, but when we were traveling, the train quickly filled that role.

Mr. Toda also lectured me on “The One Hundred and Six Comparisons”[4] [an important teaching that Nichiren entrusted to his successor, Nikko Shonin]. 

One day, when he was lying down resting, my mentor suddenly said: “All right! Let’s start!” and he happily gave me a Gosho lecture right then and there. 

However, if I was ever less than attentive, he promptly rebuked me: “That’s enough! I’m not a machine.”

In any event, he transmitted to me the essence of Nichiren Buddhism—from mentor to disciple, from one life to another—with intense passion and wholehearted commitment. I am profoundly grateful to have had such a mentor.

At that time, I was working single-handedly against great odds to support and protect Mr. Toda, yet every night I forced my tired body and mind to open the Gosho and study. One day I was encouraged by the passage “It has been twenty or more years now since I found myself in that situation and began the great battle. Not once have I thought of retreat.” (“The Great Battle,” WND-2, 465). Another day I etched into my heart the passage “Each and every one of you should be certain deep in your heart that sacrificing your life for the Lotus Sutra is like exchanging rocks for gold or dung for rice” (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 764). The harder the times I faced, the more eagerly I sought Nichiren’s words. And each time I did, I found new courage. An inextinguishable sun rose in my heart, breaking through the darkness.

During the great campaign I waged in Osaka—the golden struggle of my youth—I always based myself on Nichiren’s writings while earnestly fighting on the front lines. This my comrades in Osaka know very well. 

Nichiren exhorts us: “Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 1001). This is the key to victory—a point that we must never forget, for Buddhism is about winning.

The human race is earnestly seeking a source of light to illuminate the next millennium. Buddhism is the sun of hope that will save humankind, the spiritual lighthouse that can guide all humankind so that they can bravely weather and triumph over the rough waves of life. Nichiren’s writings shine with this great light of wisdom and compassion. It is an inexhaustible wellspring of the courage we need to live our lives, a sword to refute the erroneous and reveal the true in the fierce battle with the forces of evil.

As long as we advance, firmly embracing in our hearts this scripture of the Latter Day of the Law, the road of ever-victorious champions of life—stretching on into the ten thousand years and more of the Latter Day of the Law—will open before us. 

We have at last entered a new era in which those who continue to boldly proclaim the correctness and validity of Buddhism, speaking out with youthful passion and conviction, will win. 

When the Soka Gakkai published the Gosho zenshu (The Collected Writings of Nichiren Daishonin) in 1952, Mr. Toda composed a poem:

If you uphold the Gosho
Overflowing with the power of the Buddha
The strength to surmount every obstacle
Will arise within you.

Leaders who are genuinely committed to realizing kosen-rufu will read Nichiren’s writings every day, even if only a line or a paragraph, and make it a living part of themselves. I also hope that the members of the youth division, in particular, will study them thoroughly as they strive to achieve their goals. I have found that those who don’t tend to be shallow and frivolous. 

Study is the marrow of the SGI. Unless we are armed with compassion and an understanding of the principles of Buddhism, we cannot carry out kosen-rufu.

My dear, courageous comrades! Let’s do our best! Let us stride forward with energy and enthusiasm on the vast open road leading into the 21st century.

January 19, 2024, World Tribune, pp. 2–3


  1. “Encouraging Devotion,” the Lotus Sutra’s 13th chapter, describes three powerful opponents who will persecute those who spread the sutra’s teachings in the Latter Day of the Law. They are defined as 1) arrogant laypeople, 2) arrogant monks and 3) arrogant false sages. ↩︎
  2. Three obstacles and four devils: Various obstacles and hindrances to the practice of Buddhism. The three obstacles are the obstacles of 1) earthly desires, 2) karma and 3) retribution. The four devils are the hindrances of  1) the five components, 2) earthly desires, 3) death and 4) the devil king. ↩︎
  3. The Nikken sect refers to the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, a Buddhist school in its corrupt state since the tenure of Nikken Abe (1922–2019), who claimed to be the 67th high priest. In the three decades since instigating what has become known as the second priesthood issue in 1990, the Nikken sect has betrayed the teachings and spirit of Nichiren Buddhism and has become a group given over to slander of the Buddhist Law. ↩︎
  4. This refers to “Hyaku Rokka Sho” (The One Hundred and Six Comparisons); not included in The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vols. 1 or 2. ↩︎

Significant Dates This Year in Soka Gakkai History