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Buddhist Study

Always Seeking, Always Growing

LISA BLUMENFELD / GETTY / Matt Stone /Boston Herald / Yvonne Ng

This series highlights how Buddhism can enhance daily living. As Nichiren Daishonin says: “When the skies are clear, the ground is illuminated. Similarly, when one knows the Lotus Sutra, one understands the meaning of all worldly affairs.”[1]

I got you today.” Budding NBA superstar Jayson Tatum texted this to the phone of his idol Kobe Bryant in 2022, just before a decisive game, expressing his resolve to win.[2] He texted even though he knew Kobe would never read it because he had passed away in a tragic helicopter accident in 2020.

Kobe is known as the Black Mamba and for his “mamba mentality,” his iconic no-days-off work ethic that helped him garner five NBA championships and become a Hall of Famer. An entire generation of aspiring basketball players looked up to him. 

Tatum, too, spent hours studying Kobe’s highlight reels, emulating his fadeaway jump shots and jab steps.[3] Adopting a strenuous work ethic, he excelled in high school and college and joined the Boston Celtics in 2017. 

After Kobe retired in 2016, he trained younger players, including Tatum. 

The Jan. 26, 2020, news of Kobe’s tragic death devastated Tatum. But he continued drawing motivation for his development from the Black Mamba. Often wearing an armband with Kobe’s number and team colors, Tatum has led the Celtics to the NBA playoffs every year since. 

A protégé, yearning to develop and succeed, seeks out his role model, deriving inspiration and resolve from his example, even after the latter leaves this world. 

This relationship resonates with that of mentor and disciple in Buddhism.

Whether in the arts, business, sports or other arenas, having a good instructor accelerates our growth and mastery. In our Buddhist practice, a mentor teaches, guides and inspires each person to realize a life of complete fulfillment.

A mentor, or correct teacher, in Nichiren Buddhism spreads the Buddha’s teaching selflessly, facing hardships and opposition as predicted in the sutras. Guided by a teacher with a correct grasp of the Mystic Law, we, as disciples, can get the most from our Buddhist practice and enjoy the fruits of Buddhahood.

In the mentor-disciple relationship, the mentor provides the spark with their courageous and compassionate example, urging disciples to grow and surpass them. 

At the same time, this relationship hinges on the disciples, who choose their mentor. It is a dynamic connection fueled by the disciples’ seeking spirit and resolve to apply what they learn. “In short,” Ikeda Sensei says, “It is a spiritual bond that depends on the self-motivated will of the disciple.”[4]

Sensei exemplified the oneness of mentor and disciple. He dedicated himself to learning from and supporting his mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, who rebuilt the kosen-rufu movement after World War II. 

Recalling his relationship with his mentor, Sensei says:

In his final years, Mr. Toda said to me: “[Daisaku], you’ve achieved everything I asked. You even took seriously things I said half-jokingly and brought them to fruition. I don’t trust people who are all talk. What matters are the actions one takes. With you here, I know I have nothing to worry about.”

Those words are my greatest source of pride. They describe what it means to be a genuine disciple. I am always talking with Mr. Toda in my heart. I am always asking myself what he would do in any given situation, what he would say to me if he saw what I am doing. A mentor is a role model for your entire life.[5]

Mr. Toda passed away less than 10 years after the two first met. Yet Sensei spent the remaining 65 years of his life walking the path of a disciple, striving to actualize all his mentor’s dreams. He faced countless hardships for the sake of kosen-rufu and emerged victorious, expanding the Soka Gakkai to 192 countries and territories. 

To convey to future generations his desire to continue the flow of kosen-rufu and lead all people to genuine happiness, Sensei composed his 30-volume novel, The New Human Revolution. This epic chronicles the Soka Gakkai’s development under his leadership and conveys his innermost thoughts and feelings. 

Though he has passed on, we can still seek inspiration from, converse with and respond to Sensei in our hearts. By walking the path of disciples—resolved to win in our daily lives and help others do the same—we too can lead lives of compassion, self-mastery and pride.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

February 9, 2024, World Tribune, p. 9


  1. “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 376. ↩︎
  2. <accessed on Jan. 30, 2024>. ↩︎
  3. See <accessed Jan. 30, 2024>. ↩︎
  4. The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 3, revised edition, p. 235. ↩︎
  5. Ibid., pp. 235–36. ↩︎

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