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Ikeda Sensei

Building Castles of Capable People and Gardens of Peace

Osaka City Central Public Hall, formerly called Nakanoshima Civic Hall, Osaka, February 2018. Photo by Marco Giannavola.

This final essay by Ikeda Sensei originally appeared in the Nov. 15, 2023, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun. It was received prior to his passing.

The desire to learn is powerful and beautiful.

In one of his letters, Nichiren Daishonin praises Myoichi-nyo for her seeking spirit in asking him about the doctrine of attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form. He goes so far as to exclaim: “[It] is surely no ordinary thing. Has Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, taken possession of you?” (“Buddhahood in Its Actual Aspect,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 892).

During this Year of Youth and Triumph [2023], study exams and training sessions have been held so widely and enthusiastically throughout Japan and the world that 2023 could also be called the Year of Study Worldwide. How happy this would surely make the Daishonin!

Exemplifying this global focus on study, last month, the sixth Africa Buddhist study exam was held across the Continent of Hope. Filled with passionate seeking spirit, members in 28 African nations—including Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Cameroon, Kenya, Madagascar and Zambia—took part.

The first of these exams was held in 2016, and after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they resumed last year [2022]. Members are deepening their understanding of Buddhism as they study and warmly encourage one another in the various languages of Africa.

This year, the exam was conducted for the first time in the Republic of Seychelles, comprising 115 islands in the Indian Ocean and situated some 800 miles off the African coast. Hearing this news, I pressed my palms together in respect and appreciation, thinking also of the dedicated efforts of our precious members of the Victory Isles Division [formerly the Outlying Islands Division] in Japan, which recently celebrated its 45th anniversary [on Oct. 7, 2023].

I was particularly moved by the joyous report from an SGI-South Africa leader, who declared: “Uniting together in study as the Continent of the 21st Century was a great victory.”

All around the world, fellow Bodhisattvas of the Earth, many facing indescribable challenges, are earnestly studying and putting into practice such essential principles for inner transformation as the “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds” and “three thousand realms in a single moment of life.”

Because all people embody the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, they equally possess the supremely noble life state of Buddhahood. This teaching of Nichiren Buddhism resonates deeply with the African wisdom of ubuntu, a philosophy emphasizing compassion, inner goodness and the interconnectedness of all people that says, “I am because you are.”

The indomitable champion of human rights former South African President Nelson Mandela (1918–2013) stressed the importance of ubuntu. Summing up his life philosophy forged through more than 27 years of imprisonment and tireless struggle for human rights, he declared: “Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”[1] This unshakable spirit of respect for all people brought down the daunting walls of apartheid, a system of institutionalized racial discrimination.

A flourishing Buddhist study movement serves as a powerful driving force for kosen-rufu. It was six decades ago, in 1963, that the Soka Gakkai first designated a Year of Study.

From the beginning of that year, Study Department Introductory Exams were held across the country, with some 500,000 members of all ages and walks of life participating. The flow of this great movement of, by and for the people to internalize the life philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism has nourished and enriched Japanese society quietly, on a deep level.

Also that year, in the Soka Gakkai’s founding month of November and the months leading up to it, I traveled throughout Japan, lecturing on Nichiren Daishonin’s writings and urging our members to stand up and take action.

I called on the members of Tohoku and Shin’etsu to maintain strong faith to build peace for all humanity.

I urged the members of Tokyo to secure the foundation so that the Soka Gakkai would stand eternally into the future.

I encouraged the members of Kanto to strive as the nucleus of unity for our great organization.

I called on the members of Tokaido to work joyfully for the sake of kosen-rufu based on a spirit of mutual respect.

I urged the members of Chugoku to develop their abilities and help guide people throughout Japan to happiness.

I encouraged the members of Kansai to be allies to those suffering and advance so that they would become known as the “pillars of Japan.”

I urged the members of Shikoku to become capable people with the strength of a thousand, whose hearts blazed with the resolve to bring happiness to all people.

I called on the members of Hokkaido to be lion kings who win widespread trust among the people, looking ahead 10 or 20 years into the future.

I encouraged the members of Chubu to exemplify the spirit of kosen-rufu by producing a steady stream of new leaders.

I urged the members of Kyushu to create fresh momentum for breaking through impasses in society through their own efforts.

Earlier that year [in August 1963], I also encouraged the members of Hokuriku to demonstrate that those with faith in Nichiren Buddhism will definitely triumph.

And the following year, I called on the members of Okinawa to build a land of peace through powerfully developing their people’s movement.

Now again in the same spirit, I entrust these hopes to you.

At that time 60 years ago, I particularly looked forward to the activities of our men’s division members. In my November 1963 editorial for the Soka Gakkai’s study journal, the Daibyakurenge, I wrote that building a great Soka castle of the people rested on the shoulders of the men’s division, and I urged its members to join together in dedicating themselves to the great undertaking of kosen-rufu as long as they lived.

When veterans of courageous challenge stand up, they can change the times and the course of history.

Recently, the men’s division members of Bharat [India] Soka Gakkai sent me their song “Bring It On!”

One of the verses goes:

Courageous champions, bold and strong
One in mind, forging on
Fearless prayer opens the way.

What a perfect expression of the “heart of a lion king”!

The Leonid meteor shower is set to grace the skies around Nov. 18, coinciding with both the glorious anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding and the day of our first president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi’s noble death in prison for his beliefs.

This celestial display is expected to reach its peak in Japan in the early afternoon of Nov. 18. As if celebrating the lionlike Bodhisattvas of the Earth who have “emerged at the same instant” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 252) across the world, the Leonid meteor shower will illuminate the heavens with dazzling light.

I am reminded of one especially bright and sunny Soka Gakkai founding day. It was Nov. 18, 1978. A headquarters leaders meeting was held that day at the Arakawa Culture Center in Tokyo, a bastion of “inspiring members.”[2] It was the publication date of my 10th volume of The Human Revolution, in which I chronicled the history of shared struggle that my beloved Ever-Victorious Kansai members waged alongside me.

In the “Determination” chapter of that volume, I recorded the impassioned words spoken by my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, in a study lecture at Osaka’s Nakanoshima Civic Hall[3] [in 1956]: “Here I am in Osaka to give you a lecture. Why? Because I want to rid Osaka of sickness and poverty. I have no other wish.”

Why do we engage in activities? Why do we foster capable people? To achieve our grand dream of eliminating misery from the face of the earth.

In the early days of our movement, the Kansai members made Mr. Toda’s spirit their own and strove courageously alongside me to transform their destiny and the destiny of their land. This led to our breakthrough achievement in the Osaka Campaign and then our accomplishing what everyone had thought impossible.[4]

The Nakanoshima Civic Hall was also the venue for the first Soka Gakkai headquarters general meeting outside of Tokyo. I have fond memories of this event, which was held in December 1973, during our organization’s second Year of Study. The hall was the same venue where the Osaka Rally[5] of 1957, brimming with the members’ invincible fighting spirit, had taken place. That year, 1973, was also designated the Year of Youth, and our young people had made remarkable efforts.

At that time, oil prices had spiked dramatically due to the Yom Kippur War (the fourth of the Arab-Israeli wars), and extreme weather worldwide had caused a global food crisis.

During that general meeting, I shared a passage cited in “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land”: “When a nation becomes disordered, it is the spirits that first show signs of rampancy. Because the spirits become rampant, all the people of the nation become disordered” (WND-1, 8).[6] This indicates, in other words, that social disorder is invariably a reflection of people’s disordered thoughts and minds.

Often in such times, national interests take priority over people’s lives, and violence driven by hatred is justified. Unfortunately, it is the ordinary people, mothers and children who usually bear the brunt of this reversal of priorities.

The situation is even more critical today. Therefore, as people who uphold the life-affirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, let us work to spread our movement based on the conviction that “Nothing brings more happiness than peace,”[7] starting in our respective places of mission.

Many new specialty groups were also established in our organization in Japan around 1973. These include the business professionals division, executives division, housing complex division (present-day castles of happiness division), farming communities division (present-day farming and fishing division) and community division. In the places where they are, the members of these divisions—champions and Heroes of the World[8]—have held high the banners of “putting faith into practice in daily life,” “translating Buddhism into action in society,” “changing poison into medicine” and “Buddhism means being victorious.” For five decades, they have made dedicated efforts as pioneers and models for all. My gratitude to them knows no bounds.

Ten years have passed since the completion of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu.

Mr. Toda often encouraged us, saying, “Resolve that a decade from now you’ll each be proudly declaring that you have become the happiest person alive.”[9] Over the past decade, our members everywhere have done just that, overcoming mountains of difficulty and attaining lives of happiness and victory.

Today, our gathering of members united by a shared vow encompasses 192 countries and territories, with our membership outside of Japan now close to 3 million strong. Everywhere our members are showing wonderful actual proof of happiness through human revolution. As Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they are dancing joyfully with the whole world as their stage—in North America, Central and South America, Asia and Oceania, Europe and the Middle East and Africa.

Whatever the circumstances, the members of our Soka family are solidly united in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind.” With the flame of courage in their hearts, confident that “the deeper the darkness, the nearer the dawn,” they continue to forge ahead, brightly illuminating their communities through their own actions. Nothing makes me happier than to see our shining members.

In an interview, Harvard Divinity School professor emeritus Harvey Cox once observed that the SGI has been actively involved in addressing various pressing issues facing humankind. He also declared that what set it apart as a grassroots Buddhist movement was its social engagement. He saw this as a reflection of our strong commitment to working not just for personal happiness but for the happiness of all people.[10]

Upholding the world’s foremost philosophy for human happiness, the Soka Gakkai is the world’s foremost gathering of ordinary people that nothing can defeat.

The foundations for our youthful Soka Gakkai worldwide are rock solid.

Rallying the passion and power of young Bodhisattvas of the Earth more than ever, let us build great castles of capable people and cultivate ever-growing gardens of peace to create value leading to happiness for the entire global family!

January 2, 2024, World Tribune, pp. 1–3


  1. Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (Randburg: Macdonald Purnell, 1994), p. 615. ↩︎
  2. From the Tokyo Soka Gakkai song “Ah, Our Inspiring Members.” ↩︎
  3. Today known as the Osaka City Central Public Hall. ↩︎
  4. In May 1956, the Kansai members, uniting around a young Daisaku Ikeda, who had been dispatched by second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda to support them, increased their chapter’s membership by 11,111 households in a single month. In elections held two months later in July, the Soka Gakkai-backed candidate in Kansai won a seat in the Upper House, an accomplishment that was thought impossible at the time. ↩︎
  5. Osaka Rally: A Soka Gakkai rally held to protest the unjust detention of Ikeda Sensei, then-Soka Gakkai youth division chief of staff, by the Osaka District Prosecutor’s Office in connection with the Osaka Incident. It was convened at Nakanoshima Civic Hall in Osaka on July 17, 1957, the day of Sensei’s release after two weeks of interrogation by authorities. ↩︎
  6. From the Benevolent Kings Sutra. ↩︎
  7. See The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, revised edition, p. 1. ↩︎
  8. Hero of the World is one of the titles of the Buddha. ↩︎
  9. Translated from Japanese. See Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 4 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1984), p. 441. ↩︎
  10. Translated from Japanese. From an interview article in the Jan. 1, 2016, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun. ↩︎

The Pride of Being Josei Toda’s Disciple