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Ikeda Sensei

Courage—the Most Important Quality of All

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On Feb. 8, 1951, a small group of bright young people, whom I had personally selected, gathered before Josei Toda for a training session. … Our training under Mr. Toda began. The first novel we studied was The Eternal City[1] by the British author Hall Caine (1853–1931), a tale about the lives and struggles of a group of young revolutionaries. This choice reflected Mr. Toda’s belief that our goal, too, was to create an eternal city, or citadel. 

Mr. Toda’s instructions to me prior to our gathering had been to read The Eternal City and have my most trusted fellow members do the same. I was 23 at the time, and I wrote this entry in my diary after our first session with Mr. Toda:

Fourteen young religious revolutionaries gathered boldly under the leadership of our teacher, Mr. Toda. Solemn and vibrant, tonight’s meeting lasted more than three hours. All participants were serious. … The revolution we are solemnly striving to achieve is more fundamental [than political and economic revolutions]—[it is] a religious revolution. In other words, it is a truly peaceful, bloodless revolution.[2]

It was a dignified and dynamic gathering.

The Eternal City is set in Rome in 1900. A group of youthful revolutionaries lead the people in rising up to oppose a tyrannical government, fighting resolutely against oppressive religious and secular authorities. David Rossi is one of their leaders. In terms of the Soka Gakkai, he would be a youth division leader. …

The young people who are seeking to create their “eternal city” undergo a harsh winter of adversity and, through their undying love for their comrades, triumphantly usher in a joyous spring of victory. Mr. Toda used this book to instruct us in the essential spirit of the Soka Gakkai. He was a truly great teacher.

Kosen-rufu is a momentous undertaking to build an eternal citadel of peace, culture and education—an eternal citadel of justice and happiness, of the victory of the people, of the triumph of humanity, of reverence for life and of the noble virtues of eternity, happiness, true self and purity. This grand enterprise is the dream and the goal that humanity has sought to realize for thousands of years. And the Soka Gakkai is actualizing this long-cherished dream at the most fundamental level.

I would like to share several passages from The Eternal City with you. …

Caine writes: “Nations sink and rise, but humanity is immortal.”[3] Human beings are what matter most, not nations. That’s why human revolution is so important.

Rossi declares: “[Our inner] humanity is the only thing divine in this world.”[4] Those who practice Buddhism are able to make this most sublime quality of humanity shine its brightest.

Rossi also says: “There is no permanent revolution except a moral one.”[5] These words articulate an essential truth. Our great Soka movement for human revolution is just such a permanent revolution. What an amazing thing this is! Without human revolution, there will be no true victory for humankind. …

The beautiful Donna Roma Volonna, the novel’s heroine … declares that even amid suffering and adversity she can feel great joy.[6] This is an important spirit. Hardships enable us to grow. The imperfections and impurities of our lives are purified through faith. Buddhism teaches that “earthly desires lead to enlightenment.”

Allow me to introduce a description of Rossi’s firm convictions, especially for the sake of the young men’s division members: “David Rossi told himself that he was prepared [for any consequences]. Henceforth he would devote himself to the people, without a thought of what might happen. Nothing should come between him and his work for humanity—nothing whatever.”[7] … 

Let’s advance with this spirit. Be ardent revolutionaries like David Rossi! …

We must entrust everything to the youth. Mr. Toda also entrusted everything to me when I was a young man. I have confidence in the youth alone. Members of the youth division, I’m counting on you!

The eminent German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831) wrote: “Youth always looks ahead.”[8] Never look back, to the side, or downward; hold your heads high and proudly keep moving forward. …

I also fought to the fullest in my youth. As Mr. Toda’s disciple, I have achieved far-reaching goals on a global scale.

Because you’re still young, you, the youth, have boundless possibilities; you can do anything you set your mind on. If you let this precious time pass you by, idly frittering your days away or letting fear and insecurity hold you back, you will be the one to lose out in the end. I hope you will lead a youth of undying value and boldly write the history of kosen-rufu with the heart of a lion king. That is the true path of Soka youth.

None are stronger or happier than those who deeply resolve to fight with the pride and awareness that they are my youthful disciples. …

Mr. Toda … called out: “Youth, advance boldly into the north wind!” He also said, “Charge ahead confidently, daring to take the difficult path!” And he stated, “Young people’s strength lies in their burning passion.” I also fought with burning passion. …

He also often said: “You can do it! If you think you can’t and give up, you won’t achieve anything!” The important thing is to take action yourself and not leave things to others. Don’t be someone who quickly decides they can’t do something and abandons trying. Have a vibrant can-do spirit!

Mr. Toda often said: “Faith is not just going through the motions. You need to put your heart into it and pray to the Gohonzon with everything you’ve got. Never forget that basic point.” If we do forget that point, we’re the ones who will lose out. …

When founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi was being interrogated during his imprisonment, he confidently discoursed on the correct teachings of Nichiren Buddhism and the activities of the Soka Gakkai based thereon. One of the sutra passages he quoted at that time was from “Supernatural Powers of the Thus Come One,” the 21st chapter of the Lotus Sutra, describing the mission of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth: “As the light of the sun and moon can banish all obscurity and gloom, so this person [a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day] as he passes through the world can wipe out the darkness of living beings” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 318). I also heard from Mr. Toda that Mr. Makiguchi often cited this passage.

“Let’s go out into society, out among the people! Let’s bring people hope so they can break through the darkness of their suffering! Let’s aid and assist them, guiding them to victory!”—this sincere wish for the happiness of others has been the proud foundation of the Soka Gakkai’s activities since the time of Mr. Makiguchi. This has been our spirit thus far, and let’s keep winning with this spirit. There is no more wonderful gathering in the world than the Soka Gakkai. …

In “The Dragon Gate,” we find the Daishonin’s famous words: “My wish is that all my disciples make a great vow” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1003). Nothing is more powerful than the great vow we make to realize kosen-rufu, to share the Mystic Law with others and to attain Buddhahood ourselves and help others do the same. The benevolent forces of the universe protect those who strive to achieve this great vow. Because of our commitment to this vow, the Soka Gakkai has grown into the global movement that it has. …

And the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–81) encouraged a young person: “In view of your persistence, something definitely will become of you. … Who doesn’t have failures? And would a life in which everything was smooth be worth anything? More courage and sense of self—that’s what you need.”[9]

Courage—this is the most important quality for all of us, especially for the youth. With that, I’d like to close my speech today.

March 15, 2024, World Tribune, pp. 2–3


  1. For an essay by Ikeda Sensei on his experience studying The Eternal City under his mentor Josei Toda, see The Books of My Youth, p. 51. ↩︎
  2. A Youthful Diary, p. 87. ↩︎
  3. Hall Caine, The Eternal City (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1901), p. 12. ↩︎
  4. Ibid., p. 198. ↩︎
  5. Ibid., p. 360. ↩︎
  6. See Ibid., p. 465. ↩︎
  7. Ibid., p. 190. ↩︎
  8. Translated from German. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Nürnberger Gymnasialkurse und Gymnasialreden (1808–1816) (Nuremberg School Courses and Lectures, 1808–1816), edited by Klaus Grotsch, in Gesammelte Werke (Collected Works), edited by Nordrhein-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 2006), vol. 10, part 1, p. 464. ↩︎
  9. Fyodor Dostoevsky, “To Olga Antipova, 21 April, 1877,” in Complete Letters, edited and translated by David A. Lowe (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Ardis Publishers, 1991), vol. 4 (1872–77), pp. 368–69. ↩︎

March 16, 1958—The Passing of the Baton