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Ikeda Sensei

Glorious May 3 

Photo by Nick Brundle Photography / Getty Images.

May 3— 
my fellow members in faith
have won!

Brilliant May 3! Anniversary of indomitable triumph! Anniversary of fresh departure toward hope-filled frontiers! 

Glorious May 3! How inspiring the sight of great bodhisattvas striving with energy and advancing with joy throughout Japan and the world!

Our unflagging optimism, our vigor in defending justice and our harmonious unity are the essence of our victory and fortune. Unceasing challenge and advance are how we celebrate.

My wonderful comrades, my wonderful disciples! Your courageous presence is the source of the glory and triumph of our Soka movement.

I wish to express my deepest, warmest appreciation to you. Your tireless dedication brings tears to my eyes.

May 3 is a day illuminated by the flame of the Soka Gakkai spirit. 

On May 3, 1951, our mentor, Josei Toda, was inaugurated as the second Soka Gakkai president, seven years after the passing of our first president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who died in prison for his beliefs.

The day was clear and sunny, as was my heart. On that occasion, Mr. Toda made his impassioned declaration: “I vow to convert, through my own efforts, 750,000 households during my lifetime.” This was a soaring pledge to accomplish kosen-rufu. At the time, the Soka Gakkai had only about 3,000 members. The goal he announced was truly staggering. But I was overjoyed. Courage surged through me. My mentor, an incomparable leader of kosen-rufu, had finally resolved to stand at the helm as president. I would stand up with equal resolve, and as a true disciple of my great mentor, in complete unity with him, I would realize his vow.

That May 3 was also the day when, as youth, we made a powerful determination to carry out an unprecedented religious revolution. 

On July 11, amid pouring rain, a little more than two months after Mr. Toda became president, the inaugural meeting of the young men’s division was held in our old, cramped headquarters in Nishi-Kanda, Tokyo. A mere 180 members attended. I was there as a group leader.

At the meeting, President Toda made a startling announcement: “The next president of the Soka Gakkai is certain to come from among those of you assembled here today. I am absolutely convinced that he is here with us now. I wish to congratulate that person, bowing to him with my deepest respect and veneration.” And then he bowed deeply. We were all surprised.

Mr. Toda had declared that he would actualize kosen-rufu, but he knew better than anyone that this momentous and sacred undertaking could not be accomplished in a single lifetime. Kosen-rufu could not be achieved without youth who were inspired to rise into action with the same great vow and commitment as he. Hence, at that meeting in Nishi-Kanda, my wise and far-seeing mentor pronounced that only one youth who truly shared his passionate spirit for kosen-rufu was qualified to become the Soka Gakkai’s third president. 

It was on May 3, 1960, at the age of 32, that I was inaugurated as third president. On that glorious anniversary under clear skies, I declared with youthful vigor from the stage before the 20,000 members assembled in the Nihon University Auditorium [in Tokyo]: “Though I am young, from this day I will take leadership as a representative of President Toda’s disciples and advance with you another step toward the substantive realization of kosen-rufu.” I was enveloped by enthusiastic, thunderous applause. And as the disciple of that outstanding “commander in chief” of propagation, President Toda, I vowed to realize the goal of 3 million households that he had entrusted to us.

Mr. Toda once said to me: “What a magnificent age it will be when we have 10 million people practicing Nichiren Buddhism! I can’t wait.” And at that moment, I made it my lifelong pledge to build here in Japan precisely such a solid alliance of people dedicated to peace and humanity, 10 million strong.

Nichiren Daishonin says, “The ‘great vow’ refers to the propagation of the Lotus Sutra” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 82), and May 3 has been designated as the day of our great vow for kosen-rufu. Each time it arrives, it is a day for mentor and disciples to pledge together to carry out the widespread propagation of the Mystic Law, a day to embark anew on our struggle for world peace and the happiness of humanity. And so it will be forever!

in one intense struggle after another,
the glorious history
of May 3
has been created.

I have begun a new series of lectures on Nichiren’s writing “The Opening of the Eyes,” which will commence in the May 2004 issue of the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study magazine, Daibyakurenge.[1] A passage from that important work perfectly expresses the determination I felt when I became the president—a determination that has never left my heart: “Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 280). I was proud to have been trained by my mentor, Josei Toda, to possess the invincible spirit to remain undefeated by any onslaught or obstacle. 

The road to accomplishing a great endeavor is never smooth. I am reminded of the words of the president of a certain country to the effect that to walk the road of your mission, you need three things: perseverance, perseverance and still more perseverance. Giving up leads to misery and defeat, but perseverance always results in hope and victory.

It has been my destiny since becoming Soka Gakkai president to surmount an unending series of perilous, towering peaks stretching as far as the eye can see.

The first treacherous summit loomed in 1970. On May 3 of that year, my 10th anniversary as president, we were in the midst of the so-called Freedom of Speech Incident[2] and under concerted attack from all sides in Japan. The next decade also brought a series of trials and tribulations, like mountains piling upon mountains. Amid the raging storm of the first priesthood issue, just before May 3, 1979, I stepped down as president of the Soka Gakkai [on April 24].[3]

The following year, 1980, the Soka Gakkai and I were still under continuous attack. Treacherous ingrates who had colluded with corrupt, scheming priests revealed themselves to be just like Devadatta—who attacked and tried to kill Shakyamuni Buddha. As our fierce battle against these forces continued, I went to our ever-victorious bastion of Kansai. And, on May 3, I made a powerful determination to vanquish the evil intrigues of these unscrupulous villains and launched a struggle for ultimate triumph, with Kansai as my base of operations.

But precisely because we have experienced and overcome such terrible attacks, the Soka Gakkai has been able to create the strongest foundation in all Japan as an organization of integrity and solidarity dedicated to the highest human ideals.

Moreover, it was on the 30th anniversary of my presidency [in 1990] that Nikken and his cohorts revealed their true, hideous colors as destroyers of kosen-rufu, in what we know as the second priesthood issue.[4] While these aberrant priests were planning the Soka Gakkai’s destruction at clandestine meetings, our organization was opening its doors wide to the world and forging ahead in harmonious unity to expand our great peace movement for the happiness of all humanity.

The frequency of my dialogues with leaders and thinkers around the globe rapidly accelerated at this time also. It was in that year (1990) that I first met Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and South African President Nelson Mandela.

As such, major persecutions have occurred roughly every 10 years since I became Soka Gakkai president. But each time, the Soka Gakkai grew—into an unsurpassed organization of culture, into a peerless community of believers genuinely practicing Nichiren’s teachings, into a world religion. In conquering each daunting peak that has appeared in its path and winning victory after victory, the Soka Gakkai has become an unchallenged champion.

Why has the Soka Gakkai been able to prevail over such trying obstacles and write such a triumphant history? Because of the spirit of “many in body, one in mind” taught by Nichiren Daishonin.

He writes: “King Chou of Yin led seven hundred thousand soldiers into battle against King Wu of Chou and his eight hundred men. Yet King Chou’s army lost because of disunity [literally, being one in body but different in mind] while King Wu’s men defeated him because of perfect unity [literally, being many in body but one in mind]” (“Many in Body, One in Mind,” WND-1, 618).

Here, the Daishonin refers to a famous anecdote dating from the Chou (also known as Zhou) dynasty of ancient China. At that time, King Wu heroically rose up against King Chou, a despot who inflicted tremendous suffering upon the people. At the beginning, Wu had the support of only 800 feudal lords against King Chou’s army of 700,000. He was completely outnumbered.

How did King Wu overcome this difficulty? Before launching into battle, he thoroughly explained to his feudal lords and subjects the inhumanity and injustices being perpetrated by King Chou. In so doing, he firmly united the resolve of all who shared his desire to rectify this situation. “We must fight against the evil and corruption that causes the people to suffer! Now is the time to rise up for the sake of the people’s happiness!” In response to this clarion call, many flocked to King Wu’s side. Some sources speculate that he ultimately commanded a force of several hundred thousand when he marched into battle against King Chou.

People are inspired by a sure and committed call to action. They are rallied to the cause of truth and justice. The Soka Gakkai has become a global organization because it has upheld this golden rule.

On that May 3, 44 [now 64] years ago [1960], as I was about to leave the Nihon University Auditorium at the conclusion of the celebration reception held there immediately after my inauguration, someone shouted, “Time for a victory toss!” Just at the moment I heard this exclamation, the youth let out a roaring cheer and rushed toward me. Before I knew what was happening, they had picked me up and were tossing me in the air, shouting “Hurrah! Hurrah!” I will never forget that surging whirlpool of joy, its powerful force, its dynamic energy, as long as I live. 

It is impossible for me to advance kosen-rufu without fellow members who struggle alongside me for this cause. It is not me who is important but the members.

Time and time again, Mr. Toda told us, “If the members all support the third president, kosen-rufu will surely be achieved.” And it has proved to be just as he said.

True to my mentor’s assertion, the Soka Gakkai has succeeded in spreading our movement for kosen-rufu across the globe, precisely because our dedicated members and I, the third president, have struggled together in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind.”

The Daishonin writes, “If the spirit of many in body but one in mind prevails among the people, they will achieve all their goals, whereas if one in body but different in mind, they can achieve nothing remarkable” (WND-1, 618).

Leaders must never be arrogant. It is crucial that we sincerely respect and appreciate our fellow members, no matter how young in faith they may be, and to completely dedicate ourselves to them and their welfare.

The great network of the SGI has grown dramatically to encompass 188 countries and territories [now 192]. The day has come when members all over the world joyously celebrate May 3. The celebrations aren’t restricted to SGI members alone; for example, in Brazil, the Federal District of Brasília and many states and cities now celebrate May 3 as well. 

The mayor of Cambé in Paraná State, Brazil, called May 3 a day of spiritual nourishment for the people of his city. He said that society is in need of the SGI’s fundamental philosophy, which teaches that peace originates within the individual. And that is why, he added, he hopes that the SGI’s efforts for peace will continue to grow ever stronger. 

May 3 is also Soka Gakkai Mothers Day. 

Whenever I faced the fiercest persecution, I received countless letters of support and sympathy from my fellow members, which I treasure to this day. This was the case when the controversy over the Soka Gakkai’s alleged Freedom of Speech Incident raged [in 1969–70], a time when my health also was at a low ebb. The same was true when I stepped down as president [in 1979] and was prevented from attending major meetings, a time that caused the members intense worry and concern.

Thanks to the devoted prayers and actions of our members, I have surmounted numerous trying challenges. I feel an immense debt of gratitude toward every single one of them.

The sincere daimoku of our women members, “the mothers of kosen-rufu,” in particular, demolished all obstacles and negative forces, and paved the way for writing a history of indestructible glory for May 3.

It is vital that we always remember to have the deepest respect and gratitude for the power of faith and practice—the lofty prayers and efforts—of our great Soka women. If the day should ever come that the earnest, dedicated actions of these members are scorned, diminished or forgotten, then genuine faith will vanish, Buddhism will be destroyed and kosen-rufu will never be accomplished, no matter how many centuries may pass. This would be a cause of suffering for all. Both our first and second presidents urged us to banish from our harmonious organization individuals who dared engage in such vile and destructive behavior.

I wish to raise both arms and cheer: Long live May 3! Long live the women of Soka, the mothers of happiness!

It was on May 3, 1954, exactly 50 [now 70] years ago, that I celebrated this important anniversary for the first time as the Soka Gakkai’s youth division chief of staff. I was determined to come up with a formula for victory for the sake of kosen-rufu while President Toda was still in good health. Toward that end, it was essential that the Soka Gakkai’s youth stand up and shoulder full responsibility for our movement. They would have to learn through their own experience—through their Buddhist practice and their own energetic efforts—how to win in each struggle and each undertaking. 

I therefore engraved Mr. Toda’s spirit in the depths of my being and led a fierce struggle to make that happen. I began to create a record of continuous expansion and victory—starting with a gathering of 5,000 youth division members in the pouring rain only six days after that May 3 and followed up by a meeting of twice that number just six months later. Staking everything on that first year, I attained complete victory and built the foundation for the eternal triumph of Soka.

I will never forget the stirring declaration the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin made in one of his poems: “Adversity … gives courage to the heart, light to the spirit.”[5]

How magnificent and worthwhile is a day spent in productive, fulfilling exertion! How much value we can create for our lives, how much personal victory can be gained in a day of trials and tribulations!

The challenges of youth, your efforts to break through your limitations, adorn each day, each year with golden brilliance; they make each day worth a year, each year worth a decade.

Our next goal is May 3, 2005. A new drama has begun—an undertaking crucial to our own victory in our individual struggles and the triumph of the great struggle for kosen-rufu.

Those who seriously approach the next 12 months as a time that will decide the future are certain to be blessed with boundless fortune. Those who resolve to make the coming year a period that will open wide the path for the eternal development of kosen-rufu, and strive diligently to realize that goal, will be showered with limitless benefits and immeasurable happiness.

My incomparably noble fellow members, who day in and day out challenge themselves anew with fresh determination to advance kosen-rufu: Please win in all your endeavors. You must triumph!

“Soka” is a proud name synonymous with the peace, happiness and victory of humankind.

Three cheers for this glorious May 3! Three cheers for all our admirable members throughout the world! Three cheers for May 3, 2005!

May 3, 2024, World Tribune, pp. 2–4


  1. These lectures have since been translated into English and published as the book The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series. ↩︎
  2. Freedom of Speech Incident: The name given to a controversy that arose in 1970, when the Soka Gakkai tried to defend itself from libel. For further details, see the “Fierce Winds” chapter of The New Human Revolution, vol. 14. ↩︎
  3. The first priesthood issue: Nichiren Shoshu priests conspired with a corrupt Soka Gakkai lawyer to attack Ikeda Sensei and the Soka Gakkai’s members, seeking to gain control over the organization’s assets. On April 24, 1979, Sensei stepped down as Soka Gakkai president to protect the members from further persecution. ↩︎
  4. The second priesthood issue: In 1990, Nikken Abe, the then-high priest of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, jealous and hostile toward the Soka Gakkai and Sensei, devised a plot called “Operation C” (“C” meaning to “cut”) to destroy the Soka Gakkai and place its members under the priesthood’s control. Their plot culminated in the excommunication of all Soka Gakkai members on Nov. 28, 1991, which SGI members now celebrate as the Day of Spiritual Independence. ↩︎
  5. Translated from German. Friedrich Hölderlin, “Das Schiksaal,” in Hölderlin: Sämtliche Werke (Hölderlin: Collected Works) (Stuttgart: J. G. Cottasche Buchhandlung Nachfolger, 1946), vol. 1, p. 185. ↩︎

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