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Ikeda Sensei

My Mentor and Personal Guidance

Photo by Davide Conticelli / Getty Images.

I have written in the past about my daily morning classes at “Toda University,” during which my mentor, Josei Toda, instructed me on a wide variety of subjects.

Many other people also came to Mr. Toda every day to receive guidance and advice. Even if he was in the middle of work, he would meet with them in a private room and spend time with them. They brought with them all kinds of problems and sufferings. There were people who were poor, people who were deadlocked in their lives as well as people who were dissatisfied or who had given up their faith.

Mr. Toda kept me at his side at these times. Assisting him behind the scenes on a daily basis, I was sometimes called upon to communicate his advice and guidance to many others. As a result, I listened carefully to his every word, engraving them in my mind.

Sometimes Mr. Toda would give guidance using concrete, easy-to-understand examples; sometimes he gave rousing encouragement; and sometimes he just presented his conclusions in a simple, concise manner. Sometimes he shared different anecdotes, smiling and conversing in a warm and friendly way that soothed the listener’s heart. Sometimes he could be as fiercely angry as a strict but loving father, pointing out the person’s laziness, weakness and arrogance to correct those faults.

Yet when an impoverished mother came to see him with one infant on her back and another holding her hand, Mr. Toda would open Nichiren Daishonin’s writings (also called the Gosho) and cite passages that encouraged and heartened them. He would always humbly stress before doing so: “These are not my words. These are the words of the Daishonin, whose Buddhism you practice.” I can still picture the way Mr. Toda reached out to them with infinite warmth and compassion.

Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring. (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 536)


Those who now believe in the Lotus Sutra will gather fortune from ten thousand miles away. (“New Year’s Gosho,” WND-1, 1137)

He quoted easily comprehensible passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings to encourage these women who were struggling amid bitter economic hardship and who were trying to make their way along life’s steep path. He would reassure them by emphasizing again and again, “This is the teaching of the Daishonin; they are not just my words.”

At other times, when his young disciples of the youth division would come to see him, he would cite passages from the Gosho and instruct them rigorously.

When young women came to ask for advice, he would offer them direction from the golden words of Nichiren, firmly setting them on the correct path with the words, “This is for your future happiness.”

One day when giving guidance to a person who couldn’t get along with his siblings, Mr. Toda read and explained one of the Daishonin’s letters to the Ikegami brothers:

The fact that the two of you are one in mind may be likened to the two wheels of a carriage, or the two wings of a bird. …

Though I may seem presumptuous in saying so, you should join together in paying honor to Nichiren. If the two of you should fail to act in harmony, then you may be sure that you will cease to enjoy the protection of the Lotus Sutra.

Beware, beware, for there are persons who clearly would like to do harm to you both! Should you fail to act in harmony, you will be like the snipe and the shellfish who, because they were locked in combat with one another, fell prey to the fisherman. (“Brothers One in Mind,” WND-2, 914)

The Daishonin made his point eloquently by citing this old fable.

Mr. Toda also severely rebuked those who slandered their fellow members, quoting several important Gosho passages.

You must respect him [one who upholds the Lotus Sutra] as you would the Buddha. This is what the sutra means when it says, “You should rise and greet him from afar, showing him the same respect you would a Buddha.” (“The Fourteen Slanders,” WND-1, 757)

Using this passage, Mr. Toda would stress the importance of members showing the same respect for each other as they would show toward a Buddha. This, he said, is what both the Lotus Sutra and the Daishonin teach.

Citing the words “Therefore, the best way to attain Buddhahood is to encounter a good friend” (“Three Tripitaka Masters Pray for Rain,” WND-1, 598), Mr. Toda would impress upon members the importance of fellow members in helping one attain Buddhahood.

Sharing the passage, “In this defiled age, you should always talk together and never cease to pray for your next life” (“The Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 449), he would say to his listeners: “The Daishonin strongly urges us, living as we do in this corrupt world, to always talk with one another and work wholeheartedly for kosen-rufu, and thereby attain eternal happiness together. We don’t have the time to criticize one another or argue among ourselves. We will be scolded by the Daishonin if we allow ourselves to be carried away by petty emotions.”

When leaders came to him with problems in the organization, he would base his guidance on passages from Nichiren that taught the fundamental principle of unity. In both life and Buddhism, the basics are what count.

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. (“Many in Body, One in Mind,” WND-1, 618)


In contrast, although Nichiren and his followers are few, because they are different in body, but united in mind, they will definitely accomplish their great mission of widely propagating the Lotus Sutra. Though evils may be numerous, they cannot prevail over a single great truth. (WND-1, 618)

Mr. Toda also lectured very firmly on a crucial passage from “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life”:

All disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the spirit of many in body but one in mind, transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death. Herein lies the true goal of Nichiren’s propagation. When you are so united, even the great desire for widespread propagation can be fulfilled. (WND-1, 217)

The Soka Gakkai is an organization of harmoniously united believers working together for kosen-rufu, an organization in which this spiritual heritage of Nichiren Daishonin flows. Therefore, we must let nothing destroy this organization, which Mr. Toda described as being more precious to him than his own life. The Soka Gakkai will always win through the unity of “many in body, one in mind.”

Speaking with great passion and conviction, Mr. Toda declared that only by protecting and strengthening the Soka Gakkai, which has inherited the Buddha’s intent and decree, would it be possible to realize kosen-rufu.

The Nirvana Sutra states: “Rely on the Law and not upon persons” (“The Letter of Petition from Yorimoto,” WND-1, 805). The Soka Gakkai is strong because it is based on the writings of Nichiren Daishonin. No matter what the times, as long as we always return to this foundation, we will never be deadlocked.

In his preface to the Soka Gakkai edition of the Nichiren Daishonin gosho zenshu (Collected Writings of Nichiren Daishonin), Mr. Toda wrote: “It is my most fervent and enduring wish that this precious scripture be disseminated to people throughout Asia and the entire world.” Today, in accord with his wish, Nichiren’s writings are being translated into many different languages around the globe.

The Gosho has already been translated into Korean, and a Chinese translation will be published to coincide with this year’s 70th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding [in 2000].

Just last year [1999], a long-awaited revised English translation was published. Since this makes the Daishonin’s writings accessible to some 1.8 billion English-speaking readers worldwide, it is an extremely important event.

The SGI, with members in 156 nations [now 192], is unified around the core of the Gosho.

Nichiren teaches us that nothing surpasses the strategy of the Lotus Sutra. His writings are the key to winning every struggle. Mr. Toda used to state with firm assurance, “Those who strive to actualize the Daishonin’s teaching of widely spreading the Mystic Law are bodhisattvas and Buddhas.” Buddhism is about emerging victorious. That is why it is vital that we fight and survive, fight and win through all struggles according to the principles taught by the Daishonin. For this is the true way of faith of disciples. The benefits we attain as a result of living this way are everlasting, our good fortune immeasurable and our eternal victory assured.

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

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