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Ikeda Sensei

Setting Out Toward Great Victory

Photo by John Towner / Unsplash.

On the morning of New Year’s Day, I prayed for the health, energetic endeavors and long life of all of you, my precious fellow members. I am determined to continue this solemn prayer as long as I live. 

When we reach the end of this year, let us once again sing a joyous song of victory in life together! 

We are comrades joined by lofty bonds, possessing the spiritual sword of good and truth. Let us leave behind for posterity a history of resounding victory achieved through the determination and hope that we have nurtured in our hearts. By doing so, the banner of our noble spirit and just cause will continue to fly boldly throughout eternity, to the accolades of future generations.

This year, let us once again advance with pride, singing a song of glory, our hearts beating with an immense, overflowing vow.

On Jan. 2 of this year, I celebrated my 75th birthday filled with joy and a sense of fulfillment with fellow members around the world. 

In the first essay of this series, which I started writing at the age of 70, I reviewed my life and wrote that my goal by the age of 80 would be “the completion of the foundations for worldwide kosen-rufu.” The five years since then have flown by, and now I stand at my mid-70s. I am determined to dedicate the rest of my life to achieving my goal and to serving my fellow members.

I recall how my mentor Josei Toda, whose greatness goes beyond words, once came to my tiny apartment in Sanno, Omori [in Tokyo’s Ota Ward]. Also, when my wife and I decided to get married, Mr. Toda, who was for all practical purposes our go-between, also visited my parents’ home and engaged in a frank and cordial exchange with them, talking at length with my father. Many such extremely fond memories remain with me today as my proudest moments.

Just before my wife and I were to be married, Mr. Toda invited both sets of our parents for a meeting at a place near the then-Soka Gakkai Headquarters branch office in Ichigaya. At that time, he said, tears streaming from his eyes: “Daisaku has overexerted himself working at my side. He has worked too hard and completely exhausted himself. He may not make it past 30.” 

I am sure my beloved mentor is overjoyed that in spite of that, with a life force strengthened and invigorated in accord with the principle of “extending one’s life through faith,” I have surpassed the age when first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi died in prison, and continue to take the lead for kosen-rufu.

The foundation for realizing worldwide kosen-rufu starts with creating a firm and unshakable model in Japan. It is absolutely crucial for us here in Japan to build a great popular force for peace based on the principles of Buddhist humanism. We must build it with unswerving determination, irrespective of the storms of attack or crashing waves of jealousy and abuse that may assault us, because this is the indestructible path to eternal victory. That is why I am determined again this year to resolutely and unflinchingly carry on our struggle.

I was born in 1928 and, as many of you may know, this was also the year that Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda first encountered and took faith in Nichiren Buddhism. Two years later, they founded the Soka Gakkai. This year [2003] thus marks the 75th anniversary of the year that both embraced faith.

When Mr. Makiguchi was 32, he published his great and innovative work, A Geography of Human Life [in 1903]. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of that event. In this book, Mr. Makiguchi forcefully argued the importance of avoiding both narrow-minded chauvinism and a cosmopolitanism that preaches a vague universal love of humanity. He also said he had no intention of acting like a flippant critic. The most important thing, he said, was for each of us to closely examine our own “homeland” and understand it fully and properly. Only when we make this our starting point, he asserted, is it possible for us to clarify our goals and priorities, succeed in various endeavors in society, and lead humanity toward peaceful coexistence. 

What wonderful, insightful words these are. When I first encountered this book in my youth, my pulse leapt as if my heart were suddenly aflame. 

Our “homeland” is the community and place where we are living right now. Our lives do not exist apart from the place where we live and pursue our daily endeavors. 

People lead vital lives even in the artificial environments of the giant metropolises, concrete and asphalt jungles with their towering skyscrapers. People live in the snowy lands of the deep north, their youthful spirits shining in the morning light. Likewise, people exert themselves diligently day after day in the tropical paradises lush with swaying palm trees and in the beautiful countryside bathed in the majestic hues of sunset. 

Ordinary people are leading their lives to the fullest everywhere, their hearts beating vibrantly—in the mountain villages, in the harbor towns, in the small factories and in the markets and stalls ringing with vendors’ cries.

The wisdom of Buddhism teaches us: “And now the place where Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, whether . . . in mountain valleys or the wide wilderness’ (chapter twenty-one, Supernatural Powers), these places are all the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light. This is what is meant by ‘the place of practice’” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 192). These words of the Daishonin bear the profoundly significant message that we, as human beings, wherever we are, must never forget our great and meaningful purpose. 

No matter how troubled the place where we may be, or how intense the struggles and challenges we face there, we must live with courage, battle our way through all obstacles, and triumph where we are, never allowing ourselves to be shaken by misfortune. For the Daishonin asserts that the place where we are right now is the noble realm of the Buddha, the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light. In other words, wherever we dwell and challenge ourselves with all our might is a precious land, shining and resplendent. 

Even if our family is poor or going through hard times, for instance, we can powerfully transform our situation and enjoy a state of unsurpassed happiness and a joyous and harmonious family life. This is the teaching of the Mystic Law. The Daishonin also urges us to challenge ourselves in our Buddhist practice with a sense of responsibility and mission to boldly produce such actual results. 

Our lives are the entity of three thousand realms in a single moment of life. In other words, the realm of living beings and the realm of the environment are all encompassed within our individual lives. Human beings only exist within the context of their relationships with others and the relationship between human beings and the environment. Our feeling happy or our experiencing various sufferings and problems ultimately depends on the state of these relationships. We must never forget, however, that even if our lives are full of continuous pain and misery now, we can transform and move them in a more positive and happy direction without fail. This is a core principle of the correct teaching of Buddhism; it is the essence of faith.

Resignation is the hallmark of life’s losers. Buddhists who possess the strength to live life resolutely are victors of happiness.

Wherever we live, how wonderful and pleasant it would be if we were all able to get along well and enjoy warm, open relationships with our neighbors and fellow citizens in our communities! Surely all people wish for this. 

Nichiren encouraged one of his disciples: “I entrust you with the propagation of Buddhism in your province” (“The Properties of Rice,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1117). In our daily lives, our “province” refers to our immediate neighborhood—our neighbors, the people living next to us on both sides and across the street. Our neighborhood is the “front line” of kosen-rufu entrusted to us by the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.

Kosen-rufu is about constructing happiness for both oneself and others. A smug, self-centered happiness is not true happiness. The teachings of Buddhism embody the wisdom for attaining peaceful coexistence and mutual prosperity. A certain leader has described our members as “proud architects of happiness” who are responsible for the happiness and welfare of their respective communities.

More than 10 years ago, a young man, who was a nurse by profession in a small town in northern Paraná, Brazil, joined the SGI. Undeterred by his family’s strong opposition to his Buddhist practice, he exerted himself earnestly in faith as the only SGI member in his entire town. 

A doctor working at the same hospital was impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication with which the young man went about his job. She attended an SGI meeting with him and deepened her understanding of Buddhism. This led her to exclaim that she would someday like to pay tribute to the SGI’s commendable endeavors. 

In November of last year (2002), the Brazilian city of Jataizinho presented me with its Jatai Order of Merit Medal. The city has also involved its elementary schools in the Makiguchi Education Project [which was launched in Brazil in 1994 and puts the theories of President Makiguchi’s Soka kyoikugaku taikei (The System of Value-Creating Education) into practice in the classroom]. 

During the presentation ceremony, Jataizinho Mayor Teresinha Fátima Sanchez said: “All the SGI-Brazil members that I know are working for the same goals as SGI President Ikeda, who rose up with a stand-alone spirit. This is also clearly evident in our city.” 

Jataizinho’s mayor is none other than the doctor who worked in the same hospital as that young SGI-Brazil member I mentioned earlier. The sincere and dedicated actions of one youth have blossomed into immense trust.

Former American first lady and renowned social activist Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962) had this to say about relations with our neighbors: 

You must be ready to welcome them if you want them to welcome you. In order to enter that inner, intangible community spirit, you must be eager to join in it in more than a physical sense.[1]

What wonderful efforts our women’s division members are making in this respect. They are truly exemplary models of how to advance our movement for kosen-rufu in the local community.

It is vital for us to engage with people in our communities in a friendly manner, greeting those we encounter and taking a genuine interest in their welfare. This is the mark of emissaries of lofty altruism.

At the height of the Chinese Revolution, former premier Zhou Enlai and his wife, Madame Deng Yingchao, lived by the motto: “Whether an officer or an ordinary foot soldier, I will do my best where I am at this moment.” 

Precious children of the Buddha, please be victorious in your communities, in the place where you are now! For a century of the genuine triumph of the people will begin with the jubilant cheers of victory that resound from each area, each region, in every part of the world.

January 12, 2024, World Tribune, pp. 2–3


  1. Eleanor Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Book of Common Sense Etiquette (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1962), p. 114. ↩︎

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