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Ikeda Sensei

The Women of Soka Are Suns of Hope

Jean-Guy Nakars / Unsplash.

The sun
is synonymous
with the women of Soka.
May you shine ever more brightly
with happiness and peace.

What distinguishes someone as a truly cultured person, a person of outstanding character? The Swiss philosopher Carl Hilty (1833–1909) had a clear answer to this question. Cultured people, he wrote, always possess “enthusiasm and eagerness for whatever is good.”[1]

This reminds me of the women of Soka who strive each day with enthusiasm and passion for the great good that is the happiness of others and peace in society.

Creating value and manifesting the wisdom to enable all people to live harmoniously and with hope based on the Buddhist philosophy of respect for the dignity of life, the women of Soka are truly experts of happiness and people of outstanding character.

As an expression of our appreciation for their efforts, let us give a rousing cheer to all our women’s division members, who will celebrate their division’s 64th anniversary on June 10, [2015].

Soka University of America (SUA), recognized for fostering new leaders of a global civilization, held its 11th commencement ceremony last month (on May 22, 2015). 

Responding to the aspirations for peace of mothers and women around the world, the graduates continue to grow tremendously and make wonderful contributions to society.

Incidentally, a fig tree that was planted on the SUA campus in honor of the late Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai (1940–2011) is growing splendidly, sending forth a luxurious canopy of green leaves. I proposed planting the tree 10 years ago when I met with Dr. Maathai during her visit to Japan (in February 2005).

Dr. Maathai told a Soka University alumna working in Kenya that wherever she went in the world, she found SGI members to be the happiest of people. And she asked how it was that those vibrant members always had such bright and smiling faces. As someone who charmed the entire world with her own beaming smile, Dr. Maathai could appreciate the smiles of Soka women.

Among the five guidelines of the women’s division[2] are: “Advancing harmoniously with our families” and “Fostering young successors.”

Your shining smiles are the key to achieving harmony in your families and communities, as well as the key to fostering successors.

Another of the guidelines of the women’s division is: “Everything begins with prayer.”

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “It is the heart that is important” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1000).

The heart is invisible, but it has the power to significantly change our visible reality. In accord with the Mystic Law, the great law governing all life, a fundamental change in one person’s heart not only transforms that person’s own life but also transforms society and the land in which they live. The doctrine of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life” taught in Nichiren Buddhism explains this.

Nichiren assures us that all actions that arise out of faith, based on a wish for the happiness of both ourselves and others, “will implant benefits and roots of goodness in [our] life” (see “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” WND-1, 4). Our heart, our mind, determines everything.

Each of our women’s division members is an inspiring protagonist of a noble drama demonstrating this truth.

The renowned Austrian soprano Jutta Unkart-Seifert, with whom I published a dialogue, has made these words her motto: “Where there is a will, there is a way.” She turned the painful and sad experiences of her life, including the death of her beloved husband, into fuel for her personal growth, and imparted courage and joy to others through her gift of song.

In a letter to a leading female disciple, Nichimyo, Nichiren Daishonin writes: “In battles soldiers regard the general as their soul. If the general were to lose heart, his soldiers would become cowards” (“The Supremacy of the Law,” WND-1, 613). He was encouraging Nichimyo, who had lost her husband, to courageously stand up with strong faith.

Prayer is the determination to accomplish one’s goal without fail; it is a pledge, a vow. Never forget that as long as women have such resolve in their hearts, the path to a brilliant future will open.

In our dialogue, Dr. Unkart-Seifert shared the joy she felt when she was able to finally fulfill her long-cherished dream of performing alongside the famous, beloved voice teacher under whom she had studied. 

There is no more moving experience than teacher and student striving together on the same stage. In every field of human endeavor, the path of mentor and disciple leads to limitless growth and self-improvement.

Without the training of my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, I would not be who I am today. That is why I have made realizing his dream my own lifelong dream. I firmly decided that the way to repay my debt of gratitude to my mentor was to bring him joy by achieving his aspirations.

Carrying on the spirit of his late mentor, founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Mr. Toda strongly wished to enable all women to attain happiness. He was determined to build a peaceful society in which women, who suffered the most and made the greatest sacrifices in war, could become the happiest.

It was to fulfill this wish that he established the women’s division immediately after being inaugurated as second Soka Gakkai president (in 1951).

He also established the young women’s division and continually encouraged its members to make Buddhist study their foundation.

Another guideline of the women’s division is: “Cherishing our communities and societies.”

The contributions that our women’s division members are making to their local communities are a bright source of hope illuminating the times. They are also playing a leading role in expanding dialogue among their neighbors to realize Nichiren Daishonin’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.”

Throughout June, the women’s division is holding small-group general meetings around Japan. These small gatherings are the direct path to achieving a harmonious and prosperous community, and are a microcosm of world peace.

The German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) said that pleasant conversation among those who share activities and experiences is “all the more fruitful and uplifting to the spirit.”[3]

The words of women who have overcome various struggles have the power to inspire and encourage others.

The last of the five guidelines for the women’s division is: “Joyfully sharing our experiences in faith.”

The articles that receive the most positive response and enthusiasm from readers of Soka Gakkai publications are members’ experiences in faith.

Recently, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, the Seikyo Shimbun, featured the experience of a 90-year-old woman from Kuji City, Iwate Prefecture [in northeastern Japan]. She had faced harsh adversity in her life—poverty, the death of family members and much more—but she was never defeated. She says: “Don’t weep over your karma or let it get the better of you! If you challenge your situation cheerfully, you’ll find that you can overcome any negative karma.”

These are the insightful words of a wise pioneer member who has surmounted one hardship after another over the decades and has made the treasures of her life shine brightly. Her example is a beacon of comfort and hope to all.

No matter what happens, never falter, never despair. No matter how bitterly frustrating your current situation may be, the invincible power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will positively transform everything into a brilliant history of triumph.

Pearl S. Buck (1892–1973) was a famous American writer and peace activist. While caring full-time for her daughter, who was born with severe disabilities, she authored such famous works as The Exile: Portrait of an American Mother and The Good Earth. Reflecting on how her challenges became a positive factor in her personal development, she wrote, “So by this most sorrowful way I was compelled to tread, I learned respect and reverence for every human mind.”[4]

Those who have overcome the deepest sadness become people of profound philosophy and compassion. Those who have overcome the greatest suffering can attain the most expansive life state and spread ultimate happiness to others.

The women of the SGI who share their experiences of human revolution with their friends forge a road of happiness, peace and victory.

“Kosen-rufu will be achieved through the power of women”—this belief of my mentor still shines brilliantly and firmly in my own heart.

The prayers of women cannot fail to move others. Their words cannot fail to inspire.

Women leaders around the world are showing solidarity with our SGI movement. Dr. Unkart-Seifert, too, has said that she feels tremendous joy being able to interact with and learn from SGI women’s division members.

Former Indonesian First Lady Sinta Nuriyah Wahid, widow of the late Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid (1940–2009), recently sent a heartfelt message to our women’s division members on their general meetings in Japan. After introducing the wise words that women are truly the pillar of the nation, she wrote that all of us are born from mothers, and it is we who can bring happiness to the world. The presence of mothers, she maintained, is the key to peace.

With strength and optimism, please boldly share your experiences in faith and the noble cause of our Soka movement.

Cheers to our women’s division members, great experts of happiness and people of outstanding character!

Cheers to the women who are creating an age of humanity!

Live out your lives
as experts of happiness,
illuminating others
with your inspiring wisdom.

February 2, 2024, World Tribune, pp. 2-3


  1. Carl Hilty, The Steps of Life: Further Essays on Happiness (New York: The MacMillan Co., 1907), p. 131. ↩︎
  2. In 2009, Ikeda Sensei presented the women’s division with five guidelines for absolute victory: 1) Everything begins with prayer; 2) Advancing harmoniously with our families; 3) Fostering young successors; 4) Cherishing our communities and societies; and 5) Joyfully sharing our experiences in faith. ↩︎
  3. ohann Wolfgang von Goethe. Conversations of German Refugees, translated by Jan van Heurck in cooperation with Jane K. Brown, Wilhelm Meister’s Journeyman Years, or The Renunciants, translated by Krishna Winston, Goethe’s Collected Works (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1995), vol. 10, p. 322. ↩︎
  4. Pearl S. Buck, The Child Who Never Grew Up (New York: The John Day Company, 1950), p. 6. ↩︎

This Month in Soka Gakkai History (February)