Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 16: Buddhism Is about Winning [16.1]

16.1 Both Buddhism and Life Are a Struggle to Be Victorious

“The darker the night, the nearer the dawn.” “Morning always follows night.” President Ikeda has always cherished these timeless axioms. Having faith that a new day will arrive, he said, is the spirit of Nichiren Buddhism.

All sorts of difficulties and obstacles invariably arise in the course of carrying out our human revolution. President Ikeda repeatedly assures us that by squarely facing and fearlessly challenging them, our inner Buddhahood, the wellspring of victory in life, will shine brightly.

Nichiren Buddhism stresses the importance of winning. Why is this so? What is it that we must win over? What are the requirements for leading a victorious life? This chapter features President Ikeda’s guidance on this and other points, related to this important aspect of Buddhist philosophy.

In this selection, citing passages from the writings of Nichiren Daishonin, President Ikeda explains that the fundamental meaning of “Buddhism is about winning” is winning in the struggle between the Buddha nature and devilish functions in our own lives.

The teaching that “Buddhism is about winning” appears throughout the writings of Nichiren Daishonin. It is expressed in many different ways, but perhaps most clearly and succinctly in “The Hero of the World,” a letter addressed to Shijo Kingo, one of his leading lay disciples, where the Daishonin writes: “Buddhism primarily concerns itself with victory or defeat” (WND-1, 835). Quoting this passage, Soka Gakkai founding president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi said that the confidence of demonstrating actual proof of victory is the very life of religion.1

Both Buddhism and life are a struggle to be victorious. It is no exaggeration to say that Buddhism was taught to enable all people to win in the most fundamental struggle of life—the struggle between the Buddha nature and devilish functions.

Either we vanquish devilish functions and attain Buddhahood or we are defeated by them and lead lives of delusion. Ultimately, the purpose of our Buddhist practice is to realize victory in this crucial struggle.

This ultimate way of living articulated by Nichiren Buddhism views all aspects of life as a series of struggles that must be fought and won. This is the true reality of existence. For those who earnestly take on this challenge, everything that happens in life, even events in society, become part of their Buddhist practice. In other words, for them, the teaching that “Buddhism is about winning” applies to everything.

The Daishonin writes: “A Buddha is looked up to as the Hero of the World” (WND-1, 835). A “hero of the world” is a person who is courageously engaged in the realities of life and society. A Buddha is one who intrepidly battles devilish functions and, manifesting the life force of the world of Buddhahood, leads a life of right action in human society.

What the Daishonin was trying to teach Shijo Kingo, when he wrote that “Buddhism primarily concerns itself with victory or defeat” is that emulating the Buddha’s way of life as a “hero of the world” marks one as a genuine Buddhist practitioner.

If Buddhism is about winning, then how do we win? It is with our hearts, our minds.

The reason the Daishonin emphasizes that “Buddhism is about winning” is to drive home the importance of having the inner strength and fortitude to stand up to every obstacle and difficulty that arises in life. If we are fainthearted and timid, we cannot win over the negative functions in our own lives or in society.

The Daishonin writes: “A coward cannot have any of his prayers answered” (WND-1, 1001). This is the Daishonin’s powerful encouragement to his disciples not to allow themselves to be defeated by life’s ups and downs, nor to be undone by base negative influences. His teaching that “nothing surpasses the strategy of the Lotus Sutra”2 expresses the same idea.

Faith in the Lotus Sutra is not an intellectual or abstract theory. It must enable us to demonstrate practical wisdom for winning in society, in the real world.

With the heart of a lion king, the Daishonin fought one momentous battle after another, emerging triumphant each time. Such unwavering determination also activates the protective forces of the universe.

In a proud declaration of victory, he says: “It is because the heavenly deities came to my aid that I survived even the Tatsunokuchi Persecution3 and emerged safely from other great persecutions4” (GZ, 843).5

Our lives, our daily existence, and society are constantly changing. Every change is either for better or for worse; there is no in-between. That is why it is essential that our faith, our Buddhist practice, enables us to win.

From The World of Nichiren Daishonin’s Writings, vol. 3, published in Japanese in March 2005.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.

  • *1Cf. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, “Kachi sozo” (Value Creation), in Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), p. 47.
  • *2The Daishonin writes: “Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other” (WND-1, 1001).
  • *3Tatsunokuchi Persecution: The failed attempt, instigated by powerful government figures, to behead the Daishonin under the cover of darkness on the beach at Tatsunokuchi, on the outskirts of Kamakura, on September 12, 1271.
  • *4The other great persecutions here refer to the Matsubagayatsu Persecution (1260), the Izu Exile (1261), the Komatsubara Persecution (1264), and the Sado Exile (1271–74) that followed in the wake of the Tatsunokuchi Persecution.
  • *5“Oko kikigaki” (The Recorded Lectures); not included in WND, vols. 1 or 2.