Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 16: Buddhism Is about Winning [16.8]

16.8 “Where There Is Unseen Virtue, There Will Be Visible Reward”

President Ikeda stresses the importance of accumulating “unseen virtue,” observing that the tireless, often unnoticed, efforts of members striving for kosen-rufu together in the unity of “many in body, one in mind” have been the driving force of the Soka Gakkai’s remarkable development.

Why has the Soka Gakkai achieved such phenomenal development despite encountering persecution and attack time and time again? In short, it is because our members, united in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind,” have been carrying out activities of immense “unseen virtue.”

Our membership comprises people from all different backgrounds, professions, and social positions. In that sense, we are “many in body.” At the same time, all of us are striving together to realize kosen-rufu, move the world in the direction of peace, and achieve happiness for ourselves and others. We are therefore “one in mind.” The Soka Gakkai has been forging ahead based on this unity of “many in body, one in mind.”

“Unseen virtue,” as the term implies, means good deeds that go unnoticed or unrecognized by others. Our daily Soka Gakkai activities are not glamorous. We engage in one-to-one dialogue, gather in small groups to study and support one another, and hold and attend discussion meetings. There’s no spotlight, and our activities are not going to land us in the papers or on television. On the contrary, people may criticize us due to their misunderstanding or malign us out of jealousy. Nevertheless, whether praised or not, we continue to devote ourselves purposefully to our goal of kosen-rufu, steadfastly engaging in acts of unseen virtue. That is why the Soka Gakkai has been victorious.

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Where there is unseen virtue, there will be visible reward” (WND-1, 907) and “Unseen virtue brings about visible reward” (WND-1, 940). He assures us that those who perform unseen good deeds will enjoy clear, positive results without fail. In fact, those who unceasingly carry out such actions have already won. There is absolutely no doubt that they will reap wonderful rewards, as will their families and descendants. This is how we should strive to live our lives.

To seek to put up a good image to impress others, amass a quick fortune, or become an overnight success—without making any effort to develop yourself as a person or to contribute to others’ happiness—is nothing but empty, self-serving vanity. It is merely chasing phantoms. People with such shallow hearts cannot savor true happiness.

The Daishonin addressed the passages on unseen virtue bringing visible reward I just cited to his loyal disciple Shijo Kingo.

When the mentor, Nichiren Daishonin, suffered relentless persecution like that described in the Lotus Sutra, many of his disciples were shaken with doubt. “We started to practice this faith to become happy, so why are we always being persecuted? Why do we have to suffer like this?” Such misgivings whirled inside them. Some disciples even rebuked their mentor, laying all the blame for their troubles on him. People lost faith because of cowardice. Many deserted him. Others still, forgetting their debt of gratitude, betrayed and attacked him.

At such a time, it was Shijo Kingo and his wife, Nichigen-nyo, who staunchly supported and protected the Daishonin. That is why so many of his writings are addressed to them. Shijo Kingo also accompanied the Daishonin during the Tatsunokuchi Persecution,1 ready to die at his side. He is a model disciple and an inspiration to us all. Shijo Kingo even hastened to visit the Daishonin in exile on Sado Island. Unlike today, with the conveniences of modern transport, traveling to Sado meant an arduous and perilous journey. It is probably difficult for us to imagine just how hard it was.

Shijo Kingo himself also became the target of persecution by jealous fellow samurai and the scheming priest Ryokan, who hated the Daishonin. These parties spread false rumors in an attempt to discredit him. [Shijo Kingo’s lord, Ema, was a devoted follower of Ryokan.] Not only did he face the threat of having his lands confiscated and being banished to another province, but attempts were also made on his life. Undeterred, Shijo Kingo fought his way bravely through all these bitter trials, “employing the strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” just as the Daishonin taught (cf. WND-1, 1001).

Working alongside my mentor, Mr. Toda, I also struggled against the three powerful enemies2 and the three obstacles and four devils.3 And particularly during the most difficult period when his business fell into dire straits, I went through indescribable hardships to support him. I alone stood by his side through everything. Looking back, that was the happiest time of my life. It is because of all those tremendous unseen efforts I made at that time that today’s Soka Gakkai exists.

Shijo Kingo, who exerted himself in faith in accord with the Daishonin’s instructions, won in the end. He gained trust both from his lord and in society at large, and he eventually received landholdings three times larger than those he had before. The Daishonin rejoiced with all his heart at his disciple’s victory, saying: “As I have often mentioned before, it is said that, where there is unseen virtue, there will be visible reward” (WND-1, 907). He also exclaims to the effect: “You encountered terrible persecution as a result of spreading the correct teaching of Buddhism, but, now, how fortunate your circumstances have become!” (cf. WND-1, 940).

It is the principle that those who uphold the correct teaching will always prevail. No matter how much hardship we may undergo for the sake of Buddhism, as long as we persevere with courageous faith, we will definitely be able to surmount everything. What is more, we will attain a vast state of life, beyond anything we could imagine. Nichiren Daishonin’s words are true in every respect.

Some people seek nothing but visible reward, such as fame, popularity, or material wealth. But these things are all fleeting. We can accumulate eternal, indestructible good fortune only through acts of unseen virtue. I can say this unequivocally, based on reason and experience.

“Unseen virtue brings about visible reward” means that those who work hardest behind the scenes enjoy the greatest reward. It is a strict, impartial, hope-inspiring principle. This is the teaching of Buddhism, and it is why participating in Soka Gakkai activities is so important.

Although activities for kosen-rufu may involve a lot of hard work, all of you are walking this great path of life exactly as the Daishonin teaches. Life is eternal. I hope you will be confident that the good fortune and benefit you accumulate by exerting yourselves in Soka Gakkai activities will also flow to your families and loved ones.

From a speech at a Soka Gakkai Headquarters leaders meeting, Tokyo, April 22, 2004.

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

  • *1Tatsunokuchi 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.
  • *2Three powerful enemies: Three types of arrogant people who persecute those who propagate the Lotus Sutra in the evil age after Shakyamuni Buddha’s death, described in the concluding verse section of the “Encouraging Devotion” (13th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The Great Teacher Miao-lo of China summarizes them as arrogant lay people, arrogant priests, and arrogant false sages.
  • *3Three obstacles and four devils: Various obstacles and hindrances to the practice of Buddhism. The three obstacles are (1) the obstacle of earthly desires, (2) the obstacle of karma, and (3) the obstacle of retribution. The four devils are (1) the hindrance of the five components, (2) the hindrance of earthly desires, (3) the hindrance of death, and (4) the hindrance of the devil king.