Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 19: Making the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Our Foundation [19.10]

19.10 The Power of Engraving the Daishonin’s Words in Our Hearts

The following is a scene from The New Human Revolution, where the novel’s protagonist Shin’ichi Yamamoto (whose character represents President Ikeda) shares with a youth some words of Nichiren Daishonin that he has taken deeply to heart.

“There is one passage of The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings,” Shin’ichi said, “that I have always taken deeply to heart since my days supporting and assisting Mr. Toda: ‘If in a single moment of life we exhaust the pains and trials of millions of kalpas, then instant after instant there will arise in us the three Buddha bodies1 with which we are eternally endowed. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is just such a “diligent” practice’ (OTT, 214).”

This passage teaches the essence of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. “The three Buddha bodies with which we are eternally endowed” refers to the boundless life state of Buddhahood within us. The key to manifesting this life state in each instant is to expend millions of kalpas’ worth of strenuous effort in a single moment of life. “Millions of kalpas” means an infinite expanse of time. Through practicing Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism with this kind of concentrated effort, we can bring forth our inherent Buddha wisdom and life force.

Shin’ichi continued: “The Daishonin teaches that only through intense struggle, undaunted by hardships, can we attain Buddhahood in this lifetime, carry out our human revolution, and transform our life condition. In a sense, my days have been a continuous, arduous, all-out struggle. I have been through inconceivably bitter experiences time and again.

“On those occasions, this passage sustained me, helping me renew my resolve, chant daimoku, overcome all hardships, and emerge triumphant.

“It is important that you courageously exert yourself, too, for the sake of kosen-rufu, the happiness of others, and your own future.”

From The New Human Revolution, vol. 26, “Atsuta” chapter.

Supplementary Reading

The writings of Nichiren Daishonin have been translated into more than 10 languages, making them available to people around the world. In his preface to the Spanish edition, published in 2008, President Ikeda emphasizes the importance of interfaith dialogue and clarifies the significance of deepening our understanding of the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism today.

The essential purpose of all religions is to impart hope and give meaning to our lives. All religions basically aim to provide inner serenity and contribute to happiness and peace. In that sense, they share the fundamental goal of benefitting people.

I firmly believe that a profound recognition of this common ground is the requirement of religion in this age of globalization. It also serves as the foundation for interfaith dialogue, one of the pressing challenges facing human civilization.

Of course, each religion is unique and different. For example, each offers different views on what constitutes genuine inner serenity—ranging from experiencing the love of God to a feeling of reliance on an unseen higher power, following the dictates of one’s conscience, possessing a state of inner peace or the ability to control one’s desires, and numerous other variants. The differences among religions have arisen from a host of complex causes, including innate human diversity, factors linked to particular places and times, and historical background.

But all of these differing religious teachings contain, in some form, insights and truths for enabling human beings to attain happiness. By learning from those respective insights and truths, while recognizing their mutual differences, all religions can improve their capacity for fulfilling their essential role in guiding people to happiness.

It is my sincere hope that all the religions of the world will continue to follow this path of dialogue and mutual self-improvement and, while demonstrating their unique value, join together as religions dedicated to the welfare of humanity and become a major force for world peace.

The 20th century has been described as the first century in which the religions of the world started to acknowledge and communicate with one another. It is certainly true that the tragedies wrought by the two world wars provoked deep reflection, reawakening the awareness of the happiness and peace of humanity as the great purpose of religion, and creating a new current of mutual recognition among religions based upon that perspective. It is the mission of religion in the 21st century to amplify that current into a real and meaningful groundswell.

The Soka Gakkai was founded between the two world wars of the 20th century. Religious groups in Japan at that time had for the most part been subsumed within the Japanese state apparatus, employed to support and promote the state’s policies and interests. As a result, they lacked either the moral courage or power to prevent the militarization of Japanese society and its slide toward war.

It was against such a backdrop that the Soka Gakkai rediscovered the potential of Nichiren Buddhism, and the Lotus Sutra upon which it is based, as a body of teachings for the happiness of all humanity, and began to put those teachings into practice. Because of this, the Soka Gakkai was subjected to harsh persecution by the Japanese militarist authorities of the day, and its founder, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, died in prison refusing to compromise his beliefs.

According to the Lotus Sutra—which is the essence of Mahayana Buddhism—the wish of the Mahayana bodhisattvas to realize happiness for both self and others is the fundamental wish of all human beings, and, indeed, of all living beings. Awakening people to this fundamental wish and enabling them to bring forth their positive potential is, I believe, the essential mission not only of Buddhism, but of all religions.

The Lotus Sutra describes the emergence into the world of a great multitude of such bodhisattvas who embrace this essential mission—the so-called Bodhisattvas of the Earth. It articulates the extremely important point that when awakened to this fundamental wish inherent in life, all people can become Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

The Lotus Sutra also teaches the shining example of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, who greeted every person he met with the words, “I have profound reverence for you” (LSOC20, 308), and persisted in this practice of revering others even when insulted and physically attacked. He exemplifies the essence of the bodhisattva practice—believing in our own Buddha nature and the Buddha nature of others and profoundly respecting all people.

According to the Daishonin, Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s practice of demonstrating profound respect for people is the core practice of the Lotus Sutra and the heart of Buddhism itself. He clearly proclaims:

“The heart of the Buddha’s lifetime of teachings is the Lotus Sutra, and the heart of the practice of the Lotus Sutra is found in the “[Bodhisattva] Never Disparaging” chapter. What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being.” (WND-1, 851–52)

Born in 13th-century Japan, the Daishonin keenly perceived that he was living in an age when people were steadily losing sight of the Buddha’s great vow to lead all people to enlightenment—the expression of our highest potential. When this happens, people succumb to egoism. The three poisons of greed, anger, and foolishness pollute their hearts and muddy society, triggering an intensifying cycle of misery and evil, which will eventually become pervasive and permanent.

The Daishonin declared that in order to fulfill the great vow of the Buddha in such a perilous age, we must carry on the mission of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth and the practice of Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, and spread that mission and practice with deep confidence and conviction among people in society.

He went on to develop an extensive and detailed body of teachings for that purpose, and himself took the lead in putting them into practice. At the heart of the treatises and letters contained in this newly translated Spanish volume is the Daishonin’s clarification of the mission and practice of bodhisattvas—that is, to work for the happiness of oneself and others—and also his instructions regarding how to encourage others to embrace this mission as well.

The Japanese text from which this Spanish edition is translated is the Soka Gakkai edition of the Nichiren Daishonin gosho zenshu (Collected Writings of Nichiren Daishonin). It was published in April 1952, about a year after my mentor Josei Toda was inaugurated as the second Soka Gakkai president.

In a sense, the full-scale development of the Soka Gakkai that took place under President Toda’s leadership after World War II can be said to have begun in tandem with the publication of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings. In the decades since, members in Japan have made the Daishonin’s writings their foundation in faith and life while striving wholeheartedly to realize the Daishonin’s vision of kosen-rufu to bring peace and happiness to humanity. In the process, they have brilliantly embodied the bodhisattva ideal presented in the Lotus Sutra.


Here, I would like to briefly discuss the spirit SGI members should adopt when reading the Daishonin’s writings as a means for deepening their faith.

Reading the Daishonin’s writings means connecting with the lofty, noble spirit of the Daishonin himself, who gave his life to protecting and propagating the correct teaching of Buddhism in order to relieve people from suffering. We can see the brilliant light of this spirit throughout his writings.

For instance, whenever I read the following passage—“The sufferings that all living beings undergo, all springing from [the] one cause—all these are Nichiren’s own sufferings” (WND-2, 934)—I am always struck and humbled by the breadth of the Daishonin’s compassion contained in this pledge and his resolve never to stand by in the face of people’s suffering.

Inspired by the Daishonin’s spirit, SGI members have stood up to emulate it in their own lives, even if only in some small way. They have empathized with others’ sufferings, shared the message of supreme hope that we all possess the Buddha nature, offered warm support and encouragement, and helped people revitalize their lives. Through these efforts, they have created a growing network of hope across the globe based on the shining philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism.

Another example of the Daishonin’s lofty spirit is found in the passage: “Even if it seems that, because I was born in the ruler’s domain, I follow him in my actions, I will never follow him in my heart” (WND-1, 579). Whenever I read it, I am moved to the very depths of my being. It is, in contemporary terms, a powerful affirmation of freedom of the spirit, freedom of belief, and freedom of thought.

The fundamental force for achieving those freedoms is fearlessness in the face of evil perpetrated by those in power. The Daishonin describes this fearlessness as the “heart of a lion king” (WND-1, 302). We can truly claim to have embodied the aforementioned passage of the Daishonin when we succeed in summoning this lionhearted spirit to overcome all hardships and lead lives of integrity and conscience.

The aim of studying the Daishonin’s writings is to connect with his spirit and deepen our faith. Studying the profound teachings of Buddhism strengthens our conviction in the enduring and immutable hope, peace, and happiness that exist within us all. At the same time, by learning from the way the Daishonin triumphed over every obstacle, we can summon the courage to rise to the challenges we ourselves face. This is the eternal formula for practice-oriented Buddhist study.

It is my sincere hope that SGI members around the world will apply themselves to reading and studying the Daishonin’s writings with an ever-fresh seeking spirit and deepening faith.

From the preface2 to the Spanish edition of The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin,
published on May 3, 2008.

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

  • *1The three bodies of the Buddha refer to the Dharma body, the reward body, and the manifested body. The Dharma body is the fundamental truth, or Law, to which a Buddha is enlightened. The reward body is the wisdom to perceive the Law. And the manifested body is the compassionate actions the Buddha carries out to lead people to happiness.
  • *2Translated into English from the original Japanese.