Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 19: Making the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Our Foundation [19.4]

19.4 “Exert Yourself in the Two Ways of Practice and Study”

President Ikeda discusses the proud Soka Gakkai tradition of striving in the “two ways of practice and study” as taught by Nichiren Daishonin.

The copy of the Gosho, the writings of Nichiren Daishonin, that first Soka Gakkai president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi always carried with him survives to this day, and I value it as one of the Soka Gakkai’s greatest treasures.

Mr. Makiguchi heavily underlined the following passage, drawing a double circle in the margin next to it:

“Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others.” (WND-1, 386)

In complete accord with these words from “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” Mr. Makiguchi persevered in the two ways of practice and study to the very end. Bravely facing the onslaughts of the three obstacles and four devils,1 he continued to put the Daishonin’s writings into practice in his life, even after being imprisoned for his beliefs. His behavior was in stark contrast with that of the cowardly Nichiren Shoshu priests, who deleted passages from the Daishonin’s writings out of fear of persecution by the militarist authorities.

Even under harsh interrogation, Mr. Makiguchi dauntlessly continued to proclaim the lofty spirit of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.” Beyond that, he also engaged his prison guards in sincere discussions about Buddhism. And right up until his death in prison, he continued to explore the philosophies and ideas of the world’s leading thinkers through the lens of Buddhism.

Our commitment to the two ways of practice and study was thus established by the founder of the Soka Gakkai, an organization now advancing steadily forward as a new light of hope for the world. In this diligent pursuit of practice and study, we find the true essence of Buddhist action and the noblest way a person can live.

In “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” the Daishonin goes on to state: “Both practice and study arise from faith” (WND-1, 386). When faith deepens, practice and study progress, and when practice and study progress, faith deepens. Through this chain of cause and effect, our lives become filled with benefit that can vanquish the negative and bring forth the positive; we are assured of true happiness and able to accumulate everlasting good fortune.

Neglecting the two ways of practice and study is like flying an airplane with no idea of your direction, altitude, or destination, and no means of refueling. You will inevitably stray off course and lose speed. Faced with even the slightest turbulence, you will come crashing down. Those who persevere in the two ways of practice and study, however, walk the supreme path of victors in life; they are people who will never regress in faith and therefore always triumph.

Such things as popularity and celebrity are no more than empty illusions, but action is the hallmark of a person of true substance.

Over the years, our women’s division members, in particular, have braved criticism and abuse while persevering with courage and tenacity to share the Mystic Law—the ultimate means for attaining happiness—with one individual after another. Where in this world can we find anything more heroic and noble?

One such women’s division member in the early days of our movement, who had been unable to attend school under the bitter conditions of World War II, later introduced a university professor to the practice of Nichiren Buddhism. When Mr. Toda learned of her achievement, he smiled broadly and heaped praise and congratulations on her. It is a scene that I and many of my fellow pioneering members will never forget.

All of the self-serving individuals who abandoned their faith and then turned on the Soka Gakkai have one thing in common: they failed to make persistent, serious efforts in the two ways of practice and study. They were complacent, arrogant, and conceited.

If you cease to exert yourself in practice and study, your life will stop moving toward absolute happiness. Such stagnation almost always gives rise to arrogance, laziness, and resentment toward others. Mr. Toda sternly warned that leaders who are lax in practice and study only confuse and sow doubt in the members’ hearts.

The lectures I attended at what I fondly refer to as “Toda University” included not only a diverse array of academic subjects but also sessions dedicated to the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism. For instance, Mr. Toda delivered profound and insightful lectures on the Daishonin’s writing “The Entity of the Mystic Law.”

Studying with Mr. Toda was as rigorous as the training of a master swordsman. Once, when he had finished a series of lectures, he presented participants with a certificate of completion. It was a simple document, on a single sheet of paper, and some people made fun of it. But I regarded it as an honor of the highest distinction, and accepted it with an inner pledge to repay the profound debt of gratitude I owed him.

I am confident that the almost 200 honorary degrees and titles I have now received from institutions around the world are the result of my vow at that time. This is actual proof derived from following the path of mentor and disciple, steadfastly upholding the “Law of the Lotus,” which “explains the subtleties of cause and effect” (cf. WND-1, 421).

The British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, whom I deeply admire, made it a practice to set himself to work every morning, even if he sometimes didn’t feel like it, and to accomplish something of value every single day. He strictly observed this personal regimen all his life.

Read the writings of Nichiren Daishonin every day, even if only a single sentence; talk to others about Buddhism every day, even if only a single word or phrase. When you exert yourself in your Buddhist practice by speaking out and taking action, a fresh and vibrant surge of life force will begin to flow within you in tune with the rhythm of the universe.

I have persevered in the two ways of practice and study with unwavering determination to spread the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, our eternal mentor, and to fulfill the vow I made to President Toda, my mentor in life. That determination remains completely unchanged today, because I know that the bright path of mentor and disciple does not exist apart from the two ways of practice and study.

From an editorial titled “The Two Ways of Practice and Study,” published in Japanese in the Daibyakurenge, September 2006.

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

  • *1Three 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.