Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 19: Making the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Our Foundation [19.9]
19.9 Study of Nichiren Buddhism Is the Driving Force for Human Revolution
President Ikeda discusses the importance of reading the writings of Nichiren Daishonin and applying them to one’s life, and explains why President Toda placed such importance on Buddhist study when he was rebuilding the Soka Gakkai after World War II.
In October 1271, shortly after the life-threatening Tatsunokuchi Persecution and just before departing for his exile on Sado Island,1 Nichiren Daishonin sent a heartfelt letter to his disciples in which he wrote: “One may be letter-perfect in reciting the Lotus Sutra, but it is far more difficult to act as it teaches” (WND-1, 200).
He then went on to declare that, in encountering great persecution by practicing exactly as the Buddha taught, he alone had “read and lived” the passages of the Lotus Sutra predicting that its practitioners of future ages would be “despised, hated, envied, and resented” (cf. LSOC3, 110), and that “hatred and jealousy toward the sutra will abound even more after the Buddha’s passing” (cf. LSOC10, 203; cf. WND-1, 200).
No doubt the words of this indomitable lion king shook his beloved disciples to the core. He was asking: “How will you, my disciples, fight when you meet such trials or obstacles?”
The writings of Nichiren Daishonin are timeless scriptures. They are a stirring cry from his very being. They are an impassioned declaration of truth and justice, which he left for us who practice the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Day, an evil age rife with devilish functions. They are a mighty lion’s roar calling out to us powerfully: “Strive with courage and never abandon your faith!” “Adorn your lives with triumph!” “Resolutely defeat evil!”
That is why all of us, as the Daishonin’s disciples, must seriously ask ourselves whenever we read his writings: “How will I live my life? How will I challenge myself for kosen-rufu?”
To read the Daishonin’s writings with one’s life means to read them not as something that concerns others or as an account of something that happened long ago, but as something that directly relates to us and the present, and to apply it to the challenges we face in our own lives. This is the correct path for manifesting the solemn spirit of oneness of mentor and disciple.
It is important that we deeply impress the Daishonin’s words in our hearts—even if it is just a single line or passage that strikes an inner chord or feels as if it were written especially for us—and that we constantly make fresh efforts for the sake of kosen-rufu with unwavering faith. This is how we can observe the injunction of Nikko Shonin, the Daishonin’s direct successor, which calls on us to “engrave the Daishonin’s writings in our lives” (GZ, 1618).2
During World War II, Mr. Toda spent two dark years in prison as a result of persecution by the Japanese militarist government. It was while behind bars that he awakened to kosen-rufu as the ultimate mission of his life. As the disciple of first president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who tragically died in prison, he vowed not to be defeated by the repressive forces of authority who were to blame for his mentor’s death. He was fearless; not even the prospect of execution by firing squad could deter him. Immediately upon his release from prison, he launched his great struggle for kosen-rufu.
This same persecution, however, had caused the rest of Mr. Makiguchi’s disciples to abandon their faith. In “The Opening of the Eyes,” the Daishonin writes: “Foolish men are likely to forget the promises they have made when the crucial moment comes” (WND-1, 283). At the crucial moment, these disciples trembled and cowered and discarded the precious sword that was their faith in the Mystic Law. Mr. Toda lamented and grieved at this turn of events. Why would mere imprisonment cause them to abandon their faith? Wasn’t it the most brilliant opportunity to acquire great and everlasting benefit? After all, there is nothing timid or fainthearted about the faith that the Daishonin describes in his writings.
President Toda reflected. He contemplated the matter seriously. Day and night, this man of extraordinary intellect thought deeply, constantly asking himself why the others had given up faith.
He came to the conclusion that they lacked a foundation in Buddhist study, which clarifies what faith is all about and serves as the driving force for one’s practice. He realized that he had forgotten to teach them to read the Daishonin’s writings. If he enabled members to imbue their lives with Buddhist study—that is, with the teachings contained in the Daishonin’s writings—they would not quit practicing. Even the timid would be inspired to persevere in their struggles with courage. The Daishonin’s writings—that is the key, he realized.
Based on Mr. Toda’s guidance to this effect, which sprang from the painful lessons of his wartime experience, the Soka Gakkai as a whole—leaders and members alike—carried the Daishonin’s writings with them everywhere and studied them thoroughly.
There is no Buddhism without study. And Buddhism without faith is not Buddhism.
Whenever we had a spare moment [in those early days of our movement], we studied the Daishonin’s writings. At every meeting, we read them, discussed them, and studied them together. A bright new flame burned within us. Our eyes sparkled with the vision of a vast new future. Reading the Daishonin’s writings contributed directly to our human revolution; it was the impetus for limitlessly deepening our faith.
The Buddhist study I am referring to is not the study of abstract concepts. It is not about memorizing difficult doctrines or becoming a scholar or academic.
The study of the Daishonin’s Buddhism that we undertook at that time served as a source of strength to persevere in our lives, in our daily struggles, and in our efforts for kosen-rufu. It was a process of acquiring an understanding of the teachings and principles of Nichiren Buddhism, a great philosophy that we could actually make part of our lives in order to take on life’s challenges and win in society.
From an essay series “The Light of the Century of Humanity,” published in Japanese in the Seikyo Shimbun, October 20, 2004.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.
- *1Tatsunokuchi Persecution and Sado Exile: On September 12, 1271, the authorities arrested Nichiren Daishonin and took him to a place called Tatsunokuchi on the outskirts of Kamakura, where they tried to summarily execute him under cover of darkness. When the execution attempt failed, he was held in detention at the residence of the deputy constable of Sado, Homma Rokuro Saemon, in Echi (part of present-day Kanagawa Prefecture). After a period of about a month while the government debated what to do with him, he was exiled to Sado Island, which was tantamount to a death sentence. However, when his predictions of internal strife and foreign invasion were fulfilled, the government issued a pardon in March 1274, and he returned to Kamakura.
- *2Article 11 of “The Twenty-Six Admonitions of Nikko.” Nichiren Daishonin’s designated successor, Nikko Shonin, wrote the “Twenty-Six Admonitions” in 1333 for the sake of practitioners of future generations to maintain the purity of the Daishonin’s teachings. It outlines the fundamental spirit of faith, practice, and study.