Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 21: A Life Dedicated to Kosen-rufu [21.6]

21.6 The Formula for Worldwide Kosen-rufu

Nichiren Daishonin set forth the “five guides for propagation” as guidelines for carrying out kosen-rufu. Through examining the Buddhist teachings prevalent in his day, the people’s capacity for understanding, the nature of the time, and society’s religious and philosophical foundations, he clarified that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the teaching to be propagated in Japan and the entire world during the Latter Day of the Law. Explaining the five guides, President Ikeda offers insights for developing the movement for kosen-rufu around the world in modern times to realize happiness and peace for all humanity.

I’d like to talk a little about the five guides for propagation. It goes without saying that Nichiren Buddhism is a world religion. It is destined to spread around the globe and lead all people to enlightenment, as the Daishonin plainly declares.

For example, he says: “Can there be any doubt that [in the Latter Day of the Law], after this period described in the Great Collection Sutra when ‘the pure Law [of Shakyamuni Buddha] will become obscured and lost,’ the great pure Law of the Lotus Sutra [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] will be spread far and wide [kosen-rufu] throughout Japan and all the other countries of Jambudvipa [the entire world]?” (WND-1, 550).

The Daishonin then offers five guides or specific criteria to bear in mind in propagating the Mystic Law throughout the world: the teaching, the people’s capacity, the time, the country, and the sequence of propagation. When those who seek to spread the Mystic Law understand these five guides, they will succeed in that endeavor.

The first guide is knowing the teaching—that is, recognizing that the teaching of Nichiren Daishonin is the correct teaching that will eternally lead people to enlightenment in the present and future.

Invaluable to that end is having a clear understanding of Nichiren Buddhism and why it is superior to other Buddhist teachings from the standpoint of doctrine and in terms of one’s personal experience of practicing it.

Faith in Nichiren Buddhism is not blind belief or superstition. It means being able to accept the teaching based on reason, and to experience and demonstrate its truth amid the realities of daily living. When we thoroughly study the Daishonin’s writings, deepen our faith and confidence through the experiences we gain through this Buddhist practice, and teach others about its validity, we can succeed in propagating the correct teaching in any environment.

The second guide is knowing the people’s capacity.

We need to understand the people’s capacity, or inner ability, to accept the correct teaching. This means recognizing that those living in the Latter Day of the Law have the capacity to attain Buddhahood through the Daishonin’s teaching of the Mystic Law.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that everyone will start practicing the teaching as soon as they hear it. In fact, they may even vehemently reject or criticize it. But the benefit we gain through sowing the seeds of enlightenment by letting people hear the teaching—that is, just by speaking to them about Buddhism—is equal to the benefit we gain through sowing the seeds and inspiring someone to start practicing right away.

Be assured that the seeds for attaining Buddhahood that we sow in the hearts of others are certain to sprout eventually as faith in the Mystic Law. I therefore hope you will pray steadily for the happiness of many people with a relaxed, confident, and broad-minded spirit.

Third is knowing the time—that is, understanding what age the present time corresponds to and what teaching can lead people to enlightenment in such an age.

Buddhism teaches that we are living in the age of the Latter Day of the Law. Though the Buddhist teachings of past ages may have been right for those times, they are now as useless as an expired calendar. Of the five guides for propagation, knowing the time is especially important.

The fourth is knowing the country.

The Daishonin states:

“One must never fail to take into account the kind of country in which one is spreading the Buddhist teachings. There are cold countries, hot countries, poor countries, rich countries, central countries, and peripheral countries, large countries and small countries, countries wholly given over to thieving, countries wholly given over to the killing of living things, and countries known for their utter lack of filial piety. In addition, there are countries wholly devoted to the Hinayana teachings, countries wholly devoted to the Mahayana teachings, and countries in which both Hinayana and Mahayana are pursued” (WND-1, 50).

In this passage, the Daishonin speaks of the differences between countries from a number of perspectives. People’s lifestyles and attitudes will vary based on a country’s climate, economy, culture, international relations, and ethics. This will naturally require different approaches to propagating Buddhism in each land.

Nichiren Buddhism is a very practical and realistic teaching. It is important that we treasure the people in each country and locality. We must never force the customs and attitudes of just a single country on others. To do so runs counter to Nichiren Buddhism.

Soka Gakkai members around the globe—all upholding faith in the Daishonin’s teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the correct teaching of the Latter Day of the Law—have spread trust and understanding toward our movement. They have done so by exercising their ingenuity and wisdom to engage positively and creatively with the specific circumstances and character of their countries, and by contributing to their local communities and society. This is the meaning of knowing the country, and this is why we have succeeded in spreading Nichiren Buddhism in so many places. It is not an easy task. Real efforts by real people are decisive.

The fifth guideline is knowing the sequence of propagation.

The Daishonin states: “One must first learn what kind of Buddhist doctrines have already spread in a particular country before attempting to propagate Buddhism there” (WND-1, 50). To successfully propagate Buddhism, one must know what teachings and philosophies have prevailed in each place. One will not succeed in helping the people there unless the teaching one propagates is superior to those that already exist there.

Nichiren Buddhism is based on the ultimate, supreme Law, so no teaching that has prevailed in a place beforehand could ever surpass it. One who propagates it, therefore, can never err in the sequence of propagation.

Nichikan Shonin [a great restorer of Nichiren Buddhism who began the task of systematizing the Daishonin’s teachings] writes: “Now, in the Latter Day of the Law, only the essential Law [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] should be propagated. Knowing this is knowing the sequence of propagation.”1

In this respect, too, it is naturally important to understand the religious history of each country and community.

When the proper conditions outlined in the five guides prevail in every part of the world, Nichiren Buddhism is certain to spread widely.

The Daishonin states: “The Law does not spread by itself: because people propagate it, both the people and the Law are worthy of respect” (GZ, 856 [GZ, new ed., 2200]).2

The Soka Gakkai is spreading Nichiren Buddhism just as he envisioned. Today, in well over 100 countries [192 countries and territories as of 2023], a steady stream of Soka Gakkai members, Bodhisattvas of the Earth,3 is emerging. They are promoting kosen-rufu while enjoying the benefits of faith and making positive contributions to their communities. This itself proves that the Soka Gakkai is advancing on the right path in accord with the five guides for propagation, just as the Daishonin taught.

From a speech at a Bharat [India] Soka Gakkai general meeting commemorating the 31st anniversary of the kosen-rufu movement in India, India, February 9, 1992.

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

  • *1From “Egi hammon sho” (Interpreting the Text Based upon Its Essential Meaning).
  • *2From “Hyaku rokka sho” (The One Hundred and Six Comparisons); not included in WND, vols. 1 or 2.
  • *3Bodhisattvas of the Earth: An innumerable host of bodhisattvas who emerge from beneath the earth and to whom Shakyamuni Buddha entrusts the propagation of the Mystic Law, or the essence of the Lotus Sutra, in the Latter Day of the Law.