Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 22: The Mission and Vow of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth [22.1]

22.1 Realizing Our Identity as Bodhisattvas of the Earth

Soka Gakkai members’ greatest pride is their mission and vow as Bodhisattvas of the Earth. President Ikeda has described the Soka Gakkai as “a gathering of champions of humanity, leading unparalleled lives of the highest significance,” and “an assembly of fellow Bodhisattvas of the Earth who share the noble mission of achieving kosen-rufu and world peace.”

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are the Buddha’s true disciples who, in the essential teaching (comprising the latter 14 chapters) of the Lotus Sutra, vow to work for people’s happiness in this troubled saha world in the evil age after the Buddha’s passing. Only these bodhisattvas can carry out kosen-rufu, or the widespread propagation of the correct teaching of Buddhism, in this age known as the Latter Day of the Law.

In The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, President Ikeda engages in an expansive discussion of the significance of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

[On the emergence of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth in the Lotus Sutra]

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth1 make a very dramatic entrance. The earth splits open and a countless number of bodhisattvas emerge simultaneously, each exuding a golden radiance. None of the bodhisattvas described in any of the other Buddhist sutras are as splendid in appearance as the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. The bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching (the first 14 chapters of the Lotus Sutra) and the bodhisattvas from other worlds2 who have assembled to hear the Buddha preach the Lotus Sutra are all filled with awe and wonder at their sight.

Nichiren Daishonin says that in comparison to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, these other bodhisattvas “seemed like a pack of apes or monkeys, with the new bodhisattvas appearing among them like so many Shakras”3 (WND-1, 252). The Lotus Sutra also stresses how noble and worthy of respect the Bodhisattvas of the Earth are.

Although they are called bodhisattvas, they are actually Buddhas. Where did the Bodhisattvas of the Earth come from? The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai says they had dwelled “in the depths of the Dharma nature, the ultimate region of the profound source”4 (OTT, 119). The realm from which they emerged, in other words, is the truth that exists in the depths of life, the fundamental Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are people who ceaselessly take action based on the Mystic Law; they are always moving forward. Bringing that vibrant energy to pulse within us is to “emerge as a Bodhisattva of the Earth” in our own lives. It means to break out of the shell of our small, lesser selves.

To emerge as a Bodhisattva of the Earth is to carry out a revolution in our state of life. Spreading this revolution of life state from one person to another is the effort to transform the life state of society and to elevate the life state of humanity as a whole. This change is expressed symbolically through the image of breaking through or splitting open the earth described in the Lotus Sutra.

The power of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth is the power to transcend all differences and help others achieve happiness through the fundamental power we have as human beings. The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are plain, ordinary people, utterly and fully human champions. That is their pride. Their emergence is an earthshaking event and a thundering announcement of the great underlying power and potential of life.


Distinctions such as race and ethnicity are not the true essence of our humanity. They are illusory, like a mirage. Neither can ultimately serve as a shared home, or common ground, for all humankind. Overemphasis on such definitions of identity can exacerbate our differences and function as a cause for opposition and conflict. What we need to do now is change the way we view our existence as human beings. When that changes, everything will change.

Together, let us transcend the confines of national and ethnic identity. We must realize that we are not powerless, not merely lumps of physical matter, not slaves to our genes. We need to awaken to the fact that we are much more, that we possess within us enormous, limitless potential.

Human beings are one with the universe, and the power we each possess is equal to all the power of the universe—this is the message of the Lotus Sutra.


The Bodhisattvas of the Earth don’t reluctantly drag themselves forward after being called on by Shakyamuni; they leap forth eagerly as if they have been waiting for that moment. This self-motivated faith to energetically spring forth is the key to eternal happiness.

Securing eternal happiness is the purpose of faith in the Mystic Law. This life is like a dream. We practice Nichiren Buddhism so that we can awaken from that dream and realize such enduring happiness in our present existence. We call this attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. That’s why we must strive earnestly here and now.

What do we need to do this? The Daishonin states: “If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth” (WND-1, 385). Those who exert themselves for kosen-rufu with the same commitment as Nichiren Daishonin are genuine Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

The forward progress of kosen-rufu can be likened to the revolution of the Earth around the sun, while our steady efforts in human revolution can be likened to the rotation of Earth on its axis. These two motions are inseparable.

When one is “of the same mind as Nichiren,” one fears nothing. During World War II, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, the Soka Gakkai’s first and second presidents, refused to retreat a single step, even in the face of persecution by the wartime Japanese militarist authorities. They carried on the lionhearted spirit of the Daishonin.

It is deeply significant that Mr. Toda’s awakening, a foundational event in our movement, took place while he was in prison. He was jailed for upholding the correct teaching of the Lotus Sutra. It was in his prison cell that Mr. Toda had the sudden realization “I am a Bodhisattva of the Earth!”

He accomplished human revolution amid this great adversity. Adversity in the course of Buddhist practice is a stepping-stone to enlightenment. With his very life, he demonstrated the truth of the Daishonin’s assertion “If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth” (WND-1, 385). In the strictest sense, unless we encounter difficulties in our efforts for kosen-rufu, we cannot truly be “of the same mind as Nichiren.”

Mr. Toda’s awakening in prison is an eternal source of inspiration for the Soka Gakkai. It is the moment that the Lotus Sutra was brought to life again in modern times, the moment when the sun of human revolution rose in the present day. Though unnoticed by others in that time of profound darkness, the light of dawn had begun to shine in Mr. Toda’s heart.

“I am a Bodhisattva of the Earth!”—today’s mighty river of kosen-rufu began to flow dynamically from his powerful conviction.

Having intensively pondered the question of “What is a Buddha?” Mr. Toda arrived at the realization that it is none other than one’s own life and the great life of the universe itself, and that those two things are one and the same.

Like the saying “Dig beneath your feet, there you will find a spring,” when Mr. Toda delved into the source of his own being, the foundation common to the lives of all people was revealed—the eternal life of the universe itself. While awakening to the source of his own being, he also awakened to the foundation shared by all humanity—that everyone on the most fundamental level of life is a Bodhisattva of the Earth. As Soka Gakkai members, we now share this awareness of the common “home,” or source, of life.

This is because Mr. Toda strove tirelessly to convey this profound inner conviction to his fellow members. When calling on them to join him in working for kosen-rufu, he would often address them as “my dear fellow Bodhisattvas of the Earth.”

Those who live true to the ultimate essence of their lives are noble and strong—that is the lesson that Mr. Toda sought with all his heart to teach us and what he personally embodied throughout his life. Each person has tremendous power. Such power will not fail to well forth in the life of a genuine Bodhisattva of the Earth. That conviction is the starting point for all our endeavors.

The source or wellspring of our being is the pure, expansive life of the universe itself. Human revolution is the process of awakening to and demonstrating this truth.


In any place or land, it is always the Bodhisattvas of the Earth who shoulder the mission of widely spreading the correct teaching received from the Buddha, imparting it to all human beings. Why is this? It is because, in terms of their inner enlightenment, they have the same life state as the Buddha, but in terms of their outward actions, they strive as bodhisattvas. They could be described as “bodhisattva-Buddhas.”

If they did not possess the same life state as their teacher, the Buddha, they could not correctly propagate the Mystic Law. Furthermore, carrying out kosen-rufu in this trouble-filled world necessitates going out into society and among the people as fellow human beings. The Bodhisattvas of the Earth thus fulfill both these conditions—embodying the inner life state of Buddhahood and actively engaging with the real world. That is why it says at the end of the “Supernatural Powers” chapter of the Lotus Sutra: “This person . . . advances through the world” (LSOC21, 318). The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are engaged in the world. They go out among the people.

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are like the sun. They are also like lotus flowers, which bloom beautifully in muddy water; they live in this corrupt world yet remain unsullied by its evils.

When we are like the sun, all darkness is banished from our lives. Each day is filled with light, and we can brightly illuminate the lives of others, too. When we are like the lotus, we can change the muddy swamp of desire and suffering into joyous enlightenment.

The “Emerging from the Earth” chapter of the Lotus Sutra describes the Bodhisattvas of the Earth as being “like the lotus flower in the water” (LSOC15, 263). As Bodhisattvas of the Earth, we dwell in the “swamp” of society; we certainly do not seek to escape from reality. In addition, our lives are in no way stained or tainted by the mire of society. Why? Because we never forget our mission.

The Daishonin says of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth: “Their sole purpose is to propagate Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the one great reason for the Buddha’s appearance in this world” (GZ, 833 [GZ, new ed., 1161]).5 In other words, they are committed to kosen-rufu and embody the spirit to share the Mystic Law with others. Striving in Buddhist practice with wholehearted devotion to kosen-rufu is the spirit of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth have been steadfastly practicing the Mystic Law since the distant past. They have forged lives that are centered on faith and the Mystic Law. The Daishonin describes them as “the ones who had thoroughly forged their resolve” (WND-1, 953). That’s why they can endure great hardships in this troubled saha world6 to spread the correct teaching of Buddhism. In the depths of their lives, they dwell in the world of Buddhahood.

The bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching and the bodhisattvas from other worlds who are described in the Lotus Sutra are bodhisattvas still aspiring to attain enlightenment. They are therefore not strong enough to propagate Buddhism in this saha world. The only ones who can bear the weight of this mission are the bodhisattvas of the essential teaching—the Bodhisattvas of the Earth—who are seasoned experts in practicing the Mystic Law of time without beginning.

Mr. Makiguchi said:

“Although there is a saying that even dust, when it accumulates, can form a mountain, there are in fact no mountains that are made of accumulated dust. The most that accumulated dust might form is a small mound. Real mountains are formed by massive shifts in the earth’s crust. In the same way, you can accumulate all the minor good you want, but it will never become great good.”7

The bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching are like those trying to attain Buddhahood by accumulating minor good. In contrast, the bodhisattvas of the essential teaching—the Bodhisattvas of the Earth—make the great life force of the world of Buddhahood issue forth from “the depths of the Dharma nature” (OTT, 119), the innermost reaches of their being, with the explosive force of an erupting volcano.

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth constantly practice the Mystic Law and live each moment deeply attuned to the eternal dimension of life. While in terms of their practice they are bodhisattvas, in terms of their inner enlightenment they are Buddhas.

But the image people tend to have of a Buddha is that of a transcendent or superhuman being. Contrary to this image, Bodhisattvas of the Earth devote themselves as bodhisattvas who are ordinary human beings practicing the Mystic Law. They devote themselves as real people. This is profoundly significant.

A restoration of trust and faith in human beings—this is the key for a religion of the 21st century. I believe the world is eagerly awaiting the appearance of such a great teaching of humanism and life.

From The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vols. 3 and 5, published in Japanese in July 1997 and September 1999.

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

  • *1Bodhisattvas 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.
  • *2Bodhisattvas of the theoretical teaching and bodhisattvas from other worlds: All bodhisattvas who appear in the Lotus Sutra other than the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.
  • *3Shakra: Also known as Indra. Together with Brahma, one of the two main guardian deities of Buddhism.
  • *4T’ien-t’ai’s Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra.
  • *5From “Oko kikigaki” (The Recorded Lectures); not included in WND, vols. 1 or 2.
  • *6Saha world: This world, which is full of suffering. Often translated as the world of endurance. In Sanskrit, saha means the earth; it derives from a root meaning “to bear” or “to endure.” For this reason, in the Chinese versions of Buddhist scriptures, saha is rendered as endurance. In this context, the saha world indicates a world in which people must endure suffering.
  • *7Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), pp. 140–41.