Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 22: The Mission and Vow of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth [22.2]

22.2 Soka Gakkai Members Are the True Bodhisattvas of the Earth

Based on the Lotus Sutra, President Ikeda discusses the qualities that characterize the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, whose mission is the realization of kosen-rufu. These qualities—courage, wisdom, perseverance, and character—are exemplified, he says, by the members of the Soka Gakkai.

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth1 are bodhisattvas who possess within their lives the Mystic Law of time without beginning. Nichiren Daishonin says that, had they not been entrusted with the supreme Law, they could not possibly appear and propagate it in the Latter Day (cf. WND-1, 372). The “supreme Law” is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the teaching implicit in the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, is the “highly effective medicine” (LSOC16, 269) for curing the ills of all living beings in the Latter Day of the Law. It is the Law of life. Only when one possesses this Law in one’s own being and is able to communicate it to others in the Latter Day can one help free people from suffering.

Nichiren Daishonin, in his role as Bodhisattva Superior Practices, the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, based himself on the conviction that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo was the very essence of his being. And he inscribed his enlightened state of life in the form of the Gohonzon to enable all people of the Latter Day to attain enlightenment.

The Daishonin states: “The accepting and upholding of this original Law is expressed in the single word ‘belief’ or ‘faith.’ The single word ‘belief’ is the sharp sword with which one confronts and overcomes fundamental darkness or ignorance” (OTT, 119–20). He also says: “If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth” (WND-1, 385).

We who strive for kosen-rufu with faith in the Gohonzon and in the same spirit as the Daishonin are also Bodhisattvas of the Earth who uphold the supreme Law, just as he did.

The “Emerging from the Earth” chapter of the Lotus Sutra describes the Bodhisattvas of the Earth emerging from “the empty space in the lower part of the saha world”2 (cf. LSOC15, 260). The Daishonin explains that this “lower region represents the principle of truth” (OTT, 119).

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth emerge from the realm of truth into this actual saha world. They are, in other words, courageous individuals who spring forth from the fundamental Law of the universe, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, to take their place among the people. That’s why they are never stuck or deadlocked. They can limitlessly tap fundamental life force and wisdom from the realm of the Mystic Law. Even in this evil age of the Latter Day, they can personally propagate the Mystic Law and endure any obstacles they may encounter along the way.

All who spread the Buddha’s teachings in the real world in this corrupt latter age, exactly as the Daishonin instructs, are Bodhisattvas of the Earth. In the present day, the Lotus Sutra’s description of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth perfectly fits Soka Gakkai members.

For instance, the sutra describes these bodhisattvas as “firm in their intent and thought” (LSOC15, 256). Soka Gakkai members, too, are people of resolute mind who carry through with their intentions, people who persist and persevere. The pioneer members of the Many Treasures Group, in particular, have remained steadfast in faith from the earliest days of our movement, no matter what has happened. No criticism or insult could deter them from their purpose; once they decided to accomplish something, they saw it through to the end. The unwavering commitment that shines in their hearts is the badge of honor of Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

The Lotus Sutra also says that the Bodhisattvas of the Earth “skillfully [learn] the bodhisattva way, unsoiled by worldly things like the lotus flower in the water” (LSOC15, 263). Soka Gakkai members, too, remaining unsullied by the five impurities3 that proliferate in society, live with resilience and a pure-hearted commitment to the humanistic values of Buddhism. They have helped those struggling in the mire of reality.

We cannot fulfill our mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth by shunning engagement with others, secluding ourselves in some mountain retreat far from the reality of everyday life.

The sutra further describes the Bodhisattvas of the Earth as follows: “They are clever at difficult questions and answers, their minds know no fear. They have firmly cultivated persevering minds, upright in dignity and virtue” (LSOC15, 263).

“Clever at difficult questions and answers.” Certainly, Soka Gakkai members are masters of dialogue. You have a wisdom forged by striving on the front lines of kosen-rufu. When you are criticized or abused, you deftly parry, “Well then, let’s talk about what true happiness is,” displaying a keen and flexible wisdom. As Soka Gakkai members, all of you are people of wisdom skilled at answering difficult questions.

“Their minds know no fear.” You, too, are truly courageous champions, afraid of no one. You have fought steadfastly against unjust forces that have trampled on the people.

“They have firmly cultivated persevering minds.” Likewise, perseverance is your trademark. Though some of your friends or fellow members may habitually complain or be self-centered, you have never abandoned a single one. You are people of supreme perseverance. And you have also triumphed over your own difficulties through perseverance. You are truly champions of compassion and conviction.

“Upright in dignity and virtue.” Your hearts, your lives, too, are shining. You brim with personal appeal that draws people to you. Everyone recognizes your wealth of virtues.

In this way, each of you possesses the power and qualities of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are “a treasure among persons” (LSOC15, 262). They are treasures of their communities. They are treasures of their countries and the world. They are infinitely noble and worthy of respect.

Each of you possesses the spirit of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. You have the spirit to resolutely protect the Law, and the bodhisattva spirit to encourage others and help relieve people’s suffering. You sincerely respect others. That is the spirit of the Lotus Sutra and of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

Each of you is also actively carrying out the practice of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are born in the time and place where people are suffering and struggling the most.

Describing the situation in the Latter Day of the Law, the Daishonin writes: “[Clinging] all the more stubbornly to their doctrines . . . [t]hose who espouse Hinayana reject Mahayana, and those who espouse provisional teachings attack the true teaching, until the country is overrun with slanderers of the Law” (WND-1, 400). While he is referring specifically to confusion as to which Buddhist teachings are correct, his words in a sense parallel the spiritual state of society today. People are powerfully attached to shallow values, preferring the trivial to the meaningful and momentous. They are drawn to the fake, the inauthentic, and have an aversion to the genuine and the real. The Latter Day is a time when shallow ways of living and thinking prevail and profound ways are disdained.

In such an upside-down world, Soka Gakkai members have persisted in presenting the way to live a good and true life to those who have fallen adrift through loss of direction and purpose. They have continued to provide illumination as leaders of the people, just like the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who are described as each being “the leader of their own great assembly” (cf. LSOC15, 253).

Mr. Toda said: “I am now aware that we have all appeared in this world with the great mission to propagate Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or the seven-character Lotus Sutra,4 in the Latter Day of the Law. If I define our status in accord with this conviction, we are all Bodhisattvas of the Earth.”5

Through your actions and achievements, you have all shown the truth of this lion’s roar. Without a doubt, Nichiren Daishonin and all the Buddhas of the universe are praising and applauding your great accomplishments as Bodhisattvas of the Earth active in this century.

But so much misery and suffering still remain on our planet. The world is growing more chaotic and confused. The endless journey of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth continues—for the sake of peace and happiness for humanity. Therefore, please lead long, healthy, vigorous lives. The world is awaiting your smiling faces.

From Lectures on the “Expedient Means” and “Life Span” Chapters of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 2, published in Japanese in January 1996.

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.
  • *2Saha 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.
  • *3Five impurities: Also, five defilements. Impurity of the age, of desire, of living beings, of thought (or view), and of life span. This term appears in the “Expedient Means” chapter of the Lotus Sutra: (1) Impurity of the age includes repeated disruptions of the social or natural environment; (2) Impurity of desire is the tendency to be ruled by the five delusive inclinations, i.e., greed, anger, foolishness, arrogance, and doubt; (3) Impurity of living beings is the physical and spiritual decline of human beings; (4) Impurity of thought, or impurity of view, is the prevalence of wrong views such as the five false views; and (5) Impurity of life span is the shortening of the life spans of living beings.
  • *4Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is written with seven Chinese characters (nam, or namu, being comprised of two characters) and represents the supreme essence of the entire 28-chapter Lotus Sutra.
  • *5Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, “Soka Gakkai no rekishi to kakushin” (The History and Conviction of the Soka Gakkai), in Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 3 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1983), pp. 119–20.