Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 22: The Mission and Vow of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth [22.3]

22.3 The Virtues of the Four Leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth

President Ikeda discusses the virtues of the four leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth as they relate to our own lives, asserting that Soka Gakkai members are the Bodhisattvas of the Earth of the present day.

Mr. Toda used to say that we, Soka Gakkai members who are striving to achieve kosen-rufu, are the Bodhisattvas of the Earth,1 and that being the case, we are certain to be able to lead the kind of life we desire.

The four bodhisattvas who appear in the Lotus Sutra as the leaders of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth are Superior Practices, Boundless Practices, Pure Practices, and Firmly Established Practices (cf. LSOC15, 254). What is the significance of these four bodhisattvas? While this can be discussed from various perspectives, in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, the Daishonin touches on one aspect in relation to the four elements of earth, water, fire, and wind. He explains that all the activities of the universe, which are symbolized by the four elements, are essentially the functions of the four bodhisattvas and the compassionate workings of Myoho-renge-kyo.2

I would like to give a simple overview of these functions as they relate to leadership qualities, based on the Daishonin’s remarks in the Orally Transmitted Teachings.

First of all, Bodhisattva Superior Practices can be likened to fire. The Daishonin says: “Fire is that which burns things” (OTT, 118). Courageous practitioners of the Mystic Law “burn” their earthly desires to produce the light of wisdom, illuminating the world’s darkness. Just as a roaring fire sends flames leaping high into the air, they brim with irrepressible energy and inspire everyone with their passionate resolve. They stand in the vanguard and ignite a flame of courage and enthusiasm in others’ hearts. They light the way forward. They function as outstanding leaders in society and the world at large. This can be seen as an aspect of the virtues of Bodhisattva Superior Practices.

Leaders in the realm of Nichiren Buddhism need to constantly strive to improve themselves, to always take the lead and act with bracing courage. They must never be arrogant or high-handed, seeking the easy way out and making others do all the hard work.

Bodhisattva Boundless Practices can be likened to the wind. The Daishonin says: “Wind is that which blows away dust and grime” (OTT, 118). Just as the wind blows unhindered to clear away all dust and grime, practitioners of the Mystic Law can freely carry out their activities, sweeping away all obstacles as if they were “no more than dust before the wind” (cf. WND-1, 280). This is the virtue of Bodhisattva Boundless Practices. We possess within us wisdom and life force that can never be obstructed by anything.

Bodhisattva Pure Practices can be likened to water. The Daishonin says: “Water is that which purifies things” (OTT, 118). Like flowing water, practitioners of the Mystic Law always stay pure of heart, never sullied by the muck and mire of real life, and purify everything around them. Though they plunge into the midst of this polluted world, their vibrant, beautiful lives remain untainted. In fact, they spread their pure-heartedness to all around them. This is the virtue of Bodhisattva Pure Practices.

Bodhisattva Firmly Established Practices can be likened to the earth. The Daishonin says: “The great earth is that which nourishes plants and trees” (OTT, 118). Like the rich earth that nourishes the many different kinds of plants and trees, practitioners of the Mystic Law protect and care for everyone alike. They provide solid support for everyone and nourish them with their warm encouragement. Unshakable and dauntless, they impart a feeling of infinite security and assurance to those around them. This is the virtue of Bodhisattva Firmly Established Practices.

Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, took on the role of the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth [namely, Bodhisattva Superior Practices]. As long as we dedicate ourselves to realizing kosen-rufu, striving in our Buddhist practice with the “same mind as Nichiren” (WND-1, 385), the powerful functions of these four bodhisattvas will also appear in our lives. Surely nothing could be more wonderful.

There is profound significance in the fact that the word practices is part of the names of all four of these bodhisattvas. Without practice or action, one cannot be a bodhisattva. Without action, one cannot attain Buddhahood.

A self-centered life is empty and base. The Bodhisattvas of the Earth respect others and strive to benefit them.

I hope that you will all support and protect your noble fellow members—standing in the vanguard of kosen-rufu like Superior Practices, taking action freely like Boundless Practices, with a pure heart like Pure Practices, and with a resolute commitment like Firmly Established Practices.

Let’s cast aside selfishness, be unswayed by others’ approval or disapproval, and work tirelessly for people’s happiness and a brighter future. That is the way to bring forth inner strength and to attain Buddhahood.

From a speech at a nationwide representative conference, Tokyo, March 29, 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.
  • *2Myoho-renge-kyo is written with five Chinese characters, while Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is written with seven (nam, or namu, being comprised of two characters). The Daishonin often uses Myoho-renge-kyo synonymously with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in his writings.