Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 22: The Mission and Vow of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth [22.7]

22.7 Awakening People to Their Mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth

Toward the end of his novel The Human Revolution, President Ikeda touches on becoming the third Soka Gakkai president (as the character Shin’ichi Yamamoto) and recounts the noble history of the Soka Gakkai. Overcoming great hardships, the three founding presidents took on the mission of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth in their lives and went on to share it with countless ordinary people. President Ikeda reaffirms that the vow of Soka mentors and disciples—to call forth Bodhisattvas of the Earth in ever-growing numbers all around the globe—is the pivotal driving force for achieving kosen-rufu and world peace.

The death of first Soka Gakkai president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi for his beliefs and the profound awakening in prison of his disciple, Josei Toda, are two key events that have shaped the Soka Gakkai’s direction.

When the head temple of Nichiren Shoshu, fearing oppression from the wartime militarist government, enshrined the Shinto talisman and transgressed Nichiren Daishonin’s stern warnings against slander of the Law, Makiguchi stood up resolutely to preserve and uphold the correct teaching of Nichiren Buddhism. He called on the priesthood to remonstrate with the authorities in accord with the instructions of Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. He fought oppression, was arrested, and died in prison. Makiguchi truly read the Lotus Sutra with his life and carried out the work of the Thus Come One, the Buddha.

His death for his beliefs proved his selfless dedication to propagating the Law and clearly indicated that he had inherited the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin. As a result, the lifeblood of the correct teaching, then on the brink of perishing in the darkness of an age steeped in the five impurities,1 was preserved. The Soka Gakkai connected directly to the Daishonin and carried on the heritage of faith.

Toda, who had chosen Makiguchi as his mentor and faithfully followed him, was arrested and imprisoned along with him. Coursing through his being was the profound joy of having an opportunity to put his life on the line for the sake of the Law and thus reading the Lotus Sutra with his life.

After chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo continually in his prison cell, Toda came to the awakening that “the Buddha” means “life itself.” At that moment, the difficult-to-understand teachings of Buddhism were revived in modern times as a life philosophy that opened the way for all people to achieve human revolution.

As he continued to chant, Toda attained a wondrous state of life. He perceived himself seated with his palms pressed together in reverence before a shimmering golden Gohonzon, participating directly in the Ceremony in the Air2 depicted in the Lotus Sutra and witnessing the Daishonin, as Bodhisattva Superior Practices, leader of the countless Bodhisattvas of the Earth,3 being entrusted by Shakyamuni Buddha with the propagation of the Law after his passing.

As a deep joy and delight deriving from the Law welled up inside him, Toda perceived that, as disciples of Nichiren Daishonin, he and his mentor were Bodhisattvas of the Earth who had been entrusted with spreading the Mystic Law in the Latter Day.

The mission of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth is kosen-rufu. Toda perceived the mission he had had since the remote past and for which he had been born in this world in this age.

“I now know what I must do,” Toda thought. “I will never forget this day! I will devote the rest of my life to spreading this precious Law!”

This was the conclusion Toda reached on his awakening in prison, the driving force for his subsequent great achievements. He now also understood in the depths of his being the truth of the statement cited by the Daishonin in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings that “the assembly on Holy Eagle Peak . . . continues in solemn state and has not yet disbanded”4 (OTT, 135).

When he thought of how he had been able to reach this profound awakening as a result of following his mentor and alongside him encountering great persecution for their faith in the Mystic Law, he was filled with a sense of wonder. He also became aware that the bond he shared with his mentor, Makiguchi, was eternal, existing since the distant past as implied by the passage from “The Parable of the Phantom City” chapter of the Lotus Sutra: “Those persons who had heard the Law dwelled here and there in various Buddha lands, constantly reborn in company with their teachers” (LSOC7, 178).

But around that same time as Toda’s awakening, as the frosty chill of autumn descended on Tokyo, his mentor drew his last breath in the prison infirmary.

Later, at the third memorial service for Makiguchi [commemorating the second anniversary of his death], Toda turned to his mentor’s photograph on display before the altar and addressed him in tears as he fought back sobs of emotion:

“In your vast and boundless compassion, you let me accompany you even to prison. As a result, I could read with my entire being the passage from the Lotus Sutra ‘Those persons who had heard the Law dwelled here and there in various Buddha lands, constantly reborn in company with their teachers.’ The benefit of this was coming to know my former existence as a Bodhisattva of the Earth and to absorb with my very life even a small degree of the sutra’s meaning. Could there be any greater happiness than this?”5

The mentor, Makiguchi, had died in prison, leaving as a legacy his noble spirit of selfless dedication to propagating the Law. The disciple, Toda, had survived to inherit that spirit and, upon his release from prison, rose alone to the challenge of accomplishing kosen-rufu. The Soka Gakkai spirit was to be found in this shared struggle of mentor and disciple united as one, a struggle transcending the bounds of life and death.

What made the hearts of Makiguchi and Toda one? It was their powerful commitment in faith to give their lives for kosen-rufu, the realization of which was the wish of their original teacher, Nichiren Daishonin.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto deeply sensed that without a teacher like Toda, the realization of kosen-rufu, happiness for all people, and world peace would all remain elusive. In fact, Nichiren Daishonin’s spirit had been inherited by just one person—Josei Toda, Makiguchi’s disciple—and the vision for the future development of kosen-rufu resided in his heart.

A Buddha is not a fantastic otherworldly being. Buddhas cannot exist apart from the people. A person who spreads the Law is an emissary of the Buddha. And to protect and support such a person is to staunchly protect Buddhism.

That is why Shin’ichi had done everything he could to support and thoroughly protect his mentor. And it was through this intense struggle—concentrating millions of kalpas of effort in each moment of life (cf. OTT, 214)—that he had brought his own mission and capability to blossom. In this way, he had absorbed and embodied Toda’s spirit and was approaching the same state of life his mentor had attained.

Josei Toda had awakened countless ordinary people to their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth. By accomplishing a Soka Gakkai membership of 750,000 households, he had demonstrated the principle for actualizing the emergence from the earth of bodhisattvas “equal in number to the sands of sixty thousand Ganges Rivers” (LSOC15, 252). His achievement amounted to fulfilling the sutra’s prophecy, proof that he had directly inherited Nichiren Daishonin’s spirit.

The challenge now awaiting Shin’ichi as Soka Gakkai president and heir to his mentor’s legacy would be realizing this vision of numberless bodhisattvas emerging from the earth throughout the world.

When individuals awaken to their innate mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, it imparts to their lives a deep and essential meaning. This awareness is the pivotal driving force for human revolution—transforming people’s lives, directing them toward the creation of value, and enabling them to change the most painful karma into the most wonderful mission. When individuals strive to fulfill their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they can carry out a great human revolution in their own lives, which can even go on to transform the destiny of an entire nation.

From The Human Revolution, vol. 12, “New Dawn” chapter.

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

  • *1Five 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.
  • *2Ceremony in the Air: One of the three assemblies described in the Lotus Sutra, in which the entire gathering is suspended in space above the saha world. The heart of this ceremony is the revelation of the Buddha’s original enlightenment in the remote past and the transfer of the essence of the sutra to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who are led by Bodhisattva Superior Practices.
  • *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.
  • *4This passage from writings of the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai, quoted by Nichiren Daishonin in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, asserts that the assembly on Eagle Peak where Shakyamuni preaches the Lotus Sutra is eternal and never ending.
  • *5Translated from Japanese. Toda, Toda Josei zenshu, vol. 3, p. 386.