Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 23: Valuing Each Individual [23.10]

23.10 Working among and with the People

President Ikeda emphasizes that taking action to help those who are suffering is the very life of our Buddhist practice and the way to kosen-rufu.

An American missionary once visited Mahatma Gandhi and asked what his religion was. Pointing to two sick people resting in his room, Gandhi said: “To serve is my religion.”1

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the champion of the American Civil Rights Movement who inherited Gandhi’s legacy of nonviolence, often said that any religion that overlooks the real-life sufferings of the people is a “spiritually moribund religion.”2

These convictions of Gandhi and King resonate deeply with us. No matter how lofty the ideals it espouses, a religion not committed to acting for the happiness of those who are suffering and struggling is spiritually lifeless.

Soka Gakkai members have always reached out to such people and fought for their happiness. As a result, our movement was at one time ridiculed and disparaged as “a religion of the poor and the sick.”

But my mentor, Josei Toda, heartily laughed off such misguided attacks, regarding them as a badge of honor. Being able to help the suffering masses is, after all, the mark of a strong and effective religion, he declared. The criticism was proof that the Soka Gakkai is a living religion.

Mr. Toda declared with absolute conviction: “If practicing this Buddhism doesn’t make you happy, I will give you my life!”

If we cannot help real, living people, no matter how deep their despair, then this Buddhism is a lie. Mr. Toda continued, with all his might, to touch people’s lives and awaken in them a powerful and invincible courage to take on any adversity.

One individual after another was inspired by Mr. Toda’s wholehearted encouragement to stand up and fight for happiness. While overcoming their own karma, they also stepped forward and fought to achieve the greater purpose of building a new society. In other words, they stood up for kosen-rufu.

From an essay series “Thoughts on The New Human Revolution,” published in Japanese in the Seikyo Shimbun, September 13, 2002.

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

  • *1M. K. Gandhi, My Religion, compiled and edited by Bharatan Kumarappa (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House, 1958), p. 51.
  • *2Martin Luther King, Jr., The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.—Volume V: Threshold of a New Decade, January 1959–December 1960, edited by Clayborne Carson, et al. (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 2005), p. 200.