Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 27: The Mentor-Disciple Relationship Is the Heart of the Soka Gakkai [27.4]

27.4 The Mentor-Disciple Relationship Is the Cornerstone of Nichiren Buddhism

Citing passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, President Ikeda explains that the unity of mentor and disciple is key to ensuring the eternal flow of kosen-rufu.

What is the most important requirement for advancing together in the unity of “many in body, one in mind”? It is for each of us to make the oneness of mentor and disciple the center of our lives. Sharing the same heart and spirit as our mentor is the key to us—a gathering of diverse individuals—uniting in a single purpose and thereby embodying the spirit of “many in body, one in mind.”

To the Ikegami brothers, disciples who were exerting themselves in their Buddhist practice amid challenging circumstances, the Daishonin instructs: “Though I may seem presumptuous in saying so, you should join together in paying honor to Nichiren. If the two of you should fail to act in harmony, then you may be sure that you will cease to enjoy the protection of [the Buddhas and heavenly deities]” (WND-2, 914).

Aligning our hearts with our mentor and deepening our determination to advance kosen-rufu are key to achieving solid unity in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind.” It is through such unity that we can activate the true brilliant power of the Mystic Law.

I’d like to share with you some other passages from the Daishonin’s writings:

“Those who call themselves my disciples and practice the Lotus Sutra should all practice as I do. If they do, Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, Shakyamuni’s emanations throughout the ten directions, and the ten demon daughters1 will protect them.” (WND-1, 978)


“[The Lotus Sutra states:] ‘If one stays close to the teachers of the Law, one will speedily gain the way of enlightenment. By following and learning from these teachers one will see Buddhas as numerous as Ganges sands’” [cf. LSOC10, 208]. (WND-2, 375)


“If lay believers and their teacher pray with differing minds, their prayers will be as futile as trying to kindle a fire on water.” (WND-1, 795)


“To forget the original teacher who had brought one the water of wisdom from the great ocean of the Lotus Sutra and instead follow another would surely cause one to sink into the endless sufferings of birth and death.” (WND-1, 747)

As these golden words indicate, the mentor-disciple relationship is an important cornerstone of Nichiren Buddhism.

The Daishonin’s direct disciple and successor, Nikko Shonin, writes:

“In the teaching of the Daishonin, one attains Buddhahood by correctly following the path of mentor and disciple. If one errs even slightly in the path of mentor and disciple, then though one may uphold the Lotus Sutra, one will fall into the hell of incessant suffering.”2

Striving in faith with the same spirit as the mentor is fundamental to attaining Buddhahood. It is also the great path for ensuring the eternal flow of kosen-rufu.

As I have said many times in the past, the spirit of oneness of mentor and disciple is the decisive factor that separates Nikko Shonin from the five senior priests3 who betrayed the Daishonin. Nikko Shonin proudly called himself a disciple of Nichiren Daishonin, whom he properly revered as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. In contrast, the five senior priests, fearing persecution and seeking to curry favor with the authorities, foolishly called themselves priests of the Tendai school.

Moreover, the five senior priests burned or otherwise destroyed items that they were embarrassed or ashamed to have associated with their mentor, such as letters that the Daishonin had written to ordinary people in common, everyday language. Nikko Shonin alone carefully preserved the Daishonin’s vernacular writings,4 convinced that at some time in the future they would be translated and transmitted abroad to China, India, and the world at large (cf. GZ, 1613 [GZ, new ed., 2190]).

The unmistakable difference here lies in the fact that Nikko Shonin faithfully upheld the spirit of oneness of mentor and disciple, while the five senior priests did not.

Kosen-rufu is possible when disciples embrace the same spirit as their mentor. Without the solid pillar of the mentor-disciple relationship, it is all too easy to be swayed by one’s own emotions and the trends of the times, and one will readily cave in and give up when one’s faith is challenged.

For more than five decades after the Daishonin’s passing, Nikko Shonin carried on the solemn struggle of oneness of mentor and disciple. Through his fierce determination to refute the erroneous and reveal the true, he utterly demolished the false assertions of the five senior priests.

Fifty years have passed since Mr. Toda’s death [on April 2, 1958]. I am confident beyond a shadow of doubt that through my efforts as his direct disciple, I have established an enduring model of what it means to follow the path of a disciple, the path of a successor, and the path of oneness of mentor and disciple.

From a speech at a Tokyo No. 2 Area executive leaders conference, Tokyo, April 5, 2008.

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

  • *1Ten demon daughters: The 10 female protective deities who appear in the “Dharani” chapter of the Lotus Sutra as the “daughters of rakshasa demons” or the “ten rakshasa daughters.” They vow to the Buddha to guard and protect the sutra’s practitioners.
  • *2Translated from Japanese. Nikko, “Sado no kuni no hokke-koshu no gohenji” (Reply to Believers in Sado Province), in Kamakura ibun (Documents of the Kamakura Period), compiled and edited by Rizo Takeuchi, vol. 37 (Tokyo: Tokyodo Shuppan, 1988), p. 25.
  • *3Five senior priests: Five of the six senior priests designated by Nichiren Daishonin as his principal disciples, but who betrayed his teachings after his death. Nikko Shonin was the only one among these original six senior disciples to correctly carry on the Daishonin’s Buddhism.
  • *4Buddhist teachers of the day wrote almost exclusively in classical Chinese, whereas the Daishonin often used ordinary Japanese—text with Japanese phonetic script mixed in to make it accessible to non-scholars. This caused those disciples who were concerned about their reputation in the eyes of others to try to distance themselves from such vernacular works by their teacher. Ultimately, they revealed themselves as elitists who looked down on their teacher’s compassionate efforts to encourage ordinary people.