Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 27: The Mentor-Disciple Relationship Is the Heart of the Soka Gakkai [27.6]

27.6 What Defines a Good Teacher in Buddhism?

Citing a passage from the writings of Nichiren Daishonin, President Ikeda clarifies that a good and correct teacher in Buddhism is one who strives to open the way for the widespread propagation of the Law even amid hardship and opposition.

I would now like to refer to one of the Daishonin’s writings. A passage in “Reply to Sairen-bo” states:

“One should understand that, at present, when it comes to teachers, there is a difference between correct teachers and erroneous teachers, between good teachers and bad teachers. One should shun those who are erroneous or evil, and associate with those who are correct and good.” (WND-1, 310)

When it comes to teachers, there are both good and bad. “Seek out good teachers! Avoid bad teachers! Have the wisdom to tell the difference between the two. Don’t be deceived!”—this is the Daishonin’s solemn instruction. We mustn’t follow erroneous teachers; if we do, we will be negatively influenced by their erroneous ways.

Who, then, is the correct teacher we should seek? It is the person who chants and spreads the Mystic Law with selfless dedication while battling the three powerful enemies1 of Buddhism. Correct teachers of the Law can be identified by whether they have encountered hardships and opposition just like those described in the Lotus Sutra. This is the Daishonin’s key focus. Thus, he criticizes the proponents of various schools who spuriously claim that they “beyond all others have grasped the meaning of and are practicing the Lotus Sutra” (cf. WND-1, 311). In particular, he points out that not a single one of them has undergone the kind of harsh persecution that he has.

The Daishonin’s life was truly a series of persecutions. Based on malicious false accusations, he was sent into exile twice and nearly executed. He was attacked many times and faced countless other hardships. All of this was in exact accord with the Lotus Sutra.

Therefore, the Daishonin says that the proponents of the other schools, who put on airs but are strangers to persecution, are all erroneous teachers. And he insists that he alone should be considered the correct teacher because he has endured unremitting persecution (cf. WND-1, 311).

Who has directly inherited the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin and opened the way for worldwide kosen-rufu in this corrupt Latter Day of the Law? And who, in doing so, has encountered slander and abuse, hatred and jealousy even more intense than during the Buddha’s lifetime, as the Lotus Sutra predicts (cf. LSOC13, 232; LSOC10, 203)? It is none but the first three presidents of the Soka Gakkai, linked by the bonds of mentor and disciple.

Founding president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi was put in prison for his efforts to protect the lifeblood of the correct teachings and doctrines of Nichiren Daishonin, and he died there, a martyr to his beliefs. Second president Josei Toda was also imprisoned. He survived two years of intense interrogation and harrowing conditions behind bars, an ordeal that ultimately shortened his life. And as third president, I, too, was jailed on false charges. I have been showered with unending slander and abuse—most of it fueled by treacherous former Soka Gakkai members whose blatant lies were seized on and spread by a sensationalist tabloid press.

All of the obstacles Mr. Makiguchi, Mr. Toda, and I have encountered are in perfect accord with the Lotus Sutra and the Daishonin’s writings. Only we, the first three presidents, have borne the full brunt of persecution and attack. Only we have fought against the three obstacles and four devils2 and the three powerful enemies, without the slightest deviation from the Daishonin’s teachings. This is something all of you know better than anyone.

Mr. Toda thoroughly trained me, and always made me feel valued and appreciated. When his businesses failed and he was plunged into a life-and-death crisis, I single-handedly did all I could to support and assist him. I cleared the huge mountain of debt he had incurred. If someone dared malign my mentor, I would immediately go out to confront them on my own. Irrespective of who they were, I would address them with the courage, sincerity, and directness of youth, tenaciously setting the record straight until they recognized they were wrong about Mr. Toda.

The very essence of the mentor-disciple relationship in Nichiren Buddhism is found in the disciple’s prayers and efforts to firmly support the mentor in times of adversity.

Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda were of one heart and mind; so were Mr. Toda and I. Our mentor-disciple bonds transcend life and death. Heir to the true spirit of Mr. Toda, I fought against the three powerful enemies and built the Soka Gakkai into the great organization that it is today. My two predecessors and I have laid the Soka path of mentor and disciple. The mentor-disciple spirit of the first three presidents is the foundation. As long as the Soka Gakkai carries on this spirit, it will continue to develop and thrive forever and succeed in realizing worldwide kosen-rufu.

I would like you, my successors in the youth division, to inherit the first three presidents’ fighting spirit for kosen-rufu and win in all your endeavors without fail. I’m counting on you!

From a speech at a Soka Gakkai Headquarters leaders meeting, Tokyo, March 9, 2006.

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

  • *1Three powerful enemies: Three types of arrogant people who persecute those who propagate the Lotus Sutra in the evil age after Shakyamuni Buddha’s death, described in the concluding verse section of the “Encouraging Devotion” (13th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The Great Teacher Miao-lo of China summarizes them as arrogant lay people, arrogant priests, and arrogant false sages.
  • *2Three obstacles and four devils: Various obstacles and hindrances to the practice of Buddhism. The three obstacles are (1) the obstacle of earthly desires, (2) the obstacle of karma, and (3) the obstacle of retribution. The four devils are (1) the hindrance of the five components, (2) the hindrance of earthly desires, (3) the hindrance of death, and (4) the hindrance of the devil king.