Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 27: The Mentor-Disciple Relationship Is the Heart of the Soka Gakkai [27.7]

27.7 Having a Mentor in One’s Heart

Throughout his novel The New Human Revolution, President Ikeda touches on the profound nature of the mentor-disciple relationship. The excerpted passages below describe how the novel’s protagonist, Shin’ichi Yamamoto (whose character represents President Ikeda), has opened the way for kosen-rufu while cherishing his mentor, Josei Toda, in his heart and carrying on an internal dialogue with him.

[In response to a young man who at a leaders meeting asks what they should bear in mind in their efforts to make the Soka Gakkai’s movement more open to society.]

Shin’ichi answered unhesitatingly: “Walk the path of mentor and disciple.”

Watching the young man’s reaction, he continued: “You’re wondering what mentor and disciple has to do with it, aren’t you? It’s like the relationship between centrifugal (outward) and centripetal (inward) forces in rotational motion.

“Developing a movement that widely spreads the ideals of Buddhism into society is like a centrifugal, or outward, force. The stronger this centrifugal force becomes, the more important it is to have a powerful centripetal, or inward, force directed toward the teachings of Buddhism. And the source of that centripetal force is the spirit of oneness of mentor and disciple.

“In recent years, youth division members have brimmed with the spirit to show victorious actual proof of their Buddhist practice in society and have gradually become more aware of the importance of social contribution. That’s a wonderful thing. But if you forget the fundamental goal of kosen-rufu and become obsessed with achieving personal renown and success, you can easily end up making light of the realm of faith. And, if you start to judge others based on their social status or position and look down on people, you’ll have defeated the entire purpose.

“The way of mentor and disciple is crucial to walking the true path of humanity and Buddhism.”

The mentor-disciple relationship in Buddhism starts with the compassion of Shakyamuni Buddha to teach his disciples the path to enlightenment and the seeking spirit of his disciples to understand his teaching. In short, it is a spiritual bond that depends on the self-motivated will of the disciple. This is also clear when we look at the relationship between Nichiren Daishonin and his direct disciple and successor, Nikko Shonin.

The way of mentor and disciple is strict. Nowhere else can we find the great path of human revolution and attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.

Shin’ichi strongly recounted to the young people: “I also dedicated myself wholeheartedly to Mr. Toda, supported him, and have done my best to fulfill my mission as his disciple. I always achieved the goals he set, showing actual proof of victory. Had I allowed myself to be defeated, his plans would have come to naught, and I would, in effect, have been betraying my mentor.

“In his final years, Mr. Toda said to me: ‘Shin’ichi, you’ve achieved everything I asked. You even took seriously things I said half-jokingly and brought them to fruition. I don’t trust people who are all talk. What matters are the actions one takes. With you here, I know I have nothing to worry about.’

“Those words are my greatest source of pride. They describe what it means to be a genuine disciple. I am always talking with Mr. Toda in my heart. I am always asking myself what he would do in any given situation, what he would say to me if he saw what I am doing. A mentor is a role model for your entire life.”

From The New Human Revolution, vol. 17, “Main Bastion” chapter.


[Reminiscing about the challenging time in 1950, when the economic turmoil of postwar Japan adversely affected Josei Toda’s businesses]

Shin’ichi worked, strove, and fought with the unwavering wish to triumph in every endeavor so that he might bring joy to his mentor, Josei Toda. His mentor was always in his heart. Each day, each moment, was an ongoing dialogue with him. Shin’ichi was also convinced that Toda was aware of all his efforts and of what was deep in his heart. He was determined to be a person who could at any time report proudly to his mentor.

As he chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo each morning, he inwardly vowed: “Sensei! I will do my very best again today! I’ll win for you without fail! Please watch me as I take action as a true and faithful disciple!”

The winds that buffeted Toda and Shin’ichi, however, were fierce and bitterly cold. Shin’ichi was also ill with tuberculosis and had a constant fever. There were nights when he agonized over the daunting walls of difficulty that blocked their way. At such times, Toda’s stern words rang out in his heart: “Now is decisive! Don’t be defeated! Be confident and boldly press ahead! You’re my disciple, after all! You’re the cub of a lion king!”

Whenever Shin’ichi thought of his mentor, he felt a fresh surge of courage and strength.

On days when he fought to the best of his ability, he pictured Toda smiling and saying: “Excellent! Well done!”

Shin’ichi saw any laziness and compromise on his part not only as a personal failure but also as something that would sadden and disappoint his mentor.

The mentor-disciple relationship is not a mere formality. It comes to life when we constantly have our mentor in our hearts. That is the key to developing self-mastery and real self-reliance.

From The New Human Revolution, vol. 22, “A New Century” chapter.


The oneness of mentor and disciple means living with the same spirit as our mentor, and it starts with always having our mentor firmly in our hearts.

We can stress the importance of walking the path of mentor and disciple all we like, but if we fail to internalize our mentor’s spirit, we are not genuinely practicing Buddhism. And if we view our mentor as existing apart from us, as someone beyond our reach, then the mentor’s conduct and teachings cannot serve as an internal guide. We may take how our mentor views or appraises us as the standard for our behavior. If that happens, we may give in to the sly tendency to strive hard when our mentor tells us to but slacken our efforts when left to our own devices. Then we can neither deepen our faith nor carry out our human revolution.

If leaders, especially, fall prey to this tendency, they will extinguish the true spirit of Buddhism. The pure realm of faith will then become a realm of worldly concerns ruled by personal advantage and calculation.

Only by firmly establishing the great path of the oneness of mentor and disciple in our hearts can we ensure the eternal transmission of the Law.

From The New Human Revolution, vol. 25, “Bastion of Capable People” chapter.

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