Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 28: The Three Founding Presidents and the Path of Mentor and Disciple [28.6]

28.6 Raising High the Banner of Kosen-rufu

As militarism began to cast a pall over Japan, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood became tainted with slander of the Law by abdicating its responsibility to protect the correct teaching and compromising with the authorities. President Ikeda pays tribute to President Makiguchi’s heroic stance at that time to safeguard Nichiren Buddhism for the happiness of all humanity.

From the time of founding president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the aim of the Soka Gakkai has been kosen-rufu. When did Mr. Makiguchi first use the term kosen-rufu in public? When did he proclaim the Soka Gakkai to be an organization dedicated to realizing kosen-rufu? It was not at a time when all was going well for the Soka Gakkai, but when it was in the midst of persecution.

Rabid nationalism had propelled Japan into war. Personal freedoms disappeared, and government oppression of the Soka Gakkai intensified. Heavy clouds gathered and the darkness deepened. It was at this very time that President Makiguchi spoke out for the actualization of kosen-rufu. What a great man he was!


In May 1942, the organization’s fourth general meeting took place—just six months after Japan started the Pacific War.

Initially, Japan won a string of military victories. But that was not to last. Soon, it reached an impasse. Then the tide began to reverse as one defeat followed another. Yet, the government broadcast nothing but lies to its citizens. Ignorant of what was really happening, people congratulated themselves on Japan’s military prowess and divine mission, and an intoxicated mood of triumph spread throughout the land.

But Mr. Makiguchi saw the truth and already perceived that Japan would be destroyed—that it would be utterly defeated. He possessed discerning faith and character, enabling him to see the real nature of things as if reflected in a clear mirror—possessing what might be described in Buddhist terms as the “eye of the Law” or the “eye of the Buddha.”

At the general meeting, he declared: “We must guide the country in the direction of great good. This is like making a landing in the face of the enemy.”1 He was saying, in other words, that trying to engage with corrupt, closed-minded individuals and show them the way to good is the equivalent of making a military landing on hostile shores.

Having embarked on such a daring course of action, it was inevitable that Mr. Makiguchi and the Soka Gakkai would face harsh opposition. That May, the organization’s journal Kachi sozo (Value Creation) was forced to cease publication.

Mr. Makiguchi asserted: “The faith of longtime followers of Nichiren Shoshu, concerned only with leading virtuous lives themselves and seeking their own happiness without thought for others, is self-centered.”2 He criticized those followers of Nichiren Shoshu—the priesthood and the believers whose families had been members of the Hokkeko lay groups for generations—as being selfish in their faith and, therefore, not truly practicing Nichiren Buddhism.

Just chanting to the Gohonzon for one’s own benefit merely makes one a passive believer—someone who begs for blessings without putting the teachings into practice. The priests and traditional lay groups had forgotten the spirit of sharing Nichiren Buddhism. They had completely lost sight of kosen-rufu.

Mr. Makiguchi refused to compromise with such people. And because he called them out, they bitterly resented him. That was only to be expected. But he did not worry whether his stance made him unpopular or disliked, for he knew he was following the right path, the path of his convictions.

He declared: “I believe that, by working for the happiness of our families and the welfare of society, we can contribute in part to the realization of kosen-rufu.”3

This was his first public mention of kosen-rufu. It was a declaration that he would dedicate his life to that cause until it was achieved.

In concluding his lecture at the general meeting, he said: “I believe that since each of us shares this important mission, we must vow to work diligently to fulfill it, not for ourselves or for realizing self-interested aims, but with the constant awareness that we are people of great good who have been chosen to undertake this task.”4


And Mr. Makiguchi truly worked tirelessly to advance kosen-rufu, spreading the Mystic Law. Amid persecution by the authorities and while already at an advanced age, he conducted more than 240 discussion meetings (from May 1941 to June 1943, when he turned 72). He also traveled alone to different regions and personally introduced some 500 people to Nichiren Buddhism (from 1930, the year of the Soka Gakkai’s founding, to July 1943, when he was arrested).

He did this at a time when the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood had completely forgotten about kosen-rufu. He was a truly outstanding and remarkable individual. The more I read and learn about Mr. Makiguchi’s life, the more keenly I feel this.

Setting to work at the most difficult times and in the most difficult places is the way to achieve great things, to open a new page of history. We should deeply take to heart this Soka Gakkai spirit.


When we face a tough situation, that’s the time we need to summon our courage. The more difficult the challenge, the more bravely we must tackle it. This is the essence of the Soka Gakkai spirit. When we personally go to the most challenging places, a way forward will open.

While Mr. Makiguchi was calling for kosen-rufu, what was the priesthood doing? It was undermining kosen-rufu—just as it is again today.

During the war, the priesthood banned publication of the Daishonin’s writings and deleted 14 key passages from them, including “I, Nichiren, am the foremost sage in all Jambudvipa [the entire world]” (WND-1, 642). How could anyone permit such an outrage? We of the Soka Gakkai condemn it, as surely would the Daishonin. Yet Nichiren Shoshu has still not apologized for this act to either the Daishonin or its believers.

The priesthood also enshrined the Shinto talisman at its head temple, Taiseki-ji, and pressed Mr. Makiguchi to accept the talisman as well. What gross slander of the Law! When Mr. Makiguchi adamantly refused, it secretly allied itself with those persecuting the Soka Gakkai.

The priesthood literally stabbed the Soka Gakkai and its members in the back. Mr. Toda used to say that this was the nature of self-serving priests, describing it as frightening. The priesthood exploited the Soka Gakkai as much as it could, then severed ties with it—such is its wickedness. Mr. Makiguchi was also aware of the exploitative nature of the priesthood, which remains the same today. We must never, ever trust it.

But what about Mr. Makiguchi’s other disciples? How did they respond? They were astonished and alarmed at how forcefully their mentor was moving forward. They were not lions; they were cats and mice.

While Mr. Makiguchi called out for the realization of kosen-rufu and for remonstrating with the national authorities, his disciples were gripped with fear, saying: “It’s too dangerous now,” “It’s premature,” “We’ll be arrested by the military police.” The leaders who had constantly made speeches about working alongside Mr. Makiguchi were particularly spineless, shriveling like slugs doused with salt. Just because people are leaders doesn’t mean they are trustworthy. Sometimes the ordinary members striving on the front lines of our movement are far more dependable.

Mr. Toda alone remained unperturbed, proudly identifying himself as Mr. Makiguchi’s disciple and affirming his commitment to stand by his mentor, whatever happened. He offers us a truly solemn example of the mentor-disciple spirit.

Later, Mr. Toda expressed his gratitude to his departed mentor, saying: “In your vast and boundless compassion, you let me accompany you even to prison.”5 Far from complaining about being imprisoned, he had profound appreciation. He was honored to share persecution with his mentor. This is the true spirit of mentor and disciple. And after being released from prison, Mr. Toda stood up alone and raised anew the banner of kosen-rufu his mentor had held aloft. Because he was one in spirit with his mentor, he was able to overcome the tragedy of Mr. Makiguchi’s death and create a powerful groundswell for kosen-rufu.

We of the Soka Gakkai must never forget this path of the oneness of mentor and disciple.

From a speech at a Soka Gakkai Headquarters leaders meeting, Tokyo, July 9, 1997.

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

  • *1Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), p. 147.
  • *2Ibid., p. 146.
  • *3Ibid., p. 148.
  • *4Ibid.
  • *5Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 3 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1983), p. 386.