Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 29: A Religion That Exists for People’s Happiness [29.1]

29.1 The Soka Gakkai Is a Humanistic Movement

President Ikeda has opened uncharted paths for worldwide kosen-rufu based on his unshakable conviction that religion should exist for the sake of people’s happiness, and that we should go wherever people are and share Nichiren Buddhism with them. He has engaged in an unrelenting struggle against the oppressive religious authoritarianism of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood.

Overcoming untold obstacles in his endeavor, President Ikeda has carried out a religious revolution on a global scale. This chapter features some of his remarks and guidance on the importance of religion truly serving the needs of human beings.

In the first excerpt, President Ikeda discusses how the deification of Shakyamuni after his death and a dwindling focus on real-life practice gradually led to Buddhism’s decline in India. He affirms that the Soka Gakkai has inherited the true spirit of Nichiren Daishonin, who fought to humanize Buddhism.

Why did the great teaching of Buddhism decline in India?

An interesting perspective on this is offered by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India, who pondered this question extensively. At a meeting with the French art historian André Malraux, he shared his conclusions.

Incidentally, I was fortunate to meet twice with Mr. Malraux, who had demonstrated a strong interest in Buddhism.

Nehru’s thoughts were as follows: “The genius of the Buddha has to do with the fact that he is a [human being]. The originator of one of the most profound systems of thought in the history of humanity, an inflexible spirit and the most noble compassion. An accuser, vis-à-vis the teeming multitude of the gods. When he became deified, he merged with that multitude, which closed round him.”1

Shakyamuni Buddha lived his life as a human being, and he repudiated the gods that were widely worshiped at that time.

Nichiren Daishonin, likewise, remonstrated with Hachiman, considered a guardian deity of Japan. He did not beseech the heavenly deities—the protective forces of the universe—for assistance; rather, as a human being who embraced the Mystic Law, he summoned them to action.

In essence, Buddhism teaches how human beings should live. Through his own example, Shakyamuni taught us how to live our lives. This is the path of mentor and disciple.

But at some point, the human being Shakyamuni was elevated and transfigured into a deity. While many in present-day India still revere the Buddha, it is generally as one of the gods of the vast Hindu pantheon. Though they regard the Buddha as an object of reverence, he is no longer seen as a model on which to base one’s life. The path of mentor and disciple has been lost.

When Buddhism was no longer a way of life, Nehru concluded, it died in India.

Today, Buddhism as a way of life is completely absent in the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood. The priests see Nichiren Buddhism not as a way for people to live, but as a way to embellish their own authority and status. They have made it a means to justify their own corruption and degeneration. This truly epitomizes the priesthood’s decline.


From a certain perspective, Nichiren Daishonin’s struggle can be seen as a struggle to humanize Buddhism. He sought to return Buddhism, which had grown divorced from people’s actual lives, to the people, teaching it as a practical way to live. His message is that the Buddha is an ordinary human being, and we ordinary human beings are Buddhas.

The most popular schools of Buddhism during the Daishonin’s time taught of Buddhas—such as Amida Buddha and Mahavairochana Buddha—who were distant, supernatural beings. The Buddha in the Lotus Sutra was also widely regarded as completely separate and removed from human beings. The Daishonin sought to reverse this viewpoint.

The Daishonin teaches that people who have faith in and practice the Mystic Law are Buddhas. Faith in the Mystic Law is the key to unlocking the world of Buddhahood.

What kind of person, then, is a Buddha? What is a Buddha’s way of life? Nichiren Daishonin indicates that a Buddha is one who battles and vanquishes the three obstacles and four devils2 while taking on the challenges of the real world. It is a life dedicated to kosen-rufu for the sake of the Mystic Law and the happiness of all people.

The Daishonin exemplified this himself. The SGI and each one of you are following that same path. You are all shining Buddhas.

In exact accord with the Daishonin’s spirit, the Soka Gakkai has enabled us to put Buddhism into practice in daily life, as a guiding philosophy for living. Just as the Daishonin returned to the basics of Buddhism, the Soka Gakkai returned to the basics of faith and practice in Nichiren Buddhism. Both returned to the starting point—that is, human beings.

Mr. Toda once called our faith “a human religion.” Nichiren Buddhism is humanism in the most genuine sense.

From a speech at an SGI-Germany executive conference, Germany, May 24, 1994.

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

  • *1André Malraux, Anti-Memoirs, translated by Terence Kilmartin (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1968), pp. 240–41.
  • *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.