Filed in Nichiren, Chanting

Faith in Revolution

Wisdom Collection

To access the content within the Wisdom Collection,
join Tricycle as a Supporting or Sustaining Member

This article is part of an online special section about Nichiren Buddhism. We hope that by gathering these articles in one place and making them freely available, our Buddhist conversation will be broadened and that we can, all of us, more fully know ourselves in knowing one another. Read the other articles here.


Western scholars have observed that Nichiren was the first Buddhist leader to speak with a truly prophetic voice, insisting that Japanese leaders embrace the dharma and make it a social reality. What inspired Nichiren to take such a bold step, risking his life to assert a Buddhist vision of society in a country where religion had traditionally been expected to support the existing power structure rather than hold it to account? You’re right that in Japan religion has traditionally been expected to support authority. Nichiren’s very different response to power holds a key to understanding his character.

Nichiren felt compassion for the sufferings of the common people and a sense of responsibility for doing something about this. And this empathy and earnest commitment to social transformation are at the very core of all Nichiren’s actions.

Thirteenth-century Kamakura Japan was a terrible time to live. Life was constantly threatened by earthquakes, droughts, and other natural disasters, as well as famine, pestilence, and armed conflict. But neither the political nor the religious authorities of the day were able to see beyond their attachment to their own power and position to take effective action. The result was a pervasive sense of powerlessness and despair among the populace. Nichiren was by nature incapable of turning a blind eye to other people’s pain. So he spoke out, launching a battle of ideas that challenged the existing order.

Daisaku Ikeda and his wife Kaneko
Daisaku Ikeda and his wife, Kaneko [second from left], visiting members of the Soka Gakkai International in Tokyo in 1979. © Seikyo Shimbun

That sounds very risky. It was. But Nichiren understood the risks. In 1260, he presented his treatise, Rissho Ankoku Ron (On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land), to the highest de facto authority of Japan, the retired regent Hojo Tokiyori. He did this because he was convinced that in a feudal society, changing the awareness of those at the top of the pyramid of power was essential. In the years that followed, in spite of persecution and the constant threat of assassination or execution, Nichiren fiercely maintained his independence, insisting on holding those in power to account. He gained many adherents among the common people at this time by teaching them that happiness in this world was indeed possible. But his influence among the downtrodden sectors of society was naturally perceived as a threat by those in power.

Nichiren had clearly foreseen all of this, and his writings record with great frankness the doubts and questions that assailed him early in his career as he pondered whether or not he should speak out. At one point he confessed to a disciple: “I, Nichiren, am the only person in all Japan who understands this. But if I utter so much as a word concerning it, then parents, brothers, and teachers will surely censure me, and the ruler of the nation will take steps against me. On the other hand, I am fully aware that if I do not speak out I will be lacking in compassion.” After a process of intense self-questioning, Nichiren recalled the words of the Lotus Sutra urging that this teaching be spread after the Buddha’s passing, and he made a great vow to transform society and enable all people to live in happiness.

How did the Soka Gakkai take Nichiren’s legacy forward? The Soka Gakkai’s first leaders, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, were both innovative educators dedicated to the reform of educational practices in Japan. Mr. Makiguchi converted to Nichiren Buddhism in 1928, two years before he founded the Soka Gakkai, and Mr. Toda followed him in embracing faith in Buddhism soon after. Like Nichiren, they dedicated themselves to the happiness of ordinary people struggling to live their lives.

During World War II, however, they found themselves facing persecutions when they resisted the currents of Japanese militarist fascism and criticized the state’s use of Shinto to spiritually unite the Japanese people behind the war effort. They were arrested and imprisoned as a result. In 1944, Mr. Makiguchi died in prison from extreme malnutrition. He was 73 at the time of his death. Mr. Toda emerged from prison to rebuild the organization amid the devastation of defeat.

But it wasn’t just the military government that opposed the Soka Gakkai’s message of peace and radical inclusion, correct?
That’s right. During the almost seven centuries since his death, Nichiren’s Buddhism had become desensitized to the interests and concerns of the common people. At times it had even been interpreted as a highly nationalistic teaching. Mr. Makiguchi rediscovered Nichiren Buddhism as a religion dedicated to the happiness of ordinary people. He sought to promote such happiness, starting at the foundations of society, by reforming educational practices in Japan. With time, his goals expanded to include sharing the practice with people from all walks of life as a means of transforming the lives of ordinary people and thus society itself.

Didn’t Nichiren Buddhism also unite behind the war effort, as required by the government, like virtually all other schools of Japanese Buddhism? During Japan’s years of militarist madness, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, with which Makiguchi was associated, gave in to pressure from the political authorities. For example, they agreed to modify or delete passages from the writings of Nichiren that were considered problematic by the authorities. In contrast, Mr. Makiguchi upheld the original intent of Nichiren Buddhism—a humanistic dedication to the happiness of ordinary people—and died in prison as a result.

Share with a Friend

Email to a Friend

Already a member? Log in to share this content.

You must be a Tricycle Community member to use this feature.

1. Join as a Basic Member

Signing up to Tricycle newsletters will enroll you as a free Tricycle Basic Member.You can opt out of our emails at any time from your account screen.

2. Enter Your Message Details

Enter multiple email addresses on separate lines or separate them with commas.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Sherman S. Wren's picture

As I know SGI President Daisaku Ikeda is not that man who often gives an interview, so it's great that I could find this information. Cause may friend write a report about him to university. I'll send her this article with my whatsapp help. Thank you!

Dwayne stifler's picture

I've heard a lot of good things about Daisaku Ikeda and I'm glad I could get to read his interview through this post. Yeah, Nichiren Buddhism is somewhat a less known spiritual practice but we could simply go to the deeper principle by following the guidelines of Soka Gakkai. I'm planning to best writing companies reviews regarding the subject of Nichiren Buddhism and I'm lucky to find this wonderful source of key information. Thanks for the share.

alexwifi's picture

I understand your question that this info is too for a readership that takes its first serious look at Nichiren Buddhism. I really enjoyed this Interview as I push myself to read the special interviews given by special people like DAISAKU IKEDA. Thanks for the share.
Regards,
purearganoilhair.wordpress.com

Usman's picture

Disregarding its negative effects, the French Revolution couldn't smear Christianity as the blood of saints turned into the seeds of the congregation. Be that as it may, Revisor Stockholm the contemporary church ought to figure out how a common occasion could improve its predetermination or overall. In abuse, individuals could adapt as a consequence of their confidence and duty to Christian beliefs.

owais93's picture

I might also note that many of the honorary degrees come from Chinese universities. It is not possible that such degrees could be awarded Revision Skellefteå without the full knowledge and approval of the Chinese government, hardly the most supportive of religious and other freedoms on this beleaguered planet.

dhruvthukral's picture

Thank you so much for this wonderful sharing
by http://lifeofnichiren.com/

ardian106's picture

nice article and great

Dominic Gomez's picture

In that earthly desires leading to enlightenment is a way ordinary people manifest their highest wisdom, a more accurate heading would be "Revolution in Faith".
Regards,
Dominic

victorb4s's picture

With the rise of the military government free thought was restricted and members of secret police attended Soka Kyoiku Gakkai’s group meetings. Makiguchi published “Kachi Sozo” (Creating value) monthly magazine, however the military government “did not approve of the material printed in kachi sozo and the publication was suspended in 1942”
Regards, Victor
equipos de perforacion

danas's picture

The Soka Gakkai was founded as the Soka Kyoiku Gakkaion 18 November 1930, by Tsunesaburō Makiguchi and his colleague Josei Toda, as a society of reformist educators. Makiguchi defined the term ‘Value Creation’ in his major work Soka Kyoiku Taikei :” ‘so’ which means creation, and ‘ka’ which means value – form a key concept. Creation of Value is part and parcel of what it means to be a human being...The highest object of life is happiness which is creation of value”.

Dana
opciones binarias

marie130's picture

SGI is perceived as a movement for peace and human rights by institutes promoting non-violence. Various universities perceive SGI as a partner through student exchange programs and provide lectures by visiting professors.

-Marie.
Digitale Optionen

tapn2it2win's picture

What Daisaku Ikeda explained about Nichiren is truly amazing & remarkable for a "revolutionary" in 13th century feudalistic Japan. When Nichiren encouraged his followers,there was no discrimination in terms of class or gender - he emphasized that Buddhahood exists in ALL human beings. He opened the eyes of his disciples to their own empowerment, and really pissed off the Government officials by doing so. He taught them that women who devoted themselves to this essence of the Lotus Sutra,or the chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, would definitely attain enlightenment! What a radical departure from the ignorance of that time period in Japan!

He was considered a "subversive" and a threat to the status quo and was constantly in danger of being beheaded and exiled. Exiled he was.... and on the way to being beheaded at Tatsunokuchi Beach, a luminous object (comet?) streaked across the night sky, terrifying the soldiers to the point that they were so badly shaken they could not carry out the execution.

He was chanting the Daimoku at that time and his entire being was completely in rhythm with the protective forces of the Universe at that precise moment! Not superstition... just his enlightened life condition eliciting protection from the natural laws of the universe with perfect timing. This historical incident is a perfect example of Nichiren's teaching of the "oneness of person and environment" (two but not two) that the environment responds to our life condition and the contents of our mind. Nichiren was a living example of "Boddhisattva Never Disparaging".

When Daisaku Ikeda was giving some examples of "human revolution", the revolution within takes place in people as they go out into the "saha" world where the three poisons of Greed, Anger, and Ignorance bombard us at almost every turn in society and in the workplace. When these "poisons" are turned into medicine" as a result of a sincere, consistent practice of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo for ourselves AND for OTHERS, which is the Boddhisattva WAY, the gradual process of "human revolution" blossoms like a Lotus Flower in the Murky Swamp. The Lotus Flower cannot bloom in clean, clear water- and neither can we! A beautiful metaphor of Buddhist Practice!

"Awakening to the Dignity Inherent in Life" a personal experience of an abused & violent young man with no respect for himself or others, is one of the most powerful examples of "human revolution" I have read thus far. I think of Mr. Ikeda's example of the singing caged bird.

He states in his experience, "I felt a sense of harmony with everything around me, like I had tapped into my Buddha Nature and that my true self was compassion and love. My life itself was Nam Myoho Renge Kyo". The article appeared in Living Buddhism , page 6 of July 2012 issue. There is an amazing photo of this tatooed man sitting in front of a colorful painting he created with the "light" of hope and compassion and lovingkindness emanating from his eyes! Check it out! It is a lesson to us all that no person is a lost cause or a hopeless case... that we ALL possess the Buddha Nature within us. It is the compassion we cultivate within our own "inner" lives that will without fail, help us fulfill our purpose of removing suffering as a Boddhisattva of the earth.

mykie83's picture

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful insights.

walterbagehot's picture

I much enjoyed this interview.Thank you for sharing this and increasing my understanding of Soka Gakkai.
I understand your question that this info is too for a readership that takes its first serious look at Nichiren Buddhism. Your interview covered many wonderful things that most if not all practitioners of Nichiren can accept and appreciate.

jay7z's picture

That's touching....I think that buddhists should promote their religion more

daradough's picture

brilliant man

dorar12's picture

thanks. like the post.

lea234's picture

great article.

Sharihotsu's picture

Certainly all the SGI members are adulatory ... as usual ... but I agree heartily with Azure and others who wonder where the "other than soft-ball" questions were: like, what ABOUT the money, sensei? And "If you're so peaceful and enlightened, how come you can't get along with the priesthood that has vouchsafed the Gohonzon for 750 years and from whom you yourself received the teachings and heritage of NamMyohoRengeKyo?" What about the counterfeit honzons? Where do you get your membership numbers? (After all, they were debunked publicly many YEARS ago). What about the guns fired at the priests and innocents at Taisekiji Temple? And the mini-vans with loudspeakers blaring in order to disturb and disrupt peaceful aspirants? This interviewer needs to get some lessons in journalism. The so-called interview was little more than a set-piece. Now the fawning SGI sycophants can all petition for another phony degree for "sensei."

azure's picture

Nichiren) claims that the repeated recitation of the title of the Lotus Sutra as a mantra not only produces enlightenment in this life, but that it is a method superior to all others. Therefore I might ask: Is there any objective proof of those assertions and is Mr Ikeda enlightened or does he claim to have reached that 

 

http://www.ayakkab.in

braves's picture

However, several questions that were not - but in my opinion should have been - in the interview remain in my mind. SGI (through the cited words of Ikeda and Nichiren) claims that the repeated recitation of the title of the Lotus Sutra as a mantra not only produces enlightenment in this life, but that it is a method superior to all others. Therefore I might ask: Is there any objective proof of those assertions and is Mr Ikeda enlightened or does he claim to have reached that state?Fragman

pr0xymAn1ac's picture

Since no money or political favors are needed or accepted, each of these awards is a sincere appreciation by universities, cities, government agencies worldwide in response to activities of President Ikeda and the people of SGI is struggling for world peace through cultural and educational efforts and exchanges.And i want to say that is excellent article thanks for sharing with us thank you !

Web Tasarım

pedrolastorgas's picture

I think meditation should be taught in schools for free man.
We urgently need a more spiritual world.
Being able to turn the head off for a while should be everybody´s skill.
It surely makes you happy.

Pedro from mago

Dominic Gomez's picture

Back in the 60's I used to "turn (the head) off" by turning on.
;-)

ilahiler's picture

I much enjoyed the interview, I am a member of Soka Gakkai in Brazil since 1982, when I entered the age of 16. In 27 years I have been inspired by the tireless guidance of the Daisaku Ikeda. I could create an environment of peace and much happiness in my family, courage and energy to help make our world better, always seeking to restore and rejuvenate our relations with others through a real dialogue, which turns on conflicting views in bridges that unite us. I am very happy for the publication of this interview. I will certainly share this interview with other people here in Brazil

http://www.ilahilerimiz.net

romankates's picture

However, several questions that were not - but in my opinion should have been - in the interview remain in my mind. SGI (through the cited words of Ikeda and Nichiren) claims that the repeated recitation of the title of the Lotus Sutra as a mantra not only produces enlightenment in this life, but that it is a method superior to all others. Therefore I might ask: Is there any objective proof of those assertions and is Mr Ikeda enlightened or does he claim to have reached that state?

romankates's picture

This is a great way to help me focus more on my practice that was sadly falling off. Now if I can manage to stay awake when I sit and keep the little monkeys passive.

michelnader750's picture

I much enjoyed the interview, I am a member of Soka Gakkai in Brazil since 1982, when I entered the age of 16. In 27 years I have been inspired by the tireless guidance of the Daisaku Ikeda. I could create an environment of peace and much happiness in my family, courage and energy to help make our world better, always seeking to restore and rejuvenate our relations with others through a real dialogue, which turns on conflicting views in bridges that unite us. I am very happy for the publication of this interview. I will certainly share this interview with other people here in Brazil. I would propose to people who want to know more about the Soka Gakkai and Daisaku Ikeda written by himself, reading the novel the New Human Revolution.

Congratulations to the whole team working for the publication of this interview.

Sincerely,

Michel Nader
Brazil, Sao Paulo

billklein's picture

I am a 35 year member of SGI-USA. I was very happy with Clark Strand's interview with Daisaku Ikeda. I also enjoyed and appreciated Mr. Strand's article about SGI-USA in the Winter 2004 Tricycle. Regarding Sterling's comments about honorary awards, I would like to emphasize that each award that President Ikeda receives is the result of SGI members initiating and petitioning an institution or civic entity with information and writings of Mr. Ikeda. Most important is that those members are working and active members or supporters of the institution being approached. I have had the pleasure of participating in the efforts to obtain one of these. SGI-USA Members in San Mateo requested a recognition of SGI and President Ikeda from the City of San Mateo in conjunction with a culture festival we put on to support the San Mateo City Library. Because the mayor knew each of us personally through activities we had done for the city either as professionals or volunteers, she readily accepted the information about President Ikeda and SGI, read and discussed the information and gladly had a certificate made which was presented to SGI-USA the the Library Culture Festival on July 3, 2004. President Ikeda responded by having Mayor Clair Mack's photo and an article on the front page of the Sikyo Shimbun which goes out to 10 million members throughout Japan and the world.
Since no money or political favors are needed or accepted, each of these awards is a sincere appreciation by universities, cities, government agencies worldwide in response to activities of President Ikeda and the people of SGI is struggling for world peace through cultural and educational efforts and exchanges.
One very important consideration President Ikeda has in meeting with "members of the world's power elite" (Sterling's words) is to present the SGI to these world leaders so that members of those countries will be able to practice this Buddhism freely and will be able to contribute more freely to the culture and education of each country and locality. Many of these dialogues are available in published works available in bookstores and online sites.
As a long time member of SGI-USA I am constantly gratified by the efforts of ordinary members striving to live the goals and dreams of our Mentor, Daisaku Ikeda. It is not easy. But we strive to be citizens of our community who unite with others to accomplish humanistic and cultural goals leading toward a vibrant society dedicated to peace for all.

Bill Klein

Sterling's picture

I thank you for providing this excellent interview. Over the years I have heard many contradictory opinions about SGI and it's current leader and this is the most encouraging explanation of the organization that I have yet encountered.

However, several questions that were not - but in my opinion should have been - in the interview remain in my mind. SGI (through the cited words of Ikeda and Nichiren) claims that the repeated recitation of the title of the Lotus Sutra as a mantra not only produces enlightenment in this life, but that it is a method superior to all others. Therefore I might ask: Is there any objective proof of those assertions and is Mr Ikeda enlightened or does he claim to have reached that state?

In Nichiren's teachings, the danger of association and identification with the rich and powerful is often cited, yet in virtually everything I read about Mr Ikeda, his hobnobbing with the rich and powerful is prominently featured, usually accompanied by photo of him with various members of the world's power elite. Moreover, much is made of all the honorary degrees (over 200) and honorary citizenships (over 500) he has been "awarded". What is the real value and importance of such awards?

I might also note that many of the honorary degrees come from Chinese universities. It is not possible that such degrees could be awarded without the full knowledge and approval of the Chinese government, hardly the most supportive of religious and other freedoms on this beleaguered planet.

Finally comes the question of wealth. Although one of the original purposes of Soka Gakkai was to help the impoverished people of Japan, there have been many allegations raised about the accumulation of excessive wealth by SGI members, including Mr Ikeda. Such questions could be partially clarified with answers to two simple questions: 1) What is Mr Ikeda's net worth and effective salary? and: 2) On his many voyages does he fly economy, business or first?

gabrielle.tao's picture

Thanks for this interview and introducing the SGI and President Ikeda, in his own words, to American readers.

frankalan's picture

While I understand there are some controversial aspects to SGI etc, this is a good article putting forward the views from the organization itself.

Anyway, lets face it. If we all agreed on everything, it would be a pretty boring life and an un-eventful spiritual journey!

Regards,

Frank
Stop Smoking Weed Blog