Soka Spirit
No. 127 Wisdom is Born of Courage

March 22, 2002

The Justice Chronicle, provided by Soka Gakkai International-USA, is a free monthly e-mail in support of the Soka Spirit movement. Soka Spirit is the SGI’s educational effort to create value and deepen our understanding of Nichiren Buddhism through increased awareness of issues surrounding the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and the spiritual foundation of the SGI movement.


This series contains SGI President Ikeda’s 1991 message to commemorate March 16, Kosen-rufu Day, which originally appeared in the May 1991 issue of the Seikyo Times. It was written shortly after the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood began taking action against the Soka Gakkai at the end of 1990.


This quote [Even if it seems that, because I was born in the ruler’s domain, I follow him in my actions, I will never follow him in my heart (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 579)] appears in the UNESCO publication [Birthright of Man, a compilation by UNESCO of words dedicated to the struggle for the human rights] under the chapter headed Limitations on Power.

No matter how overwhelming the force of authority, it cannot restrain the spirit or stifle the cries of freedom. No one can wipe out justice itself. Moreover, it is impossible to keep the truth hidden forever.

This publication is just one example of how many people around the world today regard Nichiren Daishonin’s life as having been a struggle for human rights and humanity. Indeed, he is being praised and venerated as a great pioneer in advocating the cause of human rights.

It is we of the SGI who are continuing the struggle of the Daishonin and spreading it throughout the world as a contemporary popular movement.

Until now, Japan has never had a serious or fundamental struggle for human rights. Japanese society is slow to comprehend the lofty significance of our movement.

People who are insensitive to human rights tend to trample on the rights of others. And in due course, they themselves may be deprived of their human rights as well.

We must on no account allow an era of such tragedy to arise.
We must usher in the dawn of human rights for all people. That is why we have the youth; we have you.

Though my body may be shackled, my spirit cannot be bound. What can you do, you brokers of power? Such a proud and audacious spirit as expressed by the Daishonin calls to mind an ancient Greek myth. I would like now to touch on this tale for the sake of the many youth of the world who will read this message.

This tale I have in mind is the drama of the difficult trials undergone by a person with forethought, with whom I became acquainted during my youth. It is the drama of a hero, Prometheus, who fights against Zeus, the most powerful of the Olympian gods, out of his love for humankind. At the time, I read it as a work of literature that depicts the workings of the human psyche.

The name Prometheus literally means forethinker. In Greek legend, Prometheus is associated with humankind’s creation.

Prometheus has a younger brother named Epimetheus (afterthinker), who is associated with the well-known story of Pandora’s box. In contrast to his older brother with his penetrating foresight, Epimetheus is stupid enough to be caught up in the stratagems of Zeus. Tempted by the beautiful Pandora, who has come to him at the behest of Zeus, and who opens the box that she has brought with her, Epimetheus thus allows all evils and sufferings which it contains to fly out and spread over the face of the earth. In the end, hope is all that remains in the container.

In other words, the power to fight against all evils that fill the world derives from hope. Courage is born of hope, and wisdom is born of courage. And the wellspring of infinite hope is faith.

Two in a series.


This series contains excerpts of speeches SGI President Ikeda made in the United States which relate to Soka Spirit and are contained in the book My Dear Friends in America.

The speech excerpted this time was given on Sept. 19, 1991, shortly before Nichiren Shoshu’s excommunication of the SGI, in Santa Monica, Calif.


In Buddhism, the Law is absolute. Nichiren Daishonin always revealed through his example the necessity of practicing in exact accord with the Buddha’s teachings. In all of his actions, the Daishonin conducted himself as the votary of the Lotus Sutra. This is of great significance.

From the standpoint of Buddhism, if there is someone who disregards the Law and claims an absolute status for himself, the actions of such a person are those of the devil.

In his writings, Nichiren Daishonin cites a passage from the Nirvana Sutra that reads, If there are people who do not base themselves on the Buddha’s teachings, they are followers of the devil (Gosho Zenshu, p. 152).

In his four dictums, the Daishonin denounces Zen as the eaching of devils. Adherents of the Zen sect ignore the teachings of the sutras and make their own minds their master. Failing to carry out a correct practice, they hold that the mind, just as it is, is the Buddha. The devil king easily finds a home amid such arrogance.

Should someone forget the Daishonin’s oft-repeated admonition o become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you (WND, 486), that person will begin to careen away from the correct path of faith, becoming the scion of devils and demons.

If any followers of the Daishonin should slight the importance or deny the validity of his writings, the basic scripture of the Latter Day of the Law, and instead make personal feelings and interests the foundation of their practice, their actions can aptly be described as those of the devil king.

Paul Tillich [a renowned philosopher and Harvard University professor] visited Japan in 1960. That was the year I visited the United States for the first time, taking the first step for worldwide kosen-rufu.

In Japan, Tillich made some comments on Buddhism. One of the principal points he made came in the form of the question Is Buddhism a living religion? He questioned the significance of the established Japanese Buddhist sects that had long been reduced to mere shells.

In Japan, the Soka Gakkai has created a history in which religion has been revived as a moving force of society and as a guideline for the contemporary world.

At the time of his visit, Tillich was quick to point out that the practice of Zen, which is relatively well known in the West, poses the danger of plunging the practitioner into he arrogance of regarding himself as absolute.

He also identified two methods whereby the demonization of religion can be warded against. The first way is secularization, or denying religion itself. In modern times, this trend has been rapidly promoted by persons who have had firsthand experience of conflicts involving religion. The drawback of secularization, however, is that it poses the danger that spirituality itself may become lost and that human beings may be reduced to mere machines.

The other method that he mentioned is that of establishing a path whereby individual believers can gain personal and direct contact with he ultimate without any mediating parties. The Buddhism of the Daishonin is the Law that enables all people, wherever they may be, to carry out the highest practice of faith and gain the supreme benefit of attaining Buddhahood. It is the teaching that enables each person to cultivate the greatest wisdom, lead the most respectable of lives and attain the greatest happiness.

Authoritarianism has no place in this Buddhism, nor does the demonization of religion, which turns a teaching into a lever for oppressing the people. If there should appear any people who, while purporting to be followers of the Daishonin, evince an inclination toward such evil tendencies, such people are definitely not true followers of the Daishonin. This I declare with absolute certainty.

At any rate, in Buddhism, if you can recognize a devil for what it is, you can definitely defeat it through faith. I hope that, in light of the Daishonin’s writings and the sutras, in light of reason and common sense, and in light of the eye of faith, you will wisely and unerringly discern the true nature of the current problem [with the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood]. (pp.154-56)

Seven in a series.


This section highlights articles published in the World Tribune and Living Buddhism directly related to the Soka Spirit movement.

March 22 World Tribune page 2: In his article The Business of Death, from his series Buddhism in a New Light: Soka Spirit Dialogue for the District SGI-USA Vice Study Department Leader Shin Yatomi addresses the way religious authorities have used people’s fear of death to manipulate them.

March 22 World Tribune page 6: In his speech entitled Religion Exists For the People, SGI President Ikeda draws parallels between novelist Leo Tolstoy’s excommunication by the Russian Orthodox Church and the SGI’s excommunication by Nichiren Shoshu.