Soka Spirit
No. 118 Soka Spirit in My Life

Jan. 18, 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.



By Eileen McGruder
Los Angeles

When I first heard about the conflict between the SGI and the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood my initial reaction to it and the way it was presented to the membership was very negative. Other than making a decision to continue practicing with the SGI-USA, I refused to deal with it for years. A turning point came in about 1995 when I attended a Buddhist study meeting and heard someone say that if you are taking an ostrich with its head in the sand approach to the issue with the temple then you are probably also using that approach in your daily life. It was immediately and painfully obvious to me that I was doing exactly that. I began to think that maybe Soka Spirit, like everything else in Buddhism, was all about me, my practice and my life. Since then incorporating Soka Spirit into my personal practice has been a long, sometimes painful, but ultimately joyful process.

Part of this growth process occurred last year when I had an opportunity to talk to SGI North American Bureau Director Norimasa Saito about the temple issue. One thing he said really stuck with me. He said, If the American members do not really grasp this issue then kosen-rufu will stop with Japan. I was shocked by that and wondered about how that could be and what it meant.

Then in August last year I was asked along with some other members to give a presentation about Soka Spirit at the Women’s Conference at the Florida Nature and Culture Center. We decided to give a historical presentation based on the book The Untold Story of the Fuji School. As I read and re-read the book and prepared for the presentation I came away with a new perspective on Mr. Saito’s statement and on my own life.

The driving force behind the situation with the temple is the arrogance and attachment to difference which is the hallmark of the poison of anger. The essence of the devilish function metaphorically described in Nichiren Daishonin’s writings and the Lotus Sutra as the Devil King of the Sixth Heaven is the desire to control or manipulate people for self aggrandizement, which in turn stems from a deep seated insecurity about the self. This is a recurring pattern of behavior found in the history of the world, in the history of Buddhism and even in our own lives.

In my own life I discovered a very deep sense of insecurity which manifests in many ways: in an unwillingness to confront authority figures or people whose opinions of me I give great importance to, even when their behavior is destructive and disrespectful; in pretending that I don’t have problems or that I’m handling them better than I really am; in comparing myself to others and always coming up short. I also discovered that while on one hand I was chanting for my 22-year-old son to grow up and be strong and independent, deep inside I really wanted to keep him needy and dependent on me; because in my heart I believed that if he didn’t need me, then he wouldn’t love me. That desire to keep people in my environment dependent on me, so they will need me, is similar to High Priest Nikken Abe’s desire to set himself up as the person upon whom all people must believe they depend for their own enlightenment.

The other thing I realized during the course of preparing for this presentation was the importance of the present time period. In the book The Untold History of the Fuji School there is a statement by Nichiko who was high priest for a brief time and helped second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda in publishing the Gosho Zenshu (a collection of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings) after the World War II. He said: ‘The flow of the Law of Nichiren Daishonin is frequently obstructed. Obstacles arise from both within and without but those from within inflict the most serious wounds. With external obstacles even if they interrupt the flow [of kosen-rufu] it will revive again after a period. With internal obstacles however the flow is interrupted as a result of a complete drying up [of the flow itself] thus it is not as easy to revive. Unless we all profoundly recognize this point the prospects of seeing the dawn of kosen-rufu even in a thousand or ten thousand years will be extremely dim’ (The Untold History of the Fuji School p. 9).

I believe that the present time period is very much like the 80 year period from 1253-1333 when the Daishonin’s Buddhism grew and prospered because of the mentor-disciple relationship between the Daishonin the second high priest Nikko Shonin and Nichimoku the third high priest. In our time period the same thing has occurred because of the mentor-disciple relationship between Soka Gakkai presidents Makiguchi Toda and Ikeda. We are now at the 70-year mark in this time period.

The question is what will happen in the future? Will we factionalize as happened after Nichimoku died? It could happen and the Law would be lost again. Will there be people as committed to protecting the teachings and standing up for the truth at a crucial moment as were Presidents Makiguchi Toda and Ikeda? Would I be willing to go to jail even die in jail as President Makiguchi did in order to protect the true teachings of Nichiren Daishonin? Am I that committed?

When I asked myself these questions I realized again it comes back to my own life — how committed am I to seeing that my members are happy that my family is happy — how committed am I to my own happiness? I believe it takes the same level of commitment to become happy in our lives as it did for President Makiguchi to do what he did. Just as there was always hesitation in my life to fully commit to Soka Spirit there has always been a hesitation to fully commit to my own happiness.

That hesitation is now gone and with its exit, my life has changed enormously — internally I feel like a different person altogether. As I continue to participate (now enthusiastically) in Soka Spirit activities I also find that the process of internal discovery and change continues. Externally those changes are manifesting in many ways, including the fact that my son has (at long last) moved away from home — some 600 miles away — and is struggling to make it on his own. And so am I, but joyfully so.


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


The great desire of Nichiren Daishonin the Buddha of the Latter Day is to enable all people without any favoritism or discrimination to attain Buddhahood equally.

The various sufferings of all humankind are the sufferings of the one person Nichiren (Gosho Zenshu p. 758). Every time I read this passage I am moved by the infinitely vast and immeasurable compassion of the original Buddha who sought to save all people of the Latter Day from life’s numerous sufferings. I am filled with a profound sense of appreciation.

The purpose of Buddhism is to bring out the Buddha nature that all people inherently possess to awaken people to it and enable them to attain Buddhahood. Moreover the Lotus Sutra does not allow for any discrimination; all people are equally entitled to salvation. Thus to deny equality is to deny the Lotus Sutra. (My Dear Friends in America p. 115)

One in a series.


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

Jan. 18 World Tribune p. 2: In his speech entitled Our Mission Is To Free Humanity SGI President Ikeda discusses the growth that the SGI has experienced since being excommunicated by Nichiren Shoshu.