Thursday, 3 July 2014

Master - Apprentice - Successor


Do you know the name of this famous church?  It’s the Sagrada Família by Gaudi.  How long do you think it took to build?  Would you be surprised to know it’s still not finished! 

Initially it was someone else’s project and was started in 1882, but a year later Gaudi took over and improved the design.  When he died 45 years later it was still only 25% finished, and it isn’t expected to be completed until 2026!

Since his death, senior architects and project managers have overseen the continuation of this construction in accordance with Gaudi’s designs, and, even after a fire destroyed the plans during World War 2, his successors managed to redraw the designs from memory.

New and Old Construction
This cathedral is a very ambitious project which is one of the reasons it has taking so long, and without funding from the government, the speed of construction is dependent on the voluntary donations of visitors to the cathedral and private individuals.

But, whereas this cathedral could well have been left as an unfinished monument to Gaudi and remained 25% complete, the spirit of Gaudi’s apprentices, and their successors, to fulfil their mentor’s vision has maintained the momentum of construction.

THIS is the spirit of July 3rd


July 3rd is not just about how great Mr. Makiguchi, Josei Toda or President Ikeda are as individuals, but it’s about recognizing their shared determination to see Buddhism spread throughout Japan and the world. 

July 3rd 1944 was the day that Josei Toda, the second president of the Soka Gakkai, was released from prison and on his way home he saw the state of Tokyo at that time – a city that had been bombed with many people suffering.  That evening he sat before his Gohonzon and vowed:

“Gohonzon and Nichiren Daishonin!  I, Josei Toda, swear to work to achieve kosen-rufu”

But making a vow for kosen-rufu is not exclusive to the Soka Gakkai, it originates with, and is a continuation of, the vows of Shakyamuni and Nichiren Daishonin.

In the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni talks about why buddhas appear in the world:

“The buddhas, the world-honoured ones, wish to open the door of buddha wisdom to all living beings, to allow them to attain purity.  This is why they appear in the world.”  (LSOC2, 64)

He mentions his own vows:

“Shariputra, you should know that at the start I took a vow hoping to make all persons equal to me, without distinction between us.” (LSOC2, 70)

“At all times I think to myself: How can I cause living beings to gain entry into the unsurpassed way and quickly acquire the body of a buddha?”  (LSOC16, 273)

And he asks us to do the same:

“Now I entrust it to you.  You must single-mindedly propagate this Law abroad, causing its benefits to spread far and wide. … You must accept, uphold, read, recite, and broadly propagate this Law, causing all living beings everywhere to hear and understand it.”  (LSOC22, 319)

“After I have passed into extinction, who can guard and uphold, read and recite this sutra?  Now in the presence of the Buddha let him come forward and speak his vow” (LSOC11, 217)

Nichiren began his own spiritual journey of enlightenment by making a vow to become the wisest person in Japan, and later, after nearly being beheaded at Tatsunokuchi Beach, he declared his great vow in “The Opening of the Eyes”:

“This I will state.  Let the gods forsake me.  Let all persecutions assail me.  Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law”  (WND-1, p280)

“Here I will make a great vow.  Though I might be offered the rulership of Japan if I would abandon the Lotus Sutra, accept the teachings of the Meditation Sutra, and look forward to rebirth in the Pure Land, though I might be told that my father and mother will have their heads cut off if I do not recite the Nembutsu – whatever obstacles I might encounter, so long as persons of wisdom do not prove my teachings to be false, I will never yield!  All other troubles are no more to me than dust before the wind.  I will be the pillar of Japan.  I will be the eyes of Japan.  I will be the great ship of Japan.  This is my vow, and I will never forsake it!”  (WND-1, p280)

In another letter he warns followers of Shakyamuni’s earlier teachings of the vow of a bodhisattva:

 “It is the nature of bodhisattvas to put off their own nirvana until they fulfil the vow to save all others.  If persons of the two vehicles cannot attain Buddhahood, then how can bodhisattvas fulfil their vow to save all people?  With this vow unfulfilled, they too cannot attain Buddhahood.” (WND-2, 278)

And in two other letters, he encourages his followers to make a great vow:

“Now you should make a great vow and pray for your next life”  (WND-1, p626)

“My wish is that all my disciples make a great vow” (WND-1, p1002)


We are the architects of our own future - a future that shines with Shakyamuni and Nichiren’s vision of kosen-rufu and based on the foundation of a great vow to reveal our Buddhahood and to teach others to reveal their Buddhahood.

Shakyamuni had the vision of kosen-rufu when he awoke to the ultimate reality of life and all phenomena and explained that the Lotus Sutra should be taught far and wide, but many people couldn’t see his idea clearly.

Nichiren Daishonin grasped the meaning of the Lotus Sutra and, as well as ensuring he taught others how great it was, he created a blueprint for a daily practice that made The Lotus Sutra more accessible to everyday people.

Seven hundred years later, Mr. Makiguchi, Josei Toda and President Ikeda are the project managers of kosen-rufu within the Soka Gakkai.  Times may have changed, but the way to spread this Buddhism, one-to-one with our friends and by shining in our daily lives within our families, workplaces and communities is the same.


Mr. Makiguchi started the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai and established an organisation of 3000 members around the Tokyo area.

After the war, Josei Toda, stood alone, but tried to gather some of these former members together to share his great vow and his vision of kosen rufu.  And, through his encouragement, organisation and faith spread Nichiren Buddhism throughout Japan with a total of 800,000 households before he died.

President Ikeda has gone on to build upon this by continuing to inspire members in Japan and overseas to enable the SGI to be established and to expand through 193 countries.


We are now entrusted with the spread of Buddhism within our own countries and communities, and on July 3rd – “Mentor-Disciple Day” - we are the ones that make a vow to stand up and share Nichiren Buddhism with others.  The great vow of a single individual committed to advancing kosen-rufu with the same passion, intention and spirit as Shakyamuni, Nichiren Daishonin and the three founding presidents of the SGI.