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What Is Kosen-rufu Gongyo?

On the first weekend of each month, SGI-USA members gather at their respective Buddhist centers across the country in a tradition that spans decades. Together, they refresh their vow to advance kosen-rufu alongside SGI President Ikeda based on the harmonious unity of “many in body, one in mind” and the “oneness of mentor and disciple.”

These gatherings also give members an opportunity to hear guidance and encouragement directly from their mentor via recorded broadcasts and videos, while uniting with their fellow members.

Though often explained as corresponding with “world peace,” kosen-rufu holds significant and specific meaning in Nichiren Buddhism that cannot be simply equated to mean world peace. Therefore, while some locales refer to this gathering as a “world peace prayer meeting,” the SGI-USA Central Executive Committee agreed in September to officially return to calling these monthly gatherings “kosen-rufu gongyo meetings,” reaffirming their original intent and spirit.

Where does the phrase “kosen-rufu” come from?

The term kosen-rufu originates from a passage in “Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King,” the 23rd chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which states, “You must spread it [the Lotus Sutra] abroad widely throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world] and never allow it to be cut off ” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 330).

The word kosen-rufu is a Japanese translation of the above phrase spread it abroad widely. The teaching to be spread abroad widely is the Lotus Sutra, whose key message is that all people possess within them the potential for Buddhahood, regardless of such distinctions as race, gender or class.

Nichiren Daishonin identified himself as the votary of the Lotus Sutra, and he established the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, embodying the essence of the Lotus Sutra, as the concrete means for people to call forth their Buddha nature. He then made it his lifelong mission to fulfill the injunction of the Buddha to accomplish kosen-rufu by spreading this practice far and wide.

The most distinguishing characteristic of Nichiren Buddhism is its emphasis on kosen-rufu.

For SGI members, kosen-rufu is the movement to communicate the ultimate way to happiness through the correct teaching and practice of Nichiren Buddhism. Spreading the Mystic Law is both our mission and the direct path to our own happiness.

SGI President Ikeda explains:

The most distinguishing characteristic of Nichiren Buddhism is its emphasis on kosen-rufu—the widespread propagation of the Mystic Law.

It is a teaching that urges us to dedicate ourselves to spreading the Mystic Law, the universal Law of life, throughout the world and realizing happiness and peace for all humanity, because this is the mission for which we were born into this world and the path to our own happiness as well.

In Nichiren Buddhism, therefore, we practice for both ourselves and others. We strive in our Buddhist practice not just to gain the benefits of the Law ourselves, but to share the teachings with others and introduce them to the practice so that they, too, can gain the same benefits. (September 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 51)

Our goal as SGI members is to “establish the correct teaching for the peace of the land,” which requires each individual to establish peace in their hearts and in their lives, while establishing in society the principles of Buddhist humanism and respect for the dignity of life.

President Ikeda writes:

Throughout his lifetime, Nichiren stressed the need to spread the correct teaching and firmly establish the philosophical principles of Buddhism in the heart of each individual, thereby creating a peaceful and prosperous society for all.

From one perspective, it can be said that “establishing the correct teaching,” or widely spreading the Mystic Law, represents our religious mission as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, and that realizing the “peace of the land” represents our social mission. (September 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 52)

Kosen-rufu is an unending flow.

It was not until the 20th century, with the founding of the Soka Gakkai, that the Mystic Law began to spread in earnest to ordinary people—first in Japan and then throughout the world. Based on the profound example and actions of the three founding Soka Gakkai presidents, the Law has been indeed spread widely to more than 12 million people in 192 countries and territories.

Still, kosen-rufu is not a fixed goal, but rather an unending flow, as President Ikeda describes here:

The Daishonin writes, “If Nichiren’s compassion is truly great and encompassing, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will spread for ten thousand years and more, for all eternity” (“On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 736). He is indicating that the flow of kosen-rufu—of widespread propagation—goes on endlessly, never ceasing. Kosen-rufu is not the end point of the flow; it is the flow itself, the vibrant coursing of this living Buddhism throughout society and the world. (September 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 56)

Fostering successors is the key to eternally perpetuating the Law.

All our efforts for kosen-rufu are for the sake of our successors and for opening the way to the eternal future. President Ikeda writes: “Without people who will inherit our legacy and carry on our movement—that is, without successors—there is no future.

“Like a mighty flowing river, kosen-rufu is the transmission of the humanistic spirit of Nichiren Buddhism to the next generation, to the future. It is a relay in which the baton of our noble cause is handed forward” (July 5, 2013, World Tribune, p. 5).

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