Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
History & Philosophy
Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
Often taken to signify world peace, kosen-rufu is the fundamental ideal of the SGI. It is the free flow of Buddhist philosophy into society, as SGI President Daisaku Ikeda explains in this excerpt.
The spread of the Mystic Law from one person to another is kosen-rufu. So, too, is its spread from 10,000 to 50,000. But kosen-rufu is not about numbers; it is a process, an eternal flow. Kosen-rufu is not something that will end at some fixed point in time. We won’t sit down one day and say, “Well, now kosen-rufu is finished.” Not only would it spell spiritual death, but we’d lose all motivation for doing our human revolution.
Kosen-rufu is unending. Although we can try to describe it by defining certain conditions to be met, in reality kosen-rufu has no set form.
Kosen means to “widely declare.” “Widely” implies speaking out to the world, to an ever-greater number and ever-broader spectrum of people. “Declare” means to proclaim one’s ideals, principles and philosophy. The ru (flow) of rufu means “a current like that of a great river,” and fu (cloth) means “to spread out like a bolt of cloth.”
related article History of SGI’s Activities for Peace The SGI’s activities in support of nuclear abolition trace their roots back to 1957 when, at the height of the Cold War, second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda made a public declaration calling for the outlawing of all nuclear weapons at a gathering of 50,000 young people in Yokohama, Japan. The teaching of the Mystic Law has nothing to do with appearance, form or pride. It flows out freely to all of humanity the world over. Like a cloth unfolding, it spreads out and covers all. So rufu means to flow freely, reaching all.
Just like a cloth, too, kosen-rufu is woven from vertical and horizontal threads. The vertical threads represent the passing on of the Daishonin’s teaching from mentor to disciple, parent to child, senior to junior. The horizontal threads represent the impartial spread of this teaching, transcending national borders, social classes and all other distinctions.
Simply put, kosen-rufu is the movement to communicate the ultimate way to happiness and the highest principle of peace to people of all classes and nations through the correct philosophy and teaching of Nichiren Daishonin.
Any vendor or salesperson, for example, believes that his or her product—whether it be televisions, fast food, or fresh vegetables—is the best and makes efforts to have as many people as possible know about it and buy it. This is an example of the widespread propagation (kosen-rufu) of one’s beliefs in a sense.
School administrators believe their educational institution employs the best methods and produces the highest quality of students, and they want to have as many people as possible know it. Their activities to promote the school also constitute the widespread propagation of their beliefs.
We cannot live alone, isolated from our fellows. In Japanese, the word human being (Jp. ningen) is written with two Chinese characters which when combined mean “between people.” It is through our interactions with others that we polish our lives and grow as human beings.
Therefore, it is only natural that we should try to share and promote understanding of the philosophy, the ideal, that we believe is most correct and valid with as many people as possible. It is our duty, and also our right.
It is the nature of animals to accumulate food just for themselves. If we were to keep the means we have found for attaining happiness to ourselves and not share it with others, it would mean that we have succumbed to the state of Animality (selfishness), and of Hunger (greed). The wish to share the truth with others, to share the means for achieving happiness with others, is the hallmark of philosophy, of education, of culture, and of Buddhism.
Kosen-rufu means sharing with our fellow human beings through heart-to-heart dialogue and friendship, striving together with them to find the way to become better and happier people. That alliance of individuals working for the happiness of all constitutes kosen-rufu.
Excerpted from Discussions on Youth (SGI-USA, 1998).