Mentor and Disciple

This timeless concept of the oneness of mentor and disciple is key to the continued freshness and progress of the human spirit. Its importance, in essence, is that the spirit of Buddhist humanism is transmitted from generation to generation. Ultimately, the causal Law of life, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, itself is the mentor. The model we can aspire to is a person who exemplifies living their life based on this Law.

Nichiren Daishonin is the model of faith in the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, spending his life in harsh circumstances, constantly encouraging his followers through his writings and finally bestowing the Gohonzon. We also had the benefit of living at the same time as SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, whom we can determine as our mentor. His devoted efforts show actual proof of the power of the creative expression that emanates from the life of one who lives and breathes the principles of Buddhist humanism.

Reading Nichiren Daishonin’s and President Ikeda’s writings is encouraged so that each individual develops a deep understanding and confidence in the profound teachings of Buddhism. Appreciation of the benefit of practising Buddhism enables us to recognise the courageous and selfless action of Nichiren Daishonin and the three founding Presidents of Soka Gakkai (Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda). Members are encouraged to understand the significance of and learn about the achievements of these key figures who have struggled to reveal and revive Buddhist humanism respectively. The original intention of Shakyamuni Buddha was to enable ordinary people to reveal their enlightenment as they are. As Buddhism spread this essential message became lost over time. Significantly, Nichiren Daishonin embodied in the Gohonzon the original essence and spirit of Buddhism as a practice for ordinary people. The Soka Gakkai Presidents inherited this spirit and made it available to all people through the SGI.

Crucially, it is the disciple who chooses the mentor and it has nothing to do with hero worship or treating someone like a god. The disciple actively seeks to reveal their full potential by enacting the mentor’s spirit and guidance in their daily life. The guidance from the mentor is an expression of compassion and conveys a desire for the disciple to become truly happy. In Nichiren Buddhism, the mentor is someone who has mastered the art of living, has embodied the teachings of Buddhism and consistently expresses this enlightenment through the proof of their behaviour. The mentor leads the disciple to the Law. Challenging to enact the mentor’s guidance in daily life is the response of the disciple, enabling the compassionate and humanistic spirit of the mentor to open the unique expression of the disciple’s life. The spirit underlying the oneness of the relationship is that the disciple, learning from the mentor and drawing on their own creative life-force, can apply the life affirming philosophy of Buddhism to their unique circumstances and be a driving force of harmony in their environment. The shared goal of the mentor and disciple is kosen-rufu.