The Mentor and Disciple spirit – My understanding (Part 1)

What is the mentor and disciple spirit? 

When the disciple make a vow to fight for kosen-rufu without begrudging his life. This spirit is identical to the life state of Nichiren Daishonin. The three presidents of the Soka Gakkai demonstrated this spirit with their very lives, living each day by actualising this vow, without sparing any effort. The result is the widespread propagation of the Daishonin’s Buddhism to 192 countries and territories.

To fully benefit and freely draw from the infinite fountain of wisdom, compassion and courage of our Buddhahood, we need to tap it through this spirit. The mentor and disciple spirit is the key.

A vow. Hmmm… sounds pretty daunting. Especially for newbies like me. Like a big jump and I am not sure if I am rerady to take the leap. 

Sorry if that sounds intimidating to you. Before I can continue, allow me to explain a little bit more about mentor and disciple. Mentor is the person who guide us towards absolute happiness by practising correctly the Daishonin’s Buddhism. In every field, karate, sushi art, caligraphy, investing, music, etc. one needs a teacher because each has its own path. The mentor guide the student along the correct path. Follow the wrong teacher, your skills or ability will reach an impasse and find yourself unable to advance after awhile. Thus, finding the correct teacher is very important.

There is a path that birds follow 
as they fly through the sky. 
There is a path that fish follow 
as they swim through the sea. 
There is a path that the stars follow 
as they travel the heavens. 
And there is a path of principle 
that human beings should follow. 
This is none other 
than the path of peace.

Symphony of Life, Dec 2011, Daisaku Ikeda 

As for disciple, we choose who to follow and who not to follow. Thus, the relationship of mentor and disciple is really determined by the disciple. The spirit of mentor and disciple means both the mentor and the disciple sharing the same goal and same determination for kosen-rufu. Like Nichiren.

Let me assure you there is no necessary to make any leap or do anything that you are not comfortable to practice this Buddhism. Most people progress step-by-step. Can always start with something small. Small victories. Share it with others and build it up over time. One step at a time.

What if I don’t feel it? I mean, I can understand, theoretically, the overall concept. But it is never much a part of me. Sensei is sensei, and I am I. I don’t see ‘us’ as together like some of the other leaders. Is something wrong with my faith?

No need to fret. Continue to practice for oneself and others. It will come eventually. Once, I heard this from a senior of a ‘three-step formula’ of how we can learn more of this spirit.

First, we make an effort to read and learn about the philosophy, guidance and books written by Mr Ikeda. Develop a more profound understanding. Also, learn about the actions that he took, the challenges and difficulties he surmounted and the effect of these efforts. All are in The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution. Through this, we will be able to appreciate the greatness of our mentor intellectually. Oh, visit the Mentor and Disciple Peace Hall in WKSGM too.

Second, put into practice his guidance. For example, make it a point to introduce this Buddhism to the people that are in pain needed this the most. When we start taking actions for kosen-rufu, we will develop a deeper understanding of Mr Ikeda.

Thirdly, when we encounter difficulty major setbacks in our kosen-rufu effort. When we are in the middle of something really big, then, we can feel a little bit more what Mr Ikeda must have went through to spread this Buddhism worldwide. When we make a fresh vow and challenge the difficulty head on, we will again, understand the spirit of mentor and disciple, not just intellectually, but both emotionally and spiritually.

I heard that some people can see and judge whether a person possess the mentor and disciple spirit. They say that those who become inactive, or leave the Gakkai, do not have this spirit. Is it true? 

That’s nonsense. Please pay no attention to that. No one can say whether you have or don’t have the mentor and disciple spirit. No one, you hear me?

Why is this spirit so important? 

It is the most essential core value of the Soka Gakkai. You can say that if this spirit diminish now, the Gakkai will stop growing and start to decay. It is that important. It’s our lifeblood. Our heart, that keep pumping the blood to each and every cell, non-stop.

Then, we should make everyone in Gakkai to have this spirit. Right? 

Make? How to make? We are not a cult. We cannot make anybody do anything. And we should not. We can only encourage, share and lead others into it. We cannot force it on others. We cannot say things like, Ýou don’t have the mentor and disciple spirit, you should leave the Gakkai. This is tantamount to not respecting the Buddha in each person. Or strictly speaking, committing slander.

Some leaders in Gakkai are asking questions about the mismanagement of money and the lack of check and balance in Gakkai. They were labelled as not having Sensei in their heart. we were told to distance ourselves from them. Some even call us to refute them and put them in their place. Is this right?

Asking questions and demanding proper management of funds are good to prevent those in power from pocketing it. In fact, it is important. Any large organisation, with millions of dollars in the piggy bank, cannot be without strict control and governance. Perhaps, it is more true to say that those who say that we should just leave everything to the top leaders to settle and trust them are the ones who do not truly care for the organisation’s well-being. Do not have the mentor and disciple spirit.

We must remember that the spirit of mentor and disciple is a core spirit that we need to foster within each and every Gakkai members. It is wrong to use this as a weapon to shut people up and instill fear in them, saying that without the mentor and disciple spirit, one will have no good fortune. That’s just wrong. This is abusing the term. I am sure Mr Ikeda will not approve of this.

Today, some leaders within the SGM felt that they need to continue to carry out their mission as a leader because they keep telling themselves that they are doing it for the sake of the members. They are doing on behalf of Sensei. Sensei would want me to take care of my members. It is not for anyone else. No matter how difficult the situation become, they strive on. This is an example of the mentor and disciple spirit. Truly honourable.

What about those who resigned? Do they still have the spirit of mentor and disciple? 

The spirit is something intangible. You cannot see or touch. It is manifested in the actions. It is also not dependent on position. If one were to continue striving in their own human revolution, gaining trust in society and working sincerely for the sake of others’happiness, then we can certainly say that the spirit is alive and robust. If a high ranking leader who are conceited, look down on others and say that this or that person should leave the Gakkai because they disagree, then, the spirit is no longer in him.

But this spirit of mentor and disciple sound a little ”cult-like” to me. We are practising Buddhism. Why are we focusing so much on a person? A human being?   

The thing is this. The philosophy of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is very profound. It is the supreme universal life philosophy. It is way too difficult to describe it in words. Thus, we need a model, a human being who demonstrate it with his own life. Thus, we need a human. And Mr Ikeda is teaching us that each and every one of us equally possess the Buddha nature. We are the same, no different from Mr Ikeda. We have the same potential, the same Buddhahood as our mentor. Just that we each has our own and unique mission. So, in this sense, it doesn’t fit the cult definition, I guess.

So, in a nutshell, what is the spirit of mentor and disciple?

Sorry, I cannot put it in a nutshell. Also, I am still learning and still a lot more to learn. It is a huge concept. But I try anyway. In one Sensei’s lecture, he said that he gave his all every time, his entire being, when giving guidance or in a dialogue. Regardless of who the person is or how big the crowd is. He never held back. He put this Gosho passage in action – Exert millions of kalpas of efforts in a single moment of life. (Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings.)

This is the best nut I can give. Mr Ikeda has been doing that since he took up faith at 19. Maybe we can try to put this into practice first.

For more understanding, you can read Why stress so much on Mentor Disciple Relationship .


4 thoughts on “The Mentor and Disciple spirit – My understanding (Part 1)

  1. I am from Youth Division. I am not comfortable to shout below slogan. I feel weird like “we need to respond to sensei and we need to fight for sensei”. Shouldn’t we fight for and respond to people who are suffering ? Instead of Sensei ? It is like MLM organization shouting slogan to fight for Sales Quota and a Person (Sensei) but Not Law. Relying on the Law not on Person.
    From my observation, some leaders always use Sensei name to trigger fear upon us just wanna us to comply or obey what they said. They lack of confidence and lack of good leadership to convince us to follow therefore always manipulate Sensei name ask us just to follow. No questions and just purely follow. What we learn from Sensei is we need to deepen our critical thinking and not like robot without asking question.

    Please HELP TO ENLIGHTEN me.

    *Shakubuku Slogan*
    Sensei no
    tameni tatakai masho
    Kosen-rufu no
    tameni tatakai masho

    _Let’s fight for_
    _the sake of Sensei_
    _Let’s fight for_
    _the sake of Kosen-rufu_


    1. Thank you for your comment. Fighting for Sensei as a slogan is a personal way of members responding to Sensei. Many of them were strongly encouraged by the guidance of Sensei. Thus they feel that to repay their gratitude, one way is to work together with Sensei, sharing the same heart. I don’t see any problem with that. But then, like you say, if this comes from the top, using it as a slogan to rally people to increase shakubuku, then, I agree with you. It’s weak leadership that lack self-confidence. I believe the right approach is to make it vow on our own, not asking others to do it. When we help those who are suffering and feel the great joy of overcoming difficulties with them, then, others will naturally want to fight with Sensei, fight for Sensei. That’s my take.


  2. Genuine leaders does not just say, they should show concrete examples, if not it’s a fake, very unhealthy md extremely dangerous!
    What examples have been shown so far, it’s there for all to see if they look closely.
    Buddhism never advocate blind and passive faith, that is not true Buddhism.
    Buddhism I totally believe, teaches the highest form of common sense & reason and speaking the truth without fear!! Positions are nothing in the Buddhist community.
    Those with passive thinking and with a timid and unquestionably follow orders are NOT practicing the Daishonin’s Buddhism.


  3. Allama Perth, you’re so right that why every time sensei this and sensei that? Why seldom Daishonin or Shakyamuni?
    After all Soka Gakkai and religion should exist for the sake of human beings, that’s the whole purpose Buddhist practice isn’t it?
    The Buddha has warned numerous times never put a person on a pedestal otherwise future generation might worship him or her instead of the law.


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