Building a Network 50,000 Strong
by SGI-USA Youth Leaders David Witkowski, Olivia Saito and Mike O’Malley
Hello, outstanding members of the SGI-USA! Thanks to all of your dedicated efforts, we are closing in on 50,000 registered participants for the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival on Sept. 23. Thank you very much and congratulations! We still have available seats at each venue, so we can continue to invite young people until all openings are filled.
Forging deep bonds of friendship among 50,000 youth leading into the festival.
While we continue to help our friends register for the festival, we would like to ensure that each registered participant develops a strong connection to the SGI. Many of the youth attending the festival will either be friends of the SGI or youth members who have not attended an activity in a long time but have registered due to the bond they developed with a friend or family member who actively participates in the SGI. The Lions of Justice Festival is not simply a one-day event to gather many people; it is a gathering to kick off a powerful movement that fights for and celebrates the dignity and beauty of all life.
The key to generating this powerful momentum will be to help everyone who attends to develop bonds of friendship with not only the person who invited them, but also with other SGI members in their local area. Through this effort, we hope to develop in each participant a broader understanding of the SGI’s movement for peace and human revolution. On developing friendships, SGI President Ikeda says:
Our hearts change others’ hearts. Friendship changes people. Travelers who pull their capes over their shoulders and brace themselves determinedly against the cold wind naturally relax and change their outlook and actions when warmed by the sun. The SGI is an organization of friendship. I hope that, with the warmth of the sun, you will shower one another with friendship and spread waves of camaraderie and affection throughout society. (My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 253)
In response to Sensei’s call, let’s make all-out efforts to ensure that on the day of the festival, it is indeed a gathering of 50,000 like-minded friends, standing up as lions.
Developing youth unshaken by adversity.
Out of the 50,000 registered participants, approximately 3,500 youth are supporting the festival as Byakuren, Soka Group, Ikeda Youth Ensemble performers and with other behind-the-scenes functions. We want to ensure that every youth member supporting this event develops an unshakable foundation in faith. Based on Nichiren Daishonin’s admonition “as practice progresses and understanding grows, the three obstacles and four devils emerge in confusing form, vying with one another to interfere” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 281), obstacles are sure to arise in the lives of the youth fighting hard toward Sept. 23.
Therefore, in addition to our registration efforts, I’d like to humbly ask for the support of our four-divisional leaders to visit these youth (in particular members of the Byakuren, Soka Group and Ikeda Youth Ensemble), who are taking the initiative behind the scenes for the festival. Through our warm care, let’s ensure that they receive encouragement in faith and have unprecedented experiences of actual proof.
The phantom city is the treasure land!
Treasuring the youth in this way will make certain that they realize the deeper significance of their experiences leading up to the festival, using every obstacle and challenge as an expedient means to develop the inner strength and conviction necessary to transform their lives. Without understanding this fundamental lesson, the festival will become an end-point, disconnected from their daily lives.
SGI Vice President Yumiko Kasanuki conveyed this perspective in her recent guidance to the SGI-USA Executive Council, based on President Ikeda’s encouragement about engaging in campaigns for kosen-rufu and the significance of the time. In a message that President Ikeda sent to leaders in Japan, he quoted the following passage from Nichiren Daishonin:
Nichiren and his followers, people who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, gain enlightenment into the fact that our bodies and minds are the Wonderful Law itself, namely, that the phantom city is identical with the treasure land. The Ten Worlds are all of them phantom cities, and each of these Ten Worlds is a treasure land. (The Record of Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 72)
About this passage, President Ikeda said that to progress kosen-rufu, it is important that we set concrete goals, which serve as phantom cities, and strive to achieve each one along our journey.
In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha conjures a phantom city on the long road toward enlightenment to inspire his followers to keep advancing, just a little more, until they reach a beautiful city. Shakyamuni explains that while the phantom city serves as an expedient means to inspire his disciples to continue striving, it is also the treasure land of enlightenment, because it functions to encourage people to make persistent efforts in their Buddhist practice (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 154–81). President Ikeda emphasizes that we open up the Buddha’s life condition from within when we make wholehearted efforts toward our goals. In fact, in striving toward a goal for kosen-rufu, the place where we dwell becomes a treasure land of enlightenment.
Mrs. Kasanuki also shared that the final installment of President Ikeda’s The New Human Revolution will be published in the Sept. 8, 2018, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. President Ikeda has often said that he writes each installment of The New Human Revolution as if writing a personal letter of encouragement to each member. Mrs. Kasanuki, therefore, encouraged all of us to cherish this opportunity to read The New Human Revolution as if receiving a personal letter from Sensei.
She also noted that the world is waiting in anticipation for the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival, which will serve as the first major campaign and event for the SGI after the completion of The New Human Revolution. This signifies the start of a fresh, new departure for our worldwide kosen-rufu movement.
All of you are working so hard in the final stretch of registrations, encouraging the youth and making earnest preparations for our historic festival with our mentor. We look forward to making it an event brimming with the beauty of human harmony and joy of passionate youth, determined to shift the trajectory of our nation to one based on respect for the dignity and preciousness of all people. Thank you very much!