Feature

Absolute Happiness, Absolute Peace:
Creating a Model for the 21st Century

“The SGI-USA’s primary mission is to enable people to become happy, and support them in taking decisive action to enable others to do so as well.”


AdinStrauss_headshotby Adin Strauss
GENERAL DIRECTOR

Since I took on the wonderful challenge as the SGI-USA General Director last September, I’ve been asked on many occasions, “So . . . what’s your vision for the SGI-USA?”

This question has taken on added urgency when we look at American society right now. The litany of violence, tremendous conflict in society and strife in families is, sadly, all too familiar.

1. Kosen-rufu Starts From the Happiness of One Person

The goal of all SGI activities is to enable the greatest number of members to become happy as quickly as possible.

The foundation of this unshakable joy is diligently chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, overflowing with conviction, coupled with action for the sake of others, for the sake of kosen-rufu.

Nichiren Daishonin says, “‘Joy’ means that oneself and others together experience joy” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 146). The purpose of our districts and monthly discussion meetings is to convey this joy to others, and enable them to experience it for themselves. Or as SGI President Ikeda states so beautifully:

The main point is to enable a single member to stand up by imparting heartfelt assurance and understanding. It is the explosion of faith in the microcosm of an individual that causes the macrocosm of the organization—a gathering of many such individuals—to commence its revolution. (My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 20)

And I love President Ikeda’s response to a question about what constitutes a great district:

[A great district] depends, then, on how much benefit its members can experience, how much human revolution they can achieve and how joyful they are. Concretely speaking . . . a really [great district] is one in which, when you ask its members in a discussion meeting, “Can someone share an experience of receiving benefits?” everyone eagerly raises their hand, excited to tell others. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 24, p. 188)

From this, it naturally flows that the SGI-USA’s primary mission is to enable people to become happy, and support them in taking decisive action to enable others to do so as well.

2. Creating Peace and Banishing Fear

Our mission has taken on more importance than ever, given the extent to which anxiety and fear have come to characterize American society. I believe that I’m not alone in seeing that, faced with the grave problems in our country, people are gravitating more and more into one of two “camps,” neither of which offers a true solution to our problems.

• Some, faced with the onslaught of negativity from the media or from their immediate environment, withdraw into passivity and powerlessness—the sense that nothing can be done or changed, and that we are ultimately prisoners of karma and circumstance.

• Others lash out blindly at the “other”— that person or anonymous group of people in the environment, a political party, ethnic group, etc., who are somehow the cause of all the problems.

More than ever, American society is crying out for another way, a different way to truly solve our problems and create lasting peace without resorting to either passive acceptance or instinctive blame of others.

That way is the philosophy of Soka, firmly rooted in the practice of Nichiren Buddhism and yet perfectly clarified and adapted to life in the 21st century, and indeed the 22nd, 23rd and many more centuries to come.

The Key to Conquering Powerlessness

How can we overcome passivity and powerlessness? It is none other than with the brilliant, life-affirming teaching of Nichiren Daishonin, who states unequivocally: “[The life of a human being may fit] . . . inside a mustard seed and the mustard seed will not be stretched nor will the mind [life] be cramped thereby. One may put it in the vast heavens and the heavens will not be too broad for it nor the mind [life] too narrow to fill them” (The Unanimous Declaration by the Buddhas,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 843).

In one of his writings, President Ikeda refers to a passage from Nichiren’s treatise The Selection of the Time,” which states that at the time of kosen-rufu, “Great struggles and disputes such as have never been known in the past will break out in the Jambudvipa” (WND-1, 542). On one occasion, during the height of the Cold War, President Ikeda studied this passage with a gathering of youth, some of whom voiced their fear that this passage could be interpreted as predicting the outbreak of World War III.

At that time, using words that resonate 100 percent with our present circumstances, President Ikeda declared:

If World War III were to occur, the entire human race would be wiped out by nuclear weapons. Must humanity be subjected to even crueler and more horrible suffering than it already has? To allow this to happen would show an abominable lack of compassion as a Buddhist! Let us decide right now that it is World War II to which the Daishonin refers when he speaks of “great struggles and disputes such as have never been known in the past.” Whatever happens, we cannot permit another world war to occur. Let us pray to the Gohonzon with strong determination to prevent such a thing at all costs, pledging to dedicate our lives ungrudgingly to the cause of propagating the Law. Let us definitely achieve kosen-rufu—the dream of lasting peace and happiness for all humanity! (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 1, p. 166)

Bravely Taking Responsibility for Change

President Ikeda decisively refutes environment-blaming as well: “Nichiren Daishonin writes, ‘From [the] single element of mind spring all the various lands and environmental conditions’ (WND-2, 843). Our heart or mind encompasses our environment; likewise the changes that occur in our environment arise from our heart or mind. The mind is incredibly powerful. If you have strong and invincible faith, you can transform your environment” (NHR, vol. 24, p. 320).

3. America’s Mission

Perhaps we are wrestling with the significance of the role that President Ikeda reaffirmed for us when he declared that we are the:

• America of Courage

• America of Capable People

• America of Unity

And perhaps even more so, that we should:

• Be the Model of Worldwide Kosen-rufu!

This last principle is an expression of President Ikeda’s great confidence in us, an expression that has not varied in the least with the passage of time. In fact, this is the core of the very first guidance that he shared with us upon his arrival to Los Angeles in February 1990, for his historic 17-day stay (see My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 3).

Can it be that our country, troubled as it is in so many ways, really has such a profound mission?

Absolutely! It’s precisely because of our many challenges that we are qualified to take on this great mission.

From the horror of World War II and the atomic bombings rose the Soka Gakkai and our kosen-rufu movement. Therefore, it’s only fitting that our country, with its challenges of war, violence and ethnic conflict, should strive to be an example for others to emulate.

There is no magic, secret or mysterious method to achieving this. We can just be natural, be ourselves, as we seek to apply the core principles that he has given us, advancing even one small step forward each day. These principles that Sensei articulated for us in his guidance found in My Dear Friends in America include:

• Profound prayer as the foundation;

• Respect for every individual;

• Tolerance and broadmindedness;

• Showing actual proof in our families, in our places of work and in our communities; and

• Constantly seeking the great mentors of Soka who have shown through both their philosophy and personal example how to attain absolute happiness in this lifetime.

The members of the SGI-USA will definitely accumulate more good fortune than ever as long as we consistently apply these principles, day by day.

4. Toward 2020 and Beyond

With the philosophy of Soka as our foundation, the SGI-USA will make steady progress from today onward. As a first step, the entire national leadership team is firmly determined to support each district in doubling discussion meeting attendance and publications readership by 2020.

And I personally pledge my fullest efforts to support every SGI-USA member in their personal quest to transform their lives, the lives of those around them and our society.

Thank you!