Launching Toward Nov. 18, 2018

Youth leaders in West Territory kick off toward the SGI’s next milestone.

Our aim is to lead lives that are rich and fulfilling, characterized by respect for the noble dignity of human life. At the same time, we stand resolutely opposed to any action that denigrates people. Photo by Meghna Damani.

by Martin Saito

LAGUNA HILLS, Calif., Oct. 8—In a spirited and dignified meeting that served as West Territory’s kick off toward the SGI’s next milestone of Nov. 18, 2018, some 170 chapter through national youth leaders from Southern California and Las Vegas gathered at the South Orange County Buddhist Center with SGI Vice President Yoshiki Tanigawa.

Mr. Tanigawa traveled from Japan to attend a series of meetings in Boston, Los Angeles and New York, on behalf of SGI President Ikeda. He was accompanied by Soka Gakkai Vice President Kyoichi Rikitake.

Nov. 18, 2018, not only celebrates the 88th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding, but also the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, where SGI members from throughout the world gather to reaffirm their vow as Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Advancing toward these significant milestones, the SGI-USA is now focused on securing a solid foundation of youthful successors, with its goal of gathering 50,000 determined youth in 2018 to respond to President Ikeda’s call for peace and to take a stand for the dignity of life.

The meeting unfolded with opening remarks by Mr. Tanigawa, who conveyed President Ikeda’s best regards to the youth and his appreciation for their efforts each day to expand the kosen-rufu movement in the U.S.

During the meeting, which included a Q&A session, Mr. Tanigawa gave a brief history of the Soka Gakkai’s postwar reconstruction efforts, stressing the importance of the stand-alone spirit demonstrated by second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda and the young Daisaku Ikeda, based on the oneness of mentor and disciple. He also discussed the Buddhist view of good and evil.

I will single-handedly accomplish it.

Mr. Tanigawa noted that the starting point of the modern Soka Gakkai movement began on May 3, 1951, when Mr. Toda was inaugurated the second Soka Gakkai president. On that day, he vowed that, within his lifetime, he would achieve a membership of 750,000 households. “If my goal should not be attained by the end of my life, you need not hold a funeral for me, but just throw my remains into the sea off Shinagawa, all right?” (The Human Revolution, p. 563).

“Becoming a disciple is something that the disciple decides, not the mentor.”

This was a bold determination, given that there were 3,000 households, or roughly 5,000 members, at the time. “President Toda’s declaration was not let’s do 750,000,” Mr. Tanigawa said. “He said that he would single-handedly accomplish it. He was going to do it even if he were the only person.”

After President Toda accomplished his lifetime goal in December 1957, and just prior to his passing, he asked the young Daisaku Ikeda whether he could realize a membership of 3 million households within the next seven years. Daisaku Ikeda having inherited the same stand-alone spirit as his mentor, accomplished President Toda’s vision in 1962 as the third Soka Gakkai president.

The spirit and actions of a genuine disciple.

Mr. Tanigawa also shared how, in 1984, he coordinated a gathering of 1,000 youth who were part of the future division training group founded a decade prior. Mr. Tanigawa recalled President Ikeda’s speech on that occasion. “Sensei recounted to us that becoming a disciple is something that the disciple decides, not the mentor,” he said. “I realized that it is the disciple who takes the action and produces results becoming of a disciple. It’s neither the number of times you meet the mentor nor your physical proximity. It’s up to your awareness and conviction that you are actualizing the ideals and vision of the mentor in the world today.”

“Kosen-rufu is a battle between the Buddha
and devilish functions.”

During the Q&A session, Mr. Tanigawa touched on the true meaning of good and evil. He first reminded the youth that “kosen-rufu is an eternal battle between the Buddha and devilish functions.” He also clarified that there are no absolutes in good and evil as they are both in constant flux, depending on our determination and frame of mind. To illustrate these points, Mr. Tanigawa explained the story of Shakyamuni Buddha and his cousin Devadatta, who, out of jealousy, attempted to kill Shakyamuni and create a schism within the Buddhist order.

Through Shakyamuni’s response to Devadatta and after the latter’s true intentions had surfaced, not only did it allow for everyone to see the greatness of Shakyamuni’s life condition but also enabled his disciples to encourage more people to join Shakyamuni.

“It is because of evil that we can reveal the complete nature of goodness,” Mr. Tanigawa said. He also explained the Buddhist perspective of a good friend in faith, citing Nichiren’s words: “Devadatta was the foremost good friend to the Thus Come One Shakyamuni. In this age as well, it is not one’s allies but one’s powerful enemies who assist one’s progress” (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 770).

“Good friends in Buddhism enable us to elevate our life condition as well as deepen our faith,” Mr. Tanigawa said. Nichiren’s point, he said, is that, much more than our allies, it is our adversaries who help us grow and become happy. “Depending on one’s faith, these so-called enemies can either turn into good friends, or they can discourage you and make you stop practicing,” he said. “It all depends on you. If we use the opportunity for evil as a catalyst, we can transform our life and grow in faith based on this battle.”

The meeting culminated in the youth linking arms to sing “Forever Sensei,” an expression of their united vow to stand up as disciples and overcome all adversity together with their mentor toward Nov. 18, 2018, and beyond.

(p. 11)