Lion Kings of Mentor and Disciple!
At New York’s Town Hall, 1,500 representative leaders make a fresh departure toward Nov. 18, 2018, and the nationwide goal of gathering 50,000 youth.
by Matthew Anton
NEW YORK, Oct. 2—In a powerful tribute to SGI World Peace Day, nearly 1,500 leaders of East Territory gathered at New York’s Town Hall to unite toward SGI-USA’s next great goal— 50,000 determined youth gathering in 2018 to respond to SGI President Ikeda’s call and take a stand for the dignity of life.
It was in President Ikeda’s recent message to the 19th Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders meeting that the SGI’s next great milestone of Nov. 18, 2018—the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu—was announced (see Oct. 7 World Tribune, p. 2).
A national historic landmark, the Town Hall was originally opened in 1921 in the heart of New York’s Theater District by the League for Political Education, whose campaign for women’s voting rights led to the passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The facility was built so individuals of all backgrounds could be educated on the important issues of the day.
In a message to the event, SGI President Ikeda said he was aware of the members’ efforts to propel America forward through “stunning achievements in expanding our movement for kosen-rufu.”
“By chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for your own happiness and that of others, all of you are causing the supreme life of the Buddha to shine within your hearts. You can thereby open limitlessly within you and within others a grand state of life characterized by the four virtues of eternity, happiness, true self and purity, which will pervade and embrace the entire universe.
“My mentor, Josei Toda, said: ‘Chanting daimoku [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] for both oneself and others is absolute. Among those who do so, a hundred out of a hundred, a thousand out of a thousand, will show proof of this without fail. They will transform all their problems while at the same time helping many others.’ ”
President Ikeda continued: “Together, let’s continue to plant even more seeds of trust and understanding of Buddhism in our communities and society. And while joyfully and wisely enabling those seeds to grow, let’s achieve even greater expansion of the youth division, expansion and development of capable people, expansion of friendship and expansion of happiness.
“The source of expansion for the SGI’s solid network of peace, culture and education in 192 countries and territories is to be found in America. “In accord with Nichiren Daishonin’s words ‘the farther the source, the longer the stream’ (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 940), when we look toward the future development of worldwide kosen-rufu, its source lies entirely in the development of the SGI-USA.”
Attending the meeting as representatives of President Ikeda were SGI Vice President and Soka Gakkai Senior Vice President Yoshiki Tanigawa and Soka Gakkai Vice President Kyoichi Rikitake.
Beneath a banner declaring: “Lion Kings of Mentor & Disciple Eternalize the Triumphant Spirit of SGI,” the celebration commenced with the Ikeda Youth Ensemble’s Brass Band, Dance, Fife and Drum Corps, Chorus and Taiko groups. Weeks of rehearsal and the efforts of the costume crew and other behind-the-scenes participants paid off as each group sparkled with joy, passion, humor, unity and the spirit of seeking the mentor.
And the leaders in the audience were not there just to observe—they rose to their feet, time after time, with shouts of support, brimming with pride for the sincerity and nobility of the youthful successors. To conclude, the groups sang “Youth With a Noble Vow” and raised placards revealing the number 50,000—their bold determination for a historic gathering of youth in 2018 to declare the victory of Soka and the victory of mentor and disciple. Again, the assembled leaders rose to their feet and roared their approval.
The performances were followed by words from East Territory Leader Tariq Hasan, who announced four recognitions from congressional leaders praising President Ikeda’s dedication and actions for peace (see below). Mr. Hasan also shared some interesting facts about visiting SGI representative Mr. Tanigawa, who, as a junior high and high school student, read more than 500 books, following his mentor’s encouragement that youth should read good books. As a youth division leader, Mr. Tanigawa took a leading role in courageously battling the injustice perpetrated against the SGI by the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, which deviated from the correct teachings of Nichiren Daishonin.
Crystallizing the theme of the gathering, district young women’s leader Cynthia McCright, who joined in 2013, shared the transformative power of her Buddhist practice in revolutionizing her family (see My Family Revolution.)
Mr. Tanigawa then took the stage to a true New York welcome. He informed everyone that President Ikeda had sent an additional message thanking all the participants and requesting that his best regards be sent to all. Mr. Tanigawa then shared his personal experience in faith, including the story of how a determined SGI member introduced Nichiren Buddhism to his father, while he was sitting on a park bench. He joined the same day. His mother resisted the practice for six years but eventually also embraced faith.
The early days of their practice were fraught with obstacles, including losing their family home. However, during this time Mr. Tanigawa met President Ikeda and, with diligent practice and a seeking spirit toward his guidance, his family was able to turn poison into medicine and overcome their obstacles. Although his parents have since passed away, Mr. Tanigawa commented on how proud his father would have been to see him speak today.
Some three decades ago, Mr. Tanigawa found success with a large trading company, but was then offered a new opportunity to work at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. He received personal encouragement from President Ikeda and realized that choosing to live for the SGI, for kosen-rufu, for the oneness of mentor and disciple, and for faith was actually a “shortcut” to genuine happiness in life.
He shared how difficult it is for a disciple to grasp the depth of the mentor’s love and concern for the disciple. The only way that he felt he could repay his debt of gratitude was to dedicate his life to expanding the ranks of Bodhisattvas of the Earth. He said that kosen-rufu is indeed a perpetual struggle for expansion, and that no one has proven this more than President Ikeda.
Mr. Tanigawa concluded his remarks by stating that victory starts with prayer and that a leader’s earnest prayer is the starting point for everything, and that nothing can be achieved with halfhearted resolve. He said that the Soka Gakkai spirit, since the time of first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, is to stand alone and to take the initiative for advancement. Mr. Tanigawa then promised, as a disciple of President Ikeda, to chant with utmost intensity to create a historic victory together with all the members of the SGI-USA in the next two years.
The zone, territory and national youth leaders then led the entire auditorium in a joyful rendition of “Forever Sensei.” Refreshed and inspired, the leaders departed with their sights set on Nov. 18, 2018.
Oct. 2, SGI World Peace Day, Proclamations
Congratulatory letter from U.S. Sen. of New York Kirsten Gillibrand.
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng declares Oct. 2, 2016, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda Day in the 6th Congressional District of New York.
U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel declares Oct. 2, 2016, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda Day in the 13th Congressional District of New York.
Congratulatory letter from U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez of the 7th Congressional District of New York.
U.S. Rep. Velázquez presents a statement recognizing and congratulating SGI President Ikeda’s efforts for peace that was read into the Congressional Record.
President of the Atlanta City Council Ceasar C. Mitchell declares Oct. 2, 2016, SGI World Peace Day in Atlanta.