2016: Year in Review
The World Tribune’s Stories of the Year.
On Jan. 26, the Ikeda Wisdom Academy celebrated the third anniversary of the advanced study program for SGI-USA youth leaders.
Academy members study The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, President Ikeda’s groundbreaking six-volume discussion series on the Lotus Sutra.
In line with its motto, “Protecting the Mentor & the Teachings,” the academy empowers members to clearly understand the lineage of Buddhist humanism from Shakyamuni Buddha to Nichiren Daishonin and to the SGI, and to deepen their awareness and conviction in the SGI’s philosophy and practice to combat today’s rising trend of pervasive powerlessness in society.
The SGI-USA held its first youth leaders study exam on Jan. 11, 2015, covering volumes 1–3 of the series. The second exam is to be held on Jan. 29, 2017.
SGI members throughout the world rang in 2016 with these three keys from SGI President Ikeda for expanding Buddhist dialogue, friendship, and the ranks of young and capable individuals in the Year of Expansion in the New Era of Worldwide Kosen-rufu. They are:
1. Expansion of our prayer
2. Expansion of our state of life
3. Expansion of our courage
President Ikeda wrote of expanding these three aspects: “No matter what harsh winters of adversity we may encounter, let’s always challenge them resolutely with the heart of a lion king and send refreshing breezes of happiness that will call forth a beautiful springtime of world peace for our planet and all humanity.”
Soka University of America ranked No. 8 among the top 10 colleges in California for the 2015–16 academic year, according to the USA Today College partner network.
The Aliso Viejo, California-based university came in one spot behind UCLA, and ahead of University of California, Berkeley, and University of California, San Diego, based on the College Factual ranking system.
SUA is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country. In fall 2015, the university tied for No. 45 among the nation’s top liberal arts colleges in the 2016 U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges rankings.
TOKYO—SGI President Ikeda called for intensified efforts to respond to the needs of humanity’s most vulnerable people, including those displaced by conflict in Syria and elsewhere or by natural disasters, in his annual peace proposal titled “Universal Respect for Human Dignity: The Great Path to Peace.”
In the proposal, President Ikeda stressed that dialogue is key to the genuine empathetic understanding that leads to action. Noting that “the irony of humanitarian crises is that the deeper the gravity of people’s plight, the less they are heard,” he encouraged us to listen to the voices of those affected, to focus on their inherent dignity and potential rather than their current dire status and to “recast the world map in our hearts.”
President Ikeda has issued peace proposals since 1983 to the international community addressing global issues every year. Philosopher, author and peacebuilder, he has been president of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist association since 1975. His annual peace proposals are issued on Jan. 26 to commemorate the founding of the SGI.
See www.daisakuikeda.org to access his proposals.
Calligraphy by SGI President Ikeda of the lyrics to the “Song of Human Revolution” was introduced during the 15th Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting of the New Era of Worldwide Kosen-rufu, held on Jan. 9, 2016, at the Josei Toda Commemorative Hall in Tokyo.
The calligraphy opens with this inscription: “Dedicated to all my brothers and sisters of the Soka Gakkai, as I pray for the continued well-being and safety of all my fellow comrades who are advancing courageously for kosen-rufu.”
Together with these words, the date “July 18, 1976” is handwritten by brush. It was on that date 40 years ago that the “Song of Human Revolution” was introduced.
TAMUNING, Guam—Daisaku Ikeda established the Soka Gakkai International in Guam on Jan. 26, 1975, during the First World Peace Conference, a gathering of Soka Gakkai representatives from 51 countries and territories.
In conjunction with the SGI’s 41st anniversary, more than 3,000 Guamanian citizens gathered Jan. 23–24 for the fourth annual Latte Peace Festival promoting peace, friendship and cultural exchange.
Judith T. Won Pat, speaker of the 34th Guam Legislature, presented two resolutions on behalf of the Guam Legislature—one signed by Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo, declaring Jan. 26, 2016, “Dr. Daisaku Ikeda and SGI Appreciation Day” and the other issued by Speaker Won Pat and Legislative Secretary Tina Rose Muña Barnes, which commends SGI President and Mrs. Ikeda’s “tireless efforts and dedication to promoting world peace.”
The annual festival is hosted by the Tamuning-Tumon-Harmon Mayor’s Office and held at Tamuning Park, located across from the former International Trade Center, where the SGI was established.
WESTON, Fla.—The “Humanism of the Lotus Sutra” three-part exhibition opened Feb. 13 at the Florida Nature and Culture Center in Weston, Florida, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by the all-youth participants of the North America and Oceania Study Conference, including members of the Ikeda Wisdom Academy, who gather monthly to study SGI President Ikeda’s seminal series The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra.
The exhibit depicts key themes from the Lotus Sutra across its 2,500-year journey, including the enduring words of the three founding Soka Gakkai presidents, who both revived the Buddha’s core teaching of universal enlightenment and enabled its widespread transmission in contemporary times.
SGI-USA Senior Vice General Director Tariq Hasan said that one of the most inspiring aspects of the new exhibition is its depiction of the long and arduous struggle to transmit and spread the teachings of the Lotus Sutra across 2,500 years, including the efforts of SGI President Ikeda, who led the spread of Nichiren Buddhism to 12 million people in 192 countries and territories.
“This exhibition is not just about history; it’s about the transmission of the heart of this teaching and its fundamental message of equality and optimism, which has, at its core, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and the Gohonzon,” Mr. Hasan said. “This transmission is still continuing. It is you, the youth, who are writing that history in your cities, in your communities, every single day. You are the exhibit, also.”
The “Humanism of the Lotus Sutra” exhibition is open to participants of all FNCC conferences.
Armed with the motto “Let’s Create a New History of Victory!” 7,500 “Golden Pillars of American Kosen-rufu” gathered across the country to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the men’s division. SGI President Ikeda established the group on March 5, 1966. The celebrations included many Gohonzon conferrals and empowered the men to return to their original vow with President Ikeda to become “a model of faith” for the SGI.
SGI-USA Men’s Leader Cliff Sawyer said that the meetings were exciting and successful because of the great efforts of the men to encourage one another through one-to-one home visits and dialogues. “We are determined to continue the movement of member care and are inspired by President Ikeda’s expectation of our noble role for kosen-rufu,” he said.
Champions of the New Era youth gatherings and introductory Buddhist meetings were held across the country in honor of March 16, Kosen-rufu Day.
In a commemorative message to the youth, SGI President Ikeda declared: “The golden age of our kosen-rufu movement begins now. The Buddhism of the people, as a world religion, is finally shining its great light of hope throughout the globe.”
March 16 was the day in 1958 when second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda gathered 6,000 Soka Gakkai youth at the foot of Mount Fuji for a “dress rehearsal” for kosen-rufu.
Mr. Toda was fighting the limits of his own mortality and used the occasion to charge his young disciples with the mission and responsibility to achieve kosen-rufu—the movement, based on Nichiren Buddhism, to establish a society where people value the supreme dignity of life. Two weeks later, on April 2, having passed the baton of kosen-rufu to his youthful disciples, President Toda passed away peacefully.
“What signifies receiving the baton better than introducing others to the practice?” said SGI-USA Youth Leader David Witkowski. “That’s the greatest way to celebrate Kosen-rufu Day, by helping others receive the Gohonzon so they can become happy.”
Nearly 200 students and guests joined UCLA’s SGI-USA student campus club symposium “Buddhism in America” on April 10, featuring a talk by SGI-USA General Director Adin Strauss.
The event commemorated SGI President Ikeda’s 1974 lecture at UCLA, which became the first of his many overseas university lectures. April marked the 42nd anniversary.
Mr. Strauss noted three keys to creating true and lasting change rooted in President Ikeda’s encouragement: challenging your own inner transformation; engaging in heart-to-heart dialogue; and striving to live as a global citizen.
At the Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense and the nation’s military symbol, SGI members held an introductory Buddhist meeting on May 3, Soka Gakkai Day.
The meeting, which was sponsored by the Office of the Pentagon Chaplain, was well attended: 71 people, 50 of whom were guests.
SGI member Col. Ken Valcourt (USAR) and other defense employees—both uniformed and civilian—supported this event.
The event was part of the Pentagon’s celebration of Faith and Prayer week, in which a number of religious organizations held observances.
Starting with this issue, the World Tribune launched coverage of events across the country commemorating the 20th anniversary of SGI President Ikeda’s visit to the United States in June and July of 1996.
During his unforgettable trip, he visited five U.S. cities—Los Angeles, Denver, New York, Weston, Florida, and El Paso, Texas—as part of his monthlong international travels to the U.S., the Bahamas, Cuba, Costa Rica and Mexico.
President Ikeda initiated dialogues with scholars and leaders of society, and received his first honorary doctorate from an American institute of higher learning, the University of Denver. His lecture at Teachers College, Columbia University, brought home for educators and students the importance of fostering global citizens who could contribute to solving the world’s pressing and intractable problems.
And he opened the SGI-USA Florida Nature and Culture Center, a facility on 125 acres of restored wetlands in the Everglades, where tens of thousands of members have since attended conferences that enabled them to deepen their vow for kosen-rufu.
DENVER—Dr. Ved Nanda, a renowned international lawyer and professor, visited the SGI-USA Denver Culture Center on May 15 to share reflections on his encounters with SGI President Ikeda, as well as various themes from the book they co-authored titled Our World to Make: Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Rise of Global Civil Society.
Dr. Nanda is an Evans University Professor and Thompson G. Marsh professor of law at the University of Denver, where President Ikeda received his first honorary doctorate in the United States in June 1996. Recognizing in today’s world affairs the need for greater tolerance, as well as the need to work for peace and human rights, Dr. Nanda said that spiritual traditions provide an anchor for carrying on this important work. “Don’t be complacent,” he said. “Life is full of turmoil, but it’s individuals who bring about change!”
NEW YORK, June 7—Two decades ago, on June 13, 1996, Daisaku Ikeda, the founder of the Soka schools system, spoke about a paradigm shift in education in his talk “Thoughts on Education for Global Citizenship” at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York.
Commemorating the 20th anniversary of that pioneering lecture, over 150 educators gathered on June 7 at Teachers College for a seminar titled “Thoughts on Education for Global Citizenship: The Courage of Application.”
The event, co-sponsored by the SGI-USA and the Department of Arts and Humanities at Teachers College, was held inside the historic Milbank Chapel, where President Ikeda delivered his lecture two decades before. Four seasoned educators described from various angles the application of principles that President Ikeda outlined in his 1996 lecture.
In his message to the seminar, Dr. Ikeda recalled both his 1975 and 1996 visits to the university, referring to Teachers College as “the alma mater of America’s wisdom and conscience.”
Founded in 1887, Teachers College became affiliated with Columbia University in 1898. Considered the first and largest graduate school of education, it has developed and trained teachers from around the world.
WESTON, Fla.—In commemoration of the Florida Nature and Culture Center’s 20th anniversary, Florida Zone members held a three-day celebration that began with 195 unit through zone leaders attending a leadership conference June 24–26 themed “Expansion With the Heart of the Mentor.” Participants traveled from as far away as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to learn about such topics as the oneness of mentor and disciple, the Year of Expansion, America of Capable People, as well as to study President Ikeda’s 1996 guidance on the “six conditions for happiness” he outlined during his first visit to FNCC.
On the afternoon of June 26, the festivities culminated in a general meeting with over 1,100 members and guests.
The World Tribune celebrated its 52nd birthday by launching a dynamic new website featuring both publications, World Tribune and Living Buddhism, at www.worldtribune.org.
Also, starting with the July 15 World Tribune, the SGI-USA Publications Department switched its printing and mailing operations to Chicago-based LSC Communications, which enables us to provide mailing and printing services to a growing audience, while at the same time improving our delivery time to readers.
The SGI-USA youth announced their determination to make an unequivocal statement for peace and the dignity of life in American society, based on SGI President Ikeda’s philosophy of humanism and respect for the dignity of life.
Just as 50,000 youth gathered at Mitsuzawa Stadium on Sept. 8, 1957, under the banner of second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s vision to abolish nuclear weapons, the SGI-USA is determined to:
Gather 50,000 American youth in 2018 under the banner of President Ikeda’s philosophy of humanism and respect for the dignity of life, with the undying hope that world peace is possible.
During the Central Executive Committee and Executive Council Meeting, SGI-USA General Director Adin Strauss stressed that this goal is not an endpoint in and of itself, but rather the process of solidifying the kosen-rufu movement in America through strengthening the 4 Pillars of Kosen-rufu: discussion meetings, shakubuku, study and personal guidance.
“What is going to determine victory or defeat is what we do leading up to this event,” Mr. Strauss said. “How many members can we treasure? How many people can we visit? How many youth can we inspire?”
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 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).
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.
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.”
On Sept. 18, former Boston Mayor and Ambassador to the Holy See Raymond Flynn presented a replica Paul Revere Bowl to SGI President Ikeda on behalf of the City of Boston. The bowl, the city’s highest honor, has been bestowed on other world figures who have fought for peace, including Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Lech Walesa and Pope John Paul II.
The City of Boston also proclaimed Sept. 26, 2016, The Age of Soft Power Day, citing the SGI president’s enduring record of peace-building and his role as a “mentor for youth around the world who are seeking alternatives to prevalent hard power tactics that perpetuate ongoing cycles of violence—actively inspiring the use of soft power and dialogue to create hope and build trust among people.”
It was a fitting tribute marking 25 years since President Ikeda first visited Boston in September 1991 to give the first of two talks at Harvard University, this one titled “The Age of Soft Power and Inner-Motivated Philosophy” (see September 2016 Living Buddhism, pp. 10–19).
On Sept. 18, 1,011 North Zone members and guests from six New England states and New York’s Hudson Valley converged on Boston’s Strand Theatre to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his 1991 speech and renew their vow to eternalize the flow of Nichiren Buddhism.
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Thousands across the country in October took the Introductory Exam, the first level of exams in the SGI-USA study program, as a means to develop a self-empowered practice through a correct understanding of Nichiren Buddhism. SGI President Ikeda said in a message to the examinees: “As you continue to deeply study the great wish and vow of Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, the sun of hope and justice will begin to shine so brilliantly within you that every aspect of your lives will be illuminated and nothing will defeat you.”
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The SGI theme for 2017 was announced as the Year of Developing Youth in the New Era of Worldwide Kosen-rufu during the 20th Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting, held on Oct. 9 in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture, Japan.
In his meeting address, Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada said that today, youth are the most vital key for ensuring that the SGI endures eternally.
“With youth at the forefront, and with a youthful spirit ourselves, let us together take on the challenge of spreading this Buddhism and protecting the SGI, which is dedicated to the peace and prosperity of humanity, while putting even greater energy into fostering and developing successors who will ensure the eternal progress of the SGI,” he said.
The SGI-USA expanded the number of Buddhist Centers across the country in 2016 with the following new facilities:
The building nestled near the brilliant shores of Laguna del Condado will serve as a hub for local activities. (May 20 World Tribune)
The Minnesota Buddhist Center is located in bustling downtown Minneapolis. The members held activities previously in a much smaller facility in St. Paul. The new center will better accommodate the growing membership of Minnesota-North Dakota Region, which covers Minnesota, North Dakota and parts of western Wisconsin. (Aug. 5 World Tribune)
The Buddhist Center in downtown Teaneck, New Jersey, accommodates the growing membership. The other local SGI-USA center in Cherry Hill will remain open to the members. (Sept. 2 World Tribune)
The New England Buddhist Center held a soft opening at its new facility located in the Boston suburb of Brookline, Massachusetts.
The center is located less than a mile from Harvard University, where SGI President Ikeda lectured in 1991 and 1993. (Oct. 21, World Tribune)