Personal Guidance in Faith Is the Basis of the Soka Gakkai

Core principles for improving the district discussion meeting.

Photo: Marc Giannavola.

adin-emoji“Go out among the people and touch their hearts”—this was the focus of Soka Gakkai President Ikeda’s address at the first headquarters leaders meeting following his return from the United States in October 1960.

He sought to convey to the members that one-to-one encouragement was the power source for enabling members to stand up with self-reliant faith:

“Giving guidance to individuals or families is an extremely time-consuming, inconspicuous activity, but it serves to nurture the ‘roots’ of people’s faith. Only when a tree’s roots spread and sink down deep into the ground can it grow toward the heavens and bring forth branches and green leaves.

“In much the same way, the source of all development in the realm of kosen-rufu lies in sharing the members’ sufferings, answering their questions to relieve them of any doubts and making it possible for them to exert themselves in faith joyously, filled with confidence and hope” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 2, p. 153).

President Ikeda has described giving personal guidance as an all-out, life-to-life interaction fueled by our compassion for others and our conviction in the Mystic Law.

Through our efforts to share wisdom and advice, based on the teachings of Buddhism, we give people the strength to challenge their karma and defeat any obstacles they face.

Following are key points from President Ikeda’s encouragement and Nichiren Daishonin’s writings on the art and spirit of giving encouragement that I hope you will bear deeply in mind as you reach out to and inspire one precious Bodhisattva of the Earth after another.

See you on the front lines!

With deepest appreciation,
Adin Strauss
SGI-USA General Director

7 Keys to Giving Effective
Personal Guidance


1. Listen carefully, and pay attention to detail.

Nichiren Daishonin always based his guidance on a keen understanding of the specific circumstances of whomever he was addressing. For instance, he writes, “I have carefully examined the points you raised in your letter, and I understand” (“Letter to Misawa,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 894).

In volume 1 of The New Human Revolution, Shin’ichi Yamamoto (the character in the novel representing SGI President Ikeda) has an exchange with a Brazilian farmer, who seeks guidance about his crops failing that season.

Shin’ichi asks the farmer a series of questions about his fertilizer, farming style and the soil. He then gives the farmer specific, practical guidance rooted in faith, explaining for instance that the farmer must first thoroughly investigate the cause for his crop failure.

“Buddhism is a teaching of unsurpassed reason. Therefore, the strength of your faith must manifest itself in the form of studying, exercising your ingenuity and making twice as much effort as anyone else. Earnest daimoku is the wellspring for the energy to challenge these things” (see pp. 243–44).

2. Give encouragement based on the writings of SGI President Ikeda and Nichiren Daishonin.

President Ikeda shares: “[Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda] always cited Nichiren’s writings when he gave encouragement, careful to explain: ‘This is what the Daishonin teaches. These aren’t my words’ ” (Learning From Nichiren’s Writings: The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 175).

In this way, you will direct members to the key, vital source of Buddhist wisdom—The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin—and the key source of philosophy for human revolution and victory—President Ikeda’s guidance and his philosophy of Soka humanism.

Without doing so, one can easily succumb to personal ego and start to believe that it’s his or her personal talent or skill that’s the key to giving effective guidance, when it comes down to connecting them to President Ikeda and Nichiren’s writings.

3. Strong prayer is a vital.

Nichiren Daishonin instructs a disciple: “You must hurry and talk with [the four night watchmen] and report to me how the matter goes. Then I will fervently pray to the heavenly gods for your protection” (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” WND-1, 850).

President Ikeda elaborates on this point, saying: “This is a key point of personal guidance. The process doesn’t just end once the guidance [is given]. The person giving guidance must continue to chant wholeheartedly for the other person’s happiness. We see that Nichiren did precisely that” (Learning From Nichiren’s Writings: Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 184).

Before and after giving personal guidance, please pray strongly for that person until they’ve achieved a victory.

4. Guidance can be strict, only if based on true compassion.

President Ikeda explains: “Sometimes Buddhist teachers may give their disciples strict guidance out of a desire for them to realize their tremendous potential. This is because genuine mentors cherish and care for their disciples. Often their strictness is aimed at breaking through the negative tendencies or devilish functions at work in a disciple’s life” (Learning From Nichiren’s Writings: Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, pp. 178–79).

The important thing is that our words are based on the desire to enable that person to break through in his or her life.

5. The purpose of guidance is to encourage members to transform their karma into their mission.

In volume 1 of The New Human Revolution, Shin’ichi encourages a single mother, who is raising her young children alone in a foreign land after her husband died of illness, saying: “Viewed from the profound perspective of Buddhism, your suffering is like that portrayed by a brilliant, highly paid stage actress cast in the role of a tragic heroine. When the play is finished, the actress goes home to a life of ease and comfort. Your life is the same. Moreover, the story you play out on the stage of life’s theater will have a happy ending. There is no need to worry. You will definitely become happy. I say this with absolute certainty. Just as a great actress relishes performing her tragic role, please rise from the depths of your sorrow to boldly act out a magnificent drama of human revolution” (p. 249).

6. Speak with conviction based on personal experience.

In volume 25 of The New Human Revolution, Shin’ichi encourages a man seeking guidance about members who are out of work after a local coal mine closed.

“Shin’ichi began to speak with powerful conviction: ‘First, please tell our members who are going through this trying period: “This is your moment of truth. It’s the time to demonstrate the true value of your faith. Make chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo your top priority, turn this challenge into a springboard for the future and win without fail. This is the kind of faith that can change poison into medicine.” Practitioners who uphold the Gohonzon have a profound mission and are certain to succeed. My wife and I will continue to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, too’ ” (p. 71).

7. A leader’s own seeking mind is key.

In the poem, “Education,” President Ikeda writes: “It is easy to educate others, hard to educate oneself. Staying on the correct course in life as long as you live and continuing to educate yourself is the path of human revolution. Even a small piece of advice can cause the biggest turning point in someone’s life” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 24, p. 214).

In the next installment: A Meeting’s Success Lies in Sharing Experiences.


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