Treasuring Each Person
“Each Soka Gakkai member embodies the entire Soka Gakkai. Wholeheartedly encouraging each individual member we encounter, therefore, will invigorate the entire organization.”
The following is an excerpt from SGI President Ikeda’s study lecture on “The Three Kinds of Treasure,” from Learning From Nichiren’s Writings: The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, pp. 175–76.
In a discussion with representatives of a youth delegation from China, I was asked what had been the key to the Soka Gakkai’s development. Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied, “Our treasuring every one of our members.” This is my conviction and my unwavering philosophy.
To treasure each person—this is the foundation of Nichiren Buddhism. As the saying goes, “One is the mother of ten thousand” (“Conversation between a Sage and an Unenlightened Man,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 131). The enlightenment of one person opens the way for all people to attain enlightenment. Nichiren Daishonin states, “When the dragon king’s daughter attained Buddhahood, it opened up the way to attaining Buddhahood for all women of later ages” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 269). This is a case of “one example that stands for all the rest” (WND-1, 269).
Each Soka Gakkai member embodies the entire Soka Gakkai. Wholeheartedly encouraging each individual member we encounter, therefore, will invigorate the entire organization. As long as open, one-to-one dialogue is fostered, our organization will continue to flourish. This means giving confidence to those feeling lost and confused, hope to those burdened with worries, courage to those sunk in despair, joy to those filled with sorrow, wisdom to those beset by hardships, strength and tenacity to those facing setbacks, peace of mind to those gripped by fear and conviction to those stalled by uncertainty. Such a steady stream of encouragement becomes a powerful source of revitalization. It fosters bonds of joint commitment, of working together for a common cause. Through these supportive efforts, we actually take a step closer to happiness for both ourselves and others.
The process of offering guidance is a struggle to ignite a spark of courage and hope within others’ lives that will give them the strength to overcome their negative karma and to share wisdom and advice based on the teachings of Buddhism with which they can defeat the devilish functions or obstacles they face.
My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, was a virtuoso in the art of giving personal guidance and encouragement in faith. In the early postwar years, the Soka Gakkai Headquarters had a branch office in a building in Tokyo’s Ichigaya area. At the top of the stairs on the second floor, a small waiting room measuring about 160 square feet was always filled with members wishing to receive guidance from Mr. Toda. They were struggling with all kinds of worries—financial trouble, sickness, family discord and many other grave problems that defied description. But Mr. Toda would put these suffering people at ease, greeting them warmly and asking, “What’s the matter?” Then, as if the floodgates had been opened, they would pour out their problems to him.
Mr. Toda always reassured them: “It’s going to be all right!” “You’ll definitely become happy by practicing Nichiren Buddhism.” He also always cited Nichiren’s writings when he gave encouragement, careful to explain: “This is what the Daishonin teaches. These aren’t my words.” All who came to see him were revitalized by his confident guidance and left with a new, purposeful spring in their step. While grappling with their own karmic challenges, they followed Mr. Toda’s lead to become emissaries of happiness in their local areas, supporting and encouraging their fellow members and fostering many capable people for kosen-rufu.
We grew from one person to two, three, ten, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand and so on—in this way, our alliance of people dedicated to the cause of good steadily spread to encompass all of Japan, so that now the country is veritably wreathed with “human flowers” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 142) brimming with happiness. And it further spread across the entire world, giving rise to the magnificent global SGI network we have today.
It is evident in Nichiren’s writings that he always based his guidance and encouragement on a keen understanding of the character and specific circumstances of whomever he was addressing. This is particularly apparent in “The Three Kinds of Treasure.” His expressions of concern and meticulous advice throughout this letter over ow with his boundless compassion for his disciple Shijo Kingo, who was then facing the greatest challenge of his life.
Nichiren wrote this letter as if Kingo were sitting right in front of him, as if he were speaking to him in person, weighing Kingo’s reactions to his words. In some places, he describes in detail how Kingo should conduct himself. Elsewhere, he deftly identifies key areas on which Kingo will need to focus toward carrying out his human revolution. And in still other places, he praises Kingo’s selfless and ungrudging efforts for the sake of the Law. No doubt, various images of his loyal disciple would have come to mind as he composed this letter.
Giving personal guidance is an all-out, life-to-life interaction fueled by compassion and conviction. It is a struggle to apprehend the shifting emotions going through others’ hearts moment to moment and to cut through the ignorance or darkness shrouding their lives. In the course of this exchange, we may see their expressions gradually change—for instance, conveying agreement, appearing self-reflective, looking more positive and upbeat, filled with a sense of relief and finally shining with fresh resolve. The process of offering guidance is a struggle to ignite a spark of courage and hope within others’ lives that will give them the strength to overcome their negative karma and to share wisdom and advice based on the teachings of Buddhism with which they can defeat the devilish functions or obstacles they face.
For us, “The Three Kinds of Treasure”—a great source of encouragement for Shijo Kingo that helped him pave the way to ultimate victory—can be viewed as an instructive reference for giving guidance in faith.