Why is there so much emphasis on youth in the SGI?
This Q&A series addresses frequently asked questions about Nichiren Buddhism.
Q: Why is there so much emphasis on youth in the SGI? As an older member, I sometimes feel overlooked.
A: Volumes could be written on the virtue of supporting and developing youth, and though there may be many reasons for doing so, here are two for your consideration:
First, Buddhism seeks to enable every person—regardless of age—to brim with youthful vitality. “Youth” is synonymous with the inexhaustible joy, wisdom, courage and compassion that emerge when we awaken to our Buddha nature.
Nichiren Daishonin often quoted a sutra passage that reads, “If a person who has an illness is able to hear this sutra, then his illness will be wiped out and he will know neither aging nor death” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 330). No matter how old we become, the Buddha nature at the core of our lives is forever youthful, and the actions we take for the happiness of others—young and old—implant within us indestructible good fortune that will endure for lifetime after lifetime.
Discussing the theme for this year, the Year of Developing Youth in the New Era of Worldwide Kosen-rufu, SGI President Ikeda says: “ ‘Developing youth’ is nothing other than revitalizing and developing our own youthful life state and limitlessly expanding the number of fellow Bodhisattvas of the Earth into the future” (November 18, 2016, World Tribune, p. 7).
The latter part of his statement brings us to the second point: As Buddhists we aim not only to benefit ourselves and improve the world in the present, but we also seek to ensure a bright future for humanity. The only way to achieve the latter is to develop and empower many able young people grounded in the philosophy of respect for human dignity. The youth are the ones who will bear full responsibility in the future for kosen-rufu, and for the peace and happiness of humanity.
Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, upon endeavoring to rebuild the Soka Gakkai after World War II, focused his efforts on fostering sincere young people. When a youth of 19 named Daisaku Ikeda attended a discussion meeting in August 1947, the two formed a lifelong bond of mentor and disciple that would lead to the worldwide spread of Nichiren Buddhism.
Regarding the importance of the spirit of fostering young people in any field, President Ikeda has said, “Genuine leaders who think seriously about the future 30 years, 50 years, or even 100 years from now invariably treasure and love the youth; they sincerely support and watch over their endeavors” (March 28, 2003, World Tribune, p. C).
President Ikeda himself has put his heart and soul into personally inspiring, teaching and empowering one generation after the next of young people who have become capable leaders of the SGI and of society.
By respecting, cherishing and praying for young people to develop their capacity and achieve their goals and dreams, we contribute to the future of humanity while securing an eternal wellspring of youthfulness within our own lives. In this Year of Developing Youth, let’s cherish ourselves and cherish the future by praying for and supporting our youth more than ever.