A New Study Focus for Ikeda Wisdom Academy
“The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series”
by SGI-USA Youth Leader David Witkowski
Starting in April, Ikeda Wisdom Academy participants will begin their study of The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series. Though we previously announced that the Second Class of the academy would once again begin studying The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra from volume 1, after further considering SGI President Ikeda’s recent guidance, we have decided that it would be timely for us to study “The Opening of the Eyes,” one of Nichiren Daishonin’s five major writings.
In his message to the SGI Youth Division General Meeting, held on September 3, 2016, President Ikeda called on the youth of the world:
In two years, we will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the completion of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu. With Soka Gakkai Foundation Day, November 18, 2018, as the next goal for the advance of the Soka family, let us joyfully scale the summit of kosen-rufu through compassionate propagation, spreading the Mystic Law even more widely. Please promise with me to work hard over the next two years with our fellow members around the world to expand our network of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and forge ahead with energy, wisdom and good cheer to make the triumph of mentor and disciple resound into the eternal future of the Latter Day of the Law. (October 7, 2016, World Tribune, p. 3)
He also announced three new mottoes for the youth:
1. Be the pillar of peace for all the world’s peoples!
2. Be the eyes of respect for the dignity of life!
3. Be the great ship of hope for the triumph of humanity!
These mottoes are based on “The Opening of the Eyes,” in which Nichiren writes: “This I will state. Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law . . . I will be the pillar of Japan. I will be the eyes of Japan. I will be the great ship of Japan. This is my vow, and I will never forsake it!” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 280–81).
Further significance of “The Opening of the Eyes” can be traced back to 1954, when second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda wrote in his essay “Youth Be Patriotic!”:
Young friends! Turn your eyes to the world . . . Misery! Where have you come from and where are you going? Look up and how many of our citizens do you see who care about the welfare of their country and the people? Either none exist or all are absorbed in their own pursuits. Out of my concern for this situation, I cannot help but cry out with Nichiren Daishonin’s lionlike pledge: “I will be the pillar of Japan. I will be the eyes of Japan. I will be the great ship of Japan. This is my vow, and I will never forsake it!” (WND-1, 280–81).
This indomitable declaration is the Daishonin’s firm resolve, as the Buddha endowed with the three virtues [of sovereign, teacher and parent], to save the Japanese people from the depths of suffering. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 5, pp. 175–76)
Based on President Toda’s call, seven years later, the youth of Japan gathered 100,000 young men and 85,000 young women to transform the destiny of their country (see pp. 14–25 in this issue).
Given this background and the importance of advancing in rhythm with President Ikeda toward November 18, 2018, we have decided to focus our study on “The Opening of the Eyes.” Toward the SGI-USA’s gathering of 50,000 young Bodhisattvas of the Earth in 2018, we will continue this advanced study program for SGI-USA youth leaders in order to engrave Nichiren’s resolve to lead all people to happiness. This will be our driving force for carrying out compassionate propagation for the peace and happiness of our society as we create an unprecedented history with our mentor.
Ikeda Wisdom Academy Guidelines
Academy members should:
> Be district through national youth leaders
> Have their own copy of The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series
> Read the assigned material prior to each meeting
“The Opening of the Eyes”: A Call to Open Our Eyes to Nichiren, to Open Our Eyes to the People
The following is the preface to SGI President Ikeda’s lecture series to “The Opening of the Eyes.” The book is available for $7.95 at SGI-USA bookstores and online at bookstore.sgi-usa.org.
Religion is the pillar of humanity. Philosophy is the backbone of life.
The Soka Gakkai has advanced based on the strength of its members’ solid grounding in Buddhist study, a pursuit that can be likened to the rigorous training of a master swordsman. Opening the pages of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings with the spirit of receiving direct instruction and guidance from the Daishonin himself, members everywhere have deepened their understanding of faith, practice and study; summoned forth courage; and emerged victorious in their struggles for kosen-rufu. When we advance with Nichiren’s writings as our foundation, we will never be deadlocked.
The lectures I received in my youth from my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, continue to resonate vibrantly in my heart even now. His lectures covered such topics as life, happiness, government, culture, peace, human integrity, the principles of organization and the mentor-disciple relationship.
His free and far-reaching discourses truly revived Nichiren Buddhism in the present age—and, more specifically, in people’s actual lives and in society.
Above all, based on Nichiren’s writings, President Toda called on people to stand up as Bodhisattvas of the Earth and work for the genuine welfare and prosperity of their country. His compassionate guidance and encouragement awakened a sense of courage and mission in the depths of their lives. I am firmly convinced that in the 700 years following the Daishonin’s death, no one had ever read his writings from the perspective that all people are Bodhisattvas of the Earth. President Toda, however, lectured on the Daishonin’s teachings based on his own inner awareness and sense of mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth, which he gained as a result of his spiritual awakening in prison during World War II.
It goes without saying that President Toda’s lectures also played a pivotal and decisive role in my own life. In fact, my first fateful encounter with my mentor [on August 14, 1947] took place during one of his lectures on the Daishonin’s treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land.”
After joining the Soka Gakkai, I attended his lectures on the Lotus Sutra, and later I was able to have early-morning study sessions with him, during which he discussed the profound philosophy and principles of Nichiren Buddhism.
President Toda was truly a master in giving lectures. I was so impressed that I remember thinking, There are three kinds of lectures: unskilled, skilled and artistic—Mr. Toda’s belonged to the last category. As President Toda’s disciple, I also exerted myself on the front lines by giving lectures and striving to convey the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism to as many people as possible.
Like a lion’s roar, the truth and justice of Nichiren Daishonin is a powerful force for defeating the devilish nature inherent in human life. The reverberations of his invincible life force that surmounted successive major persecutions impart courage, hope, confidence and joy to those challenging painful obstacles and hardships. His words of profound contemplation and introspection teach us the correct path of kosen-rufu and life. For that reason, making his writings our foundation is also the correct path leading to victory both in life and in our struggle for kosen-rufu.
We of the SGI aspire to make the 21st century an age of the victory of the people, the victory of youth and the victory of humanity. Now, more than ever before, people around the world are searching for a humanistic religion. Out of the hope that it may serve as a key for ushering in such an age and become a source of inspiration and growth for my fellow SGI members everywhere, I have decided to embark on a new series of lectures on “The Opening of the Eyes,” an important writing embodying the great lion’s roar of the Daishonin. Toward realizing a century of life and a century of humanity, I would like to discuss the essence of Nichiren Buddhism and the steadfast commitment of the SGI, an organization that has inherited the true spirit of the Daishonin. I would also like to leave behind a solid spiritual foundation for the SGI of the future.
Philosophy is what empowers our struggle to be victorious in life. All of you who are earnestly studying and internalizing Nichiren Buddhism, an extremely lofty and profound practical philosophy, are certain to become eternal “doctors of philosophy.” I began this series of lectures with the ardent prayer that each of you will illuminate the deepening darkness of modern society with the brilliant light of the Daishonin’s writings—the eternally treasured teachings of hope—and develop into courageous people of philosophy who will build a century of humanity.
November 18, 2006