1961: 85,000 Young Women Gathered for Peace
On Nov. 12, Young Women’s Division Day, 85,000 young women gathered at the Mitsuzawa Athletic Stadium in Yokohama, Japan.
At the 9th Young Women’s Division General Meeting on November 12, 1961, held at the Mitsuzawa Athletic Stadium in Yokohama, Japan, 85,000 young women held an unforgettable meeting alongside their mentor, SGI President Ikeda.
This stadium was where, four years earlier on September 8, 1957, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda had made his landmark declaration to abolish nuclear weapons—a declaration which signaled the beginning of SGI’s wide-ranging peace activities. He declared at that gathering of 50,000 young people his burning desire for peace and his unyielding resolve to rid the world of nuclear weapons. He said in part:
We, the citizens of the world, have an inviolable right to live. Anyone who tries to jeopardize this right is a devil incarnate, a fiend, a monster. I propose that humankind apply, in every case, the death penalty to anyone responsible for using nuclear weapons, even if that person is on the winning side. (The Human Revolution, p. 1780)
In displaying his relentless determination to ensure humanity’s continued existence, he desired nothing more than for the youth to inherit this same mission—for them to devote their lives to the cause of spreading the humanism of Nichiren Buddhism to ensure the eternal peace and happiness of all people. Just seven months later, however, President Toda passed away. Determined to fulfill his mentor’s wish, President Ikeda continued to vastly expand the youth division.
The Founding and Growth
of the Young Women’s Division
When the young women’s division was founded on July 19, 1951, there were only 74 members. At that time, President Toda shared his vision for the young women in the Soka Gakkai:
Everyone in the Soka Gakkai’s young women’s division should become happy down to the last member. The history of women up to today has consisted of women grieving over their destinies. You are young women who embrace Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. You need not grieve over your destinies any longer. This hinges, however, on the condition that you carry through with a pure, strong faith throughout your lives. (The Human Revolution, p. 595)
In 10 years, the young women’s division had grown from 74 to 264,000 members. The year leading up to the November 1961 general meeting saw an increase of more than 110,000 members, clearly reflecting the joy that more and more young women felt in awakening to their mission to spread Buddhism.
In July 1961, the meeting on November 12 was announced. Vowing to make their mentor’s vision a reality, the young women’s leaders in each area worked hard to achieve their attendance goal of 70,000 by encouraging their fellow members and increasing their efforts to share Nichiren Buddhism with others in their communities. Each leader set a concrete goal, prayed and took action with more unity and focus than ever before.
In the months leading up to the gathering, the young women were introducing an average of 6,000 new households on a monthly basis. Many members did not own a home phone, not to mention any other mode of communication we have today. Yet the momentum of propagation and visiting members was unstoppable. As a result, they were able to surpass their original attendance goal, welcoming 85,000 young women to the stadium that day. The stadium’s capacity was filled to the brim, with still many more young women wanting to attend.
President Ikeda talks about the young women’s efforts toward this meeting:
Such impressive results illustrated the tremendous strength the young women could display when they became passionate about their mission and rose to the challenge ahead of them. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 5, pp. 187–88)
Young Women Vow to Establish
Happiness for Themselves and Others
The meeting began with the dynamic sounds of 600 Fife and Drum Corps members followed by a procession of 11,000 young women brimming with a deep resolve to become a brilliant light of hope and peace for the sake of humanity.
When Tokie Tani, the Soka Gakkai young women’s leader at the time, took to the stage, she addressed the gathering, saying: “What then constitutes happiness for each of us? I’ve pondered and agonized over this question and discussed it with all of you many times. Now I can say with confidence that happiness lies neither in the past nor in the future; it exists in our state of life at the present, as we forge ahead unswervingly on the path of human revolution” (vol. 5, pp. 189–90).
President Toda and President Ikeda had constantly encouraged the young women to become happy. Clarifying the type and source of this happiness, President Ikeda described Tokie’s realization in The New Human Revolution:
She was deeply convinced that happiness for a woman—for anyone—comes not from having a formal education, from wealth or from marriage. It begins with having the strength to challenge and conquer one’s weakness. Only then does it become possible to enjoy a successful marriage and lead a truly happy life. In addition, perfecting oneself through daily Buddhist practice and working for the happiness of others as an emissary of the Buddha are themselves sources of deep happiness and joy. (vol. 5, p. 197)
This historic gathering of 85,000 young women who were joyfully uniting for a common cause was not only a great victory for the young women in the annals of kosen-rufu, but also an event signaling the advance of the young women into the future.
President Ikeda Offers
Young Women Three Guidelines:
In his address to the young women at the November 12 meeting, President Ikeda offered three points:
1) The purpose of our Buddhist practice is to become happy.
2) Become the women leaders of the next generation.
3) All actively engage in the study movement. (December 16, 2016, World Tribune, p. 3)
The following excerpts from The New Human Revolution, volume 5, elaborate on these three points that he shared at the meeting.
“What is the purpose of faith? It is nothing other than to attain Buddhahood. Or, more simply, to establish lasting happiness—to develop a state of absolute happiness that nothing can destroy. As several of the preceding speakers have mentioned, President Toda’s constant guidance to the young women was, ‘Become happy!’ That encapsulates the very essence of why we practice this Buddhism.
“Then how can we secure this state of absolute happiness? Nichiren Daishonin revealed the way to do so and that is ‘by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon.’ Surely nothing could be simpler. There is no greater philosophy or Buddhist teaching than the Daishonin’s, which enables all people to attain happiness.” (p. 201)
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“Who really understands Buddhism? There can be no question about it—it is us. We are exerting ourselves earnestly each day in Buddhist faith and practice. Therefore, we can all declare: ‘No one knows more about Buddhism than we do. Let us teach you about it!’ And I hope we will develop ourselves so that we can confidently say, ‘If you want proof, just look at our lives.’
“You who possess this lofty, noble philosophy are the women who will lead the next era. You all must strive to become capable of doing so. As daughters and disciples of Nichiren Daishonin, as pioneers of Nichiren Buddhism, you all have vital roles to play in spreading its teachings, in bringing happiness to our friends across Asia and throughout the world. I hope you will be deeply aware of your noble mission and continue to further your understanding of Buddhism through study.” (pp. 202–03)
• • • • •
The study of Buddhist philosophy serves as a guide for our practice of faith. Human emotions are subject to change. And an intense passion for faith may sometimes cool; determination to practice may waver. That is when the study of Buddhist principles illuminates the path of faith along which we should proceed.
A concrete grasp of the philosophy that forms the basis of the Buddhist way of life starts with our study of Buddhist doctrine. That is why Shin’ichi proposed that each young woman join the study department—to establish a strong inner core for her faith and life. (p. 203)