Ripping Out the Claws of Suffering
A 2017 SGI Youth Training Course report.
TOKYO— With the world diving ever deeper into chaos, 280 SGI youth leaders from 55 countries met in Tokyo from August 30– September 5 for the SGI Youth Training Course, where they reaffirmed the core principle of Nichiren Buddhism that ordinary people can transform any situation with the Mystic Law.
Throughout the training course, SGI President Ikeda and SGI leaders referred to these words from Nichiren Daishonin: “Great evil portends the arrival of great good. If all of Jambudvipa [the entire world] were to be thrown into chaos, there could be no doubt that [the Lotus Sutra would] ‘be widely propagated throughout Jambudvipa’” (“The Kalpa of Decrease,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1122). The 18 youth participants from the SGI-USA made a strong pledge to transform all obstacles in their lives and in society into the fuel to advance kosen-rufu together with SGI President Ikeda.
Marking 60 Years Since Josei Toda’s Declaration to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
The training course was held just one week before the 60th anniversary of second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s landmark Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons on September 8, 1957, which marked the start of the SGI’s peace movement.
To commemorate this significant milestone, the youth training course participants traveled to Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama, Japan, where President Toda gave his declaration.
The stadium has changed very little since that momentous day 60 years ago—from the entrance to the surrounding park and the path leading into the stadium to the clock that hung on the wall behind Mr. Toda when he delivered his address.
“It was like a dream to think that President Toda stood in this exact location to deliver his declaration,” said SGI-USA Young Women’s Leader Olivia Saito. “All I could think about was how happy he would be if he could see these youth from all over the world gathering here to make a shared vow for world peace and nuclear abolition.”
Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada discussed the origins of the declaration, which was developed amid the burgeoning movement for nuclear abolition in the West. In 1955, the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, signed by 11 preeminent scientists and intellectuals, called for world leaders to seek a peaceful resolution to international conflicts. Two years later, a conference—called for in the manifesto—was held in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, the first of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.
During this time, Josei Toda, together with his youthful disciple Daisaku Ikeda, began seriously researching the catastrophic impact of nuclear weapons and their threat to the planet’s survival. Their shared pledge for global security and the happiness of all people resulted in the declaration given by President Toda.
A description of their efforts is recorded in The Human Revolution, where President Ikeda appears as Shin’ichi Yamamoto:
Shin’ichi Yamamoto said: “Sensei, the danger of natural disasters aside, I think that, today, war and other disasters resulting from human activity constitute a far greater threat to humanity. And nuclear weapons probably pose the greatest menace of all. Incomparably far more people died in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki than those who have died as a result of volcanic eruptions, typhoons and other natural disasters in recent times.”
Josei Toda’s eyes sparkled. “Yes, you’re absolutely right. I’ve been thinking a lot about this problem lately. Today, the world’s great nations are repeatedly conducting nuclear tests, furiously competing with one another for nuclear supremacy. If this state of affairs continues, nuclear weapons could lead to the annihilation of humankind and the destruction of life on Earth.
“Buddhism is the supreme Law for the happiness of all humanity, for all people throughout the world. Since this is so, each of the problems confronting humanity automatically becomes an inescapable concern of ours as Buddhists. We must do everything in our power to pave the way for the abolition of nuclear weapons. This, too, is the Soka Gakkai’s mission. I must soon entrust this determination to you, the youth.” (p. 1720)
Revisiting the Basics of Faith, Practice and Study
On August 31, the youth participated in a lecture given by SGI Study Department Leader Masaaki Morinaka, which was based on SGI President Ikeda’s recent three-part lecture series on “faith, practice and study” (see the June, July and August 2017 issues of Living Buddhism). President Ikeda explained that by refreshing the basics of faith, practice and study, we can bring forth five to ten times more strength. The faith, practice and study of the Soka Gakkai fuels our movement, which will greatly change society.
Mr. Toda often said, “Faith seeks understanding, and understanding deepens faith.” He also said, “We of the Soka Gakkai have faith.” The faith of SGI members is immeasurable. We have faith in the Gohonzon. We have faith that we can change any karma into mission. Nothing defeats those who have strength and depth of faith. Those who have faith are never defeated. What matters is our resolve. Our length of practice does not define our faith. Mr. Morinaka asked the youth to become champions of faith, even though we don’t have many years of experience.
Mr. Morinaka then discussed the Gohonzon in terms of faith. He explained that the Gohonzon represents the Buddhahood experienced by Nichiren Daishonin. Nichiren teaches us that all
people can experience Buddhahood by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon. When people receive the Gohonzon, they are able to experience a spiritual awakening in their own home, regardless of their knowledge of Buddhist theory. Faith is the passport that enables all people to gain entrance into this world of Buddhahood, he said. In “The Real Aspect of the Gohonzon,” Nichiren Daishonin says the Gohonzon is “the great mandala never before known” and “a cluster of blessings” (WND-1, 832). He also says, “This Gohonzon also is found only in the two characters for faith” (WND-1, 832). This wonderful Gohonzon teaches us that the enlightenment of the Buddha resides in our hearts. (See June 2017 Living Buddhism, pp. 40–49)
Mr. Morinaka then spoke about how practice refers to the bodhisattva way. Our practice is for oneself and others.
President Ikeda, he said, puts utmost importance on treasuring the person in front of him. He has demonstrated that bodhisattva practice comes down to treasuring the person in front of us. The SGI has spread throughout the world because its members have inherited Sensei’s spirit to treasure each person.
We must understand that we live in the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law, an age where personal gain and success are prioritized over the happiness and well-being of humanity. The purpose of SGI Nichiren Buddhism is to lead one person after another to enlightenment. Because our movement goes against the grain of the times, we are sure to meet resistance. This is precisely why the Bodhisattvas of the Earth emerged at this time—because the time is ripe to do kosen-rufu!
With this understanding, Mr. Morinaka asked us to make a great vow, saying that Sensei teaches us that the great vow for kosen-rufu and the life state of Buddhahood are one and the same. A Bodhisattva of the Earth is someone who has stood up with a vow. When we carry out our vow, the limitless courage, compassion and wisdom of the Buddha well forth from within us. The Soka Gakkai is an organization of bodhisattvas. Spreading Buddhism is not for the sake of simply increasing organizational membership, but rather to awaken more Bodhisattvas of the Earth and make compassion the foundation of our society. (See July 2017 Living Buddhism, pp. 40–49)
Mr. Morinaka then discussed how those who base their lives on Nichiren Daishonin’s writings receive tremendous benefits. While understanding the principles of Nichiren’s writings is important, engraving even one passage in our lives and putting it into practice will produce boundless benefit.
Sensei once explained the significance of Buddhist study in three points: 1) Buddhist study deepens faith; 2) study stimulates the advancement of kosen-rufu; and 3) study is the key to establishing a new humanistic philosophy. We have now entered a time when people are seeking a new humanistic philosophy. When youth deepen their understanding of Buddhist principles, they can share this Buddhism with others.
Sensei often encourages us to study based on the oneness of mentor and disciple so that we can accurately convey the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin into the distant future. Mr. Morinaka said that the people of the world are waiting for members to share Nichiren’s teaching and Sensei’s philosophy of humanism with them. As youth, studying Nichiren’s writings may seem difficult at times, but it is the only path to doing your human revolution and achieving kosen-rufu. (See August 2017 Living Buddhism, pp. 42–51)
A Gathering of Lion Kings Ready to “Spring” Forward
On the final day of the training course, Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada held a questionand-answer session with the youth from around the world, where they asked questions about advancing kosen-rufu in their respective countries. A youth from SGI-Korea asked about the best approach to helping new members develop their faith.
President Harada asked us to teach new members the basic practice of the Soka Gakkai, which is practice for self and others. He said that
the best way to do this is to teach them how to do gongyo and the importance of consistently chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. On top of that, he said it’s important to teach new members the spirit of sharing Buddhism with their friends. Because they may not know how to go about explaining Buddhism to others, he suggested that seniors in faith accompany them when they meet with their friends and have dialogues.
In addition, seniors in faith can share their experiences as well as President Ikeda’s guidance, awakening them to the mentor-disciple relationship.
President Harada then explained how Sensei often used the following passage from Nichiren’s writings to explain the rhythm of advancement in the Soka Gakkai: “The lion king is said to advance three steps, then gather himself to spring” (“Reply to Kyo’o,” WND-1, 412). This means that, just as the lion king advances three steps, the rhythm of the SGI is to have great advancement followed by focusing on raising new members, which represents the time when we “gather ourselves to spring” into the next stage of advancement.
Engaging All Members in the Effort to Gather 50,000 Youth
Finally, a member from the SGI-USA asked about how we can inspire all members to engage in the effort to gather 50,000 youth in fall 2018 for the Lions of Justice festivals.
President Harada said that Sensei often explains that it is better for 100 people to take one step than for one person to take 100 steps. How do we achieve this? The key is personal guidance. You can’t simply speak at big meetings about the campaign and assume everyone will understand. This may get some people excited, but not everyone. People are in various situations in their lives and have differing opinions. We must speak with each member one-toone, listen to what they have to say and share from our hearts the significance of the campaign and how it connects to their lives. He asked the youth to please determine, chant and meet one by one with the members in their local organizations to connect their hearts to the campaign, with the spirit that no one is left behind.