The 50,000 Lions of Justice Statement
Declaration by SGI-USA Youth Leaders on the purpose of the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival.
by David Witkowski, Olivia Saito
and Mike O’Malley
SGI-USA Youth Leaders
The purpose of our 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival is to establish an eternal foundation for kosen-rufu in the United States. This means to 1) strengthen the organization’s ability to support its members, 2) develop countless successors of SGI President Ikeda, and 3) build a movement that will combat the discrimination and violence that plague our country, and usher in an era of hope and respect.
The 50,000 Lions of Justice movement was established in response to SGI President Ikeda’s clarion call two years ago to members around the world:
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. (Oct. 7, 2016, World Tribune, p. 3)
1. STRENGTHENING THE ORGANIZATION
The SGI organization exists to help each member become happy by practicing Nichiren Buddhism. Through our dauntless efforts to gather 50,000 youth on Sept. 23 in nine cities across the U.S., countless members will no doubt powerfully activate their Buddhist practice, and the number of capable leaders on the frontlines will expand, thereby strengthening our ability to support each precious member in becoming absolutely happy.
The chapter level plays a key role in strengthening the organization. About the chapter, President Ikeda has said:
In the Soka Gakkai, a chapter is not just an outpost. In my opinion, for the area encompassed by the chapter and the people practicing Buddhism there, it has the same responsibility and mission as the headquarters. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 26, p. 299)
The success of the 50,000 Lions of Justice campaign will be determined by the resolve and action of each chapter to help many capable people emerge.
2. RAISING A TORRENT OF SUCCESSORS
Without successors to inherit the kosenrufu movement from the three founding Soka Gakkai presidents, the SGI will devolve into a group of followers who simply admire a deified figure. President Ikeda elaborates on why Buddhism declined in India:
At some point, the human being Shakyamuni was elevated and transfigured into a deity . . . He [was] no longer seen as a model on which to base one’s life. The path of mentor and disciple [had] been lost. (June 2018 Living Buddhism, p. 59)
In contrast, the goal of the SGI is for self-motivated lions to transform the world through their own efforts. Now is the crucial moment to nurture successors who will inherit the same vow as President Ikeda and lead the kosen-rufu movement into the distant future.
Who qualifies as a successor? One who wins based on faith in the Gohonzon. Reflecting on the training he received from second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, President Ikeda writes:
Like the mythological Chinese lion that tosses its cub down into a deep valley to train it, Mr. Toda was sending Shin’ichi Yamamoto into a fierce fight in which he had little prospect of winning. Mr. Toda wanted to teach Shin’ichi to pull victory from the jaws of defeat and raise the banner of the people’s victory, no matter what. (NHR-23, 211)
President Ikeda is the model for winning without fail. A successor is someone who is 100 percent committed to achieving their goals no matter what, both in the SGI and in their personal lives. By challenging a seemingly impossible goal based on faith, we manifest untapped wisdom and strength to take one step after another toward victory. About this, President Ikeda says in a poem:
A successor is different from
someone who follows . . .
A successor must be a pioneer,
one who stands at the vanguard,
and plants the banner of victory . . .
I want to foster even one more lion of justice
who will remain unperturbed
by the harshest storm.
This is my present wish and vow.
(June 9, 2017, World Tribune, p. 7)
Gathering 50,000 youth is a way for each member in the SGI-USA to develop the profound wisdom and fortitude to be a champion who can achieve victory in the midst of struggles and confidently inherit the baton of kosen-rufu from President Ikeda.
3. COMBATING INJUSTICE!
Through this movement, we are combating the injustice raging in society—the ways of thinking that justify discrimination, hatred and violence. In a world where most societies prioritize economic gain at the cost of people’s happiness, our mission is to create a society in which the happiness of all people becomes the priority. On Sept. 23, 50,000 youth will declare: Today, the SGI-USA youth have ushered in an era of hope and respect! Enough is enough!
In order to counter the evils of society, President Ikeda explains that we must develop a wise and awakened citizenry, in which ordinary people become strong. He says:
As people grow wiser and stronger, the ideals of the sanctity of life and the absolute importance of peace will become more widely accepted and established in society . . . In order to create such a society, it is crucial to widely spread the philosophical principles of the sanctity of life, respect for all people and peace-building. (November 2011 Living Buddhism, pp. 28–29)
What is the origin of the Soka Gakkai’s movement for peace? President Ikeda says that it “can be traced back to founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi’s struggle against the oppression of the Japanese militarist government” (May 11, 2018, World Tribune, “Vow” insert, p. 6).
The 50,000 Lions of Justice movement is the same struggle against oppressive views that degrade human life. We are opening up a new era by returning to our revolutionary roots to counter authoritarianism, and empower common people to take a stand and win.
LOOKING TOWARD THE COMPLETION OF THE 21ST CENTURY
Why are we focused on gathering youth? We are concerned with what kind of society we can build toward 2070, 2080, 2090 and even 2100. In other words, how will we complete the 21st century—as a century of war or a century of peace?
President Ikeda has referred to the 21st century as “a century of peace, of humanity, of victory, of glory; a century without war, a century of life” (NHR-22,1).
He also says:
The door to a new era is opened by young people. A steady stream of talented young people emerging and fully displaying their potential is essential to the ongoing development of organizations, societies and nations. (May 3, 2018, World Tribune, “Vow” insert, p. 2)
These 50,000 youth are the protagonists who will make this a century of life and lasting peace! People in the future will look back on the 21st century and think: Sensei was right. The 21st century was the century of peace!
50,000 Lions of Justice is just the beginning. President Ikeda shared his wish that one day the SGI-USA will comprise 3 million members. These 50,000 youth are the core disciples of President Ikeda who will make this vision a reality.
Just imagine how our country will be with 3 million members vigorously chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, engaging the gears of their human revolution and taking action for the peace of the land. Now is the time to stand up as President Ikeda’s disciples, unite as members of the Soka family across all divisions and make relentless efforts. The 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival represents the powerful beginning of a new era for humanity!