SGI Youth Make a Great Vow With President Ikeda

SGI Youth leaders representing six countries share their determination

SGI Youth leaders representing six countries share their determination to stand up in the same spirit as their mentor at the World Youth General Meeting in Tokyo, March 11. More than 600,000 youth joined the meeting via telecast at 1,200 locations throughout Japan. Photo by Seikyo Press.

David Witkowski
SGI-USA Youth Division Leader

On March 6, 19 SGI-USA representative youth leaders arrived in Tokyo, joining 250 youth from 65 countries around the world to celebrate the 60th anniversary of March 16, Kosen-rufu Day.

At this training course, I learned that the true spirit of a disciple is to stand up with the same heart as one’s mentor to achieve the shared dream of kosen-rufu—that kosen-rufu is the disciple’s responsibility to achieve, no matter what. This point was conveyed as we learned more deeply about the history of the Soka Gakkai and the three founding presidents; studying the Buddhist concept of “From the indigo, an even deeper blue”[1]T’ien-t’ai states, “From the indigo, an even deeper blue” (“Hell Is the Land of Tranquil Light,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 457). This means that something repeatedly dyed with the liquid produced from the indigo plant becomes even bluer than the indigo plant itself. In the same spirit, SGI members strive to foster a never-ending stream of successors and raise them to surpass us.; and receiving warm messages of encouragement from SGI President Ikeda.

On March 16, 1958, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda held a solemn ceremony with 6,000 youth, in which he bequeathed the mission and responsibility to achieve kosen-rufu to his youthful successors. Sixty years later, youth from around the world gathered in Japan to attend the World Youth General Meeting on March 11, joined by 600,000 youth via telecast at 1,200 locations throughout Japan.

This training course served as proof that world-wide kosen-rufu is being realized—that the SGI is steadily pushing away the clouds of hopelessness that shroud society.

In his opening message to the training course, President Ikeda explained that SGI members have the mission to transform these troubled times, citing this passage from Nichiren Daishonin: “When one knows the Lotus Sutra, one understands the meaning of all worldly affairs” (“The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 376). When the number of people who embrace the Lotus Sutra’s teaching of universal enlightenment increases, the more humanity will be equipped to transform its problems at the root.

A Religion for Human Revolution

On March 8, we attended a lecture by SGI Study Department Leader Masaaki Morinaka based on President Ikeda’s study lecture sub-series “A Religion for Human Revolution,” which is being serialized in Living Buddhism, starting from the October 2017 issue.

Nichiren Daishonin explains that “the assembly on Holy Eagle Peak . . . continues in solemn state and has not yet disbanded” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 135). This means that we are all family united by our vow from the remote past. We are born with our mentor in lifetime after lifetime to live out this shared vow to achieve kosen-rufu. This is the essential message of “Life Span,” the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Uniting with our mentor in the battle for kosen-rufu is how we tap into the eternal life state of the Buddha, transcending life and death. This is how we call forth limitless reserves of courage, wisdom and compassion from within our lives.

Guiding the 21st Century In the Direction of Happiness

Given all of this, what should be the central guiding principles of religion in the 21st century? I assert that they are humanism and human revolution. (SGI President Ikeda, October 2017 Living Buddhism, p. 43)

Mr. Morinaka explained that the philosophy of human revolution as taught by President Ikeda is a modern expression of Nichiren Daishonin’s teaching of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.

Human revolution is our continual challenge to develop into compassionate people who can cherish the person in front of us. The solution to the world’s problems lies in such one-to-one dialogue, which aims to awaken the potential of each individual. Scholars usually arrive at this conclusion toward the end of their lives. In the SGI, however, this is our starting point!

You Can Readily Become a Buddha!

“As the [Lotus Sutra] says, ‘hoping to make all persons equal to me, without any distinction between us,’ you can readily become as noble a Buddha as Shakyamuni” (“Letter to Niike,” WND-1, 1030).

Mr. Morinaka shared that in Nichiren Buddhism, no one is considered superhuman; everyone has the potential to be a Buddha just as they are. A Buddha is one who is convinced that they can become a Buddha and help others do the same. When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, our Buddha nature manifests in that moment, not some time later.

While provisional Buddhist teachings often claim that the ultimate aim of our practice is to attain enlightenment, as if ascending a mountain, Nichiren Buddhism enables people to manifest the Buddha nature, with the aim of descending the mountain and going out among the people to awaken them to their potential. There, at the base of the mountain, we confront the realities of daily life and transform our surroundings into a Buddha land.

The Challenge to Believe In the Buddha Nature of All People

[Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s] practice was to revere all people. He revered even those who did not embrace the Lotus Sutra because they too had the Buddha nature and might someday believe in the sutra. (“The Fourteen Slanders,” WND-1, 756)

Speaking of this passage, Mr. Morinaka said that because all people have the Buddha nature, slandering someone is the same as slandering the Buddha. Having confidence that all people are Buddhas is very difficult, of course. But the only way to learn this principle is to engage in practice for self and others. Introducing people to Buddhism and offering personal encouragement to others are the actions of the Buddha. So, although we may look like ordinary people, our internal life state is that of Buddhas. When we make efforts to spread Buddhism, we manifest the life condition to break through any deadlock.

Courageous Dialogue Is the Key to Human Revolution

The host then spoke: I have been brooding alone upon this matter, indignant in my heart, but now that you have come, we can lament together. Let us discuss the question at length. (“On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” WND-1, 7)

Mr. Morinaka explained that the model for dialogue is Nichiren’s treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” which takes place between a host, who represents Nichiren, and a guest, who is seeking the correct Buddhist teaching. The host grapples with the question: How can I lead suffering people to enlightenment? He approaches the dialogue concerned for the well-being of all people. In the beginning, he empathizes with the concerns voiced by the guest, and the dialogue ends with them making a shared vow to propagate the correct Buddhist teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Engaging in Buddhist dialogue is the practice of human revolution and the quickest route to transforming karma into mission.

Now Is The Time to Make a Great Vow!

My wish is that all my disciples make a great vow. (“The Dragon Gate,” WND-1, 1003)

Mr. Morinaka concluded his lecture stating that the great vow is the Buddha’s burning desire for the enlightenment of all people. Nichiren explains that since life is limited, we might as well dedicate it to the great cause of achieving kosen-rufu. When we stand up with a vow for kosen-rufu, the eternal life state of the Buddha emerges from within us. This great vow is the starting point of human revolution. Sensei is currently writing the final chapter of The New Human Revolution, titled “Vow,” urging the SGI youth to uphold the great vow for kosen-rufu for all humankind!

All Sensei Wants Are Capable Successors

On the final day of the training course, Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada held a guidance session with the 250 visiting youth representatives from around the world, followed by a question-and-answer session. In the beginning, he gave us four points:

1. The development of the youth is what makes Sensei most happy. All he desires is for capable people to emerge to whom he can entrust the future of kosen-rufu.

2. Never forget that each of you possesses Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the greatest of all joys. As long as you wholeheartedly chant the Mystic Law, you will never be deadlocked.

3. Continue to expand the network of capable people. The people of the world are yearning for this philosophy. Let’s rapidly advance kosen-rufu.

4. Don’t forget to base everything on faith! Let’s continue to strive alongside Sensei and open up an era of peace. Let’s fight as if every day is March 16.

Q: What was the key to Sensei’s victory in the Osaka Campaign?

A: [This question was asked by a young woman from Switzerland, who expressed that in her country many people seem to be happy and have a good life, which makes it difficult to meet people who are seeking a spiritual practice.] President Harada responded by explaining the points that led to President Ikeda’s victory in the Osaka Campaign of 1956:

1. Sensei based the campaign on chanting abundantly and studying Nichiren Daishonin’s writings.

2. He personally encouraged 8,000 members in just six months, awakening them to their true identity as Bodhisattvas of the Earth. In fact, he traveled so much throughout the city of Osaka that he wore out several bicycles.

3. Even when the results were not manifesting as he had hoped, he persevered with tenacity. He wasn’t discouraged; rather he determined not to give up at any cost.

4. Sensei united with the core leaders based on the Gohonzon and Nichiren’s writings. He wanted to ensure that core leaders went into battle with the life condition of Nichiren Daishonin!

Q: How can we actualize Sensei’s vision for the Century of Africa?

A: [This question was asked by a young man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who was seeking practical steps to realize President Ikeda’s guidance to the African members.] President Harada shared with us that when Sensei first visited the United Nations Headquarters in New York in October 1960, he was deeply inspired by the young leaders of the newly independent African nations. At the time, he expressed his strong feelings that the 21st century would become the Century of Africa.[2]See The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, pp. 183–84.

President Harada said that Sensei has met with many African leaders and paved the way for a Century of Africa. He then clarified that it is up to the disciples to make this vision a reality. Around 35 years ago, President Ikeda met with SGI leaders from a struggling nation and explained that Japan’s rapid recovery from World War II was the result of the fortune he created fighting alongside President Toda to widely expand the Soka Gakkai. He shared with conviction that when the Buddha’s forces multiply, your country will prosper.

I Will Be a Champion of Kosen-rufu!

During the World Youth General Meeting, we viewed a video in which President Ikeda explained that he has already taught us everything we need to know to achieve kosen-rufu. From this, I felt that now is not the time to rely on Sensei. Rather, now is the time to approach Sensei’s writings with a burning seeking spirit, strive to apply all of the lessons he has taught us and make monumental breakthroughs in kosen-rufu.

The growth and accomplish-ment of the disciple determines ultimate victory for both mentor and disciple. Therefore, without dedicated disciples putting their mentor’s teachings into action in their own lives, they will cease to spread.

President Harada also touched on this issue, saying that the textbooks of kosen-rufu are The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution. I personally determined to take full responsibility for the achievement of kosen-rufu in America and create a society where the happiness of people comes first. Our 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival is a powerful step in this direction. Let’s put Sensei at ease and show him that kosen-rufu of the United States will be achieved, no matter what!

(pp. 12-17)


1 T’ien-t’ai states, “From the indigo, an even deeper blue” (“Hell Is the Land of Tranquil Light,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 457). This means that something repeatedly dyed with the liquid produced from the indigo plant becomes even bluer than the indigo plant itself. In the same spirit, SGI members strive to foster a never-ending stream of successors and raise them to surpass us.
2 See The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, pp. 183–84.