Celebrating the Fifth Anniversary of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu
In these last five years, several million members have visited the Hall, including more than 30,000 from the SGI-USA.
This month commemorates the fifth anniversary of the completion of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu and the 88th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding. SGI President Ikeda suggested that the Hall be built to serve as a place for SGI members to gather from around the world to make a personal determination to transform their individual karma and to pledge together to achieve worldwide kosen-rufu. Nearly every day, a commemorative meeting is held at the Hall, with some 1,400 members in attendance. In these last five years, several million members have visited the Hall, including more than 30,000 from the SGI-USA.
Development of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters
It’s hard to imagine that just 72 years ago, in 1946, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda began to rebuild the Soka Gakkai, using a room in his publishing company, the Nihon Shogakkan, as a base for his efforts. At the time, the Soka Gakkai had just a handful of members. Mr. Toda began lecturing on the Lotus Sutra in a room on the second floor of his the building in the neighborhood of Nishi-Kanda, Tokyo. During the period when Mr. Toda operated out of the Nishi-Kanda building, he met his primary disciple, Daisaku Ikeda, in August 1947; resigned as Soka Gakkai General Director in August 1950 to shield the Soka Gakkai from his business troubles; overcame these setbacks alongside his disciple; and was inaugurated as second Soka Gakkai president in May 1951.
One rainy day in the autumn of 1950, at the height of Mr. Toda’s business difficulties, he and Daisaku Ikeda were walking through central Tokyo, unable to purchase even an umbrella. As they strolled past the General Headquarters of the U.S. occupation (GHQ), Mr. Toda said, “General Douglas MacArthur is probably in there.” In that moment, the young Daisaku Ikeda determined to build wonderful Soka Gakkai buildings that stand proudly as castles of kosen-rufu, saying:
Sensei, I’m so sorry you have to wait like this in the cold. In the future I’m going to buy a car that you can be driven around in. I will also build magnificent facilities for kosen-rufu. You can count on me. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 16, pp. 91–92)
In November 1953, two years after Mr. Toda’s inauguration as second Soka Gakkai president, the Soka Gakkai purchased a building in Shinano-machi, Tokyo, that became the first official Soka Gakkai Headquarters building. In fact, just weeks before his incarceration in 1943, President Toda convinced a friend to take faith in Nichiren Buddhism, his address being 33 Shinanomachi. The address of the present-day Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu, 32 Shinanomachi, is next door to what was then the home of the friend with whom Mr. Toda shared Buddhism just before going to prison.
The Soka Gakkai Headquarters in Shinano-machi, Tokyo, is imbued with the heart of the three founding presidents, and has served as the focal point of the worldwide development of kosen-rufu. In December 1957, the Soka Gakkai achieved a membership of 750,000 households. In December 1962, a membership of 3 million was achieved, leading to the construction of a larger headquarters building, which was completed in September 1963.
On November 5, 2013, SGI President Ikeda visited the Hall and presided over the enshrining of the Soka Gakkai’s Kosen-rufu Gohonzon. On this occasion, President Ikeda commented on the Hall, saying: “What a great building. I have never seen such a wonderful building.”
Now, on this same land, 32 Shinanomachi, stands the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu, which SGI members from around the world visit every day and pray for the continued development of worldwide kosen-rufu. In fact, the architecture of the Hall resembles that of the former GHQ building as a reminder of the vow Daisaku Ikeda made to his mentor in 1950. On November 5, 2013, SGI President Ikeda visited the Hall and presided over the enshrining of the Soka Gakkai’s Kosen-rufu Gohonzon. On that occasion, he commented on the Hall, saying: “What a great building. I have never seen such a wonderful building.”
The Hall is adorned with eight pillars on the north and south entrances, inspired by the eight-character passage from the Lotus Sutra, “You should rise and greet him from afar, showing him the same respect you would a Buddha” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 365). This eternal spirit of the Buddha to respect all people and the great desire for kosen-rufu of Nichiren Daishonin and the three founding Soka Gakkai presidents are embodied in this grand assembly hall.
Enshrined in the Hall of the Great Vow is the Kosen-rufu Gohonzon, which was requested by President Toda just days after his inauguration in May 1951. In The Human Revolution, we learn of Mr. Toda’s realization that the Soka Gakkai needed a Gohonzon to serve as the axis for the fundamental mission of the organization, which is to achieve worldwide kosen-rufu:
This petition [for a Soka Gakkai Kosen-rufu Gohonzon] signified the completely new and glorious reality of the Soka Gakkai, which had emerged from behind its conventional restraints. The petition was infused with Toda’s undying resolution—“I myself will achieve kosen-rufu”—as well as with his unrelenting sense of mission. (p. 574)
This Gohonzon bears two inscriptions: On the right, it states: “For the Fulfillment of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu Through the Compassionate Propagation of the Great Law.” On the left: “To Be Eternally Enshrined at the Soka Gakkai.” Centering on this Gohonzon, Presidents Toda and Ikeda initiated an unstoppable movement to propagate Nichiren Buddhism across Japan and the world, to more than 12 million members in 192 countries and territories.
The Kosen-rufu Gohonzon does not have special powers beyond the Gohonzon each SGI member has enshrined in their home. Rather, it serves as a focal point toward fulfilling the mission that the Soka Gakkai inherited directly from Nichiren Daishonin to widely propagate the Mystic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo throughout the world. Therefore, chanting to this Gohonzon provides a profound opportunity for each of us to renew our own determination to propagate the Mystic Law as disciples of Nichiren and the three founding Soka Gakkai presidents.