Feature

Making Further Dynamic Strides as a World Religion

The Fifth Anniversary of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu

Illustration by Brandon Hill.


The completion of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu in November 2013 has been said to mark the SGI’s new departure as a world religion. The following are key excerpts from an essay by SGI President Ikeda about what defines a world religion. The essay was originally published in the May 15, 2015, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.

Cheering our triumph
with fellow members
under bright May skies,
let us continue to
forge ahead and win.

Having adorned May 3, Soka Gakkai Day, with triumph through our noble, united efforts, we have begun a spirited new advance. Let’s set forth together! Eternally pressing forward, ever forward, is the spirit of Soka mentors and disciples.

Toward the end of his life, the great Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) wrote, “I shall continue.”[1]Serge Bramly, Leonardo: The Artist and the Man, translated by Sian Reynolds (London:Penguin Books, 1991), p. 401.

Continuing is the key to extraordinary creative accomplishments. Continuing to strive and challenge is the key to great victory.

President and Mrs. Ikeda greet members from around the world visiting Tokyo for an SGI training course, and express their appreciation for the members’ dedicated efforts, November 2014. Photo by Seikyo Press.

■  ■  ■

Here, in the SGI, shines the great light of a world religion, in exact accord with the cherished wish of Nichiren Daishonin.

An important driving force for the SGI to make further dynamic strides as a world religion is, first of all, the spirit to stand alone.

The presence of courageous individuals who have awakened to their own potential for Buddhahood and are taking personal initiative to fulfill their mission for kosen-rufu will create fresh waves of change. When we change, our communities—and, further, the world—will change, too.

Precisely because we embrace a great philosophy that teaches the inherent dignity and equality of each person, we are able to believe in our own power to stand alone, undefeated by any adversity.

The Daishonin writes, “Nichiren alone, without sparing his voice, now chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (“On Repaying Debts of Gratitude,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 736); and “Nichiren alone took the lead in carrying out the task of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth” (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 385). These are just some examples where he stressed his solitary struggle. He stood up alone and fought on tirelessly.

He was certain that an unending stream of successors would appear and carry on his efforts—that disciples would “form their ranks and follow him” (see “The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 765).

The great path of kosen-rufu lies in spreading the teaching from one person to another, from mentor to disciple, and thereby steadily building a network of lionhearted champions. My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, advanced along this path without the slightest deviation.

In “Song of Comrades,” which Mr. Toda composed while in solitary confinement in the Tokyo Detention Center during World War II, he wrote: “I . . . stand up alone, / proudly upholding the great vow / to spread the Mystic Law.” This is the essence of the Soka Gakkai spirit, taking kosen-rufu as one’s personal vow and eternal mission. Also in this song, he expressed his fervent wish for successors to appear: “I do not begrudge my life, / but where are the young flag bearers? / . . . Rally now, quickly, in growing numbers!”

Today, one after another, young flag bearers are rising into action with ever-growing vigor throughout Japan and around the globe. The dynamic development of worldwide kosen-rufu has begun, as youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth vibrantly emerge in perfect timing.

■  ■  ■

Another requirement for the SGI developing further as a world religion, I believe, is to respect and value each person.

Each person’s life is precious and irreplaceable. All human beings experience the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death. We are all fellow inhabitants of planet Earth at this particular moment in time. In the dimension of life, everyone is equal; there are no economic or social distinctions.

When we view everything from the universal criteria of life, we can communicate, as one human being to another, with anyone.

The Lotus Sutra regards one-to-one dialogue as one of the noblest activities for developing our character and humanity. Shakyamuni states:

If one of these good men or good women in the time after I have passed into extinction is able to secretly expound the Lotus Sutra to one person, even one phrase of it, then you should know that he or she is the envoy of the Thus Come One. He has been dispatched by the Thus Come One and carries out the Thus Come One’s work. (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 200)

In other words, those who make sincere efforts to talk about the Lotus Sutra (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) for the sake of one person, one friend, are envoys of the Thus Come One, the Buddha.

Ultimately, our most vital, frontline effort for worldwide kosen-rufu, in every country around the world, is one-to-one dialogue. It is speaking with a spirit of genuine care and concern to the person suffering in front of us—no matter where, when or who it may be. It is listening to their problems and struggles, sharing their pain and sadness, and chanting and rejoicing together.

The year 2030, the 100th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding, marks an important milestone in the development of our movement in the 21st
century. Taking center stage at that time will be the youth division and future division members, who are growing so vibrantly today.

The unconditional, all-embracing nature of such humanistic actions, based on the spirit of treasuring each person, is one of the reasons that the SGI has spread around the world.

The Turkish social anthropologist Nur Yalman, with whom I have met and spoken a number of times, stressed the importance of dialogue in elevating a religion originating in a particular area or region to become a world religion. Dialogue, he said, makes us aware of the universal humanism that pulses in different cultures. He further praised the fact that our members are engaging in dialogue to promote humanism in their communities around the world.[2]Translated from Japanese. Article in Seikyo Shimbun, April 20, 1991.

Dr. Yalman also described the SGI’s effort for peace as phenomenal and called this long-standing effort itself a huge achievement in its own right.[3]Translated from Japanese. Article in Seikyo Shimbun, November 19, 2010.

■  ■  ■

A further requirement for the SGI continuing to develop as a world religion is to create happiness for all humanity, with women and mothers who are the earth of life leading the way.

Nichiren writes, “[In my own actions to convince others to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] I have shown the kind of compassion that a mother does when she labors to put milk into the mouth of her infant child” (“On Reprimanding Hachiman,” WND-2, 931).

We do not need to seek far to find the compassion of the Buddha. It is exemplified in the loving actions of mothers. Illuminating all people equally with the spirit of women who protect and nurture life will lead to greater peace in the world.

Just saying the word mother warms one’s heart. When a mother smiles, everyone around her smiles and is reassured.

■  ■  ■

Nothing is as inspiring as the experiences of practicing Nichiren Buddhism shared by our women’s division members.

The Soka Gakkai’s founder, Tsunesaburo Maki-guchi, declared that “religion until now has been too theoretical and lacked actual demonstration of its efficacy.”[4]Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo
Makiguchi), (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), vol. 10, p. 144.
He praised the experiences presented at meetings by members who had transformed their lives through their Buddhist practice, calling those experiences “diamonds.”[5]Ibid.

Our members, especially the women’s division members, gaining actual proof of becoming happy in real life and sharing their experiences in faith with others, have been a powerful force driving the development of kosen-rufu in every country around the world.

In my 2015 SGI Day peace proposal, I charac-terized the SGI’s practice of sharing personal experiences as a means for building a chain reaction of empowerment across borders and generations.[6]See SGI Newsletter, No. 9229.

SGI gatherings where members share their experiences of overcoming all sorts of problems and suffering brim with a warm, all-embracing empathy as well as powerful courage and hope that reinvigorate everyone.

■  ■  ■

On May 3 six decades ago (in 1955), at a Soka Gakkai general meeting in Tokyo’s Ryogoku area, Mr. Toda proclaimed his determination to carry out kosen-rufu—to widely spread the Mystic Law—which he described as the “formula for leading all people to happiness.”[7]Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1989),vol. 4, p. 293.

At subsequent meetings in Adachi Chapter and other areas, he urged members to be assured of the power of faith to overcome life’s problems, calling the Gohonzon a “happiness-producing device.”

He urged us to bring forth a powerful life force and realize happiness for ourselves and others through strong faith based on the Gohonzon.
We have faith that assures us absolute victory! Such confident faith is the driving force for kosen-rufu.

Now then, let us set forth!

With an invincible spirit and the beautiful unity of “many in body, one in mind,” let’s scale each challenging mountain in kosen-rufu and in life, one after another, and joyfully shake hands together in victory!

The year 2030, the 100th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding, marks an important milestone in the development of our movement in the 21st century. Taking center stage at that time will be the youth division and future division members, who are growing so vibrantly today.

Let us create a golden tomorrow. My beloved disciples, may you play active roles in your communities and all over the world, with the sun of Buddhist humanism blazing in your hearts and shining as a source of hope for all!

Confidently stand up
in the place where
you will fulfill your vow,
making the footsteps of our advance
in worldwide kosen-rufu resound.

(pp. 26-29)

 

Notes   [ + ]

1. Serge Bramly, Leonardo: The Artist and the Man, translated by Sian Reynolds (London:Penguin Books, 1991), p. 401.
2. Translated from Japanese. Article in Seikyo Shimbun, April 20, 1991.
3. Translated from Japanese. Article in Seikyo Shimbun, November 19, 2010.
4. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo
Makiguchi), (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), vol. 10, p. 144.
5. Ibid.
6. See SGI Newsletter, No. 9229.
7. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1989),vol. 4, p. 293.