Feature

Gajokai: Founded February 1, 1971

The Spirit of SGI Youth Training Groups

Katsumi Miyasaka on a Gajokai shift at the Nagasaki Culture Center. Illustrations by Kenichiro Uchida


The following is SGI President Ikeda’s encouragement on the founding of the Gajokai—a young men’s training group.

MOTTOES: > Be men of conviction > Be men of effort > Be men of perseverance

In January 1971, some young men’s leaders came to consult with me about the planned reorganization of the local young men’s groups responsible for safeguarding our community centers in each area into a single group on a national level. At that time, I suggested that we call this new group for training capable leaders the Gajokai (literally meaning “Fortress Group”) because of its mission to protect the fortresses of kosen-rufu—our centers and other facilities. The Gajokai was established the following month, on February 1.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda had a great fondness for this word gajo, which means fortress, from the pioneering days of the Soka Gakkai. On February 20, 1954, Mr. Toda and I had arrived in Osaka to attend a joint general meeting for Osaka, Sakai and Yame chapters the following day. Speaking before the numerous district leaders who came to him for guidance on that occasion, Mr. Toda said, “Make Kansai a fortress on par with Tokyo!” I also used the word fortress many times in my diary when I was a young man, in such expressions as the “fortress of Osaka” and “Mr. Toda’s fortress.” In Japanese tradition, especially, a fortress by implication is the base of a mighty general. It is the central command station of a castle, the headquarters of a struggle. It is the bastion over which the general’s banner flies. In ancient China, the poles of such banners were often topped with ornamental ivory carvings, because ivory—derived as it was from elephant tusks—was a symbol of animals defending themselves. These are various meanings that the word fortress, or gajo, has in Japan and other parts of the East.

Please be assured that your efforts to safeguard our community centers, even if unseen by others, never go unnoticed by the heavenly deities—the protective forces of the universe. (April 3, 2009,World Tribune, p. 5)

SGI President Ikeda with Gajokai members as he thanks them for conducting shifts at their local Soka Gakkai centers, Tokyo, October 17, 1983. Photo by Seikyo Press.

Practical Training Guidelines for Gajokai
SGI President Ikeda appears as Shin’ichi Yamamoto.

The Gajokai has the solemn mission to protect the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, our culture and community centers, and our members. That’s the same as my mission. To accomplish that mission, you need to be fully alert at all times, pay attention to every detail and not overlook anything, no matter how minor it may seem.

[Shin’ichi Yamamoto said:] “The ability to pay careful attention starts with your attitude. It then needs to be backed up by prayer filled with a sense of responsibility and the determination not to overlook anything that could lead to an accident. Through that prayer, the positive forces of the universe will be activated, augmenting your wisdom and focus.”

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One of the iron rules is to make sure nothing has been left around the perimeter of buildings, especially anything that can burn easily, such as newspapers or bundles of magazines. If such materials were to catch on fire, it could have serious consequences.”
When they came upon a two-story Soka Gakkai building, Shin’ichi checked the storage room inside. “You need to pay attention to places that people rarely open. Some things to confirm are whether the room is locked, whether anything unusual is inside and whether the ventilation fan is still left running.

“It’s vital to keep these kinds of areas tidy, so someone can easily spot an item that doesn’t belong there. If objects in a storage space are just strewn about, or there are cardboard boxes without labeled contents, it can be dangerous, as you won’t be able to notice if someone has placed any suspicious objects there. By observing how neat and orderly a place is, you can tell how alert to trouble and how responsible the people using it are.”

Shin’ichi carried out a detailed inspection, including making sure that the stove burners in kitchen facilities, and the lights and electrical appliances in rooms not in use were all shut off. Outside, he directed the light of a flashlight toward the base of the plants and flowers in front of the buildings to make sure no dangerous materials had been placed there.

“You may think this is overdoing it, but if an accident were to happen because you missed something, it would be too late. Eyes that notice the littlest things can prevent the biggest accidents.

“To prevent accidents, everyone should consider the matter carefully, decide on a basic roster of things that need to be checked and then follow it assiduously. For example, the conductors on Japanese trains always carry out a series of checks before departure. Meticulously repeating that routine each time is the key to protecting their riders’ safety.

“Once a routine is set, it needs to be carried out faithfully, without skipping or ignoring any part of it. If you allow it to become a mere formality and lose your focus, carelessness will follow. That’s the most dangerous thing.” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 24, pp. 86–87)

The Story of Katsumi Miyasaka

While active as a Soka Gakkai young men’s division greater block leader (equivalent today to a district young men’s leader), Katsumi Miyasaka was also exerting himself as a Gajokai member. He had also started to assume the responsibility of safeguarding the new Nagasaki Culture Center that had just opened in November 1975. He would frequently point out: “We’ve had this wonderful culture center built for us. We must protect it and our fellow members!”

He answered the phone calls that came to the center in a cheerful and courteous manner. The first voice one hears when calling a Soka Gakkai facility can become one’s impression of the organization as a whole. He was determined to always answer the phone in a pleasant, polite and sincere tone.

He also often remarked to other Gajokai members around him: “When people visit our centers while we’re on duty, the first person they meet is a Gajokai member. We’re the face of the Soka Gakkai. We need to warmly greet visitors with a friendly smile.”

He treated all those who visited the center with warm consideration. If someone called and said they thought they’d forgotten something in the building, he’d search for it everywhere and sometimes even deliver the item to the individual. He was more careful than anyone else in his inspection of the building and the area around it. He did this out of his awareness that the failure to notice suspicious objects near the building could result in a major accident.

Katsumi made the training and lessons he learned in the Gajokai his personal philosophy and code of behavior. That’s how a spirit is passed on. Without that attitude, even the best training will not stick.

Katsumi had not been feeling well, so in January 1976, he went to the hospital to be examined. It turned out he had cancer, which was already in the terminal stage. He had surgery, but the cancer metastasized and could not be removed. He was told he had about a month to live.

However, he said to his family members: “I am going to show great actual proof of this Buddhism. Though I may not have long to live, I’m going to survive until May 3, the sixteenth anniversary of President Yamamoto’s inauguration.”

Eventually, he left the hospital and was cared for at home. Whenever members came to visit him, it was he who encouraged them. “Life is truly amazing when it’s dedicated to kosen-rufu, the path of opening the way to happiness for all people. Having been born in this world and encountered Buddhism, we have a mission to keep striving to talk to people about the wonder of this philosophy until our last breath.”

On one occasion, Katsumi said to a young men’s division member: “I may not have long to live, but life is eternal. My most heartfelt wish is that in my next life, I will be born into a family who has the Gohonzon. But even if I have the Gohonzon, I won’t really understand this faith, and I won’t be able to strive joyously unless I also encounter the Soka Gakkai, the organization advancing kosen-rufu, and a mentor like President Yamamoto. That’s why I want to be reborn together with President Yamamoto and the Soka Gakkai.

“And if possible, I’d like to be healthy. I want eyes to see the Gohonzon, a mouth to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and share this Buddhism with others, and strong legs, so I can take part in Soka Gakkai activities. That’s my greatest wish for my next life.

“But when I think about it, I’ve had all my wishes fulfilled in this life. I’m very grateful for my life. To me it’s exactly as the Lotus Sutra states, ‘This cluster of unsurpassed jewels has come to us unsought’ (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 124).”

Though he had been told he had only a month to live, Katsumi was still alive after two months and then three. At last, May 3, 1976—the sixteenth anniversary of Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s inauguration as the third president of the Soka Gakkai—arrived. “I’m alive,” said Katsumi. “I survived to May 3.” From that day on, he grew visibly weaker, but he remained cheerful and upbeat.

“I want to take part in one more Gajokai shift at the Nagasaki Culture Center. I want to see our members arriving happily at the center. I want to once again eat the instant ramen that is provided to on-duty Gajokai as a late-night snack.”

On May 24, hearing that Katsumi’s condition had worsened, his younger brother, Takeshi, who lived in Saitama Prefecture, and his two sisters, who were married and lived in Nagasaki, came to be with him.

The next morning, May 25, Katsumi asked Takeshi to look after their parents when he was gone. Then he said, “I’d like to recite the sutra together as a family.”

They carried Katsumi to the room where the Buddhist altar was and held him up as he recited the sutra and chanted. When he finished, he lay down. Takeshi opened a pamphlet of President Yamamoto’s poem “Song of Youth,” which happened to be resting on a small table in front of the altar. Katsumi liked the poem, and Takeshi decided to read it for him.

About halfway through the poem, with a peaceful smile on his face, Katsumi breathed his last breath, as if drifting off to sleep. Having dedicated his youth to the Gajokai, his 27-year-old life came to an end.

The value of one’s life is not necessarily decided by its length. Through dedicating oneself to the noble purpose of kosen-rufu, one’s life comes to shine. (NHR-24, 92–96)

(pp. 16-19)