Kosen Rufu Begins and Ends With Discussion Meetings

A new dawn rises in the SGI-USA with the district at the core.

The new SGI-USA team. Photo: Letica Rey

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Nov. 3—With its gaze set on the 90th anniversary of Soka Gakkai Founding Day, the SGI-USA introduced a principle theme to underpin all its activities toward Nov. 18, 2020:

Kosen-rufu Begins and Ends With Discussion Meetings. [1]SGI President Ikeda, May 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 10.

The SGI-USA Central Executive Committee and Executive Council held its final quarterly conference of the year,on the heels of the victorious 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival, in which 50,000 youth gathered in nine U.S. cities on Sept. 23 to stand up for the dignity and respect of all people.

In a message to the conference, SGI President Ikeda reiterated his heartfelt congratulations to the U.S. members for their “remarkable feat.” He continued:

World peace is not found somewhere far away. It exists where individuals don the “robe of gentleness and patience,”[2]“A Robe and an Unlined Robe,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 602. and sincerely and tirelessly sow the seeds of hope and happiness in the hearts of suffering friends.

You are fighting in the land that is generating momentum for kosen-rufu around the world. I ask each of you to chant the lion’s roar of daimoku [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] and summon forth abundant life force “day by day and month after month,”[3]“On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” WND-1, 997. as you continue expanding your circle of friendship and trust.

A new beginning for the SGI-USA focused on the discussion meeting.

As the SGI-USA starts a new chapter that is laser-focused on developing the district through personal encouragementand home visits, General Director

Adin Strauss announced a round of national leadership appointments (see pp. 8–9 for introductions). They are:

• SGI-USA Women’s Leader Naoko Leslie
• SGI-USA Men’s Leader Kevin Moncrief
• SGI-USA Young Men’s Leader Ryo Kuroki

Akemi Bailey-Haynie, who has served as the national women’s leader for five years, will take on the role of Chicago Zone Leader. During the transition, she will also serve as women’s division senior advisor to Ms. Leslie until June 2019.

Cliff Sawyer, who has been the national men’s leader for three years, will continue in his capacity as SGI-USA Vice General Director.

Mike O’Malley, who has served as the national young men’s leader for nearly three years, has become a district men’s and region vice men’s leader.

Barbara Jenkins and Melanie Merians have concluded their terms as vice national women’s leaders and will take on other responsibilities in their local organizations.

At the territory level, the following appointments were also made:

• West Territory Men’s Leader Mike Bynum
• West Territory Young Women’s Leader Maya Gunaseharan
• East Territory Women’s Leader Jasmine Lee
• Central Territory Young Women’s Leader Yoori Yim

“The True Model for Kosen-rufu.”

With the Lions of Justice Festival marking a clear point of departure for the SGI-USA, the CEC members discussed how to channel the passion and power of the 50,000 youth into the districts, based on the charge: “Kosen-rufu Begins and Ends With Discussion Meetings.”

SGI-USA Young Women’s Leader Olivia Saito shared President Ikeda’s observation that America has tended to return to the prime point of its founding ideals at intervals of 30 years. Speaking at the First SGI-USA Executive Conference in February 1990, President Ikeda said:

In human terms, 30 years correspond roughly to one generation. In a 30-year period, one generation is replaced by the next; the order of things requires the emergence of anew, youthful generation. Herein lies one of the reasons why I heartily desire that the SGI-USA, at this milestone of its 30th anniversary, make a truly fresh start for the future. (My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 54)

Speaking of the kosen-rufu movement in America, Ms. Saito touched on the following dates:

1960: President Ikeda visited America for the first time to spread Nichiren Buddhism around the world.

1990: President Ikeda visited Los Angeles for 17 days at a crucial juncturein the organization’s history, enacting areligious revolution grounded in Buddhist humanism.

And now, 2020 represents: A new revolution for the front lines based on personal guidance and home visits.

“The key to achieving this is to shift the root of our culture,” Ms. Saito said. “We’re building a culture where we can’t wait to meet with our comrades in faith every single month at the discussion meeting. We’re building a culture where the members never feel isolated or alone. Today, at this CEC, we’re making a new declaration and returning to our starting point with our mentor to make the SGI-USA the true model for kosen-rufu.”

“It is time to visit and awaken members in each district.”

Next year’s SGI theme is The Yearof Soka Victory—Toward the 90th Anniversary of the Soka Gakkai. In 2020, we will also celebrate the 60thanniversary of the SGI-USA. Young Men’s Leader Ryo Kuroki shared an episode from volume 1 of The New Human Revolution, in which PresidentIkeda explains why he established the first district outside of Japan when he came to the U.S. for the first time in October 1960:

Kosen-rufu is likely to develop rapidly around the world from here on. For that reason, we need to establish a district, rather than a group, here in Hawaii, which may be thought of as the gateway to America.

Also, if people’s awareness as members of a newly formed district turns into determination, enabling them to carry out activities with renewed vigor, then they will indeed grow into a large district. We must think big. (p. 35)

With that in mind, the CEC members voted to focus on the following:

1. Expanding youth membership in each district
2. Increasing discussion meeting attendance
3. Increasing publication subscribers
4. Building a strong base of sustaining
financial contributors

“As we approach these anniversaries in 2020, let’s ask ourselves: As disciples of Sensei, how much can we grow our districts that Sensei established here 60 years ago?” Mr. Kuroki said. “How are we going to do this? Through home visits and personal encouragement. It is time to visit and awaken members in each district.”

To be sure, the battle has already begun, with the SGI-USA aiming to gather 50,000 members and guests, including 20,000 youth, for the November district discussion meetings.

Introducing new resources for the front lines.

General Director Adin Strauss deeply thanked the members for their strenuous two-year efforts, culminating in the historic 50K Festival. He said that while the festival was a great success, discussion meetings are of even greater significance in their impact on the members and their communities.

To support the front lines, the SGIUSA introduced two new resources:

“The Discussion Meeting Toolbox”: A resource on www.sgi-usa.org featuring 1- to 2-page guides for improving the discussion meeting, touching on topics that include the role of emcees, how to give a powerful experience and the importance of four-divisional planning.

Guidelines for Kosen-rufu, Victory, and Happiness: Selections From The New Human Revolution—a compendium of President Ikeda’s guidance from volumes 1–26 of his novelized series, organized by topic. The book is being distributed for free to all district–national line leaders.

With the aim of strengthening the front lines, the CEC members voted for the following activities in 2019:

Monthly new members meetings: To be held at the chapter or region level, these meetings will develop the faith and practice of members who have joined in less than a year and involve them in their planning and execution.

Soka Victory District: A set of four benchmarks each district can challenge toward the 60th anniversary of the SGI-USA in October 2020, commemorating President Ikeda’s establishment of the first U.S. districts. They are:

• 20 members and guests attend discussion meetings at least two times during the year.
• 20 subscribers to the SGI-USA publications.
• 2 people receive the Gohonzon and start practicing Nichiren Buddhism.
• 7 sustaining financial contributors.

Publications Promotion Month: January has officially become SGI-USA publications promotion month, with the aim of supporting the practice and development of members in the districts.

“The next phase is going to be about each one of us plunging into the front lines based on home visits and personal guidance to power and rejuvenate our discussion meetings,” Mr. Strauss said.

“Chapter through national leaders must conceive of themselves as people who first and foremost support their districts.”

Exciting updates for the Introductory Exam and Ikeda Wisdom Academy.

SGI-USA new members and guests who take the Introductory Exam from Dec. 15–16 will make history: For the first time, the SGI-USA study exam will take place online.

Also, with the aim of enabling new members to take the study exam closer to their joining date, the SGI-USA will offer the Introductory Exam four times next year: March 31, June 30, Sept. 29 and Dec. 15.

Participants can register on the SGIUSA Portal (portal.sgi-usa.org), and each exam location requires an internet connection and one or more proctors depending on the number of examinees.

The Ikeda Wisdom Academy, the SGI-USA youth division movement to engage youth leaders in advanced study, will also reach a milestone in January: Academy members will take Exam No. 3 on Sunday, Jan. 27. District through national youth leaders can register for the exam from Dec. 17–Jan. 19. The study material is contained in the September 2018–January 2019 issues of Living Buddhism.

Next year’s class will focus on studying The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series.

“Open a New Era of Victory.”

In a guidance teleconference with the Executive Council, SGI General Director Yoshitaka Oba said that the key to enhancing the quality of the district discussion meeting is for leaders themselves to do home visits and give personal guidance. The starting point for these activities, he said, is to deeply study and apply President Ikeda’s guidance from The New Human Revolution.

Mr. Oba mentioned the new Seikyo Shimbun series that serves as a study guide for all 30 volumes of The New Human Revolution (which will be printed in Living Buddhism, starting with the January 2019 issue). “As the role model of the world, I would like the SGI-USA to study The New Human Revolution and utilize the [study guide] thoroughly,” he said. “This is an important time for the SGI-USA. I would like to ask once again for all the leaders to unite and open a new era of victory.”


Notes   [ + ]

1. SGI President Ikeda, May 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 10.
2. “A Robe and an Unlined Robe,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 602.
3. “On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” WND-1, 997.