Feature

Soka Group: Founded November 2, 1976

The Spirit of SGI Youth Training Groups


The following is SGI President Ikeda’s encouragement on the founding of the Soka Group, a young men’s training group.

MOTTOES: > Protect the Soka Gakkai  > Treasure the members > Thoroughly fight behind the scenes

Origins of the Soka Group
SGI President Ikeda appears as Shin’ichi Yamamoto.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto had renamed the Traffic Control Group (TCG)—composed of young men’s division members entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the transport of members making pilgrimages to the head temple—to the Soka Group on November 2, 1976.

The TCG began operation when second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda initiated monthly pilgrimages to the head temple in October 1952. It started as a group of young men’s division members who, in the spirit of youth standing up to take full responsibility, took charge of regulating the number of participants on the monthly pilgrimages and assisting members at train stations and during transit.

In those days, members traveled on these pilgrimages in regular train cars, not specially reserved ones, which made it tougher for the TCG to fulfill their responsibilities. They had to make sure that every member of each group boarded the train and found seats. They also looked after members who weren’t feeling well, and made sure the pilgrimage groups didn’t cause trouble for other passengers on the trains.

Sometimes passengers would react negatively—based on prejudice and misunderstanding—when they learned that a Soka Gakkai group was on the train making a pilgrimage. Such passengers sometimes behaved scornfully or insulted the members. In such situations, the young men of the TCG responded with gentle and forbearing smiles, quick wit and a dignified, restrained manner to protect the members and ensure their safe travel.

As the monthly pilgrimages continued, the TCG became more and more organized. Shin’ichi gave his all to fostering and advising the members of the group.

Viewing the Soka Group Monument and wishing for the growth of its members, Tokyo, May 1996. Photo by Seikyo Press.

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In October 1955, as the chief of staff of the youth division, Shin’ichi presented guidance to the TCG members titled “For the Traffic Control Group of the Young Men’s Division.”

The guidance praised the TCG for caring for each member and conducting their duties with accuracy, speed, commitment and sincerity: “Taking to heart the concept that though unnoticed by others, everything is observed by the Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the universe, it is my earnest wish that you will carry out the Buddhist practice of your youth through engaging in TCG activities, applying what you learn there to your efforts within the youth division and at your places of work.”

The concept that the attitudes and actions of all living beings are clearly perceived by the Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the universe is another way of saying that the impartial law of the causality of life applies to all. Through the guidance, the young men of the TCG deepened their sense of mission, and they made this concept their basic spirit.

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On November 2, while further discussing the matter with young men’s division leaders, Shin’ichi said as he wrote the words Soka Group on a memo pad: “The young men’s division has proposed many names, but I’d like to suggest renaming the Traffic Control Group the Soka Group, and renaming the Traffic Control Group Academy the Soka Group Academy.

“This name signifies that the members of this group are the pride of the Soka Gakkai, and will take responsibility for the organization as a whole as well as everything necessary for advancing kosen-rufu. Their mission, first and foremost, is to protect the Soka Gakkai. As such, I have given them the name Soka, calling them the Soka Group, because a name expresses the essence of a thing.

“From now on, the Soka Group will open up a new era for the Soka Gakkai. Let’s appoint a new person to be the leader of the Soka Group. We should announce these changes as soon as possible.”

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It was the evening of November 4, 1976, and the Traffic Control Group Leaders Meeting was under way at the Soka Culture Center in Shinanomachi, Tokyo. The young men’s division leader had just announced that the TCG was being disbanded and simultaneously reconstituted as the Soka Group. The new group’s responsibilities would be expanded to include not only its original function of assisting with transport during pilgrimages to the head temple but also the task of supporting the operations of various activities and events taking place at the headquarters and Soka Gakkai facilities around the country. The assembled members were astonished at the announcements. They erupted in joy, their applause

reverberating throughout the hall. The Traffic Control Group Leaders Meeting became the historic kickoff of the Soka Group. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 24, pp. 104–09)

President Ikeda says to a Soka Group member on shift, “You must have many challenges, but don’t be defeated!” Sapporo, Japan, August 1992. Photo by Seikyo Press.

Developing Into a Person Who Can Face All of Life’s Challenges

[Shin’ichi Yamamoto said:] “To grow as youth, it’s vital to overcome the tendency to feel dependent upon others. If you think for even a moment that you might pass your responsibilities on to the men’s division, or that it’s OK to neglect Soka Gakkai activities by telling yourselves that you’re too busy at work, you won’t be able to train yourselves.

“Young people should be enterprising and wholehearted, voluntarily shouldering full responsi-bility and ready to take on any task. No matter how busy you are at work, it’s vital that you challenge yourselves to participate in Soka Gakkai activities. If you ignore this or give up trying, saying you just can’t find the time, you are passing up an opportunity to do your human revolution and fully develop your lives.

“In your youth, you’re often called upon to do the grunt work at your job, and you frequently bear the brunt of the burden. You probably have very little free time for yourselves. But it’s important to exercise your ingenuity and create time, make a genuine effort, and apply yourselves fully in your Buddhist faith and practice.

“Over time, those experiences will train you and foster the strength that is the underlying toughness you need to face all of life’s challenges. This will eventually become your good fortune. That’s why struggles are actually life’s greatest treasure. (NHR-24, 116–17)

Soka Group Training

Based on the guidance that Shin’ichi Yamamoto had given them at their first general meeting, the top leaders of the Soka Group began an earnest discussion . . .

“I agree. ‘Training’ sounds old-fashioned, but the only way to really master things is to actually do them, to practice them physically. Such training will be indispensable from now on, too.”

“That’s right. And each of us should take the lessons we learned through education and training in the Soka Group and put them into practice in our daily lives, demonstrating our full potential in society. In other words, through the Soka Group’s activities, we need to establish a foundation of educating, training and motivating ourselves.”

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “Put into flames, a rock simply turns to ashes, but gold becomes pure gold” (“Letter to the Brothers,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 497). Without training, capable individuals cannot become great leaders. Training is a requirement for great growth.

From the time they were the TCG (Traffic Control Group), the members had trained rigorously together to be on time, earnestly safeguard the Soka Gakkai members and ensure the safety of all those traveling on pilgrimages. If the TCG members had been late when they were supposed to be on duty, it could have led to a major accident. In addition, in order to take time off of work to fulfill TCG duties on pilgrimages, they had to earn the trust of their employers, so each day at work was also a struggle.

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Another of their essential duties was to convey such information as transfer and arrival times to the members making the pilgrimage to the head temple, so their voices had to be loud and clear enough to carry throughout the train car. Therefore, some TCG members practiced making these announcements aloud to train their voices. They were expected to communicate quickly and error-free, so everyone diligently practiced how to pass on necessary information accurately. If their grasp of the number of members making pilgrimages was off by even one person, it would affect not only travel plans but also bedding and meal arrangements at places of lodging.

Accuracy is the foundation for everything. Inaccurate information can cause all sorts of problems. As the Italian thinker Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–72) observed, “The common victory depends on the exactness with which the different operations are carried out.” (NHR-24, 127–29)

Standing Up to Protect the Soka Gakkai

I understood that by exposing the corrupt machi-nations of the priesthood, we would be nearer to completing the path of accomplishing our goal of religious revolution. With lightning quick speed, superbly capable people gathered from within the youth division, and we constructed these ever-victorious groups of pacesetters of kosen-rufu: the Soka Group and the Gajokai. We proudly declared that these citadels of capable people are invincible fortresses of truth and justice.

Our members’ outrage at the harsh and deplorable authoritarianism of the priesthood could no longer be contained. At that time, I offered youth division leaders these words of the 17th- century French philosopher Blaise Pascal: “Right without might is helpless, might without right is tyrannical.” Possessing strong faith and profound Buddhist philosophy, we had no reason to heed the priest-hood’s avaricious and brutish abuse of power.

The youth division rose up with incredible strength and resolve, uniting might and right, and launched into battle against the devilish forces. And among them, it was the Soka Group and the Gajokai that initiated the verbal struggle to defeat the evil of the priesthood. In communities everywhere, the pointed arguments of Soka Group and Gajokai members blazed like fire. These youth took the lead, determined to triumph over the scheming priests. They fought and charged ahead.

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Now, up-and-coming young men’s division members are rallying to the training groups that foster prospective members for the Soka Group and Gajokai; they are diligently studying and preparing themselves. I have received reports from throughout the nation concerning the tremendous progress made in February and March by our reliable Soka Group and Gajokai members. This makes me indescribably happy.

“Strike while the iron is hot” is the unfailing rule in developing capable individuals. The Soka Gakkai is much stronger now, with a broader array of talented people.

Someone who tries to take it easy while getting others to do the work is a pathetic sham. The leaders of the new age are those who work hard themselves, strive to encourage other sincere, dedicated people and practice Buddhism in the spirit of not begrudging one’s life.

Those who take it upon themselves to engage in the inconspicuous task of supporting and assisting others behind the scenes are able to appreciate and value the unsung heroes of our membership who are giving their utmost. And this is why such people are outraged by the sufferings caused by villains and ingrates, and fight earnestly against them.

Standing on the frontlines of kosen-rufu, the members of the Soka Group and Gajokai—together with the young women’s Byakuren Group—embody the precious youthful life force of the Soka Gakkai. People who have visited our centers and participated in meetings have often expressed their praise and admiration for the members of these groups. (Kosen-rufu: Our Mission, vol. 2, pp. 264–65)

(pp. 26-29)