Feature

The Year of Soka Victory

In two years, we will celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding. Toward this milestone, this year’s SGI theme is: The Year of Soka Victory—Toward Our 90th Anniversary.

Photo by RomoloTavani/Getty Images.


Soka Gakkai President Daisaku Ikeda performs a fan dance in front of a banner reading “Victory” at the 13th Young Men’s Division General Meeting, Tokyo, November 1964. Photo by Seikyo Press.

In an October 2018 speech, Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada shared the importance of making causes in 2019 for a decisive victory in 2020. What does “Soka Victory” mean? He said that “Soka Victory” is achieved by ensuring the victory of every member based on our efforts to establish heart-to-heart bonds through home visits and personal guidance.

By conveying the greatness of the Gohonzon and the Mystic Law through personal encouragement and small group interactions, individuals are able to rise out of the depths of even the most painful suffering and set out once again on their path of human revolution. Engaging in efforts to visit one person after another will lead to dynamic, hope-filled discussion meetings, expansion in the number of people engaging in their human revolution and overflowing benefit for every member.

The following are excerpts from SGI President Ikeda’s guidance on creating victory through personal guidance and heart-to-heart bonds.

Home Visits and Personal Guidance: An All-out, Life-to-life interaction

[Second Soka Gakkai President] Josei Toda offered personal guidance based on his sense of responsibility to help each suffering individual. An endless succession of members came to see him. He gave wholehearted attention to the challenges they were facing, and he sincerely encouraged and guided them. He greeted this torrent of problems with unshakable confidence and conviction, the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism serving as his sole anchor.

Whenever Mr. Toda heard reports of members overcoming years of suffering and despair through practicing Nichiren Buddhism, he was overjoyed. And whenever he saw the downcast faces of members who reported that their situations weren’t improving, he was heartbroken.

Mr. Toda dedicated his life to realizing the great vow for kosen-rufu. What occupied his mind most each day was that every one of his beloved disciples carry out their human revolution and transform their karma.

If we cannot help the person right in front of us achieve their human revolution, we cannot open the way to kosen-rufu, to changing the karma of all humankind. Inheriting Mr. Toda’s spirit, our members around the world today are actively reaching out to one person after another and spreading the hope and joy of human revolution. (October 2017 Living Buddhism, pp. 47–48)

The discussion meeting actually begins with the central figure or main organizer offering members encouragement and guidance so that they will attend their local meetings.

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Tsuruko [Kaneda] gave her all to visiting chapter members and offering them personal guidance. Because the Soka Gakkai was based on a vertical “line” organization, her members were spread out all over Tokyo, including in Meguro and Setagaya wards, as well as in the neighboring prefectures of Chiba and Kanagawa, and some even as far away as Nagano Prefecture. Visiting them, therefore, meant taking several trains or buses. At most, Tsuruko could only get to two or three homes per day. Trying to find money for all the transportation costs was a constant challenge. She cut back on her household expenses and tried to save wherever she could. Since she didn’t have a telephone at home, communicating with members and keeping them updated about activities was also difficult. On winter evenings, she would stand in line, shivering in the cold, waiting to use a pay phone.

But the members who received guidance and encouragement from her began to practice actively themselves and gain their own experiences of benefit in faith. Whenever she heard how happy they had become, she forgot all of her hardships.

Tsuruko created a personal guidance notebook in which she kept a detailed record of the circumstances of each member she met with and how she encouraged them. She chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo earnestly for each of them to overcome their problems and stayed in touch with them regularly.

She thought, I’ve been successful in giving guidance if that person overcomes their suffering and shows wonderful actual proof of faith.

As Tsuruko continued to chant for the happiness of the members in her chapter, she also received many benefits herself. She was able to move from Itabashi Ward to a large home with a telephone in neighboring Nerima Ward, and her family members were now all in good health. Best of all, her home was always filled with laughter.

By the spring of 1978, Tsuruko’s personal guidance notebook contained more than 1,000 names. They represented the number of people she had helped become happy.

To ignite the flame of courage and conviction in another’s heart and open their eyes to their mission for kosen-rufu is a supremely noble endeavor.

That notebook became one of Tsuruko’s most prized treasures.

“If someone who is a leader just goes through the motions of fulfilling their responsibility, without making any real effort, they won’t be able to transform their state of life or change their karma. It is by taking on hard work and striving steadfastly for kosen-rufu, the Soka Gakkai and the well-being of others that we achieve deep and lasting happiness.” (October 2017 Living Buddhism, pp. 56–57)

 

Soka Gakkai President Ikeda showers praise on a pioneer member in Osaka, April 1972. Photo by Seikyo Press.

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Whenever I [Daisaku Ikeda] had a free moment, while traveling around Japan and the world, I continued to visit the homes of our noble members striving for kosen-rufu. As the number of homes I visited increased one by one, I felt as if the number of my family members was also growing.

Our humanity is deepened and our state of life enriched in direct proportion to the tireless efforts we put into offering personal guidance and making home visits. If we don’t actually visit people’s homes and talk with each person individually, we won’t really be able to grasp their sufferings and problems. And if we don’t do that, we won’t be able to fully inspire them with hope toward their lives, their mission or their future. Faith is manifested in daily life. Without an understanding of a person’s daily life, we can’t know where they are in faith. Many members may behave in a cheerful manner in public but may have problems, worries or sufferings that we don’t know about. In fact, no one is without problems or worries of one sort or another.

Each encounter of this kind made me acutely aware of how vital it is to give detailed, individual guidance to members on specific problems they are facing in their lives in order to help them establish unshakable faith. (Translated from the September 3, 2004, Seikyo Shimbun)

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Giving personal guidance is an all-out, life-to-life interaction fueled by compassion and conviction. It is a struggle to apprehend the shifting emotions going through others’ hearts moment to moment and to cut through the ignorance or darkness shrouding their lives. In the course of this exchange, we may see their expressions gradually change—for instance, conveying agreement, appearing self-reflective, looking more positive and upbeat, filled with a sense of relief and finally shining with fresh resolve. The process of offering guidance is a struggle to ignite a spark of courage and hope within others’ lives that will give them the strength to overcome their negative karma, and to share wisdom and advice based on the teachings of Buddhism with which to defeat the devilish functions or obstacles they face. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 1, p. 176)

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Shin’ichi [the penname for Daisaku Ikeda] further spoke of the importance of visiting members at their homes in the period before and after discussion meetings, and of offering personal guidance. The discussion meeting actually begins with the central figure or main organizer offering members encouragement and guidance so that they will attend their local meetings. Such one-on-one interaction enables leaders to hear the members’ wishes and opinions. They can also get to know the members’ strengths and interests, as well as learn about their problems and the benefits they have received through faith. Putting this information to use in planning discussion meetings and getting members involved in them serve to make such activities fulfilling and rewarding for all.

Encouragement following discussion meetings is also very important. Leaders should thank members for attending, praise the comments they made during the meeting, listen to their feedback and invite them to attend the next meeting. Asserting that the success of a discussion meeting comes down to everyone’s unity, Shin’ichi urged not only leaders but all members to take full responsibility for them. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 18, pp. 254–55)

SGI President Ikeda gives personal encouragement to members, Florence, Italy, May 1981. Photo by Seikyo Press.

Big Meetings and Personal Guidance: Ensuring the lifeblood of Faith Reaches Each Member.

If big meetings are like the major arteries of the body, then small study and discussion groups and personal guidance sessions are like the capillaries. In the human body, the major arteries are not sufficient to carry blood to every single cell. But because we have countless smaller veins and capillaries, the vital blood we need flows throughout our bodies, and we can actively engage in our daily activities.

In the same way, within the Soka Gakkai, small group discussions and personal guidance sessions act as the lifelines and support the development of kosen-rufu, ensuring that the “blood” of faith reaches each member. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 26, p. 120)

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Meetings are of course important, but in reality not everyone can attend them. There are usually at least twice as many members in a local organization as the number who regularly participate in any given discussion meeting. Only by personally visiting and encouraging each member in our area can we solidify our organization. This will lead to the Soka Gakkai’s growth and development, and in turn, to the advancement of kosen-rufu. Soka Gakkai activities without personal guidance are like a masterpiece without the finishing touches.

Offering personal guidance is of course easier said than done. The Soka Gakkai is made up of all kinds of people. Some may refuse to meet or speak with other members, while others perhaps joined as children along with their parents but do not consider themselves believers. We may even come across members highly critical of the Soka Gakkai. Others may be suffering so deeply from financial difficulties or illness that they are bereft of any hope for the future.

It is no easy task to visit the homes of such members, to try and make conversation, forge bonds of friendship, talk about the importance of faith, and teach them about gongyo and Buddhist principles. Doing so is far more challenging than talking with members we see at meetings or organizing various activities.

But it is these very efforts that enable us to polish ourselves. In striving to help others grow, we grow too. Furthermore, struggling in this way constitutes true Buddhist practice. Promoting activities together with those who regularly attend meetings is simple, but this in itself will not enable Nichiren Buddhism to spread. To concern ourselves only with such members would be comparable to the captain of a ship bound for a distant shore contenting himself with sailing around the harbor. Leaders must realize that the main stage of Soka Gakkai activities is not meetings themselves, but the hard work that takes place beyond the meetings.

The network of life-to-life bonds that is the Soka Gakkai was built through the efforts of individuals to visit and personally encourage their fellow members. Just as a broad interwoven nexus of roots that sink deep into the earth supports a mighty tree, it is the consistent and painstaking actions of members to offer personal guidance at the grassroots level that hold up the Soka Gakkai. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 8, pp. 90–91)