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Is there a faster way to achieve kosen-rufu than reaching person by person?

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The quick answer is, “No.”

Simply put, dialogue and one-to-one exchanges are the unchanging method by which we can most effectively spread Buddhism.

With the rise of cell phones, social media and instantaneous digital communications, we may think that there must be a quicker way to spread Nichiren Buddhism and realize peace in the world. Even if we were to express en masse to people how wonderful Buddhist practice is, we can’t guarantee its impact. No matter how enthralling a lecture in front of many people or an experience shared on social media, people still may have questions and doubts about what they hear. Only through dialogue and discussion can such questions be answered in a satisfactory way.

What’s more, people’s hearts don’t easily change just by hearing wonderful things. True change at the depths of one’s life is a gradual process.

A young man once suggested to founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi that holding large-scale lectures would be more effective than one-to-one dialogue.

“ ‘No, it wouldn’t,’ Mr. Makiguchi replied without hesitation. ‘Dialogue is the only way to communicate with another about life’s problems. At a lecture, listeners inevitably feel uninvolved. Even [Nichiren] Daishonin’s treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land” was written in the form of a dialogue’” (SGI President Ikeda, Feb. 17, 2006, World Tribune, p. 3).

Because of Mr. Makiguchi’s remarkable foresight, he instituted and promoted the discussion meeting as the main venue for carrying out intimate dialogues focused on spreading the ideals and practice of Nichiren Buddhism. These meetings have become a proud SGI tradition in which people share their tested results of Buddhist practice.

In fact, after being arrested in July 1943 for violating the Peace Preservation Law—the principal legal tool used to suppress thoughts counter to the policies of Japanese military expansionism—one of the charges made against President Makiguchi was that he had held more than 240 discussion meetings in a two-year period, which averages out to one meeting every three days.

President Ikeda says that discussion meetings “are free of cruel malice and contempt, intimidation, authoritarianism, discrimination or petty emotionalism.” He continues: “Our meetings are marked by a warm spirit of trust and support based on deep mutual respect. They are occasions where we confirm our shared conviction that everyone has the right to happiness and can become happy without fail, no matter what their problems” (March 19, 2010, World Tribune, p. 4).

Such warm, life-affirming discussions are the starting point of Buddhism. When Shakyamuni first shared the content of his enlightenment with others, rather than share it in front of a large assembly, he chose to do so in the form of a small-group discussion with five old friends. And he talked with them in an intimate, informal setting. They later became his first five disciples.

President Ikeda confirms: “Discussion meetings are the starting point of the Soka Gakkai’s growth. All our progress, development and victories derive from the momentum created at our dynamic and invigorating discussion meetings” (March 19, 2010, World Tribune, p. 5).

Lastly, it is important to understand that kosen-rufu does not represent a static end point to “achieve” at some point in time. President Ikeda notes, “Kosen-rufu is not the end point of the flow; it is the flow itself, the vibrant coursing of this living Buddhism throughout society and the world” (September 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 56). However, this is not something that we must passively wait for. Our everyday SGI activities, such as discussion meetings, are the very essence and core of the flow of kosen-rufu.

As information technology continues to progress, face-to-face communication will become all the more crucial for individual and social development. This is why the tradition of discussion meetings in the SGI, based on dialogue and empathetic interactions, will remain the unchanging basis for spreading the empowering practice of Nichiren Buddhism, no matter the society or the age. To thoroughly engage in one-to-one dialogue, though seemingly time-consuming, is in fact the surest and most direct path of kosen-rufu. WT


Photo by Seikyo Press.

SGI President Ikeda’s Guidance

The following is an excerpt from volume 26 of The New Human Revolution.

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. (p. 120)