Feature

"I Want You to Win! I'm Determined to Win, Too!

CEC Report

Becca Henry


“Home Visit Week” is established to support the development and victory of each member.

SANTA MONICA, Calif., March 9—In 2013, the SGI-USA youth made the word challenge their motto, with the goal of introducing 3,000 young people to the humanistic philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism in the United States.

It was a dream that SGI-USA members across the country rallied around and accomplished that November, sparking a larger shift toward establishing a natural rhythm of shakubuku in the organization.

Whereas the goal to introduce 3,000 youth in 2013 and gather 50,000 youth for the Lions of Justice Festival last year were definitive, the SGI-USA’s focus toward 2020 requires a longer-term perspective—one rooted in developing the districts through the largely unseen efforts to visit and personally encourage each member in faith.

“This is a different type of challenge,” said SGI-USA Youth Leader Olivia Saito. “Our efforts won’t show immediate results, but they are crucial. They will no doubt lead to exponential growth and the victory of each member.”

In its first quarterly conference of the year, the Central Executive Committee—a body composed of national and territory leaders charged with setting the activity focus for the organization—reiterated the overarching focus of the SGI-USA toward the Soka Gakkai’s 90th anniversary on Nov. 18, 2020:

• To develop the districts through personal encouragement and home visits.
• To strengthen the future division and student division.

In a message to the conference, SGI President Ikeda praised the efforts of the American members, saying the key to expanding the realm of human revolution and kosen-rufu in the United States is “to maintain courageous faith, to earnestly persevere in encouraging the person in front of us and to use everything as an opportunity to joyously connect those around us to Buddhism.” He continues:

And today, we have in fact entered an era in which Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of the Sun is brightly illuminating people’s lives throughout the globe.

My beloved members of the SGI-USA, who are dedicated to the mission of carrying out a most noble vow, I now call out to you: Let us take great pride in living as Bodhisattvas of the Earth as we continue advancing with the greatest harmony, friendship and joy, declaring together: “I want you to win! I’m determined to win, too! Let’s win today, and again tomorrow!”

“Home Visit Week” Established.

Based on this spirit, the CEC members voted to establish “Home Visit Week,” making the second full week of each month (starting the Monday after the second Sunday) a time for leaders to focus solely on visiting members at their homes and offering personal encouragement. “Home Visit Week” excludes Sundays to allow activities for the youth division, national language bureau groups, etc., to continue. The official dates for “Home Visit Week” are:

• April 15–20
• May 13–18
• June 10–15
• July: TBD due to youth discussion meetings
• Aug. 12–17
• Sept. 9–14
• Oct. 14–19
• Nov. 11–16
• December: TBD due to the holiday break

While the CEC members discussed the challenges associated with making such a change, they agreed it was necessary to dedicate time solely to offering one-to-one encouragement.

“This is a huge paradigm shift,” said SGI-USA Men’s Leader Kevin Moncrief. “But to energize our front lines, we can’t do things the way we always have.”

The SGI-USA, meanwhile, is focusing on helping each district become a Soka Victory District toward the 60th anniversary of the SGI-USA in October 2020, commemorating President Ikeda’s establishment of the first U.S. districts. The award is based on a set of four benchmarks that are indications of a healthy district. They are:

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

In support of these endeavors, the SGI-USA will open its online statistics system to all district leaders at the start of the May/June statistics reporting period on May 17.

This will enable them to report monthly discussion meeting attendance by name in their member portal accounts; make various types of membership changes; and have constant access to key statistics and subscriptions reports to support in member care.

SGI-USA General Director Adin Strauss said of our collective efforts to strengthen the front lines: While each person taking leadership responsibility may not have the ability to meet with each member, our spirit should be to diligently chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the members to grow.

“When we hear about a member who is sick, we should take it personally—that this member is going to overcome their illness because of my daimoku,” he said. “When members feel stuck or stagnated, we should feel: This is my responsibility for this member to break through.”

Building the future division and student division.

With the SGI-USA’s second focal point on building the future division and student division, the future division announced that they will focus on visiting elementary school division through high school division members (with a parent or guardian present in the home).

The aim of these visits will be to build bonds of friendship, encourage these future successors in life and faith, and invite them to participate in discussion meetings, future division activities and the Ikeda Youth Ensemble group.

To support this new focus, the SGI-USA introduced the following appointments:

• Future Division Women’s Leader Kazuyo Nakagawa
• Future Division Men’s Leader Jason Lions
• Parents Group Four-Divisional Leader Danny Nagashima
• Parents Group Women’s Leader Kathy King
• Parents Group Men’s Leader Alex Marcos

Future Division Leader Ian McIlraith, Young Women’s Leader Jennifer Wilmeth and Young Men’s Leader Ryan Hayashi will continue in their appointments.

For the student division, its focus will be to hold two study lectures this year open to all its members. The first one, held in February, was attended by 422 student division members and guests in 39 locations.

They also plan to hold three Buddhist seminars at Columbia University in New York, UCLA in Los Angeles and Northwestern University in Chicago. The seminars will center on A New Humanism: The University Addresses of Daisaku Ikeda.

“An organization overflowing with smiles, friendship and humanity.”

In closing encouragement, SGI-USA Women’s Leader Naoko Leslie called on the men’s and women’s division members to “support our precious youth 1,000 percent and create a warm Soka family,” sharing President Ikeda’s encouragement to America regarding the spirit the districts should aim to embody:

No matter what difficulties you may have, when you go to a meeting and see friends, you feel relief and a sense of joy, and your heart fills with hope. It is my sincere hope that you hold wonderful meetings of this kind—happy gatherings where friends warmly pat each other on the back, encourage one another and share their joys and sorrows. My wish is that the SGI-USA will become an organization overflowing with smiles, friendship and humanity. I hope that all of you, without a single exception, will lead lives of the greatest fulfillment and joy.[1]My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 8.

Ms. Leslie concluded: “The district is where Sensei is. Let’s show actual proof there.” WT


“I will direct all my energies to the development of Kawagoe District!”

In 1951, the young Daisaku Ikeda was assigned to Kawagoe District in Saitama Prefecture, where, for the next 18 months, he strove to build a model district. Although he led other significant endeavors during that time, including the Kamata Campaign, his mind was always on Kawagoe District. In volume 26 of The New Human Revolution, SGI President Ikeda fondly reflects on his time there. He appears in the novel as Shin’ichi Yamamoto.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto had first gone to Kawagoe District to lecture on Sept. 25, 1951, about five months after Josei Toda was inaugurated as the second president. For the next 18 months or so, Shin’ichi often visited Kawagoe . . .

Fondly reflecting on that time, Shin’ichi said: “During his inauguration, President Toda announced his lifetime goal of achieving a Soka Gakkai membership of 750,000 households. He also appointed a group of lecturers who would be the pivot of a new major study movement, and I was one of those appointed.

“Leaders at that time were delighted at President Toda’s inauguration and were actively engaged in sharing Buddhism with others. Yet they still lacked the wholehearted commitment to truly accomplish his goal and work purposefully alongside him to lay the foundations for kosen-rufu.

“That year, as the end of August approached, President Toda said to me: ‘At this rate, it will take decades or centuries to achieve a membership of 750,000 households. Saitama in particular is lagging behind. I want you to lecture in Kawagoe District and, through studying [Nichiren] Daishonin’s writings, awaken the members to their mission of carrying out kosen-rufu so that they can take action on their own initiative. Building chapters starts with reinforcing the districts’ ” . . .

Mr. Toda then said to Shin’ichi: “Even from the small unit of the district, the flame of faith can burn and spread throughout the entire Soka Gakkai. If you can build a model district in Kawagoe, it will inspire and energize Tokyo.

“In addition to supporting Kawagoe District, I would like to have you take on many other critical responsibilities in activities. You’re going to be very busy from now on, but Saitama is important. So please put your all into solidifying Kawagoe District.

“Help the members there deepen their faith and grow as individuals through studying the Daishonin’s writings together with them. The only way to strengthen the organization is to foster capable people. Such efforts are not glamorous, but they are a crucial key to reaching the membership goal of 750,000 households. Can you do it?”

Shin’ichi replied without the slightest hesitation: “Yes! I will direct all my energies to the development of Kawagoe District!” (pp. 352–53) WT

 

Notes   [ + ]

1. My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 8.