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Our History

Young Phoenixes, Soar Into the Future


Deeply committed to the education and development of children and youth, SGI President Ikeda, as the third Soka Gakkai president, established the high school division in June 1964, the junior high school division in January 1965, and the boys and girls division in September 1965—which together comprise the future division.
The present generation of future division members will be the key protagonists of the kosen-rufu movement when the Soka Gakkai celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2030. With this recognition, the Soka Gakkai monthly study journal
Daibyakurenge (starting from its November 2010 issue) launched a series chronicling President Ikeda’s efforts to foster the future division members, along with graduates’ personal accounts and recollections of meetings and interactions with President Ikeda in their youth.

The Buddha’s wisdom and compassion are referred to as “light.” That light, which brings human potential into full bloom, is also the dawning light that will effect positive change in the world.

The Soka Gakkai designated 1966 the “Year of Dawn.”

In his editorial titled “Dawn” for the New Year’s edition of the Daibyakurenge[1] that year, Soka Gakkai President Ikeda wrote, “Wherever we look, our world today is covered in a dark pall of stagnation and degeneration.”

What is the key to breaking through such deep darkness?

President Ikeda once said, “In an age of darkness and turmoil, the world desperately needs a powerful and inspiring life philosophy.”

Such a philosophy is the light that can break through the darkness of the age.

■  ■  ■

The year 1966, which was also the year of the high school division, got off to a brilliant start.

President Ikeda’s lecture series to high school division members began with powerful momentum.

President Ikeda had set January 8 as the date for the first lecture. He described his feelings at the time: “I was determined to foster champions of truth who would stand up as individuals.”

It was a date he would never forget—a date most appropriate for “fostering champions of truth.”

Regarding January 8, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda once said, “I will never forget the day—January 8, 1945—when I was summoned before the preliminary judge for the very first time and told bluntly when he appeared, ‘Makiguchi’s dead.’” It was the day when President Toda, who was still incarcerated, learned of the death of his beloved mentor, first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, in prison.

President Toda reflected on his feelings at the time:

I had never experienced such grief as I felt at that moment. I resolved then and there:

“I will show the world, I will prove beyond doubt whether my mentor was right or wrong! I will achieve something great to repay him for all that he has done for me. Even if, like the Count of Monte Cristo,[2]I have to use a pseudonym to do so . . . ”

With regard to President Toda’s remarks, President Ikeda said:

This impassioned cry came from the very depths of his being. Mr. Toda firmly resolved to become an indomitable champion and dedicate his life to proving the correctness of his mentor. This is the spirit of a true disciple.

I inherited this rigorous spirit of mentor and disciple from President Toda. Therefore, I fear nothing. I move forward solely in accord with my convictions.

It is through this unfolding drama of mentor and disciple that the principles of value-creation emerged.

It was only much later, however, that the high school division members attending President Ikeda’s first lecture were able to grasp the full significance of January 8 as a day imbued with the solemn spirit of mentor and disciple.

Muneyoshi Ichiyanagi (Soka Gakkai vice president): I only learned of the profound meaning of that day several years afterward, in a speech by President Ikeda. I was deeply moved when I realized that he had chosen that significant day specifically for his first lecture to us high school division members.

He had obviously put great thought into his selection of that important date. I resolved to carry on the noble spirit of mentor and disciple.

■  ■  ■

The high school division leaders began preparing for President Ikeda’s lecture in the fall of the previous year (1965), when he announced his determination to personally foster the high school division members.

The lecture participants were chosen in November. There would be 51 boys and 51 girls, 102 in total. It was a small, select group. President Ikeda felt this was the best way to have a life-to-life exchange with the youth.

True humanistic education, President Ikeda believes, takes place through such intimate, personal encounters, for it is there that genuine development of character and intellect can occur, in the same fashion as at Shoka Sonjuku.[3]

Masaichi Ueda (Soka Gakkai senior advisor; former national high school division leader and national young men’s division leader): President Ikeda suggested conducting lectures on the writings of Nichiren Daishonin to high school division representatives in October 1965, around the time of the flag-presentation ceremony. He said that he wanted to keep it to an intimate group of about 100 participants, and he left the selection process to the high school division leaders.

Until then, he had told the high school division members on several occasions: “Now is the time for you to study. High school students who don’t take their studies seriously now will come to regret it 10 or 20 years later. You are the successors of the Soka Gakkai, so please study hard at this point in your lives.”

President Ikeda always emphasized making study the high school division members’ top priority.

My fellow leaders and I interviewed prospective participants, and in November we presented President Ikeda with a list of those who were selected. He was very much aware of the difficulties the members were facing, including illness or poverty, and was determined to foster each of them personally.

■  ■  ■

In addition to the selection of participants, the materials President Ikeda would lecture on also needed to be chosen. President Ikeda decided his first lecture would be on Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “The True Aspect of All Phenomena.” This was the writing that he had studied with President Toda just prior to the latter’s inauguration as second Soka Gakkai president.

In his diary from the time, President Ikeda wrote: “At 6 p.m., Mr. Toda delivered a lecture on ‘The True Aspect of All Phenomena’ at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. He thoroughly explained the Soka Gakkai’s mission and the correct manner of propagation.”[4]

President Ikeda later commented:

From the start of 1966, I began giving monthly lectures on Nichiren’s writings to high school division members.

I selected “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” “The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life” and “Letter from Sado” as my focus.

They are all a bit difficult, but I wanted the bright young people I was fostering into the leaders of the new century, with their important mission, to study the very essence of the humanistic teachings of Buddhism.[5]

The lecture participants were immediately informed of the writings they would be covering, and they began to study diligently on their own.

Masaichi Ueda: The members studied hard, organizing study groups in preparation for the upcoming lecture.

Delighted by their motivation and enthusiasm, President Ikeda arranged for them to use Soka Gakkai facilities in the vicinity of the headquarters for their study sessions.

Kimiyo Muto (Soka Gakkai women’s division vice ward leader): There was no published lecture on “The True Aspect of All Phenomena.” The only printed material available for us was a published collection of President Ikeda’s editorials and lectures on various writings of Nichiren Daishonin.

I desperately wanted a copy of the book. I asked my seniors in faith, but no one had a copy I could borrow. Though I knew it was beyond our means, I asked my mother to buy me a copy. To my surprise, she said: “We have a copy right here. We may be poor, but I always try to buy President Ikeda’s books. I figure that even if I can’t leave you anything of material value, I can at least leave you with books that will help deepen your faith. I’m so happy that they will be of use to you!”

My mother’s compassion brought tears to my eyes. I studied very hard, looking forward to the start of the upcoming lectures.

■  ■  ■

Finally, January 8 arrived. It was the first day of the third trimester of high school in Japan. There was only a half-day of school on that day, so the students participating in the lecture hastened to the Soka Gakkai Headquarters in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, arriving early.

Everyone was tense and excited. When they took their seats in the hall on the third floor of the headquarters, they immediately opened their black leather-bound copies of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings and waited for President Ikeda to arrive.

Nobuo Okamoto (Soka Gakkai vice headquarters leader): On entering the room we were greeted by the smell of new tatami mats.

At that time, the hall on the third floor was the very center of the headquarters, where all the most important meetings took place, so its atmosphere was very impressive.

President Ikeda had decided to hold the lecture there.

■  ■  ■

Just after 1:30 p.m., President Ikeda arrived.

“Good afternoon!” the young phoenixes called out enthusiastically.

“Thank you for coming! Let’s start by doing gongyo together,” President Ikeda replied.
It was a solemn gongyo.

Then it was time for the lecture. President Ikeda began by saying: “I want to give you the opportunity to challenge yourselves. I’d like you to read the writing that we are studying today aloud first and then paraphrase what you’ve read in modern Japanese. I’ll deliver my lecture afterward.”

The high school division leader stood up to act as a moderator and inquired who would like to read first, asking volunteers to raise their hands. Everyone’s hand immediately shot up.

Shigeru Asami (Soka Gakkai vice president; former national youth division leader): I was the first to read. I’d never been more nervous in all my life. I just kept reading in an energetic voice until President Ikeda called out: “Thank you. Next!”

Yoshie Harayama (Soka Gakkai women’s division ward chairperson):The participants all raised their hands at once. Each person read in a loud, enthusiastic voice and then did their best to paraphrase the passage. President Ikeda praised our efforts.

He said things to us like: “You read that in a very lively voice. That’s good.” And to members who paraphrased, he said: “That’s right, you’ve got it exactly right. I can tell you’ve been studying.” We were all extremely encouraged.

■  ■  ■

Four high school division members were selected one after another by the moderator to read aloud. They read up to the line that says, “You should ponder this interpretation deep in your heart” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 384).

President Ikeda recalls:

They had all studied very hard in preparation, reading the text dozens of times in advance. When the moderator asked for volunteers, everyone eagerly raised their hand. I was very happy to see how enthusiastic they were. But I was even more enthusiastic than they were . . . That is why, even though they were so young, I didn’t try to simplify things. Because of my firm resolve to foster genuine disciples, I put every ounce of my energy into my guidance for them.

Shigeyoshi Kasahara (Soka Gakkai vice prefecture secretary): President Ikeda told us to be very accurate in our understanding of Nichiren’s writings. He said this repeatedly to instill its importance in our minds.

“This is a difficult writing,” he said, “but it’s important to study it. Eventually, you will fully understand it. I want you to study the Daishonin’s writings earnestly.”

Kuniko Nakanishi (Soka Gakkai women’s division nationwide vice secretary; women’s division study department leader): President Ikeda said: “Each and every word is the word of Nichiren Daishonin, the golden words of the Buddha. It’s important to deeply read them, so that you completely comprehend their meaning.”

“Between the lines, you can sense the Daishonin’s great compassion, enthusiasm and conviction. It’s important to read and comprehend that, too.”

He taught us how to read Nichiren’s writings.

Miyoko Aoki (Soka Gakkai Education Department vice prefecture leader): I was very nervous while listening to President Ikeda’s lecture, nodding my head exaggeratedly to show I understood when I actually didn’t.

President Ikeda noticed this and said: “There is no need to pretend in front of me. I understand all of you deeply. Just be true to yourself.”

In other words, it was pointless to try to impress him or pretend to know everything.

To be continued in an upcoming issue.

Translated from the February 2011 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.


  1. The Soka Gakkai’s monthly study magazine. ↩︎
  2. The Count of Monte Cristo: The hero of the Alexandre Dumas novel of the same name who was incarcerated unjustly and sought revenge on those responsible. ↩︎
  3. Shoka Sonjuku: A private academy founded by the Japanese teacher and writer Yoshida Shoin. The school produced many capable youth who went on to become pivotal figures in the Meiji Restoration, the period when Japanese government and society entered the modern era. ↩︎
  4. Daisaku Ikeda, A Youthful Diary: One Man’s Journey from the Beginning of Faith to Worldwide Leadership for Peace (Santa Monica, California: World Tribune Press, 2000), p. 80. ↩︎
  5. From the essay series “The Light of the Century of Humanity,” No. 96, which appeared in the August 23, 2005, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. ↩︎

Forging Deep and Strong Roots of Faith

Ikeda Wisdom Academy: January 2020