Feature

The February Tradition

On the transformative act of spreading Buddhism with a spirit of appreciation

Welcoming a new member to the SGI-USA in Louisville, Kentucky, December 2019. Photo by Teri Thomas.


At an SGI Training Course last November, an American youth asked Soka Gakkai General Director Shigeo Hasegawa about the historic Kamata Chapter Campaign of February 1952. The youth had read that the young Daisaku Ikeda, just 24 at the time, had roused the members to advance out of appreciation for their mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda.

It was President Toda who had enabled them to encounter the Gohonzon and the transformative life philosophy of human revolution, through which they transformed acute suffering into advancement and hope. In response, Kamata Chapter, with Daisaku in the lead, introduced a record-breaking 201 families in a single month to Nichiren Buddhism, creating what is now regarded as the “February tradition.”

The American youth conveyed to Mr. Hasegawa the SGI-USA’s aims to introduce 6,000 youth to the SGI in 2020, with great appreciation for SGI President Ikeda, who six decades earlier had traveled to the U.S. for the first time to spread Buddhism throughout the world.

His question was this: “How do you share with the members the importance of fighting based on appreciation?”

Mr. Hasegawa responded by first praising the American youth for having the spirit to fight for kosen-rufu with appreciation. “That determination itself is great,” he said. “I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon with appreciation every day. I take action and do SGI activities with appreciation.”

Mr. Hasegawa continued: “I became a Soka Gakkai member 68 years ago. My mother started practicing this faith and was able to change her karma. She was a single mother who was struggling tremendously when she was introduced to the practice. But to the extent that she suffered, the same amount of happiness came to her.

“The members supported her practice and, thanks to this, she overcame many difficulties. It was the Soka Gakkai that saved my mother. It was Soka Gakkai members who encouraged her. For the rest of my life, I will fight to repay my debt of gratitude until the day that I die.

“I received a lot of guidance and encouragement from President Ikeda. Without this, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I was able to do a lot of human revolution, and I’m still in the process of doing my human revolution. Without Sensei’s guidance, I would be a completely different person.

“Sensei teaches that a person who has appre-ciation is strong. When we forget the spirit of appreciation, we become dogmatic and arrogant. A person with appreciation and a pure heart will be trusted by everyone.

“Appreciation is the greatest driving force for shakubuku. Please make many friends and talk to them about the greatness of Buddhism and the greatness of Sensei’s writings and behavior as a human being.

“Some will start practicing and others might not practice right away. But because you are sowing the seeds of Buddhahood in their lives, those seeds will definitely become trees in the future. Youth should talk about the power of the Mystic Law based on their own personal experiences.”
Mr. Hasegawa further stated that, in our efforts to introduce 6,000 young people to Bud-dhism next year, we should have dialogues with tens of thousands of people. During the Kamata Campaign, members on the frontlines held countless dialogues with those around them, determined to help them become happy.

Referring to those efforts, President Ikeda recalls: “In that one-month period, I am sure that the Kamata members held thousands of dialogues. The fresh energy of new capable individuals led to countless fresh rounds of Buddhist dialogue” (April 18, 2014, World Tribune, p. 5).

To be sure, the key is to help many people hear about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, because the physical act of sharing the Mystic Law with others is what activates the Buddha nature in their lives.

The young Daisaku Ikeda boldly takes the lead in Tokyo’s Kamata Chapter, producing waves of propagation throughout Japan. Photo by Seikyo Press.

A WIDESPREAD PROPAGATION OF THE LAW IS THE “PRACTICE OF BUDDHAS”

This February marks 68 years since the young Daisaku Ikeda boldly took the lead in Tokyo’s Kamata Chapter and produced waves of propagation throughout Japan.

Looking back, in his inaugural address on May 3, 1951, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda had announced his lifetime aspiration for 750,000 families to embrace faith in the Gohonzon. His greatest desire was to erase the very word misery from the face of the earth, spreading widely the Buddhist philosophy of human revolution and respect for the dignity of life.

In the nine months following his inauguration, however, the Soka Gakkai was not growing as fast as Mr. Toda had hoped. He lamented of the pace, “At this rate, it’ll take thousands of years to accomplish kosen-rufu.”[1]Embracing Compassion, vol. 3, p. 82.

Josei Toda dispatched his young disciple to Kamata Chapter to initiate a fresh expansion struggle from the frontlines. As chapter advisor, he rose into action, calling an emergency meeting with the frontline unit leaders, declaring: “Let’s celebrate the month of Mr. Toda’s birth with a brilliant victory!”

He didn’t order the members of Kamata Chapter to share Buddhism, but rather roused in them the spirit to fight based on a sense of appreciation. President Ikeda describes the depth of his own gratitude as follows:

February is the month in which Nichiren Daishonin was born and the month of President Toda’s birth as well. We can practice Nichiren Buddhism today because the Daishonin appeared in the Latter Day and propagated the Mystic Law for the enlightenment of all people. And we can practice correctly as SGI members because Mr. Toda courageously embarked on the solitary struggle to rebuild the Soka Gakkai after World War II and make kosen-rufu a reality, carrying on the vision of his mentor, [founding Soka Gakkai President] Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who died in prison for his beliefs. Thus, we threw ourselves into the February Campaign of 1952 with deep appreciation and the desire to repay our gratitude to these great leaders and teachers of kosen-rufu.

Kosen-rufu, or the widespread propagation of the Law, is the “practice of Buddhas” arising out of the profound compassion Buddhas have for all living beings, and it is also the “practice of bodhi-sattvas” undertaken by disciples who make this compassionate spirit of Buddhas their own. The true power for spreading the Mystic Law is born when all of us, as practitioners, directly connect our lives to the correct teacher of the Law and the true mentors of kosen-rufu.

Mr. Toda’s monumental vow to accom-plish a membership of 750,000 households galvanized and reinvigorated the Soka Gakkai. All of us owe him an immeasurable debt. As his young disciple, I rose to action with the single-minded wish to realize his cherished dream. (Learning From Nichiren’s Writings: The Teachings for Victory, vol. 2, p. 21)

This spurred waves of propagation throughout Japan and opened the way for the Soka Gakkai to accomplish Mr. Toda’s lifetime goal of 750,000 families in just a little over six years. Today, more than 12 million people practice Nichiren Buddhism with the SGI around the globe, meaning that someone, somewhere, is chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo every second of every day.

SGI President Ikeda attends a discussion meeting in Ota Ward, Tokyo. Members brim with joy during a Q-and-A session with their mentor, July 16, 1976. Photo by Seikyo Press.

A CALL TO SOLIDIFY THE FUTURE

February has become a time to reconfirm this selfless spirit by challenging ourselves to introduce others to Nichiren Buddhism and the SGI. Toward this end, President Ikeda reconfirms that the unchanging formula for absolute victory is the heart-to-heart bonds shared between mentor and disciple and among fellow members:

In every major campaign I waged for kosen-rufu—be it in Ota and Bunkyo wards in Tokyo, in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, in Osaka or in Yamaguchi Prefecture—I did all I could to share Mr. Toda’s guidance and vision with the members and urged them to join me in achieving victory as his disciples. I realized that the future of our movement hinged on us uniting solidly for the sake of kosen-rufu and living as our mentor taught us. That was why I built a rhythm of victory through the unity of many in body, one in mind, centering on the oneness of mentor and disciple. (The Hope-filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 203)

In the Year of Advancement and Capable People, what better way to mark the 60th anniversary of President Ikeda’s first visit to the United States than to introduce countless young people—ambassadors to the future—to this philosophy of hope and respect, through which they can transform everything.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Embracing Compassion, vol. 3, p. 82.