Feature

Let’s Create an “America of Capable People”

SGI Women’s Leader Yumiko Kasanuki traveled from Japan to attend the SGI-USA Women’s Leaders Conference at the Florida Nature and Culture Center, Weston, Fla., Jan. 25. Photo by PHOTO BY NORIKO KAKUSHO.


SGI Women’s Leader Yumiko Kasanuki on the mission of leaders to foster capable people.

Aiming toward the 100th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding, I would like to make a vow together with all of you to grow together as leaders and as human beings.

With this determination, SGI Women’s Leader Yumiko Kasanuki began the first session of the SGI-USA Women’s Leaders Conference for region through territory representatives at the Florida Nature and Culture Center in Weston, Florida.

From Jan. 22–28, Mrs. Kasanuki and SGI Vice Women’s Leader Kayo Maeta traveled throughout the U.S. to attend women’s meetings at the FNCC and in New York and Los Angeles, to create fresh momentum in the 60th-anniversary year of the SGI-USA’s founding.

In the first FNCC session, Mrs. Kasanuki presented on the topic “Raising Capable People and the Mission of Leaders,” honing in on three key points from SGI President Ikeda’s Guidelines for Kosen-rufu, Victory, and Happiness—Selections from The New Human Revolution.[1]Guidelines for Kosen-rufu, Victory, and Happiness—Selections from The New Human Revolution was given to all district through national leaders in November 2018 as an important tool for strengthening and solidifying the districts and discussion meetings.

Point 1: Each of us should challenge our human revolution.

People are influenced and inspired by other people. They follow those who come across as pleasant, honest, genuine and warm. Such individuals who have these qualities are likely to do well in business, and others will readily listen to what they have to say about Buddhism. But people will not be drawn to those who are unpleasant, unkind, selfish and cold. Far from promoting the Law, the bad example of such individuals will end up detracting from people’s estimation of those teachings.

That’s why I wish to stress to you that your human revolution and your character development hold the key to everything in both your work and in kosen-rufu.[2]The New Human Revolution, vol. 26, p. 170. (Guidelines for Kosen-rufu, 22)

Shin’ichi Yamamoto[3]SGI President Ikeda appears in The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution as Shin’ichi Yamamoto. gave this guidance in 1977 to leaders in Shikoku, Japan, where the members were striving hard in their Buddhist practice amid extreme financial hardships.

Precisely because of their hardships, Shin’ichi encouraged them to rouse strong faith and pray powerfully to the Gohonzon. He encouraged them to work harder than others and bring forth their own ingenuity, showing clear actual proof of their Buddhist practice in their daily lives and in society.
“He was teaching that we must never forget to train and polish ourselves,” Mrs. Kasanuki said. “In other words, we must never forget to do our human revolution.”

SGI-USA women’s leaders study Guidelines for Kosen-rufu, Victory, and Happiness—Selections from The New Human Revolution at the Florida Nature and Culture Center, Weston, Fla., Jan. 25. PHOTO BY NORIKO KAKUSHO.

No matter who we are, we will be good at certain things and not so good at others, she explained. However, if we give in to the mindset that “Oh well, this is just who I am,” then we will start blaming those around us when things don’t go well, and we won’t change one bit.

So how do we change? Mrs. Kasanuki said that we must begin with the serious prayer to challenge our own transformation and growth, even in those areas we find difficult to change. Many great transformations begin with small, tangible steps that stem from that determination. “The greatest place to engage in this kind of Buddhist practice,” she said, “is when we do SGI activities.”

Shin’ichi says:

Of course, ideally, all Soka Gakkai leaders would have strong faith, be of outstanding character, and enjoy great trust and respect in society. The reality, however, is that many leaders are still trying to become such people. Therefore, even though there may occasionally be differences of opinion in the organization, it’s important to accept one another with a broad mind and strong sense of self, and strive for unity and advance together in the cause of kosen-rufu. This is also the path to personal development and growth.

The place of Buddhist practice in the Latter Day of the Law is among other people, in the midst of society with all its troubles and turmoil. Therefore, we cannot let ourselves be swayed by other people’s every move. Rather, we should continue to embrace our mentor’s spirit, have faith in the correct teaching, and advance in Soka Gakkai activities with the aim of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime and carrying out our human revolution.[4]NHR-26, 143–44.

Mrs. Kasanuki said that we can glean from this guidance how easy it is to be critical when we are simply observers. However, our human revolution begins when we decide to create an organization that is wonderful by all accounts, and we wrack our brains to figure out how to connect people’s hearts and help them bring forth true joy. “Let’s all firmly engrave this point in our lives,” she said.

Point 2: What does it mean to be a leader who has the power to encourage others?

Don’t worry, you can gain experience from this position. Guidance in faith is the basis of the Soka Gakkai. This is different from teaching, which means to inform someone about something you have already learned. Guidance means to point out the direction to advance and then join the members in moving ahead along that path. So all you need to do is say: ‘This is what it says in Nichiren [Daishonin’s] writings. This is what the Soka Gakkai teaches.’ You can also chant with them and pray for their happiness. Anyone can do this, but it is the most respectable action we can take as human beings. There is nothing more heartening than having like-minded friends who pray for us. This is the greatest source of strength and encouragement.”[5]NHR-1, 306. (Guidelines for Kosen-rufu, 87)

“This is an era for praise and encouragement. It’s necessary to accurately assess young people’s wide variety of efforts and praise and commend them. That will give them courage and foster in them the aspiration to do better.”

Shin’ichi gave this guidance in October 1960 during his historic first trip to the United States. A newly appointed men’s leader had said to him, “I don’t have the experience or ability to teach people about faith,” and this was Shin’ichi’s response.

Mrs. Kasanuki said that guidance essentially means to guide people to the Gohonzon, to lives of absolute conviction, to the desire to improve and elevate their lives. And we do this by joining together and helping guide one another.

“No matter how long you talk with someone, if you simply tout professorlike knowledge of Buddhism, if the person is not convinced that they can overcome their problems, if they don’t feel revitalized, if they can’t find hope, then there’s no point to your discussion,” she said. “This is a point of difficulty when it comes to giving faith guidance. But the greatness of the Soka Gakkai lies in the fact that many more people have succeeded in this effort and that this is the tradition that is being carried on.”

Mrs. Kasanuki said that Sensei is teaching us everything we need to know about faith in The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution. “When we continue learning based on our seeking spirit, we can grow into leaders who have great conviction and can send hope and courage to each person we encounter,” she said. “You are all Queens of Encouragement!”

Point 3: Fostering capable people.

This year, the SGI theme is the Year of Advancement and Capable People. Mrs. Kasanuki said the first key in raising capable people is to perceive their strengths.

People can’t help judging others according to their own standards.
If you’re logical and systematic, for example, you’ll probably see ability in those who are also methodical and analytical.

On the other hand, if you’re impulsive and not prone to giving matters much thought, you’ll tend to regard those who have similar tendencies
as capable. Also, if you’re extremely self-centered and full of your own importance, you cannot appreciate people’s strengths or good points. Instead, you’ll see only their faults.

Ultimately, the ability to find capable people depends on whether we can see others’ strengths. And the only way to do this is to develop our own life condition.[6]NHR-2, 123. (Guidelines for Kosen-rufu, 111–12)

Studying this guidance, Mrs. Kasanuki said she is convinced that finding capable people truly comes down to expanding our own life state. If we simply surround ourselves with those we like or get along with, then kosen-rufu will not spread or advance.

“Now, at this time, those who have faith in Nichiren Buddhism and are chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo have vowed in a past life to do kosen-rufu here in America,” Mrs. Kasanuki said. “Believing that all those who practice this Buddhism are Bodhisattvas of the Earth, let’s respect and engage in practice together with them. Through such efforts, it will become impossible to ignore the shining strengths they possess.”

Mrs. Kasanuki then touched on how the methods for fostering others evolve, and that this is the era where we “raise through praise.” Toward that end, she said that the senior Soka Gakkai women’s leaders are focusing on the following guidance:

The methods of fostering and educating capable individuals change with the times. We shouldn’t try to train our juniors in exactly the same way that we were trained.

This is an era for praise and encouragement. It’s necessary to accurately assess young people’s wide variety of efforts and praise and commend them. That will give them courage and foster in them the aspiration to do better. We should praise each of their specific actions concretely. And timing is important, too.

I hope you’ll all become experts at fostering capable individuals. [7]NHR-25, 138.

Mrs. Kasanuki said that there was a time when the training in the Soka Gakkai was strict, and she’s heard from many seniors in faith who grew through such training. However, Sensei points out here that the same methods that were effective in the past may not apply today.

“For instance, nowadays, people have fewer intimate connections with one another so, more than anything, it is important to praise and appreciate people so that they can regain a deeper sense of confidence and desire to bring forth more courage,” she said.

Sensei always recognizes how much effort each person is making. “I hope we can all become such leaders who can praise and appreciate people’s efforts,” she said.

Mrs. Kasanuki said that fostering capable people comes down to our earnestness and sincerity. “There’s no other way,” she said.

Shin’ichi says:

Capable individuals are not fostered without a conscious effort. Only through sincere and dedicated efforts by senior leaders committed to fostering capable individuals can the younger members become aware of their great potential and mission. People are the key in fostering other people. When we treat people with warmth and sincerity, show them that we place great trust in them, have high expectations for them, and are thinking of them and trying to help them, we will naturally spark in them the desire to dedicate themselves to their mission.

Also, in the operation of the organization, always remember to be aware of each person’s unique mission and make an effort to put their abilities to the maximum possible use in everyday activities. Seniors in faith need to be constantly thinking their hardest about how to create opportunities for capable individuals to be active and participatory.[8]Ibid., 291.(Guidelines for Kosen-rufu, 116)

Mrs. Kasanuki said that we must pray seriously and fight all out to create an organization that is based on the unity of “many in body, one in mind,” where everyone genuinely enjoys being together. Capable people will be raised in such an organization, she said.

“Let’s create an ‘America of Capable People’[9]To celebrate the 55th anniversary of global kosen-rufu, President Ikeda gave America “Four Mottoes for the New Departure of American Kosen-rufu,” including “America of Capable People” (see Oct. 2, 2015, World Tribune, p. 4). in order to respond to Sensei who has given so much to create a great flow of capable individuals in America and who, more than anyone, loves this wonderful country!” WT

Notes   [ + ]

1. Guidelines for Kosen-rufu, Victory, and Happiness—Selections from The New Human Revolution was given to all district through national leaders in November 2018 as an important tool for strengthening and solidifying the districts and discussion meetings.
2. The New Human Revolution, vol. 26, p. 170.
3. SGI President Ikeda appears in The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution as Shin’ichi Yamamoto.
4. NHR-26, 143–44.
5. NHR-1, 306.
6. NHR-2, 123.
7. NHR-25, 138.
8. Ibid., 291.
9. To celebrate the 55th anniversary of global kosen-rufu, President Ikeda gave America “Four Mottoes for the New Departure of American Kosen-rufu,” including “America of Capable People” (see Oct. 2, 2015, World Tribune, p. 4).