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LIKE THE LION KING, ADVANCE WITH COURAGE!

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SANTA MONICA, Calif., March 7—Olivia Saito encountered a young woman recently who had attended a few SGI meetings several years ago but then lost interest in the practice.

All the while, the person who had introduced her to the SGI had been chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for this young woman’s happiness.

Tragically, this young woman lost her mother to suicide. She was in a dark place when this friend reached out to her again and invited her to a meeting. Six months ago, she received the Gohonzon. “She told me that, even though she had experienced this great tragedy, she feels hope and confidence now,” said Olivia, the SGI-USA youth leader. “She’s using her life to encourage others and share the practice. This is the profundity of empowering one youth.”

“One Youth. Infinite Hope.”

In a year that commemorates the 60th anniversary of SGI President Ikeda’s first steps for global kosen-rufu from the U.S., the youth have taken the lead in the SGI-USA’s “One Youth. Infinite Hope.” movement to empower and awaken 6,000 young people to their boundless potential and move society in the direction of peace.

In its first quarterly conference of the year, held March 7 at the SGI-USA Headquarters in Santa Monica, California, the SGI-USA Central Executive Committee reaffirmed the SGI-USA’s “2020 Roadmap to Victory,” which hones in on the four foundational elements of propagation, member care, study and contributions. The body, composed of national and territory leaders, is charged with setting the activity focus for the organization.

During the CEC’s afternoon session, SGI Vice President and Soka Gakkai Senior Vice President Yoshiki Tanigawa addressed the committee members, underscoring the spirit to not be defeated by obstacles in this most significant year (see below).

Nothing is more noble or powerful than “upholding and propagating this unparalleled Mystic Law.”

In his message to the conference, SGI President Ikeda said that nothing is more noble or powerful for advancing kosen-rufu and our lives than “upholding and propagating this unparalleled Mystic Law.”

He continued:

By expanding our noble alliance through speaking with one person after another, we can illuminate humanity with the light of hope in this coming decade.

Fearing nothing, just like the lion king, let’s advance while brimming with courage!

Never flinching from anything, just like the magnificent eagle, let’s raise capable people with indomitable dignity!

And with good cheer and friendship, let’s achieve victories in our own human revolution, in our advancement and in fostering capable people that will endure throughout the history of kosen-rufu far into the future.”

President Ikeda concluded the message:

Cheers to the SGI-USA, the model of worldwide kosen-rufu! I am leaving it all to you.

Cherry Hill, N.J. Photo by DAVE GOODMAN.

Carrying Out The Same Struggle As The Threee Eternal Mentors

The following is SGI Vice President and Soka Gakkai Senior Vice President Yoshiki Tanigawa’s excerpted address at the Central Executive Committee Conference, held on March 7 at the SGI-USA Headquarters in Santa Monica, California.

Thank you very much for gathering from throughout the U.S. Thank you for all your efforts.

In this auspicious year of the 90th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding, the 60th anniversary of SGI President Ikeda’s inauguration as third Soka Gakkai president, and in this year in which we celebrate the brilliant first steps of President Ikeda’s worldwide kosen-rufu efforts 60 years ago from right here in the U.S., I applaud and thank each of you for your great efforts to make this the most significant of years. Thank you very much for everything.

In one sense, we can say that kosen-rufu is a battle between the Buddha and devilish functions. And as we advance in this endeavor, we are bound to encounter various unexpected or unimaginable obstacles. Just as Nichiren Daishonin describes in the opening lines of his treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” the society during his day was filled with intense challenges.

Similarly, the recent outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), which has been spreading rapidly worldwide, is impacting not only Soka Gakkai activities in Japan but also here in the United States, where there will be no activities [from March 10–31], and in many other nations.

Nichiren teaches that the more we strive and fight to open the path for kosen-rufu, the more challenges we will face.

For instance, he states:

If you propagate it, devils will arise without fail. If they did not, there would be no way of knowing that this is the correct teaching. (“Letter to the Brothers,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 501)

Great events never have minor omens. When great evil occurs, great good follows. (“Great Evil and Great Good,” WND-1, 1119)

Great evil portends the arrival of great good. (“The Kalpa of Decrease,” WND-1, 1123)

Matters of minor importance arise from good, but when it comes to a matter of great importance, great disaster without fail changes into great fortune. (“A Warning against Begrudging One’s Fief,” WND-1, 824)

It’s because we are in this most significant time that we are challenging these great occurrences. Together with all of you, I am determined to pray even more powerfully to bring forth the greatest wisdom and to further strengthen our unity.

In volume 1 of The New Human Revolution, Sensei writes:

A person’s frame of mind dramatically affects how he or she looks at things. Buddhism causes the sun of courage to rise in people’s hearts, leading them to take everything as a source of hope, joy and growth. (pp. 301–02)

It is precisely in times like these that the power and ability of leaders is tested. So, let’s strengthen and bring forth even more capability to encourage the members and use everything as the winds for forward momentum. As I was on the airplane coming here, I reread volume 1 of The New Human Revolution. In it, Sensei writes:

A river’s grandeur attests to the greatness of its source. What inspired me to write The New Human Revolution series as a continuation of The Human Revolution was my thought that the extent to which kosen-rufu has unfolded since my mentor’s passing serves as genuine proof of his greatness. (NHR-1, x)

In the Afterword to volume 1 of The New Human Revolution, Sensei says:

Without the disciple’s efforts to make it a reality, the mentor’s grand vision will remain an empty dream. The true value of the principles set forth by the mentor are only revealed when they are applied and developed. Thus, I thought that writing about how the disciples have lived after their mentor has gone would be the way for me to leave a record that will stand as an eternal formula for the future of kosen-rufu. (tentative translation)

Sixty years ago, when President Ikeda took on the mission he received from his mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, to accomplish worldwide kosen-rufu, he made his first steps from here in America. He writes about the depths of his feelings in the “Sunrise” chapter of The New Human Revolution.

Shin’ichi [President Ikeda’s pseudonym] recalled the day in the summer of 1954, six years earlier, when he had stood with his mentor, Josei Toda, on the beach of Toda’s childhood home of Atsuta Village. (NHR-1, 21)

He continues:

As they watched the brilliant red sun set over the Sea of Japan, Toda had said: “Shin’ichi, I will build a solid foundation for kosen-rufu in Japan, but you will pave the way for kosen-rufu throughout the world. I will create the blueprint; you will make it a reality.”

Shin’ichi had engraved these words in the depths of his life. Since that day, he racked his brains over how to open the way for the worldwide spread of Nichiren Buddhism. (NHR-1, 21)

In addition, when President Ikeda visited Hawaii, he spoke about how to incorporate the various manners and customs in the lands where kosen-rufu is carried out.

Since the day Josei Toda had entrusted him with the mission of worldwide kosen-rufu, Shin’ichi had considered the various problems he was likely to face overseas and had weighed each one carefully. Naturally, he had delved thoroughly into the question of how to deal with the differences in custom and tradition that existed between Japan and other areas of the world.

Already painted vividly in his heart was a grand and elaborate vision of the future of global kosen-rufu. Yet not one person was aware of this. (NHR-1, 30–31)

What he is describing is the period of six years, starting in 1954, when he was thoroughly considering how to carry out kosen-rufu.

The first time that the Soka Gakkai engaged in an election was in 1955. And the next year, they achieved an incredible, almost impossible victory, in Osaka. In 1957, Sensei faced the Yubari Coal Miner’s Incident, and he was summoned by Osaka police to their headquarters [for questioning on trumped-up charges]. Then, in 1958, President Toda passed away.

During this very tumultuous period, Sensei carried out a great battle amid intense obstacles, and he was determined to fulfill the mission that his mentor had entrusted to him.

In the same way, it is up to us to learn and challenge ourselves to understand how to base our efforts on the spirit of Mai ji sa ze nen, or “At all times I think to myself”: [how can I cause living beings to gain entry into the unsurpassed way and quickly acquire the body of a Buddha?] (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 273).

The Daishonin says:

If, in a single moment of life, we exhaust the pains and trials of millions of kalpas, then instant after instant there will arise in us the three Buddha bodies with which we are eternally endowed. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is just such a “diligent” practice. (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 214)

Here, Nichiren is talking about the spirit to be completely focused on our mission, the spirit that nothing will obstruct our advancement.

Nichiren also says:

Many hear about and accept this sutra, but when great obstacles arise, just as they were told would happen, few remember it and bear it firmly in mind. To accept is easy; to continue is difficult. But Buddhahood lies in continuing faith. (“The Difficulty of Sustaining Faith,” WND-1, 471)

This phrase “few remember it and bear it firmly in mind” means that we must never forget our determination and always carry it strongly in our hearts.

It is up to each of us to never forget the mission that was passed on to us by our mentor, to always chant, and continuously rack our brains and take action. Through such efforts, we must respond to our mentor by producing concrete results. This is what it means to carry out the same struggle as the three eternal mentors of the Soka Gakkai.

In September 1956, upon the death of first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi’s wife, Kuma, President Toda read the following:

My teacher died in 1944. Only after I had been released from prison did I learn how forlorn his funeral had been. I wept, lamenting the uncertainty of life and the fickleness of people’s hearts. I vowed that, while you [Mrs. Makiguchi] were still alive, I would exert myself to the limits of my strength to transmit my teacher’s true intention and his compassion for humanity in some form as a legacy to posterity. I heard that only six or seven persons had attended Mr. Makiguchi’s funeral. Today, thousands of Soka Gakkai members are here to pay you their final tribute. The number may still be small, but at least it is a record that I have staked my life on achieving. (The Human Revolution, p. 1506)

There were 3,000 who had attended this memorial service. President Toda continued:

Will you be seeing Mr. Makiguchi, or will you not? I cannot say, for I have no knowledge of life after death. But should you have the chance to see him, please tell him that Josei is striving with all his might, following in his footsteps. This concludes my memorial address. (Ibid.)

The foundation of our struggle to fight for kosen-rufu is nothing other than the mentor-disciple relationship. During the famous February Campaign of 1952 in Kamata Chapter, though young, Daisaku Ikeda always spoke about the importance of repaying our debt of gratitude to our mentor.

For us, we have all been recipients of President Ikeda’s protection, encouragement, nurturing and care. It is because we have President Ikeda’s guidance that we can understand and read Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, that we can encourage the members and that we can fight to transform our karma. We can truly express our gratitude to our mentor through making efforts for the sake of kosen-rufu.

Just as President Toda staked his life on bringing as many people as he could to the memorial service for President Makiguchi’s wife, and just as President Ikeda exhausted the “pains and trials of millions of kalpas” to respond to his mentor, we must use their examples as our models.

In The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, President Ikeda appoints Hiroto Hirata as a district leader, saying:

I am the one who appointed you as district leader. If you fail, then I, too, will have failed. I will take full responsibility. Please fight to your heart’s content and to the best of your ability. (p. 61)

Now, 60 years later, how will we fight as disciples to accomplish worldwide kosen-rufu? Let’s return once again to our own prime point of faith and advance even further in our efforts.

In 1996, President Ikeda spoke at Columbia Teacher’s College about what it means to be a global citizen, offering three essential elements:

• The wisdom to perceive the interconnectedness of all life and living.

• The courage not to fear or deny difference, but to respect and strive to understand people of different cultures and to grow from encounters with them.

• The compassion to maintain an imaginative empathy that reaches beyond one’s immediate surroundings and extends to those suffering in distant places. (My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 444)

He went on to equate these qualities of a global citizen to the qualities of a bodhisattva.

As disciples, it is up to us to hone these inherent qualities as we carry out the greatest battle to realize our mentor’s vision. With ever-stronger prayer and unity, let’s overcome all our obstacles so that we can proudly report to Sensei our results during this most auspicious 60th-anniversary year. Let’s fight!

Los Angeles. Photo by YVONNE NG.

Q&A

Youth representative: With this current spread of the new coronavirus, it seems like history is repeating itself. As a young person in America, how can I break the cycle of suffering that threatens humanity as a whole?

SGI Vice President Yoshiki Tanigawa: I believe this most recent outbreak of the coronavirus is proof of how borderless we have become—how easy it is to travel anywhere in the world in a short amount of time. That is one of the reasons this illness has spread so fast.

These kinds of epidemics are not new; it’s not a recent phenomenon. In Nichiren Daishonin’s time, too, there were epidemics. Of the “three calamities” outlined in Buddhism, one is pestilence, or the spreading of an infectious disease.

From ancient times on, three major disasters have occurred over and over again: famine, pestilence and warfare. Nichiren talks about the cause of these disasters:

The mark of the impurity of the age is the fact that the other four types of impurity appear in increased number and intensity and flock about the age. Because anger increases in intensity, strife of arms occurs. Because greed increases in intensity, famine arises. Because foolishness increases in intensity, pestilence breaks out. And because these three calamities occur, earthly desires grow more powerful and false views increasingly flourish.

(The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 33)

Conflict begins when various parties feel slighted. That sparks anger and leads to conflict. When we’re talking about discrimination, anger comes about from the suffering of being discriminated against. Shakyamuni famously said that if you combat anger with anger, it will only lead to more anger. That becomes the cycle of anger.

When greed intensifies, that leads to famine. For instance, in Japan, there is a group of people who are always on the hunt for better-tasting, high-quality beef. But in order to foster cattle that produce gourmet beef, you need to use the highest quality materials and need a lot of prime real estate to raise these cattle.

Actually, some experts say if you were to amass all the resources that we have in the world and divide it evenly among all the people, then no one would go hungry. Everyone would be taken care of.

However, as is the condition today, there are lavishly broad fields to produce gourmet beef that take away resources for creating food for the general population. This is the way intensified greed leads to famine.

Some people may think that we as human beings are powerless to resolve the issues impacting our world that arise because of disasters or epidemics. But there’s always a human factor. Just as Nichiren says in “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” when we establish the correct teaching, then peace is possible.

When we live based on universal values, we can engage in our human revolution and thereby create a better world. Ultimately, what we can do now is to do shakubuku—to share even more widely the principles of Nichiren Buddhism that can bring about this kind of change and create a better world.