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Guidance for Leadership

A Fresh Departure Toward Oct. 2!

Representative women’s leaders from throughout the country on Aug. 1 attended the SGI-USA Region–National Women’s Leaders Encouragement Meeting, held via webinar with SGI Women’s Leader Yumiko Kasanuki and SGI Vice Women’s Leader Kayo Maeta, both of whom joined from Japan.

SGI-USA Women’s Leader Naoko Leslie said the meeting was a way to “refresh and solidify our vow to advance kosen-rufu” toward Oct. 2, the 60th anniversary of Ikeda Sensei’s first visit to the U.S. and the starting point of global kosen-rufu.

In a moving message, Sensei first offered his heartfelt condolences to those who had passed away in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that he and his wife, Kaneko, are earnestly chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the quick recovery of those battling illness.

He then shared this passage from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, written to a female disciple who remained courageous amid all her struggles in life: “The Buddha promised in the Lotus Sutra that, for women, the sutra will serve as a lantern in the darkness, as a ship when they cross the sea, and as a protector when they travel through dangerous places” (“The Supremacy of the Law,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 614).

Sensei continued: “The protective functions will definitely protect a woman of strong faith. The Buddhas and bodhisattvas throughout the three realms and ten directions will thoroughly protect you. This is to fulfill the vow they made in the Lotus Sutra.”

And he asked that the women, while chanting the lion’s roar of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, remain true to themselves as they boldly and sincerely carry out their dialogues for peace: “All the difficulties you now face while taking the lead in worldwide kosen-rufu will without fail become wonderful stories shared by future generations. Such efforts will undoubtedly yield immense and boundless fortune and benefit.”

Mrs. Kasanuki then offered encouragement, touching on four topics requested by the SGI-USA women. The following is a summary of her words.

by Yumiko Kasanuki
SGI Women’s Leader

Today, Aug. 1,[1] marks exactly two months before the significant date of Oct. 2, the 60th anniversary of kosen-rufu in America. I am very happy to refresh my determination together with all of you. Thank you very much.

In January, SGI Vice Women’s Leader Kayo Maeta and I visited the U.S., attending a women’s conference at the Florida Nature and Culture Center (in Weston, Florida) as well as meetings in New York and Los Angeles, where we met many of you in person and studied Ikeda Sensei’s guidance together. Thinking back now, I feel there was deep significance in the fact that we united in such a way at the start of the year, leading the way with fresh resolve!

Despite being beset by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the unity of our prayers remain unshaken.

This past May 3 (Soka Gakkai Day and Soka Gakkai Mother’s Day), Sensei sent us the following poem:

Our planet brims with
the prayers of
our invincible mothers of Soka
that will unfailingly turn winter to spring
and create hope-filled treasure realms.

With this poem in our hearts, Soka women around the world are uniting with prayer and continuing to expand our network of encouragement without retreating a single step.

Despite the intense challenges you are facing now in the U.S., SGI-USA Women’s Leader Naoko Leslie has been informing me about how you are all striving as the light of hope amid drastic changes in work and in life, banishing your anxiety, accumulating experiences and spreading your smiles. I am deeply inspired by your noble efforts. Thank you for all your incredible efforts.

In addition, I’ve received your thoughtful questions, reflecting your commitment to establish the correct teaching for the peace of the land and advance kosen-rufu. I’d like to try to answer some of them while also conveying how I am perceiving our current circumstances.

The Power of the SGI Publications

Sensei and Mrs. Ikeda are in high spirits. They pray each day for the great health and happiness of SGI members throughout the world, always finding ways to offer encouragement.

Each issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, contains Sensei’s guidance, photographs or brief encouragement, as well as activity reports and determinations of SGI leaders from respective countries (including Naoko Leslie’s report in April!). It feels to me as though, through the Seikyo Shimbun, Sensei is cheering us on, urging us to keep going, to keep fighting hard. While other newspapers and mass media reports generally convey negative news, I imagine that many people appreciate what they read in the Seikyo Shimbun.

I understand that your focus is to promote the SGI-USA publications, World Tribune and Living Buddhism, these next few months. Sensei shares the following in his monthly message, which appears in the September 2020 Living Buddhism:

Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, affirms the great beneficial power of the Mystic Law, which can “change poison into medicine.” He writes, “Though calamities may come, they can be changed into good fortune” (“How the Gods Protect the Place of Practice,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 669).

To undauntedly create value in even the most dire circumstances—this is the drama of transforming adversity into triumph enacted by the mentors and disciples of Soka committed to the vow for kosen-rufu. The birth of the Seikyo Shimbun is itself symbolic of this drama. Seventy years ago, on Aug. 24, 1950, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s businesses were in serious crisis. My mentor and I met with a newspaper journalist and responded with complete sincerity to queries regarding his business troubles. …

After this meeting, sharing his insights on the power that newspapers can have, Mr. Toda instructed me to map out a plan for founding our own paper. Subsequently, on April 20, 1951, the following year, ahead of his inauguration as second Soka Gakkai president (on May 3), the first issue of the Seikyo Shimbun was published. That day marked the start of a newspaper that would inspire hope for absolute victory in the hearts of people even in the deepest depths of suffering. (September 2020 Living Buddhism, pp. 4–5)

Mr. Toda wished for the Seikyo Shimbun to be read by everyone in Japan and around the world. And today, its sister publications across the globe are transmitting Nichiren Buddhism’s philosophy of hope and connecting people to one another, especially during this pandemic.

It has been amid the worst situations that the mentors and disciples of Soka have laid the foundation for the next stage of kosen-rufu. As we face this most difficult time, let’s also resolve to create the foundation for the next stage of our development by making full use of the World Tribune newspaper to send words of courage and hope to our friends and strengthen our heart-to-heart bonds with them.

Encouraging and Fostering Youth

I received this question: “How can we encourage and foster the youth who will be inheriting many complicated challenges in the coming era?”

I can feel the sincere desire of the woman who asked this question to reach out to youth facing the challenges of social unrest and upheaval in the world.

This past May, Sensei sent a heartfelt message to the graduates of Soka University of America, who could not hold a traditional commencement ceremony:

As we send off our beloved graduates into a world stricken and staggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, it pains me deeply to think of the immense ordeals that surely await each of you. Yet, all the while, my heart surges with pride and anticipation knowing that you, in taking wing into such a world, are destined to dispel its pall of chaos and confusion by ushering in the dawn of a new era.

I say this because the philosophy of Soka—that which gives life to and inspires our Aliso Viejo campus—should empower you in creating value no matter how dire or adverse the circumstances and forge new ways toward their resolution.

• • •

In coming together to confront the specter of an unseen pathogen, humanity today may be entering a truly transformative time, one in which we return to and redraw sustenance from the great earth of life that lies within us all. By drawing from the veritable “fountain of Good” innate in every human being on the planet, the time has come to unleash that limitless potential for good in each of our lives so that we may overcome any ordeal and secure the path to happiness and peace, for both ourselves and for others. And it is you, the young founders of Soka University of America, who must persist in awakening people as leaders of global citizenry who toll the bell of this truth. (June 12, 2020, World Tribune, p. 10)

I was deeply moved by these words. While this is a message to SUA students, I cannot help but feel that this expresses so precisely the deep mission that the youth of today—young Bodhisattvas of the Earth—possess.

Sensei spent the most difficult years of his youth with Mr. Toda. Even so, he expresses his profound appreciation for those days of struggle, in which he received both affection and instruction—beyond that which one can receive from one’s parents—and deeply engraved it in his life.

Let’s encourage the young people we encounter that difficulties provide wonderful opportunities for gaining the greatest treasures in life. And, while praising them, let’s continue emboldening them to never give up, to deepen their study of the Soka philosophy and bring forth hope, and to see difficulties as prime opportunities to discover and experience the great power found in practicing Nichiren Buddhism.

The Principle of “Challenge and Response”

As we adjust to new ways of living amid the pandemic, we are also revamping how we conduct our SGI activities.

In June, we canceled our annual gatherings that celebrate the establishment of the women’s division. To offer us encouragement and as a dedication to the women’s division members, Sensei arranged to have a 1977 recording of him playing the piano uploaded to the Soka Gakkai website on June 10, Women’s Division Establishment Day!

I was so moved and inspired to see Sensei on my smartphone and listen to him play the piano.

Sensei has always forged new ways of integrating technology into our activities. Satellite broadcasts of meetings has become the norm. The first time we broadcasted via satellite was for the Tokyo General Meeting on Aug. 24, 1989, 31 years ago—just one year before the second priesthood issue[2] began in 1990. Sensei talks about this in The New Human Revolution, vol. 30, writing:

From that time on, these broadcasts played an important role in the members uniting together as one and overcoming the oppression of Nikken and Nichiren Shoshu.

• • •

Through these satellite broadcasts, the members came to gain a deep and accurate appreciation of the truth and essence of the priesthood issue. … [They] were firmly and powerfully united in their resolve not to be defeated by the schemes of corrupt priests or any other obstacle. (July 6, 2018, World Tribune insert, p. 8)

As we advance kosen-rufu, it is only natural to experience untold obstacles. Nothing gives more delight to devilish functions than seeing disheartened SGI members. Whatever the obstacle, we must not let ourselves become overly sentimental and wallow in self-pity. Rather, Sensei urges us to have the attitude to never be defeated, to laugh off the devilish functions that emerge and impede our lives, and to boldly forge ahead.

Most important, we mustn’t allow our SGI activities and our efforts to encourage those around us to ever come to a standstill. Let’s always ask ourselves: What can I do here and now? How can I share Nichiren Buddhism with this person? To struggle in this way is to bring forth the Buddha’s life condition expressed as “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).

Since the start of the pandemic, the SGI-USA women’s division members have been leading the A-B-C campaign:[3] giving and receiving encouragement by becoming avid users of videoconferencing to meet and hold guidance sessions; making many phone calls each day; promoting the World Tribune and Living Buddhism; participating in weekly Sunday chanting sessions to battle and win over devilish functions; raising successors by promoting students to apply to SUA; and planting seeds of hope and happiness by sharing Buddhism with many people. Your dedicated efforts are extremely noble.

This is why I was completely humbled when I received this question: “What more can we do to secure the steady progress and spread of Nichiren Buddhism and the Soka Gakkai in America toward 2030?”

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace carries Sensei’s guidance to women in which he talks about historian Arnold Toynbee’s principle of “challenge and response.” He says:

Since my youth, my motto has been “the greater the resistance waves meet, the stronger they grow.” As a matter of fact, this is very similar to one of Arnold Toynbee’s theories of history—that is, the principle of challenge and response. Professor Toynbee maintained that a civilization would continue to develop as long as people had the energy and vitality to accept various problems and obstacles as challenges and respond to them by growing stronger themselves. …

“There’s no need to continue making effort. I can just take it easy and relax. I don’t need to expand my activities or challenge myself any further”—the moment we assume this attitude, from that instant, our downhill decline begins. This, Professor Toynbee argues, is an unchanging rule of history.

It holds true for individuals and for organizations as well. No matter how great our problems or obstacles, by challenging them and turning them to our advantage, we can become stronger and develop further.

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Doesn’t a fire burn more briskly when logs are added? … Were it not for the flowing rivers, there would be no sea” (“A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering,” WND-1, 33).

Just like these examples, practitioners of the Mystic Law grow stronger and more resilient with each obstacle they encounter. Those who advance with such powerful energy and life force are history’s victors, are winners in life. The important thing is for us to become strong and to make our organization strong. (The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 2, pp. 64–65)

Let us all take this guidance to heart and live each day with renewed determination to joyfully advance. None of us are alone. We have comrades in faith across the globe who are fighting each day for the sake of kosen-rufu. Through his 60 years of dedicated action for worldwide kosen-rufu, Sensei has fought to create such an era for us.

Encouraging the Person in Front of You

Recently, I learned about an SGI member in Slovenia.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the members in Europe have been engaged in their “123 Be the Light!” Campaign in which they encourage each member to challenge their situation through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, studying Buddhism and taking action to encourage others.

For this women’s division member in Slovenia, encouraging others required her to break out of her comfort zone. Nevertheless, she determined to reach out to three people each day by calling or emailing them. Amid the uncertainty and stress of the pandemic, she struggled with living alone, working from home and having no physical SGI activities. She wondered how she could “Be the Light,” and she eventually gave in to feeling lost, scared and isolated.

Then, one day, she went to the local pharmacy. It was absolute chaos inside. The place was filled with fearful and hysterical people. And only one woman was there, exhausted from working late each evening to stock disinfectants, masks, vitamins and other needs for the customers.

Seeing this woman, the SGI member decided to support her. Each day for two months, the member quietly brought lunch to the woman, just as if supporting a close family member.

Seeing the woman joyfully respond to her genuine gesture of support, this member’s spirits lifted as well.

Someone who observed this interaction between the two women reported this to a local radio station, which led to the SGI member being interviewed for her good deed. When asked what motivated her to do this, she simply responded: “I am a Buddhist. And we have a campaign called ‘Be the Light!’ that encourages me to be a light and contribute to my community. And this is what I can do right now to contribute.”

Her interview was broadcasted in full without being edited. When Sensei heard about her experience, he was so happy.

This story clearly demonstrates how it all comes down to one person’s determined actions. When we encourage and inspire the person in front of us, we can restore and revive our own hearts. There are countless experiences of Soka women who exude this compassionate way of life. This is how we develop trust and understanding in our communities.

You may have heard another story about the president of the Brazilian Academy of Letters Austregésilo de Athayde. In February 1993, when Sensei was traveling to Brazil, President Athayde, who was 94 years old at that time, arrived at the airport two hours early in anticipation of welcoming Sensei. When an SGI leader who was concerned about his health asked if he wanted to sit and rest, he responded: “I have waited, and been waiting, for 94 years to meet President Ikeda. Therefore, another hour or two is nothing” (see Aug. 17, 2018, World Tribune insert, p. 3).

During their dialogue, Mr. Athayde shared how he is always interacting with the warm and noble dedication and empathy of SGI members through his two housekeepers. Today, those two women are outstanding women’s leaders in Brazil.

As women of Soka, we continue to pray and strive to inspire, uplift and bring smiles to the faces of our friends each day. Please be assured that this is the most noble way to live as a human being, and that your sincere and diligent efforts each day are establishing kosen-rufu in  society. This is what it means to propagate Buddhism. We still cannot see our way out of this current state of uncertainty. However, Sensei says in his message to this conference:

All the difficulties you now face while taking the lead in worldwide kosen-rufu will without fail become wonderful stories shared by future generations. Such efforts will undoubtedly yield immense and boundless fortune and benefit.

With this conviction, let’s advance toward Oct. 2, the 60th anniversary of kosen-rufu in America, and Nov. 18, the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Soka Gakkai! Just as “a great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation,”[4] let’s foster our successors into champions of human revolution. And let’s continue spreading Sensei’s philosophy of peace and respect for the dignity of life throughout the United States.


  1. Aug. 1 in the U.S. is Aug. 2 in Japan. ↩︎
  2. On April 24, 1979, Ikeda Sensei stepped down as third Soka Gakkai president to shield the members from the perverse machinations of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, which sought to wrest control of the lay organization. This incident came to be known as the first priesthood issue. The second priesthood issue occurred on Nov. 28, 1991, when the Soka Gakkai was formally excommunicated by Nichiren Shoshu, a day that SGI members now celebrate as our Spiritual Independence. ↩︎
  3. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SGI-USA initiated the A-B-C Campaign: A: Abundant chanting; B: Buddhist study; C: Connect life-to-life with members, guests and family (by phone or videoconferencing). ↩︎
  4. The Human Revolution, p. viii. ↩︎

Inheriting the Mentor’s Spirit