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Raising the Next Generation of Leaders

Let us nurture and cultivate the faith of the future division members who will be the leading figures of society. Photo by Daniel Graham

“We of the Soka Gakkai … are able to exert ourselves fully today, confident that our movement for kosen-rufu will show wonderful development 30 or 50 years from now. Why? Because we have successors, our future division members. Because we have you, my young friends, who will carry on the momentous task of building a peaceful and humane world.” [1]—Ikeda Sensei

A central theme of the Lotus Sutra, of Buddhism itself, is the future. It pulses with the wish of the Buddha to spread the Mystic Law so that all those of future ages may lead lives of genuine happiness.[2]

In the Lotus Sutra, one aspect of this effort is called kosen-rufu, or to “spread it abroad widely throughout Jambduvipa [the entire world],”[3] while the other is called ryobo-kuju, or to “make certain the Law will long endure.”[4]

Ikeda Sensei explains:

Kosen-rufu extends “horizontally” through growing networks of friends and “vertically” through the transmission of faith from parent to child, from one generation to the next. The only way forward is to entrust the future to the younger generation.[5]

Our efforts to raise the future division, comprising of the elementary school, junior high and high school divisions, is a vital component in spreading the Mystic Law for the peace of the land.

An Organization Dedicated to Fostering Youth

From its start, the Soka Gakkai has focused on developing the youngest generations, with a far-reaching vision for the future.

As an educator, our founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi gave his life to fostering children in an age when they were largely exploited for war. Josei Toda established the youth division shortly after being inaugurated as the Soka Gakkai’s second president. And Ikeda Sensei, too, has exerted himself tirelessly to foster generations of successors at each pivotal moment in the Soka Gakkai’s history.

In 1964, after his inauguration as third Soka Gakkai president in 1960, Sensei established the high school division in Japan. The following year, he founded the junior high school and elementary school divisions. This was at a time, no less, when the organization was still developing, and its foundation had not yet been secured. Despite resistance from those who felt he should focus on solidifying the faith of the older generations, Sensei established the junior high and high school divisions. He writes:

It is after serious consideration of my priorities that I have decided to do everything I can to foster the high school division. Everyone is thinking only of the present, but I am concerned about the Soka Gakkai 30 or 40 years down the line. Today’s high school students will be the leaders of the Soka Gakkai then.

For the next three or four years, we need to do everything we can to support the high school division, even going overboard. If we don’t, the future of kosen-rufu will be in danger.[6]

The first members of the future division went on to become diplomats, government officials, scholars, doctors and lawyers, committed to kosen-rufu in every field. With the same spirit to foster the future division in America, Sensei founded the SGI-USA’s junior high and high school divisions on March 14, 1993, in San Francisco. At the meeting where the future division was established, Sensei expressed his high hopes for its members, saying:

My heart is filled with excitement at the thought of what great leaders the first class of both the SGI-USA junior high and high school divisions will assuredly grow into 30 years from now.

I ask that the leaders responsible for these divisions, as well as those of you who are seniors in faith, nurture these infinitely precious treasures of the future with all your heart.[7]

As the SGI-USA embarks on the next milestone, the centennial of the organization’s founding, let us nurture and cultivate the faith of the future division members who will be the leading figures of society. The future division members today are the direct link to the transformation of tomorrow.

4 Points on Fostering the Future Division

How can we foster the future? Here are practical ideas we all can embody to nurture our successors in the future division.

1) Our Human Revolution Opens the Way

The human revolution we aspire to achieve can also be called a revolution to open the way for the happiness of all children now and in the future. …

It is important that we afford children the highest respect as individuals in their own right. Helping children grow requires total commitment on our part. There is a fine adult inside every child. We need to direct our voices to that inner adult.

We must never treat children in a dismissive or condescending manner, assuming they won’t understand and thinking it’s OK not to fully explain things. We must believe in children’s immense potential, and strive to develop their innate capacities as well as our own. The more we broaden our own minds, the more we can inspire and foster others. That is why our own growth is indispensable to our efforts to help others grow. (November 2019 Living Buddhism, p. 62)

2) Passing On the Respect for Life

As we stand on the threshold of the 21st century, we must reaffirm this basic truth—we must return to the most essential point, the human being.

Life itself is a treasure. … This respect for life is also the foundation of humanistic education.

Because life is precious, taking human life is absolutely wrong, waging war is absolutely wrong. This is a simple yet cardinal principle.

It is vital that we solemnly pass this on to the next generation, the generation that will shape the 21st century.

Other than this, we should do our best to support and foster the future division members with a warm, broad-minded spirit so that they can develop their potential as freely and fully as possible. (December 2019 Living Buddhism, p. 58)

3) Be Good Friends

Fostering others contributes to our own growth. Teaching others makes us wiser. Learning together with our future division members, developing and advancing together with them, is a path of lifelong youthfulness, giving us fresh zest and vitality. …

By doing activities together with the future division members as supportive older brothers and sisters with whom they can talk about anything, the division’s leaders are fulfilling their mission as “good friends.”

I’m sure these youth leaders all have their own problems and challenges, be it at work or in their daily lives, and are striving to do their best in the face of untold hardships. But the future division members are watching their earnest efforts closely. They will deeply take to heart the sincere words of such leaders. (September 2020 Living Buddhism, p. 63)

4) The Garden of Soka

It’s important to raise our children within the garden of the Soka Gakkai. As part of that process, please share with your children how your family came to join the Soka Gakkai. Talk to them about the roots of your family’s Buddhist practice, about family members’ past efforts for kosen-rufu and significant turning points or events that inspired them in their practice. Hearing members at discussion meetings and other gatherings relate experiences of how they have turned their lives around through practicing Buddhism can also be a major source of inspiration and encouragement.

Today, not only the future division leaders and supporting men’s and women’s leaders, but all our members are engaged in warmhearted efforts to help foster the future division members. They are there to listen to these young people’s problems, offer advice and pray earnestly together with them. Their sincere encouragement is the driving force for the growth of our future division members.

Raising our successors so that they surpass us, encouraging and supporting the younger generation even more than we were once encouraged and supported by those before us—this extremely noble spirit of inspiring others to reveal their highest potential lies at the heart of the Soka Gakkai tradition of fostering capable individuals. (October 2020 Living Buddhism, pp. 62–63)

Read Ikeda Sensei’s vision for the future in A New Series of Seven Bells


  1. February 2020 Living Buddhism, pp. 58–59. ↩︎
  2. Ibid. ↩︎
  3. “On the Protection of the Nation,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 115. ↩︎
  4. Ibid. ↩︎
  5. December 2019 Living Buddhism, p. 59. ↩︎
  6. The New Human Revolution, vol. 9, p. 92. ↩︎
  7. My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 277. ↩︎

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