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Encouragement

The Phenomenal Power of SGI Youth

SGI-USA youth engage friends in dialogue during the July Youth Meeting in Washington, D.C., 2019. Photo by Rob Hendry.

The following is a reprint of Ikeda Sensei’s essay from the “Our Brilliant Path to Victory” series, published in the Sept. 13, 2013, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. The World Tribune first published the text in the Nov. 1, 2013, issue.

Your gathering of youth,
brimming with energy
and enthusiasm,
gives friends fresh courage,
inspiring them to follow your lead.

With the announcement of new leadership appointments, the youth division in Japan has made a fresh start in its efforts to share Nichiren
Buddhism with others.

In particular, the gallant young men of the Soka Group and Gajokai academies, and the vibrant young women of Byakuren[1] are taking the lead in creating a rising tide of hope-filled dialogue.

The bright young men and young women of the student division, and the precious young members of the future division, tomorrow’s leaders, have also made a fresh start with the appointment of new divisional leaders.

In addition, the SGI Youth Training Course was held in Tokyo this past week (from Sept. 5–9, 2013) and attended by 250 dedicated young Bodhisattvas of the Earth from 60 countries and territories.

How their eyes shine! What dynamism and vitality they exude! Their entire beings brim with resolute determination. They are truly young people who are illuminating the future of our planet with the light of hope.

Further, the SGI Ikeda Kayo-kai[2] General Meeting, celebrating the fifth anniversary of the group’s establishment, was held last week (on Sept. 5).

The American social activist and Nobel Peace laureate Jane Addams (1860–1935) said: “We shall have to believe in spiritual power. We shall have to learn to use moral energy, to put a new sort of force into the world … ” The power of the spirit, Addams asserted, is the only thing that will heal a world that is afflicted by sorrow, death and destruction, and restore it to a condition of peace and security.

A bright future will unfold wherever youth division members, who uphold the life-affirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, vibrantly bring forth this power of the spirit. The power of SGI youth is truly phenomenal!

• • •

In his treatise “The Selection of the Time,” Nichiren Daishonin writes, “How fortunate, how joyous, to think that with this unworthy body I have received in my heart the seeds of Buddha- hood!” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 578).

Nichiren Buddhism is the Buddhism of sowing. Sowing the seeds of Buddhahood in our own hearts and the hearts of others through dialogue is the starting point of our movement. We will press forward unceasingly on this great path of kosen-rufu. The SGI will forever be an organization dedicated to spreading Nichiren Buddhism. We will continue to sow the seeds of hope, happiness and victory in the heart of one person after another.

First Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, were both great champions of propagating the Law. I, too, have dedicated myself tirelessly since my youth to sharing Nichiren’s teachings with others.

Sharing Buddhism with others begins with one-to-one, face-to-face dialogue.

We are all human beings. We are all youth. We are all equal. Therefore, we engage in frank and honest dialogue with others so that we can together grow as human beings and lead positive lives. We offer support and empathy to those who are suffering, and encourage them to join with us in the challenge of breaking through personal obstacles and leading victorious lives. Our efforts to engage in dialogue and to introduce others to Nichiren Buddhism are a source of mutual inspiration. When we tell someone about Buddhism with courage and joy, as well as chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and take action to support them, happiness will definitely come to bloom in both our own lives and theirs.

In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, the Daishonin states, “The ‘great vow’ refers to the propagation of the Lotus Sutra [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo]” (p. 82). Accordingly, when we forge ahead, united in purpose, to realize the great vow of kosen-rufu, strength and wisdom equal to the Buddha’s well forth limitlessly from within us.

• • •

I’d like to confirm three important points in sharing Nichiren Buddhism with others.

The first is to have courage.

In his writings, Nichiren explains that spreading the Mystic Law is an extremely difficult undertaking. It cannot be accomplished without courage.

Mr. Toda often said: “As ordinary mortals, it can sometimes be difficult for us to summon forth compassion, but we can substitute courage for compassion. The courage to speak the truth is equivalent to compassion. They are two sides of the same coin, and the ‘heads’ side of that coin is courage.”

Following his guidance, I roused unflinching courage and set about telling as many people as possible about the Daishonin’s teachings. In the course of my efforts, I had both wonderful experiences and disappointing ones.

For instance, in my diary entry for Nov. 26, 1950, I wrote: “Went with T. to M.’s house to encourage M. to take faith. He declined. To convert even one person is extremely difficult.” Still, I believed with unwavering confidence and pride: “No other action is nobler, greater or more worthy of respect.

“Even if not one person takes faith at present, hundreds of millions are waiting for us in the future” (A Youthful Diary, p. 64). I wrote this at a time when I was struggling with all my might to support Mr. Toda, whose businesses were in trouble.

In another diary entry made in February the following year (1951), I wrote about the disappointment I felt when some friends who’d promised to meet with me for a discussion on Buddhism didn’t show up. Though it was a setback, I adopted a positive attitude: “I am young. … Must never become mean-spirited.

“If I consider that everything is a reflection of my faith in the Gohonzon, then life is truly bright” (A Youthful Diary, p. 88).

If you courageously speak up and share Nichiren Buddhism with someone, the seeds of Buddhahood will be sown in that individual’s life, even if the person doesn’t take faith at that time. The day is certain to come when those seeds will sprout, grow and flower.

Your unflagging, courageous efforts to engage in Buddhist dialogue can sometimes lead to totally unexpected people being inspired and voicing a desire to start practicing.

I fondly remember how a person in my neighborhood suddenly decided to join the Soka Gakkai on May 3, 1951, enabling me to celebrate my mentor’s inauguration as second Soka Gakkai president with the addition of a new member to our movement. It also enabled me to make an early contribution toward achieving the goal of a membership of 750,000 households that President Toda announced at that meeting. Our courageous efforts to share Buddhism with others will shine on as brilliant “memories of our present life in this human world” (see “Embracing the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 64).

• • •

The second important point in sharing Nichiren Buddhism with others is to have gratitude. Mr. Toda said, “We must thank the Gohonzon and feel truly honored that we have been born into this world, and are able to share even a single word about Nichiren’s teachings with others.”

There was a pioneering women’s division member who was the first person to join the Soka Gakkai in Okinawa. She had lost two of her beloved daughters in the fighting on Okinawa during World War II, and her husband died of illness soon after the war ended. She was working as a traveling vendor and raising her four remaining children on her own when she encountered Nichiren Buddhism.

Filled with boundless gratitude at having been able to revitalize her life from one of grieving over misfortune to one of striving with joy and purpose for a lofty cause, she traveled not only all over the main island of Okinawa but also to remote outlying islands to share Nichiren Buddhism with others.

Not having been able to finish her schooling, she made a point of thoroughly reading the articles in the Soka Gakkai’s newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun, and study journal, Daibyakurenge. And when talking to others about Buddhism with compassion and conviction, she would cite passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings and Soka Gakkai guidance that she had jotted down in a memo pad.

Her example moved and inspired many others. Even when this dedicated pioneer was over 100 years old, she brimmed with a lively spirit to share Buddhism with others. That spirit has been passed on to the members of her family—who enjoy great good fortune—and to her successors in the organization.

To always have gratitude for the Soka Gakkai, our mentor and our fellow members for teaching us about Buddhism—such a life is truly profound, beautiful and strong.

• • •

The third important point in sharing Nichiren Buddhism with others is to have sincerity.

The French author Romain Rolland (1866–1944) commented that the more time passed, the more he was convinced that only one thing mattered, and that was “life, the power and sincerity of life.”

Simply talking about profound Buddhist doctrines will not necessarily touch another person’s life. Ultimately, it is our sincere behavior, our prayers and our thoughtfulness that will move others to start practicing. Our genuine concern for them will resonate in their hearts and inspire them to embrace faith.

One young women’s division leader in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, lost her older sister, grandmother and great-grandmother in the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The grief and despair she felt as a result were beyond words to express. But she bravely dried her tears, saying, “I know my sister would have gotten back on her feet and pressed forward based on faith.”

Together with her mother, the young woman visited her late sister’s fiance and spoke to him earnestly about Nichiren Buddhism. Her mother also told him, “I would like you to become happy in my daughter’s stead.” Her sincere wish moved the young man to tears and, eventually, he decided to start practicing. He is now dedicating himself to kosen-rufu with the same spirit as his deceased fiancee.

The Mystic Law is eternal, and the ties of fellow members sharing faith in the Mystic Law are also eternal. We can make our way together through all future existences imbued with the four noble virtues of eternity, happiness, true self and purity, and embraced by the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

• • •

We chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and strive for kosen-rufu. Our lives themselves are entities of the Mystic Law. We are Bodhisattvas of the Earth who share a vow from the infinite past to widely spread the correct teaching in the defiled age of the Latter Day of the Law.

During the Yamaguchi Campaign—which was launched in October 1956 to open the way for the development of the kosen-rufu movement in Yamaguchi Prefecture—members from through- out Japan gathered and struggled alongside me. At first, many of them were unsuccessful in their efforts to talk to others about Nichiren Buddhism. It was a real struggle. I encouraged them earnestly, assuring them that they would definitely be able to introduce others to the practice. I also reminded them that, since we had traveled all the way to Yamaguchi for the purpose of helping others, we should carry out our mission joyfully and without regrets.

Filled with pride, conviction and a renewed determination, everyone fearlessly and boldly set about sharing Nichiren Buddhism. This momentum spread in a joyous ripple effect. As a result, through the short yet decisive struggle I led on the ground in Yamaguchi over a total of 22 days [during the three months of October and November 1956, and January 1957], an almost tenfold increase in membership was achieved [from 459 to 4,073 households].

• • •

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926) wrote, “Those who feel eternity are above all fear.”

These are very challenging times, especially for young people. It pains me to see youth struggling with a lack of self-confidence.

As youth division members, you embrace the eternal Mystic Law and share a sincere commitment to opening the way to happiness for your- selves and others. You are truly a noble source of hope and inspiration for your generation.

By devoting yourselves to propagating the Mystic Law in your youth for the sake of your own happiness and that of others, you will definitely be able to bring forth invincible inner strength to win in life, and accumulate immeasurable good fortune and benefit.

My young friends, never be defeated! As champions of humanity, bravely and confidently engage in dialogue with as many people as possible!

On this occasion of the youth division’s fresh departure, I would like to present you with a passage from the Daishonin’s writing “The True Aspect of All Phenomena”: “[Talk to others about Buddhism] to the best of your ability, even if it is only a single sentence or phrase” (WND-1, 386).

References

  1. Byakuren, Soka Group and Gajokai are SGI youth training groups to internalize the Soka Gakkai spirit of supporting others behind the scenes. ↩︎
  2. The Ikeda Kayo-kai is an SGI young women’s training group established in 2008 by Ikeda Sensei, who envisioned its members as great leaders of the 21st century. ↩︎

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