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The Purpose of Life Is Happiness for Oneself and Others


SGI Women’s Leader Yumiko Kasanuki on the significance of spreading far and wide the life-affirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism in the Soka Gakkai’s 90th year.

From January 22–28, SGI Women’s Leader Yumiko Kasanuki and SGI Vice Women’s Leader Kayo Maeta traveled to the U.S. to attend meetings in New York and Los Angeles, as well as a women’s conference at the Florida Nature and Culture Center in Weston, Florida, to kick off the Year of Advancement and Capable People. This year marks the 60th anniversary of SGI President Ikeda’s inauguration as third Soka Gakkai president on May 3; the 60th anniversary of his first visit to the United States to launch worldwide kosen-rufu on Oct. 2; and the 90th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding on Nov. 18. In the following encouragement, Mrs. Kasanuki speaks about the significance of the SGI’s worldwide efforts to spread Buddhism in our communities.

by Yumiko Kasanuki
SGI women’s leader

This year, the SGI-USA has begun the battle toward the goal of expanding the SGI-USA by welcoming 6,000 new youth! When I imagine this goal being achieved—of 6,000 youth joining the SGI-USA during the 90th anniversary year of the Soka Gakkai’s founding—my heart leaps with excitement and joy!

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda often said the following to his youthful disciple, Daisaku Ikeda:

Daisaku, the Soka Gakkai’s true greatness will be known 200 years from now. Looking 200 years ahead, we must create a rock-solid path for advancing kosen-rufu. (tentative translation, Jan. 5, 2020, Seikyo Shimbun, p. 1)

When I think of the next 200 years, I feel as though we are in the second phase of our pioneering period. That’s why we are now engaged in a crucial challenge to pave the way for the future of kosen-rufu, for the future hope of America. This challenge hinges on how many more capable young successors we can raise, and how far and wide we can spread the life-affirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism.

Mr. Toda explained our efforts to share Buddhism in this way:

Bankers count money … The Soka Gakkai counts how many people it has introduced to the Mystic Law and led to happiness, while protecting life, the most precious thing on earth. (Nov. 24, 2006, World Tribune, p. 3)

The purpose of advancing kosen-rufu lies in how many people we have helped become happy. President Ikeda also offered the following guidance:

Faith is not some abstract notion. It is real. In the real world that we live in, faith equals daily life and Buddhism equals society, and so it comes down to whether we win or lose. Have we become happy or unhappy? Faith is what enables us to triumph in a world that’s focused on results, a world that is judged by reality. (Jan. 10, 2020, World Tribune, p. 10)

Sensei continues:

This is why the Soka Gakkai is not engaged in a numbers game; we are focused on actual outcomes. Propagation is not complete when someone joins the Soka Gakkai. Instead, it is only complete when that new member becomes happy and is victorious. (Ibid.)

In other words, rather than simply focusing on having people receive the Gohonzon, let’s develop the mindset that sharing Buddhism and fostering capable individuals is what we mean when we say shakubuku. I hope we can chant and strive with this mindset!

That said, it is true that doing shakubuku is the most difficult thing to do. Even when we wholeheartedly speak with youth, determined to light the flame of genuine hope in their hearts, there are times when they are not interested in what we are trying to convey, and there are times when we feel so disappointed or discouraged that we feel like giving up. However, when we sincerely engage in dialogue with someone, we can be sure that the seed of Buddhahood is being planted in their lives. That seed will definitely sprout and blossom. And it not only blossoms in that person’s life, but it also opens up a great path that can undoubtedly lead their family and those around them to absolute happiness. I guarantee this. This is what happened to me.

I started practicing Nichiren Buddhism when I was 19 years old. I was a college student at that time. I had moved from the countryside in Yamanashi Prefecture to the big city, Tokyo, to live with my aunt who was a Soka Gakkai member. Turns out, my aunt’s house was the activity center for her district. So even before I joined the Soka Gakkai, I was attending discussion meetings every month.

The district young women’s leader invited me to a large young women’s gathering to be held at the Nihon University Auditorium. As we made our way there via train, she asked me out of the blue: “What do you think is the purpose of life?” Caught off guard, I couldn’t figure out how to respond. While still searching for an answer, the young woman smiled and simply said: “It is happiness. And by that I don’t simply mean our own happiness, but the purpose of life is for us to become happy while helping others to also find happiness.” She spoke with such conviction. This conversation left a deep impression on me.

And then when I arrived and attended this young women’s event—wow! This auditorium that holds 10,000 people was packed with only young women. What an astounding sight to behold! Seeing for the first time in my life so many young women gathering so joyfully, I was surprised and moved; my heart was full of emotion.

At the meeting, referencing Sensei’s guidance, the young women’s leader said:

Let’s say that you have power that is at a level of 10, but you are able to bring forth even more power at the level of 15 or even 20 and that you can use that power for your own sake as well as for the sake of your family and society. This Buddhism enables us to do that. Rather than living out a vague, unfocused youth, let’s live out a youth of no regrets, fully utilizing our entire being!

She concluded the meeting by vibrantly leading a Soka Gakkai song. I could tell that she put her whole life into encouraging all of us in attendance.

In my diary that day, I spontaneously wrote the following: “If I don’t join the Soka Gakkai, I’ll fall behind the times. I want to live my youth just as she said.” I was so inspired that I was moved to record my determination to join the Soka Gakkai.

However, when I told my friends how excited I was to join the Soka Gakkai, they were shocked and strongly opposed my decision.

This was a time when anti-Soka Gakkai sentiment was spreading throughout Japanese society, and the Soka Gakkai was being heavily bashed by the mass media. It really upset me that my friends had chosen to believe what they read in the tabloids about the Soka Gakkai. They hadn’t even tried to see for themselves what the organization was like.

Determined to prove them wrong, I found all the books that my aunt had by Sensei and read them from cover to cover, wanting to learn all I could about the Soka Gakkai and President Ikeda’s philosophy.

Through this, I gradually deepened my own conviction. And I happily joined the Soka Gakkai, very excited to become a member of the young women’s division!

I first met President Ikeda, when I attended a student division young women’s meeting right before I graduated college. At the meeting, Sensei went around the room, genuinely talking with and encouraging each young woman. When he came to me, he said one thing: “How is your mother? Please take good care of her. And please take a gift to her.”

I was completely surprised and deeply moved by this.

The fact is, when I was little, my parents had divorced, and my mother had raised me by herself, supporting us by farming. She even saved enough money to send me to a college in Tokyo.

She never complained or bemoaned her situation, but I know she must have gone through so many struggles. I had helped my mother join the Soka Gakkai the year before meeting Sensei that first time. But how did he know to ask about her? I was at once amazed and thankful, so much so that tears streamed down my face during our exchange.

I feel as though he taught me through that interaction that faith in Buddhism is expressed as the highest form of humanism. After that encounter, I vowed to live my life together with Sensei and to do anything I could to support kosen-rufu.

After my parents divorced, I never met my father. Sensei once asked me about him. And he said to me: “Buddhism expounds the enlightenment of the dragon king’s daughter. So, as long as you, the daughter, become happy based on your Buddhist practice and faith, your father will also become happy.”

Five years after that, I leraned that my father had passed away. Sensei then encouraged me, saying: “Your father has attained enlightenment, because father and daughter are bound by the Mystic Law.”

Later in her life, my mother moved to Tokyo and when she passed away, she was filled with deep appreciation for Sensei. That was 16 years after my father’s passing. At that time, Sensei sent me a poem that reads:

Your noble mother
has passed on
to call upon
your deceased father
to tell him all about their daughter

While alive, my mother never talked about my father with me. But I was awestruck by how Sensei’s poem seems to peer into my mother’s heart of hearts, shedding a bright light on her at the time of her passing.

Sensei has given the following guidance:

The bonds among family members who have encountered the Mystic Law last through the three existences of past, present and future, for all eternity. Even if only one person in the family practices Nichiren Buddhism, the power that one person brings forth from the Mystic Law is passed on to all of their family members. And when a person who diligently carries out faith in the Mystic Law passes away, they go to Eagle Peak and become a conduit for bringing their families and loved ones to Eagle Peak to join them. (tentative translation)

I have nothing but deep appreciation for Sensei. I am so thankful to have a mentor who thoroughly believes in my ability to grow and develop, who continues to pray for me and who never turns his back on me, no matter the circumstances.

Looking back on the beginning of my practice, I also have the deepest appreciation for the young women’s leader who courageously reached out, invited me to that life-changing young women’s meeting and shared those simple, conviction-filled words that the purpose of life is happiness—happiness for self and others.

I vow to repay my debt of gratitude to my mentor to the best of my ability and, together with Sensei, pour my entire being into raising young successors!

You Are All Queens of Happiness

These quotes contain guidance from Ikeda Sensei that SGI Women’s Leader Yumiko Kasanuki emphasized as crucial for all women, including the young women, of Soka throughout the world as the Soka Gakkai advances in this crucial decade toward its centennial in 2030.

When Soka Women Unite, Kosen-rufu Will Advance

My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, once said to the young women’s division members: “When the links in a chain are solidly connected, they cannot be broken. It’s the same with human beings. When strongly committed people solidly join hands and unite, kosen-rufu will definitely advance. Please create such a united network of people.”

Our women’s and young women’s members everywhere, based on the path of mentor and disciple dedicated to kosen-rufu and transcending national borders and ethnic differences, are firmly linked together by their ties of faith in the Mystic Law, their vow or commitment and their friendship as fellow members united in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind.” As long as they stay connected in this way, the SGI will remain strong and sound forever. And as long as the united network of Soka women exists, peace in the world will be won, maintained and advanced without fail, no matter how turbulent the international situation.[1]

Be Undefeated by Any Onslaught of Karma

My wife, Kaneko, and I will never forget these impassioned words of our mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda: “Humanity must change its course by focusing on the happiness of women. It is crucial, therefore, that young women possess a sound life philosophy, along with a strong life force that will allow them to be undefeated by any onslaught of karma.”

We believe and pray that in the coming decade, you, the young women of Soka, working harmoniously and cheerfully with your Kayo-kai sisters across the globe, will make that a reality. May each of you enjoy a youth of health, good fortune and victory![2]

Lead Lives of Happiness and Victory Day After Day

I received the wonderful news that on July 19, 2021, the young women’s division anniversary, our Kayo-kai membership in India surpassed 50,000. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, our young women’s division members in India have continued to expand a beautiful flower garden of happiness with their pure and resilient spirit, like the lotus flower that blooms in muddy water.[3]

Happy are those who are undefeated.
Happy are those who are unafraid.
Happy are those who have strong faith.
You are all queens of happiness.

These are the words my wife, Kaneko, and I presented to the women of Soka in India three decades ago [during a visit in 1992].

My wife has also maintained a firm resolve to lead an undefeated life together with her fellow members. She was 9 years old when she started practicing Nichiren Buddhism along with her parents, making this year her 80th year of practice.[4] As a forerunner of the future division, she once guided Tsunesaburo Makiguchi by the hand from the nearest train station to her family home for a discussion meeting. She was also among the first members of the young women’s division when it was founded by Mr. Toda, and continued to work hard for kosen-rufu even after becoming a mother and a women’s division member, like the members of the current women’s division Young White Lily Generation[5] in Japan. She continues to chant earnestly that her fellow Soka women, the suns of peace, not only in India but throughout the entire world, will lead undefeated lives of happiness and victory day after day.[6]


  1. Jan. 30, 2015, World Tribune, p. 5. ↩︎
  2. Aug. 13, 2021, World Tribune, p. 3. ↩︎
  3. See The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 263. ↩︎
  4. Kaneko Ikeda began her Buddhist practice on July 12, 1941. ↩︎
  5. At the Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting held on Nov. 18, 2019, it was announced that women’s division members in Japan under the age of 50 would be referred to as the Young White Lily Generation. The white lily is one of the symbols of the women’s division. In conjunction with this development, the Young Mother’s Group was dissolved and absorbed into this larger group. ↩︎
  6. Sept. 17, 2021, World Tribune, pp. 2–3. ↩︎

Relative Happiness and Absolute Happiness

One Youth. Infinite Hope.