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Young Phoenixes, Soar Into the Future


Deeply committed to the education and development of children and youth, SGI President Ikeda, as the third Soka Gakkai president, established the high school division in June 1964, the junior high school division in January 1965, and the boys and girls division in September 1965—which together comprise the future division.
The present generation of future division members will be the key protagonists of the kosen-rufu movement when the Soka Gakkai celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2030. With this recognition, the Soka Gakkai monthly study journal
Daibyakurenge (starting from its November 2010 issue) launched a series chronicling President Ikeda’s efforts to foster the future division members, along with graduates’ personal accounts and recollections of meetings and interactions with President Ikeda in their youth.

Heavenly gods will make them [the votaries of the Lotus Sutra] offerings, support them with their shoulders, and carry them on their backs. They possess great roots of goodness and deserve to be great leaders for all living beings. (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 385)

The heavenly deities will protect those who continue to stay true to their Buddhist faith and practice, no matter what obstacles they face.

SGI President Ikeda explained this protection in concrete, accessible terms: “‘Support them with their shoulders’ means, for example, that if those who uphold the Lotus Sutra suffer financial hardship, financial help will come from some direction.

“‘Carry them on their backs’ means that though they may have heavy debts, they will certainly find a way out.”

The young people were encouraged by these words. Many of them were from families struggling with serious financial difficulties.

“You will never be deadlocked!” President Ikeda’s confident assertion touched them deeply.

He also declared: “Buddhism should be viewed in terms of reality.”

Nichiren Buddhism is not a teaching of difficult abstract theories; it is a teaching for changing reality. President Ikeda’s lecture also emphasized that point.

Yoshio Sakurai (Soka Gakkai vice chapter leader): President Ikeda’s encouragement to maintain conviction in faith and not give up easily struck home for me.

My family was very poor. People in the neighborhood used to point to our house and say, “That dilapidated shack is where those Soka Gakkai members, the Sakurai’s, live.” My father lost his sight in an accident after World War II, and my mother became the sole wage earner in our household in order to raise four children.

When I told my family about President Ikeda’s lecture, it was like a ray of light shining into our tiny house. Given our financial situation, I never imagined that I would go to university, but my family decided to work very hard to send me there, so that I might one day contribute to President Ikeda’s vision.

We received many unexpected benefits from our faith. Thanks to my family, I was eventually able to go to university.

Masaaki Gono (Soka Gakkai vice ward leader): Something happened later that impressed upon me just how wonderful President Ikeda’s lecture was.

The incident occurred after I took over my father’s factory. Out of the blue, our landlord decided to evict us. We didn’t have the money to move. We were on the verge of losing everything we had worked for up to then.

But I remembered President Ikeda saying, “You’ll never be deadlocked,” and I felt renewed hope. I held onto those words and chanted intensely, refusing to be discouraged. I also participated in Soka Gakkai activities whenever I could. Then, completely unexpectedly, someone offered not only an investment of tens of millions of yen, but also bank credit. It was just like President Ikeda had said in his lecture.

Today, our factory is 10 times larger than it was then. President Ikeda gave us the strength to never be defeated, no matter what challenges we face.

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President Ikeda continued: “Those who strive the hardest for kosen-rufu will enjoy the most protection from the heavenly deities. They will become leaders in business, in the arts and in every area of society. Please be certain of this.”

Taking a breath, he went on: “The first character in shidosha, the word for ‘leader,’ is crucial. Shi means ‘finger’ or ‘point.’ It means pointing to the Gohonzon as the foundation for your life. Leaders who base their lives on Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings are truly great leaders.”

President Ikeda’s hope that they would become great leaders reverberated in the young phoenixes hearts.

“Living in this saha world requires patience and endurance. Since that is the case, please dedicate your lives to the Lotus Sutra. Please make it your life philosophy.” That is the mindset of the leaders of the next age.

President Ikeda recalls, “It was my deep prayer and wish that they would all become great leaders, that they would all be great champions of kosen-rufu.”

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What does it mean to dedicate your life to the Lotus Sutra?
President Ikeda explained this through the following passage:

At first only Nichiren chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but then two, three, and a hundred followed, chanting and teaching others. Propagation will unfold this way in the future as well. Does this not signify “emerging from the earth”? (WND-1, 385)

President Ikeda said that no matter what he was doing, where he was going, he always borne this passage in mind.

He said to the youth: “This is one of the key passages concerning kosen-rufu. It asserts that kosen-rufu can definitely be achieved.”

How can we promote kosen-rufu?

President Ikeda said: “That first person is the key. Just one of you needs to stand up. The first person is crucial. They are the key to everything.”

President Ikeda was waiting for that first person to emerge so he could foster them.

When we stand up with firm resolve to dedicate ourselves to kosen-rufu, without worrying about whether we will receive the protection of the heavenly deities, we will as a matter of course receive their staunch protection. President Ikeda wanted to inspire the young phoenixes to have such strong determination.

His voice rose in intensity: “The principle of ‘emerging from the Earth’ means the number of people chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo increasing. When the time comes, I hope you will all take your place on the stage of your mission and strive your hardest. I will pave the way for you. All that I am doing now is for you and your future.”

Yoshio Sakurai: During his lecture, President Ikeda said, “I am building a center that you can all be proud of, no matter who should come to visit in the future.”

Two weeks before the lecture, a ceremony marking the start of construction for the Soka Culture Center was held. We could see the construction site from the building where the lecture took place.

He also said, “I am taking every imaginable step for your sake.” The enormity of his hopes for us was very clear.

Kimiyo Muto (Soka Gakkai women’s division vice ward leader): President Ikeda said that when construction was finished, he wanted to show all of us the Soka Culture Center first. When the time came, we were given a full tour of the building.

Prior to the center’s completion, a photograph of high school division members standing on the roof of the Seikyo Shimbun Building and pointing to the Soka Culture Center under construction was published in the Seikyo Graphic magazine.

I’ll never forget President Ikeda’s instruction to us at that time: “We may reach a point when the Soka Gakkai comes to an impasse. If that happens, as long as there are people of pure faith, we’ll be able to move beyond it. I want to entrust that responsibility to you.”

President Ikeda had extremely high hopes for us.

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Akira Kuroyanagi, who was a Soka Gakkai director at that time, says: “President Ikeda had truly high expectations for the high school division. He said: ‘In 10 or 20 years, the Soka Gakkai will have grown into a large global organization. Today’s high school division members will be at the forefront of our movement then. Because of that, I want to teach them everything they need to know about the world.’”

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After Shakyamuni’s death, his disciples gathered to assemble his teachings in the form of the Buddhist scriptures. This was a highly emotional drama of disciples thinking of their teacher.

The one thousand arhats shed tears in memory of the Buddha, and in tears Bodhisattva Manjushri chanted Myoho-renge-kyo. From among those one thousand arhats, the Venerable Ananda replied in tears, “This is what I heard.” The tears of all the others fell, wetting their inkstones, and they wrote Myoho-renge-kyo, followed by “This is what I heard.” (WND-1, 386)

The compilation of the Buddhist scriptures was a drama of mentor and disciple, as Shakyamuni’s disciples sought to preserve and transmit his teachings correctly.

President Ikeda said: “The disciples were overjoyed to hear and study the essence of the Buddhist teachings. Ananda (one of Shakyamuni’s 10 leading disciples) said, ‘This is what I heard,’ and wrote it down with great joy.”

The young phoenixes imagined how Shakyamuni’s disciples must have felt.

President Ikeda continued, “The 990 arhats, wetting their inkstones with tears of joy, wrote, ‘This is what I heard,’ followed by ‘Myoho-renge-kyo.’”

The words, “This is what I heard,” contain the drama of the unity of mentor and disciple, in which the mentor’s intent to lead all living beings to happiness is embodied in the resolve of his followers to grasp and spread his teachings.

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One becomes a votary of the Lotus Sutra by virtue of one’s practice in past existences. (WND-1, 386)

The young phoenixes had been born and were living in the midst of the kosen-rufu movement. What strong karmic bonds they share! How great is their mission! There are no coincidences in Buddhism.

President Ikeda once again outlined the path the young phoenixes should take: “It is because of our karma from past lives that in this lifetime we became Soka Gakkai members and votaries of the Lotus Sutra of the Latter Day of the Law, spreading Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

“Consequently, if you don’t completely realize kosen-rufu in this existence, you can continue to work to do so in the next. And if you don’t complete it in the next, you must in the next after that. It’s your karmic destiny, so it’s better to get it over with as quickly as you can!” [Laughter.]

President Ikeda offered an even more profound interpretation of karma, saying: “In this case, karmic destiny refers to your mission. You were born into this world with the mission to work for kosen-rufu, so it is crucial that you achieve it.”

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The lecture reached the end of “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” which includes the following famous passage:

Exert yourself in the two ways of practice and study. Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. (WND-1, 386)

President Ikeda said: “Practice refers to introducing Nichiren Buddhism to others, while study means studying Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings. Without propagation and study, Buddhism cannot exist. This is what it means to correctly practice Nichiren Buddhism.”

Upholding faith is the great path to happiness. Deepening your practice and understanding of Buddhism deepens your faith. This is why President Ikeda said to the future leaders, “No matter how busy you become with organizational issues, and regardless of what cultural activities you’re promoting, never forget that the foundation of Soka Gakkai activities is always the two ways of practice and study.”

Kuniko Nakanishi (Soka Gakkai women’s division nationwide vice secretary; women’s division study department leader): President Ikeda’s strict words echoed in my heart. He said: “When you become a Soka Gakkai leader, the way to practice does not change. In fact, the more responsibility you have as a leader, the more important it is to deepen the foundations of your faith.”

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The lecture reached the postscript of “The True Aspect of All Phenomena.”

Is there not a mystic bond between us? Are you not the embodiment of one of the four bodhisattvas, including Superior Practices, who led the Bodhisattvas of the Earth equal in number to the sands of the sixty thousand Ganges Rivers? There must be some profound reason for our relationship. (WND-1, 387)

This is a passage of warm encouragement for the disciple to whom Nichiren Daishonin sent the letter.

President Ikeda said: “‘Equal in number to the sands of the sixty thousand Ganges Rivers’ repre-sents a huge number. Even if all the people on Earth practiced Nichiren Buddhism, they would still not equal it. Assuming there are other planets in the vast universe where humans live, this incredible number would include all of them.”

The young phoenixes were amazed at the enormous scale he described.

Wishing to make it easier for his listeners to take on the difficult challenge of sharing Nichiren Buddhism with others, he added: “Given the amount of people on this planet alone, there will never be a lack of opportunity to spread the Daishonin’s teachings. You will never reach a point where you can’t continue forward. There will be plenty of chances to share Nichiren Buddhism across the globe.”

President Ikeda then paused for a moment before saying: “Please study hard and then go out into the world, outside Japan. The world is waiting for you.”

Shigeyoshi Kasahara (Soka Gakkai vice prefecture secretary): President Ikeda was in Hawaii just 20 days before our lecture, offering guidance to members there. He was promoting global kosen-rufu at an astounding pace.

Something happened around that time that made me understand that worldwide kosen-rufu could never be undertaken with a half-hearted effort. During a group discussion with President Ikeda, I casually shared with him that I thought I might study foreign languages for kosen-rufu.

Observing that I wasn’t very serious, he focused his gaze on me and replied sternly, “It’s fine to venture out into the world, but right now you should develop and polish yourself.”

He was looking for people who were fully determined to take on the challenge of worldwide kosen-rufu.

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I have herein committed to writing the doctrines of my own enlightenment. I will end here. (WND-1, 387)

Thus concludes the postscript to “The True Aspect of All Phenomena.” President Ikeda commented on this postscript: “Nichiren Daishonin wanted to say that he had shared his thoughts on this very important teaching. Please remember it well.” With these words, he brought his lecture on “The True Aspect of All Phenomena” to a close.

The young phoenixes called out, “Thank you!” and then the room fell silent. They were so deeply moved that they forgot to even applaud.

Takaharu Matsumoto (Soka Gakkai vice chapter leader): As if speaking to each one of us individually, President Ikeda said: “You may not have understood my lecture now, but that’s all right. It’s engraved in your lives, and I’m sure the day will come when it all makes sense.”

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Around this time, President Ikeda also sent a message to the young phoenixes through his novel The Human Revolution, which was being serialized in the Seikyo Shimbun. It was a part of the story describing his first encounter with his mentor second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda at a discussion meeting.

Also in a more recent essay series “Light of the Century of Humanity,” President Ikeda wrote: “‘I want to eliminate all misery and suffering from the face of the earth … Will you join me?’ President Toda’s powerful voice, as he was lecturing on ‘On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,’ roared like thunder in my 19-year-old heart. It was a lion’s roar of establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land that decided the course of my life.”[1]

Muneyoshi Ichiyanagi: President Ikeda’s lecture on “The True Aspect of All Phenomena” and his novel The Human Revolution together left a lasting impression on our hearts.

“My successors, young phoenixes, you are Shin’ichi Yamamoto![2] Like Shin’ichi Yamamoto, grow up to be disciples united with your mentor! Reach your full potential!” I felt that was his message to us.

President Ikeda was urging us young phoenixes to take the initiative in walking the solemn path of mentor and disciple. He wanted us to lead truly challenging yet unsurpassed lives.

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Why did President Ikeda choose “The True Aspect of All Phenomena” for his lecture to the high school division members? Because through studying “The True Aspect of All Phenomena” we can learn the correct way of faith and practice, and the importance of our mission as disciples united with their mentor.

Through “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” President Ikeda wished to illuminate what it meant to be a disciple united in spirit with one’s mentor.

He recollected, “I was convinced that the young phoenixes would eventually grow into adult phoenixes, spread their wings and take flight into the vast skies of tomorrow, heralding the arrival of an age of hope.”

An age of hope is an age when genuine disciples stand up. It is when these champions powerfully emerge to change a time of uncertainty and confusion into a time of security and peace.

To be continued in an upcoming issue.

Translated from the March 2011 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study journal.


  1. SGI Newsletter, No. 7863. ↩︎
  2. SGI President Ikeda’s character in his novels The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution. ↩︎

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