Staying Connected to the Pure Main Current of the District in an Increasingly Confusing Digital Age
Perhaps because of our move to hold virtual meetings since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been growing interest in finding online Buddhist groups, forums and websites that discuss Nichiren Buddhism and its practice.
Many such groups start with good intentions, with some drifting off track over time. And still others are started by individuals deliberately aiming to spread misinformation about the SGI.
This is a good time to affirm why our SGI-USA districts continue to be the central place for correctly practicing Nichiren Buddhism and advancing kosen-rufu.
1. The SGI-USA district is where we learn how to foster understanding, cooperation and unity based on Buddhist principles.
Online interest groups can bring like-minded people together, but they can also become echo chambers that amplify feelings of being misunderstood, judged or ignored, and they can become breeding grounds for devilish functions. Furthermore, relying on online groups and not participating in SGI-USA activities can be a way to avoid genuine dialogue.
Ikeda Sensei says:
There is a strong tendency these days for people to try to avoid direct interaction with others. But that trend deprives us of the opportunity to make the most of our different personalities, to praise and support one another, and to cultivate tolerance and understanding. As a result, we may end up being unable to appreciate the pain and suffering of others, control our own anger or patch up even small differences and misunderstandings. This can produce negativity that at its very worst can drive one, or cause one to drive others, to violence, alienation, despair and even suicide. I’m sure everyone agrees this is a problem we must do something about. (The Teachings for Victory, vol. 5, p. 61)
The district is where we learn how to carry out dialogues and challenge our growth by striving to unite with people of diverse backgrounds and foster mutual understanding, respect, cooperation and harmony.
2. Even with the best intentions, people can be led away from correct Buddhist practice through online meetings not sponsored or held by SGI-USA districts.
It’s often difficult to gauge a person’s true intent for creating an online group. There are no checks and balances that qualify them to give faith guidance and no guarantee that encouragement given accords with the correct practice of Nichiren Buddhism. Sensei points out that we can be led astray if we place our trust in a mistaken teacher, find group consensus on a topic that goes against Buddhist teachings or are overly influenced by secular concerns (see The New Human Revolution, vol. 2, revised edition, pp. 124–34).
The SGI is the community of believers directly connected to Nichiren Daishonin’s teaching. Sensei states:
The Soka Gakkai is carrying out a movement to realize world peace and the happiness of all, spreading the philosophy of respect for life’s dignity across the globe. It accords entirely with the Buddha’s intent, faithfully achieving Nichiren’s wish for worldwide kosen-rufu. In that sense, it originated with the Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day.
Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda used to say that the Soka Gakkai, the organization for kosen-rufu, was more important to him than his life. We have a mission to serve as a model of solidarity for global society. (April 2021 Living Buddhism, p. 59)
3. While the basics never change, Nichiren Buddhism is practiced in each country based on the “precept of adapting to local customs.”
Based on the “precept of adapting to local customs,” the conditions of the country determine how we carry out our Buddhist practice. Accordingly, the Constitution of the Soka Gakkai clearly states that SGI members and organizations shall “comply with local laws and ordinances and respect local culture and customs” (sokaglobal.org).
For example, in the U.S., where freedom of religion is guaranteed, we encourage SGI-USA members to freely share Buddhism with others, subscribe to the publications and make financial contributions. However, taking the same actions in other countries could cause serious, even legal, issues. Keeping this in mind, it’s vital that we do activities locally and refrain from offering faith guidance or promoting SGI-USA activities to those living in other countries.
4. Nichiren Buddhism is about “winning where we are.”
In some instances, members seek guidance in faith from people they meet online, including those living in other regions or countries. But Nichiren writes, “I entrust you with the propagation of Buddhism in your province” (“The Properties of Rice,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1117).
Thus, fundamental to our practice is participating in local SGI activities and seeking guidance from experienced seniors around us to overcome our challenges and advance kosen-rufu in our communities. At the same time, it is vital that we raise capable young Buddhists who can continue the flow of kosen-rufu far into the future.
Sensei writes: “The real basis of the Soka Gakkai is each district that composes it. One could even say that the district itself is the Soka Gakkai.
“When a district is formed and becomes fully functional, kosen-rufu in that area will progress by leaps and bounds” (NHR-1, revised edition, 113–14).
Our local district discussion meetings, as outlined in The New Human Revolution, serve as the lighthouse of our communities. Let’s put our whole heart and energy into making this lighthouse shine as bright a light as possible.