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Guidance for Leadership

Burn With the Pride of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth!

Torrance, Calif.
Torrance, Calif. Photo by Yvonne Ng

Soka Gakkai Senior Vice President Yoshiki Tanigawa shared the following words at the Sept. 25 Central Executive Committee virtual conference.

Many congratulations on holding this Central Executive Conference and Executive Council Meeting, with Ikeda Sensei warmly watching over you!

Sensei has described these next 10 years toward the 100th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding as a decade that will transform the destiny of humankind. And 2021, which marks the start of that journey, has from the very beginning been very challenging in so many ways.

We’ve experienced a succession of challenges that have brought about heartbreaking situations for so many, from the all-too-familiar COVID-19 pandemic to various natural disasters—such as wildfires, tornados and hurricanes that produced flooding and unforeseen destruction—as well as conflict and divisiveness caused by racial issues and the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Yet you have all continued praying deeply for the safety and well-being of our fellow members and friends, creating a remarkable history of advancement in the effort to expand our movement for kosen-rufu.

I would like to express my sincere respect to each of you, my fellow members throughout the U.S., for exerting yourselves fully to advance with victory in every aspect of our movement—from sharing Buddhism with others, offering encouragement to one another, promoting our publications and contributions, and nurturing and developing the youth.

I’m especially amazed by the remarkable promotion of Soka University of America, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. I express my greatest appreciation to the leaders of the future division and everyone who has supported all the applicants to the university. Thank you very much indeed!

Throughout the Soka Gakkai’s history of advancing worldwide kosen-rufu, we’ve learned that it is the most important battles that bring forth the most intense and unimaginable difficulties.

Nichiren Daishonin states: “Do not have doubts simply because heaven does not lend you protection. Do not be discouraged because you do not enjoy an easy and secure existence in this life” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 283).

At times, even when we are praying earnestly, it may seem on the surface that various things are getting worse instead of getting better. However, our prayer goes beyond the circumstances that appear on the surface. Prayer has the power to fuel transformation at the deepest level, the foundation, of life.

Nichiren also writes: “This is similar to a tarnished mirror that will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality. Arouse deep faith, and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (“On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” WND-1, 4).

Our prayer purifies our lives and enables us to break through doubts and illusions, and discern the true nature of things, so that we can advance on the correct path.

The Daishonin also says, “[Again, when Nichiren and his followers recite Nam-myoho-renge-kyo], they are burning the firewood of earthly desires, summoning up the wisdom fire of bodhi or enlightenment” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 11).

Even when we are attacked by unexpected hardships or sorrows, our resolute prayer to remain undefeated and face everything head-on will enable us to produce the greatest wisdom and strengthen our life force.

“Great events never have minor omens,” the Daishonin writes. “When great evil occurs, great good follows. Since great slander already exists in our land, the great correct Law will spread without fail. What could any of you have to lament?” (“Great Evil and Great Good,” WND-1, 1119).

This passage expresses his conviction and vision for the future. A severe illness causes one to seek a cure or medicine. Likewise, this age, rampant with inferior teachings in which misleading ideologies capture people’s hearts, is signaling that the time has come to spread the correct teaching, which has the power to fundamentally lead all people to happiness.

Sensei has entrusted the members in the United States, for whom he has great expectations, with the crucial mission to serve as the center of worldwide kosen-rufu in the 21st century. In leading the way, you must be ready and resolved to face the fiercest winds and roughest waves, the likes of which others have yet to endure.

And because this land is vast and holds unparalleled diversity, please have pride in your noble mission to overcome complex difficulties to open the way forward.

Nichiren says, “I am praying that, no matter how troubled the times may become, the Lotus Sutra and the ten demon daughters will protect all of you, praying as earnestly as though to produce fire from damp wood, or to obtain water from parched ground” (“Rebuking Slander of the Law,” WND-1, 444).

Just as he says, let’s offer powerful prayers to make the impossible possible and dynamically advance together.

Chicago. Photo by Bob Nardi

Opening the Way With Buddhist Dialogue

As we put the finishing touches on 2021 in these last few months and move toward next year, I’d like to confirm three key points for expanding and advancing our kosen-rufu movement.

The first point is to further strengthen our efforts to share Buddhism and plant seeds of the Mystic Law in the hearts of our friends and those we encounter, expanding the number of those connected to Buddhism.

In his July 2009 editorial, titled “Dialogue Brings People Together,” Sensei writes: “Shakyamuni Buddha was a person who initiated conversations. He didn’t arrogantly wait for others to greet him but was always the first to greet others in a bright, friendly manner, which made others open their hearts to him. He was never in the least bit haughty or self-important. This kind of warm, humanistic behavior is the starting point of Buddhism as a living philosophy” (July 10, 2009, World Tribune, p. 7).

This act of opening our own hearts first and initiating conversations with others is the starting point of Buddhism. Our movement is about inheriting this spirit and putting it into action in today’s society.

Sensei continues: “My mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, used to say: ‘Speak out tirelessly with profound conviction! Voices imbued with the power of the Buddha are certain to open the way.’ He also said: ‘If you speak to others a hundred times, it will return to you as benefit a hundredfold. This is the meaning of the words ‘The voice does the Buddha’s work’ (see OTT, 4)” (July 10, 2009, World Tribune, p. 7).

Sensei also referenced Shakyamuni’s efforts in dialogue in his September 1993 Harvard University address, titled “Mahayana Buddhism and Twenty-First Century Civilization,” in which he said that one sutra describes how Shakyamuni met others with joy, approaching them with a bright and welcoming countenance. The life of Shakyamuni was one completely untrammeled by dogma, a life of open dialogue expressive of his openness of spirit (see A New Way Forward, pp. 40–41).

Sensei explains that Shakyamuni’s vast life condition, free from attachments to differences, made it possible for him to have such open dialogues. He says: “The conquest of our own prejudicial thinking, our own attachment to difference, is the necessary precondition for open dialogue. Such discussion, in turn, is essential for the establishment of peace and universal respect for human rights” (A New Way Forward, p. 42).

Sensei also talks about this in his editorial that I mentioned earlier:

Buddhas are never hesitant or shy to engage others in dialogue. They know that everyone is endowed with the Buddha nature and, as such, has the potential to change for the better. No matter what differences of opinions or feelings of ambivalence people may have, by awakening their Buddha nature, it is possible to transform them into friends and allies who understand and sympathize with our movement for peace. This is the essence of shakubuku, or sharing the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism with others. (July 10, 2009, World Tribune, p. 7)

Let us blaze with conviction that our courageous efforts to plant seeds of Buddhahood in the lives of those around us will be the cause for conquering the division and conflicts of humanity, confident that our efforts are the most direct and steady way to achieve the transformation of the destiny of humanity in the 21st century.

Helping Each Individual Become Strong

The second point I want to share is about wholeheartedly encouraging each person, and finding and raising capable individuals.

What do we need to do to build a strong organization that can expand and win in every endeavor? The only way to strengthen our organization is to help each individual in the organization become strong.

So then, how can we help each person become strong?

We could say that the Soka Gakkai tradition is to base everything on “guidance,” which in Japanese comprises two characters that can mean “point” and “lead.” So for us, guidance is about “pointing” each person toward the Gohonzon and “leading” them to the Gohonzon. In other words, it’s about continuing to encourage each of our fellow members so that no matter the environment or circumstances they are in, they are always motivated to chant to the Gohonzon and to make prayer the foundation of any struggle or endeavor.

To do this, we must listen to our fellow members, help them bring forth their courage and chant for them. And by patiently repeating such efforts, we can help those around us accumulate many experiences of transforming their karma and engaging in their human revolution, which will lead them to deepen their conviction in faith. This is the great and noble path of fostering capable people, and the most essential way to develop our organization.

It may take time until we see visible results from such steady efforts. However, without a doubt, the places that have established this tradition have built a strong foundation that will flourish for a very long time. As leaders, let’s take the initiative to encourage and support our fellow members, and create a broad, powerful stream of many capable people.

Despite the current pandemic, we have continued conducting activities online. While we’ve found new ways of engaging in activities, we also have a renewed appreciation for the great value and power of interacting directly with one another.

In this sense, the SGI-USA’s renewed focus on strengthening districts and chapters is extremely important. And while carefully considering each person’s situation, please use utmost care and wisdom in utilizing both in-person and online encouragement. And with the SGI-USA leaders taking the lead in the forefront of our organization, let’s place the greatest focus on fostering capable people and creating fulfilling and meaningful discussion meetings.

Cherishing the Youth

The third point I’d like to highlight is to give our utmost to encouraging, watching over and supporting our youth.

How have we been able to create such a rich and expansive flow of worldwide kosen-rufu in a relatively brief period of time?

I’m sure we could discuss this from various standpoints, but I believe one reason for our rapid growth is that the three eternal mentors of the Soka Gakkai truly loved the youth, cherished them and gave their all to raising them.

Founding President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi trusted his young disciple Josei Toda, treasuring and training him. He also responded to requests from the youth, took initiative to propagate Nichiren Buddhism and encouraged the younger members to the best of his ability.

President Toda created the Suiko-kai, a group to train young men in the Soka Gakkai. And he also established the young men’s, young women’s and student divisions to foster capable successors, pouring his heart and soul into raising and entrusting everything to his young disciple, Ikeda Sensei, and all the Soka Gakkai youth of that time.

As for Sensei, he wholeheartedly cherishes the youth around the world and has carved out time and devoted his entire being to always encourage the youth. I’m sure that all of you have deeply engraved Sensei’s encouragement in your own hearts as precious memories of your life.

Not only for the sake of the organization but also as proud disciples of our great mentor, let’s give everything we have to supporting and earnestly encouraging the youth, making them our foremost priority.

Just as President Toda wrote, “A new century will be created by the passion and the power of youth” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 22, p. 23). The only way forward is to fully entrust the youth with this next era. This is precisely why I’d like to once again focus on giving our all to fostering the youth.

Ever since Sensei made his first steps for worldwide kosen-rufu (in 1960), he has entrusted America with the deep, significant mission to become the center of kosen-rufu in the 21st century. Today, a new center now stands on the historic island of Guam, where the SGI was established on Jan. 26, 1975. At that First World Peace Conference, Sensei said the following:

The sun of Nichiren Buddhism has begun to rise above the distant horizon. Rather than seeking after your own praise or glory, I hope that you will dedicate your noble lives to sowing the seeds of peace of the Mystic Law throughout the entire world. I shall do the same. (NHR-21, 33)

Firmly engraving this guidance in our hearts, please have great pride in being able to exert yourselves in this country during this deeply meaningful time. And as disciples, to generate the most amazing results and victories in our endeavors, let’s pray with unity in the spirit of many in body, one in mind, burn with the pride of being Bodhisattvas of the Earth who take everything on with a bold fighting spirit, and majestically advance together, setting our sights on the goal of having 350,000 Bodhisattvas of the Earth practicing Buddhism with the SGI-USA by 2030, the 100th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding! Thank you very much!

3 Points for expanding and advancing our kosen-rufu movement.

1. Strengthen our efforts to share Buddhism and plant seeds of the Mystic Law in the hearts of our friends and those we encounter, expanding the number of those connected to Buddhism.

2. Wholeheartedly encourage each person, finding and raising capable individuals.

3. Give our utmost to encouraging, watching over and supporting our youth.

Districts Are the Home Bases of Our Network of Encouragement

The Causality for Victory in Life (Part 2)