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In Tribute to the Young Women’s Division 55th Anniversary

Ikeda Sensei's Essay

Young women's division joyfully participating in a Buddhist activity.
Photo by Noriko Kakusho

Spring is here,
summer is here,
victorious sunshine is here—
sunflowers, sovereign of flowers,
flowers of happiness
shining on brilliantly
into autumn
into winter.

Fifty-five golden sunflowers—as bright as the lovely, smiling faces of young women—beamed proudly from a gorgeous arrangement. They were a gift from a sunflower grower in Hachioji, near Soka University, to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the young women’s division. I immediately sent my thanks and had the flowers displayed at the Soka Young Women’s Center (near the Soka Gakkai Headquarters in Shinanomachi, Tokyo).

When I was driving around the Soka University campus the year before last, I was charmed by a field of glorious sunflowers and took a picture of it. That picture led to my getting to know the farmer who grew the sunflowers. Since then, a neighboring women’s division member has continued to foster friendly ties with the farmer and his family.

My mentor Josei Toda, the second president of the Soka Gakkai, also loved sunflowers. One day, a young women’s division member was creating an arrangement of sunflowers for the president’s office at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. I still fondly recall how Mr. Toda, delighted by the floral display, encouraged her to live with the same great, unflagging strength of sunflowers.

Be that as it may, members and non-members alike, both in Japan and overseas, are praising the vibrant achievements and growth of our young women’s division members.

My sincerest congratulations on the young women’s division’s brilliant 55th anniversary!

• • •

Young Women’s Division Day—
a day of mentor and disciple
infused with a vow
of dedication to kosen-rufu
and to the Gakkai.

It was on July 19, 1951—a Thursday—that 74 eager young women gathered with their mentor President Toda at the old Soka Gakkai Headquarters in Nishi-Kanda, Tokyo. This was the birth of the young women’s division, a gathering of clear-eyed young women with a profound mission—a gathering that would continue to grow and develop limitlessly into the eternal future.

With an infinitely compassionate gaze, Mr. Toda said, “May every one of you, the members of the Soka Gakkai young women’s division, become happy without fail.” He noted sternly that up until now the history of women had been one of “women grieving over their destinies.” And he voiced the hope that those present, having embraced the Mystic Law in their youth, would shoulder the mission of fundamentally changing this unfortunate situation.

He instructed and urged them with all his heart: “The essential requirement for women’s happiness is the eternal and imperishable philosophy of the Mystic Law. Please live out your lives with pure and persevering faith.” This succinct guidance contains the essence of Soka humanism.

Only six years had passed since Japan’s defeat in World War II. The scars left by that hideous war remained deep and painful, and the despairing sighs and sorrowful lamentations of women echoed throughout Japanese society. They had been the victims of the devilish nature of unscrupulous authorities who scorned and disregarded the people. As the ancient Greek philosopher Plato declared, “The very bad men come from the class of those who have power.”[1]

Mr. Toda insisted that humanity must change its course by focusing on the happiness of women. For that reason, too, he asserted, young women must possess a sound life philosophy, along with a strong life-force impervious to the winds of karma. This guidance has been an enduring source of encouragement for all young women’s division members.

My wife and I have also made Mr. Toda’s heart our own and spiritedly confronted every challenge. And not a day has gone by without our chanting earnest daimoku with the wish that every single precious young women’s division member will become happy.

• • •

My wife also attended that inaugural meeting, rushing there after finishing work as a bank clerk in the Ginza area of Tokyo. She had just celebrated her 10th anniversary of practicing Nichiren Buddhism—having embarked on the path of faith together with her parents on July 12, 1941, while still in elementary school. During her childhood, she had the good fortune of meeting our founding president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who later died in prison for his beliefs. She was, in a sense, a pioneering member of the future division. She was also a pioneering member of the young women’s division—a group that Mr. Toda personally devoted great energy to training for the sake of kosen-rufu.

She strove diligently at both her job and Soka Gakkai activities day after day, and worked hard as a group leader to build the young women’s division in those early years. She has told me with a smile that her group came top several times in her chapter’s propagation efforts. And during the 1952 February Campaign in Kamata Chapter, she exerted herself all out, talking to others about Nichiren Buddhism and introducing them to the Soka Gakkai.

A youth spent working for kosen-rufu alongside one’s mentor paves the way to a life that will shine with eternal honor.

Mr. Toda presented a copy of The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin to my wife, which is now on display in a special exhibit at the Soka Young Women’s Center. A poem that Mr. Toda composed on February 11, 1958, his last birthday, is inscribed on its flyleaf.

Possess within
an appearance
as gentle as moonlight
the invincible spirit of
the Mystic Law.

My wife is delighted to be able to share with the young women’s division members, through this poem, the “invincible spirit” taught by Mr. Toda.

Mr. Toda consistently urged us to proceed with confidence and boldness. “Be confident in faith!” “Be confident, no matter what people may say!” “The Soka Gakkai should be confident to the very end!” he would say.

• • •

The great American human rights activist Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962) said: “The most unhappy people in the world are those who face the days without knowing what to do with their time.”[2]

Mr. Toda’s training of the young women’s division was both warm and strict. He said to the effect:

People who don’t practice Nichiren Buddhism don’t have to do gongyo or attend meetings. Living a free and easy life, doing whatever one pleases, may seem enviable. But life isn’t that simple; it is governed by the uncompromising law of cause and effect.

Why do we need philosophy? Why do our lives need Buddhism?

This great Buddhism that we practice is the bright, unsurpassed way that noble forerunners risked their lives to bequeath to us in their fundamental search for absolute happiness and their ardent desire to enable all people to find it. If just doing as we pleased were enough, there’d be no need to go to school or to study. But if we follow that course, we’ll only come to regret it later.

On the other hand, a person who studies philosophy, who studies Buddhism, comes to discover life’s depths. What an immense joy it is to seek and attain true and lasting happiness, one’s heart soaring free and deep emotion welling forth in one’s life. How immeasurable is the delight of apprehending life’s profound wonder as well as our own being brimming with limitless joy!

• • •

Shining princesses
joyfully reaching out to
to talk with others,
bathed in beautiful light
right to the depths of your hearts.

When the Soka Young Women’s Center opened (on May 3, 2006), I made gifted a piece of calligraphy that I had inscribed many years ago and that had long been kept at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. It features the Chinese characters for the Lotus Sutra passage, “My mind is filled with great joy” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 51). This passage and variations of it appear more than 10 times in the sutra, but a particularly memorable instance is in the story of the dragon king’s daughter, which teaches the enlightenment of women.

The young dragon king’s daughter, insulted and denigrated by Shariputra and other male practitioners of the two vehicles, gains enlightenment in front of the assembly, proclaiming, “Watch me attain Buddhahood!” (LSOC, 188). The bodhisattvas and other living beings of the saha world, observing her preaching the Law to human and heavenly beings, react with “hearts filled with joy” and pay reverent obeisance to her from afar, as infinite living beings receive the blessings of hearing the Law (LSOC, 188–89).

The dragon king’s daughter vows, “I unfold the doctrines of the Great Vehicle / to rescue living beings from suffering” (LSOS, 188). She had come to cherish within her the Buddha’s wish to lead those who are suffering to enlightenment, and rose into action to carry out the same efforts as the Buddha.

For people in the depths of suffering, this vivid drama of life expounded in the Lotus Sutra became a teaching of limitless hope, carrying the promise that they too could become happy. It became the spirit of the noble vow to work for kosen-rufu, the spirit of eternal victory. This indeed is the spirit of the young women’s division.

• • •

Speaking to the Kayo-kai (Flower-Sun Group), a special training group for top young women’s division leaders, Josei Toda said solemnly: “Kosen-rufu will be achieved by women.” What a profound message this is! A message that remains significant even today.

It’s important that we value the young women’s division members and make a regular effort to talk and engage in dialogue with them.

When a young woman grows, she also brings happiness to her family. In addition, if she marries, her future partner, her partner’s family and her children will all become part of a dynamic rhythm that will stir a huge wave of kosen-rufu.

Consequently, in local organizations where the young women’s division members are valued, everyone will be happy and positive and assured of a bright, victorious future. In contrast, organizations headed by foolish leaders who do not value young women will bring misfortune on everyone and destroy the realm of kosen-rufu through their own ignorant and willful arrogance. Such leaders are atrocious. Don’t follow people of that kind.

It is also a fact that those who take their mentor’s admonitions on this point lightly, belittling and ridiculing the pure-hearted young women’s division members, almost invariably incur the dislike of others; they ultimately stop growing, abandon their faith and are despised as nuisances by all. Many of you are well aware of such cases.

That is precisely why Mr. Toda sternly affirmed: “Mentor and disciple are one. So isn’t it a sign of gratitude to Mr. Makiguchi to fight alongside me, the second president, the disciple who inherited his spirit?” He also warned that those who betray the Soka Gakkai cannot hope to die a peaceful death, but that they will unfailingly receive strict karmic retribution for their deeds.

The famous 20th-century Brazilian writer Guilherme Figueiredo (1915–97) is the older brother of Brazilian President João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo (1918–99), whom I met 22 years ago (in February 1984). One of the author’s statements strikes a deep chord in my heart, “Truth is the purpose of our lives.”

Mr. Toda had the highest regard for young women’s division members’ ability to see the truth. Men frequently tell lies and are motivated by envy and rivalry. They’ll do anything to justify their actions. They sometimes allow their feelings and prejudices to color their view of others.

Knowing this full well, Mr. Toda would often ask young women’s division members about their views on various matters, such as which Soka Gakkai-backed lawmakers were genuinely serving the public, and so on. He prized their opinions to a remarkable degree. “They are keen observers,” he would say. “Women’s eyes are fearsome. Relentless. Our young women’s division members see things as they really are. They have 20-20 vision.”

• • •

Following life’s
highest path,
the unsurpassed way,
bid farewell to sorrow
and enjoy days filled with joy.

One person inspires another to stand up, and then that person inspires yet another. Young women’s division members, with their noble mission, have always been at the center of this groundswell of courageous action. They have been there without exception.

Mr. Toda said to young women, whose purity of heart often makes them feel life’s problems very deeply: “We are propagating the supreme philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, so we should expect to meet with hardships and obstacles like those predicted by Nichiren Daishonin. Never forget that.” Both Shakyamuni and the Daishonin taught that difficulties are an impetus for attaining enlightenment, and that sufferings and problems are the key to our development and growth. Women who weakly wallow in self-pity when problems arise are knocking on the door of misfortune. Sentimentality is a pitfall of youth.

I have always admired these words of the French writer George Sand (1804–76), “The stories of the sufferings and struggles in the life of each individual are a lesson for us all.”[3] Our own personal experiences of suffering enable us to encourage many others. Suffering strengthens us and makes us bigger, better people. “Advance with courage!” “Be ever optimistic!” These, I believe, are fitting mottoes for our precious young women’s division members.

The Soka Gakkai’s Books—Heritage of Humanity exhibition, which is currently touring Japan, includes an important treasure of the Soka Gakkai that many viewers have found extremely inspiring. It is an original handwritten note by Helen Keller (1880–1968), the American writer and social activist who was blind and deaf, which reads, “If you can enjoy the sun and flowers and music where there is nothing except darkness and silence you have proved the mystic sense.”

During your time in the young women’s division, please build a lifelong foundation for your faith as well as a firm foundation for your life. This will become the driving force for attaining Buddhahood in this existence and for achieving everlasting happiness and victory.

When the Soka Young Women’s Center was under construction, the work on the foundation was carried out with great care. My wife and I frequently drove by the site and chanted daimoku.

The foundation for the great palace of a truly happy life is built in your youth. Specifically, this means developing in your own way a solid record of achievement and of experiences in faith while in the young women’s division, so that you will be able to share them later with others.

A certain philosopher deplored irreligion, calling it a root cause of all kinds of evils.

None are stronger or nobler than those who uphold correct faith in Nichiren Buddhism in their youth.

• • •

Youth is a time when feelings and emotions are extremely sensitive. What an immense comfort and support it is for young women to have seniors in faith, including members of the women’s division, who are ready to listen to and warmly embrace them with broad-minded understanding. Faith exists so that everyone can become happy. We mustn’t cause people to feel pressured or insecure.

In a letter to the lay nun Sennichi, Nichiren Daishonin describes how to give guidance and direction to our fellow practitioners: “If a believer’s offense is slight, overlook it, and lead that person to obtain benefits. If it is serious, encourage him to strengthen his faith so that he can expiate the sin” (“The Embankments of Faith,” WND-1, 626).

In the realm of the Mystic Law, there is no problem that can’t be transformed into something positive in accord with the principle of changing poison into medicine. I call on our leaders to provide wise and patient leadership so that everyone can advance cheerfully and freely, with self-confidence and hope—forever and wherever they are!

We live in disturbing times and young women are often the target of reprehensible acts. While I have stressed this repeatedly, please always keep reminding each other about the importance of ensuring that our young women get home at a safe hour. Let’s reconfirm our commitment, as an organization, to making even more painstaking efforts in this area. The great German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) maintained that being painstaking is a part of wisdom.[4]

• • •

What a profoundly significant 55th anniversary year this is for the young women’s division! This year, two of the division’s groups, the Byakuren (White Lotus) Group, the “flower of Soka,” which assists with the smooth running of Soka Gakkai meetings, and the Kakan (Floral Crown) Group for hairdressing and beauty professionals are both celebrating their 40th anniversary. The Futaba (Two Leaves) Group, consisting of female barbers, is celebrating its 35th anniversary. The Fuji Fife and Drum Corps, a gathering of “emissaries of wonderful sound,” is celebrating its 50th anniversary. And next year, the young women’s student division will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Also, the sphere of activities of our young women’s division members has expanded to diverse fields as befits their role as the frontrunners of the age of women. Members are active in such special young women’s division groups as the young women’s division Study Department; the Young Women’s Conference for Peace and Culture; choral groups such as the Fuji Chorus; the Shirakaba (White Birch) Group for nurses; the Okan-kai (Cherry Blossom Garland Group) for physicians and dentists as well as medical and dental students; the Young Women’s Educators Group; the Business Professionals Group; the Designers Group; and the International Group for language specialists.

All of our young women are together confidently painting a dynamic masterpiece of myriad flowers blooming in beautiful profusion on the vast canvas of society and the world—in accord with the Buddhist teaching of “cherry, plum, peach and damson blossoms.”

The activities of the young women’s division members are conspicuous throughout our SGI network, which today spans 190 countries and territories. The SGI organizations in many places can trace their roots to a single, dedicated young woman. And in many places, including the UK, Italy, Portugal, Norway, Argentina and Taiwan, talented young women also serve as the top youth division leaders.

Rector Lygia Lumina Pupatto of Brazil’s Londrina State University, one of her country’s most esteemed educators, traveled all the way to Japan to present me with an honorary doctorate (in April 2004). On that occasion, she offered these words of encouragement to women around the world: “We need to have faith in justice and believe that we are doing the right thing. We must also believe that we can make a difference, and do everything we can toward that end. If we do, we can definitely improve society for the better.”

• • •

It is an indisputable fact in our world today that businesses and organizations where women shine brightly are those that continue to succeed and thrive amidst ever-changing circumstances. A famous thinker has observed that this is the tide of the times everywhere and a historical inevitability.

The futurist Dr. Hazel Henderson, with whom I have published a dialogue, began her career as a social activist by standing up to fight against environmental pollution. Today, she is active around the globe.

Commenting on how one tiny first step set in motion an entire movement, Dr. Henderson said that ordinary people may often start out thinking that projects are impossible, or that the obstacles facing them are too big. But she asserts that, even in such seemingly daunting cases, a breakthrough can be made if everyone combines forces. She stresses the importance of persistence and continually reaching out to people and appealing to their higher selves.[5] This has much in common with how we have advanced our kosen-rufu movement. Dr. Henderson also expressed her admiration for the SGI members she has met around the world, commenting on their high level of organization and persistence.[6]

A youthful new era of the young women’s division has arrived—an incredibly bright and hopeful era it is, too! Soka Gakkai leaders many years your senior are watching your dazzling efforts with admiration. The presence of young women who can take the lead for kosen-rufu with youthful energy and vigor is now more important than ever.

It is crucial that we all actively pray for the growth and happiness of the young women’s division. For they are the key to future victory.

I hope that you, the young women’s division members, will make this wonderful time of your youth the most enjoyable and fulfilling time possible. May you all become happy without exception. To do so, may not a single one of you ever be defeated!

Bloom as flowers,
fragrant as flowers,
your way adorned with flowers,
enjoying yourselves
on the stage of kosen-rufu.

Translated from the July 20, 2006, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.


  1. Plato, The Dialogues of Plato, translated by B. Jowett (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1892), vol. 2, p. 419. ↩︎
  2. Eleanor Roosevelt, You Learn by Living (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983), p. 55. ↩︎
  3. Translated from French. George Sand, Histoire de ma vie (Story of My Life) (Paris: Calmann- Levy, 1847), vol. 1, p. 8. ↩︎
  4. Thomas Mann, Essays of Three Decades, translated by H. T. Lowe-Porter (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948), p. 74. ↩︎
  5. Hazel Henderson and Daisaku Ikeda, Planetary Citizenship: Your Values, Beliefs and Actions Can Shape a Sustainable World (Santa Monica, California: Middleway Press, 2004), pp. 38–39. ↩︎
  6. Ibid. ↩︎

Victory Is Certain!

Pursue the Great Path of Mentor and Disciple, Regarding Hardships as a Badge of Honor