On Raising Successors
Nine keys to fostering capable people in the Year of Youth and Dynamic Progress.
In a speech given to SGI-USA members in 1990, Ikeda Sensei called capable people “the greatest treasure” and urged leaders to look for members who possess great potential “just as a miner searches for gold ore in ordinary rocks.” Sensei continued:
Prayer is most fundamental in raising capable people. You should pray earnestly to the Gohonzon that the person you have found will become an able person important to the SGI-USA. Then, with this prayer, you take the utmost care to help that person develop.My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 7.
As we embark on the Year of Youth and Dynamic Progress, let’s study Sensei’s key guidance on raising youthful successors of our kosen-rufu movement. The following quotes were gleaned from Ikeda Sensei’s writings.
—Prepared by the World Tribune staff
1. Raising capable people makes us capable.
Please remember that one who raises capable people is great. Such a person is truly capable and important.Ibid.
2. Start by fostering one person.
“Start by fostering just one talented, capable individual. Countless more capable individuals will naturally gather around that one person, and they will develop as well. If we fail to cultivate new talent, our organization will weaken and reach an impasse on all fronts.”The New Human Revolution, vol. 25, p. 96.
3. Focus on others’ strengths.
“People can’t help judging others according to their own standards. If you’re logical and systematic, for example, you’ll probably see ability in those who are also methodical and analytical. On the other hand, if you’re impulsive and not prone to giving matters much thought, you’ll tend to regard those who have similar tendencies as capable. Also, if you’re extremely self-centered and full of your own importance, you cannot appreciate people’s strengths or good points. Instead, you’ll see only their faults.
“Ultimately, the ability to find capable people depends on whether we can see others’ strengths. And the only way to do this is to develop our own life condition.”NHR-2, revised edition, 123.
4. Foster genuine champions of kosen-rufu.
“What are the characteristics of capable individuals within the Soka Gakkai? At heart, they exhibit a lifelong dedication to kosen-rufu. They are the kind of people who possess the firm determination to advance along the noble path of the shared vision of mentor and disciple and who put that determination into practice.
“But we cannot see inside a person’s heart. …
“That’s why it’s vital that leaders possess the capacity to discern other people’s real motivations. They also need to provide appropriate guidance to prevent the fundamental attitude of successors from being corrupted or distorted and to foster genuine champions who are willing to dedicate themselves to furthering kosen-rufu. …
“For senior leaders to be able to really discern the motivations of their juniors, they need to be sure there is no corruption or distortion in their own lives. If the mirror of our own life is clouded or warped, we can’t see others clearly. Instead, we’ll be partial and interpret things based on our own likes and dislikes.
“That’s why it’s so important to constantly polish our own life, with chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as our top priority. We can thereby continue to uphold correct and pure faith, illuminated by the Gohonzon, Nichiren Daishonin’s writings and the guidance of our mentor in kosen-rufu.”NHR-25, 279–80.
5. Create opportunities for capable individuals.
“People are the key in fostering other people. When we treat people with warmth and sincerity, show them that we place great trust in them, have high expectations for them and are thinking of them and trying to help them, we will naturally spark in them the desire to dedicate themselves to their mission.
“Also, in the operation of the organization, always remember to be aware of each person’s unique mission and make an effort to put their abilities to the maximum possible use in everyday activities. Seniors in faith need to be constantly thinking their hardest about how to create opportunities for capable individuals to be active and participatory.”NHR-25, 291.
6. Entrust youth with specific assignments.
“In fostering youth we need to entrust them with specific assignments and give them opportunities to take the lead. It is by taking responsibility and accumulating experience that people develop their talents. If we don’t provide youth with opportunities to challenge themselves, they will never grow.
“We may, however, feel compelled to step in or take over, thinking that it would be easier or more expeditious to do things ourselves rather than leave it to inexperienced youth. But leaders need to have the magnanimity to take full responsibility even if the youth make mistakes. …
“At the same time, … if we simply tell the youth to do this or that without guiding them, it’s as if we’re waiting for them to fail. First, we ourselves have to take action and set an example, and then we can give them the responsibility, encouraging them all the while.
“Of course, it’s important to bring any problems to their attention, as well as to set new targets for them. Above all else, however, we must give them hope and the confidence that they can definitely succeed if they put their minds to it. …
“Another crucial point is that youth is a time of facing various struggles, a time when people start to think about the future and things like getting married. When burdened with worries, people cannot freely display their abilities. We therefore need to carefully listen to the youth, discuss their problems with them, and inspire them to use their hardships as a springboard for deepening their faith. …
“At any rate, what matters is that we look after the youth as if they were our younger siblings. Young people will not develop in an organization that is cold and heartless.”NHR-12, 31–32.
7. Praise is the key to encouraging others.
“I always take the initiative to speak with young people, to engage in frank dialogue with them and to encourage them. Leaders must not be conceited and withdrawn, ignoring youth. They should jump right in with an open heart.
“For example, if a young person rushes from work but arrives only when the discussion meeting is reaching the end, we should encourage them with all our heart, saying: ‘Thanks for coming. I know how hard it must be to get away from work. Please keep doing your best!’ Then the person will feel assured to try and attend the next meeting.
“But if we look at them with an expression that says ‘How dare you arrive so late?’ and don’t even speak to them, they won’t want to come to another meeting.
“Praise is a key aspect of encouraging someone.”NHR-25, 11.
8. It’s important to support our juniors in faith.
“The young have great potential, but they may also be inexperienced. As their seniors, you mustn’t criticize them as incompetent or say, ‘When I was their age, I worked a lot harder.’ Nor should you be resentful and say, ‘Well, they never came to me for advice’ or ‘This is the first I’ve heard about it.’
“Because you have such a wealth of experience, it is crucial that you support and not criticize them. …
“The senior is like the gardener and the junior is the garden. If your juniors, who have become the core of the organization, are unable to demonstrate their full potential, their senior leaders are to blame. It’s because the seniors haven’t fostered their juniors and haven’t supported them wholeheartedly.
“I hope you will all stand up with the determination to protect your juniors who are the leaders.”NHR-25, 137.
9. Teach others by taking action together.
“Seniors in faith need to not only encourage their juniors to introduce Buddhism to others but also fully explain to them, from various perspectives, the importance of propagation. …
“It’s very important, not only in propagation efforts but in all activities, to make the purpose very clear and reconfirm it with all involved. This enables all members to bring forth their full potential and advance without straying from the path. “It’s important to remember, however, that we cannot simply tell young people who have no previous experience in sharing Nichiren’s teachings about the significance of propagation, encourage them to do their best and expect them to succeed. Most people would still feel unable to do it.
“We need to show them through our own example how to introduce Buddhism to others.
“One effective way is for seniors in faith—men’s and women’s division members who have succeeded in explaining Nichiren Buddhism to others—to share their actual experiences.
“It’s also necessary to occasionally go together with young people when we engage in dialogue about Buddhism, teaching them in the midst of actual Buddhist practice an example of what to do. By giving them the chance to observe us in action, they’ll think, ‘I see. That’s how one does it. I can do that. I want to try!’
“When people think something is beyond their capacity, they will hesitate to act. But if they think they can do something, they’ll take action. …
“When youth make an effort to promote Buddhism, we should support them fully and assist in such a way that they can succeed. And even if they don’t succeed at first, if we praise them for planting the seed for future success, it will give them great self-confidence. This confidence is the driving force for development.”NHR-25, 12–14.