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Guidance for Leadership

District Discussion Meetings Are the Driving Force for Dynamic Progress

Celebration—SGI-USA members gather at their virtual discussion meeting on Nov. 18, 2021.
Celebration—SGI-USA members gather at their virtual discussion meeting on Nov. 18, 2021.

These are excerpts from Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada’s encouragement at a Jan. 7, 2022, Soka Gakkai prefectures leaders meeting. The full summary of his encouragement was published in the Jan. 8, 2022, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

The Year of Youth and Dynamic Progress has finally begun. To celebrate Ikeda Sensei’s birthday (on Jan. 2), from the end of last year into the New Year, we received reports of members in various locales helping their friends begin their Buddhist practice. …

In The New Human Revolution, volume 18, the “Dynamic Strides” chapter describes the beginning of the Soka Gakkai’s Year of Society in 1974. From the beginning of that year, Sensei traveled throughout the world, taking action for peace.

Starting in January, he traveled to Hong Kong. In March, he visited North, Central and South America. And he went for the first time both to China in May and the Soviet Union in September. In December, he met with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai during his second visit to China.

That New Year’s Day, Sensei confirmed the following point, stating: “The fundamental spirit of the Soka Gakkai … is practicing in accord with the Buddha’s teachings, and that must never change. In fact, the more we spread Nichiren Buddhism throughout society, the more crucial it is to deepen that spirit” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 18, p. 251). He emphasized that the essential spirit in every battle is to base ourselves on faith.

This year, as the coronavirus pandemic continues, so too does our crucial battle to transform the karma of our society.

Aiming toward March 16, as we advance steadily in propagating Nichiren Buddhism, expanding the readership of our organ newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun, and strengthening our efforts to visit and offer encouragement and personal guidance to our fellow members, let’s base ourselves once again on Nichiren Daishonin’s writings as we fight with profound faith and carry through in “practicing in accord with the Buddha’s teachings.”

For those taking on new leadership roles, deciding that “the first three months are the most decisive” (NHR-2, revised edition, 208), please generate through your own efforts waves of expansion in kosen-rufu. This applies as well to leaders who are continuing in their responsibilities. Standing up with fresh resolve in this new year, let’s read Nichiren’s writings each day, respectfully encouraging everyone as we would a Buddha and raising even more leaders who take the initiative in all endeavors.

The Victory of the District Is the Key

Once again, I would like to confirm the importance of our Soka Gakkai tradition of holding discussion meetings. Let’s promise together to create fulfilling discussion meetings each month. In the “Dynamic Strides” chapter, Sensei says:

Discussion meetings, study of Nichiren’s teachings, introducing others to [Buddhist] practice and personal guidance are the four pillars, the main components, of the kosen-rufu movement. Discussion meetings, in particular, as the place where the other three components are carried out, serve as the foundation of everything (NHR-18, 252).

He described his efforts to support discussion meetings at the start of the year and clarified practical points for holding successful discussion meetings.

1) First, we must have a solid determination to conduct fulfilling discussion meetings.

Regarding the determination of the central figure, Sensei writes: “Even if only one person shows up at a discussion meeting, it is important for the central figure to give his or her all to talking about Nichiren Buddhism with that person. Doing so … is the conduct of a Buddha” (NHR-18, 254).

At the same time, he says: “Nichiren writes, ‘Teach others to the best of your ability, even if it is only a single sentence or phrase’ (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 386). It is crucial that every participant in a discussion meeting feels as though they are the central figure and can talk confidently about the joys of faith and the greatness of Buddhism” (NHR-18, 255–56).

Everyone has a leading role at the discussion meeting and is a protagonist. Before anything else, the success of the meeting is decided by the determination to give one’s all to the discussion meeting each month.

2) Second, offering encouragement before and after each discussion meeting through visits and encouragement is vital.

Sensei writes: “The discussion meeting actually begins with the central figure or main organizer offering members encouragement and guidance so that they will attend their local meetings. … Encouragement following discussion meetings is also very important” (NHR-18, 254–55).

The key to the success of the discussion meeting isn’t attained only by sending meeting information via emails, text or other applications. We must meet and talk with others by making phone calls or getting together virtually. Before the meeting, we can utilize the “home visit week” to invite even one more person to join this month’s meeting, and after the meeting, aiming for next month’s gathering, we can reach out to and encourage many others.

3) Third, the key to a successful discussion meeting is sharing our experiences of gaining benefit through faith.

Sensei was asked, “Is there a secret to holding lively, hope-filled discussion meetings?”

He replied: “There’s no special secret for making a discussion meeting lively. Having said that, however, I think a meeting’s success lies in how many people share experiences of gaining benefit through faith” (NHR-18, 256).

Through talking with one another about our experiences in faith, we can spread waves of joy. The content becomes more meaningful when you prepare what to share by writing down what you’d like to say or just talking about how you fought leading up to the meeting.

While “dynamic progress” may sound dramatic, actual progress is gained through applying Nichiren’s guidance to “strengthen your faith day by day and month after month” (“On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” WND-1, 997).

Are the number of participants at the discussion meeting increasing each month? Is the content meaningful? I want to clarify that we make “dynamic progress” by putting Sensei’s concrete guidance into practice and revitalizing our discussion meetings.

Advance With Courageous Dialogue

This year, please challenge yourselves to “make new friends, but treasure old ones” (NHR-6, revised edition, 67). In deepening our friendships, life force is essential. Pray to the Gohonzon to become someone whom everyone can trust. By basing yourself on such prayer, the warm exchanges you have with others will deepen, and you will be able to broaden your friendships.

Also, courageous dialogue is indispensable. No matter how much the tools for sharing Buddhism may improve, if you don’t have courage, kosen-rufu will not advance.

Furthermore, it takes time to deepen friendships. Once again, I want to state the importance of minimizing meetings as much as possible, taking action effectively and efficiently, and creating time to develop new friendships and find and raise capable people.

Toward March 16, as leaders, let’s encourage everyone by sharing our own experiences of engaging in propagation, increasing our publications subscriptions and building friendships through dialogue. Let’s offer our highest praise to those who are making great efforts in the district, especially the district and group leaders, while appreciating those who are challenging propagation and winning the trust of others in their workplaces. Let’s make 2022 a year of expanding our friendships and joyfully sharing how we are elevating our state of life and gaining benefits.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the February Campaign. The gears of kosen-rufu started moving with Sensei’s determination to adorn the birth month of his mentor, Josei Toda, with propagation results. For us as well, let’s create a rising tide of advancement in kosen-rufu, starting in January, Sensei’s birth month, toward the traditional month of propagation in February, and then toward March 16 (Kosen-rufu Day)! …

Currently, the omicron variant is spreading rapidly. According to news reports, although there is a lower risk of serious illness from infection of this variant, it is highly transmissible. … More than ever, let’s thoroughly take the utmost precautions against the spread of COVID-19 and steadily advance in our activities.

People are what determine the progress of kosen-rufu. While advancing in rhythm with our monthly discussion meetings, our headquarters leader’s meetings and expanding the number of capable people, let’s open up a new chapter in the history of our movement resolved that this year’s dynamic progress will be determined by the successive victories we achieve each month!

Revised Edition of ‘The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace,’ Part 1