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Ikeda Sensei

Foster Friendships Locally

The Light of the Century of Humanity

SGI-USA members in Atlanta.
Atlanta. Photo by Anthony Wallen.

These are excerpts from an essay by Ikeda Sensei as part of his series “The Light of the Century of Humanity.” It was originally published in the Sept. 21, 2009, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

We only become truly human by connecting with the people. It is indeed among the people that we develop ourselves and discover true joy. …

There are various degrees of human relationships, such as people we know by sight and others with whom we just exchange greetings. The most admirable association we can form, however, is one where we mutually encourage and support one another, helping one another grow.

Nichiren Daishonin writes in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, “When one faces a mirror and makes a bow of obeisance, the image in the mirror likewise makes a bow of obeisance to oneself” (p. 165). In the same way, devoting ourselves to the community will surely result in being protected by our fellow residents in return. Please remember that it is because of profound karmic ties that we became neighbors with the people around us.

The English poet Alexander Pope (1688–1744) wrote: “Friend, parent, neighbour, first it [one’s love] will embrace; / [One’s] country next; and next all human race.”[1] Indeed, getting along with our neighbors and helping our communities flourish are important first steps to world peace.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda appointed me to the position of a greater block chief (equivalent to today’s district leader) of Tokyo’s Katsushika Ward, following the Osaka Incident[2] in 1957. My mentor entrusted me with the task of spearheading a new organizational structure rooted in the community[3] and setting an example in Katsushika, a place with warm and friendly neighborhood ties. I initiated a fresh groundswell of propagation, focusing on small discussion meetings and home visits rather than large gatherings. I will never forget my fellow members there, with whom I share such profound ties.

In April 1977, when the long-awaited Katsushika Culture Center was completed, I went to Katsushika and encouraged the members: “If each of you can cultivate 10 genuine friendships, then kosen-rufu will surely advance!” True to this pledge, Katsushika members are continuing in their joyful and steady efforts to expand beautiful ties of trust and support.

American philosopher and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82) called out: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”[4]

My fellow members, stand up and launch fresh initiatives for kosen-rufu! Don’t remain silent but confidently engage others in conversation. Leave a record of a brilliant unfolding of friendship and dialogue, every single day. Let’s work together to make the place of our mission a realm of ever-expanding happiness.

Today, again,
open your hearts—
for there lies
a new,
indestructible path forward.


  1. Alexander Pope, “Essay on Man—Epistle IV,” The Poetical Works of Alexander Pope, edited by Adolphus William Ward (London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd., 1901), p. 226. ↩︎
  2. Osaka Incident: On July 3, 1957, Ikeda Sensei, then-Soka Gakkai youth division chief of staff, was arrested and imprisoned by the Osaka Prefectural Police on false charges of violating election laws. At the end of the court case, which lasted for more than four years, he was fully exonerated on Jan. 25, 1962. ↩︎
  3. In August 1957, a “greater block” system was implemented in each of Tokyo’s 23 wards to strengthen ties between members living in the same community, modifying the traditional “vertical line” structure in which members joined the organization of the person who introduced them to the practice. ↩︎
  4. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Works and Days,” Society and Solitude, and Poems (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1929), p. 175. ↩︎

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