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District Meeting

District Study Meeting Material

August 2023

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Please base your study on either the material provided here or on any study material from a recent issue of the World Tribune or Living Buddhism. Have a great study meeting!

My First Encounter With President Toda [26.10]

Chapter 26: The Three Founding Presidents and the Path of Mentor and Disciple

Commemorating Ikeda Sensei’s first encounter with his lifelong mentor, Josei Toda, we will study this month from The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace series (February 2018 Living Buddhism, pp. 59–61).

The following excerpts are from Sensei’s essay published originally in Japanese in the August 14, 2002, Seikyo Shimbun.

Ikeda Sensei: August 14, 1947, [was] the fateful day that changed the course of my life forever. It was the day I gave my promise and pledge to Josei Toda to join the Soka Gakkai, which I did on August 24, ten days later.

I was 19 when I attended that discussion meeting. Mr. Toda, my mentor, awaited me like a kindly father. Our encounter was a solemn, timeless moment in the eternal flow of past, present and future. On that day, I vowed to become Mr. Toda’s disciple and dedicate my life to kosen-rufu.

The discussion meeting on that hot and humid summer night exactly two years after the end of World War II was a vibrant drama of ordinary people finding fresh hope in life. Outside, the unlit streets were pitch dark, and many parts of Kamata were still dotted with ghastly burnt-out tracts from the wartime bombings. The sufferings of ordinary, good-hearted citizens, many of whom had experienced the cruel loss of loved ones, were deep and persistent.

Young as I was, I sternly asked myself day after day who was responsible for all this pain. I was in my teens, and suffering from tuberculosis, which produced a fever that left me weak and aching every evening.

I was seeking some sort of guiding star, a compass that would lead me to a life of hope. …

Mr. Toda’s lecture did not present an antiquated, lifeless Buddhism. It revealed a noble way to a brilliant future, a great path brimming with tremendous conviction and dynamism.

• • •

After the lecture, an informal discussion session began. Chewing on mints, Mr. Toda conversed in a completely open and natural manner. There was no trace of the condescending, puffed-up arrogance so common among religious and political figures who are not genuine. Though it was our first meeting, I felt free to ask whatever questions I had in my young heart. …

What was the true way to live? To what should I dedicate my life? These were the questions always on my mind.

Mr. Toda replied with conviction and clarity. He didn’t engage in intellectual game playing or deception that obscured the thrust of my concern.

Tired of the patronizing attitude so many adults had toward young people, I was moved by his sincerity. I despised the political leaders and intellectuals who had sung the praises of the war and then, after Japan’s defeat, changed their tunes without compunction, suddenly becoming impassioned advocates for peace.

The fact that Mr. Toda had been persecuted by the Japanese militarist authorities and spent two years in prison for his beliefs was pivotal in my decision to embrace him as my mentor.

I wanted to become the kind of person who, if another war broke out, had the courage to resist, even if it meant going to jail. I wanted to live my life as a person of courage who would not bow to any kind of oppression by the authorities. That was why I was seeking a practical philosophy that would help me do that.

I was just an ordinary young man seeking a path in life. I am certain that my wholehearted devotion to the path of mentor and disciple has enabled me to lead an unsurpassed life dedicated to the highest good.

In a lecture I delivered at Columbia University’s Teachers College (in June 1996), I expressed the deep gratitude I owe to Mr. Toda, declaring: “Ninety-eight percent of what I am today I learned from him.”

The relationship of mentor and disciple is one unique to human beings. By following the path of mentor and disciple, we can develop and improve ourselves. It holds the key to realizing our fullest human potential.

For as long as I can, I wish to pass on to my youthful successors everything I have to teach them. I wish to entrust the future to them. I hope that you, as my disciples, deeply understand my spirit and intent.

Suggested Questions:

1) Please share an encounter that changed your perspective on life.

2) What was your experience when first starting your Buddhist practice?

From the August 2023 Living Buddhism

Highlights of the August 2023 Study Material

District Discussion Meeting Material