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The Heart of Propagating Buddhism

Conversing heart-to-heart at the Washington, D.C., Culture Center, June 2023. Photo by Adam Perry.

In August 1957, Ikeda Sensei initiated a propagation campaign in Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward, where more than 200 new members joined the Soka Gakkai in one week. During this time, Sensei had been worried about his mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, who was battling serious health challenges. With Mr. Toda’s lifetime goal of 750,000 Soka Gakkai households in reach, Sensei ramped up efforts to ensure that his mentor’s grand goal was achieved.

In the following excerpt, Sensei reminisces about the campaign in Arakawa with a fellow Soka Gakkai leader. It begins with the leader addressing Sensei, followed by Sensei’s answer. This text can be found in both The New Human Revolution, vol. 26, pp. 315–18, and Making the Impossible Possible, pp. 95–98.

The Wish for Another’s Happiness

One of the leaders … asked, “During the Arakawa summer block guidance tour that you led in August 1957, you achieved a 10 percent increase in membership—more than 200 new households—in just a single week. I was wondering, what was the driving force for that campaign?”

Shin’ichi [Yamamoto] replied without hesitation: “It was the single-minded wish for each person to become happy. At that time, everyone was overwhelmed by their own karma—struggling with problems such as poverty, unemployment, sickness and family discord.

“I met with members and continually tried to impress upon them that the only way for them to break through and transform their karma was to awaken to their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth and make great efforts for kosen-rufu.

“Though the period of the campaign was brief, the members chanted intensely with the determination that they would use the campaign to share Nichiren Buddhism with many others and to overcome their problems. They challenged their problems courageously and strove all out. They made efforts not because they had been told to but because they were driven by a fighting spirit that welled forth from the depths of their lives.

“The purpose of our faith and Soka Gakkai activities is to become happy. They’re all for our own benefit, which in turn leads to prosperity in society.

“Throughout the campaign and afterward as well, I received reports from many members about the benefit they experienced in having surmounted their hardships.

“Leaders must never forget that the Soka Gakkai’s triumphant history is nothing other than our members’ victory of deepening their conviction in Buddhism and developing a sense of real joy and happiness.

Reporting Proudly to Our Mentor

“Moreover, the main reason that I was able to so fully exert myself in Arakawa Ward … was my resolve to show proof of the Soka Gakkai’s growth and development to reassure [Josei] Toda about the future of kosen-rufu. …

“The summer of that year, Mr. Toda fell ill, the strain of the Yubari Coal Miners Incident and the Osaka Incident taking a toll on his health. As the membership had reached 600,000 households at the end of June, the attainment of Mr. Toda’s lifetime goal of 750,000 members was within sight.

“Achieving this was the struggle of Mr. Toda’s final years. I was determined for us to achieve it within 1957 so that his mind would be at ease.

“I resolved to become the driving force for its accomplishment. And at the same time, I wanted to create an example of how kosen-rufu should be expanded on into the future.

“The final struggle of the mentor’s life is to make sure that the disciples are achieving great victories. As disciples, therefore, it is important that we show actual proof so that we can proudly report to our mentor: “I have triumphed!” This is the oneness of mentor and disciple.

“Because I had made up my mind in this way, I was able to tap my full strength; I was able to bring forth courage and wisdom.

“When we rise up as disciples with the eager determination to respond to our mentor in kosen-rufu, the same intrepid life state as our mentor will pulse in our own lives.

“This means, when we live with the awareness that mentor and disciple are one, we manifest the life state of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who vowed in the distant past to take on the great mission of kosen-rufu together with their teacher. We will be filled with incomparable strength.”

From the August 2023 Living Buddhism

Something Great to Come

A Passage to Peace