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Ikeda Sensei

Advance With the Awareness That You Are the ‘SGI-USA of the World’

Photo by Chang Duong/ Unsplash.

This section features Ikeda Sensei’s seminal guidance to the members of the United States. The following is an abridgement of his speech given at the 11th SGI General Meeting, held at the World Peace Ikeda Auditorium in Santa Monica, California, on February 17, 1990. It can be found in My Dear Friends in America, fourth edition, pp. 23–29.

The United States has the honor of being the launching pad for the worldwide kosen-rufu movement, which has now spread to 115 countries [192, as of 2024]. I call on you to proudly advance with the awareness of and a sense of responsibility for the great mission you have as the SGI-USA of the world and as a model for all other countries. My wish is that the SGI-USA will eventually develop the strength to provide a lead for Japan.

The Declaration of Independence was drafted by Thomas Jefferson, who subsequently was elected the third president of the United States. The important task of drafting the document fell on Jefferson who, at age 33, was the youngest of the five committee members. Replying to the great trust they had placed in him, the young Jefferson is said to have prepared the document in just a few days.

To actively promote young people of outstanding ability to positions of responsibility and allow them to give free rein to their potential accord with the spirit of Buddhism. It is also the spirit of the SGI, and it ought to be the spirit of each member-organization. The reason for this is that the dynamic activities of young people are the fundamental driving force for fresh development.

Now, what was it that Jefferson labored over? To what did he pay the closest attention? It was neither novelty nor affected formality. His sole wish was to make the Declaration of Independence the crystallization of the American spirit. Jefferson was a person who, throughout his entire life, maintained the vibrantly pulsing spirit of America.

It is the cry of the spirit from the very depths of a person’s life that shakes and moves other people’s hearts. Similarly, Buddhism is above all concerned with the world of the heart. It expounds the principle that enables us to manifest the infinite power of the spirit. People of faith should strive to become outstanding citizens of their respective countries. There is no need for you to try to imitate others or force yourself into following any specific pattern of behavior.

In 1800, when Jefferson was 57 years old, he wrote in a letter, “I have sworn … eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” I feel the same way. Freedom is something that you must fight for and gain by and for yourself. It is not handed over on a silver platter.

One who has the courage to speak the truth lives a truly splendid and fulfilling life. In any sphere of society, if one loses this courage and becomes obsequious, one cannot resist exploitation by corrupt authorities.

The life of a person who shrinks before oppression and tries to get by with cunning strategies and falsehood is extremely pitiful. Such a life is self-defeating. Rather, by fighting against and pushing through all the evil that oppresses one, both internally and externally, one establishes a magnanimous self and a profound and happy state of life. This is the purpose of faith.

Buddhism describes the fundamental anguish that restricts the freedom of life as the four sufferings or the eight sufferings. The four universal sufferings are birth, aging, sickness and death. In more detail, we can describe them as follows: the suffering of living bound by the shackles of karma; the loneliness of aging; the anguish of sickness; and the fear of that most fundamental fact, death. The eight sufferings include four additional sufferings: the suffering of having to part with loved ones; the suffering of having to meet those whom one hates; the suffering of being unable to obtain what one desires, as in the case of one who wishes to become wealthy or successful; and the suffering arising from the five components, which can be understood as the suffering of being unable to realize harmony in the physical and spiritual aspects of one’s life and of feeling heavy and depressed.

It is the sharp sword of the Mystic Law and the great power of faith that enable us to completely sever the chains of these sufferings. Therefore, I wish to make it clear that to secure eternal freedom and happiness, you must absolutely not be cowardly, especially in faith. …

The ideas espoused in the Declaration of Independence have spread worldwide. Today there is a need for a profound, reliable philosophy to support these ideals and to ensure their universal promulgation. The lack of such a philosophy is becoming an increasingly urgent issue. A new philosophy is called for to bring about the realization of freedom, happiness and equality in their most profound sense.

In our turbulent, rapidly changing society, people have begun to look with yearning toward the merciful light of the sun of the correct teaching. It is you who are playing the major role on the stage of this new era.

Every day, I offer earnest prayers for your happiness, good health and success. You each have your respective place of mission; you are all extremely precious children of the Buddha dedicated to the cause of kosen-rufu. I hope that while fostering cordial and warm relations among yourselves, you will advance as good citizens of your countries. Finally, I ask that you convey my best wishes and cordial regards to all the members in your areas who were unable to be present today.

From the June 2024 Living Buddhism

Take Pride in Fostering Our Future Division!