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Guidance for Leadership

Building a Youthful Soka Gakkai Worldwide With the Mentor-Disciple Spirit Forever in Our Hearts

The Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu, Shinanomachi, Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Seikyo Press.

The following is an excerpted version of Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada’s speech at the 1st Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting Toward Our Centennial Marking the Fresh Departure for a Youthful Soka Gakkai Worldwide, held at the Toda Memorial Auditorium in Sugamo, Tokyo, Jan. 7, 2024. It was translated from the Jan. 14, 2024, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

Congratulations on this first headquarters leaders meeting marking our fresh departure for a youthful Soka Gakkai worldwide as we set our sights on the centennial of the Soka Gakkai’s founding [in 2030].

Joining us today are 86 members from 11 countries and territories. Thank you for traveling so far to be here. We welcome you wholeheartedly! 

I would like to start by expressing my sincerest condolences to all who have been affected by the recent Noto Peninsula Earthquake [a magnitude 7.6 earthquake that struck the Noto Peninsula in northwestern Japan on Jan. 1, causing widespread damage and loss of life]. 

The Soka Gakkai Headquarters has set up emergency communication centers, which are working in close cooperation with local Soka Gakkai organizations in the stricken areas to carry out relief activities and encourage members affected. The headquarters will also donate funds to municipalities in Ishikawa and Toyama Prefectures affected by the disaster. Together with fellow members throughout Japan, I am praying earnestly for everyone’s safety and the earliest possible recovery and reconstruction of the impacted areas. 

Since the announcement of Ikeda Sensei’s passing, our members around the world, rising above their profound grief, have courageously stood up one by one to carry out their vow as his disciples.

The first volume of Sensei’s serialized work The New Human Revolution was published on Jan. 2, 1998, his 70th birthday. In the afterword, he wrote, “As long as I am alive, I intend to keep striving, speaking and writing The New Human Revolution, as if I were composing my final will and testament.”[1]

 Two days later, on Jan. 4, Sensei contributed to the Seikyo Shimbun the first installment of a new essay series titled “Thoughts on The New Human Revolution.” In that essay, he reflected on his life decade by decade and shared his vision for the future. He wrote that to the age of 70, he had established the principles of a new humanism, and to the age of 80, he would complete the foundation for worldwide kosen-rufu. He then said, “From that point on, in accord with the Mystic Law and the undying, unaging nature of life expounded in Buddhism, I am determined to take the lead in kosen-rufu throughout eternity.”[2]

In 2010, after entrusting everything to his disciples,[3] he continued to watch over and encourage us in every possible way, all while carrying out an intense and unremitting struggle to complete The New Human Revolution in his lifetime. 

I am convinced that as long as we keep returning to Sensei’s guidance and striving with his spirit as our own, he will, as our “undying, unaging” mentor, “take the lead in kosen-rufu throughout eternity.”

Nichiren Daishonin states: “If a teacher has a good disciple, both will gain the fruit of Buddhahood, but if a teacher fosters a bad disciple, both will fall into hell. If teacher and disciple are of different minds, they will never accomplish anything.”[4]

Never forgetting these solemn words, let us carry on our mentor’s legacy and unite with ever greater solidarity in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind” to win in all our endeavors. And let us do everything we can to show Sensei’s true greatness to the entire world. 

What is most important now at this significant juncture in our kosen-rufu movement? Sensei writes in The New Human Revolution:

The times are rapidly changing. The fundamental essence of our faith won’t change, but the way we operate and the style of our organization has to adapt to the times. The Soka Gakkai has always gained the spirit of the times from its youth, using their energy to take the lead and be the momentum for new advances. … 

We have to keep up with the changes in our society and learn about new ways of thinking from our youth. That’s another reason why we need to make sure our organization encourages young men’s and young women’s division members to freely express their ideas to the men’s and women’s division members.[5]

This year’s activity outline in Japan includes promoting the active involvement of the men’s and women’s divisions in meeting operations [so that the youth division can focus more on propagation efforts and fostering capable people]; reducing the number of meetings held [to increase opportunities for personal guidance, home visits and expanding dialogue]; and making greater efforts to go paperless. 

In this era, sustainable development goal (SDG) initiatives such as environmental and gender considerations are directly linked to the evaluation of organizations. We therefore also need to take into account changing views about childcare and work-life balance, as well as the shift from an age when lifetime employment for men was the norm [in Japan] to one in which it is not unusual for people to change careers and for couples to both work. If we don’t, Soka Gakkai activities will be seen as narrow-minded and restrictive, and personal guidance will become divorced from the reality of members’ lives.

Furthermore, the old argument of “just try the apple first”—meaning you can’t know the taste, or value, of something without trying it—no longer works for the younger generation, who place more importance on “time performance,” refusing to spend their time doing something without first understanding its worth and benefit. 

The youth are also very serious about the quality of even the smallest meeting. We need to clearly communicate to our members the significance and purpose of each Soka Gakkai activity, not from a position of superiority, but in our own words and in a way that gains their deep empathy and understanding, or they will choose to spend their limited personal time elsewhere. 

In this sense, efforts to foster the next generation are without a doubt an opportunity to deepen our own faith and chant for our members as if they were our own children. Such efforts enable us to grow and become reinvigorated. I hope, therefore, that we of the older generation, as members of the youthful Soka Gakkai worldwide, will undertake our own human revolution to become people who learn from the youth. 

I would also like to say to our young people: You are the protagonists of our movement and the Soka Gakkai exists for you. So I hope you will unreservedly share your candid and constructive thoughts and opinions with the men’s and women’s divisions. In this way, we can all work together with creativity and ingenuity and further develop the Soka Gakkai into an organization in which young people are happy and eager to participate.

When Sensei met [in 2008] with Dr. Jim Garrison, former president of the John Dewey Society in the United States, the latter asked him about his first encounter with second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda.

The following day, reflecting on their meeting, Dr. Garrison said that Sensei had the eyes of a 19-year-old youth when he spoke about his mentor, President Toda, adding that as long as his eyes sparkled like that, the Soka Gakkai would never decline. He also shared his feeling that the Soka Gakkai would flourish for a thousand years if it correctly preserved the prime point, the legacy, of its mentors, and maintained its youthful spirit.

 This, I believe, is the essence of the youthful Soka Gakkai worldwide. From the standpoint of Buddhism, which views life as eternal throughout past, present and future, age is just a number.

And no matter how the times may change, the spirit of mentor and disciple must never change. In other words, no matter how many years pass, as long as we always make Sensei our reference point and continue to strive with youthful energy, our eyes sparkling with the vow we made to live as his disciples, our youthful Soka Gakkai will spread around the world and into the eternal future. This is my conviction.

Let all disciples of Sensei stand up and work together to build a youthful Soka Gakkai worldwide!

February 2, 2024, World Tribune, pp. 9-10


  1. The afterword to volume 1 of The New Human Revolution is not tranlsated into English. ↩︎
  2. Dec. 8, 2023, World Tribune, p. 3. ↩︎
  3. In 2010, Ikeda Sensei stepped back from attending meetings in person. ↩︎
  4. “Flowering and Bearing Grain,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 909. ↩︎
  5. The New Human Revolution, vol. 24, p. 181. ↩︎

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