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Guidance for Leadership

Treasuring Each Person Through Discussion Meetings, Home Visits and Personal Encouragement

Joyful dialogue—Young people in discussion at a March Youth Peace Festival, Ithaca, N.Y., March 2024. Photo by Tomoko Gelbaum.

Today, we are joined by 128 members from 17 countries and territories. Let’s give them a warm welcome showing our appreciation for the long journeys they have made to be with us on this occasion.

From January to March this year, districts in Japan threw themselves into the “Fresh Departure for a Youthful Soka Gakkai Worldwide” campaign by holding vibrant discussion meetings centered on the youth.

Also, youth members in Japan took part in the Future Action Festival in March,[1] ahead of the U.N.-sponsored Summit of the Future [scheduled for September 2024], whose aims include the promotion of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) among other commitments. I would like to thank and congratulate everyone on the brilliant success of these activities, which proudly herald the arrival of a new era!

What is crucial is the action we take from here on. The SDGs are pressing concerns for us all, not something separate from our everyday lives. The discussion meetings, home visits and personal encouragement that we carry out day by day and month by month are the epitome of a sustainable, diverse and inclusive society where no one is left behind. Let’s use our monthly discussion meetings, daily home visits and one-to-one encouragement to strengthen and enrich the bonds we forged in the Fresh Departure Campaign, and in the process enable young people to strengthen their understanding of and appreciation for our movement. 

Hiroshi Kainuma, associate professor of the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies at the University of Tokyo, is a sociologist who has interviewed a number of Soka Gakkai members as part of his study of our tradition of discussion meetings, home visits and personal encouragement. In an article he contributed to the Seikyo Shimbun, he commented, “The source of the Soka Gakkai’s strength is the fact that it holds discussion meetings, which value the very act of people meeting together, as a natural core activity.” He also recognized the great value of home visits and personal encouragement: “Though the Soka Gakkai encourages as many members as possible to participate in its activities, I don’t believe it would have grown to the extent it has if it were not an inclusive organization that cares equally for those who are unable to attend.”

He concluded: “In postwar Japanese society, the majority of religious organizations and even commercial enterprises have failed to sustain their activities and over time have declined or disappeared. In contrast, whenever the Soka Gakkai has faced an issue that impacts society, such as natural disasters or the COVID-19 pandemic, it has adapted its activities in response to changing conditions and evolved. This history of resilience is the great strength of the Soka Gakkai.”

Right now, in our effort to nurture and attract the younger generations, confronting the challenge of the times means finding ways to adapt our traditional discussion meetings, home visits and personal encouragement to meet the needs of the day.

In recent years, there has been much discussion about the importance of “presenting a narrative,” although this has different interpretations in various fields.

“Narrative” and “story” have different meanings: a story doesn’t change, regardless of who is recounting it, whereas a narrative is an account of how the narrator feels while experiencing the events and the meanings they attach to them. As such, the same event can produce as many narratives as there are people involved.

One of the characteristics of the current generation of young people is the stress they place on authenticity in their evaluation of people and organizations. In other words, they place importance on whether they feel someone is being genuine or if they have a hidden agenda.

That’s why, more than a perfectly crafted story, a narrative that reveals a person’s genuine self, including their vulnerabilities and failures, while relating their unique real-life experiences, hits home for young people who value authenticity.

With this in mind, we need to pay attention to whether the experiences and activity reports given in discussion meetings, home visits, personal encouragement and other meetings are narratives or stories. We have tended to focus heavily on results, but when we talk about the process and express our inner thoughts and feelings along the way, listeners will be able to relate to our experiences in a real sense. And even when we haven’t achieved tangible results or have not yet met our original goal, there is value to be found in the challenge itself.

At a seminar held by the Soka Gakkai in Kyoto, Yoko Yamada, professor emeritus at Kyoto University who specializes in lifespan developmental and narrative psychology, said that she admired the Soka Gakkai’s practice of employing the “narrative approach,” that is to say, through using the process of dialogue to enable each individual to transform their life story into a positive one and create new meaning for themselves.

Dialogue is the essential element that breathes life into our discussion meetings, home visits and personal encouragement. It embodies the fundamental Soka Gakkai spirit of treasuring each individual. In our discussion meetings, too, many districts are trying new things, through trial and error, in accord with each local community’s unique situation: for example, introducing breakout groups that discuss a specific topic to encourage open discussions that give every participant an opportunity to talk.

Let’s continue to use our creativity to innovate while learning from the wisdom of our young people and proactively taking on their ideas. 

Ikeda Sensei, visiting Kansai on May 3, 1980, the year after stepping down as Soka Gakkai president,[2] declared: “Oh, ‘ever-victorious sky,’ the sky of Kansai. Our eternal touchstone of May 3.”

And in the May edition of the Soka Gakkai’s monthly study magazine, Daibyakurenge, that same year, in an essay titled “Our Eternal Touchstone: May 3,” he wrote: “On this towering summit of kosen-rufu, May 3, let us with our fellow members vow to advance boldly in faith, practice and study. With gratitude for the growth, achievements and efforts of our members, I pray that May 3 will be our eternal touchstone.”

As Sensei’s disciples, vowing together to continue to advance kosen-rufu and our own human revolution in the unity of “many in body, one in mind,” let us make May 3 our eternal touchstone. This was Sensei’s wish and prayer.

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “The disciples of the Buddha must without fail understand the four debts of gratitude and know how to repay them” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 228). To repay our great debt of gratitude to Sensei, let us each courageously set forth in dialogue to sow the seeds of Buddhism far and wide.

May 17, 2024, World Tribune, pp. 8–9


  1. On March 24, 2024, the Future Action Festival was held, bringing together some 66,000 youth at the Japan National Stadium in Tokyo, calling for immediate action on the abolition of nuclear weapons and the climate crisis. It was jointly organized by various Japanese youth organizations, including Soka Gakkai youth, NGOs and U.N. bodies. The Organizing Committee issued a joint statement on nuclear abolition and the climate crisis to be submitted to the Summit of the Future at U.N. Headquarters in New York in September. ↩︎
  2. Nichiren Shoshu priests conspired with a corrupt Soka Gakkai lawyer to attack Ikeda Sensei and the Soka Gakkai’s members, seeking to gain control over the organization’s assets. On April 24, 1979, Sensei stepped down as Soka Gakkai president to protect the members from further persecution. ↩︎

Expressions of Appreciation

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