This month is a significant one as we commemorate Mentor and Disciple Day on July 3rd. In the midst of holding and attending the usual commemorative meeting, it is more important for us to deeply ponder on the true significance of such a day.
The mentor and disciple relationship in Buddhism has taken its roots since the time of Shakyamuni. In the Emerging from the Earth chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, disciples of Shakyamuni since the remotest past, rose up and pledged to Shakyamuni to spread the teachings of the Lotus Sutra in the latter day of the law. This scene embodies the vow of the mentor and disciple, the disciples standing up and embracing as their own the vow of their mentor.
On July 3, 1945, President Toda was released from jail, determined to carry on his mentor’s dream of kosen-rufu. During his inaugural speech on May 3rd, 1951, he made a great vow for kosen-rufu:
“In my lifetime, I will convert by my own hand 750,000 families through propagation… If my goal should not be attained by the end of my life, you need not hold a funeral for me, but just throw my remains into the sea of Shinagawa, all right?” [HR-1, p.563]
The declaration of President Toda, a dauntless lion king of kosen-rufu, shocked everyone. No one at that time could believe it, but it was proven true in less than seven years. Everything starts with a vow and the great vow set forth by President Toda led to a monumental victory.
It is heartening that the central leaders of SSA are talking about achieving 50,000 membership again, after a long period of silence on this important target.
Just how determined are the central leaders of SSA in achieving the target?
In fact, the target of 50,000 membership was set in 2005 by our then General Director, Mr Ong Bon Chai, basing on the expectation of President Ikeda to achieve a target of 1% of the respective nations’ population. Despite all out campaigns fought in the following few years with momentum picking up, SSA was still very far from the 50,000 membership target.
Similarly, in the case of Japan in 1952, a year after President Toda became the second president of Soka Gakkai, the progress towards achieving the 750,000 household was slow and it didn’t seem that the goal would be achieved.
“At this rate, kosen-rufu is going to take thousands of years!” declared Mr Toda. “Daisaku, get to it!”
“Yes, sir!” I responded without a moment’s hesitation.
[Executive Leaders Conference, Nov 18, 2006]
Under young Daisaku’s leadership, Kamata achieved unprecedented result of 201 new membership households within a single month, creating a fresh momentum of victory. He continued to plunge himself in the frontline and spearheaded shakubuku efforts leading to the pinnacle victory of converting 11,111 household within a single month in Osaka Campaign. Following that, the young Daisaku left everyone in complete awe by leading Yamaguchi Prefecture to achieve a ten-fold increase in number of household within a period of 22 days.
These victories set off such a huge wave of momentum that as of April 1958 when President Toda’s life came to a close, the number of Soka Gakkai households stands at approximately 800,000. By 1962, just 4 years after President Toda’s passing, the Soka Gakkai’s membership increased to 3 million households, a vision President Toda articulated just before his death. The target was not merely achieved but exceeded. This is the proud tradition of Soka Gakkai.
In contrast, as SSA approached nearer to 2010, the year the target was to be achieved, this goal was no longer mentioned by the central leaders. Instead, the central leaders re-directed the organisation’s focus on the 20K great discussion meeting exercise and year-end 80th anniversary celebration.
Thereafter, in December 2010, it was announced that the target of 50,000 membership was to adjourn to 2017, a procrastination of 7 years! No concrete expansion plans, targets and projections were shared.
Mr. Toda used to say:
“After all, we’re Bodhisattvas of the Earth who champion the cause of kosen-rufu. . . . The most important thing is kosen-rufu, the Daishonin’s mandate; it mustn’t be delayed for even a day. The Soka Gakkai is the sole body that can achieve this mission.”
[The Hope-filled Writing of ND - Letter to Jakunichi-bo]
Finally after 4 years of oblivion, this goal of 50,000 suddenly resurfaced. This target seems to be further apportioned based on some simple linear mathematical calculation, with a uniform increase of a number of memberships per district per year from 2014 to 2017, though definition and information seem to differ amongst the zone, chapters and districts.
In the struggle for kosen-rufu, the unchanging principle for victory is for central leaders to leap into action in the most difficult places and situations, and encourage members who are exerting themselves on the front lines. As the Daishonin states: “In battles soldiers regard the general as their soul.” (WND, 613)
In all victorious campaigns, great strides in propagation can only be achieved when the central leaders make an all out effort to inspire others and align the members’ hearts to the great vow of the mentor and inspiring them to take action as disciples who shared the same commitment as their mentor. This was clearly demonstrated by the young Daisaku who personally took the lead in all the key campaigns and worked together with the local leaders to tune their hearts to the great vow of their mentor.
How much have the central leaders in Singapore been striving with the frontline leaders? Or are they merely bellowing their instructions from the podium and then expecting the momentum of Shakubuku to automatically pick up?
There were instances where senior leaders went around to teach the frontline leaders and members by saying that if they want to do Shakubuku, they could do so by merely chanting to the Gohonzon and those who need the Gohonzon will naturally appear in front of them. But does merely chanting to the Gohonzon ensures victory?
President Ikeda encouraged the members during the Osaka campaign.
“Our campaign will begin with the strong prayers of all the members in Kansai. But are fervent, single-minded prayers enough? No, they are not…Chanting is only the first step. The second factor is to use the best strategy and the most effective action. Without this second part we will never be able to gain the initiative to win. Neither the first nor the second factor alone is enough. Only when both are perfectly harmonized can the impossible become possible.” [HR-2, p.1324]
President Ikeda also used the following Gosho during the campaign to emphasize the importance of detailed preparation and planning in order to achieve victory.
“Carefully planning strategy prior to a battle, even one a thousand miles distant, will be the cause for victory.” (GZ-183)
He explained that in order to advance your kosen-rufu activities, one should not take any action arbitrarily or without preparation. "Work out your plans with a great deal of deliberation and discussion among all the people concerned; carry them out with everyone working in harmony, united as one.” (Buddhism in Action Vol. V p.187)
If the SSA central leaders are earnest in attaining 50,000 membership goal, we should be able to see a whirlpool of momentum picking up nationwide soon, connecting the hearts of our leaders and member to the great vow of our mentor.
During the 41st HQ leaders meeting on Jun 3, 2010, the message sent from President Ikeda includes the following:
“The Bodhisattvas of the Earth are dedicated disciples who since the infinite past have striven in the same spirit as their teacher.
During the assembly where Shakyamuni preached the Lotus Sutra, his disciples repeatedly pledged to him that they would carry out the widespread propagation of the Law just as he taught, asking him to put his mind at complete ease on that account…
He (Mr Toda) was especially strict with me: “Daisaku, I have done everything I possibly can for the future. The rest is up to you. Strive your hardest! Win victory after victory!”
I feel now just as Mr Toda did then. For now is the time for me to put the finishing touches to my work and leave everything to you.”
The great wish and vow for kosen-rufu is the heart of the mentor. The spirit of the mentor is that of selfless dedication and taking action for the sake of the Law. Embracing both the heart and spirit of the mentor is the path to achieving kosen-rufu.
During the opening of Soka Peace Centre this year, Mr Oba, SGI General Director, shared that President Ikeda gifted an original copy of Seikyo Shimbun, reporting the achievement of 750,000 household in 1958 in Japan. It recorded the historical moment of Soka Gakkai where the great expansion took place under the leadership of President Toda and thereby fulfilling his own vow. Mr Oba even jokingly shared that Soka Peace Centre is so fortunate to have this original copy while the one in Japan’s Headquarters is just a duplicated copy. This light-hearted comment seems to carry a far deeper meaning to it!
The intention is clear.
Since SSA proclaims to be a model organisation of worldwide kosen-rufu and strives to be an indomitable fortress, it is timely for SSA central leaders to make a great vow and live up to this expectation of our mentor by submerging themselves in the front line to lead the entire organisation in achieving a monumental expansion of membership.
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