For 7 years since 2010, this target of 50,000 membership had always been on the lips of SSA top leaders. The original goal at the start of 2017 was to achieve the target by Nov 18, 2017, to commemorate the 87th Anniversary of the Founding of the Soka Gakkai. However, it was then announced that the deadline of the 50k target was postponed till end of the year instead, obviously to give themselves even more time to achieve the goal. Suddenly, starting from Aug 2017, this topic disappeared as the preparation for the Lotus Sutra Exhibition (LSE) went underway. The final result? As far as we know, it stood at close to 34,000, falling short of 16,000. And the counter at SSA HQ has remained largely unchanged for the past few months. Although SSA top leaders dared not declare it, let us declare here courageously and unequivocally that the campaign is yet again, a complete failure and an utter embarrassment!
Is this an acceptable outcome?
In early 1958, Toda Sensei said to his direct disciple, Ikeda Sensei who has been spearheading the propagation movement towards the great goal of his mentor: “Do you think you can accomplish a membership of 3 million households in the next 7 years?” “Yes”, Ikeda Sensei replied without hesitation, “I will do it. I feel even more determined!” This target was achieved 4 years later, on Nov 1962. This was 3 years ahead of target. The moment that was reached, Ikeda Sensei raised his sights to an even higher achievement: 6 million household! And 4 years later, in the year 1966, Ikeda Sensei, together with the leaders and members, achieved that goal too. This is the kind of proud tradition that Ikeda Sensei left behind for us to emulate. It was always about achieving a propagation target earlier than expected. This is the kind of result which inspired an entire generation of disciples of SGI countries ranging from Taiwan to India, to follow and even surpass.
Once, in Aug 1957, Ikeda Sensei was asked how he was able to achieve a 10% increase in membership – more than 200 new membership households in just a single week. He replied, “Achieving a membership of 750,000 households was the struggle of Toda Sensei’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. 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.”
Obviously, Ikeda Sensei owned and shared the goal of 750,000 households with the same commitment as Toda Sensei. Ikeda Sensei and Toda Sensei were in complete rhythm. We are not sure if anyone in SSA owned and shared a deep vow to achieve the 50,000 membership target. Were any top leaders in complete rhythm with Ikeda Sensei?! We all know the answer.
Ikeda Sensei continued, “…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 the teacher. We will be filled with incomparable strength.”
If disciples were to make up their mind and were dead serious about the 50,000 membership, they would be able to bring forth the wisdom so that even the LSE could become a mean to gather momentum towards the goal rather than regarding LSE as a separate event from the 50,000 membership target.
We heard rather disturbing and defensive statements such as “…the numbers are not important, it is the process that counts, not the figures.” If the figures do not matter, why do we put up a counter at SSA HQ in the first place? By the way, the above statements came from top leaders. What a shame!
Nevertheless, we must congratulate SSA for hosting a successful LSE, with an attendance of about 62,000 in the months of Oct and Nov 2017. This exhibition finally came to Singapore after having travelled to 15 other SGI countries, enabling many members of the public to have a better understanding of the Lotus Sutra and its teachings as well as Ikeda Sensei’s role in it.
SSA has always been very good in declaring empty victories. In great anticipation, we would want to know on how the 50,000 membership issue would be addressed in the coming weeks. Are they going to use the Form Signing Campaign as a way to mask the failure? Or perhaps they are going to use the 62,000 attendance of the LSE as a substitute for the 50,000 membership flop?
With this failure to achieve the 50,000 membership target, SSA has missed a chance to enable the members to see for themselves how involving earnestly in the campaign can change their lives and transform their karma. More worryingly, we fear that this has surely strengthened the very unhealthy culture in SSA that it is acceptable to fail in a campaign miserably. A whole generation of leaders and members, in particular, the youth division will no longer take campaigns seriously, and will view targets set with disdain. Gradually, will members start to look upon the record set by Ikeda Sensei as a fairy tale, a supernatural feat that will never be repeated in future?
Another big flop is not merely an issue of failing to meet a numerical target but also the great failure on the part of the top leaders of SSA to impart the correct spirit of a genuine disciple to future generations - The spirit of achieving solid victories to put the mentor’s mind at ease.
Ikeda Sensei is 90 years old this year. He is without doubt in his final chapters of his struggle. How can our mentor’s mind be at ease when SSA is basking in self-congratulatory mode with no clear cut victories to show?
We hope the readers can see that SSA has deviated from the path of the oneness of mentor and disciple for too long.
In 2018 this year, in exact accordance of what our mentor Ikeda Sensei shared in his new year message, let’s create a record of brilliant achievement in leading lives of complete fulfilment and advancing our movement for kosen-rufu, each in the sphere of your own vow and mission.