We all knew that Nichiren Daishonin was moved to inscribe the Dai-Gohonzon because he had witnessed the growing conviction amongst the lay believers in protecting the Mystic Law, even at the cost of their lives, as exemplified by the three martyrs in the well-known Atsuhara Persecution. The reason for the surge in the number of lay believers at that time was due to the serious all-out propagation efforts led by the Daishonin’s genuine disciple, Nikko Shonin. We can even say that Nikko Shonin brought about the time for the Dai-Gohonzon to be inscribed.
Fast forward to the 20th century, the key battles led and won by Ikeda Sensei at Kamata Chapter in 1952, Osaka in 1956 as well as Yamaguchi in late 1956 to early 1957 gave hope and impetus to the 750,000 household membership goal set by Toda Sensei in 1951. It could be said that it was not until these key battles were won that this goal became believable. In fact, this monumental goal was achieved earlier than expected. If disciples such as Nikko Shonin and Ikeda Sensei had not engraved their mentors’ guidances in their heart, shared their mentors’ goal and staked their lives to win these victories, kosen-rufu would have been delayed. Many more members would not have encountered Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism and changed their lives.
Outside Japan, genuine disciples have emerged. Mr Zhu Wanli was one such individual, of whom we mentioned in the last two editorials. Fellow SGI organisations of Brazil and Korea have demonstrated tremendous advancement in propagation in recent years as well. More recently, Bharat Soka Gakkai of India inspired us with the astounding achievement of 111,111 households from 50,000 in a mere eleven months! Taking the lead in this breakthrough are the members from Mumbai which has earned the nickname “Kansai of India”. We can feel the strong resolve, the iron-clad unity, excitement, energy and joy exuding from the four division members when they talked about the 100,000 membership campaign in a video shared at discussion meetings this year. The top leaders of India no doubt used 11,111 memberships achieved by Ikeda Sensei in Osaka, Kansai in 1956 as an inspiration and galvanised the members to join them in this campaign to change their lives. We can sense the oneness of Mentor and Disciple pulsating in the organisation. This vow to achieve the goal of 100,000 membership was shared amongst all the members throughout the organisation. Everyone wanted to follow the footsteps of Ikeda Sensei and to achieve this victory for Ikeda Sensei in order to reassure him that true disciples and Bodhisattvas of the Earth have emerged in India. Similar to what Ikeda Sensei has achieved in the Osaka Campaign, the target was achieved earlier than expected. In this way, they truly exemplified what genuine disciples in the second act of kosen-rufu should do and behave.
The last time such a sense of excitement and energy which were evident among SSA members was more than 10 years ago when 1,111 Gohonzon conferment was achieved in 2005. There was a similar itai-doshin spirit and determination pervading the organisation. This excitement has since sadly and mysteriously dissipated. We have been talking about achieving the 50,000 membership target for many years. Instead of emulating Soka Gakkai’s proud tradition of achieving any target set earlier than expected, SSA now has developed the unenviable habit of delaying the deadline of meeting targets again and again. If memory has not failed us, the target of 50,000 membership was originally set to be achieved in 2010 and this has since been postponed for seven years till 2017. The top leadership tried to justify the delay in different ways through the years. We can’t help but start wondering if the current top leaders of SSA share the same vow of attaining the noble goal of kosen-rufu as Ikeda Sensei.
In the March editorial this year, we mentioned that Young Men Division of SSA launched the ‘11,11’ campaign. The latest we know is that there were only 30 odd YMDs Gohonzon recipients as of October. This figure is embarrassingly dismal! Where is the vow and resolve in the YMD? How is this result supporting the 50,000 membership target of the organisation?
Another pertinent question springs to mind: What is the current total membership of SSA? How far are we from this target of 50,000? No one seems to be sure, not even the staff. In 2010 organisation annual report, it was reported that there were about 35,000 active membership. In 2013, it increased to 38,000 and a year later in 2014, it became 32,000. Recently, it was announced that it is about 33,000. It is puzzling that the membership could fluctuate as much as a few thousands in a year.
On the other hand, when the total attendance in monthly discussion meetings has been averaging between 13,000 to 14,000, how do we account for the difference of about 20,000? Do we consider this 20,000 members active? We also know that believers and new friends are included in the monthly discussion meeting attendance figures. This means that the average number of members attending monthly discussion meetings are very likely to be below 13,000. Will SSA eventually resort to include Soka Network to achieve their 50,000 membership target?
Although it has been the practice to register all believers using the Believer Registration Form all these years, there was a renewed push to get believers and Soka Network to register themselves this year. The district leaders have always been diligently updating the Tokang (District membership) list annually. However, the list which is returned to them from HQ each year will always include names of members whom they have deleted the year before. We can empathise with many of these Men Division frontline leaders who lamented that the updating exercise has become a waste of time. We understand that some of the members whose names have been deleted might have passed on or have become uncontactable. If this list of deceased members and uncontactable members are still in the database, is SSA also counting them in the 50,000 membership? Without clarity on this and together with the stuttering propagation campaign, we seriously question how SSA is monitoring the progress of the 50,000 target.
After speaking to a number of members and leaders of different divisions, it is quite evident that an overwhelming sense of lethargy has set in within the organisation in this 50,000 membership campaign, in the midst of a protracted period of poor results.
Ten years ago, Ikeda Sensei warned in his guidance given at the HQ leaders meeting in November 2006, “Though a mentor may have many disciples, it is a sad and lamentable situation if none of them actually embraces the same spirit as their mentor or are willing to share their mentor’s sufferings and joys. This is not the way of mentor and disciple of the Soka Gakkai.”
Has the above warning rung true for SSA senior leaders? When the frontline leaders are not inspired to take serious actions in propagation, the top leaders must surely shoulder most of the blame. Are the top leaders themselves leading with conviction at all? What exactly are the priorities and ichinen of the top leaders? It is quite clear by now that they are deviating from the winning formula which Ikeda Sensei has shared in a number of books written on propagation campaigns. Why do they choose not to practise the winning formula? What is holding them back? The other SGI countries are showing results by employing the same winning strategies of setting clear prayers, conducting one to one dialogues and studying the gosho with the members. As Bharat Soka Gakkai's example has shown, we just need to do exactly what Ikeda Sensei has done.
Toda Sensei sternly warns, “No matter what happens, I will win without fail. The most important thing is kosen-rufu, the Daishonin’s mandate; it mustn’t be delayed for even a day!”
[Awakening to the Profound Mission of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, Nov 2006]
If Toda Sensei were to be alive, the SSA top leaders would surely receive a severe rebuke from him. Failure to arouse the joy of propagation amongst the members is equivalent to robbing the local members’ of opportunities to repay debts of gratitude and accumulate good fortune in their lives. Genuine disciples in the second act of kosen-rufu should report victories to reassure Ikeda Sensei, instead of giving him more worries!
It seems that at the moment, the top SSA leaders have been so busy sharing the victories of USA, Brazil and India to the point of forgetting to create victory of our own or worse still, is it possible that they are busy sharing the victories of others precisely because there are no local victories to share?