SGI-USA Men’s Division Monthly Meetings Suggested study material for December, 2006
The suggested material below is excerpted from SGI President Ikeda’s essay, "Discussion Meetings: A Source of Energy and Vitality," originally printed in the Soka Gakkai study journal The Daibyakurenge, and published in the October 13, 2006 World Tribune, page 7. We’d like to strongly recommend reading the entire essay.
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Discussion meetings are the starting point of kosen-rufu. They are Soka gardens of happiness and peace. They are the origin of the unity of mentor and disciple. They are the source of absolute victory.
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Toward the opening of Nichiren Daishonin’s major treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” we find the passage “Let us discuss the question at length” (WND, 7). The entire work is in fact a discussion or conversation between Nichiren and his guest. This vital and vigorous spirit of dialogue is the energy that drives the propagation of the Mystic Law.
Because this is the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law, Nichiren repeatedly urges his followers to gather with sincere fellow believers to talk together, study together and encourage each other, so that everyone can keep advancing steadfastly toward enlightenment on the path of faith. Discussion meetings are undeniably the Buddhist practice in perfect accord with this clear and inspiring guideline for attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.
While enduring persecution during World War II, the first Soka Gakkai president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, fearlessly conducted discussion meetings to propagate the correct teaching of Nichiren Buddhism, undaunted by the intimidating presence or angry interjections of the notorious “thought police.” Just before his arrest, he had led a discussion meeting in Shimoda, on the Izu Peninsula. Among the official charges laid against him was the fact that he had held more than 240 discussion meetings in a two-year period.
It was also through discussion meetings that my mentor, Josei Toda, our second president, initiated his bold and determined reconstruction of the Soka Gakkai after his release from prison. At the Soka Gakkai’s first formal postwar discussion meeting, held in 1946, Mr. Toda publicly announced his resolve to fight alongside his martyred mentor, Mr. Makiguchi, throughout eternity.
Because of this history, we, the disciples who carry on their legacy, must never forget that a discussion meeting for kosen-rufu is a battleground on which we must fight with the spirit of oneness of mentor and disciple.
It is a field of action we must approach brimming with the same selfless, dedicated spirit of our first two presidents, filled with confidence and energy and with the most serious resolve.
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“Life is only kindled by life,” observed 18th- and 19th-century German writer Jean Paul. I first encountered my mentor at a Soka Gakkai discussion meeting. Later, with discussion meetings as the spark, I ignited, together with my fellow members, a blazing Soka alliance committed to promoting the cause of good — a great movement for kosen-rufu that spread like wildfire.
The February Campaign of Kamata Chapter in 1952; the tremendous growth of Bunkyo Chapter in 1953; our great triumph in Osaka in 1956, where we achieved the impossible; and the Yamaguchi Campaign of the same year, in which we increased our membership there tenfold — all these dramatic developments were fueled by our discussion meetings.
I still fondly remember how, during the Yamaguchi Campaign, more than 30 people decided to begin practicing Nichiren Buddhism at a discussion meeting held in Hagi City — the location of the famous private academy founded by the 19th-century teacher and writer Yoshida Shoin.
I will never forget my gratitude to everyone I have met at discussion meetings nor to the families who opened their homes for those gatherings, and I continue to chant earnestly for all of them.
Discussion meetings take a great deal of time and effort, but that is precisely why they are extremely effective and produce the most powerful synergy. That is the conclusion that we of the SGI have reached after opening the way for our movement here in Japan and all across the globe over the past six decades.
The Lotus Sutra states that good men or good women, who tell others about the teachings of Buddhism, though their efforts go unnoticed, are great envoys of the Thus Come One. All who earnestly devote themselves to discussion meetings contribute to helping others form an eternal connection with Buddhism, while accumulating for themselves immeasurable treasures of the heart.
Nichiren sternly denounced unfaithful followers who, losing sight of the path of mentor and disciple, became enthralled with the superficial splendor of the imperial court and obsessed with gaining personal fame and fortune. SGI PRESIDENT IKEDA’S OCTOBER EDITORIAL
Today, too, there are individuals who rose to prominent positions in society through the support of their fellow members, and much like these disloyal followers of Nichiren’s time, grew corrupt and self-serving, behaving in the basest and most shameful manner.
We inevitably find that such people almost never attended discussion meetings. Forgetting the debts of gratitude they owe the Soka Gakkai and their fellow members, they are lost in the realm of animals (the world of Animality), seeking only pleasure and personal profit. They are incapable of acting with integrity or decency and have forgotten the true purpose of life. This is a common pattern we see in those who abandon their faith and betray the trust of their fellow members.
Distancing oneself from discussion meetings is distancing oneself from the haven of the boundless good fortune of Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Sadly, such a person will also be abandoned by the protective functions of the universe.
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Mr. Toda declared, “No matter how dark and desolate society is, make certain our discussion meetings are always bright and cheerful, filled with courage and conviction!”
The valiant act of attending a discussion meeting opens the way to fresh triumphs and a future filled with limitless hope. We must not forget that the confident voices of members heard at discussion meetings, along with the victorious music of a new era, herald the dawn of a global civilization founded on dialogue.
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Suggested discussion questions:
1. What has been the greatest discussion meeting you’ve ever attended? What made it great?
2. What is the most important thing you can bring to a discussion meeting to make it successful, for you and for others?
3. Based on these excerpts, what is the relationship between practicing the way of oneness of mentor and disciple and SGI discussion meetings?