This month we continue our study of The Human Revolution. The excerpts below come from Volume VI, in Book I of the current edition. Suggested discussion questions follow. Please also see the “highlights” reading, also available on the SGI-USA website, with longer excerpts from Volume VI. We encourage all Men’s Division members to own and read the complete work, available through your SGI-USA bookstore.
“Takeoff” p. 780
After emerging victorious after a desperate struggle against the machinations of a once-powerful Nichiren Shoshu priest (please see Highlights), President Ikeda comments on a crucial aspect of achieving growth and victory.
The phoenix exerts every ounce of its energy as it takes wing. No person or organization can expect rapid and dramatic growth without first breaking through barrier after barrier of hardship. Beyond these ramparts, too, there always spreads the expanse of a new battlefield or realm where one can strive again to fulfill one’s mission.
“Takeoff” p. 789
Reviewing the summer propagation campaign of 1952, President Ikeda confirms the importance of the discussion meeting as the essential activity for spreading Buddhism.
Incidentally, an analysis of the results of the summer campaign proved that all the lecture meetings in the three selected urban areas had been failures. Under the situation existing at that time, lectures were perhaps the only way of attracting a large number of nonbelievers in places where the Soka Gakkai members had few relatives or friends. We must not forget, though, that under any circumstances the basic principle of propagation lies in person-to-person dialogue. Learning of the unsatisfactory outcome of the seemingly successful lecture meetings, the leaders acutely realized the importance of the Soka Gakkai’s traditional method of propagation—the discussion meeting.
“Takeoff pp. 807-808
President Toda clarifies the purpose of life as a human being, and more importantly, how to fulfill that purpose at a meeting with nationwide attendance on December 7, 1952 in Tokyo.
“For what purpose were you born as human beings? This seems to be a simple question, but actually it is very difficult to answer. To be brief, you have come into this world to enjoy yourselves. No matter where you are, you are there to enjoy your lives fully and have whatever fun you like at any time. That is the purpose of life. Now, in reality, you are not enjoying yourselves. Instead, you are always getting sick, quarreling with your husband or your wife or complaining how busy you are and running about with frenzied eyes every day.
“You will be truly enjoying your lives only when you begin to feel happy to go out and work and even happier to catch a scolding from your spouse. I don’t mean mere fun and games when I say that you must enjoy yourselves. Sweet bean soup needs much sugar and a touch of salt in order to be really sweet. Likewise, you cannot realize what true happiness is unless there is a certain amount of hardship in your lives. In your case, there is more salt than sugar. How can anyone eat sweet bean soup that is salty?”
The audience burst into laughter. They all reflected on their own lives and thought that indeed there was too much salt. The roars of laughter continued for a while. By citing a mundane example, Toda had driven home to the listeners the fundamental significance of life in this world, which the Lotus Sutra describes in the phrase “where living beings enjoy themselves at ease” (LS, 230). Then he proceeded to the method of attaining this highest state of happiness—propagating this Buddhism.
“When your leaders encourage you to carry out propagation activities to introduce others to this Buddhism or practice faith in earnest, you may feel you do that for the benefit of the Soka Gakkai or the nation or the world, but in the final analysis, it’s all for your own sake. Propagation is the only way by which you can obtain true benefits. So if you run into a problem—any problem—kneel in front of the Gohonzon immediately and chant, and then exert yourselves bravely to reveal its validity to others.
“A passage from a sutra reads, ‘If you wish to repent, then sit upright and behold the ultimate reality. Then all of your sins will thoroughly vanish, like frost or dew before the sun of wisdom.’ As this line teaches, if you devote yourselves wholeheartedly to the practice of faith and propagation activities, you can definitely change your negative destiny into causes for the happiest state of life—one in which you will be certain that you have come into this world to enjoy yourselves.”
At Toda’s reassuring words, the audience, which had been disgusted with salty lives only a few minutes before, was suddenly enlivened and firmly resolved to fight to attain indestructible happiness. A few confident words are far more important than a thousand phrases full of flourishes. Guidance is simply another name for conviction. Only when a leader has an unwavering conviction can all of his members march onward brimming with hope.
Before concluding his speech, Toda ran his eyes over the assembly.
“I advise those of you who have worries to practice the faith earnestly and engage in propagation activities resolutely for a period of just one year,” he said in a tone overflowing with passion. “If your situation has not taken a favorable turn by this day next year, I will give you my life. I promise that upon my honor. So have faith in my words and do exactly as I say.” Toda’s burning conviction made the listeners shudder for a moment. It was not a mere verbal promise; it was one on which Toda would stake his life! All the participants found themselves clapping in wild applause. The general meeting came to an end literally in an explosion of feeling.
Suggested Discussion Questions:
Up to this point in our study of “The Human Revolution,” we have seen how President Toda’s human revolution allowed him to break through “barrier after barrier” of hardship and lead the Soka Gakkai to unprecedented growth. Referring to the first excerpt above, have you experienced this process yourself? What does this mean for each of us in this critical time?
Toda encouraged everyone to challenge themselves to propagate Nichiren Buddhism. How has doing this contributed to your genuine enjoyment of life?
It is only two months until August, when we will commemorate the 60th Anniversary of President Ikeda joining the Soka Gakkai by holding our Men’s Division General Meeting at the August discussion meeting. While recognizing the unique nature of each district, how can we as Men’s Division members contribute to creating the “explosion of joy” described in the third excerpt?