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Friday, November 19, 2010

Opening the Great Path of Worldwide Kosen-rufu

In the 50 years since SGI President Ikeda embarked on his journey for worldwide kosen-rufu, arriving in Hawaii on October 2, 1960, the SGI movement based on Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism has spread to 192 countries and territories. The August and September 2010 issues of the Soka Gakkai monthly study journal Daibyakurenge featured several experiences by SGI members sharing their personal encounters with President Ikeda and their endeavors to promote kosen-rufu in their respective countries. In commemoration of this 50th anniversary, the SGI Newsletter will introduce a selection of these experiences.

“A Rainbow over Niagara”
By Elizabeth Izumi
SGI Canada Executive Advisor

It was about six months after I married my husband, Hugh Izumi, a Japanese-Canadian businessman, and was living in Toronto that I received a letter from my mother saying: “Soka Gakkai President Ikeda will be visiting Toronto. He will be an internationally renowned leader someday. As there are no Soka Gakkai members in Canada, please go and meet him at the airport.” Though it was my mother’s request, I wasn’t eager to comply. I was pregnant and not feeling very well, and I also didn’t want to be pressed into practicing Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. Nevertheless, to please my mother, I went to the airport (on October 11, 1960). I saw a group of Japanese people who looked like they had just arrived. It was President Ikeda and his party. I went up to greet him saying: “I am not a Soka Gakkai member but, my mother asked me to come and welcome you.” Smiling, President Ikeda said: “I see. Thank you so much for taking the trouble to come here. I’m Daisaku Ikeda. How kind of your mother to worry about us and ask you to come to the airport to welcome us!” During our conversation he didn’t press me to join the Soka Gakkai, but simply talked about the value to be found in practicing the Daishonin’s Buddhism and suggested that if I was ever having trouble, I could try chanting daimoku. When he discovered that I’d taken a taxi to the airport, he offered to give me a ride home. I declined the offer and said I’d be fine and would return by taxi, but he began rearranging the luggage in the car to make room for me. In spite of his painstaking efforts, in the end it wasn’t possible for me to fit in the car. President Ikeda apologized profusely. I was deeply moved by the thoughtfulness and sincerity he had shown me. I waved to him until his car was no longer in sight. This encounter with President Ikeda completely changed my previous, somewhat negative image of the Soka Gakkai. Two years later, I was still not accustomed to my life in a new country and found myself frequently falling ill. I remembered President Ikeda’s words about chanting daimoku if I was ever having trouble and decided to give it a try. Eventually, I became the first Soka Gakkai member in Canada.


After practicing by myself for several years, I reached a turning point in my faith. Four years after President Ikeda’s first visit to Canada, I went back temporarily to Japan. During that trip, I was interviewed by the Seikyo Shimbun, and President Ikeda read that short article in the newspaper. He invited my mother and me to the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, saying that he wanted to meet me while I was in Japan. “Thank you again for coming to greet me at the airport,” he said, bowing deeply to me as well as my mother. I burst into tears. I was the one who should have been thanking him, because it was through that encounter that I came to practice the Daishonin’s Buddhism while living in a distant foreign country. “I understand,” he said. “You don’t have to say anything.” He also spoke to my three-year-old daughter. “This is the little girl you were pregnant with when I met you, isn’t it? She’s so cute,” he said. President Ikeda went on to give me detailed advice about sharing my Buddhist practice with my husband. He said: “Start by being an excellent wife and mother. It is your example that will enable your husband to understand and appreciate the Daishonin’s Buddhism.” Hearing this guidance, I felt it was as if he understood, without having been told, that neither my husband nor I liked to be forced into anything. That was when I decided to work alongside President Ikeda as my mentor for the rest of my life. I resolved to dedicate myself to worldwide kosen-rufu. At the time of his first overseas visit, people asked President Ikeda why he was going, given that there were no members outside Japan. He replied: “After my trip, many members will appear. Though this may not be clear now, just wait 30 or 40 years.” And precisely as he predicted, one after another, members started to appear in Canada.


President Ikeda’s work of opening the path of worldwide kosen-rufu has by no means been easy. It has meant advancing on a long, steep, and thorny road. In particular, we were all devastated when news reached us of his resignation as Soka Gakkai president in April 1979. Then in October of the following year, airplane trouble led to the cancellation of President Ikeda’s planned visit to Canada. The Canadian members were deeply disappointed, and many wondered if they’d ever have an opportunity to meet President Ikeda again. But in June 1981, overcoming numerous obstacles, he finally visited Toronto after an interval of 21 years. We were overjoyed. On this trip, I was able to accompany President Ikeda and Mrs. Ikeda on a visit to Niagara Falls. Most people who see the huge waterfalls, with their thunderous, earth-shaking roar and the mist of spray that rises from them, cry out in awe. But, President and Mrs. Ikeda simply stood there in silence, gazing at them intently. I’ll never forget this scene and how, when President Ikeda asked her, “Are you glad we came?” Mrs. Ikeda nodded her approval with a smile on her face and warmly replied, “Yes.” The mighty Niagara Falls flows unceasingly with a powerful intensity and a vibrant rainbow often appears above them. I couldn’t help but feel that for President Ikeda, the waterfalls mirrored his own unceasing efforts to take on all manner of hardships and obstacles and create a rainbow of hope in the hearts of members around the world. In 1987, recalling his visit to Canada, he composed a long poem entitled “A Rainbow over Niagara.” It was a great source of courage and inspiration for members throughout Canada. Today, there are many Bodhisattvas of the Earth striving for kosen-rufu in Canada as a direct result of President Ikeda’s initiative to pave the way for Canadian kosen-rufu at a time when there was not yet a single member in the country. I truly believe this with all my heart.


President Ikeda and Canada

President Ikeda has visited Canada three times, in 1960, 1981, and 1993. During his visit in 1993, he engaged in a dialogue with Dr. René Simard, a leading Canadian cancer researcher and former rector of the University of Montreal, and Dr. David W. Strangway, former president of the University of British Columbia. This year (in May 2010), the Université Laval in Québec conferred an honorary doctorate in education on the SGI leader.

(Translated from the August 2010 issue of the Daibyakurenge, the Soka Gakkai monthly study journal)

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