Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 19: Making the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Our Foundation [19.6]

19.6 A People-Centered Study Movement

In President Ikeda’s novel The New Human Revolution, the novel’s protagonist Shin’ichi Yamamoto (whose character represents President Ikeda) talks about the importance of upcoming study examinations at a Soka Gakkai Headquarters leaders meeting held in February 1961, and on the day of the examination, he shows his profound concern and care for the participants.

Speaking about the Study Department examination scheduled for early March, Shin’ichi remarked: “With the exam not far off, I’m sure your brains are all very busy trying to remember countless details!

“What I’d like to stress today is that those who pass the exams should not be smug about it, and those who do not pass should not be hard on themselves.

“Soka Gakkai study exams are held as a way to spur ourselves on and mark our progress in our lifelong study of Nichiren Daishonin’s great philosophy of life. So, even if you should pass the exam but let it go to your head and lord it over others, you will have failed in the realm of faith. On the other hand, if you do not pass, that can become an incentive for you to make greater efforts to study Buddhism and thereby come to excel as a person of faith, something far more important than simply passing the exam.

“In addition, I hope you will engrave the writings of Nichiren Daishonin deeply in your hearts and develop strong, solid faith so that you will remain undaunted by any obstacle that might assail you.”

Study exams were held on Sunday, March 5, at more than 180 sites in 125 cities nationwide. At 9:00 a.m., exams were held for Study Department assistant instructors who wished to advance to the next level of instructor, and instructors who wished to become assistant professors. Then at 2:00 p.m., the entrance exam was held for those seeking to become members of the Study Department for the first time.

That day, more than 110,000 people took these exams around the country. This was roughly 3.3 times the number who had taken the previous series of exams in 1959, less than two years earlier, a further demonstration of the phenomenal growth the Soka Gakkai had achieved since Shin’ichi became its president.

Those taking the exams ranged from homemakers to company presidents, from students to educators. They were of all ages, from teenagers to seniors. Making use of the little spare time they had with their work commitments or school studies, not to mention Soka Gakkai activities, all of them had earnestly studied the Daishonin’s writings, striving to deepen their understanding of the profound teachings and philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism. There were even stories from around the country of individuals learning to read and write as a result of the efforts they made for the exam.

The creation of a new era and new society begins when people have a solid philosophy of life and a clear awareness of their personal mission. The Soka Gakkai’s study program represented an unprecedented philosophical and educational movement centered on ordinary people.

That evening after the study exams, Shin’ichi spoke with Study Department leader Chuhei Yamadaira at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters and inquired about the progress in grading test papers from around the country.

When Yamadaira affirmed that everything was going smoothly, Shin’ichi said in a low voice, as if to himself: “Those who took the exams worked very hard. I’d like to give them all a passing grade.”

“We can’t do that!” exclaimed Yamadaira.

Shin’ichi couldn’t help grinning at the Study Department leader’s emphatic response. He said: “I know that, of course. It’s an exam, after all; I was only voicing my personal sentiment.

“But just think how difficult it is for, say, a women’s division member who is busy as a mother and a homemaker. Simply doing Soka Gakkai activities is challenging enough, not to mention finding time to study the Daishonin’s writings. With crying children, looking after the house as well as cooking, it’s almost impossible for her to find time to study quietly even if she wants to. It’s like trying to read the Gosho in the middle of a battlefield!

“Granted, such challenges may be part of our Buddhist practice, but I don’t want such members to be discouraged and disheartened because of their exam results. Those who pass will be fine. My thoughts are constantly with those who don’t pass and what we can do to encourage them.”

From The New Human Revolution, vol. 4, “Spring Storm” chapter.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.