Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 23: Valuing Each Individual [23.11]

23.11 President Toda’s Commitment to Personal Guidance

President Ikeda vividly describes how President Toda offered personal guidance to individuals suffering from myriad problems, to help them revitalize their lives. This spirit, he says, forms the essence of the Soka Gakkai’s commitment to supporting and encouraging others.

At the end of May 1951, soon after Mr. Toda became the second Soka Gakkai president, he moved his company—in which he held the position of advisor—to new premises near Ichigaya Station in Tokyo. I was only 23, and working hard as head of the sales department. Our new office consisted of a single room in the three-story Ichigaya Building, near the outer moat that formerly encircled Edo Castle.

The building also housed the editorial office of the Seikyo Shimbun [the organization’s newspaper, which had just printed its first issue on April 20, 1951]. And a branch office of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, then in Nishi-Kanda, was set up in the same building. Both of these Soka Gakkai-related offices were on the building’s second floor, along with that of Mr. Toda’s company.

The Soka Gakkai’s branch office was only about 15 square meters [160 square feet]. President Toda’s desk stood near the room’s windowed back wall, with seven or eight chairs set before it. Every afternoon from 2:00 to 4:00, he offered personal guidance and encouragement to members who came to see him there.

The young woman who worked at the building’s reception desk recently recounted her memories of those days. She remembers being surprised at the number of people coming to see Mr. Toda. Many of those who asked for the Soka Gakkai office at her reception desk seemed, even to her casual glance, burdened with troubles and cares. What astonished her even more, she recalled, was that when those same people left, they seemed completely transformed, smiling happily and brimming with vigor.

The branch office was more sparse and plain than the waiting room of a small clinic, but it was certainly a harbor of hope, an oasis of revitalization, for the people who visited it.

Euripides, the ancient Greek poet and playwright, said that human beings have no other remedy for their grief than the comfort of a good person and friend.1

My mentor spoke frankly and openly to the members who came to see him. When he asked “What’s wrong?” in his warm voice, his eyes sparkling with compassion behind his glasses, the members relaxed completely and candidly shared their struggles.

They had all kinds of problems: financial, work-related, health, family and children, human relations, goals and life choices, questions of karma or destiny, and sometimes even life-or-death situations. Each person seemed to be asking: “Can someone like me ever become happy?”

President Toda listened to their serious concerns and, empathizing with the members as if their sufferings were his own, he encouraged them in such a way as to stir their hearts and inspire them to rouse the great power of faith and practice. “Don’t worry,” he assured them. “If you practice this Buddhism, you cannot fail to become happy. Please be a champion of the spirit. Live out your life fully and proudly as a praiseworthy member of the Soka Gakkai.”

Each guidance session he conducted was an all-out effort to help the person in front of him. His words themselves seemed to reverberate with the spirit of the Daishonin’s infinitely compassionate declaration “The varied sufferings that all living beings undergo—all these are Nichiren’s own sufferings” (OTT, 138).

Among those who visited President Toda at the branch office were leaders embarrassed to have personal problems even though they held positions of responsibility in the organization. He warmly comforted them, saying that encountering problems and challenges is natural for those who are trying to do their best in life. In contrast, he sternly reprimanded those who were so conceited that they looked down on members who were struggling.

Personal suffering helps us understand the suffering of others. Our problems only make us stronger.

Mr. Toda had lost a child, had experienced repeated crises with his businesses, and had been imprisoned for two years for his faith in the Lotus Sutra. He later reflected that these experiences of sorrow, grief, and hardship, and of surmounting countless daunting challenges, made him ideally qualified to be the Soka Gakkai’s president.

The renowned French writer Victor Hugo declared: “Great sufferings swell the soul to gigantic proportions.”2

Toward that end, it is important to offer wholehearted encouragement to people facing such sufferings, to infuse their lives with courage and hope, so they are not defeated.

Guidance in faith must be based on the writings of Nichiren Daishonin. The ability to give inspiring guidance cannot be developed by relying just on personal judgments and opinions. It has to be honed through striving in the two ways of practice and study within the organization for kosen-rufu.

From an essay series “Thoughts on The New Human Revolution,” published in Japanese in the Seikyo Shimbun, May 24, 2003.

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

  • *1Cf. Euripides, Fragments: Oedipus–Chrysippus, Other Fragments, edited and translated by Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2008), p. 607. (Fragment No. 1079.)
  • *2Victor Hugo, Ninety-Three, translated by Frank Lee Benedict (New York: Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1988), p. 331.