Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 23: Valuing Each Individual [23.13]

23.13 Important Points for Offering Personal Guidance

President Ikeda has always stressed the importance of personal guidance to enable each Soka Gakkai member to advance on the great path of happiness and to build a solid organization for the development of kosen-rufu. In this excerpt from The New Human Revolution, the novel’s protagonist Shin’ichi Yamamoto (whose character represents President Ikeda) discusses points to bear in mind when giving personal guidance.

Saying that he wished to speak in a relaxed, informal manner, Shin’ichi proceeded to discuss the basic attitude leaders need to have when offering personal guidance.

“First, you must never become emotional. Some members may have a weak commitment to faith and make negative remarks about the Soka Gakkai, but you mustn’t allow yourself to get emotional or raise your voice. If you do, you’ll cause the other person to close their heart to you. Then, any guidance or encouragement you offer won’t have any effect.

“Second, strong conviction in faith is crucial. The key to encouraging others is being able to move and inspire them through your own conviction. That way, logical explanations will have an impact. That’s why it’s important to chant a lot and bring forth powerful life force before going to offer guidance. To communicate your conviction, it’s also important to relate your own or other members’ experiences in faith.

“Third, you must never share with anyone else what somebody has told you in a personal guidance session. Leaders in the realm of faith, in particular, have a responsibility to protect others’ privacy. If the things you were told in confidence were to get out, it would lead people to mistrust the Soka Gakkai as a whole. It is also a very serious offense in terms of Buddhism, because it obstructs the progress of kosen-rufu.

“Fourth, always carry out personal guidance with patience and a warm, embracing spirit. Say, for example, you visit and encourage one of your members who has stopped coming to meetings. It is unlikely that they will be inspired to make a fresh determination in faith after only one visit. You need to call on them from time to time and patiently continue to encourage them. Eventually, your sincerity will reach them and they will come to trust you and want to become active again. Perseverance is vital in offering personal guidance.

“When you’ve been able to help someone to stand up in faith, it’s important to follow up with them, perhaps with a phone call or letter, to find out how they’re doing, to see if they’ve overcome their problem, and to continue encouraging them. When you become a leader, you set out enthusiastically to home visit members and encourage them. If you leave it at that, with just a single visit, however, you haven’t finished the job.

“Fifth, never forget that the ultimate goal of giving guidance to somebody is to relieve their suffering and bring them joy. People grapple with various kinds of problems and seek guidance only after they’ve been struggling for a while. It’s important that you encourage them in such a way as to alleviate their suffering and pain.

“Let’s say, for example, there is a women’s division member who is frustrated because her husband isn’t interested in practicing. You could start by reassuring her: ‘Don’t worry. Life is long. There’s no need to rush matters. Your husband was born with a noble mission. Your prayers for your husband are certain to be answered.’ That will put her mind at ease. Then you can talk about specific things she can do.”

A caring spirit and deep concern for others is indispensable in offering personal guidance. That spirit will manifest as warm consideration and words of heartfelt concern and encouragement.

When he was a youth division leader, Shin’ichi often invited young men’s division members to his apartment to encourage them. Sometimes he would serve them a meal or listen to recordings of Beethoven or other composers with them.

Wherever Shin’ichi went—whether it was Tokyo, Sapporo, Osaka, Yamaguchi, or Yubari—he always made a point of encouraging members individually. One young man he met was working hard to help pay off his father’s debts while also supporting his parents and his younger siblings. And there was a men’s division member who was out of work. He and his wife were both suffering from illness, and they had an infant. Individuals such as these were all facing very harsh circumstances and doing their best to survive.

Personal guidance is a noble endeavor to impart the light of hope to those who are suffering and enable them to shine as Buddhas.
Shin’ichi continued to share his thoughts.

“Observing many leaders, I have come to the conclusion that those who have dedicated themselves to offering personal guidance to members never give up their practice. I think this is because giving guidance—though hard, unglamorous, and inconspicuous work that requires a great deal of patience—truly deepens one’s faith. And as these leaders continue to offer guidance, they reflect seriously on their own lives and are able to guide themselves as well. That is why they don’t abandon their faith.

“Of course, sharing Nichiren Buddhism with others is important. But if we don’t continue to thoroughly guide and encourage people once they have started practicing, then our success in introducing them will be only a momentary victory. Also, because enabling someone to receive the Gohonzon is a conspicuous achievement, people who do so are praised and celebrated by their fellow members. Some grow arrogant because of this and let their faith slide as a result.

“Along with introducing Buddhism to others, making wholehearted efforts to guide and encourage our fellow members one to one is essential in strengthening our own faith and elevating our state of life.

“Both introducing others and offering personal guidance constitute the work of cultivating the spirit through dialogue. Cultivation in general requires courage and perseverance to take on difficulty. But that challenging work develops and opens up the potential in people’s lives and enables them to enjoy the fruit of happiness. I hope you will all continue to sincerely engage in dialogue and the effort to cultivate members’ lives. Personal guidance brings warm humanity to our organization and is the way to strengthen it.

“In the Soka Gakkai, personal guidance is carried out naturally, every day. Our organization is a network of encouragement aimed at helping each member overcome suffering. It also seeks to rebuild the connections between human beings that have been severed in contemporary society. I believe that our efforts to guide and encourage others are important intangible assets not only for the Soka Gakkai but society in general. I’m certain the day will come when society and the world will recognize this.”

From The New Human Revolution, vol. 27, “Fierce Struggle” chapter.

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