From people looking in at the Soka Gakkai (SGI) from the outside, I can fully understand why some may get the false notion that member's of the SGI, “idolize” Daisaku Ikeda. Though there are some people in the SGI, who don't fully understand how fortunate we are to be born at such a time in history, that we could be together with our mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, I feel most people have a pretty good sense of the significance of this time in history. However, there are always going to be those in the SGI, who despite reading President Ikeda's guidance (or just hearing it at meetings), don't fully comprehend its profundity; for some, his consistent guidance over the decades have gone in one ear and out the other. However, I know if it wasn't for President Ikeda's constant guidance and profoundly positive direction, I would not have continued practicing for as long as I have and many people practicing around the world feel the same way.
I have always been a person very skeptical of all authority figures and very challenging to anyone who claims to know more than me or be an “expert” on any given subject. However, for most of my life I have always seen my mentor, Daisaku Ikeda as someone who was not an authority figure to me. He, to me, was always like the coach in the “Rocky” movies, who pushes me to be the greatest boxer, a boxer better than even he could be.
Every time I've gone through a major challenge in my life (something that seemed impossible to overcome), I've always been able to draw on one of the many seemly impossible things that President Ikeda, Josei Toda, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, or Nichiren were able to overcome, and I've always realized that if my mentors could overcome their challenges, by following them, so could I. Many people in my life (despite reading President Ikeda's writings), who have not fully understood the principle of the “oneness of mentor and successor” have often said to me, “yeah President Ikeda or Nichiren could overcome this or that, but you are not them.” However, I've always said, “yes I am!” This is not a statement of my arrogance; this is because I have read president Ikeda's guidance and the writings of Nichiren with my life, and I have applied them to all aspects of my life. Everyone who follows the guidance of Nichiren, Makiguchi, Toda and Ikeda, can overcome everything that those individuals have and more. If you believe you are somehow inferior to them, you do not understand the oneness of mentor and successor. Daisaku Ikeda, unlike all of our other mentors (due to the struggles those other mentors already went through in the past) has been able to leave us a diary of his everyday activities, in his youthful diary and his now over 30 volumes of the Human Revolution and the New Human Revolution, he has shown us exactly how we can overcome anything, if we choose. He was able to become more capable than his mentor, because he followed the guidance of his mentor to the letter. His mentor (Toda) was able to become better than his mentor (Makiguchi), because he followed Makiguchi's guidance to the letter. The choice is now ours, if we want to rise up to our mentor's expectation and take what he has shown us we can do and what we can become, to the next level (for each of us that is our own chosen level and in our own chosen direction).
The quote that President Ikeda often quotes from the Lotus Sutra, “Shariputra, in the beginning I made of vow to make all people equal to me, with no distinctions” is the same vow that Nichiren made and Daisaku Ikeda has made. However, Daisaku Ikeda has often shown that this is actually a compounding thing from mentor to successors. We are able to build upon the accomplishments of our mentors, so that we can actually surpass their accomplishments. This is the goal of a true mentor, and this has been our mentor's goal. He has opened up so many doors for us, so we can now walk through them and face even greater challenges than he had to face. He has given us the courage to rise to the those challenges. When we chant and read his guidance, we will see what our true path is and what obstacles on that path we have to overcome. It's up to us to have the faith and courage to do it. As President Ikeda wrote in “To My Young American Friends,” “Faith is to fear nothing.”
Recently, a particular Buddhist commentator outside of SGI, couldn't understand why Daisaku Ikeda, could have been chosen by Dr. Lawrence E. Carter, Dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel, to stand with the likes of Gandhi and King in the Gandhi, King, Ikeda exhibit. Though I understand her confusion and her skepticism, as she admits in her questioning, she has no knowledge of what Daisaku Ikeda has been doing for the last 60 years, I feel that actually the question should be, how do Gandhi and King's actions possibly compare to Daisaku Ikeda's.
I am one who considers both Gandhi and King as two of my many mentors and their writings and their actions have encouraged me to lead anti-war marches and to stand up with dignity and courage to baton-wielding Orange County, Los Angles and San Francisco police officers in many marches. I have quoted both King and Gandhi in so many of my writings and I will continue doing so in many more. I will also continue reading their many speeches and writings and studying their history. However, to her questions, what has Daisaku Ikeda done? As she says, “I spent a large part of yesterday afternoon looking for specific anectdotes [sic] about something President Ikeda did personally that involved hard effort and sacrifice, and came up zip.” First of all, she's not going to find, by searching the internet, what President Ikeda is doing or has been doing for the last 60 years. I told her, she'll have to actually pick up his books to find out, which she probably won't ever do. Yes we can go on and on about many actions Daisaku Ikeda has done that compare with the courage of Gandhi and King, but I think more important are the long lasting writings he has written, the philosophy of Soka that he has enhanced, and the long lasting institutions he has created, which will continue growing in the future. I have to also agree with Slavoj Zizek, that 'right now our world doesn't need more actions, it needs words.' Many people in the peace movement and in other social justice movements have done a lot of great actions (most of them were beneficial), but many have not stopped to think enough and write enough and create a lasting philosophy that will really change the world the way Daisaku Ikeda has.
What did Gandhi leave behind? Yes his over 100 books of his complete writings, that are in the library of Soka University of America (they were locked in the 4th floor reading room, last time I read through them) are really his legacy that will endure (if and when people read them). His philosophy of non-violence is being followed by many protestors around the world. Yes his salt march and his many fasts and other protests did cause India to become “independent” of Great Britain, only to be broken in half and both countries to become pawns of international corporations and corrupt native politicians. Unfortunately, Gandhi didn't live at a time where he could build a world-wide organization that could carry on his philosophy, and the Gandhi that most people know in the general public is a very watered down version of the real Gandhi, who as he said, 'dared to think out loud.'
Equally, Martin Luther King's message and his actions helped spur so much change in relation to people of color and people who suffered discrimination for other differences. But much of his message has been watered down by people who want to turn his message into feel good “let's all get along” fluff. His real revolutionary speeches against the war in Vietnam, which really led to his assassination, have been all but overlooked by the majority of people who often quote his speeches and claim they knew who he was or what he did.
Yes Daisaku Ikeda has faced assassination attempts, like the siren gas attack on the SGI headquarters that backfired on the Om Shin Rikyo van (see the book Holy Terror: Armageddon in Tokyo, by D. W. Brackett), but like Nichiren, fortunate it was his mission to survived that and other failed attempts at his life. I guess if he were to have been killed by his many enemies, some skeptic may think, OK now we can celebrate his memory. And yes, he faced angry mobs in Japan at the airport on his first return from China and Russia. He endured false imprisonment, only to be fully exonerated years later. But if he had not gone through any of those difficulties and others, it wouldn't make him one bit less or more important as a person who has contributed to changing the world drastically.
The difference with Daisaku Ikeda, is we his successors are going to engrave his philosophy in our lives and we are going to be examples of his philosophy in action all over the planet (as we are now); our lives are going to be “true pictures of kosen rufu” as Daisaku Ikeda writes. We the millions of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who realize that Daisaku Ikeda is, as Dean Carter says, “embodying the philosophies of both Gandhi and King in his life” are going to continue actualizing his mission (which is our mission) long into the future, and we are going to turn this muddy swamp of the Latter Day of the Law into a beautiful lotus garden, where as King says, “white boys and girls can sit down at the table of brotherhood (and sisterhood).” The true greatness of our mentor can only be fully exhibited in the actions of his successors.
Yes, because of many revolutionaries like Gandhi, Makiguchi, and King, who sacrificed their lives, we all have much more freedom now to carry on a greater legacy and we must always be thankful of those heroes, but Daisaku Ikeda proves that we don't have to lead a salt march or a civil rights and anti-Vietnam march (though those are very important) to make a big difference in the world. We normal people doing what may appear to be normal things to outside spectators are really the underground currents that are rippling out to change the world now and into the future.