Toda visiting Hokkaido, 1956
In declaring his determination to spread Nichiren Buddhism to 750,000 households at his inauguration as second President, Toda was not calling for mere numerical expansion but was trying to teach each member the true significance of propagation (Jpn: shakubuku) and enable them to experience the joy of engaging in dialogue for the sake of others' happiness.
Above all, to Toda, propagation was a means of empowering ordinary people to change their lives. After the war, countless Japanese were suffering from emotional or physical distress and extreme insecurity. Under these conditions, people tended to be obsessed by their own troubles, unable to muster any concern for others. In this sense, people were in thrall to the external environment in which they found themselves, and Toda wanted them to rise above these factors, to learn to see beyond their own problems and establish a more autonomous, self-actualized way of life. The means to achieve this, he saw, was the act of teaching others about Buddhism, which allows people to engage with others on a deeper level and develop real concern for their happiness.
Toda greeting members through a train window, 1956
Toda taught that propagation was first and foremost an act of compassion. His thoughts are reflected in the following words:
“Those who introduce others to this Buddhism should never forget their act is one of compassion. Propagation is neither religious debate nor a mere means to expand membership. Propagation translates into practicing the compassion of Nichiren Daishonin and allows us to carry on exactly as he did, acting as his representatives. You must never, at any time or under any circumstance, lose sight of this spirit!”
Furthermore, from the standpoint of Buddhist doctrine, Toda stressed the spirit of practice for oneself and others (Jpn: jigyo-keta). Jigyo means to aim for oneʼs own enlightenment, striving to achieve human revolution through oneʼs daily practice, and keta means to teach the principles of Buddhism to others, enabling them to build a truly happy state of life. Toda firmly asserted that faith without the altruistic spirit of keta was a self-centered faith withdrawn from the real world.
Toda visiting Kyushu, 1957
“Those who practice selfishly and do not bother to teach others are like people who eat delicious cuisine and never bother sharing with others. They will never be exempted from the offense of greedy stinginess. One can never say that such an individual is a person of compassion. ... [The Life Span chapter of the Lotus Sutra] expresses the desire to somehow enable all living beings to attain the indestructible state of happiness and Buddhahood as soon as possible. Furthermore, it equally states the desire for oneself to attain Buddhahood. By reciting this sutra, we are in fact praying for shakubuku every day.”
As they grasped the true meaning and spirit of propagation in this way, Soka Gakkai members set out to engage the people around them in dialogue about Buddhism.