A Timeless Poem for Advancing Kosen-rufu
Celebrating 35 years since SGI President Ikeda composed “Youth, Scale the Mountain of Kosen-rufu of the 21st Century.”
This December, we celebrate 35 years since SGI President Ikeda penned the poem “Youth, Scale the Mountain of Kosen-rufu of the 21st Century.” On December 10, 1981, President Ikeda wrote this poem to the youth division members of Oita Prefecture, which is located on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu.
Leading up to this time, the Nichiren Shoshu priests had been belittling and bullying the Soka Gakkai members in the Oita area, telling them that the laity is inferior to the priesthood and that one can only gain benefit by going to the temple. In addition, the priests had been spreading baseless rumors about President Ikeda and the Soka Gakkai.
Eventually, many Soka Gakkai members succumbed to the abuse of the priests, siding with them or leaving the Soka Gakkai altogether. The youth of Oita, however, were immovable and undeterred from the path of faith and the oneness of mentor and disciple.
This tension between priesthood and laity, stemming from the poisonous arrogance of the priests, did not only impact the members in Oita. By the late 1970s, this discord had spread throughout Japan and even to other countries.
In the “Justice” chapter of The New Human Revolution, President Ikeda recalls this time period, writing: “An issue has arisen with the priesthood. It pains me deeply as if a needle were piercing my heart.”
He continues: “Knowing the sadness, anger and dejection felt by the dear and noble children of the Buddha, I am every day filled with heartache . . . The trouble all began in Oita” (May 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 47).
On April 24, 1979, President Ikeda, who treasured the Soka Gakkai more than his own life, resigned as Soka Gakkai president in the hopes that this would soften the priests’ bullying of Soka Gakkai members.
In an essay titled “Stormy April 24,” President Ikeda recalls:
One day, I asked the top leaders of the Soka Gakkai, “Do you think my resignation would settle the problem?” There was a painful silence. Then someone spoke: “You can’t go against the flow of the times.” The atmosphere in the room froze. A sharp pain tore through my heart. (April 2014 Living Buddhism, p. 12)
At this time, a new Soka Gakkai president was appointed, and Daisaku Ikeda was named Soka Gakkai honorary president. The priests placed many restrictions on President Ikeda’s activities: He could not attend large meetings; he could not write articles for the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, or have his photos or speeches published in the paper; and members were told they could not call him “Sensei.”
President Ikeda responded to the list of restrictions by saying: “If I’m not permitted to give guidance to the members, I’ll take commemorative photos. If I’m not allowed to talk, I’ll play the piano instead. If I cannot attend meetings, I’ll do home visits.”
Two years later, in 1981, when President Ikeda was finally given permission to begin traveling around Japan to attend meetings, he visited members who struggled the most under the oppression of the priesthood.
He visited Oita Prefecture that December to encourage the members and praise the youth who had dauntlessly battled the devil of authority and never gave up their faith.
The poem, “Youth, Scale the Mountain of Kosen-rufu of the 21st Century,” expresses President Ikeda’s deep trust in the youth to advance kosen-rufu. It is a call to all members to inherit the mission of kosen-rufu into the eternal future.