Feature

Creating a World of Peace, Respect and Hope!

SGI President Ikeda’s three mottoes for the youth.

SGI-USA youth representatives visit the Soka Bunka Center during the SGI Youth Training Course in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, Japan, August 2016. Photo: Ayano Matsuyama.


by SGI-USA Young Women’s Leader Olivia Saito, Young Men’s Leader
Mike O’Malley and Youth Leader David Witkowski.

On September 3, 2016, we were in Hachioji, Tokyo, sitting in Soka University’s Ikeda Auditorium at the headquarters leaders meeting when we first heard SGI President Ikeda’s three mottoes for the youth, whom he said are “rising up to shoulder that great and ever more diverse and expansive Soka network of peace, culture and education” (October 7, 2016, World Tribune, p. 2). These three mottoes are:

1. Be the pillar of peace for all the world’s peoples!
2. Be the eyes of respect for the dignity of life!
3. Be the great ship of hope for the triumph of humanity!

While we were very encouraged, none of us could grasp the profundity of receiving these three mottoes. In the ensuing months, however, they have taken on deeper meaning as we study them amid the divisiveness, confusion and discord pervading our society. President Ikeda wrote earlier in the same message:

In “Letter from Sado,” Nichiren [Daishonin] observes: “The most dreadful things in the world are the pain of fire, the flashing of swords, and the shadow of death” (“Letter from Sado,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 301). Even today, people around the world live in fear of violence and war, shudder at destruction caused by natural disasters and accidents and are racked by the sufferings of birth, aging, sickness and death.

That is precisely why we of the SGI, who share the great vow of Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, need to press ahead with ever-greater energy in our courageous and sincere efforts to transform the destiny of humankind.

In his Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, [second Soka Gakkai President] Josei Toda underscored the right to life of all people on our planet and passionately denounced any devilish force that would threaten that right. Next year [2017] will mark the 60th anniversary of this declaration, which Mr. Toda issued as a final injunction to the youth division.

Due to the urgent need for a dramatic shift toward peace in society and in response to President Ikeda’s unending hopes for the youth expressed in his three mottoes, we are determined to gather 50,000 youth in 2018 to take a bold and unequivocal stand for the dignity of all life. President Ikeda’s boundless encouragement has instilled in us ever-greater hope and passion to embody these three mottoes, and take bold, courageous action to develop the United States into a Buddha land, together with all the members of SGI-USA!

The three mottoes for youth correspond to a passage from Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “The Opening of the Eyes.” When studying this passage, we learn that when we vow to be the pillar, eyes and ship of the nation and to lead society in the direction of peace, obstacles are bound to arise. Nichiren encourages us to develop a life condition that can never be swayed by any difficulty and to advance based on our immovable vow to achieve kosen-rufu.

Let us study together the heart of this passage based on President Ikeda’s lecture on this writing.

A youth meeting in Florence, Italy, February 2016. Photo: Seikyo Press.
A youth meeting in Florence, Italy, February 2016. Photo: Seikyo Press.

Learning From “The Opening of the Eyes”

Here I will make a great vow. Though I might be offered the rulership of Japan if I would only abandon the Lotus Sutra, accept the teachings of the Meditation Sutra, and look forward to rebirth in the Pure Land, though I might be told that my father and mother will have their heads cut off if I do not recite the Nembutsu—whatever obstacles I might encounter, so long as persons of wisdom do not prove my teachings to be false, I will never yield! All other troubles are no more to me than dust before the wind. I will be the pillar of Japan. I will be the eyes of Japan. I will be the great ship of Japan. This is my vow, and I will never forsake it! (“The Opening of the Eyes,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, pp. 280–81)

the_opening_of_the_eyes_usaSGI President Ikeda: Nichiren Daishonin asserts that even if tempted with an offer to become the ruler of Japan, or threatened with the execution of his parents, he will never compromise his beliefs. Irrespective of whatever life-threatening hardships he may encounter, he says, he will sweep them away like dust before the wind. He also evinces a towering confidence that his teachings will not be proven false.

In fact, from the time he established his teaching, Nichiren waged a fearless and impassioned struggle of words while overcoming four major persecutions[1]The four major persecutions: 1) the Matsubagayatsu Persecution of 1260; 2) the Izu Exile of 1261; 3) the Komatsubara Persecution of 1264; and 4) the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and subsequent Sado Exile of 1271. and countless minor ones. By casting off his transient status and revealing his true identity as the Buddha of the Latter Day during the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, he proved that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the great Law for the enlightenment of all living beings of the ten thousand years and more of the Latter Day. Nothing could prove Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings false.

In addition to his vow never to regress, Nichiren proclaims his long-held pledge: “I will be the pillar of Japan. I will be the eyes of Japan. I will be the great ship of Japan.” In this lofty vow, we find the three virtues—sovereign, teacher and parent.[2]According to a commentary on “The Opening of the Eyes” by Nichikan, 26th high priest of the Nikko lineage, the “pillar, eyes, and great ship of Japan” can be interpreted as referring to the virtue of the teacher alone or to all three virtues—sovereign, teacher and parent. When the latter interpretation is applied, the “pillar” refers to the virtue of the sovereign, the “eyes” to the virtue of the teacher and the “great ship” to the virtue of the parent.

It would appear that this is the great vow Nichiren Daishonin made in his heart on the day he established his teaching [of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo on April 28, 1253]. This treatise, “The Opening of the Eyes,” was written almost 20 years later. No matter what storms of obstacles and devilish forces assailed him, his spirit never wavered. He suffered countless instances of slander and abuse. He had been the target of malicious plots and intrigues. The authorities had attempted to execute him and had exiled him twice.

In any time and place, a kosen-rufu movement always begins with the stand-alone spirit. With that spirit, we can limitlessly activate the power of the Mystic Law.

But not even the most furious onslaughts of the devil king of the sixth heaven[3]Also, devil king or heavenly devil. The king of devils, who dwells in the highest or the sixth heaven of the world of desire. He is also named Freely Enjoying Things Conjured by Others, the king who makes free use of the fruits of others’ efforts for his own pleasure. Served by innumerable minions, he obstructs Buddhist practice and delights in sapping the life force of other beings. He is the fourth devil from “the three obstacles and four devils.” had succeeded in extinguishing the flame of kosen-rufu blazing in his heart. On the contrary, they only caused that inner flame to burn all the brighter. “This is my vow, and I will never forsake it!” he writes, declaring that he will never for all eternity break that vow.

Buddhahood manifests in the lives of people of strong faith who make the Buddha’s vow their own and who dedicate their lives to its fulfillment. The Soka Gakkai has realized resounding victory in every endeavor because we have carried out this vow without begrudging our lives.

Our vow is central to our efforts to spread the Mystic Law in the evil Latter Day. Without a powerful commitment to uphold and spread the correct teaching throughout our lives, we cannot turn back the raging currents of this polluted age; we cannot defeat the destructive and devilish tendencies in human life.

Youth proudly gather on Daisaku Ikeda Way, Chicago, June 2016. Photo: Bob Nardi.
Youth proudly gather on Daisaku Ikeda Way, Chicago, June 2016. Photo: Bob Nardi.

Our vow to work for kosen-rufu serves as a fundamental source of strength, giving us the courage to remain undaunted by even the greatest hardships and trials. When we dedicate ourselves with this vow, then no matter what obstacles and devilish functions arise, our lives will shine with a lofty, invincible spirit. No matter what karma should assail us, our lives will glow with the spirit of invincible champions.

To forsake this commitment signifies ultimate defeat for a Buddhist. Those who abandoned their faith and turned against us in the past, who lost sight of their commitment, invariably grew arrogant—they became obsessed with fame and fortune. All of them, however, have met with ignominious defeat. As Nichiren writes, “It is the heart that is important” (“The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 1000). He teaches that having a non-regressing spirit and remaining true to one’s vow are the essence of victory in life.

Pillar of the Spirit, Eyes of Wisdom, Ship of Salvation

Nichiren Daishonin declares that he will be the “pillar of Japan,” the “eyes of Japan” and the “great ship of Japan.” Needless to say, the reference to Japan here is not indicative of a Japan-centered worldview. Rather, it represents the typical Latter Day situation in which an entire nation is guilty of slandering the Law, for it is a land symptomatic of a deeply evil age. If a teaching can free from suffering a people and a land enduring the most painful hardships in this trying saha world, then it can do the same for all humankind.

In Nichiren’s day, Japan was on the verge of collapse, having lost its spiritual moorings. Evil priests spreading the poison of slander of the Law filled the land, and people were left adrift in a sea of suffering.

Japan was a society with no spiritual foundation, teeming with negative influences, its people wandering along without purpose. In such a spiritual wasteland, Nichiren stood up alone. We can interpret his resolve as him declaring: “I will become the spiritual pillar of this devastated country. I will become its eyes so that it can distinguish true from false amid the prevailing confusion in Buddhist thought. I will become a great ship that can rescue those who are adrift.” And he held fast to his great vow throughout his life.

Young men of Northstar 75 Chapter gather with unbeatable determination, Dallas, December 2016. Photo: Hoss McBain.
Young men of Northstar 75 Chapter gather with unbeatable determination, Dallas, December 2016. Photo: Hoss McBain.

Even when confronted with the violent aggression of Hei no Saemon,[4]Hei no Saemon (d. 1293): A leading of cial of the Hojo regency, the de facto ruling body of Japan during the Kamakura period (1185–1333). He served two successive regents, Hojo Tokimune and Hojo Sadatoki, and wielded tremendous in uence as deputy chief of the Office of Military and Police Affairs (the chief being the regent himself). He collaborated with Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji temple of the True Word Precepts school and other leading priests to persecute Nichiren and his followers. the powerful government official who persecuted him and even tried to have him killed, Nichiren declared with a lion’s roar: “Nichiren is the pillar and beam of Japan. Doing away with me is toppling the pillar of Japan!” (“The Selection of the Time,” WND-1, 579).

Also, in “The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” he writes: “The essential message [of my treatise “The Opening of the Eyes”] is that the destiny of Japan depends solely upon Nichiren. A house without pillars collapses, and a person without a soul is dead. Nichiren is the soul of the people of this country” (WND-1, 772).

But no insidious machinations of authority could undermine Nichiren’s commitment to the cause of leading all people to enlightenment. Moreover, he fought unceasingly for that end without begrudging his life. Such commitment and struggle qualified him to proclaim himself the “pillar of Japan.” It is the Soka Gakkai—and, indeed, only the Soka Gakkai—that has carried on Nichiren Daishonin’s spirit.

Some words by Josei Toda, spoken shortly before he became second Soka Gakkai president, are deeply engraved in my heart. He said: “For me, there is only kosen-rufu . . . I will stand up! No matter what anyone says, I will fear nothing! I’m not going to let anyone hold me back! . . . I will stand up alone!”

In any time and place, a kosen-rufu movement always begins with the stand-alone spirit. With that spirit, we can limitlessly activate the power of the Mystic Law. As President Toda’s disciple, I stood up alone to blaze a path of worldwide kosen-rufu where none had existed before. A stand-alone spirit is the first requirement for propagating the Mystic Law, which never changes throughout past, present and future. An unwavering commitment to kosen-rufu is the heart of a votary of the Lotus Sutra and the foundation of Nichiren Buddhism.
 

(pp. 14–19)

Notes   [ + ]

1. The four major persecutions: 1) the Matsubagayatsu Persecution of 1260; 2) the Izu Exile of 1261; 3) the Komatsubara Persecution of 1264; and 4) the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and subsequent Sado Exile of 1271.
2. According to a commentary on “The Opening of the Eyes” by Nichikan, 26th high priest of the Nikko lineage, the “pillar, eyes, and great ship of Japan” can be interpreted as referring to the virtue of the teacher alone or to all three virtues—sovereign, teacher and parent. When the latter interpretation is applied, the “pillar” refers to the virtue of the sovereign, the “eyes” to the virtue of the teacher and the “great ship” to the virtue of the parent.
3. Also, devil king or heavenly devil. The king of devils, who dwells in the highest or the sixth heaven of the world of desire. He is also named Freely Enjoying Things Conjured by Others, the king who makes free use of the fruits of others’ efforts for his own pleasure. Served by innumerable minions, he obstructs Buddhist practice and delights in sapping the life force of other beings. He is the fourth devil from “the three obstacles and four devils.”
4. Hei no Saemon (d. 1293): A leading of cial of the Hojo regency, the de facto ruling body of Japan during the Kamakura period (1185–1333). He served two successive regents, Hojo Tokimune and Hojo Sadatoki, and wielded tremendous in uence as deputy chief of the Office of Military and Police Affairs (the chief being the regent himself). He collaborated with Ryokan of Gokuraku-ji temple of the True Word Precepts school and other leading priests to persecute Nichiren and his followers.