70 Years of Working for People's Happiness and Victory
An installment from SGI President Ikeda's essay series "The Eternal Citadel of Soka."
The following is an installment of SGI President Ikeda’s essay series “The Eternal Citadel of Soka,” which appeared in the Aug. 25, 2017 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.
The picture vividly brought back to life an encounter seven decades ago. It was an oil painting of my first meeting with my mentor, Josei Toda, at a discussion meeting on Aug. 14, 1947, by Ken’ichiro Uchida, the artist who provides the illustrations for The New Human Revolution.
My wife, Kaneko, and I recently viewed the painting with deep emotion at the Soka Gakkai Mentors Hall in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, where we did gongyo to express our profound appreciation to our mentor, Mr. Toda (on Aug. 22, 2017).
Mr. Toda’s voice on that day when I first met him was warm and familiar, like a kindly father. “How old are you now?” “Feel free to share anything you like.”
Our encounter was without doubt inevitable, predestined from the remote past.
Nineteen years old at the time, I was earnestly seeking the way to lead a correct life, and Mr. Toda invited me to join him in practicing Nichiren Buddhism.
Feeling instinctively that I could trust this man, I decided in my heart to take him as my mentor and strive alongside him. Ten days after our initial encounter, on Aug. 24, I joined the Soka Gakkai.
• • •
Discussing the meaning of the term “lion’s roar” (Jpn. shishi ku), which appears in the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishonin states:
The first shi [which means “teacher”] of the word shishi, or “lion,” is the Wonderful Law that is passed on by the teacher. The second shi [which means “child”] is the Wonderful Law as it is received by the disciples. The “roar” (ku) [of the lion] is the sound of the teacher and the disciples chanting in unison. (see The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 111)
This passage from The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings is one I return to again and again.
My mentor brimmed with the ardent spirit of a Bodhisattva of the Earth to free all people from suffering. I told myself that if I, his disciple, chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and strove wholeheartedly, making his spirit my own, I would be able to summon forth the same wisdom and courage that he did.
With that conviction, I exerted myself tirelessly at the forefront of our movement for kosen-rufu, opening the way for dramatic expansion in the Soka Gakkai’s membership. There were fierce, seemingly impossible, struggles that at first gave members pause. But I put everything I had into these struggles, with the spirit of expending countless eons of effort in a single moment of life (see OTT, 214). I was convinced that, since these challenges were all part of fulfilling the vision of my great mentor in kosen-rufu, I could not fail to succeed—indeed, failure was not an option! And I went on to raise one banner of victory after another.
Over these many decades, my fellow members have valiantly fought and triumphed alongside me. Fearless in the face of any hardship and working unstintingly for our cause, they have demonstrated the underlying power of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. To them, I can only express my deepest gratitude.
• • •
Looking back through the ages, many of the great individuals who have changed human history have made the vows of their youth their lifelong commitment, and found in them the strength to overcome all hardship and adversity.
In his youth, the ancient Greek philosopher Plato was a student of Socrates. Plato was about 28 years old when Socrates was sentenced to death. As a true and faithful disciple, Plato devoted the rest of his life to vindicating his mentor and spreading his mentor’s teachings.
In his mid-20s, Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) initiated a struggle for human rights in South Africa, to where he had immigrated. Later returning to his homeland of India, Gandhi dedicated his life to helping his fellow citizens become self-reliant and win independence for their country through a great nonviolent struggle.
Incidentally, my first meeting with Mr. Toda took place the day before Indian independence was declared.
One of Gandhi’s direct disciples, B. N. Pande (1906–98), was a dear friend of mine. He became a disciple of Gandhi at age 14. Even in his 90s, he still burned with an unwavering fighting spirit, intent on proclaiming his mentor’s message as long as he lived.
Dr. N. Radhakrishnan is a prominent scholar of Gandhian studies, with whom I have published a dialogue. He never had the opportunity to personally meet Gandhi, his mentor, but he has actively lived out his life as a devoted disciple. The mentor-disciple relationship transcends time and space.
And I cannot forget Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai (1898–1976) and his wife, Deng Yingchao (1904–92). Fighting together in the May Fourth Movement, a protest movement for national independence, they committed their young lives to the Chinese revolution. They continued working for the happiness and welfare of the people to the end of their days, never ceasing in their struggle.
While in his 20s, South African President Nelson Mandela (1918–2013) joined the movement to end apartheid in his country. Though imprisoned by his oppressors for more than 27 years, he remained undefeated throughout. Standing tall as an indomitable champion, he declared: “The struggle is my life.”
How exhilarating is a life dedicated to fulfilling a vow, to staying true to one’s commitment! And how incredibly noble and honorable it is to devote one’s life to sharing and carrying on the struggle of one’s mentor, and show one’s gratitude as a disciple through one’s victories and achievements!
Aug. 24 is also Men’s Division Day. I am praying that all of my comrades in kosen-rufu, my fellow men’s division members who are living true to their vow, will be victorious and enjoy long, healthy and fulfilling lives.
• • •
Nichiren Daishonin likens a teacher, or mentor, to the earth (see “Flowering and Bearing Grain,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 909). Diverse plants emerge from the fertile earth, extend their stalks, branches, and leaves, and bloom luxuriously. In similar fashion, diverse “human flowers” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 142)—with the
mission of creating value in the form of culture, education and peace—bloom from the earth of the shared vow of mentor and disciple for kosen-rufu, unfolding as a glorious garden of humanism.
Because of our bond in sharing the mission and responsibility for kosen-rufu, Mr. Toda and I discussed every imaginable subject and tirelessly worked together to take steps for the future.
The origin of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, can be traced back to an idea that arose during a conversation we had when his businesses were in the most desperate situation. Coincidentally, that discussion took place on Aug. 24, 1950, the third anniversary of my joining the Soka Gakkai.
Later that same year, Mr. Toda spoke to me about his idea of establishing a Soka University, while he and I were eating lunch together in the Nihon University cafeteria in Tokyo’s Kanda area (on Nov. 16, 1950).
On Sept. 8, 1957, Mr. Toda issued his Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. Over the six decades since then, we have continued to proclaim and develop that message. The growing calls for the elimination of nuclear weapons around the world have finally borne fruit in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted by the United Nations this year (on July 7, 2017).
I am reminded of the grand vision for kosenrufu that my mentor shared with me. He said that the Soka Gakkai would in the future definitely come to take on the mission of a key bastion of peace and culture for the world. He also envisaged it becoming a great educational body for fostering capable individuals for that purpose, and he voiced his confidence that our movement for human revolution would change the destiny of all humankind.
Mr. Toda clearly set forth the Soka Gakkai’s great mission of realizing Nichiren’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land”—in other words, world peace.
“I will lay the groundwork,” he once said to us, the youth. “Your job is to strive your hardest to expand our movement.”
As his representative, united in shared purpose, I have traveled throughout Japan and around the world, sowing the seeds of the Mystic Law. I have chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and taken action with my whole heart and being, praying as if my chanting would permeate the land in every place I have visited, fervently calling on the Bodhisattvas of the Earth to make their appearance.
• • •
The expansion of our network of Bodhisattvas of the Earth is achieved by treating everyone we meet as a treasure of shining hope, wholeheartedly encouraging them, and painstakingly fostering the ties that we have forged, one after another.
The focus is always the person right in front of us. Once again this summer [during the school holiday period], many of our members, taking my spirit as their own, are encouraging our precious future division members one-to-one. I am endlessly grateful for their efforts—wonderful stories of devotion that will live on for all time.
Our movement will forever develop in tandem with vibrantly growing young people.
Recently (on Aug. 13, 2017), I visited the Soka Culture Center in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, where I viewed at length an exhibition celebrating 50 years of the Soka schools. I reflected on the fact that 50 of the 70 years I have spent to date working to fulfill my mission in the spheres of peace, culture and education have been together with the students of the Soka schools. I also looked to the future with great joy and hope, knowing that youthful successors will continue to emerge without end.
• • •
The renowned Chinese author Lu Xun (1881–1936) observed: “Actually, the earth had no paths to begin with. As many people travel the same way, a path is formed.”
The path of mentor and disciple that I set out on was at first an inconspicuous thread that no one took notice of, but today it has expanded to encompass Japan and reach around the world—a great path that members of the Soka Gakkai everywhere now proudly walk.
Nichiren writes, “ ‘Emerging’ [from the phrase ‘emerging from the earth’] indicates that at the time of kosen-rufu, living beings throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world] will be practitioners of the Lotus Sutra” (Gosho zenshu, p. 834).
This summer, youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth from India and Brazil traveled to Japan for training courses (in July and August, respectively), with a passionate vow in their hearts.
At the end of August, 280 young people from 55 countries and territories will take part in the annual SGI Youth Training Course.
I am delighted and reassured by the dynamic growth of my dear young disciples, who are boldly demonstrating that there is absolutely no stagnation or deadlock on the Soka path of mentor and disciple.
Let us continue to make even greater efforts in dialogue to expand our network of human revolution, striving with the spirit of true cause—of always moving forward from this moment on.
the seeds of Buddhahood
in people’s hearts,
creating gardens of peace
throughout the world.
Now is the perfect time
to boldly sound the bell
heralding the age of Soka,
with the courage
of Bodhisattvas of the Earth.