The Sun of Jiyu Over a New Land
During his 24th visit to the United States, SGI President Ikeda penned the iconic poem “The Sun of Jiyu Over a New Land."
During his 24th visit to the United States, SGI President Ikeda penned the iconic poem “The Sun of Jiyu Over a New Land,” which was presented on January 27, 1993, to the members at the Second SGI-USA General Meeting in Santa Monica, California. Although wwritten about the city of Los Angeles, President Ikeda said at the time that the poem was intended for all members: “I would like to present this poem with my infinite hopes and expectations for the members of Los Angeles and the United States” (My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 202).
A PERIOD OF GREAT CHANGE
In the spring of 1992, the world’s eyes were on Los Angeles, as the verdict in the Rodney King trial sparked massive social unrest and a national debate about police brutality, racial discrimination and economic inequality.
The SGI-USA was also undergoing a period of great change. Three years earlier, in February 1990, President Ikeda canceled his trip to South America to extend his visit to the United States at a critical juncture for the American organization. During his 17 days in Los Angeles, he attended general meetings and training sessions in which he especially focused on fostering youthful successors.
In his guidance, he left behind a roadmap for kosen-rufu in the United States (see My Dear Friends in America, pp. 1–106), conveying in deep detail the essence of Buddhist humanism, the role religion must play in serving people in the 21st century, the spirit of leadership within the SGI and the dynamic inner transformation that occurs when people base their lives on the oneness of mentor and disciple.
These themes became that much more significant when, on November 28, 1991, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood excommunicated the SGI’s 10 million lay members in a perverse attempt to wrest control of the membership.
The priesthood had strongly advocated a doctrine of absolute superiority and authority of priests over laity—one that contradicts the spirit of equality that pervades Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings. The vast majority of members throughout the world recognized the corruption, inhumanity and doctrinal distortion behind the priesthood’s actions and chose to continue practicing within the SGI under the leadership of President Ikeda.
It was in this milieu that, on January 27, 1993, the Second SGI-USA General Meeting was broadcast to some 60 locations around the U.S., and President Ikeda introduced his poem“The Sun of Jiyu Over a New Land.”
When I took complete responsibility for my
own happiness, I awakened more fully to the life
state of jiyu, Bodhisattva of the Earth, within.
Ian McIlraith, then the SGI-USA young men’s leader, recalled being shocked when he heard the poem for the first time, saying, “I felt that President Ikeda somehow understood what was going on and how we were struggling.”
In the poem, President Ikeda expresses how his heart was “rent with pain” even a year later, when recalling the images of civil unrest in Los Angeles that had raced around the world:
of the evening sky shrouded in black smoke,
of buildings collapsing in flames,
once peaceful streets shattered by riot,
the entire city gripped
by a battlefield tension.
People standing lost in confusion,
a woman holding an infant cried out:
—What has become of the ideals of this country?
What are we supposed to teach our children?—
Her woe-filled words tore
like talons at my heart. (MDFA, 206)
President Ikeda then urges us to “Awaken to the life of Jiyu within”!
Jiyu is a Japanese term that means to emerge from the earth. But in this poem, President Ikeda often uses jiyu to describe the dynamic life condition of Bodhisattvas of the Earth who vow to propagate the Mystic Law in the current age, marked as it is by conflict and disrespect for the dignity of life.
He then states that the solution to the increasing division in society is to “break through the hard shell of the lesser self,” reminding us to return to humanity’s essence, transcending all superficial differences and helping others awaken to the life state of jiyu within.
If one reaches back to these
all become friends and comrades.
To realize this is to “emerge from the earth.”
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF
THE SUN OF “JIYU”
January 27 marks 25 years since this poem was presented to the members of the SGI-USA. President Ikeda’s message is perhaps even more relevant now. In a society where the division between people and nations grows deeper still, in the poem he calls on us to usher in the Second American Renaissance, in which we advance from “divisiveness to union,” “conflict to coexistence” and “hatred to fraternity.” He continues, “In our struggle, in our fight, there cannot be even a moment’s pause or stagnation.” This timeless poem expresses his wish and expectation that America, as a multicultural nation, lead the way for all humanity.
Andrea Locke, who lived with her husband and four young children just blocks from the looting and fires, said she chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo fiercely to the Gohonzon for peace and protection. She made a pact with her husband then to focus on education and their Buddhist practice to ensure a peaceful future for her children.
Ms. Locke recalled having tears in her eyes when President Ikeda presented the poem to the members. It became her personal message from him and the blueprint for her life. Over the years, studying this poem has allowed her to return to her mission as a Bodhisattva of the Earth and continue challenging her own human revolution to create the type of society that President Ikeda envisioned in the poem.
“I now treasure my past turmoil, because it taught me to never separate myself from my environment,” she said. “When I took complete responsibility for my own happiness, I awakened more fully to the life state of jiyu, Bodhisattva of the Earth, within.”
As we charge ahead toward our historic 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival, we are entering a new phase of American kosen-rufu with our mentor, President Ikeda. The message, though, remains the same: Awaken to the life state of jiyu within and usher in a new age of hope and respect for all humanity.