Feature

Every Day Is a New Day of Founding for the Soka Gakkai

Feature

Upper Tampa Bay district. Photo by Warren C. Leimbach.


This essay from SGI President Ikeda’s “The Light of the Century of Humanity” series originally appeared in the November 14, 2009, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.

Our day of founding—
filled with the resounding cheers
of mentor and disciple.

“A youth is someone who keeps progressing day after day”—this was the conviction of first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi.

The date of the Soka Gakkai’s founding—November 18, 1930—is taken from the publication date of the first volume of Mr. Makiguchi’s Soka kyoikugaku taikei (The System of Value-Creating Education), the culmination of his life’s work on education.

We, disciples of later generations, must always remember that the Soka Gakkai’s beginnings can be traced to this pioneering publication articulating a new, hope-filled vision of humanistic education not only for children and youth but also for people from all walks of life.

Every day marks a fresh start, a time for fresh progress and fresh efforts to communicate our message, meet with others and foster capable people. Every day is a new day of founding for the Soka Gakkai. This is the Soka spirit of mentor and disciple in which we exert ourselves bravely and vigorously in accord with Nichiren Daishonin’s teaching of “strengthening our faith day by day and month after month” (see “On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 997).

• • •

Having dedicated myself fully
to supporting
an unsurpassed mentor,
I solidly built
the citadel of Soka.

The Lotus Sutra is a teaching of the oneness of mentor and disciple. It describes how disciples’ hearts dance for joy when they awaken to the supremely noble Buddha nature inherent in their lives, having had the good fortune to hear the preaching of their teacher, Shakyamuni. And in their deep gratitude, they firmly pledge to triumph over the most powerful opponents in order to carry out the widespread propagation of the Law.

A passage in “Parable of the Phantom City,” the seventh chapter of the Lotus Sutra, states, “Those persons who had heard the Law dwelled here and there in various Buddha lands, constantly reborn in company with their teachers” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 178).

The birth of the Soka Gakkai also arose from this profound bond linking mentor and disciple in the realm of Buddhism.

• • •

Mr. Makiguchi was a great scholar who, at the age of 32, published a groundbreaking work, titled Jinsei chirigaku (Geography of Human Life; 1903). Impressed by the book, some of the students from China whom he was teaching at the time immediately tackled the task of translating it into Chinese.

After publishing a subsequent work, Chiri kyoju no hoho oyobi haiyo no kenkyu (Methods and Content for Geography Teachers), in 1916, Mr. Makiguchi did not publish anything for more than a decade. During this period, he held the post of principal at various elementary schools—Tosei, Taisho, Nishimachi, Mikasa and Shirokane—and his pressing duties on the front lines of education took time away from his writing. However, he jotted down his gems of ideas at every spare moment. He accumulated such a large collection of notes that it could have easily filled several volumes.

One cold winter night, Mr. Makiguchi sat talking with his disciple, Josei Toda, around a charcoal brazier at the latter’s home. Concerned about the chaotic state of education in Japan, Mr. Makiguchi expressed his desire to publish his ideas on the subject based on his hands-on experience as an elementary school principal. But he hesitated to go forward because he didn’t have the funds to do so. The youthful Mr. Toda responded decisively: “Let’s do it, Mr. Makiguchi! I’ll come up with the money, so let’s publish your book!”

SGI President Ikeda and his wife, Kaneko, view a statue of founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi displayed at the Tokyo Makiguchi Memorial Hall. Photo by Seikyo Press.

He was in complete earnest, willing to do whatever was necessary to realize his mentor’s dream.

He asked his mentor, “What’s the aim of your theory of education?”

“It is to create value,” Mr. Makiguchi replied.

“Then, let’s call it ‘value-creating education’
(Jpn Soka kyoiku).”

This is where the name of our organization, the Soka Gakkai, derives. It was the crystallization of the oneness of mentor and disciple.

Mr. Toda repeated this story to me numerous times, saying with a smile, “You and I also have such a relationship.”

Upper Tampa Bay district. Photo by Warren C. Leimbach.

• • •

Our history shines brilliantly
because of the shared commitment
of mentor and disciple.

Once the decision to go ahead with the publication of The System of Value-Creating Education had been made, Mr. Makiguchi asked another of his disciples to undertake the task of organizing and compiling his notes into a manuscript, not wanting to impose on Mr. Toda, who was extremely busy with his various enterprises. However, despite working on the project for several months, this editor had failed to organize Mr. Makiguchi’s theory in a systematic way or present his ideas in a coherent manner. The result was little more than a collection of anecdotal notes about education that did not convey the true scope of Mr. Makiguchi’s great philosophy.

Seeing his mentor at his wits’ end, Mr. Toda volunteered to take full responsibility for the task. He gathered all of Mr. Makiguchi’s notes, which had been written on the back of flyers and other scraps of paper, and laid them out on the floor, sorting and organizing them as he went, getting rid of redundancies. He then created a cohesive draft, which Mr. Makiguchi thoroughly reviewed and revised.

To fund the publication of his mentor’s work, Mr. Toda used the profits from his own best-selling book, Suirishiki shido sanjutsu (A Deductive Guide to Arithmetic). He also personally undertook all the editing work. In addition, he had the book’s title and Mr. Makiguchi’s name printed on the book’s cover in gold lettering.
In the foreword to the work, Mr. Makiguchi expressed his great appreciation for Mr. Toda:

Jogai Toda,[1]Jogai was Mr. Toda’s name before he embarked on rebuilding the Soka Gakkai in July 1945, at which time he adopted the name Josei. through our long association, has been one of the earliest and staunchest supporters [of my educational theory]. As such, he has experimented with my ideas at his private academy Jishu Gakkan and gained positive results, thereby convincing him of their value. Sympathizing with my plight, he decided to invest his own funds in the publication and promotion of this work. And furthermore, in a reversal of positions, I find I am now being dragged forward by him.

He goes so far as to say their positions are reversed. Those words hint at the incredible efforts Mr. Toda must have made to support Mr. Makiguchi, as well as the deep sense of reassurance Mr. Makiguchi felt to have such a dedicated disciple. Mr. Toda didn’t take action because his mentor ordered him to, but of his own volition, having vowed to accomplish his mentor’s vision.

We must be self-motivated. The path of a disciple is decided by disciples themselves.
When Mr. Toda’s businesses failed and his other disciples deserted him with utter ingratitude for all he had done for them, I alone stood by him, proud to call him my mentor. I knew that Mr. Toda was the votary of the Lotus Sutra of modern times and the world’s foremost mentor, whose mission it was to carry out kosen-rufu in the defiled age of the Latter Day. And I, as his disciple, was determined to achieve his lofty aims.

• • •

The noted Brazilian astronomer Dr. Ronaldo Mourão, with whom I have published a dialogue, has voiced the view that an individual’s innate potential can blossom in a much more vigorous form through the mentor-disciple relationship, and he said that he considered this to be the most correct “orbit” for human beings to travel.[2]Translated from Japanese. Daisaku Ikeda and Ronaldo Mourão, Temmongaku to buppo o kataru (Dialogue on Astronomy and Buddhism) (Tokyo: Dai-sanbunmei-sha, 2009), p. 274.

Those who can resolutely declare with pride throughout their lives that they have a mentor are sure to experience boundless growth.

The oneness of mentor and disciple ultimately hinges on the disciple’s resolve and vow.

The Soka Gakkai was not built by its mentors and then inherited by the disciples. From the beginning, it was the crystallization of the shared commitment of mentor and disciple.

When we dedicate ourselves to this way of mentor and disciple, the boundless strength of a noble and heroic victor will surge forth in our lives. We will be able to lead the most joyous and fulfilling youth, the most satisfying lives.

• • •

The summit of mentor and disciple
stands triumphantly above
the raging onslaughts of the three powerful enemies.

At the 5th General Meeting of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (literally Value-Creating Education Society, forerunner of the Soka Gakkai) held in November 1942, two years before he died in prison, Mr. Makiguchi declared:

There is no such thing as a self-centered Buddha who simply accumulates personal benefit and does not work for the well-being of others. Unless we carry out bodhisattva practice, we cannot attain Buddhahood . . . People leading lives of minor good who practice faith only for their own benefit will certainly not encounter obstacles, but those leading lives of major good dedicated to altruistic bodhisattva practice will most definitely be assailed by devilish functions. Being attacked by devilish functions is what identifies a votary of the Lotus Sutra.[3]Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi) (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1987), vol. 10, pp. 151–52.

Buddhism is an eternal struggle between the Buddha and negative forces. Mr. Makiguchi courageously took action in an attempt to fulfill Shakyamuni’s and Nichiren Daishonin’s aspiration for kosen-rufu in the impure and evil age of the Latter Day. He called forth the three obstacles and four devils and the three powerful enemies just as the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Daishonin’s writings predict. Through his example, he showed us the importance of fearlessly fighting with the heart of a lion king to protect the correct teaching to the very end. And he heroically died for his beliefs at the Tokyo Detention House in Sugamo in 1944—by the strangest coincidence on November 18, the anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding.

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi at his home in the winter of 1942. Photo by Seikyo Press.

November 18 is the prime point for all disciples of Soka to blaze with the spirit of not begrudging one’s life and selfless devotion to propagating the Law.

You, my noble friends,
and I—we together
are indomitable champions.

In spite of the incredibly harsh conditions he faced during his incarceration, Mr. Makiguchi wrote to his family in a letter that he had no worries or anxieties—there was nothing he lacked. In fact, his serene and calm life condition is apparent in all of his letters from prison. This serenity was due to his unwavering conviction that he was practicing the Lotus Sutra and the Daishonin’s teachings with his very life. It was also inspired by the knowledge that his disciple, Josei Toda, had been willing to accompany him to prison in this struggle for the sake of Buddhism. Mr. Makiguchi had firm faith that even if he died in prison, his disciple would carry on his work and definitely realize kosen-rufu. And Mr. Toda, in turn, was fully aware of his mentor’s feelings.

• • •

There is a passage underlined in red in Mr. Toda’s copy of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings that was confiscated by the authorities when they arrested him. It is from “The Four Debts of Gratitude,” which the Daishonin wrote while in exile (on Izu). It states: “Having been exiled on the Lotus Sutra’s account, I now read and practice it continuously, whether I am walking, standing, sitting, or lying down. For anyone born human, what greater joy could there be?” (WND-1, 43).

Mr. Toda had the deepest appreciation for his mentor for allowing him to accompany him to prison, and he pledged to repay his debt of gratitude to him. While in prison, Mr. Toda chanted fervently that his elderly mentor would be released as quickly as possible, and that he himself, who was much younger, would be able to bear the brunt of the persecution and suffering in Mr. Makiguchi’s stead.

But on January 8, 1945, Mr. Toda learned of his mentor’s death the previous year. While he wept angry, bitter tears, he vowed: “Japan killed this noble man of justice. I will absolutely vindicate him.” From that point on, Mr. Toda’s letters to family members and acquaintances contained even more detailed instructions about rebuilding his business enterprises. He strengthened his resolve to live purposefully as a living extension of Mr. Makiguchi, and quietly, unknown to others, launched a fresh struggle for kosen-rufu from his prison cell.

As Alexandre Dumas (1802–70), author of The Count of Monte Cristo, wrote, “In the most trying circumstances brave men never lose their courage.”[4]Alexandre Dumas, Twenty Years After, edited by David Coward (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 527.

• • •

Again today,
be courageous champions
of kosen-rufu,
fearlessly shielding the mentor
from storms and pounding waves.

On November 17, 1953, at the ceremony for the 10th memorial (9th anniversary) of Mr. Makiguchi’s death, Mr. Toda declared: “As Mr. Makiguchi’s disciple, I will see to it that the great philosophy my mentor left behind will be recognized by the world.” The Soka Gakkai Headquarters had just moved from Tokyo’s Nishi-Kanda to Shinanomachi a short time before (on November 13), and this was his first speech at an official gathering since then.

Later, Mr. Toda published, as a separate book, a revised and supplemented edition of the Kachi ron (Theory of Value), which had originally been included in the second volume of the four-volume The System of Value-Creating Education. In this way, he took one concrete step after another to spread the teaching and ideals of his mentor.

It’s not abstract discussions, lip service or grand pronouncements but, rather, what we have actually done to advance kosen-rufu that counts.

Mr. Toda once said to the youth: “Without retreating a single step, introduce many people to Nichiren Buddhism and vindicate Mr. Makiguchi.”

Having completed the publication of the Theory of Value, Mr. Toda entrusted us with the task of gaining recognition for this work and the ideas contained therein throughout the world. He said: “Even if we don’t succeed in this undertaking during my lifetime, please do it during yours. I’m counting on you.”

• • •

In this lifetime,
write a history of noble victory
and adorn your life
with the shared commitment
of mentor and disciple.

As the third president of the Soka Gakkai, I have actualized the cherished plans and visions of my mentor, the second president. This is because my victory as third president is key to ensuring that the greatness of our first and second presidents is properly communicated to the world and to future generations.

A famous passage from the Chinese classic The Records of the Three Kingdoms, one of Mr. Toda’s favorite books, declares: “Vital above all is that successors correctly inherit the path their forerunners have laid down, greatly develop it and accomplish even more magnificent achievements.”[5]Translated from Japanese. Chen Shou, Seishi sangokushi (Records of the Three Kingdoms), translated by Ichiro Kominami (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobo, 1993), vol. 6, p. 349.

“Vital above all is that successors correctly inherit the path their forerunners have laid down, greatly develop it and accomplish even more magnificent achievements.”

I have spread the Soka philosophy of education and peace, together with the names of our first two presidents, Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda, across the globe. I have opened a path of humanistic education that is today praised in Japan and around the world, and established numerous Soka educational institutions. In addition, I have built a great alliance of peace and humanism, with the powerful sound of the Mystic Law now resounding in 192 countries and territories.

Jaboticabal City Council in São Paulo State, Brazil, made a proclamation commending the SGI (in 1998) that I will never forget. It paid tribute to Mr. Makiguchi who died in prison upholding his pacifist beliefs and also to Mr. Toda and me for our efforts dedicated to realizing a peaceful world through our activities promoting education and culture based on the tenets of Buddhism. The citation lauded the examples of the Soka Gakkai’s first three presidents as teaching that there are people who have the courage to stand up for their beliefs and ideals.

As a disciple, I am deeply humbled and grateful to receive such recognition. It is solely due to the tireless efforts of our members who, taking my spirit as their own, are making ongoing contributions in their communities and societies, and winning widespread trust from those around them. I cannot express my appreciation enough to them.

Currently, the Min-On Concert Association is sponsoring a Japan tour of performances of the Chinese classic The Water Margin, or Outlaws of the Marsh, by the China National Peking Opera Company. A passage from this epic novel, which I studied with my mentor, says, “Feeling deeply indebted, I especially came here to thank you, even if it cost me my life.”[6]Translated from Japanese. Suikoden (The Water Margin), translated by Kojiro Yoshikawa and Shigeru Shimizu (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1998), vol. 2, p. 269.
Having given my entire being to repaying my debt of gratitude to my mentor, I have not a single regret.

• • •

My friends,
may all your descendants
enjoy abundant good fortune.
I rejoice at your vow of oneness
echoing the spirit of “Dainanko.”[7]“Dainanko” (The Great Hero Kusunoki): Popular name of a song originally titled “The Green Leaves of Sakurai” (Aoba shigereru sakurai no). It describes the poignant leave-taking between the brilliant 14th-century military tactician Kusunoki Masashige (d. 1336) and his son, Masatsura. As the father departs for battle, his young son declares that he will accompany him, ready to die at his side. But his father asks his son to stay behind and live to carry on his aspirations. This song was sung in the early days of the Soka Gakkai as an expression of the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple.

When I suggested someone sing a song at the headquarters leaders meeting (in October 2009), a youth leader from India, the birthplace of Buddhism, enthusiastically volunteered. He had been one of the behind-the-scenes support staff who welcomed me during my visit to India 12 years before (in October 1997). At the meeting, he performed a rousing rendition of the song “Dainanko” (The Great Hero Kusunoki) in Japanese, which he had earnestly practiced.

I was deeply moved. I sang this same song over and over again for Mr. Toda in my own youth. The spirit of this song has been inherited directly by our youth division leaders around the globe. How happy Mr. Toda and Mr. Makiguchi would be!

This month, November (2009), SGI leaders from 60 countries and territories have traveled to Japan for a training course. Nichiren Daishonin writes, “It is certain that widespread propagation of the Law [kosen-rufu] will eventually be achieved throughout Jambudvipa [the entire world]” (Gosho zenshu, p. 816).[8]Oko kikigaki (The Recorded Lectures); not included in WND, vols. 1 and 2. We, the members of the SGI, have joyfully made these words a reality.

• • •

Celebrating the
founding day
with countless noble members
with whom I have shared
joys and sorrows.

Alive with the fighting spirit of this month in which we celebrate the Soka Gakkai’s founding, our great discussion meeting movement, brimming with joy, resolve and harmony, is energetically under way throughout Japan.

Behold our great Soka network of peace and humanism!

Listen to people of all backgrounds speaking out for our noble cause!

The triumphant and resplendent summit of our 80th anniversary is now apparent for all to see. It is the towering mountain of the victory of mentor and disciple, the victory of the human being.

The great Chinese poet Bai Juyi (also Po Chü-I; 772–846), whom Nichiren Daishonin held in high esteem, wrote: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and a tall mountain rises from a single speck of dust. It is the same with our own path. It is important to strive in this way and renew our efforts each day.”[9]Translated from Japanese. Shigeru Okamura, Haku rakuten bunshu (Collected Works of Bai Juyi) (Tokyo: Meiji Shoin, 2004), vol. 5, p. 3.

Unless we take a fresh step forward, we can never reach our goal. Let’s set out in high spirits, looking ahead to tomorrow. With youth in the vanguard, let’s aim for a shining new age of Soka resounding with the victory cheers of the people!

Together
riding invincible steeds,
let’s open the way
toward victory
without fail.

(pp. 24-31)

Notes   [ + ]

1. Jogai was Mr. Toda’s name before he embarked on rebuilding the Soka Gakkai in July 1945, at which time he adopted the name Josei.
2. Translated from Japanese. Daisaku Ikeda and Ronaldo Mourão, Temmongaku to buppo o kataru (Dialogue on Astronomy and Buddhism) (Tokyo: Dai-sanbunmei-sha, 2009), p. 274.
3. Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi) (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1987), vol. 10, pp. 151–52.
4. Alexandre Dumas, Twenty Years After, edited by David Coward (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 527.
5. Translated from Japanese. Chen Shou, Seishi sangokushi (Records of the Three Kingdoms), translated by Ichiro Kominami (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobo, 1993), vol. 6, p. 349.
6. Translated from Japanese. Suikoden (The Water Margin), translated by Kojiro Yoshikawa and Shigeru Shimizu (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1998), vol. 2, p. 269.
7. “Dainanko” (The Great Hero Kusunoki): Popular name of a song originally titled “The Green Leaves of Sakurai” (Aoba shigereru sakurai no). It describes the poignant leave-taking between the brilliant 14th-century military tactician Kusunoki Masashige (d. 1336) and his son, Masatsura. As the father departs for battle, his young son declares that he will accompany him, ready to die at his side. But his father asks his son to stay behind and live to carry on his aspirations. This song was sung in the early days of the Soka Gakkai as an expression of the spirit of the oneness of mentor and disciple.
8. Oko kikigaki (The Recorded Lectures); not included in WND, vols. 1 and 2.
9. Translated from Japanese. Shigeru Okamura, Haku rakuten bunshu (Collected Works of Bai Juyi) (Tokyo: Meiji Shoin, 2004), vol. 5, p. 3.