Encouragement

Leaving an Eternal Record of the Victory of Mentor and Disciple

Excerpts of SGI President Ikeda's Video From the 36th Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting

Future division members lead participants of the 36th Headquarters Leaders Meeting of the New Era of Worldwide Kosen-rufu in singing the song “This is My Name,” at the Soka Gakkai Kyushu Ikeda Auditorium in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, July 8. Photo by Seikyo Press.


The following excerpts are from SGI President Ikeda’s speech at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting, held in Tokyo on Dec. 13, 2008. These excerpts were featured in a video of the speech that was shown during the 36th Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting of the New Era of Worldwide Kosen-rufu, held in Kyushu, Japan, on July 8,2018. The excerpted text appeared in the July 19 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.

Photo: Seiko Press

In one of his novels, the widely beloved Russian author Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) wrote: “When mamma smiled, beautiful as her face was, it became incomparably lovelier and everything around seemed to grow brighter. If in the more painful moments of my life I could have had but a glimpse of that smile I should not have known what sorrow is.”[1] L. N. Tolstoy, Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, translated by Rosemary Edmonds (London: Penguin Books, 1964), p. 19. A mother’s smile brightens everything; it can help us buoyantly weather life’s pains and sorrows, he says.

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As a matter of fact, Tolstoy lost his mother at a young age. And Mikhail Sholokhov (1905–84), another towering Russian writer—one whom I personally had the good fortune to meet—lost his mother when she was killed in a wartime air raid. I can’t help but feel that the great works of literature of these two writers are deeply pervaded by a wish for the happiness of all mothers and a prayer for peace for all humankind.

We are joined here today by representatives of the Soka Gakkai’s future division. Thank you to the members of the high school division and junior high school division! I appreciate your attending today on one of your free Saturdays. Are you happy with your grades? [Laughter.]

Being young is itself the greatest of all treasures. When you’re short on train fare, you can simply jog the distance of one or two stations! [Laughter.] That’s the positive spirit you need.

Part of youth is having all kinds of problems. That’s why I want those who are older and more experienced to look out for those who are younger than them. Ask whether something’s bothering them or whether they’re having problems. Lend an ear to their troubles, and support them wholeheartedly.

I hope that above all you will treasure your parents and take good care of your juniors. This is the starting point of a humanistic way of life. And I ask the boys to be courteous to the girls.

Please especially cherish your mothers. That is the very foundation of humanity.

Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, regarded as one of the world’s greatest authors, at age 20. Photo by COMMONS.WIKIMEDIA.ORG.

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How many of you here have read Tolstoy’s masterpiece, War and Peace? Don’t worry, I’m not going to quiz you on it! [Laughter.] The novel is set about 200 years ago, when Napoleon’s army was invading Russia. It describes, in part, the problems and hardships that young people faced in those incredibly turbulent times. And the victory of these youth over these tribulations is one of the novel’s themes.

In a diary entry, Tolstoy wrote, “This ordeal is necessary for me, it’s beneficial for me.” He cherished the conviction that “one who knows how to endure hardship will never be unhappy.” I also believe this to be so. It has been true of my own life, and my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, said the same thing.

In your youth, courageously take on difficulties. Rise to the challenge of life’s trials and tribulations. You can’t develop genuine character and ability by sidestepping adversity and struggle. Work hard. Make efforts for kosen-rufu. Sometimes others may taunt you or try to deter you, but just keep pressing forward and win. All of this is training in life, and all of it becomes your treasure.

Nichiren Buddhism teaches that powerful opponents can actually be our greatest allies, because they force us to develop fortitude and strength of character. They are actually what Buddhism calls “good friends”—positive influences that help us on the road to attaining Buddhahood.

During his life, Tolstoy refused to be defeated by such obstacles as oppression by the political authorities, excommunication by the religious authorities, and malicious slander and abuse from certain quarters of society. Refusing to be defeated—this is victory, eternal victory.

Never be defeated. I never was, no matter what challenges I faced. For as a disciple personally trained by that great lion king, Josei Toda, I refuse to be defeated.

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Tolstoy sought to communicate to young people that they have an important mission “to dedicate themselves with all their might to spreading the truth that they have acquired to all the world.”[2]Translated from Russian. Leo Tolstoy, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (Complete Works), (Moscow: Terra, 1992), vol. 85, p. 137. This also perfectly describes the Soka Gakkai spirit and a life committed to the realization of worldwide kosen-rufu. Those who aspire for lofty ideals are filled with a vibrant sense of purpose. Tolstoy here offers a formula for making ideals a reality.

My friends in the youth division, now is the time to speak out with even greater conviction, energy and vigor for our hope-filled philosophy of the dignity of life and human revolution.

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In War and Peace, Tolstoy writes: “Valor [is] the pledge of victory,”[3]Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, translated by Rosemary Edmonds (London: Penguin Books, 1978), p. 362. and “A battle is won by the side that has firmly resolved to win.”[4]Ibid., p. 919. These words set forth principles that are equally crucial in the undertaking to effect positive change in society.

The Soka Gakkai has also won in its struggle of words for the sake of peace by forging ahead with unswerving courage and resolve.

Like the lion king, like the mighty eagle, my young friends, win victory after victory with courage and perseverance!

Buddhism teaches the spirit of not begrudging one’s life, and exerting oneself bravely and vigorously. If we fight courageously and selflessly, we are certain to triumph.

In Sholokhov’s writings, we can also find a philosophy for winning. He wrote: “Victory is at the mountain’s summit . . . The important thing is scaling the summit, reaching the summit no matter what!”[5]Translated from Japanese. Mikhail Sholokhov, Sokoku no tame ni (They Fought for Their Country), translated by Shomu Nobori (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1968), pp. 43–44. Let’s advance with this indomitable spirit.

Like the lion king, like the mighty eagle, my young friends, win victory after victory with courage and perseverance!

Both Tolstoy and Sholokhov decried the arrogance and ingratitude of unscrupulous people, and spoke out against lies and rabble-rousing. They had great faith in young people who were sincere and dedicated to truth. My mentor, Mr. Toda, also placed his trust in the youth above all.

Members of the youth division, I’m counting on you!

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Nikolai Gusev (1882–1967), a young man who assisted Tolstoy as his secretary, courageously promoted the latter’s teachings. As a result, he was unjustly persecuted and was exiled for two years. But he had no regrets at having struggled alongside this great teacher in his youth. Those who can say to themselves with complete conviction that they have no regrets are truly happy.

[Gusev worked for Tolstoy for two years from 1907 to 1909. He was exiled in 1909 for a period of two years. Tolstoy passed away in 1910. After his return from exile, Gusev devoted his life to studying the writings and teachings of Tolstoy and compiling and publishing Tolstoy’s works, together with others.]

In a letter from his place of exile, Gusev wrote to the 81-year-old Tolstoy: “Even if troubles a thousand times as severe were to rain down upon me, I would still thank the heavens that I was able to spend two whole years at your side . . . Being with you was always my greatest happiness.”[6]Translated from Russian. N. N. Gusev, Novye materialy o L. N. Tolstom: iz archiva N. N. Guseva (New Materials on Leo Tolstoy: From the N. N. Gusev Archive), edited by A. A. Donskov (Ontario and Moscow: Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa and State L. N. Tolstoy Museum, 2002), p. 80.

Nothing brings more happiness than dedicating our lives to the path of the oneness of mentor and disciple. This makes for a life of genuine value. Please keep that firmly in mind. This was true of founding Soka Gakkai presidents Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, as well. And Mr. Toda and I were also joined by the deepest
of ties, and the years we spent together were a magnificent drama. I have continued to wage a tireless struggle for kosen-rufu in the same spirit as my mentor. I have not a single regret.

Now, it’s time for you and me to leave a proud, eternal record of the noble victory of mentor and disciple! Starting today!

(pp. 2-3)

Notes   [ + ]

1. L. N. Tolstoy, Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, translated by Rosemary Edmonds (London: Penguin Books, 1964), p. 19.
2. Translated from Russian. Leo Tolstoy, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (Complete Works), (Moscow: Terra, 1992), vol. 85, p. 137.
3. Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, translated by Rosemary Edmonds (London: Penguin Books, 1978), p. 362.
4. Ibid., p. 919.
5. Translated from Japanese. Mikhail Sholokhov, Sokoku no tame ni (They Fought for Their Country), translated by Shomu Nobori (Tokyo: Kadokawa Shoten, 1968), pp. 43–44.
6. Translated from Russian. N. N. Gusev, Novye materialy o L. N. Tolstom: iz archiva N. N. Guseva (New Materials on Leo Tolstoy: From the N. N. Gusev Archive), edited by A. A. Donskov (Ontario and Moscow: Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa and State L. N. Tolstoy Museum, 2002), p. 80.

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