Thoughts on Studying The New Human Revolution
Sharing the Spirit of Shin’ichi Yamamoto
The final installment of SGI President Ikeda’s serialized novel The New Human Revolution was published on September 8, 2018, in the Seikyo Shimbun. On October 3, the newspaper carried the following article by SGI Vice President Hiromasa Ikeda, in which he shares his views on how to approach studying the series.
SGI President Ikeda was 65 years old when he began writing The New Human Revolution. While this is typically the age when many people retire, for President Ikeda, it was when he announced his resolve to embark on the great new undertaking of writing a novel composed of 30 volumes.
In the introduction to The New Human Revolution, he writes, “It will certainly be a supreme challenge to finish writing it within my lifetime.”The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, revised edition, p. xi. Reading these words, I can’t help but feel that he gave everything he had to the messages he sought to convey to his readers and successors who eagerly awaited each installment.
President Ikeda began writing The New Human Revolution 25 years ago, on August 6, 1993, with the novel’s serialization in the Seikyo Shimbun concluding on September 8 of this year . He began writing its precursor, The Human Revolution, on December 2, 1964.
In the “Bastion of the Pen” chapter in volume 10 of The New Human Revolution, President Ikeda writes, “He [Shin’ichi YamamotoShin’ichi Yamamoto is the protagonist of The New Human Revolution and a pseudonym for Daisaku Ikeda. would read reference materials for the novel while traveling from place to place and sketch out the unfolding plot, which he would then set down on paper early in the morning or late at night.”The New Human Revolution, vol. 10, p. 52.
Over the course of 54 years, President Ikeda engaged in the struggle of writing The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution, using every spare moment he could amid his demanding schedule and even during his overseas travels. I am filled with deep gratitude and emotion when I think of his decades-long efforts.
The Significance of the Word “New” in the Title
President Ikeda began writing The New Human Revolution at the Nagano Training Center in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. On one occasion, while visiting the center, I saw an exhibit displaying a page he had written to commemorate the start of this fresh effort. It reads in part: “It will comprise a total of 30 volumes.”
In Karuizawa, eight months before his death, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda spoke of his own novel The Human Revolution to President Ikeda, saying, “Though I had no problem writing about [first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo] Makiguchi, I was too embarrassed to write fully about my own life.” It was then that President Ikeda resolved to write a continuation of President Toda’s novel in order to leave a record of his mentor’s true greatness.
President Ikeda’s novel The Human Revolution begins with President Toda’s release from prison and ends with Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s inauguration as Soka Gakkai president after President Toda’s passing.
The New Human Revolution, meanwhile, starts with Shin’ichi’s first overseas trip five months after his inauguration. I believe this was done to set forth the novel’s main theme as worldwide kosen-rufu, as opposed to merely provide a historical account of events. The novel tells of the actions Shin’ichi Yamamoto took as a disciple to realize his mentor’s grand vision of kosen-rufu, as well as how he spread and developed the philosophy and practice of human revolution in a new era. I think that is the significance of the word “new” in the novel’s title.
A philosophy of limitless trust and respect for human beings—the idea that “a great human revolution in a single individual” can awaken countless others to their true identity as Bodhisattvas of the Earth—is the underlying message of both The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution.
The New Human Revolution is filled with stories of people achieving their human revolution through changing their karma. At the heart of these transformations are the act of making a vow and the Buddhist principle of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma.”Voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma: This refers to bodhisattvas who, though qualified to receive the pure rewards of Buddhist practice, relinquish them and make a vow to be reborn in an impure world in order to save living beings.
President Ikeda once said:
The principle of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma” is the logical conclusion of the Buddhist concept of transforming one’s karma. Simply put, it represents a way of life in which we change karma into mission. Everything that happens in our lives has meaning. Moreover, the Buddhist way of life is to find and discover meaning in all things.The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, p. 65.
The New Human Revolution depicts the resilient attitude toward the lives of Soka Gakkai members, who view the personal struggles and hardships they experience as part of fulfilling their vow as Bodhisattvas of the Earth to enable all people to become happy.
Identifying With Shin’ichi Yamamoto
In the introduction to The New Human Revolution, President Ikeda writes:
Even if there was someone I could ask to document my travels and encounters, that person would be unable to record what was in my heart and mind at the time. There is also a genuine aspect of the Soka Gakkai’s history of which only I am aware.The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, revised edition, p. xiv.
I think a novel is the best way to depict the workings of a person’s heart. Because this work is written as a novel, its readers can identify with the protagonist. It goes without saying that “Shin’ichi Yamamoto” is a pseudonym. While he, of course, represents President Ikeda, he also epitomizes what it means to be a disciple.
In other words, through reading The New Human Revolution, we can share in Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s life and innermost thoughts. We can unite with our mentor’s heart as we continue to walk the path of shared struggle. Each of us has the potential to be a Shin’ichi Yamamoto.
“I am Shin’ichi Yamamoto!”—this is the motto of the members of Bharat Soka Gakkai in India, whose organization has grown remarkably in recent years. Through reading The New Human Revolution and learning of the thoughts and actions of Shin’ichi Yamamoto as he opened the way for kosen-rufu in India, they are standing up with the determination that now is the time to strive with the same spirit as he did.
The New Human Revolution has taken on even greater significance since 2010, when President Ikeda stepped back from attending meetings in person. Through the novel, he has continued to convey inspiring messages to his readers by writing a true history of the Soka Gakkai spirit and about his own thoughts and feelings.
As time goes by, the number of people who have firsthand knowledge of the events depicted in the novel will become smaller and smaller. Their testimonies are invaluable, but it is even more important that, through The New Human Revolution, the history of kosen-rufu and the Soka Gakkai spirit are transmitted, together with President Ikeda’s heart, eternally from generation to generation.
Or to put it another way, The New Human Revolution is a form of “documentary proof” that will serve as a point of reference for successive generations of Soka Gakkai members. That is why we must thoroughly study it now. I am certain that doing so will contribute to the eternal development of our organization.
Taking Historical Context into Consideration
Reading all 30 volumes of The New Human Revolution from beginning to end is a difficult task. Although it’s vital to ultimately read them all, you can start from any volume or episode you like. Pick a scene that you can relate to, or a part that features the place you currently live or where you are from, and study it deeply.
When President Ikeda writes about his overseas travels, he introduces things that only he is aware of, such as the initial steps he took for kosen-rufu in specific countries. In writing about Japan as well, he depicts the earnest struggles of pioneer members that became the starting point of our movement in particular areas and regions. Again, this is a part of the Soka Gakkai’s history that only he could write about. In that sense, it may also be a good idea to read up on the historical context and surrounding events.
It is also important to find out when a certain chapter was serialized in the Seikyo Shimbun, as it may provide insights into President Ikeda’s thoughts at the time. For example, the chapter titled “Light of Happiness” in volume 25 began serialization on September 1, 2011, and focuses on the Tohoku region, which had just suffered a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March that year. Through writing this chapter, President Ikeda poured his heart into encouraging the members who were facing severe hardships. Each sentence became an indelible source of hope for those afflicted by the disaster.
Incidentally, the Seikyo Shimbun [the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper] carried a three-part study guide summarizing each chapter in all 30 volumes, starting from its September 11, 2018, issue [see pp. 22–27 of this issue]. This may also serve as a reference for studying The New Human Revolution.
Fulfilling Our Vow
In the epilogue to volume 1 of The New Human Revolution, President Ikeda writes: “Without the disciple’s efforts to make it a reality, the mentor’s grand vision will remain an empty dream. The true value of the principles set forth by the mentor are only revealed when they are applied and developed.”Translated from Japanese. Daisaku Ikeda, Shin ningen kakumei (The New Human Revolution), vol. 1 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1998),p. 352.
The coming age will be defined by how each of us, as a disciple, deepens and puts into practice the spirit of The New Human Revolution. How will we internalize this spirit and accurately hand it on to future generations? It could be said that all the members of the youth division are “The New Human Revolution generation” with a profound mission to fulfill.
In an essay from the series “The Eternal Citadel of Soka,” President Ikeda writes:
I have written The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution, an epic story of kosen-rufu and the victory of ordinary people, as a golden “day-to-day record” of the struggle that I have shared and fought together with all of you, my precious fellow members. Therefore, that epic will not end with the completion of the novel.October 12, 2018, World Tribune, p. 3.
President Ikeda is counting on us to carry out the great vow for worldwide kosen-rufu into the eternal future and bring our own lives and the lives of others to shine brilliantly. It is our mission to respond to this wish of our mentor. By making a habit of studying The New Human Revolution on a regular basis, each of us can fulfill this great vow.
From the October 3, 2018, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.
|↑1||The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, revised edition, p. xi.|
|↑2||Shin’ichi Yamamoto is the protagonist of The New Human Revolution and a pseudonym for Daisaku Ikeda.|
|↑3||The New Human Revolution, vol. 10, p. 52.|
|↑4||Voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma: This refers to bodhisattvas who, though qualified to receive the pure rewards of Buddhist practice, relinquish them and make a vow to be reborn in an impure world in order to save living beings.|
|↑5||The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, p. 65.|
|↑6||The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, revised edition, p. xiv.|
|↑7||Translated from Japanese. Daisaku Ikeda, Shin ningen kakumei (The New Human Revolution), vol. 1 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1998),p. 352.|
|↑8||October 12, 2018, World Tribune, p. 3.|