Our History

Background to the "Song of Human Revolution"

Our History

Photo by STRUCTURESXX / GETTY IMAGES.


There have always been songs that rouse hope in people’s hearts for the flourishing of culture and the emergence of the people. Shin’ichi[1]SGI President Ikeda appears in The New Human Revolution as Shin’ichi Yamamoto. wanted to compose a song of life that would inspire all members to build a new age of humanistic culture and humanism.[2]R-23, 222.

Illustration courtesy of Seikyo Press.

SGI President Ikeda introduced the “Song of Human Revolution” at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting on July 18, 1976.

He had written and composed the Soka Gakkai mainstay at a time when the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood had intensified its efforts to destroy the harmonious unity of the SGI organization. President Ikeda sought to instill in the members an awareness of their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, a path of human revolution.

He recounts his thoughts in The New Human Revoltion, writing: “By facing these raging tempests and fighting for kosen-rufu, we can activate the life state of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth within ourselves and achieve our human revolution. That’s why Shin’ichi [President Ikeda] wished to create a courageous song that would stir in the hearts of his beloved members an unyielding fighting spirit to overcome any adversity.”[3]NHR-23, 221–22.

After introducing the song at the headquarters leaders meeting, it was sung the following day at a general meeting celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the young women’s division.

The song opens:

Take your stand, and I will take
mine, too,
each in our own realm of kosen-rufu,
standing up alone.

The “Song of Human Revolution” continues to inspire members throughout the world, encouraging us to dispel the dark clouds of suffering and rise up courageously with the sun of hope in our hearts. It is a song of victory, celebrating ordinary people as monarchs of humanity who can transform even life’s harshest trials into a source of joy.

“Song of Human Revolution”
(written and composed by President Ikeda)

Japanese

Kimi mo tate, ware mo tatsu
kofu no tenchi ni, hitori tate
seigi to yuki no hata takaku
hata takaku
Soka zakura no michi hirake

Kimi mo yuke, ware mo yuku
fubuki ni mune hari, iza ya yuke
chi yori ka wakitaru ware nareba
ware nareba
kono yo de hatasan, shimei ari

Kimi mo miyo, ware mo miru
haruka na niji no, hareyaka na
hiizuru seiki wa ririshiku mo
ririshiku mo
ningen kakumei, hikari are
ningen kakumei, hikari are

English translation (not set to the music)

Take your stand, and I will take mine, too,
each in our own realm of kosen-rufu,
standing up alone.

Hold high the banner of truth and courage,
open the way for Soka to flourish.

Forge ahead, and I will forge ahead, too,
pressing on through blizzards, we boldly advance.
If we are truly Bodhisattvas of the Earth,
then we have a mission to fulfi ll in this world.

Look ahead, and I will look ahead, too,
toward the distant rainbow, shining bright.
The new century dawns with sunlike brilliance,
glowing with the light of human revolution.[4]NHR-23, 239.


The Path of Human Revolution

The following are excerpts from The New Human Revolution, vol. 23, pp. 216–44, in which SGI President Ikeda discusses the origins of the “Song of Human Revolution.” President Ikeda appears in the novel as Shin’ichi Yamamoto.

July 17 [1957], the day that Shin’ichi [Yamamoto] was released from jail[5]Osaka Incident: The occasion when President Ikeda, then Soka Gakkai youth division chief of staff, was arrested on July 3, 1957, wrongfully charged with election law violations in a House of Councillors by-election held in Osaka earlier that year. At the end of the court case, which lasted over four years, he was fully exonerated. and vowed with Kansai members to achieve the victory of the truth and justice of Soka, is a day of declaring the resolve to fight against the devilish nature of authority and the proud beginning of the journey of human revolution.

That’s why on July 17, 1976 [the 20th anniversary],[6]Based on the Japanese system of observing anniversaries, which involves the event itself being considered the first anniversary. Shin’ichi composed the “Song of Human Revolution” to commemorate the event and express the vow of all members to achieve kosen-rufu. He really wanted to complete the music and lyrics of the song by the headquarters leaders meeting to be held on July 18 and announce it there.

But he hadn’t finished the music by the start of the meeting.

Just before two in the afternoon, Shin’ichi made his appearance in the main meeting room in the Soka Culture Center for the headquarters leaders meeting. Right after chanting [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] with the members, Shin’ichi took the microphone and said: “Until a while ago, I’ve been working together with a music teacher to try to complete the ‘Song of Human Revolution’ commemorating July 17 to present to you at this meeting. That’s why I asked to speak first today, so I could go back and continue to work on the song in order to complete it by today, no matter what.

“The lyrics are finished. I may revise them slightly still, but I’d like to share them with you in their present form.” The room rang with cheers and applause. Shin’ichi’s voice resounded as he read the lyrics:

Take your stand, and I will take
mine, too,
you, my comrades, stand together,
each in our own realm of kosen-rufu,
standing up alone.

The words were a cry of Shin’ichi’s spirit, a courageous shout for standing up as an individual for justice, and a call for the shared struggle of mentor and disciple. The members in attendance listened solemnly. They were impressed with the words. Just hearing the lyrics roused courage in their hearts. They were all thrilled.

■  ■  ■

Shin’ichi decided to compose the “Song of Human Revolution” at the end of June 1976. He’d been thinking for some time that a song that expressed the spirit and philosophy of the Soka Gakkai was necessary.

■  ■  ■

Another reason Shin’ichi wanted to compose a new song and encourage members was that he keenly sensed an ominous atmosphere looming in the Soka Gakkai’s future.

. . . [T]he Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, seeking to drive a wedge between mentor and disciple, began to direct unfounded criticisms and defamations at Soka Gakkai members. It was a truly vile and malicious plot to destroy the harmonious unity between the priesthood and the laity.

. . . As Nichiren Daishonin writes:
“If you propagate it [the Mystic Law], devils will arise without fail. If they did not, there would be no way of knowing that this is the correct teaching.”[7]“Letter to the Brothers,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 501.

. . . [I]n the light of the Daishonin’s writings, Shin’ichi was both certain of and fully prepared for the fact that the great ship of the Soka Gakkai, having set forth into the vast sea of global kosen-rufu, was bound to meet with the storms of adversity.

By facing these raging tempests and fighting for kosen-rufu, we can activate the life state of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth within ourselves and achieve our human revolution.
That’s why Shin’ichi wished to create a courageous song that would stir in the hearts of his beloved members an unyielding fighting spirit to overcome any adversity.

■  ■  ■

Returning to the main hall on the third floor of the Soka Culture Center, Shin’ichi once more set to work on the “Song of Human Revolution.” The melody was sketched out, but he wasn’t satisfied with it yet. If he could finish it before the headquarters leaders meeting ended, he wanted to present it to the members.

 

■  ■  ■

Shin’ichi asked the young music teacher and other members who had helped him with the melody to come again for further revisions. First, the music teacher arrived after eight that night.

“I’m sorry to have you come here so many times, but when I was listening to the tape again and again, I found some places in both the lyrics and the melody that I need to revise.
“First, there’s ‘Hold high the banner of peace and compassion’ in the first verse. I’m going to change that to ‘Hold high the banner of truth and courage.’

“The first step toward peace and compassion begins with the courage to uphold the truth of Buddhism, no matter what. [Second Soka Gakkai President Josei] Toda often used to
say: ‘We can substitute courage for compassion. The courage to speak the truth is the equivalent of compassion.’ Our personal human revolution is overcoming our cowardice and courageously initiating a struggle.”

Shin’ichi also revised the third line of the second verse, “As we are Bodhisattvas of the Earth,” to “If we are truly Bodhisattvas of the Earth,” and the second line of the third verse, replacing “sky” in the line “toward the distant sky, shining bright” with “rainbow.”

“Making this ‘If we are truly Bodhisattvas of the Earth’ here is more powerful. And ‘rainbow’ is better than ‘sky’ because it’s more evocative and colorful.”

■  ■  ■

Shin’ichi wanted to make the melody rise gradually in the third line of each verse. He tried humming it. The youthful music teacher revised the sheet music and sang the new version while playing the piano.

“All right, that’s it!” said Shin’ichi.

Finally, the “Song of Human Revolution” was completed. It was 8:40 p.m. on July 18, 1976.

■  ■  ■

In composing the “Song of Human Revolution,” Shin’ichi took the greatest pains trying to find a way to express and communicate Josei Toda’s profound spiritual awakening in prison to his identity as a Bodhisattva of the Earth. It was based upon this awakening that Mr. Toda, alone, dedicated his life to kosen-rufu.

As Nichiren writes, “If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth.”[8]“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 385. This awakening is the starting point of the conviction of the Soka Gakkai, the organization in complete accord with the will and decree of the Buddha, directly linked to the Daishonin and dedicated to kosen-rufu. The awareness of the mission of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth is knowing the true and fundamental purpose of life—being born with the mission to strive for the happiness of others—and putting it into practice. It is the source for creating the absolute maximum value in life. It is the activating force for establishing a greater self that embraces all peoples and indeed all humanity through transforming the petty life state of the lesser self, concerned only with its own interests and cares, into the wish to help others. In other words, dedicating oneself to the mission of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth is the path of human revolution.

Because of the mood of helplessness and depression and the failure to apprehend the true meaning of life that prevailed among young people at the time, Shin’ichi wished to make a vigorous appeal to youth about the purpose of living. He expressed that in the lines of the second verse of the song: “If we are truly Bodhisattvas of the Earth, / then we have a mission to fulfill in this world.”

At the end of 1976, to commemorate Shin’ichi’s upcoming 49th birthday on Jan. 2 of the coming year, a stone monument inscribed with the “Song of Human Revolution” was built and unveiled on the grounds of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. The monument was contributed by members who, as Shin’ichi’s disciples, all wished to show their determination to fulfill their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth. The “Song of Human Revolution” was a joint creation of mentor and disciple.

It is a hymn to life. Following the lyrics engraved on the monument, Shin’ichi added, “Dedicated to my mentor, Josei Toda, by his disciple, Shin’ichi Yamamoto.”[9]The “Song of Human Revolution” monument is currently located on the grounds of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu. WT

 

Notes   [ + ]

1. SGI President Ikeda appears in The New Human Revolution as Shin’ichi Yamamoto.
2. R-23, 222.
3. NHR-23, 221–22.
4. NHR-23, 239.
5. Osaka Incident: The occasion when President Ikeda, then Soka Gakkai youth division chief of staff, was arrested on July 3, 1957, wrongfully charged with election law violations in a House of Councillors by-election held in Osaka earlier that year. At the end of the court case, which lasted over four years, he was fully exonerated.
6. Based on the Japanese system of observing anniversaries, which involves the event itself being considered the first anniversary.
7. “Letter to the Brothers,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 501.
8. “The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” WND-1, 385.
9. The “Song of Human Revolution” monument is currently located on the grounds of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu.