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40 Years Since Stormy April 24, 1979—Part 5

The following is the fifth in a five-part series describing the events surrounding April 24, 1979, when Daisaku Ikeda stepped down as third Soka Gakkai president to protect the members from the perverse machinations of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, which sought to seize control of the lay organization. This incident came to be known as the first priesthood issue. (The second priesthood issue culminated on November 28, 1991, with the Soka Gakkai being formally excommunicated by Nichiren Shoshu.) For more on the events leading up to April 24, 1979, see “Great Mountain,” chapter 1 in volume 30 of The New Human Revolution.

In the fourth installment of this series, we covered the events leading up to SGI President Ikeda’s decision to step down as third Soka Gakkai president on April 24, 1979, to both shield the members from the machinations of the priesthood and to focus on expanding the SGI’s movement around the world.

In this fifth and final installment, we discuss the period from April 24, 1979, to May 3, 1980, which follows President Ikeda’s resignation and the priesthood’s attempts, in collusion with corrupt Soka Gakkai attorney Masatomo Yamazaki, to restrict his activities. We also learn how President Ikeda continued to advance kosen-rufu and world peace, developing a grand vision for kosen-rufu toward the 1,000-year anniversary of Nichiren Buddhism in 2253.

Kosen-rufu Can Only Advance Based on the Spirit of “Many in Body, One in Mind”

On April 25, 1979, a Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting was held in Tokyo, commemorating the completion of the Seven Bells,[1] with representatives from throughout Japan. Before the newly appointed Soka Gakkai president gave his address, President Ikeda spoke, explaining that kosen-rufu will definitely advance as long as Soka Gakkai members unite in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind.” He said in part:

I hope that you will work with our new president and general director and make great efforts based on faith united in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind.”[2]

He continued:

All sorts of things will occur on the journey of kosen-rufu. Changes will take place—including, of course, in leadership. The key is to keep pressing forward steadily toward our goal, without being swayed by various occurrences.[3]

President Ikeda not only shared these words with the members, but also embodied them in his actions, making an even stronger determination to strive in unity with the newly appointed leaders. He vowed to advance kosen-rufu with all his being, desiring more than anything to see the members stand up with self-reliant faith and establish absolute happiness in their lives. His actions provide a crucial model for future generations.

Restrictions on SGI President Ikeda and the May 3 Headquarters General Meeting

After stepping down as Soka Gakkai president, SGI President Ikeda could no longer freely attend Soka Gakkai activities due to the plotting of high-ranking Nichiren Shoshu priests and Masatomo Yamazaki (depicted in The New Human Revolution as the character Tomomasa Yamawaki).

President Ikeda writes:

[Under the guise of supporting the new president,] they argued that after Shin’ichi stepped down as Soka Gakkai president, it would be inappropriate for him to attend meetings and offer guidance; likewise, there would be no need for Soka Gakkai publications to report on his words or actions.

The only news about Shin’ichi that the Seikyo Shimbun could report was his overseas travels or meetings with foreign dignitaries. The only activities permitted to him within the organization were visiting the homes of longtime members and offering personal guidance.

The aim of the traitorous Yamawaki and these self-serving priests was to isolate Shin’ichi completely and drive a wedge between him and the members. They believed that would allow them to manipulate the organization as they pleased and subjugate the membership to their authority.[4]

With the arrival of May 3, 1979, the 40th Soka Gakkai Headquarters General Meeting was held in the Soka University gymnasium. This meeting had originally been planned as a grand celebration of the completion of the first set of Seven Bells and the shared triumph of mentor and disciple.

Shortly before the start of the meeting, outside the gymnasium, President Ikeda and newly appointed Soka Gakkai President Hiroshi Hojo greeted the Nichiren Shoshu priests.

The priests, however, did not respond to President Ikeda’s sincere greetings, brazenly walking past him, while other priests glanced with scornful smiles.

The meeting itself was meant to be a celebration, but it took on an oppressive air under the surveillance of priestly authority. The leaders conducting the meeting were walking on eggshells, trying not to provoke the priests.

In fact, prior to the meeting, a youth leader had instructed the participants that no one should applaud or call out to President Ikeda when he entered the room. When President Ikeda learned of this, he was saddened that the leaders were so easily intimidated by authority.

President Ikeda later recalled, “One leader later said the atmosphere at that meeting was so frosty that it was as if they had been made to sit on cold gravestones.”[5]

When it was President Ikeda’s turn to speak, he was allotted less than 10 minutes. With a calm and powerful voice, he reaffirmed the determination he had made 19 years earlier at his inauguration as third Soka Gakkai president, based on this passage from “The Opening of the Eyes”: “This I will state. Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law.”[6]

He also praised the members for their incredible efforts in the 21 years after second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s passing to make the dreams of the first two Soka Gakkai presidents a reality.

Finally, he announced the appointments of the new Soka Gakkai president and general director, encouraging all the members to unite with the new leadership in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind.” At this time, President Ikeda was named honorary Soka Gakkai President.

Regardless of his position, he was determined to protect the Soka Gakkai and its members at any cost, viewing the organization as his life itself—a sentiment he once expressed, saying:

You say you want to protect me, but protecting the organization is protecting me. Protecting one, ten, a hundred or a thousand Soka Gakkai members is protecting me. This is because I have made the Soka Gakkai the sole purpose of my life.[7]

Kosen-rufu Does Not Exist Apart From The Soka Gakkai Buddha

Nichiren Buddhism is a revolutionary teaching that holds that all people can attain enlightenment through the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, without any intermediaries, such as clergy, and without beseeching transcendent, otherworldly beings. Rather, it is through carrying out Buddhist practice for the happiness of self and others, united in the effort to advance kosen-rufu, that the life condition of the Buddha can be manifested from within.

Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda noted that in the future, the Soka Gakkai would be referred to as “Soka Gakkai Buddha.”

The basis for this concept can be found in “Bodhisattva Never Disparaging,” the 20th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. In this chapter, it is revealed that Awesome Sound King Buddha does not apply to just one Buddha. In fact, after one Buddha named Awesome Sound King attained enlightenment, another Buddha of the same name appeared and attained Buddhahood.

The Lotus Sutra states, “This process continued until twenty thousand million Buddhas had appeared one after the other, all bearing the same name.”[8]

President Toda explained that we could view this collection of Buddhas as a harmonious community of practitioners called Awesome Sound King Buddha. In the same way, the “Soka Gakkai Buddha” is a network of members joined by the bonds of mentor and disciple who are committed to advancing kosen-rufu.

What are the requirements for ensuring that this “Soka Gakkai Buddha” long endures? They are for each member to:

1) have a lifelong commitment to fulfilling the great vow for kosen-rufu;
2) persist in walking the great path of the oneness of mentor and disciple; and
3) to unite in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind.”[9]

During this tumultuous time, President Ikeda vowed to create a mighty river of such capable individuals so that the “Soka Gakkai Buddha” could continue to fulfill the great mission of kosen-rufu.

He writes of the “Soka Gakkai Buddha”:

The life of an individual is limited. But when the fundamental spirit of striving for kosen-rufu is passed on from mentor to disciples, and those disciples continue their efforts as a group or organization over time, the body of practitioners comes to possess the enduring life force of the Buddha ceaselessly guiding people to happiness.

“Soka Gakkai Buddha” is a network of members dedicated to the mission of realizing the great vow for kosen-rufu, a gathering of Bodhisattvas of the Earth.[10]

President Ikeda remained ever more vigilant in protecting the Soka Gakkai and its precious members, the only body fulfilling Nichiren Daishonin’s will and decree.

President Ikeda Initiates a New Era From the “Port of Justice”

After the headquarters general meeting, when SGI President Ikeda exited the gymnasium, a group of women’s division members, one of whom was carrying a child on her back, called out to him with tears in their eyes: “Sensei! Sensei!” At that moment, he thought, Who will protect these noble individuals, these sincere members, now? He made an unshakable determination to protect the Soka Gakkai members and help each one of them become happy without exception.

President Ikeda expressed his determination by penning the calligraphy “Great Mountain,” with the inscription:

My friends, I pray that your faith
will remain unshaken by any storm.
—May 3, 1979, Soka University,
after the Headquarters Leaders Meeting[11]

President Ikeda writes of that moment:

The calligraphy “Great Mountain” expressed a cry from Shin’ichi’s innermost being: “The Mystic Law is eternal and indestructible. We who uphold the Mystic Law and dedicate our lives to kosen-rufu have limitless hope. We must remain as unflinching as a great mountain in even the fiercest storm. What have we to fear? We Soka Gakkai members have forged ahead, donning the armor of endurance,[12] to spread the Mystic Law with selfless dedication, just as the Daishonin teaches. The mentors and disciples of Soka have triumphed in all spheres with this unshakable spirit of faith.”[13]

He then picked up his calligraphy brush again, this time writing the Chinese characters for “Great Cherry Tree,” with the inscription:

With prayers that our members
Will enjoy a glorious flowering of benefit.
—With palms pressed together,
May 3, 1979, Soka University[14]

In the early evening, President Ikeda and his wife, Kaneko, departed Soka University and headed straight to the Kanagawa Culture Center, located next to the Port of Yokohama. After arriving, a local leader mentioned to President Ikeda that his name had appeared in that day’s edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun, the most widely read daily newspaper in Japan (see photo on p. 44).

A Gallup Poll conducted by the newspaper listed the 20 most respected individuals in Japan and the United States, and Daisaku Ikeda was ranked No. 6 on the list of Japanese individuals. One scholar noted that President Ikeda was both the only living private citizen and religious leader on this list.

President Ikeda writes: “Shin’ichi found it mystic that this article should have appeared on this drama-filled day. He also felt it somehow expressed the members’ high hopes and warm support.”[15]

On May 3, 1979, the Yomiuri Shimbun, a prominent Japanese newspaper, carried an article featuring the results of a U.S.–Japan opinion poll. One of the survey questions was “Whom do you most admire?” Of the 20 people listed, SGI President Ikeda (highlighted) was No. 6. His name was listed after longtime postwar Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida (1878–1967); bacteriologist Hideyo Noguchi (1876–1928); agricultural technologist Ninomiya Sontoku (1787–1856); educator and writer Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835–1901); and Emperor Showa (1901–89).

That evening, at the Kanagawa Culture Center, President Ikeda penned the calligraphy “Shared Struggle,” which he infused with the deep wish that his disciples stand up alongside him, adding the inscription:

The evening of May 3, 1979—
I am determined,
my resolve unshakable,
to advance kosen-rufu
throughout my life,
trusting that I have true comrades.
—With palms pressed together.[16]

From this point, he based his activities out of the Kanagawa Culture Center and the Tachikawa Culture Center in Tokyo. From these locations, he set out to encourage members one by one.

In Kanagawa, many Soka Gakkai members had begun gathering each day at Yamashita Park to express their solidarity with their mentor. Deciding to transmit in concrete form the Soka Gakkai spirit to his successors and disciples, it was there that he wrote the calligraphy “Justice,” followed by the inscription: “I carry the banner of justice alone.”

A Snapshot of SGI President Ikeda’s Activities After May 1979

Intent on severing the bonds of mentor and disciple, the treacherous self-serving lawyer Masatomo Yamazaki and the Nichiren Shoshu priests had plotted to restrict President Ikeda’s activities. Yet, as described below, he remained unbowed:

When he was restricted from attending large gatherings, Shin’ichi devoted his energies to visiting members at home and giving personal guidance. When he was told not to give speeches, he encouraged members by presenting them with poems or playing the piano for them.

Nothing can suppress an unwavering commitment to kosen-rufu.[17]

In addition to visiting members’ homes, President Ikeda increased the frequency of his dialogues with world leaders for the sake of world peace. Within the first two months of his resignation, he met with delegations from China, Zambia, New Zealand and several other countries. He was determined to create waves of shared understanding through humanistic dialogue with people of all backgrounds.

As the founder of the Soka Schools system, he also met with the students without restraint. On the campuses of Soka University and the Soka schools, he attended various events, such as athletic meets, fruit-picking events and student festivals. He also visited the student dormitories, sharing with the students his wish for them to become capable leaders who impart hope to others.

Since becoming honorary president, he was no less busy than when he was president, fully exerting himself each day for the sake of kosen-rufu.

On November 16, 1979, he attended his first headquarters leaders meeting since April of that year. Because he was still not allowed to give guidance at meetings, he led a fan dance to the “Song of Indomitable Dignity.” While leading the song, in his heart he called out to the members to rise to action. He writes:

In the audience, there were men clapping vigorously in time with the music and women singing with all their hearts, tears in their eyes. There were young men’s division members whose eyes blazed with a passionate fighting spirit and young women’s division members who sang with radiant joy …

Amid the harsh storms of adversity, a new momentum for victory began from Tokyo that day.[18]

Brilliant Achievements That Could Never Be Erased

During his 19 years as third Soka Gakkai president, Daisaku Ikeda had realized many of the dreams articulated by the first and second Soka Gakkai presidents, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, making those dreams his own.

He established the high school division, the junior high school division, and the boys and girls division. To promote wide-ranging cultural activities, he founded the education, international and writers divisions. He also expanded the number of Soka Gakkai culture centers and other facilities for members.

In the realm of education, he established an integrated system of schools from kindergarten through university level, based on the ideals of Soka education. And to further promote peace and culture rooted in Buddhist humanism, he founded the Min-On Concert Association, the Institute of Oriental Philosophy and the Fuji Art Museum. In politics, he founded the Clean Government Party in Japan.

During his presidency, he likewise supported and protected Nichiren Shoshu, constructing numerous buildings and building branch temples and contributing to the school’s unprecedented prosperity. President Ikeda writes:

These brilliant achievements under Shin’ichi’s leadership could never be erased by any false or defamatory declarations. They were forever engraved in the lives of the members who worked with tireless energy and devotion alongside him to create this proud and indelible legacy.[19]

An Unparalleled Vision for Humanity Into the Distant Future

On May 3, 1980, following his fifth visit to China, President Ikeda made a historic visit to his beloved Kansai. On this day, the Kansai leaders held several informal gongyo meetings that they hoped he would attend.

Once the members learned that their mentor was coming, not only did they immediately gather, many of them called friends and family members in neighboring regions and told them Sensei was coming to Kansai. As a result, an untold number of members gathered at the Kansai Culture Center with a burning desire to see their mentor.

When President Ikeda arrived, he instructed the Soka Group and Gajokai to allow as many members as possible into the center, filling every room to capacity. As a result, there was no longer space for him to make his way to the main meeting room.

He then asked a Soka Group member to open the emergency exit on the side of the building that led to the fourth-floor Gohonzon room. After a frantic search, the key to the emergency exit was found, and President Ikeda unexpectedly entered this doorway. The members gasped in surprise and shouted with unrestrained joy at the sight of their mentor. He encouraged them, emphasizing that no authoritarian power could come between him and the members.

After thoroughly encouraging the members over the course of several gongyo meetings and photo sessions, he penned the calligraphy “May 3.”

President Ikeda unveiled his vision toward the year 2000 in four, five-year intervals, starting with May 3, 1980, and ending with May 3, 2000. The next year, May 3, 2001, would mark the start of the second set of Seven Bells.

In a 1997 speech in Kansai, President Ikeda laid out his vision toward the 1,000th anniversary of Nichiren Buddhism in 2253. He said:

During the second series of Seven Bells in the first half of the 21st century (2001–50): We will lay the foundations for peace in Asia and throughout the world …

During the third series of Seven Bells in the second half of the 21st century (2051–2100): We will see the philosophy of respect for the dignity of life established as the spirit of the age and the world.

During the fourth series of Seven Bells in the first half of the 22nd century (2101–50): We will secure an indestructible foundation for lasting peace throughout the world.

Based on that foundation, during the fifth series of Seven Bells in the second half of the 22nd century (2151–2200): We will see the brilliant flowering of humanistic culture.

When that happens, we can move on to the sixth (2201–50) and seventh series (2251–2300) of Seven Bells. From around the middle of the 23rd century, when we celebrate the millennial of the establishment of Nichiren Daishonin’s teaching (in 2253), a new phase in our movement will begin.[20]

Despite the immense obstacles surrounding the events of April 24, 1979, nothing could break President Ikeda’s spirit or sever his ties with the members. No authoritarian figure could narrow his grand vision for kosen-rufu and world peace. In fact, he used these seemingly insurmountable barriers as fuel to propel the Soka Gakkai’s advance even more rapidly. During this time, President Ikeda shared lasting encouragement to a group of youth:

When the mentor cannot take action out in front, it’s the job of the disciples to stand up and do so in the mentor’s stead. You’re not my true disciples if you can’t rouse energy or courage because you can’t meet me in person. Please create an unprecedented groundswell of progress for kosen-rufu with bold efforts surpassing your mentor.[21]

This eternal guidance from Sensei will serve as a compass for disciples for centuries to come.


  1. Seven Bells is a term used to describe cycles of seven seven-year periods in the Soka Gakkai’s development. On May 3, 1958, shortly after second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s death (on April 2), SGI President Ikeda, then Soka Gakkai chief of staff, introduced the concept of Seven Bells and announced development targets for subsequent seven-year periods. ↩︎
  2. The New Human Revolution, “Great Mountain” booklet, p. 83. ↩︎
  3. Ibid. ↩︎
  4. Ibid., pp. 88–89. ↩︎
  5. April 24, 2009, Seize the Day, p. F. ↩︎
  6. The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 280. ↩︎
  7. The New Human Revolution, vol. 8, p. 138. ↩︎
  8. The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 308. ↩︎
  9. “Great Mountain,” p. 91. ↩︎
  10. Ibid., p. 90. ↩︎
  11. Ibid., p. 105. ↩︎
  12. See “On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings,” WND-1, 392. ↩︎
  13. “Great Mountain,” p. 106. ↩︎
  14. Ibid. ↩︎
  15. Ibid., p. 108. ↩︎
  16. Ibid. ↩︎
  17. February 8, 2019, World Tribune insert, p. 2. ↩︎
  18. Ibid., p. 3. ↩︎
  19. “Great Mountain,” p. 102. ↩︎
  20. December 21, 2018, World Tribune, pp. 2–3. ↩︎
  21. February 8, 2019, World Tribune insert, p. 5. ↩︎

Never Retreating Is the Heart of Soka

Nanjo Tokimitsu–Part 2