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A Struggle of Words

Through reading The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution, the history of kosen-rufu and the Soka Gakkai spirit will be transmitted, together with the mentor’s heart, eternally from generation to generation.

The following is adapted from a lecture that SGI Women’s Leader Yumiko Kasanuki gave during the SGI-USA Women’s Leaders Conference, held January 24–27 at the Florida Nature and Culture Center in Weston, Florida.

Although I am confident that everyone is well aware of why SGI President Ikeda wrote The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution, I’d like to reaffirm some key points.

President Ikeda began writing The Human Revolution on December 2, 1964, in Okinawa, Japan. The following New Year’s Day, the Seikyo Shimbun [the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper] published the first installment of the serialized novel. That was 55 years ago.

On February 11, 1993, the final installment of the series was published in the newspaper. That same year, on August 6, he began writing the continuation of the novel, which he titled The New Human Revolution and completed in 30 volumes.

Sensei spent 28 years writing The Human Revolution and 25 years writing The New Human Revolution. For nearly 55 years, he carried out a struggle of words to write these two novels.

To contribute an ongoing series in a newspaper is an unimaginable struggle. It’s extremely arduous. One installment is about 1,500 Japanese characters, which amounts to about four pages of text. Sensei wrote this amount every single day. What do you think about this?

Even if that’s the only thing you focused on every day, it would be daunting. For him, he did this in addition to taking full responsibility for advancing worldwide kosen-rufu and the great efforts that it entails.

Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada was the Seikyo Shimbun reporter who oversaw the publication of volumes 1–3 of The Human Revolution in the newspaper. He witnessed the great lengths that Sensei went to write each installment. There were many days when he would write late at night after finishing all his meetings. He would push himself to his limits, often getting sick. Overwhelmed by exhaustion, he struggled at times to even hold his pen to write. Sometimes, he would use pencils, which were lighter. When that became a struggle, he would dictate an installment into a tape recorder.

At the end of writing volume 8 of The Human Revolution, he sent a message to the Seikyo Shimbun editor, saying that, because he was so exhausted, he could not hold a pen so he recorded everything on tape. Soon after, several tapes arrived to the newspaper office. If you go to the new World Seikyo Center in Shinanomachi, you can listen to a part of this recording in an exhibition corner. If you have a chance to visit, I highly encourage that you take the opportunity to listen to that recording.

Mrs. Ikeda is the one who supported Sensei behind the scenes throughout his endeavors. In volume 9 of The Human Revolution, the original manuscripts for installments 5 and 26 of the “Spark” chapter were written in Mrs. Ikeda’s handwriting. In the margin, you can see Sensei’s signature. Knowing this, I am filled with deep emotion. A facsimile of one of those manuscripts is displayed at the Ikeda Hall [exhibition building at the FNCC]. I hope everyone can see it.

From 1977, with the start of the first priesthood issue,[1] there was a two-year period where Sensei had to halt writing The Human Revolution. This was because the erroneous priesthood was trying to create a rift between Sensei and the members. In 1979, President Ikeda resigned to shield the members from the priesthood’s hostility. Seeing how isolated the members felt, Sensei determined to once again start writing The Human Revolution, beginning with volume 11, the first chapter of which he titled “Turning Point.” This was in August 1980.

When the editor overseeing this series learned of Sensei’s plans, he said hesitantly: “I’m sure the readers will be thrilled. But I fear the young priests critical of the Soka Gakkai will make a big fuss, and jump on it as an excuse to attack you.”[2] Sensei responded:

“I’m aware of that. But what matters now is not me; it’s our members we need to protect. They have stoically endured cruel treatment at the hands of corrupt priests and their sympathizers, and continued in spite of that to work for kosen-rufu and the Soka Gakkai with sincere, steadfast and earnest devotion.

“My responsibility is to protect the children of the Buddha, our members. It is to impart the light of courage, of hope and of conviction to them and make it possible for them to advance along the path of their mission with confidence and pride. That’s why I am here.

“And that’s why I need to start writing The Human Revolution again. That’s my battle. Do you understand?”[3]

Once the series restarted in the Seikyo Shimbun, everyone was so happy. I clearly remember feeling so excited to open the newspaper each day to page three, wondering what would be written in that day’s installment, which to me was like a personal letter from Sensei.

In 1980, President Ikeda went on a five-city tour of the United States. This heralded a new start in the advancement of worldwide kosen-rufu.

How was Sensei able to bring forth such deep determination to write The Human Revolution? He has shared his motivation in a speech on October 16, 1991:

My motivation for writing The Human Revolution was my wish to correctly convey the truth of second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s life for future generations.

Many called themselves disciples of Mr. Toda, and many received help and direct guidance from him. Yet … few really knew his truth.[4]

Sensei has always said that the path of disciple is to leave a record about the mentor for posterity:

I vowed to follow him wherever he might go, to strive alongside him and to give my life to achieving his goals. As his disciple, I vowed to carry on his vision and take full responsibility for kosen-rufu.

From that moment on, I began to clearly understand Mr. Toda’s thoughts and feelings. I was able to deeply impress upon my life his true greatness and brilliance. And I became confident that every effort I made was in rhythm with my mentor’s aim and intent.

Everything I say and do is based on his spirit. Buddhism only comes to life when the hearts of mentor and disciple are united as one.[5]

The last volume of The Human Revolution, volume 12, was completed on February 11, 1993, which is President Toda’s birthday. On that day in 1993, Sensei received an honorary doctorate from Federal University in Rio de Janeiro. In his acceptance speech, he said he was dedicating this honor to his mentor.

Six months later, President Ikeda began writing The New Human Revolution. He expresses his determination at the time in the introduction to volume 1.

What inspired me to write The New Human Revolution series as a continuation of The Human Revolution was my thought that the extent to which kosen-rufu has unfolded since my mentor’s passing serves as genuine proof of his greatness. … To do so, however, I could not avoid writing about myself, a fact that caused me great hesitation. …

However, even if there were 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.”[6]

Sensei was 65 when he started writing the new series, and he said that he expected it to compose 30 volumes by the time it was completed. About this he said, “It will certainly be a supreme challenge to finish writing it within my lifetime.”[7]

When I read this, knowing how deep his determination was, I was profoundly moved.

Why did Sensei decide to write The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution in the form of a novel?

SGI Vice President Hiromasa Ikeda explains this, stating:

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. …

In other words, through reading The New Human Revolution, we can share in Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s[8] 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.[9]

He also says:

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.[10]

For the sake of his disciples, Sensei persevered with his entire being to complete The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution. To read all the volumes in these novels leaves me feeling the deepest appreciation.

A friend of mine shared with me that she’s made it a point to read The New Human Revolution a little each day. Through this effort, she said that it feels like she’s seeing Sensei each day and receiving guidance from him each day. I’m sure you feel the same way.

I mentioned this a little earlier, but just as Sensei has said:

As his disciple, I vowed to carry on his vision and take full responsibility for kosen-rufu. From that moment on, I began to clearly understand Mr. Toda’s thoughts and feelings.[11]

I hope each of us can live these words, seriously contemplating the best way and struggling for the sake of kosen-rufu in America, and in the places where we live. As we do so, I believe that we will find that what we study in The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution novels resonate even more clearly in our lives.

Here I’d like to reiterate the key theme of The Human Revolution, which resonates in my heart:

A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.[12]

In order to actualize this one sentence in our lives, we, as disciples, must uphold our mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who volunteered to take on the lives that we are living. And with this mission, I think we must strive hard and battle for the sake of kosen-rufu. To “learn” means to “change”—it means to refresh our determination to challenge our own human revolution. With this in mind, let’s continue to thoroughly apply what we learn in The New Human Revolution.


  1. Based on the Soka Gakkai’s support, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood grew virtually overnight from a small, destitute temple to one of Japan’s most prominent and prosperous Nichiren schools. The feudal danka, or parishioner, system emphasized the superiority of the priests over lay believers. Based on such existing customs and threatened by the thriving laity, Nichiren Shoshu priests began to oppress the lay believers. This atmosphere of authority and control became more pervasive in the 1970s, causing friction between Nichiren Shoshu and the Soka Gakkai. Ultimately, to bring this issue to a close and shield the members from further harm, Daisaku Ikeda stepped down from his position as the third Soka Gakkai president on April 24, 1979. While President Ikeda’s activities in Japan continued to be curtailed by the priesthood, he turned his focus to opening the path of worldwide kosen-rufu. As president of the SGI, he did his utmost to encourage the members with his activities overseas, including those in the United States. True liberation came on November 28, 1991, when the Soka Gakkai and SGI formally disassociated from Nichiren Shoshu in an event known as our Spiritual Independence. ↩︎
  2. February 7, 2020, World Tribune, p. C. ↩︎
  3. Ibid. ↩︎
  4. November 18, 2018, World Tribune, p. 2. ↩︎
  5. Ibid., p. 3 ↩︎
  6. The Human Revolution, pp. ix–x. ↩︎
  7. The New Human Revolution, p. xi. ↩︎
  8. SGI President Ikeda’s character in his novels The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution ↩︎
  9. January 2019 Living Buddhism, p. 36. ↩︎
  10. Ibid. ↩︎
  11. November 18, 2018, World Tribune, p. 3. ↩︎
  12. The Human Revolution, p. viii. ↩︎

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