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Ikeda Sensei

Winter Always Turns to Spring

SGI President Ikeda recently captured this moment in Japan, which was published in the Jan. 30 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. Photo by DAISAKU IKEDA.

The following essay by SGI President Ikeda was originally published in the March 11 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.

Weathering wind and snow,
we are the flag bearers of the noble cause
of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth;
now standing solidly united,
we hold high the banner of mission.

• • •

Ah, the triumphant people of Tohoku![1]

This morning, my wife played a recording of the Tohoku Soka Gakkai song “The Aoba Pledge.”[2] Listening to it, I found myself filled with memories of that northern region I love so well, known in olden times as Michinoku.

Nine years have passed since the devastating March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Our precious members in Tohoku and other affected areas have endured great suffering and hardship.

I press my palms together with the deepest respect and reverence for each of these “flag bearers of the noble cause of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth,” who stood up with tremendous grit and determination after that unprecedented natural disaster, reaching out to assist friends and neighbors, and striving earnestly to rebuild and revive their beloved communities.

Nichiren Daishonin is sure to be aware of all their efforts over these past nine years and would doubtless proclaim that, with every one of those close to 3,300 days, they have steadily accumulated indestructible “treasures of the heart” (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 851).

I am sincerely chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in memory of those who lost their lives in the disaster or who passed away in its aftermath.

I have not the slightest doubt that all the family members, comrades in faith and friends we have lost are forever enveloped in the infinite, all-pervading light of happiness of the Mystic Law, transcending life and death.

“The Aoba Pledge” also contains the line “truly radiating the sun of time without beginning.”

I love the unaffected, down-to-earth character of the people of Tohoku. I see in it the radiance of “the sun of time without beginning.” Being the sun, they have no need to put on airs or keep up appearances. With their nature that “was not worked for, that was not improved upon, but that exists just as it always has” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 141), they impart the bright, warm light of kindness to all around them.

Amid ongoing persecution by Japan’s militarist authorities during World War II, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, our founding president, who later died in prison for his beliefs, traveled to Koriyama and Nihonmatsu in Fukushima Prefecture. One of his aims was to talk to a young man’s parents about Nichiren Buddhism.

There are some words of the Daishonin that Mr. Makiguchi particularly valued. He had also underlined them in his personal copy of The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings that was confiscated by the Special Higher Police: “The Buddha of the true aspect of reality resides in the midst of the mud and mire of earthly desires. This refers to us living beings. Now when Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they may be termed the Buddha of the Lotus that is the entity of the Law” (p. 91).

Those who dive into the quagmire of society, which is rife with problems and suffering, to work for the happiness and well-being of others are truly the “Buddha of the Lotus that is the entity of the Law.”

Our Tohoku members refused to be crushed by the darkness of unfathomable adversity. Though at times they wept tears of grief or raged against the cruel blows of fate, they continued to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, to encourage one another not to be defeated and to forge ahead in their efforts for kosen-rufu.

I’m sure that Mr. Makiguchi would praise them as embodying the true nobility of Buddhas as the Daishonin describes.

Our youth division and future division members who lived through the trauma of the earthquake and tsunami have now all grown admirably. These inspiring young people are a source of tremendous hope. They have overcome great hardships to flower like bright lotus blossoms.

In the cold morning before the sun is up, our “uncrowned heroes” are busy delivering the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, to one house after another. My gratitude to them is unending, and I wish to say to them: Be well, and stay safe each day!

The Seikyo Shimbun, a bastion of the pen, today has a huge mission in imparting words of hope and courage to its readers.

A women’s division member in Higashi-Matsushima City in Tohoku’s Miyagi Prefecture, one of the areas affected by the March 2011 disaster, is delivering the Seikyo Shimbun in the spirit that she is a proud runner passing on the baton of happiness and victory. Putting aside her grief over the loss of her mother and one of her sons in the tsunami, she has been devoting herself to supporting and encouraging others out of an eager wish to do whatever she can in her own small way.

Dr. Sarah Wider, former president of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society, with whom I have published a dialogue, made the long journey from the United States to visit women’s division members in Tohoku (in October 2012). She was deeply impressed by the “strong-hearted people” she met in those precious encounters and, in a message she wrote to some of those friends, she said she was grateful to share with them the determination to always do their best in every moment.

I recently received a delightful letter from a member living in the Sanriku area of Tohoku’s Iwate Prefecture.

At the beginning of February this year, members of the Music Corps’ Shinano Choir gave a series of “Connections of Hope” concerts in six locations on the Sanriku Coast—Otsuchi, Yamada, Miyako, Tanohata, Fudai and Hirono.

These communities warmly welcomed the gallant young performers, whose voices raised in song delivered a spring breeze of courage. Many local members brought along friends, who all reportedly enjoyed the concerts, some saying they felt energized by the spirit of Soka Gakkai members, or were inspired anew to keep living many more years, undefeated by the ongoing challenges they faced.

Our members have continued to make tireless efforts to contribute to their communities and bring flowers of friendship and trust to bloom. They are pressing ahead one step after another and dedicating themselves sincerely to supporting those around them. The brilliant glow of their humanity is a beacon of hope radiating the light of happiness, as well as a powerful driving force for recovery and renewal.

Soon, the Japan Railways Joban Line will resume full service for the first time in nine years.

The Joban Line brings back fond memories of an encounter I had with members in eastern Fukushima Prefecture in November 1960, the year I was inaugurated as third Soka Gakkai president.

On my way back to Tokyo from Morioka (the capital of Iwate Prefecture), some members gathered to meet with me at the Joban Line’s Yumoto Station (in present-day Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture). Due to an unexpected delay in the train’s schedule, I was able to spend about 15 minutes talking with them on a station bench.

A young woman I encouraged at that time continues now, some six decades later, to work actively for kosen-rufu as a member of the Many Treasures Group. I was delighted to hear this and other recent reports of victory from Iwaki members.

I am deeply moved by the countless triumphs of human revolution the members of our Soka family in Tohoku have achieved through striving together, sharing my spirit.

Though some of our dear members have fallen ill in the course of their long, arduous struggles to rebuild their lives and communities after the disaster, all of their actions to help others are noble offerings of their own lives. They are certain to receive great benefit in the form of “lessening one’s karmic retribution” and “changing poison into medicine.” And they are absolutely assured of advancing forever on the path of eternity, happiness, true self and purity.

The members in Hokkaido (the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands) have advanced in close solidarity with Tohoku members through the raging winds of adversity.

This March 11 also marks the 65th anniversary of the historic Otaru Debate[3] in Hokkaido, in which we demonstrated the justice of Soka to Japanese society.

Just prior to the great ceremony of March 16, 1958, entrusting the mission of kosen-rufu to his young successors, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda warmly encouraged the first Otaru Chapter leader.

“In life,” he said, “you will experience unpleasant, painful or sad events. Life is really nothing but a series of such things. … But if you persevere in faith and practice throughout your life, you are certain to triumph in the end. Even though you may face various challenges in the process, you’ll be able to say that you have attained a state of absolute happiness.”

Mr. Toda had the deepest hopes for Hokkaido and Tohoku, and I have lived my life together with our members in these northern regions of Japan in the same spirit as my mentor.

Japan’s northern winters are long and harsh. But even as the cold winds blow, plants patiently conserve their life force and wait for their time to send forth fresh green shoots.

In September 2011, six months after the earthquake and tsunami, I began writing the “Light of Happiness” chapter in my novel The New Human Revolution, vol. 25. It tells the story of my three-day visit to Fukushima starting on March 11, 1977, to encourage Tohoku members. At that time, I presented several calligraphic works that incorporated the word cherry tree, such as “Soka Mountain Cherry Tree.”

These were an expression of my wish that no matter how long the winters of hardship and adversity might persist, our members would bravely weather them and blossom splendidly without fail, and that they would spread the hope-filled message “Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring” (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” WND-1, 536) throughout society and the world, and on into the future.

Our members who, with an invincible and dauntless spirit, have shown actual proof that “winter always turns to spring” are like beautiful cherry trees brimming with the light of happiness and blooming on the Mountain of Soka.

Nichiren writes: “There is definitely something extraordinary in … the way in which summer, autumn, winter, and spring give way to each other.

Something uncommon also occurs when an ordinary person attains Buddhahood. At such a time, the three obstacles and four devils will invariably appear, and the wise will rejoice while the foolish will retreat” (“The Three Obstacles and Four Devils,” WND-1, 637).

We need not fear change. Let us all keep creating value as courageous and wise individuals, every one of us.

The medical profession and society as a whole in Japan and around the world are making great efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). I have deepest gratitude for the countless individuals who are working tirelessly day and night on various fronts in this challenge. I am also chanting wholeheartedly with a fervent prayer for the quickest possible end to this threat and a return to normality and safety.

The eminent British historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1889–1975) said that those living in an age of crisis must become pioneers of a better age, striving to find positive solutions and thereby turning the age into one of achievement.[4]

I am confident that our valiant young Bodhisattvas of the Earth will join hands with friends the world over and work together with strength, wisdom and optimism to create a better age.

Let us once again engrave in our hearts the famous passage from “The Opening of the Eyes,” which I have shared so many times with our members in Tohoku, Hokkaido and all around the globe: “Although I and my disciples may encounter various difficulties, if we do not harbor doubts in our hearts, we will as a matter of course attain Buddhahood” (WND-1, 283).

Facing “various difficulties” time and again, the mentors and disciples of Soka have never forgotten these words at crucial moments and have steadfastly pressed on. That is why we have been able, quite naturally, to manifest our Buddhahood.

As we continue to triumphantly overcome each difficulty arising in our path, let us extend throughout the world an ever-growing movement to unlock the life state of Buddhahood, the highest life state of all humankind!


  1. Lines from the Tohoku Soka Gakkai song “The Aoba Pledge.” ↩︎
  2. The “Aoba Pledge” was a promise made in April 1954 at the ruins of Aoba Castle to second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda by the Tohoku youth, who promised to realize in Tohoku his famous declaration that “The Soka Gakkai will build its castle from talented and able people.” ↩︎
  3. Otaru Debate: A public debate held in Otaru, Hokkaido, on March 11, 1955, between Soka Gakkai representatives and priests of Nichiren Shu (the Minobu school), which the Soka Gakkai won. ↩︎
  4. See Arnold J. Toynbee, “Can We Learn Lessons from History?” in Democracy in the Atomic Age: The Dyason Lectures 1956 (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1957), p. 16. ↩︎

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