Soka Spirit

The Importance of Winning Over Our Weaknesses

The Greek mythological character Icarus ignores his father’s instructions not to fly too close to the sun. His arrogance and defiance led to his own demise when the sun melted his wings. Epoxx / Getty Images


How do we continue developing ourselves and gaining benefit in faith throughout our lives? We can learn from the countless examples of those who have committed themselves heroically to creating a peaceful world by spreading Buddhism and supporting the Soka Buddhist community. We can also learn from negative examples: unscrupulous people who, controlled by the desire for power or money, used our community for personal gain.

A prime example is Masatomo Yamazaki. He began practicing Buddhism in the 1950s while a student at Kyoto University. He overcame a debilitating illness and showed promise as one of the first Soka Gakkai student division members to become an attorney.

Some of his tendencies, however, were cause for some concern. Ikeda Sensei describes his early observations of Yamazaki:

Shin’ichi[1]Ikeda Sensei appears in The New Human Revolution as Shin’ichi Yamamoto. could see in Yamawaki’s[2]Masatomo Yamazaki appears in The New Human Revolution as Tomomasa Yamawaki. demeanor a considerable degree of dishonesty, arrogance and duplicity, and at times he would strictly advise him about these shortcomings. But mostly he would warmly encourage and try to guide Yamawaki. Everyone has weaknesses. It is easy to break ties with people, but if we were to turn our backs on every person we deemed to have faults, we would be unable to help anyone grow or develop. Believing in the inherent goodness of human beings is the secret to fostering people; it is also the spirit of a Buddhist. (The New Human Revolution, vol. 8, revised edition, p. 117)

To help him realize his full potential and overcome his weaknesses, Sensei encouraged him and gave him opportunities to take responsibility. Thus Yamazaki was appointed legal advisor to the Soka Gakkai, serving as liaison to other organizations, including the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood. 

Duplicitous Actions by a Trusted Advisor

By the 1970s, as the Soka Gakkai membership soared into the millions with Ikeda Sensei’s leadership, the priesthood saw that, even without clerical instruction, the members could understand Nichiren Daishonin’s writings and effectively share Buddhism with a diverse audience. This fed the priesthood’s insecurity about its role and purpose.

Yamazaki took advantage of this insecurity. While representing the Soka Gakkai, he curried favor with the priests and tried to become their trusted advisor as well. Instead of protecting the Soka Gakkai, he covertly plotted attacks against the organization and joined forces with the priests, who aimed to subjugate Soka Gakkai members and separate them from their mentor, Ikeda Sensei.

He had also started his own company, using his position for personal profit. In 1975, for example, he persuaded the priesthood to sell to his company a large tract of land. He then sold that land to a developer, who then sold it to the Soka Gakkai. These transactions earned Yamazaki a handsome return.

His attacks on the organization intensified after he removed himself as Soka Gakkai’s legal counsel. In the end, his business failed, he was embroiled in lawsuits, and his attempt to extort the Soka Gakkai landed him in prison in 1981.

The Importance of Being a Person of Sincere Faith

So what are the lessons for us?

1) Never forget the basics of faith, practice and study.

Sensei writes:

Faith is a struggle between the potential for Buddhahood and the potential for devilish or destructive tendencies. … Our Buddhist practice, which enables us to polish and develop ourselves, is essential to defeating this inner destructive nature. But Yamawaki, who neglected to make earnest, genuine efforts to strengthen his faith, was an easy target for the devil king of the sixth heaven.[3]Devil king of the sixth heaven: A personification of the most formidable obstacle in faith said to assume various forms, especially as those with authority or power, in order to cause one to discard one’s Buddhist practice. (NHR-8, revised edition, 116)

2) Never stop seeking our mentor in faith.

Sensei describes Yamazaki as being “too consumed with pride and arrogance to listen. He regarded Shin’ichi as a thorn in his side and, whenever the latter sought to guide him in faith, his resentment and animosity grew all the stronger” (NHR-27, April 2016 Living Buddhism, p. 43).

3) Always use our skills for good, not for selfish purposes.

Yamazaki had great intelligence, but rather than use it for good, he created complex schemes for selfish gains.

As Sensei writes:

Intelligence makes a good person that much better and an evil person that much worse. … A person of faith seeks self-mastery; a person of ambition or power seeks to control others. A person of faith takes action, works hard and struggles to overcome his or her inner weakness; a person driven by a desire for power forces others to work for his own selfish purpose, never reflecting upon himself. (The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 3, p. 72)

Ultimately, Yamazaki’s attempts, along with the priesthood, to harm the Soka Gakkai failed. He succeeded only in hurting himself.

We can be sure to grow in faith throughout our lives and continue the victorious legacy of the Soka Gakkai by always following these lessons: rooting ourselves in the basics of faith, learning from our mentor how to carry out correct Buddhist practice, and striving to use our abilities to bring forth the greatest good in ourselves and others.

—Prepared by the SGI-USA Study Department

Notes   [ + ]

1. Ikeda Sensei appears in The New Human Revolution as Shin’ichi Yamamoto.
2. Masatomo Yamazaki appears in The New Human Revolution as Tomomasa Yamawaki.
3. Devil king of the sixth heaven: A personification of the most formidable obstacle in faith said to assume various forms, especially as those with authority or power, in order to cause one to discard one’s Buddhist practice.