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The New Human Revolution

Bells of Dawn—Volume 30, Chapter 4

Ikeda Sensei’s ongoing novel, The New Human Revolution, which he began writing in 1993, is the history of the progress of the Soka Gakkai following his inauguration in 1960 as its third president, and a record of the modern development of the Soka Gakkai and the SGI. It also serves as practical guidance for how to further expand our movement for kosen-rufu. “Awaiting the Time” is the second chapter of volume 30, the final volume of The New Human Revolution. Ikeda Sensei appears in the novel as Shin’ichi Yamamoto.

Installment 10 | Installment 20 | Installment 30 | Installment 40 | Installment 50 | Installment 60 | Installment 70

Installment 1

Germany is home to the religious reformation that marked a new age in European history.

At the beginning of the 16th century, as the clergy grew more corrupt, as Christian teachings devolved into empty formalities, and as the Church became more secularized, the Pope in Rome authorized the sale of indulgences in Germany. It was announced that by purchasing these indulgences sold by the Church, believers would have their sins forgiven.

Martin Luther, a monk and theologian, questioned this practice. He insisted that salvation could not be bought but came only through faith. He issued his Ninety-five Theses in protest, which sparked the Christian Reformation.

Luther was excommunicated by the Pope, but he remained firm in his convictions. Believing that the Bible should be the sole authority in Christian faith, he translated it into German. He also declared his doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, asserting that all human beings are equal before God.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto renewed his determination: “More than four centuries have passed since the Reformation launched by Martin Luther. As we approach the 21st century, a religion that exists for people’s happiness, a religion that can free all humanity from suffering, must flourish.”

At 8:30 p.m. on May 16, 1981, envisaging the development of kosen-rufu in Europe, Shin’ichi arrived at Frankfurt Airport. It was his first visit to West Germany in 16 years.

The following day, May 17, Shin’ichi met with Professor Emeritus Gerhard Olschowy and Professor Josef Derbolav of the University of Bonn, the latter accompanied by his wife, Rita. Dr. Olschowy was known for his research on environmental protection, while Dr. Derbolav was an authority on pedagogy and Greek philosophy. Shin’ichi also met separately that day with Professor N. A. Khan of the Free University of Berlin. Dr. Khan, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, was born in India and had a deep interest in religion. They were all old friends of Shin’ichi’s and everyone enjoyed the reunion. Shin’ichi welcomed them at the hotel in Frankfurt where a friendship exchange meeting was scheduled to be held that afternoon to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the kosen-rufu movement in Germany.

The challenges facing humanity today are complexly interlinked and wide-ranging. That’s why Shin’ichi sought to deepen his ties with leaders in every field, build a solid network of wisdom for the sake of peace and prosperity for all humankind, and generate a groundswell to shape the times.

Installment 2

During their conversation in Frankfurt, Shin’ichi and Dr. Derbolav decided to publish a dialogue together.

Their conversations over the ensuing six years became the source material for the text. Dr. Derbolav, it is said, was overjoyed upon receiving a draft of the manuscript and kept it by his bedside.

The dialogue was published in Japanese in April 1989,[1] but Dr. Derbolav, unfortunately, had died in July 1987 at age 75 and never saw the finished book.

Shin’ichi continued to hold dialogues with people in various fields, putting a special effort into publishing them. Behind this was his deep-seated determination. He knew that the ultimate aim of all areas of learning and all spheres of endeavor, such as politics, economics, education and the arts, is human happiness, social prosperity and peace.

Nichiren Daishonin argued that every area of human activity, from government to daily living, accords with Buddhism, quoting T’ien-t’ai where he says: “No worldly affairs of life or work are ever contrary to the true reality” (“Reply to a Believer,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 905). Shin’ichi wished to shine a light on that undeniable reality through his dialogues with various experts.

Moreover, to fundamentally solve the many problems confronting humanity—environmental destruction, education, nuclear weapons, war, discrimination, poverty and so forth—would require a transformation in human beings themselves. That is why Shin’ichi wished to show how necessary it is to spread the supreme life philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism and make it the guiding spirit of the age. By exchanging ideas and learning from the insights and wisdom of leading figures in different fields, he sought perspectives and practical means for solving all those problems.

He was aware that his dialogues might produce only a limited number of concrete proposals or ideas for solving various problems, but he was hopeful and confident that his initiatives would inspire many young people to follow his lead and light the way forward for humanity.

Passing on an uplifting philosophy and way of thinking is to light a beacon that illuminates the future.

Installment 3

A refreshing breeze wove through the trees. The friendship exchange meeting took place in the hotel’s garden on the afternoon of May 17, with some 800 members from eight countries. Representatives from the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Austria and Italy, as well as a delegation from Japan, joined with the German members in reaffirming the vow they shared for the global spread of Nichiren Buddhism.

A stage had been set up, and a series of musical performances ensued. These portrayed the struggles of the Japanese youth who had relocated to Germany with the wish to contribute to worldwide kosen-rufu and who, while working in coal mines, opened the way for kosen-rufu there.

Most of these young men had no experience as miners before coming to Germany. The backbreaking work left them exhausted, and they often found such local staples as rye bread unpalatable. But they spurred themselves on and did their best to carry out Soka Gakkai activities.

The impassioned call that Shin’ichi had made in his editorial “Youth, Become World Leaders!” in the August 1963 Daibyakurenge resounded in their hearts.

The efforts and hard work of these young men and other courageous pioneering members who joined them had borne fruit, and now many Bodhisattvas of the Earth had emerged in Germany.

It had been President Toda’s firm belief that “A new age will be created by the passion and power of youth.”

Next, a group of children took the stage and sang of the joy of ushering in the hope-filled month of May. Everyone warmly applauded.

Dieter Kahn, the general director of the Soka Gakkai organization in Germany, then appeared on stage and declared with evident emotion: “Finally, finally, our dream for the past 16 years has been realized. President Yamamoto is here with us in Germany!”

The German members had heard that certain Nichiren Shoshu priests and others continued to unjustly attack and harass members in Japan. So they had forged ahead bravely, determined to accelerate the pace of kosen-rufu in Germany and open new horizons for the movement worldwide.

They were eager to take on all challenges and triumph.

Installment 4

A number of guests also attended the friendship gathering, including Dr. N. A. Khan of the Free University of Berlin. In their greetings, all expressed high hopes for the peace movement grounded in Buddhist ideals that Shin’ichi was promoting.

Finally, Shin’ichi took the microphone. “We have a right to become happy here on earth,” he said. “We have a right to live in peace. We have a right to live in freedom. What, then, is the key to making this a reality? I would like to assert that it is the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin.

“Why? Because human beings are the starting point of everything, and life is the most precious thing of all. Nichiren Buddhism illuminates the true nature of life, teaches that all human beings possess the supremely noble and unsurpassed state of Buddhahood and shows the way for each person to establish indestructible happiness and peace. And it is the Soka Gakkai that is putting this Buddhism into practice.

“Just as the sun illuminates every part of the world and its light benefits all, the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin is a teaching that brings true happiness to all people, and is therefore called the Buddhism of the Sun.

“The personal experiences of our members around the world testify to this undeniable power. I hope that you will all be bathed in the light of this great Buddhism, revitalize your lives and build indestructible happiness.

“A religion that cannot help people become happy and lead fulfilling lives cannot possibly realize world peace and free the world’s people from suffering.

“I hope that each of you, my friends, will remain steadfast in your practice of this Buddhism of the Sun and enjoy solid happiness.

“Our gathering today as fellow practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism may be modest, but please be confident that 30, 50, or 100 years from now, this day will shine in history as a landmark that set in motion a groundswell of kosen-rufu for happiness and peace.”

Shin’ichi wished to reaffirm that the aim of Buddhist practice is the happiness of each individual, which is also the aim of the Soka Gakkai’s activities for peace.

Peace is not the mere absence of war. Genuine peace exists when people can savor the joy of being alive and pursue lives full of true happiness and delight.

Installment 5

On the afternoon of May 18, Shin’ichi visited the Frankfurt Community Center, where he took part in a gongyo meeting celebrating the 20th anniversary of the kosen-rufu movement in Germany. He also attended a commemorative tree-planting ceremony and joined in group photographs, to the delight of members who had worked so hard to open the way for kosen-rufu in Germany.

After the meeting, an informal discussion about faith was held with Shin’ichi, who expressed sadness that Germany remained divided into East and West. “As you know,” he said, “both capitalism and communism have reached an impasse. Mind you, our aim is not to criticize either system. Our activities as Buddhists begin by shining a light on the individuals who make up each society.

“The way to break the impasses the world faces today is for people to gain control over their never-ending desires, strive for their own and others’ happiness and create the greatest value possible in their lives and in society. Any social system, whatever its ideals, will be incomplete and unworkable without the inner transformation of people themselves—that is, without human revolution.

“The Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin elucidates the fundamental Law of the universe. Our faith in that Law enables us to draw out the life state of Buddhahood, the source of limitless creativity existing in all people.

“Amid the trouble and confusion of society, our Buddhist practice gives us the means to reveal our inner Buddhahood and brim with fresh life force. It gives us strength and direction to walk with confidence on the path of life, happiness and peace.

“Furthermore, Buddhism teaches that rather than seeking happiness in some kind of heaven apart from this world, we can establish indestructible happiness right where we are, within the reality of our daily lives.”

Shin’ichi wished to drive home that, in these increasingly chaotic times, seeking the sound life philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism would bring immense hope to people’s lives and to the world.

Installment 6

Shin’ichi next addressed the subject of divorce, one of the topics the German general director and other leaders had consulted him about.

Divorce had become increasingly common in Europe and other Western countries, and members sometimes sought guidance about it. The German leaders had asked Shin’ichi how they, as Buddhists, should deal with this.

Shin’ichi wished to reaffirm the basic attitude toward this issue.

“Divorce seems to be a common problem in society today, but I believe that we should avoid getting too deeply involved in such private matters, and refrain from any interference. This is an issue that each person must take responsibility to think about carefully for themselves.

“I can say, however, that to build one’s own happiness on the misfortune of others is not the Buddhist way.

“The important thing is for the couple involved to discuss things thoroughly. If they both practice Nichiren Buddhism, they should chant for a resolution, always bearing in mind such factors as their children’s futures. I hope they will make every effort to meet each other halfway and find the best solution. It’s worth remembering, too, that getting a divorce doesn’t mean you’ll change your karma.

“Leaders should always respect the character and rights of those who come to them for advice in this area and never divulge anything they are told. Never violate members’ privacy by talking about the situation with anyone, not even your family or friends. Please remember, should you fail in this, you not only hurt the parties involved but compromise the trust people have in you and the Soka Gakkai, disqualifying yourself as a leader.

“I wish to reaffirm that this is an iron-fast rule all leaders need to abide by, not just in Germany but in Japan and everywhere else.”

Shin’ichi wished to address members’ questions and concerns clearly, in a way that was easy to understand. For that reason, since his arrival in Frankfurt he had spoken with as many members as he could and listened to what they had to say.

Answering the questions on people’s minds is key to the joyful and dynamic development of kosen-rufu.

Installment 7

Next, Shin’ichi Yamamoto spoke about why the Soka Gakkai organization was necessary.

“There may be some who feel that organizations and individual freedoms conflict. But groups of all kinds, including companies and nations, need a structured organization to achieve their aims. The Soka Gakkai, too, must have an organization as a means to enable everyone to engage in faith, practice, and study, and to promote our movement for kosen-rufu.

“You have all come to practice Nichiren Buddhism today because we have an organization. Also, an organization is necessary for many people to advance in an orderly fashion. Without an organization, we could easily become self-righteous and self-centered in our practice, or attached to our personal views or opinions. Were that to happen, we would veer from correct faith, practice, and study, and be unable to establish a correct way of life based on the Mystic Law.

“When people practice by themselves, they often lose sight of the way forward. To remain steadfast in faith, we need to unite with others. We need to encourage one another to live bravely, urge each other to keep striving in our Buddhist practice and support one another in staying on the right path. From that perspective, I think it becomes clear how important the organization is.

“Please remember, however, that the organization is a means, and that the reason for its existence is to provide guidance and direction so that each member can strengthen their faith and become happy. The purpose of the Soka Gakkai organization is to help everyone attain absolute happiness and the life state of Buddhahood.

“Moreover, positions in the organization do not mean there’s a hierarchy among members. Leaders in the Soka Gakkai serve as cornerstones of unity.

“Therefore, I hope you all will respect, understand, trust, and encourage each other as fellow members of society and together lead victorious lives.”

The Soka Gakkai is a unique and unparalleled organization that is striving for people’s happiness and world peace—in other words, for kosen-rufu. That is why Josei Toda said that the Soka Gakkai organization was more important to him than his own life.

Installment 8

After the discussion, Shin’ichi Yamamoto and his group visited the Goethe House in Frankfurt.

Just three days earlier, Shin’ichi had viewed the house where Tolstoy lived in Moscow.

As a youth during Japan’s tumultuous postwar period, Shin’ichi had devoured the writings of Goethe, Tolstoy and other great authors, finding in their pages strength and hope for the future.

By visiting the homes of such literary giants and seeing the environment in which they lived, Shin’ichi sought to deepen his insight into their character and their works. He also thought that if the opportunity presented itself someday, he would like to speak to young people about such authors and their writings.

The Goethe House was a five-story building. It had burned down in 1944, during the bombing of the city in World War II, but it had been restored.

Shin’ichi and the others went from room to room, viewing the kitchen, dining room, living room, music room, and picture gallery. The Goethe family was reportedly one of the wealthiest in Frankfurt at the time, and the furnishings were grand and luxurious.

On the third floor was the study where Goethe had worked on The Sorrows of Young Werther and began his great masterpiece, Faust. There was a standing desk in the room. Goethe was said to have made a point of standing while he wrote. Here one could sense his youthful vigor.

Tolstoy and Goethe were quite long-lived for their times—both reaching the age of 82 and writing till the end. As if predicting the close of his own towering life, Goethe remarked that even in parting the sun is magnificent.

Shin’ichi reflected that, at 53, he was still young. He told himself: “My life’s real struggle starts from now. To build the foundation for worldwide kosen-rufu and create a stage for our youthful successors, I must keep working and writing as long as I live!”

After completing his itinerary in West Germany, Shin’ichi flew on to Bulgaria, departing at 1:00 p.m. on May 20.

Installment 9

The Balkan Mountains, still capped with snow, glittered in the sunshine. About two and a half hours after leaving Frankfurt, Shin’ichi Yamamoto and his party landed at the airport in Sofia, the capital of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria (now the Republic of Bulgaria), a communist country in Eastern Europe. It was Shin’ichi’s first visit, made at the invitation of the government’s Committee for Culture.

Sofia is a city filled with greenery and surrounded by mountains. At the airport, Shin’ichi and his party were welcomed by Milcho Germanov, first deputy chairman of the Committee for Culture, and others. That evening, Shin’ichi paid his respects to the committee and attended a welcome banquet held at a hotel.

The next morning, on May 21, Shin’ichi visited the mausoleum of Bulgaria’s first postwar prime minister, Georgi Dimitrov. He laid a wreath and offered prayers for the prime minister and for peace. The mausoleum was in Ninth of September Square (now Battenberg Square), named to honor Bulgaria’s socialist revolution.

Next, Shin’ichi met with Nacho Papazov, chairman of the Committee for Science and Technical Progress. The chairman was recovering from illness and there were ongoing concerns about his health, as he had not been seen at any recent official events.

“I have just come to offer my greetings on arriving in Bulgaria and won’t stay long,” Shin’ichi said to him.

“I’m fine now,” Mr. Papazov replied with a smile. “I have been looking forward very much to this day and to meeting you.”

The chairman had been Bulgarian Ambassador to Japan from 1967 to 1971. During that time, he said, he’d had the opportunity to hear Shin’ichi speak and had been very impressed. Recalling that Soka University was under construction back then, he asked if it had opened yet. “For a decade now,” Shin’ichi said, and Chairman Papazov smiled in delight.

Shin’ichi pledged to continue doing all he could to promote exchange between Japan and Bulgaria. Then, as he stood up to leave, Mr. Papazov reached out to stop him. “I deeply appreciate your concern for my health, but I have my doctor’s permission for today’s meeting. So please, do sit down.”

Shin’ichi sensed an urgency in the chairman’s voice.

An eager spirit to keep learning and growing always seeks dialogue.

Installment 10

“I don’t want you to overtax yourself,” Shin’ichi Yamamoto said.

But Chairman Papazov again urged him to sit. He then spoke at length from the heart: “I have the highest regard for your actions. In particular, for your dedication, out of a wish for peace, to cultural exchange for the sake of mutual understanding. Since my time in Japan as ambassador, I have very much hoped that you would visit Bulgaria. Today that wish has come true, and I am overjoyed.

“As you know, Bulgaria, situated on the Balkan Peninsula, has long been a crossroads of civilizations. As a result, it has seen repeated battles and has fallen under the successive rule of the Macedonian, Roman and Byzantine empires. The Mongols invaded it, and the Ottoman Empire ruled over it for some five centuries. Bulgarians also experienced bitter suffering during the First and Second World Wars.

“Because of that, the realization of world peace is my—no, all Bulgarians’—cherished wish. That is why I have such high hopes for your efforts for peace and pray that they will bear great fruit.”

His words overflowed with a fervent wish for peace.

“As the chairman of the Committee for Science and Technical Progress,” he continued, “I would be very happy if in the future Bulgarian universities could engage in exchange with Soka University, which you have founded.”

Expressing his concern again for the chairman’s health, Shin’ichi said: “Please take care of yourself for the sake of your country.” The two then firmly shook hands.

That afternoon, following a meeting with Education Minister Alexander Fol at the ministry offices, Shin’ichi visited the University of Sofia. Founded in 1888, it was the oldest national university in Bulgaria. Shin’ichi was to receive an honorary doctorate in education and sociology, and deliver a commemorative lecture. This would be the third academic institution to present him with an honorary degree, following Moscow State University and Peru’s National University of San Marcos.

Exchanges between universities, centers of learning, create networks for building peace that will endure into the future.

Installment 11

The Rectorate of Sofia University was located on St. Kliment Ohridski Street. Its majestic stone facade and turquoise roof gave it an air of distinguished tradition.

The conferral of the honorary doctorate took place in an auditorium with a high sculptured ceiling, which added to a solemn atmosphere.

Prof. Ivanka Apostolova, chair of the Faculty of Philosophy, read the award citation. Rector Ilcho Dimitrov then presented Shin’ichi with the certificate, which was inscribed in Old Church Slavonic. They shook hands as the audience of around 100, including faculty heads, professors and students, warmly applauded.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto then took the podium to give a lecture outlining his vision for a future of East-West harmony.

He noted that geographically, historically and spiritually, Bulgaria has been a land where the civilizations of East and West have met and clashed, merged and synergized. Because of this, he felt, the country has the potential to play an important role in building a new human society.

Shin’ichi spoke of the close relationship people had with God in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, as represented by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and how there were few intermediaries standing between God and the people.

He then quoted lines from the poem “A Prayer” by the Bulgarian revolutionary and poet Khristo Botev:

O, my God, Thou Lord of Justice—
Not the one in far off heaven—
But thou, God, who dwell’st within me,
In my heart and in my doing.[2]

The poem, Shin’ichi said, showed God as living within a person’s heart, never separated from the people. In his view, the idea of God existing within—of God coming down from on high to reside deep in people’s lives—served to liberate human beings from the chains of all forms of authoritarianism. Botev’s conception of God, he said, was an expression of his love for humanity, resembling the bright sun shining down on the oppressed people.

Installment 12

Shin’ichi Yamamoto went on to say that Botev’s view that God is found within human beings, though expressed differently, is not dissimilar to the ideals of socialist humanism valued in Bulgaria. It reminded him also, he said, of the view of human potential in Buddhism, which teaches that all people possess the supremely noble life state of Buddhahood.

Shin’ichi stressed that Botev’s daring pronouncement that God is within affirms that everything, including religion, exists for the sake of human beings.

When this starting point is forgotten, religion, government, science, culture and art descend swiftly toward corruption and stagnation. This was Shin’ichi’s steadfast conviction.

Next, he discussed the April Uprising of 1876, when Bulgaria was still under the oppressive rule of the Ottoman Empire. The national spirit that soared at the time, he suggested, was driven by a compulsion to defend human dignity. He then spoke of his hopes for the role the country would play: “As long as the banner of the spirit of humanity waves proudly over Bulgaria, the way toward a global humanistic society, transcending differences among peoples, will open widely in the 21st century. I believe that society will be like a vast green field where Eastern and Western cultures blend and the flowers of culture and peace will bloom.”

In closing, noting that the lion was the symbol of Bulgaria, Shin’ichi said that as a Buddhist he would continue to strive like a lion, traveling the world for peace and the happiness of all humanity. He also called on everyone to “forever wave the banner of human liberty, peace, and dignity, dauntlessly and bravely like a lion.” As he concluded his 40-minute address, applause rang through the hall.

Asked to sign the university’s guest book to commemorate the occasion, Shin’ichi wrote:

Learning is, alone, the universal truth.
Learning is the truth upon which world peace depends.
Learning is the reliable guidepost for the youth of the future.

Installment 13

After his lecture at Sofia University, Shin’ichi Yamamoto visited the National Palace of Culture to meet with Lyudmila Zhivkova, chairperson of the Committee for Culture, which had invited Shin’ichi to Bulgaria. Ms. Zhivkova was the daughter of Todor Zhivkov, chairman of the State Council, the country’s top leader. Her refined dignity seemed to embody Bulgaria and its respect for culture.

On his visit to Mexico in late February and early March, Shin’ichi had learned that Ms. Zhivkova happened to be staying at the same hotel as he and his party. He was already scheduled to visit Bulgaria, at her invitation. The chairperson had been traveling around the world to promote cultural ties, believing firmly that such exchange opens the way to peace.

Hearing that she was unwell, Shin’ichi and his wife, Mineko, sent her flowers. Finally, on March 3, when Chairperson Zhivkova was feeling better, the two of them met with her at the hotel. It was the anniversary of the day in 1878 that Bulgaria had been liberated from the Ottoman Empire.

Her eyes sparkling, Ms. Zhivkova said: “Though you live in Japan and I live in Bulgaria, on opposite sides of the world, I am delighted that we can meet here like this in Mexico!”

Shin’ichi felt the same way.

Concerned for her health, he tried to keep their meeting brief.

The chairperson was a historian who had studied at Oxford University. With a gentle smile, she offered pertinent insights on each subject that arose. Their conversation, though not lengthy, revealed her to be a person of keen intelligence and wisdom. She also seemed to have a strong interest in Buddhism.

“Culture is a bridge,” she said. “It links not just nations but social systems. I would like to fight against war with culture.”

Listening to these resolute words, Shin’ichi sensed that beneath her elegant surface lay a strong inner core.

What forms such an inner core is conviction and a sound life philosophy.

Installment 14

Shin’ichi and Mineko Yamamoto were now meeting Chairperson Zhivkova again, two and a half months after their encounter in Mexico.

Dressed in a white suit and hat, Ms. Zhivkova said with her gentle smile:

“Congratulations on your recent honorary doctorate. It is a fitting recognition of all you have accomplished so far.

“We regard you as an ambassador of peace. You are devoting your life to cultural exchange, which promotes understanding and interactions among people. Bulgarians place high value on culture, so we fully appreciate your activities.”

Shin’ichi expressed his thanks.

They discussed Bulgaria’s history and its people, traditions, and connections to Asian culture. Ms. Zhivkova noted that Bulgarians’ traced their roots to the Thracians, Slavs and Bulgars, the latter group said to have originated in Central Asia and have had close ties with Buddhist culture. She believed that all human beings were deeply interconnected.

They also discussed future exchanges between Japan and Bulgaria. These would include inviting a Bulgarian chorus to Japan under the auspices of the Min-On Concert Association and creating opportunities for children of both nations to interact. It was a very fruitful conversation.

Knowing that Ms. Zhivkova had been working tirelessly as her country’s key cultural policymaker, Shin’ichi said with warm concern: “Life is long. Our struggle unfolds over the long term. For the sake of the world and Bulgaria, please take good care of your health and don’t overexert yourself.”

Nodding and smiling, she replied with resolve: “Thank you. But those in weighty positions have weighty responsibilities. We must be aware of those responsibilities and strive to fulfill them with all our strength, no matter the cost. And I am prepared to do so.”

She radiated unshakable determination. Without such commitment, one cannot achieve great things.

Installment 15

The next morning, May 22, Shin’ichi and his party visited Chairman Todor Zhivkov at the State Council Building. The country was celebrating the 1,300th anniversary of the founding of the first Bulgarian state. Knowing the chairman would be greeting a succession of foreign visitors, Shin’ichi began by saying he wouldn’t detain him for long.

Shin’ichi expressed his concern about the growing problem of pollution in the Black Sea, and suggested that the nations on its shores join in a cooperative cleanup effort.

Water from the Mediterranean Sea, with its higher salinity, flowed into the Black Sea and settled at a depth of around 200 meters (600–700 feet) and below. This deeper zone was devoid of oxygen and high in hydrogen sulfide, making it inhospitable to fish species. Most fishing took place along the north shores, in shallower waters where salinity was reduced by the inflow of fresh water from rivers. But now these shoreline areas were becoming polluted by runoff from rivers.

“To protect this precious natural resource,” Shin’ichi said, “I think it would be wonderful if a plan, aiming toward the 21st century, could be devised to transform the Black Sea into a rich ‘blue sea’ teeming with fish.

“To fund such an effort, the coastal nations could each reduce military spending a little and work together to clean the waters.”

Mr. Zhivkov concurred. “Yes, unless we all agree to reduce our spending on weapons, it will be impossible to realize such a plan. Unfortunately, tensions remain between the United States and the Soviet Union, and between NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations.”

Turkey, which bordered the Black Sea on the south, belonged to NATO, while the other coastal nations, including the Soviet Union and Bulgaria, were members of the Warsaw Pact.

The Black Sea connected all these countries, but the East-West conflict loomed large, preventing cooperation and allowing environmental destruction to continue unchecked.

Shin’ichi traveled the world stressing the need to correct the lamentable situation in which ideology takes priority over human security.

Installment 16

Shin’ichi Yamamoto continued to share his views, noting that while heavy industry was important, it might be beneficial from here on to encourage the growth of light industry.

Chairman Zhivkov agreed and spoke of his vision for the future: “Our people’s standard of living is improving, so we are now placing greater importance on light industry and focusing on enriching our people’s lives. We are also working to enhance our cultural life. We now have enough bread to eat, so we would like to produce more books, so that people have plenty of books to read at home.”

After World War II, the country abolished the monarchy and became the People’s Republic of Bulgaria. In 1954, Chairman Zhivkov was made first secretary (later general secretary) of the Bulgarian Communist Party, and eventually also came to serve as premier. Since that time, he had been the country’s top leader.

Television cameras recorded the meeting. After about 30 minutes, Shin’ichi took his leave.

That afternoon, Shin’ichi and his party drove two hours from Sofia to visit Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest and oldest city, which dated back to the Neolithic period. The green of the trees lining the streets contrasted beautifully with the red tile roofs.

After meeting with the district assembly vice chairman and other local officials, Shin’ichi was given a tour of the Trakia Residential Complex, where he was to take part in a ceremonial tree planting.

As he prepared for the ceremony, some children who were nearby gathered around. They smiled and nodded when Shin’ichi suggested they plant the fir tree together.

“I hope this tree grows tall and strong, and that the friendship between Japan and Bulgaria grows, too,” he said and shoveled soil onto the roots. The children then took their turns.

Shin’ichi asked them what they would like to be when they grew up, and with sparkling eyes they told him about their dreams.

No matter how turbulent the times, as long as children have dreams there is hope for the future.

Installment 17

Shin’ichi Yamamoto and his party next visited the Old Town of Plovdiv, with its many historical sites. In a majestic 19th-century Bulgarian Renaissance-style building, Mayor Hristo Mishev spoke to them of the city’s past and present. They then continued their tour of the city, strolling along its cobblestone streets.

They were shown around another historical building, which had been designated a national cultural monument, and there found a chorus of about 60 boys waiting for them. Wearing dark brown jackets and shorts and white frilled shirts, they entertained the visitors with a series of songs in their beautiful, clear voices.

One of the boys then stepped forward and said: “Next, in honor of our guests from Japan, we will sing a song in Japanese, ‘Kusatsu-bushi.’” [Kusatsu is a city renowned for its hot springs in Gunma Prefecture, Japan.]

It was a heartfelt gesture to make the visitors feel at home.

Kusatsu is a wonderful place,
so please visit at least once.
(Ha dokkoisho!)
Even in hot water, you’ll see,
flowers bloom.

Their effort to pronounce the Japanese lyrics correctly, though not always successful, made their performance all the more endearing.

At the end, Shin’ichi rose from his chair to applaud vigorously and thank the boys.

“What a pure, beautiful, and enjoyable performance! I am very moved. I am sure you must have rehearsed very long and hard for today. I am deeply touched by your sincerity. This brief meeting has become my eternal treasure. Thank you!

“You have really warmed my heart. I felt as if we were all in Japan enjoying the hot springs together. Please come visit Japan. Please make lots of friends.”

Children are the emissaries from the future. The message Shin’ichi wanted to entrust to those emissaries as a gift for the future was “Please unite the world through friendship and build peace!”

The Chinese author Bing Xin, a friend of Shin’ichi and Mineko, wrote:

Within their small bodies
resides a great spirit.[3]

Installment 18

In the late afternoon of May 23, Shin’ichi Yamamoto attended a gathering of the “Banner of Peace” Children’s Assembly at the invitation of Lyudmila Zhivkova, chairperson of Bulgaria’s Committee for Culture. The event took place on a hill in Sofia with a view of the famous Mt. Vitosha in the distance. It was both a prelude to the May 24 Education, Culture and Slavic Script Day celebrations and a part of the country’s 1,300th anniversary festivities.

On the hill stood the Banner of Peace monument, more than 30 meters (100 feet) high, bearing the assembly’s motto, “Unity, Creativity, Beauty.” At its entrance hung a portrait of Saints Cyril and Methodius, who helped lay the foundations of Bulgarian culture by creating the prototype of the Cyrillic alphabet.

The “Banner of Peace” Children’s Assembly was inaugurated in 1979 to commemorate the United Nations–designated International Year of the Child. Some 2,500 children from 79 countries participated in the first assembly, held in Sofia, celebrating and making a pledge for peace. Several Japanese children with disabilities were among the participants, and one of them read a poem he had written, titled “To Live.” People all over the world praised the gathering. Chairperson Zhivkova played a major role in making the event happen. In her travels around the globe, she had consistently stressed the importance of safeguarding peace and children’s future.

That afternoon, shortly after 5:00, as Shin’ichi and Mineko made their way to their seats with the chairperson, children in colorful folk costumes welcomed them, waving miniature Bulgarian flags of white, green and red. Once they sat down, the choral performance began.

The message of the first song was “Let’s fill the world with the laughter and happiness of children. Let’s soar high on wings of friendship and fly around the world from Mt. Vitosha.”

There were more songs and also folk dances, some accompanied by traditional drum and flute. Every performance communicated a deep pride in Bulgarian culture.

Ms. Zhivkova applauded each one enthusiastically, praising and thanking the children, saying: “Well done!” “Wonderful performance!”

Her gaze was that of a gentle yet strong mother who loved children and was determined to protect them.

Installment 19

In her speech, Chairperson Zhivkova spoke of the significance of Bulgaria’s Education, Culture and Slavic Script Day, explaining that it pays tribute to and celebrates the immortal contribution of the brothers Cyril and Methodius, who devised the prototype of the Cyrillic alphabet.

Until the ninth century, the Slavic languages spoken in Bulgaria and elsewhere had no alphabet, she said. To translate the Bible for the people of this region, these brothers, both Greek missionaries, invented the Glagolitic script based on Greek. Later, their disciples continued to revise that script, which developed into the Cyrillic alphabet used widely in Slavic countries, including Russia.

Chairperson Zhivkova called on the audience to always cherish the motto of “Unity, Creativity, Beauty” that adorns the Banner of Peace monument and work to realize world peace.

Next, Shin’ichi Yamamoto rose to speak. It had started to rain, but he walked to the microphone without an umbrella.

“As a representative of Japan, I would like to offer my greetings to all the lovely, precious children here today.”

Then, to save time, he asked the interpreter to read the Bulgarian translation of his speech straight through. He wanted to let the children get out of the rain as quickly as possible.

Shin’ichi urged the children to become brave, kind and considerate, and to thoroughly train their bodies and minds. Life is another name for struggle, he said. While many challenges and hardships may await them on the road to their dreams, they should always strive bravely and strongly, and keep growing. “Remember,” he said, “that obstacles and difficulties are great opportunities to become stronger.”

The children’s applause echoed over the hill.

It was then time for the finale.

Amid the pealing of the monument’s Bells of Peace—a collection donated from around the world—a group of children lit the ceremonial Flame of Peace, which burst into life.

If a flame of peace is ignited in the hearts of children, our Earth in the 21st century will become a bright planet shining with the light of peace.

Installment 20

On May 24, Education, Culture and Slavic Script Day, there was a parade in Sofia’s Ninth of September Square to celebrate the country’s 1,300th anniversary. Shin’ichi Yamamoto had been invited to view the event along with many Bulgarian government officials, including State Council Chairman Zhivkov.

The day was fine, the early-summer sun shining bright. Men, women, young and old marched proudly. There were groups representing schools from elementary through high school, universities, workplaces, and community organizations. Some marchers held large colorful posters depicting Saints Cyril and Methodius, adding to the festive atmosphere. A brass band played lively music, and baton twirlers gave a spirited performance.

Rector Dimitrov led the group of Sofia University faculty and students. There were also people holding small children by the hand or carrying them on their shoulders. Others waved carnations as they marched along. It was a relaxed and warmhearted parade, everyone smiling and united in spirit.

Vladimir Tropin, Moscow State University’s vice rector, was also attending as an invited guest. He said to Shin’ichi: “Here, we see humanism, an ideal shared by the Soka Gakkai.”

The following afternoon, Shin’ichi and his party left Bulgaria. Emil Aleksandrov, the vice chairperson of the Committee for Culture, saw them off at the airport. “You are a person who is active around the world,” he said to Shin’ichi with great feeling. “We would be honored if you would count us as one of your friends. Chairperson Zhivkova is also deeply grateful for your and your wife’s visit and asked me to convey her warmest regards.”

Lyudmila Zhivkova died just two months later, on July 21. She was only 38. People around the world mourned her sudden death.

Like a beautiful flower, her life had come to an end all too soon. She had worked with wholehearted dedication and commitment, never thinking of herself. Reflecting on her noble life of purpose and conviction, Shin’ichi and Mineko prayed for her eternal happiness.

Installment 21

Shin’ichi Yamamoto and his party left Sofia International Airport at 3:20 p.m. on May 25 for Austria’s capital, Vienna.

While on the plane, Shin’ichi thought: “I’m sure the seedlings of cultural exchange and friendship we planted on this visit will take deep root, grow tall and spread branches reaching into the skies of the 21st century. In the light of the Daishonin’s writings, the time will come when a steady stream of Bodhisattvas of the Earth will emerge in Bulgaria, too. Times change. The dawn of kosen-rufu in Bulgaria is sure to come!”

Three years after this visit, in October 1984, Soka University and Sofia University signed an agreement for academic and student exchange. Since then, students from Soka University have studied at Sofia University, and faculty and students of Sofia University have taught and studied at Soka University.

In April and May of 1992, Shin’ichi’s photo exhibition “Dialogue with Nature” (sponsored by the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum) was shown at the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, with Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev attending the opening.

In November 1999, Shin’ichi’s dialogue with Sofia University Professor Axinia Djourova, an eminent Bulgarian scholar, was published in Japanese under the title Utsukushiki Shishi no Tamashii (The Beauty of a Lion’s Heart). A Bulgarian translation came out the following year.

The dialogue was an exchange between two cultures, one founded in Buddhism and the other in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Shin’ichi took part with the wish to build a new spiritual Silk Road linking Eastern Europe and Japan.

Of special note is the fact that in 2001—the dawn of the 21st century and 20 years after Shin’ichi’s first visit—an SGI chapter was established in Bulgaria commemorating May 3, Soka Gakkai Day. The new chapter leader had been one of the first Soka University students to study at Sofia University.

“Can there be any doubt that … [the Law] will be spread far and wide [Jpn. kosen-rufu] throughout … Jambudvipa [the entire world]?” (“The Selection of the Time,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 550). The times were shifting in accord with this prediction of the Daishonin.

Installment 22

Beautiful green fields stretched out below and the blue Danube wound its way through tree-lined banks.

At 4:00 p.m. on May 25, Shin’ichi and his party landed at Vienna Airport.

Shin’ichi had last visited Austria 20 years earlier on his first trip to Europe (in 1961). There had been no members in the country at that time, but now there was a chapter, and chapter leader Yoshiharu Nagamura and others welcomed the group at the airport.

Nagamura was 39 and worked at a printing company. Born in Japan’s Niigata Prefecture, he had studied design at a technical school in Tokyo and then found a job at a paper craft company. He joined the Soka Gakkai in 1962. Striving actively as a young men’s division member, he introduced 20 people to Nichiren Buddhism. At 27, he decided to dedicate himself to worldwide kosen-rufu and made his way to Austria via the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Six months went by without him finding a job. On the eve of his final day to do so before being forced to return to Japan, he stayed up all night in his apartment chanting intensely to fulfill his wish of working for kosen-rufu in Austria. It was the thick of winter, and the temperature was minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).

Dawn came. He packed his belongings and prepared to leave his apartment, disappointed at the prospect of returning to Japan. As he stepped outside, a middle-aged man emerged from the apartment next door, and their eyes met.

Out of nowhere, the man asked him: “Have you got a job? Do you want to work for me?”

He went on to explain that he ran a gas station and that his young employee, who lived in the apartment next to Nagamura’s, had fallen ill, leaving him understaffed.

Nagamura’s predicament had been solved, and this convinced him that through strong prayer, he could always find a way forward.

In 1972, Nagamura visited Japan and met with Shin’ichi, presenting him with a decorative card signed by four members living in Vienna. He had taken a solid first step toward establishing kosen-rufu in Austria.

Responding to one’s mentor with action and actual proof is the path of the disciple.

Nagamura married a Japanese young women’s division member, and together they vowed to become the cornerstones of kosen-rufu in Austria.

Whenever Shin’ichi visited Paris, Nagamura would make the 18-hour train ride to see him. For the organization to grow in Austria, he believed, it was vital that he as a leader seek out his mentor, absorb as much as possible from him, and strive in his personal growth.

Installment 23

Greeting Nagamura at Vienna Airport, Shin’ichi said: “I have come to see you. You have been striving so very hard as my disciple. I will support you in any way I can.”

Shin’ichi’s visit coincided with the music festival season in Vienna, when people from all over the world flocked to the city.

On May 26, Shin’ichi met at his hotel with sociologist Bryan Wilson of Oxford University, engaging in discussions to finalize the publication of their dialogue, Human Values in a Changing World.

That evening, about 20 local members gathered in a conference room at the hotel for an informal meeting with Shin’ichi. Responding to their questions, he spoke about the ideal way to develop the kosen-rufu movement in Austria.

“As Buddhists who wish for the happiness of others,” he said, “I hope you will be people of action who work to protect the dignity of life and safeguard culture and peace. Remember that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the driving force behind all your efforts, and courageously rise to every challenge you face, day after day. That is the key to a life of joy, hope, and fulfillment.

“You are all shouldering our movement for kosen-rufu, so please take care of yourselves and your families. It’s important for you to be good citizens, liked and respected by those around you, and contribute to your communities and society. Buddhism does not exist apart from daily life.

“Each of you being healthy in body and mind, earning respect for your character and demonstrating shining actual proof of your Buddhist practice in society will further kosen-rufu.

“There is no need to rush things. With your sights set on the 21st century, please steadily develop a network of trust and build the foundation for tremendous future growth.”

At the meeting, a long-awaited Austria Headquarters was established, with two chapters and Nagamura as headquarters leader, marking a fresh start for the organization.

On May 27, Shin’ichi visited the Vienna State Opera and met with its director, Egon Seefehlner. He wished to express his thanks for the opera company’s tour in Japan the previous autumn, at the invitation of the Min-On Concert Association, which he founded.

Sincerity is the heart of friendship.

Installment 24

That same day (May 27), Shin’ichi visited the Ministry of Education and the Arts and met with the minister, Fred Sinowatz, who was also Austria’s vice chancellor—later, becoming chancellor.

During their conversation, too, the subject of the Vienna State Opera’s performances in Japan came up. Shin’ichi expressed his commitment to world peace, saying he wished to continue contributing to that cause through cultural and educational exchange.

Afterwards, Shin’ichi went straight to Yoshiharu Nagamura’s apartment in Belvederegasse, just a few minutes from the State Opera. The room used for meetings was about 25 square meters (270 square feet) and also served as the center for members’ activities in Vienna. Nagamura lived in the apartment with his wife, seven-year-old son and four-year-old daughter.

The room was modest, but it was the cradle for the emergence of capable individuals who would shoulder the kosen-rufu movement in Austria, creating a new history of the people bright with happiness and peace.

Solemnly, Shin’ichi did gongyo with the Nagamura family and other members gathered there. He prayed for their health and growth and the development of kosen-rufu in Austria, with the deep wish that everyone would make a triumphant song of happiness resound far and wide.

After taking a commemorative photograph with them at a nearby park, Shin’ichi visited the Beethoven Museum in Heiligenstadt. Here the great composer is thought to have lived for a time and, despairing over his encroaching deafness, written a will and testament addressed to his brothers. Known for this reason as the House of the Heiligenstadt Testament, the small museum occupied just two rooms on the house’s second floor.

An elderly woman who had taken care of the museum for 35 years gave Shin’ichi a guided tour. A reproduction of the testament was on display.

Losing his hearing as a musician plunged Beethoven into hopelessness, and he considered taking his own life. In the testament, he wrote: “Only one thing, Art, held me back. Oh, it seemed impossible to me to leave this world before I had produced all that I felt capable of producing.”[4]

An awareness of one’s mission has the power to conquer all trials. When we dedicate our lives to our mission, we can tap limitless courage.

Installment 25

Shin’ichi took his time viewing the items on display at the Beethoven Museum. He also viewed the room where the composer, struggling in anguish, produced several great works. Beethoven’s portrait hung on the wall.

When composing, Beethoven obsessively pursued perfection. Sometimes he would labor over a single bar, revising and rewriting it more than a dozen times until it was just right. He was also acclaimed as a pianist. Eschewing elegance, his playing was filled with power, energy, and emotional intensity.

The wood-grain piano in the museum looked very sturdy.

Beethoven aimed to compose music not for the nobility but for ordinary people, for all human beings. He cherished a wish that his work might someday “be exhibited only in the service of the poor.”[5] It was this unwavering resolve that made him a virtuoso.

When we dedicate ourselves to a noble cause, we can bring forth the strength that resides within us.

After visiting the museum, Shin’ichi chatted with members over dinner at a hilltop restaurant as they celebrated the start of the new headquarters organization in Austria.

Shin’ichi said to Yoshiharu Nagamura, the new headquarters leader: “Thank you for everything you have done for us during our stay. Kosen-rufu is a long struggle. If you overdo things, you can’t keep going. Be sensible, get plenty of sleep, and take care of your health.”

Shin’ichi knew that after accompanying them around Vienna each day, he was returning to the office at night to work. But Nagamura never once mentioned it. With such a dedicated leader, Shin’ichi thought, the SGI organization in Austria was sure to grow.

Buddhism teaches the law of cause and effect that governs our lives. Over the long term, those who are sincere and dedicated win—in both life and kosen-rufu.

The Danube River flowed quietly under the twilight sky, as if making its way toward the 21st century.

Installment 26

The dazzling sun shone in the blue sky. Having completed their trip to Vienna, Shin’ichi and his party arrived at Pisa International Airport at 3:00 p.m. on May 28.

Benvenuto!” (“Welcome!”)

A large group of Italian young men and women with sparkling eyes and sunny smiles greeted Shin’ichi.

Twenty years earlier, on his first visit to Italy in October 1961, only a Japanese couple had welcomed him at the airport in Rome—the husband having been transferred there by his company. Now, seeing so many exuberant young people on hand to meet him, Shin’ichi sensed that a new age of worldwide kosen-rufu had arrived, and he was filled with hope and excitement.

On the way to their hotel in Florence, Shin’ichi and his party stopped to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The next day, May 29, Shin’ichi presented poems to representative members and talked with the youth one after another.

Then, on the afternoon of May 30, he attended a meeting held at a member’s home to commemorate two decades of the kosen-rufu movement in Italy. The gathering brimmed with youthful energy. Present were many students from the University of Florence, whose fields of study included medicine, philosophy, literature and economics.

Some members had made their way from Sicily, taking the ferry to the mainland and then traveling 16 hours by train. Others had come from Naples and Sorrento in the south and from the economic hub of Milan in the north.

After a solemn gongyo led by Shin’ichi, an informal discussion was held. Turning to the subject of the Renaissance, he said: “I always longed to visit the green city of Florence. It was here in a stifling age dominated by the Church that the windows were thrown wide open and a new wave of thought was generated that led to the Renaissance. As you know, renaissance means ‘rebirth,’ and it is translated into Japanese as either ‘cultural revival’ or ‘human revival.’”

Shin’ichi wished to explain the significance of kosen-rufu within the larger context of human history. The true meaning of the Soka movement for human revolution—for transforming human lives and reviving the people—becomes clearer with a broad historical perspective.

Installment 27

Shin’ichi spoke to the young people with the thought of entrusting the future to them. A new age is created when youth can exercise their power freely.

“The Renaissance brought freedom, liberating humanity. It was an awakening to the idea that human beings are central, and as such established a truly new age.”

The Renaissance was created by poets, thinkers and artists centered in Florence, led by the poet Dante Alighieri, who played a pioneering role, and later Giovanni Boccaccio, Niccolò Machiavelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael, among many others.

The Renaissance’s influence spread to Rome and other cities of Italy, as well as to France, Germany, England and the rest of Europe, leading to the Reformation.

With its call for a return to antiquity, to the classics and to the human being, it liberated people from the shackles of Church authority and led to a brilliant flowering of human potential. This was unquestionably a victory for humanism and a triumph of personal liberty.

Shin’ichi’s voice grew stronger: “But did people attain true freedom? Did they become the protagonists of history?

“Unfortunately, I think we must say no. Instead, they became enslaved by political systems and ideologies or by science and technology. In addition, moral laxity and the clashing of oversized egos led to the evils of dictatorship and fascism—and this is something that our societies today must also be concerned about.

“In other words, liberated by the Renaissance, people made their minds their master. This, however, put them at the mercy of their desires and emotions on the one hand and under the restraints of external forces that sought to repress those impulses on the other. In this way, they created an age very far from the happy one they hoped for.”

A Buddhist sutra teaches: “Become the master of your mind rather than let your mind master you” (“Reply to the Lay Priest Soya,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol 1,p. 486).

Installment 28

Shin’ichi Yamamoto went on to note that many eminent thinkers were now calling for a new humanism and a revolution in humanity in order to realize the ideals of the Renaissance in modern times. They were deeply interested, he said, in the idea of human beings achieving their own inner transformation. Unless people change fundamentally, they will be unable to become the protagonists of the age and society or to attain true happiness. And key to such change, he stressed, is understanding the fundamental Law of life, which opens the way for self-mastery and the creation of limitless value.

“That Law,” he said, “is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the heart of the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, which fully elucidate the essence of human life. This Law provides the means for the inner human transformation these thinkers advocate. This great Law of life in fact holds the key to a brighter future for humanity.”

Many at the meeting were youth, in particular, university students. In his mind’s eye, Shin’ichi could see a hope-filled future stretching ahead for kosen-rufu in Italy. He continued speaking with the fervent wish that all would stand up as the new flag bearers of a Century of Life.

“For the sake of your own future and for the future of kosen-rufu, please concentrate on your studies now. Studying hard as a student constitutes your Buddhist practice for this period of your life. Of course, Soka Gakkai activities are also important, but if you neglect your studies now, you’ll regret it all your life. Faith equals daily life, and for students, faith equals learning. I want to be very clear about this.”

Next, Shin’ichi spoke about the significance of leadership positions within the Soka Gakkai organization.

“Positions in the organization have nothing to do with power or authority. Nor are they a measure of faith. You should never judge people based upon their position or, if you’re a leader, think you’re better than your fellow members. I hope you will all strive in your Buddhist practice in a spirit of mutual respect, trust and encouragement.

“To hold a Soka Gakkai leadership position is to bear responsibility for kosen-rufu. If you take on such a position, it’s bound to be a lot of work and very challenging. But at the same time, you’re guaranteed to accumulate immense benefit and good fortune.”

Shin’ichi poured all his energy into fostering the youth. Sincere, engaged effort is required to help others develop.

Installment 29

The sky was blue and cloudless.

On the afternoon of May 31, Shin’ichi Yamamoto attended a friendship and culture festival commemorating two decades of the kosen-rufu movement in Italy. It was held in a large garden in Settignano, a village on the outskirts of Florence. In addition to 700 members from throughout Italy, a delegation of members from Japan attended, and everyone joined together in an exuberant celebration of Italian-Japanese friendship.

It was the first time the Italian organization would put on such a large event, and the members had been busy with preparations for days. Building the stage alone had been a major undertaking. Everyone worked hard on many tasks in preparation for the event and threw themselves into rehearsals for the performances.

On arriving at the venue, Shin’ichi immediately went over to the young people serving as event staff and offered them heartfelt encouragement.

“Let’s take a picture together!” he suggested.

After the photographs—one with the young men and one with the young women—he said: “In one of his writings, Nichiren Daishonin speaks of the principle of ‘emerging from the earth’ (“True Aspect of All Phenomenon,” Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 385). This refers to how the Bodhisattvas of the Earth emerge in ever-growing numbers to shoulder the mission of kosen-rufu and free people from suffering. You are these Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

“I am sure you all have your own hopes. You may also be dealing with serious problems or facing setbacks of some kind. Life might be called an ongoing struggle against hardships. But as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, all our hardships and sufferings exist so that we can overcome them and show proof of the incredible power of our Buddhist practice. In other words, triumphing over painful karma enables us to demonstrate the truth and validity of Nichiren Buddhism and spread the Mystic Law. This is how we fulfill our mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

“In a sense, hardships and sufferings are indispensable for us to fulfill that mission. That is why Nichiren Buddhism teaches transforming karma into mission. No matter how fiercely the storms of karma assail us, we can never fail to win over them.”

The emergence of so many young members in Florence confirmed the principle of “emerging from the earth” for Shin’ichi and gave him great hope for worldwide kosen-rufu.

Installment 30

Tall trees surrounded the garden and a pleasant breeze was blowing.

The stage’s backdrop pictured the sun shining on animals, trees and flowers. The festival opened with a traditional folk dance by members from Naples, followed by numerous other songs and dances by members from cities such as Rome, Florence, Milan, Genoa and Turin. An elderly singer gave a powerful solo. Members from Bergamo filled the stage to perform a lively dance accompanied by whistling and clapping.

Young women sang the Japanese song “Hoshi wa Hikarite” (The Stars Shine), which Shin’ichi had written and presented to the Byakuren Group in Japan. Women’s division members followed with the song “Kyo mo Genki de” (Ever in High Spirits)[6], which they also sang in Japanese. The delegation from Japan joined in, as did many others in the audience, their voices echoing into the sky.

Members of the delegation also took the stage to perform a traditional Japanese dance known as the “Kochi Ondo” and sang “O sole mio” in Italian, to hearty applause.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto clapped enthusiastically at the end of each performance.

After their numbers, performers came over to where Shin’ichi was seated. He thanked and praised them and firmly shook their hands. A constant flow of people pressed toward him. One youth brought his parents, who were attending as guests. A couple brought their young daughter, who was blind.

Shin’ichi listened closely to what each had to say and put his all into offering them encouragement and guidance. Shin’ichi felt strongly that he must not let this opportunity pass him by, for another chance might never come. Each moment counted.

Hironobu Kanemitsu, the Italy Headquarters leader, spoke briefly, his eyes gleaming behind his glasses. On behalf of all the Italian members, he declared: “We are so happy to be able to welcome you, President Yamamoto!” Addressing everyone, he said: “Today signals a fresh departure for our organization in Italy. Let’s charge ahead toward kosen-rufu! Let’s challenge ourselves anew with courage! The time is now!”

Installment 31

Shin’ichi Yamamoto was delighted above all by the remarkable development the Italian organization had achieved over the previous 20 years.

A slightly built Japanese man rushed about the venue as a member of the event staff. His name was Yasuo Kojima. Fourteen years earlier, Shin’ichi had encouraged him while riding the elevator at his hotel in Rome. At that time, Kojima had been an art student. According to Headquarters Leader Kanemitsu, Kojima was now working hard in Rome, supporting the members as one of the key leaders in his local chapter.

People who strive tirelessly outside the limelight to support others, encouraging new young members, are very important. How many such individuals work behind the scenes, assisting the central leader, is key to the organization’s strength and development. Ultimately, kosen-rufu is a team effort, one requiring unity.

Shin’ichi walked onto the stage and took the microphone.

“Single drops of water come together as streams in the distant Alps and flow through Italy, join the Po River and eventually pour into the Adriatic Sea. Our movement for a renaissance of life may just be starting to flow down from the mountains, but I assert that in 30 or 50 years it will become a mighty river, a strong new current of peace for humankind.

“For that to happen, you must each take responsibility for kosen-rufu and stand alone, without depending upon others. Day after day, steadily press ahead, one step at a time, with all your strength. The accumulation of such small actions, such small triumphs, will result in a historic victory.”

In closing, he said, “Stay cheerful, chant earnestly, attend to daily life and take care of your health.” He called on everyone to “join hands with youth around the world and advance courageously for world peace.”

That evening, Shin’ichi talked with members. It was his wish that they generate a tide of interfaith dialogue from Italy and create a new history of human harmony.

Installment 32

On the morning of June 1, Shin’ichi Yamamoto met at his hotel with Aurelio Peccei, president of the Club of Rome. Dr. Peccei had returned from London just the previous day and had left his home in Rome early that morning to make the four-hour drive to Florence. Though 72 years old, he showed no signs of fatigue. Shin’ichi was astounded by his energy and vigor. People actively committed to realizing high ideals are always youthful.

The two were engaged in an ongoing dialogue scheduled for publication. That day, they shared their views on the subject of leadership and also discussed the book’s overall structure.

After this meeting, Shin’ichi went to Dante’s House Museum (Museo Casa di Dante) with several Italian youth. It was a four-story stone building, and a bust of Dante gazed out from its mount on the outer wall.

Born in Florence in 1265, Dante Alighieri was one of the greatest Italian poets and thinkers of medieval times. At the age of 30, wishing to serve his native city, he became and soon distinguished himself as a political leader. Caught in a whirlpool of political strife and jealous rivalries, however, he was falsely accused of crimes and forced into permanent exile.

Dante’s heart burned with anger and a fierce resolve to rectify the perverse situation where falsehoods, fabrications and intrigues painted right as wrong and wrong as right. He began to pen The Divine Comedy, which depicts the realms of the afterlife based on the medieval Christian view.

In the vision presented in that work, people’s pretentions and lies had no currency. All received their due reward or retribution according to their deeds in life. Those who had committed grave offenses—whether a popular political leader, eminent scholar, decorated general or high-ranking cleric—were judged with uncompromising strictness and condemned to hell.

By portraying the afterlife in this way, Dante hoped to make people think about how they lived.

Buddhism teaches the law of cause and effect operating throughout the three existences of past, present and future. As Soka Gakkai members who day after day walk the path of highest good that is kosen-rufu in accord with this law, we cannot fail to secure an eternal state of indestructible happiness.

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “When he was alive, he was a Buddha in life, and now he is a Buddha in death. He is a Buddha in both life and death” (“Hell is the Land of Tranquil Light,” Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol 1, p. 456). The life state of joy we attain through our dedication and unflagging efforts to fulfill our mission is eternal; our lives will radiate joy even after death.

Installment 33

In The Divine Comedy, Dante depicts the terrible consequences awaiting those who, after death, are judged as guilty of jealousy, deceit, arrogance, violence, lying and treachery. His epic poem is an impeachment of the evils that cause human beings misery and suffering.

No matter the status, fame, or wealth people may gain, without addressing the issue of death, they will not be able to live correctly or enjoy true happiness. Many of the problems facing the world today stem from the fact that people avoid the all-important question of death and instead seek to fulfill only immediate desires.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto was convinced that if people awakened to the great teaching of the eternity of life taught in Buddhism, society would experience a new renaissance of life.

After visiting the Dante museum, Shin’ichi went with the group of youth to a hillside spot in Fiesole, a short distance from the center of Florence, and spent some time talking with them.

“Buddhism values dialogue,” he said. “This is the exact opposite of demanding people’s obedience through religious power or authority. Shakyamuni also used dialogue as a means of teaching, and Nichiren Daishonin, too, placed the highest importance on dialogue. Our Soka Gakkai discussion meetings have inherited that spirit. If there’s anything you’d like to ask me, please, go ahead.”

With sparkling eyes the young people asked Shin’ichi many questions, ranging from Dante and his writings to Buddhist principles such as the “oneness of life and its environment” and the “simultaneity of cause and effect.”

When they reached a pause in their questions, Shin’ichi looked at the city stretching into the distance. “The day is sure to come,” he said, “when the light of the Mystic Law will shine in the windows of many of the houses you can see from here. The time for kosen-rufu is at hand. Now is the moment for each of you to stand alone with courage.

“When Mr. Toda was inaugurated as second Soka Gakkai president, there were only around 3,000 members. But young people—awakened to the mission for kosen-rufu, the struggle shared by mentor and disciple—rose into action. And in less than seven years, the Soka Gakkai achieved Mr. Toda’s cherished lifetime membership goal of 750,000 households.

“This was a victory won with courageous dialogue. We had deep conviction in Nichiren Buddhism. We applied ourselves to studying its teachings and principles, and we were able to share them with others in a clear and logical way. We also had tremendous enthusiasm. Dialogue has the power to bring people together and create a new age.”

Installment 34

On the afternoon of June 2, Shin’ichi Yamamoto boarded a train to Milan at Florence’s Santa Maria Novella Station. Around 100 members had gathered there to see him off.

Through the train window, he saw many of the young people looking sad at his departure. With his eyes, he called out to them silently: “I’m counting on you. This is your time.”

The train started to move, and the young people waved furiously. Many an eye glistened with tears. Shin’ichi waved back.

When youth stand up, the door to the future opens.

As he gazed out at the passing streetscape, Shin’ichi felt he could hear bells heralding the dawn of a new renaissance, a new Century of Life.

Those youth Shin’ichi met grew splendidly, and went on to make great contributions to Italian society. Thirty-five years later, in July 2016, an official accord known as an intesa, signed between the Italian government and the Soka Gakkai organization in Italy, came into effect, granting the latter full recognition as a religious organization. This was true testimony to the trust that Italian members had won.

On June 3, 1981, having arrived in Milan the previous day, Shin’ichi visited Superintendent Carlo Maria Badini of La Scala, an opera company with a rich history and tradition of more than two centuries. Mr. Badini accompanied Shin’ichi to Milan City Hall, located just across from La Scala, for a meeting with Mayor Carlo Tognoli, who presented Shin’ichi with a silver medal from the city.

La Scala would be giving a series of performances in Japan later that year, at the invitation of the Min-On Concert Association and other organizations. It would be an overseas production of unprecedented scale for the company, involving more than 500 artists and staff. Following a Japan tour by the Vienna State Opera the previous year, also under the auspices of Min-On, there was much anticipation for the upcoming tour by La Scala, the world’s greatest opera company.

Returning to La Scala, Shin’ichi engaged in discussions with Superintendent Badini, artistic director Francesco Siciliani and others.

“We will make it a brilliant production worthy of both La Scala and Min-On, a great international music association,” said the superintendent, his expression conveying his extraordinary determination to make the tour a success.

Tradition is not measured just in years, but by noble, uncompromising efforts in the pursuit of excellence.

Installment 35

In their discussion at La Scala, Superintendent Badini continued: “This upcoming tour would never have been realized without your efforts, President Yamamoto.”

Looking back, it had been more than 16 years since Min-On’s executive vice president Eisuke Akizuki had first visited La Scala and begun negotiations for a Japan tour. The opera company had never performed a full-scale production in Japan or anywhere in Asia. Hearing that Min-On wanted to invite La Scala, many in the arts in Japan laughingly dismissed it as a preposterous dream. They did not believe that Min-On or the Soka Gakkai would ever succeed in arranging a tour by such a world-renowned institution.

But Shin’ichi Yamamoto said to Akizuki: “Don’t worry. I sense a noble spirit of dedication to musical culture in La Scala. I am certain that the heirs to that proud tradition will be interested in Min-On, which is advancing a new movement of musical appreciation among ordinary people.”

Just as Shin’ichi believed, La Scala agreed to the tour, and a provisional contract was eventually signed. But progress stalled for some time after the death of the opera company’s superintendent and, shortly thereafter, his successor’s retirement due to illness.

Throughout, as Min-On’s founder, Shin’ichi had continued to support and facilitate the project from behind the scenes. Then, finally La Scala’s Japan tour was set for autumn 1981.

Persistent, wholehearted efforts to tackle each difficulty can lead to the realization of astounding achievements no one thought possible and the writing of a brilliant new page of history.

On June 4, Shin’ichi visited Mondadori, one of Italy’s largest publishers, and met with the head of the educational publishing division to discuss publishing an Italian edition of one of Shin’ichi’s dialogues with world thinkers.

Later, Mondadori published, to great acclaim, the Italian translation of The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra.

Publishing is a force for elevating culture by disseminating ideas and fostering spiritual dialogue.

Installment 36

Late in the afternoon on June 4, Shin’ichi Yamamoto held an informal meeting with about 50 young people, including students, in a conference room at the hotel where he was staying.

He offered guidance and encouragement while answering their questions. He stressed that even when it comes to reforming society’s systems, our own inner revolution as human beings is ultimately the key to any fundamental change.

However wonderful a system or institution might be created, it will be run, after all, by human beings. Without the philosophy of human revolution to rein in egoism, society can never truly flourish.

Shin’ichi wanted the youth to stand up as flag bearers of human revolution who would usher in a Century of Life.

Shinichi also spoke about marriage. There were many young people in the Soka Gakkai organization in Italy, and he had been asked by some of their parents who were members, as well as their leaders, to address this subject.

“Naturally, marriage is a personal choice,” he said, “but it cannot be denied that young people often lack life experience and a certain degree of maturity. That’s why it’s important to seek advice from your parents and older people you know, so that when you finally marry, those who care about you will celebrate your decision.

“Marriage is a lifelong commitment to share each other’s joys and sorrows. We never know what kind of destiny we may confront or what challenges lie ahead. For couples to overcome such obstacles, it is of course important for them love and care for one another; but it is also important for them to advance with a common purpose based on a foundation of shared philosophy and core beliefs.

“When both partners practice Nichiren Buddhism, I hope they will strive to build a relationship of mutual support and inspiration in which each can polish their faith and character.

“If you get into a relationship that causes you to grow distant from the organization, lose your joy in faith, and stop growing and improving, only you will suffer.”

Nichiren Buddhism gives us the power to ride out life’s rough waves. The path to building indestructible happiness is found on the front lines of Soka Gakkai activities. Our dedicated efforts for kosen-rufu bring us precious good fortune, each step we take along the way enabling us to transform our karma and open the way to a life of happiness and joy. That’s why Shin’ichi stressed to the youth that they must never allow the flame of their faith to go out.

Installment 37

“In recent years,” Shin’ichi Yamamoto continued, “there seems to be a global trend toward marriages ending quickly in divorce.

“But when someone who is practicing Nichiren Buddhism faces marital problems, I believe that, if they keep exerting themselves strongly in their practice, make a fresh determination in faith, and try hard to find a solution with their partner, they can, in many cases wisely overcome their difficulties. The key, at any rate, is to have firm faith.

“The purpose of our Buddhist practice is to lead good lives, become happy, and illuminate society with the light of hope.

“To that end, please nurture loving relationships as couples, create fine families, win the trust and respect of those around you and be people who demonstrate the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism.”

That evening, at the invitation of Superintendent Badini of La Scala, Shin’ichi and Mineko attended a performance of the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado, the program including the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

It was a wonderful performance, and Shin’ichi wished that every Japanese citizen had the chance to feel that same thrill. One reason he founded the Min-On Concert Association was to enable the Japanese public to experience the world’s best music and art. Art and culture should not be restricted to the privileged few.

Shortly after noon the following day, June 5, Shin’ichi and his party, seen off by local members, departed from Milan’s airport for Marseille, France.

Shin’ichi had been in Milan for only four days and three nights, but his visit made a lasting impression on the young members he met there. What particularly struck them was the sight of him conveying his gratitude, with equal respect and courtesy, to everyone from the hotel doormen, cooks and drivers to company owners and eminent scholars. They sensed that his behavior embodied the Buddhist teaching that all people are equal, that all alike possess the Buddha nature.

The true value of a philosophy or religion is conveyed by people’s actions, by how they live their lives.

Buddhism comes alive in the joyous and dedicated efforts of its practitioners for the welfare of others and society.

Installment 38

With the snowcapped Alps on its right, Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s plane flew toward Marseille, France’s second largest city, located on the Mediterranean coast.

Shin’ichi and his party landed in Marseille shortly after 1:00 p.m. on June 5. On arriving at their hotel in nearby Aix-en-Provence, they conferred about upcoming meetings and events.

Shin’ichi then headed for the European Training Center in Trets, a short drive away, to attend a European representatives conference at 6:00 p.m. Leaders from 13 countries had gathered to discuss various aspects of the kosen-rufu movement in Europe.

At the conference, a number of appointments were decided on to boost cooperation between European organizations so they could embark on a fresh, hope-filled phase of development. The general directors of the United Kingdom and Germany, Raymond Gordon and Dieter Kahn, were appointed vice chairpersons of the existing European Conference headed by Chairperson Eiji Kawasaki. Akihide Takayoshi, a former national high school division leader and senior vice young men’s division leader in Japan, was appointed its secretary.

Takayoshi had received personal guidance and encouragement from Shin’ichi as a member of a training group since his high school days. After graduate school, he had joined the staff of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. His appointment as secretary was made with the 21st century in view.

Shin’ichi said to the representatives: “The purpose of my visit this time is to ring in the dawn of a new age in Europe. If young people awaken to their mission to shoulder the next generation, embody in their actions the philosophy of respect for the dignity of life, and walk the path of contributing to society, they can unite people who are today divided and estranged. This is also where peace starts.

“That is why I am so committed to meeting and speaking with our young people. I want to inspire everyone through my actions and by forging heart-to-heart connections with them.

“When people who are genuinely convinced, moved and inspired resolve to act and then take initiative, they will bring forth their fullest strength and ability. Genuine encouragement sparks such inspiration. It involves sincere, wholehearted dialogue and honest life-to-life interaction.”

Installment 39

To the north of the European Training Center rose the towering form of Mont Sainte-Victoire, its limestone ridges glistening in the sunshine beneath clear blue skies. Cézanne, an influential figure in the development of 20th-century art, was fascinated by this mountain and painted it many times.

Just before noon on June 6, Shin’ichi Yamamoto, his wife Mineko, European Conference Chairperson Eiji Kawasaki, and others visited the Trets City Hall together, where they were welcomed by Mayor Jean Feraud and about 20 city council members.

Wearing a ceremonial sash of blue, white and red—the colors of the French flag—the mayor rose to speak.

The city was honored to welcome President Yamamoto, he said, explaining that, through the SGI leader’s writings and dialogues, he was well acquainted with his invaluable initiatives for peace around the world and also the profound philosophy that informed his work. Acknowledging Shin’ichi’s tireless efforts to help avert a nuclear crisis amid the ongoing conflict between East and West, he lauded his dedicated commitment to pursuing dialogues with noted thinkers, working for peace and deepening understanding between people as the leader of the SGI’s global peace movement. The mayor further voiced his appreciation for the fact that, of all the SGI’s many centers worldwide, Shin’ichi had come to visit the European Training Center in Trets.

Shin’ichi felt rather embarrassed to receive such lavish praise.

Mayor Feraud then raised his voice to proclaim solemnly: “We hereby welcome you, President Yamamoto—an ambassador of peace who has acted with sincerity and perseverance, integrity and passion, and incredible vitality and energy—as an honorary citizen of Trets.”

As everyone applauded, the mayor presented Shin’ichi with a medal and certificate of honorary citizenship.

Shin’ichi expressed his profound gratitude for the mayor’s deep understanding and generosity.

No doubt this honor that had been bestowed upon him was the result of members’ sincere efforts and dialogue.

Continuing to reach out and converse sincerely with others serves to promote understanding for our movement.

Installment 40

On the afternoon of June 6, a summer training course commemorating the 20th anniversary of the kosen-rufu movement in Europe began at the European Training Center. Shin’ichi Yamamoto joined 500 representatives from 18 countries, including 100 from France, for this special occasion.

He solemnly led gongyo, praying for the happiness of all the participants and the development of kosen-rufu in Europe. Afterward, he took the microphone and made a proposal: “Today, June 6, not only marks the start of this training course, from which we take flight toward the 21st century, but is also the birthday of the Soka Gakkai’s founding president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. I would like to suggest that we designate this profoundly significant day as ‘Europe Day’ and make it a milestone we aim toward each year—a commemorative day on which we vow together to advance anew. What do you say?”

Everyone agreed by raising their hands, and June 6 officially became Europe Day.

Makiguchi had died in prison for his beliefs three years before Shin’ichi joined the Soka Gakkai. Shin’ichi had never met the founding president. But through his mentor, Josei Toda, he had become acquainted with Makiguchi’s character, commitment to faith in Nichiren Buddhism, actions to put theory into practice and educational philosophy. He had also read and reread Makiguchi’s writings, finding in them valuable guiding principles for his life.

In one of those writings, Makiguchi envisaged that the path to peace would lie in moving beyond military, political and economic competition to what he called “humanitarian competition.”

Shin’ichi resolved in his heart again in Europe: “Now more than ever, for the sake of world peace, we must create a substantive global trend toward ‘humanitarian competition’!”

At the summer course, a tree-planting ceremony was held, followed by several members sharing their experiences in practicing Nichiren Buddhism. A young woman from West Germany spoke of becoming more positive in her outlook and triumphing over illness, and a young man from Italy recounted how he was able to fulfill his dream of becoming a musician. Everyone was deeply moved. Each experience was a drama of transforming one’s state of life through courage and self-challenge.

Our Buddhist faith and practice give us the power to win out over despair and resignation, and to keep moving ever forward. Through our efforts to press on, we can polish ourselves and expand our state of life.

Installment 41

The next day, June 7, a commemorative general meeting took place as part of the training course. Here, too, Shin’ichi shared passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings and studied Buddhist principles with the participants.

He explained that all living beings possess the Buddha nature and that Buddhism, which teaches the value and dignity of life, has always been pacifist. He stressed that the history of the Soka Gakkai attested to this, citing how, during World War II, the organization had stood firm against oppression by Japan’s militarist authorities, who had sent the country to war with State Shinto as its spiritual pillar.

Shin’ichi went on to discuss how a Buddhist committed to peace should act in society: “I would like you to be ever mindful of the Daishonin’s teaching that ‘all phenomena are manifestations of the Buddhist Law’ (“The Unanimous Declaration by the Buddhas,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 2, p. 843) and, in your various countries, be good citizens and members of society, serving as role models for others.

“We absolutely reject violence. Based on that guiding principle, please respect the traditions and customs of your countries and build ties of trust with others in your communities and society at large. Forge heart-to-heart connections with members around the world and strive together for peace.”

Shin’ichi then spoke of the power of the Gohonzon, which embodies the Mystic Law, the fundamental Law of the universe.

“Nothing is as complicated or changes as subtly from moment to moment as the human mind. We attain fulfillment and happiness by cultivating strong and unwavering minds.

“There are times in life when we may ask why we find ourselves confronting seemingly inexplicable storms of karma. The aim of our Buddhist faith and practice is to develop a strong mind, a spirit that will enable us to overcome such challenges and remain undefeated by anything.

“The Gohonzon is the embodiment of the Mystic Law, the fundamental Law of the universe. Through the power of our faith and practice, our lives connect with the power of the Buddha and the Law embodied in the Gohonzon of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to manifest a powerful life force that can open even the thickest iron doors of adversity.”

The French thinker and essayist Michel de Montaigne (1533–92) declared: “Bravery does not consist in firm arms and legs but in firm minds and souls.”[7]

Installment 42

Shin’ichi then went on to discuss the Buddhist concept of “arousing the aspiration for enlightenment.”

“To ‘arouse the aspiration for enlightenment,’” he explained, “means very simply to summon the desire to seek enlightenment, to set one’s mind on attaining Buddhahood.

“When we aim to lead better lives, we have to seriously consider such fundamental questions as ‘Who am I?’ ‘What is my mission in life?’ ‘What is the true nature of my existence?’ ‘What value can I create to contribute to society?’

“To answer those questions, we engage in Buddhist practice and train ourselves as human beings, continually seeking the way and challenging ourselves—this is what it means to arouse the aspiration for enlightenment. Such efforts are an expression of our desire to improve and grow.”

Shin’ichi took great pains to explain Buddhist teachings and concepts in a way that European members could readily understand. The most profound teaching is of no use if people can’t comprehend it. Presenting Buddhism in contemporary terms is the way to make its supreme wisdom a spiritual treasure available to all the world.

The next day, June 8, the summer training course came to a close with a friendship and culture festival.

Members from the United Kingdom sang enthusiastically:

Heart close to heart,
united and free, facing our destiny.
The road that we travel is long,
but with hope in our hearts, we’ll go on.

Members from Denmark, Norway and Sweden danced, their flower-print scarves trailing in the air as they whirled around. The performers from Spain ended their exuberant dance by throwing their black hats into the audience. Members from Belgium did an interpretive dance to “Song of Comrades.” Performances by members from West Germany, Switzerland, Greece and other countries followed.

“We will not be defeated! We will win without fail!”—the hearts of all merged in their shared resolve for kosen-rufu as their voices echoed over Mont Sainte-Victoire—mountain of victory. The members of Europe were united as one. It was a union of the heart formed among people committed to making world peace a reality.

Installment 43

At noon on June 9, Shin’ichi Yamamoto and his party visited Marseille. The square bell tower of the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, set atop a low hill, soared skyward.

From the hill, Shin’ichi could see a small island with stone ramparts in the cobalt blue Mediterranean. It was home to the Château d’If, famous as a setting in The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Originally built as a fortress, Château d’If was thought to be escape-proof and later served as a prison for political and religious dissidents. In the novel, the main character, Edmond Dantès is imprisoned there for 14 years, after which he goes on to assume the identity of the Count of Monte Cristo.

Shin’ichi’s mentor, Josei Toda had been imprisoned for two years during World War II. After his release, Toda firmly vowed to be like the Count of Monte Cristo, enduring all hardships to vindicate his mentor, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who had died in prison for his beliefs. Pledging to prove his mentor’s righteousness and open the way to kosen-rufu, he set to work rebuilding the Soka Gakkai after the war.

Shin’ichi felt that the indomitable spirit of the Count of Monte Cristo had also been alive in the French Resistance, which fought and eventually triumphed over Nazi oppression.

The name Count of Monte Cristo is synonymous with a person of courage, fortitude, conviction and perseverance. People with such qualities make kosen-rufu possible. That’s why we must never retreat in the face of difficulties, no matter how daunting, but keep moving forward with tenacity and determination until we achieve our goal. What blocks our way are self-limiting thoughts—telling ourselves that we’ve done enough, can’t do any more or have reached our limit. But the sun of victory shines when we dispel such thinking, summon forth our inner strength, and press on resolutely.

Calling to mind the youth in France and the rest of Europe and envisioning the 21st century, Shin’ichi wished and prayed: “May many Soka ‘Counts of Monte Cristo’ come forth! With your hands, ring the bells of dawn announcing a new century of human harmony!”

The sea shimmered silver in the sunlight.

Installment 44

Kosen-rufu always starts anew. It is a journey of fresh challenges, brimming with hope.

A little after 3:30 p.m. on June 10, Shin’ichi and his party departed from Marseille. About 50 local members saw them off on their seven-hour train ride to Paris.

The stage of Shin’ichi’s ceaseless efforts shifted to the beautiful City of Light.

On June 11, Shin’ichi attended a reception to celebrate the publication of the French translation of Choose Life, his dialogue with the late eminent historian Arnold J. Toynbee.

The following day, June 12, he met with the art historian and Académie Française member René Huyghe. They talked about such topics as the French edition of their dialogue, La nuit appelle l’aurore (The Night Seeks the Dawn)[8], which had been published the previous September, and the great writer Victor Hugo.

On June 15, Shin’ichi visited Alain Poher, president of the French Senate, at his official residence. It was their first meeting.

Beforehand, President Poher had kindly arranged for Shin’ichi and his party to be given a tour of the Senate, located in the historic Luxembourg Palace. Viewing the room Hugo had used during his time as a member of the Senate, Shin’ichi was drawn to a bust on the wall, showing the author with a full beard and a resolute expression.

The magnificent Senate chamber also housed the seat that had been Hugo’s, which bore a plaque inscribed with his name in tribute to his immortal legacy. Shown to that seat, Shin’ichi felt as if he could hear Hugo’s stirring oratory calling for educational reform, the eradication of poverty and the abolition of the death penalty.

Hugo was an unparalleled literary genius, receiving the prestigious Legion of Honor at age 23. He entered politics in 1845, when he was 43, unable to overlook the real problems, such as poverty, afflicting the French people. While a man of literature, he was also a man of action—undeniable proof of his great humanity.

Installment 45

Hugo faced the threat of persecution by the increasingly autocratic French president Louis Napoléon (Napoleon III; 1808–73), and was forced into exile. He published Napoleon the Little and Les Châtiments (Castigations), scathingly denouncing the authoritarian leader. During his exile, Hugo also completed his masterpiece Les Misérables—just as Dante had completed his Divine Comedy while in exile from Florence.

Hugo and Dante’s powerful resolve to fight injustice no doubt played a vital role in their producing such great literary works under the most challenging conditions.

Those who battle injustice with their entire beings develop the keen perception to distinguish clearly between right and wrong, good and evil and truth and falsehood. Outrage against wrongdoing fills their hearts with a burning passion for justice.

Hugo finally returned to France 19 years later, after the fall of Napoleon III. He was 68, but his creative output only increased. He had the spirit of a youth.

Growing old is not a matter of age. Our spirits wither the moment we give up hope and abandon our ideals. Hugo wrote: “This is my thought: Constant progression.”[9]

As Shin’ichi looked around the Senate chamber where Hugo had left his mark, he felt he could sense a fresh breeze of renewal.

He thought at that time: “I would like to contribute somehow to preserving the legacy of Hugo’s heroic life and achievements, perhaps by establishing a museum or something similar in his honor.”

Ten years later, in June 1991, that idea became a reality. With the support and assistance of many friends, the Victor Hugo House of Literature opened in the Château des Roches, which Hugo had visited several times, in Bièvres, a suburb south of Paris.

Open to the public, the museum displayed Hugo’s handwritten manuscripts, personal artifacts, memorabilia, source materials, and other precious items. It became a lofty citadel of literature, sending forth the light of Hugo’s humanism for future generations.

Installment 46

After visiting the Senate, Shin’ichi Yamamoto met with the Senate president at his official residence.

President Alain Poher said that he had a strong interest in the Soka Gakkai and had wanted to meet and speak with Shin’ichi for some time. He also acknowledged Shin’ichi’s recent visits to countries with different political systems, such as the Soviet Union and Bulgaria, his meetings with their leaders, and his efforts to promote peace and culture based on pacifist ideals and respect for all human beings.

Exchange with nations with political systems and cultures different than our own is important for peace, but most people avoid such encounters, which is why Mr. Poher had taken note of Shin’ichi’s actions.

Shin’ichi briefly explained his commitment to peace: “Some talk about peace and valuing life in order to promote their reputation or just in the abstract for the sake of discussion. But people who genuinely wish for peace, along with pure-hearted young people, see through that facade.

“What matters is what one actually does, the real actions one takes. I take action with that conviction. Otherwise, I will not be able to generate real momentum for peace for the youth who will be tomorrow’s leaders. I am seriously committed to this.

“Japan’s militarist authorities harshly persecuted the Soka Gakkai during World War II. This resulted in our first president, Mr. Makiguchi, dying in prison for his beliefs, and our second president, Mr. Toda, also being imprisoned along with many other leaders. And on a more personal level, I lost my eldest brother in the war and experienced firsthand the misery it causes. That is why I embrace the life-affirming teaching of Nichiren Buddhism and work to realize its pacifist ideals, determined to build a world without war.”

Their lively conversation continued with Mr. Poher sharing his own experience of fighting in the French Resistance. Over the course of three hours, they covered many topics, ranging from the personality of former French president Charles de Gaulle to the best way to live one’s life.

We must help those less fortunate than ourselves—this was Mr. Poher’s creed.

Once again, hearts resonated in a shared commitment for peace.

Installment 47

In addition to holding dialogues with officials and leading thinkers in Paris, Shin’ichi Yamamoto put great energy into encouraging the members.

On June 11, the day after arriving in Paris, he participated in an informal discussion about faith with young French members. On June 12, he visited the Paris Community Center in Sceaux, where he encouraged members at a gongyo session and also later held an informal discussion. On June 13, he attended a friendship and culture festival at the center, a ceremony to unveil a plaque commemorating 20 years of kosen-rufu in France, and a commemorative gongyo session. On June 14, he attended the France Executive Conference and other events.

Shin’ichi also took many group photos with members and visited some at their homes. To ensure the dynamic development of kosen-rufu in the 21st century, he was determined to communicate the basics of faith and the Soka Gakkai spirit to the members, especially the youth.

On the morning of June 14, Shin’ichi walked from his hotel along the avenue in front of the Tuileries Garden next to the Louvre. He was on his way to take the subway and train to the Paris Community Center, which he had also done the previous day. He wanted to experience how local members got around as they carried out their activities for kosen-rufu.

After descending the subway stairs and entering Tuileries Station, he said to the leaders accompanying him: “Today is the 1st Youth Division Representatives Conference. I would like to present the youth with a poem to mark their fresh departure. Could one of you here write down what I say?”

Shin’ichi wished to make the most of every spare moment for kosen-rufu.

On the platform, he dictated the following lines:

You have now risen
as pioneers
of the great and noble movement
of kosen-rufu,
widely spreading the Law
into the eternal future.
You have risen,
holding high
the banner of justice,
the banner of liberty,
the banner of life.

The twenty-first century belongs to you.
The twenty-first century is your stage.

Installment 48

Shin’ichi continued dictating his poem on the subway, as the notetaker worked frantically to keep up.

At Châtelet Station, the third station from Tuileries Station, the group transferred to the RER B line. Shin’ichi kept up his flow of words even as he rode the moving walkway and waited on the platform:

Now society,
waning like the setting sun,
has entered an age of chaos.
So now is the time for us,
bright as the rising sun,
to play new songs, new music
of peace and culture.
Expanding our circle to embrace
many new friends,
brightening the hearts of all,
reviving the joy of all—
the aged, the suffering,
the seeking, and the sad—
we move forward,

Shin’ichi envisioned the youth striving proudly for kosen-rufu in the new century:

A new world eagerly awaits
your arrival,
each astride a gallant steed,
compassion in your right hand,
philosophy in your left.

Shin’ichi finished the poem soon after they boarded the train. It had taken about 10 minutes altogether.

The person taking the dictation quickly made a clean copy. Shin’ichi looked it over and wrote in some revisions.

Just then, someone called out: “Sensei!”

Three young French people stood before them. It turned out they were on their way to the Paris Community Center from Bretagne, several hundred kilometers away.

“Thank you for traveling so far. I hope you’re not too tired from your long journey,” Shin’ichi said.

These caring words came from his constant wish to treasure young people.

Youth are hope; they are society’s treasures.

Installment 49

One of the three, a young women’s division member, said to Shin’ichi Yamamoto: “I started practicing a year ago. I’m the only one practicing Nichiren Buddhism in my town, and it takes me several hours to travel to a discussion meeting. I’m worried about whether, under such circumstances, I’ll be able to promote understanding of Buddhism in my community.”

“Don’t worry—your presence alone is enough,” Shin’ichi said without hesitation. “Everything starts with one person. Become someone who is loved by everyone in your community. That’s the key. If there is a single tall tree, people will gather under it to seek shade from the hot sun or shelter from the rain. Similarly, if people like and trust you, a person who practices Nichiren Buddhism, they will naturally come to view Buddhism in a positive light. This will lead to opportunities to share the teachings with them. Focus on growing into a tall tree, a fine tall tree for your community.”

By the time the train arrived at Sceaux Station, the closest station to the Paris Community Center, Shin’ichi’s poem was complete. He titled it “To My Dear Young French Friends Who Embrace the Mystic Law.” When he and the others arrived at the center, members there immediately set to work on translating it.

Gathering for a briefing with Eiji Kawasaki, the European Conference chairperson, and other leaders, Shin’ichi proposed: “Why don’t we make today, the occasion of the 1st Youth Division Representatives Conference, France Youth Division Day? Mr. Kawasaki, would you mind putting this suggestion to everyone?”

That day, at the Paris Community Center, the second session of the friendship and culture festival took place, as did the France Executive Conference. From 5:30 p.m., the French youth began their conference in high spirits.

Kawasaki told the members about Shin’ichi’s proposal to designate June 14 as France Youth Division Day, and everyone applauded enthusiastically in approval.

Then, a French young men’s division leader read Shin’ichi’s poem, his powerful voice resounding through the room. The members felt as if they were hearing a cry from Shin’ichi’s heart.

Installment 50

The eyes of the French youth division members shone, their hearts brimming with determination to set forth on the journey to the new century.

You, my dear friends,
the two hundred youth gathered here today!
May you stand on the summit
of the second phase of kosen-rufu in France,
cheering loudly
and singing a song of victory!
Let your target,
the day you strive for,
be June 14, of the year 2001!

The reading concluded. After a moment’s silence, the room erupted in applause that expressed everyone’s deep emotion and vow.

On that day, the French youth engraved the year 2001 in their hearts as a goal for kosen-rufu and their own lives.

When we have a goal, the sun shines brightly and a beautiful rainbow of hope shimmers in the sky of our future. When we have a purpose in life, each step forward is filled with strength.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto joined all the participants in a group photo, celebrating the occasion and encouraging them on this fresh departure.

“First, set your sights on 20 years from now,” he said. “Steadfastly develop yourselves and strengthen your capabilities, so that you can contribute to people’s happiness and to peace. The key to winning in everything is not being defeated by yourself.”

“Only perseverance achieves the goal”[10]—writes the poet Schiller, highlighting a secret to success in life.

In Paris, too, Shin’ichi poured his energy into informal discussions about faith with members. He made a special effort to create opportunities to speak with the youth, talking to them about the basics of faith and the proper way to live as a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism.

Shin’ichi wanted to foster all of them into outstanding leaders of the 21st century, so he spoke in great earnest, giving of himself wholeheartedly.

During one discussion, he said: “Nichiren Buddhism teaches that you are all noble people who possess a mission for kosen-rufu, Bodhisattvas of the Earth. When you awaken to that mission, you will be able to display your potential to the fullest.”

Installment 51

Kosen-rufu is accomplished through the power of unity. To achieve unity, each person’s attitude toward others is very important. Shin’ichi Yamamoto decided to discuss unity based on the Buddhist view of the human being that everyone has a unique mission.

“Though you all equally possess a mission for kosen-rufu, your individual roles differ. For example, in building a house, some people work on the foundation, some do the carpentry, some finish the interior, and so on. They each have their own responsibilities, and working together they build a fine house.

“Likewise, the great undertaking of kosen-rufu is carried out by people with many different responsibilities teaming up and working together. They each exercise their individual qualities and talents in their own positions and areas of responsibility. Though their positions and specialties may differ, that doesn’t make any of them superior or inferior.

“Members should respect one another’s personalities and unique traits, encourage one another, strengthen their solidarity in faith and continue to advance together. This is the unity taught in Buddhism—the united spirit of ‘many in body, one in mind.’

“Like other groups, the Soka Gakkai has an organization, but this is only for the functional purpose of coordinating our activities effectively. A leadership position in the organization, therefore, is just a role; it is not a measure of a person’s worth.

“But organizational positions come with responsibilities. Leaders have to work harder than most members. For that reason, it’s important for members to respect, cooperate with, and support leaders who are working earnestly for everyone’s happiness.”

Shin’ichi also discussed some points on leadership: “Leaders should always try to remain calm and composed, accepting and supporting members, and never letting themselves be carried away by their emotions. If leaders are on edge, stressed out, or feeling overwhelmed, they won’t be able to guide members with a sense of joy, which will only cause everyone to suffer.

“Tolerance and warmth are qualities leaders will need to have above all from now on. How much you can improve your character will demonstrate the power of faith in Nichiren Buddhism. I hope each of you will develop your state of life by reflecting on yourself and resolving to achieve personal growth through earnestly chanting daimoku and striving hard in your Buddhist practice.”

Installment 52

Shin’ichi Yamamoto stressed the importance of small gatherings: “Please maintain a steady pace of small meetings. If there are members who do not attend, it’s important to keep reaching out to them and building ties of friendship and trust by warmly encouraging them. If they have doubts or questions, discuss them together until they are fully satisfied.

“If you continue holding small meetings month after month and year after year, persisting like waves that turn rock into sand, it will steadily forge unity and come to serve as a driving force for development. The lifeline for victory in all things lies in making such consistent efforts in ordinary, inconspicuous areas.”

He went on: “You are all familiar with the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation. I would like you now to mount a resistance, based on the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, against the negative functions and lazy tendencies in your own lives. In addition, please engage in a Buddhist resistance movement to transform the misery in the world to happiness.

“I call on each of you to demonstrate the brilliance of your character in your personal lives, in a real and substantial way. Become pillars of your communities who are liked and trusted by all. Please do this for the sake of your beloved France!”

In the month since Shin’ichi had arrived in Europe from the Soviet Union on May 16, he had held informal meetings about faith and wholeheartedly offered encouragement and guidance to members wherever he went. He knew that was the sure way to open a new era of kosen-rufu in Europe. Building the future starts with fostering capable individuals.

Because Nichiren Buddhism is a teaching for all humankind, Shin’ichi strongly felt it vital to create a growing momentum around the globe for the progress of kosen-rufu in the 21st century.

On the morning of June 16, an old acquaintance, Alphonse Dupront, honorary president of Paris-Sorbonne University (Paris IV), along with his wife, visited Shin’ichi at his hotel, where they discussed European culture and university education.

That afternoon, Shin’ichi and those accompanying him departed from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport for New York.

The journey of kosen-rufu is a path of blazing new trails, always forging ahead with a fresh fighting spirit. It is a path of challenge, of charging ever ahead toward new goals. It is a continuous struggle that leaves not a moment for hesitation or standing still.

Shin’ichi saw a hope-filled new horizon of kosen-rufu stretching into the 21st century, sparkling in the sun.

Installment 53

Having crossed the Atlantic, Shin’ichi Yamamoto and his party arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York just before 3:00 p.m. on June 16, 1981. It was Shin’ichi’s first visit to New York in six years.

The chief priest of the local Nichiren Shoshu temple had for some time been making suggestive statements to malign the Soka Gakkai, and individuals swayed by his rhetoric were sowing discord, hampering the organization’s unity. Shin’ichi was therefore determined to meet with as many members as possible while in New York. He wanted to communicate thoroughly to each the conviction and pride of the Soka Gakkai, which was dedicated to fulfilling the mission of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

Also, Los Angeles and the West Coast had led the way in the kosen-rufu movement in America thus far. But it would be important from here on to bolster the organization in New York and the rest of the East Coast. To that end, Shin’ichi wished to foster capable people.

On June 16 and 17, he held a number of informal discussions with central leaders of Northeast Territory, to which New York belonged, and offered guidance.

“America is the land of freedom,” he said, “so it’s important to respect each person’s autonomy. As leaders, you mustn’t impose your opinions on others. Please be sure to discuss things fully, with frank exchanges of view, before taking a course of action.

“If you have a difference of opinion, never become emotional or hostile to one another. Always return to the starting points of the Gohonzon and kosen-rufu, and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with unity of purpose.

“The Daishonin teaches us that ‘Buddhism is reason’ (“Hero of the World,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1,p. 839). When setting activity guidelines and the like, it’s essential to explain the intent so that everyone will be happy to support them. That is, always speak reasonably. Reason has the power to convince people. That’s why I hope you will deepen your understanding of the Daishonin’s teachings.

“When each of you firmly base your lives on the Gosho, the writings of Nichiren Daishonin, you will be able to work together harmoniously, without disrespect, resentment, envy, or hostility.

“The Gosho is a guide for us and a mirror reflecting the way we live. Before criticizing others, we should look at our own words, actions, and thoughts in the light of the Gosho. That is the spirit of genuine practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism.”

Installment 54

Because many leaders in the Soka Gakkai organization in the United States were of Japanese descent, Shin’ichi decided to discuss points for them to bear in mind in carrying out activities.

“In particular,” he began, “I hope leaders of Japanese descent will be careful not to view things from the standpoint of Japanese society. America is a multi-ethnic nation, with many different values and ways of thinking. It’s therefore essential that you thoroughly discuss and confirm with the members even the most basic points of faith and practice, and work toward a common understanding. You can easily cause misunderstandings if you think that, like in Japan, everyone will just naturally understand your intent without much discussion or explanation.”

Shin’ichi also stressed the importance of uniting in spirit to advance worldwide kosen-rufu: “Members in the U.S. and in all countries need to conduct their activities harmoniously while observing and respecting the local customs and laws of the land as good citizens. The Daishonin teaches: ‘If the spirit of many in body but one in mind prevails among the people, they will achieve all their goals’ (“Many in Body, One in Mind,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 618). It is important for members to unite in a shared commitment to accelerate the flow of worldwide kosen-rufu and ensure that it continues forever.

“The Soka Gakkai spirit of mentor and disciple is the driving force for kosen-rufu. As leaders, your aim is not to make members dependent on or loyal to you, it’s to guide everyone so that they can walk the great path of mentor and disciple together.

“To do that, you yourselves, as leaders, need to stay connected to the main current of Soka, the path of mentor and disciple, with a fresh seeking spirit. Being self-centered is like being a puddle separated from the pure main current, that will eventually stagnate and dry up. If that happens, you will be unable to guide members to the great ocean of happiness and peace.

“You need to stay in synch with the movement of kosen-rufu, or you’ll stop moving forward. If you’re not in synch, even if you remain active, you’ll just end up spinning your wheels.

“That’s why it’s crucial to remain connected to the main current, to stay in synch and in tune. Make this your spirit as leaders of worldwide kosen-rufu.

The time was coming when the Soka Gakkai would develop dynamically as a global religious movement. Shin’ichi thus felt it imperative that the members forge unshakable unity in the spirit of “many in body, one in mind” based on faith dedicated to kosen-rufu.

Installment 55

At noon on June 18, representing the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s newspaper, Shin’ichi Yamamoto visited the Associated Press headquarters in Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center. After a tour of the offices, he met with AP’s president, Keith Fuller and others. They discussed many topics, including race relations and the role and responsibilities of the media.

Shin’ichi expressed his view that providing accurate information to people around the globe about world events is the best means for advancing peace, and he commended the AP for its work and initiatives in that area.

He also noted that in times of growing economic and social uncertainty, people tend to prioritize short-term gains over high ideals and allow emotion to predominate over reason. There was a danger, he went on, that this could lead to a closed, isolationist society. Shin’ichi observed that religion should play a key role in enabling people to gain genuine self-mastery and not be swept away by emotionalism, thereby heightening their awareness and desire to contribute to society and to peace. To this, Mr. Fuller nodded his agreement.

After leaving the AP offices, Shin’ichi visited the New York Community Center on Park Avenue South, also in Manhattan.

On the building’s ground floor, the center had a seating capacity for only around 80 people. When members heard about Shin’ichi’s visit, so many gathered that the room was packed to overflowing.

“Good afternoon!” Shin’ichi said in English, before continuing in Japanese: “I am happy to see you all here. Let’s do gongyo together for the development of kosen-rufu in New York, your health and happiness, and the prosperity of your families.”

Shin’ichi prayed deeply with the wish that all the members in New York would continue practicing throughout their lives and forge a state of indestructible happiness, while at the same time grow into pillars of trust in society.

After gongyo, he spoke about the very basics of faith—the tremendous power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and the importance of chanting daimoku.

The fundamental practice of Nichiren Buddhism is chanting with focused prayer to the Gohonzon. The Soka Gakkai organization and its activities exist to teach this essential point. Each member chanting strongly based on deep conviction in the Gohonzon is key to drawing forth the energy to advance kosen-rufu, rising to the challenge of transforming karma, and developing solid unity.

Installment 56

Shin’ichi Yamamoto then gave guidance based on passages from the Daishonin’s writings.

“Nichiren Daishonin states: ‘And when, while in these four states of birth, aging, sickness and death, we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we cause them to waft forth the fragrance of the four virtues [eternity, happiness, true self, and purity]’ (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 90). Some people’s lives are plagued by misery, shrouded by the dark clouds of their karma. In fact, this may be true for many. However, when we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can sweep away all dark clouds of suffering with the fragrant breezes of eternity, happiness, true self, and purity.

“The Daishonin also says: ‘Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the greatest of all joys’ (OTT, p. 212). There are all sorts of pleasures in life, but the Daishonin declares that realizing that you are a Buddha and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the greatest of all joys.

“The joy of getting something you want, or of attaining recognition and fame, is joy that comes from the outside. It is momentary and doesn’t last.

“In contrast, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo opens the great palace within your life itself, and causes supreme joy—‘the greatest of all joys’—to well up like a spring from the depths of your being. That spring of joy will never run dry, no matter what kind of trials or adversities you face.

“Further, the Daishonin writes: ‘The wonderful means of truly putting an end to the physical and spiritual obstacles of all living beings is none other than Nam-myoho-renge-kyo’ (“The Wonderful Means of Surmounting Obstacles,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 842). The heavenly deities and the Buddhas of the ten directions and three existences promise to protect those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Chanting daimoku is, therefore, the ‘wonderful means’ for protecting us against obstacles of every kind and enabling us to enjoy lives of unsurpassed happiness.

“Confident that living with the Gohonzon and chanting daimoku is the way to a wonderful life of complete fulfillment, please exert yourselves in your Buddhist practice and polish your lives. Don’t be swayed by what others say or do. Just keep chanting and become a person who can declare: ‘I love daimoku!’”

Those who keep chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will have hearts as clear and bright as a sunny blue sky; they will be happy and filled with boundless joy.

Installment 57

On the afternoon of June 19, Shin’ichi Yamamoto attended a Northeast Territory representatives meeting held in Glen Cove, New York. Around 200 members gathered from New York, Boston, Philadelphia and towns near the Canadian border.

At the venue, the room where the Gohonzon had been enshrined for the occasion was quite small, so gongyo was done in several groups, with Shin’ichi leading each time.

Then, an informal outdoor gathering took place under the shade of the trees.

With perspiration on his brow, Shin’ichi mingled and spoke with members. Seeing a woman with a slightly sad expression, he encouraged her: “If you persevere in faith, you will definitely be able to dispel the darkness of all your sufferings and lead a life of happiness. If you chant earnestly and engage in Soka Gakkai activities, you will come to shine like the sun. You will be able to illuminate your family and your community. Tears don’t suit the sun. Please become a smiling, cheerful person.”

Afterward, Shin’ichi joined everyone in watching a musical performance.

New York is one of the cultural capitals of the world, and quite a few members were well-known musicians. A band formed by such members played “Kojo no Tsuki” (Moon over the Ruined Castle) and “Over the Rainbow.”

These musicians were also active on the front lines of Soka Gakkai activities, visiting members in their homes and even happily setting up chairs at meetings. Told this, Shin’ichi said: “That is very admirable. I am delighted to hear it. This is how the Soka Gakkai should be. Before the Gohonzon, our positions in the organization or things like social status or celebrity are irrelevant. There is no privileged class in Buddhist practice. Everyone is equal.

“The more efforts we make in our Buddhist practice, the harder we work for kosen-rufu, the more we can transform our karma and become happy. Also, respecting one another as equal children of the Buddha is the heart of the world of Soka.”

The Soka Gakkai is a true realm of human harmony.

Installment 58

After the 1:00 p.m. representatives meeting, Shin’ichi Yamamoto joined a smaller group of about 30 members for an informal discussion, from shortly after 5:00.

“I’ve heard that New York State has the slogan ‘I Love New York,’” he said. “Loving your town, your community, is a wonderful thing. This spirit is also the starting point in promoting kosen-rufu in your local areas.”

Shin’ichi said he hoped the members would adopt another slogan, “I Love New York Soka Gakkai,” and work together with mutual respect and trust, which are key to creating the unity needed to advance our movement.

Next, Shin’ichi met and spoke with youth who had been serving as event staff that day. They asked him questions freely, sharing whatever was on their minds. At one point, someone asked if he could provide them with some concrete guidelines or direction. Shin’ichi was delighted to see the eager seeking spirit of these young people who would shoulder the next generation.

Actually, since the morning of June 17, the day after his arrival, Shin’ichi had been working on a poem dedicated to the youth of America with the aim of providing them just such direction and inspiration for the future. After final revisions, he completed the poem on June 20, the very next morning after speaking with the event staff.

That afternoon, Shin’ichi visited the home on Long Island where the celebrated poet Walt Whitman (1819–92) was born.

On Shin’ichi’s arrival in New York from Paris on June 16, youth division members had presented him with a book of essays about Whitman, along with a Japanese translation. In their accompanying letter, they recommended a visit to Whitman’s birthplace. Shin’ichi was touched by their kind gesture and decided to follow their suggestion.

The house was set among large trees and surrounded by a lush green lawn. It was a simple, two-story structure that seemed to embody a down-to-earth pioneer spirit.

Shin’ichi immediately thought of Whitman’s “Pioneers! O Pioneers!”—a grand and sweeping poem reminiscent of the Soka Gakkai spirit of blazing new trails for kosen-rufu. It had always deeply encouraged him.

Great poetry inspires hope and gives us the strength to keep living.

Installment 59

The house’s ground floor contained the room where Walt Whitman was born. There was also a guest parlor, and a kitchen filled with various utensils of the day, including a candle maker, a bread oven, a water bucket and a carrying pole. All items called to mind the self-sufficient rural life of a bygone era.

The poet’s personal artifacts were displayed in rooms on the second floor. These included portraits, facsimiles of handwritten manuscripts and Whitman’s diary from the terrible days of the American Civil War.

There was also a letter from Ralph Waldo Emerson about Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Whitman’s groundbreaking poetry was initially panned by critics; only a few understood what he was attempting. Emerson was one of those who took a keen interest in Whitman’s poetry and praised it highly.

For pioneers, the more innovative their ideas, the harder the road ahead and the more alone they are. People never find it easy to understand something completely new. Our efforts to realize kosen-rufu and Nichiren Daishonin’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land” signify a new religious movement never before seen in history. It is a movement dedicated to creating an age, a society by and for the people, based on human revolution, which holds the key to unlocking the infinite potential within each individual.

Naturally, this requires a long time to be correctly understood and appreciated. Kosen-rufu is a gradual process, achieved through persevering in dialogue, communicating the teachings of Buddhism, and steadily spreading the circle of support and friendship through each member’s behavior, way of life and character. One must also be aware that fierce storms of criticism, abuse and persecution arising from a lack of understanding will inevitably beset such a process.

Whitman sang: “Allons! through struggles and wars! / The goal that was named cannot be countermanded.”[11] Shin’ichi Yamamoto recalled once citing these famous lines from Leaves of Grass to encourage a gathering of young men from Japan’s Shin’etsu region on the start of a fresh initiative for kosen-rufu. Whitman had been one of Shin’ichi’s favorite poets since his youth, and Leaves of Grass, one of his favorite books.

The lives of those who have weathered hard-fought battles shine like diamonds.

Installment 60

Walt Whitman died from pneumonia in March 1892, at age 72. His funeral was conducted without the presence of clergy. Friends who gathered eulogized him and said their final farewells, reading short passages from the Buddha, Plato and other traditions. Whitman himself had rejected a conventional religious service.

In the preface to the first edition of Leaves of Grass, he wrote: “There will soon be no more priests. Their work is done. … A superior breed shall take their place. … the gangs of kosmos and prophets en masse shall take their place. A new order shall arise and they shall be the priests of man, and every man shall be his own priest.”[12]

In March 1992, the centennial of Whitman’s death, the Walt Whitman Association of America invited Shin’ichi Yamamoto to attend a commemorative event. Unable to participate because of prior commitments, Shin’ichi instead composed and presented a poem dedicated to the poet of the people he so loved and admired. Titled “Like the Sun Rising,” it includes these lines:

No one is another’s master
no one another’s slave—
politics, learning, religion, art
all exist for the human being
for the sake of the people.
To undo the prejudice of race
to break down the walls of class
to share freedom and equality with the people—
it is for this that you sing
to the last limits of your strength.

Your songs—
the Declaration of Humanity
for a new age.

You are the greatest lover
of the common people,
are yourself one
of the proud uncrowned mass
throughout your life

Viewing Whitman’s birthplace, Shin’ichi thought of the American Renaissance of the 19th century. And he vowed in his heart, “While advancing kosen-rufu, a movement to create a new ‘renaissance of life,’ I will continue as long as I live to compose poems that give people inspiration, hope and courage.”

Installment 61

Around the time Shin’ichi Yamamoto left Whitman’s birthplace, 4:00 p.m., a US-Japan friendship meeting was held at a high school auditorium in New York with local members welcoming a delegation of members from Japan.

A chorus of New York members sang the “Sukiyaki Song” (Ue wo Muite Aruko) and “Morigasaki Beach” in Japanese, and also performed ballet and other dances. The members from Japan sang regional folk songs and performed classical Japanese dances. It was a pleasant and enjoyable cultural exchange.

Shin’ichi’s poem “To My Beloved Young American Friends—Youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth” was presented at the meeting. A young man read it aloud in English:

The world today is ailing.
This continental land, America,
is also faltering, about to succumb
to the same illness.

In the past, the land of America
was a symbol of freedom and democracy—
fresh new focus of the world’s hopes.

In his poem, Shin’ichi stressed that youth who upheld the Mystic Law in America had a mission to revitalize the United States, their beloved homeland, and the entire world.

Chanting the Mystic Law
with resonant, resounding voices,
plant your feet on the earth of society;
sink in your roots,
bring forth flowers and blossoms,
as you continue to speak,
to converse, to call from the heart,
to move and meet—
for this friend here
for that friend there
for the people of this city,
for friends far away.

He also extolled the United States—a melting pot of diverse people—as a microcosm of the world, asserting that a formula for world peace would be found in their unity and solidarity.

World peace is not some distant goal. It starts with learning to trust and respect those around us, overcoming our own prejudices, discriminatory attitudes, hatred and animosity.

Installment 62

Shin’ichi Yamamoto also called out in his poem:

You who advance,
who never lose sight
of the single point
of our clear and certain goal,
however opinions may differ.

Today again study!
Today again take action!
Today again strive!
Pace today’s meaningful progress,
tomorrow, advance another cheerful step.
Each day fusing your life
with the sublime Mystic Law,
wipe the sweat from your brow
as you ascend the hill of completion
toward the summit of priceless self-perfection.
Be as the Lotus Flower
blooming amidst the
muddied realities of society.

Faith is—
to fear nothing
to stand unswayed
the power to surmount any obstacle.
Faith is the source from which
all solutions flow.
Faith is the engine that propels us
in the thrilling voyage of life,
a life victorious and transcendent.

Shin’ichi wanted to convey the message that the undertaking of kosen-rufu, of building a new age, would only be achieved by moving forward steadily, one step after another, day after day. He also wanted the youth to know that this struggle was one of human revolution, which starts with gaining self-mastery.

He closed his poem by announcing that he was passing the baton to his youthful successors:

With complete faith in you
as successors,
I entrust to you the entire endeavor of kosen-rufu.
And can
therefore proceed
to every corner of the Earth!

Confident that
from this yet narrow path
you will forge a grand passage
into the future,
I am happy and filled with joy.

The auditorium erupted in applause. The youth of America engraved these heartfelt words in the depths of their lives and rose up to take action.

Installment 63

After leaving New York, Shin’ichi Yamamoto arrived at Canada’s Toronto International Airport (now Toronto Pearson International Airport) shortly after 4:00 p.m. on June 21. On hand to greet him and his party were General Director Hiroshi “Lou” Izumiya; his wife, Chairperson Teruko “Ellie” Izumiya; and many members bearing flowers and waving Canadian flags.

It had been 21 years since Shin’ichi’s last visit in October 1960, during his first trip overseas. The only one to greet him at the airport then had been Teruko Izumiya, who was not yet a Soka Gakkai member.

That March, Teruko had married Hiroshi Izumiya, a Japanese Canadian working for a trading company and, in April, had moved with him to Canada.

The morning of Shin’ichi’s arrival, Teruko had received an airmail letter from her mother in Japan, who was a Soka Gakkai member. She had written to tell her daughter about Shin’ichi’s visit to Canada and asked her to meet him at the airport.

Teruko wasn’t sure whether she should go. She was pregnant and wasn’t feeling well. Also, she didn’t want to have to deal with someone trying to persuade her to practice Nichiren Buddhism. The things her mother had told her about receiving benefit through faith sounded like outdated superstition to Teruko, and she felt a resistance to practicing herself. But if she didn’t go to the airport, she would be letting her mother down. Not wanting to do that, she decided to go.

Shin’ichi sincerely thanked Teruko for welcoming him and his party, and asked her about her family. He talked about why faith is important and explained that Buddhism teaches the ultimate law of life.

Nineteen months later, Teruko, who had always been sickly, started practicing with the hope that it might help her become healthy. She didn’t want her husband to have to worry about her, and she also knew that joining the Soka Gakkai would put her mother’s mind at ease.

The seeds of the Mystic Law, once sown in a person’s heart, will sprout when the time is right. Helping those around us form a connection with Nichiren Buddhism and planting those seeds is key.

Installment 64

“I stand alone on my own perfectly good feet”[18]—this was the self-reliant spirit of the Canadian painter and writer Emily Carr (1871–1945).

Having started practicing Nichiren Buddhism, Teruko Izumiya engaged in Soka Gakkai activities completely on her own. Using as her guide issues of the Seikyo Shimbun she received from Japan, she visited people she knew and spoke to them about Buddhism.

To attend Soka Gakkai meetings, she had to travel by bus or plane across the US border, to Buffalo, New York or New York City.

Her husband was very understanding of her Buddhist practice and often drove her to and from activities, but he was disinclined to start practicing himself.

Hiroshi Izumiya had been born on Vancouver Island in 1928. His father had moved to Canada from Wakayama Prefecture and made a living as a fisherman.

When the Pacific War broke out in 1941, Japan became an enemy of Canada, which was part of the British Commonwealth. The following year, the majority of Canadians of Japanese descent were sent to internment camps in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, where in winter temperatures dropped below minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Some Japanese Canadians volunteered to serve in the armed forces to prove their loyalty. Others denounced their decision as a betrayal. Bitter feuding and hostility caused deep, painful rifts in the Japanese Canadian community.

When the war finally came to an end, they had no homes to return to. The Canadian government presented them with choice of either returning to Japan or relocating to eastern Canada.

Hiroshi’s father was already over 70 years old and had always hoped to spend his final years in Japan. The family thus moved back to Wakayama Prefecture.

Hiroshi eventually made his way to Tokyo. Determined to go to university, he studied diligently while working at a store on an American military base. He also applied himself to improving his Japanese language skills, which had been rather limited, and succeeded in gaining admission to the economics department of Keio University, a prestigious private university. On graduating, he worked for a foreign bank but after a while started thinking about returning to Canada and acting as a bridge to promote relations between Japan and Canada. He found a job at a Japanese trading firm that had an office in Toronto.

Those who have suffered in war have a mission to live for peace.

Installment 65

In 1960, the Japanese trading company Hiroshi Izumiya worked for established a Canadian subsidiary. That year, he married Teruko, whom he had met in Japan.

Teruko had arrived in Canada only that spring, and it was later that year, when Shin’ichi Yamamoto visited Canada for the first time, that she greeted his party at the airport in Toronto.

After joining the Soka Gakkai, Teruko decided to dedicate herself to working for kosen-rufu in Canada. Although her husband was supportive of her Soka Gakkai activities, it weighed on her that he showed no signs of wanting to practice himself.

In the fall of 1964, during a trip to Japan, she visited Shin’ichi at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, holding her lovely little daughter, Karen, by the hand. She had been pregnant with Karen when she met Shin’ichi four years earlier.

Having started her Buddhist practice on her own in Canada, Teruko had no doubt experienced many hardships. When she began to speak to Shin’ichi, tears welled up in her eyes.

Shin’ichi listened intently and nodded, and then said in a powerful voice: “Each day must be a constant challenge for you. But in the light of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, you made a vow in the distant past to work for kosen-rufu and are now living in Canada as a Bodhisattva of the Earth. It is important that you awaken to this mission and determine to carry it out. Please be confident that is the noblest life there is, the source of unsurpassed joy, fulfillment and happiness.

“We all have our own karma. We never know what will happen in life. Even people who seem quite wealthy may be racked by anxiety and worry, unable to resolve the fundamental issues of aging, sickness and death.

“As Soka Gakkai members, we are engaged in an unprecedented, never-before-attempted, sacred endeavor—that is, teaching all people the way to attain an unshakable state of absolute happiness and thereby transforming the destiny of society, the nation and all humankind. In that respect, it’s only natural that we’ll face many hardships, isn’t it? Indecision makes one cowardly, so be firm in your resolve. When you are, limitless courage and strength will well forth.”

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With a firm resolve, a person will have a guiding focus in life. And when such an individual becomes the core or pivotal force of the organization, the wheels of kosen-rufu begin to turn.

Referring to Teruko’s husband, Hiroshi, Shin’ichi Yamamoto said: “Be sure not to push faith on your husband. Strive to be a good partner and create a happy family. You can show how wonderful this Buddhism is through your own behavior and how you live your life, both as a wife and as a human being. If your interactions with your husband are wise and sincere, with a wish for your family’s happiness and harmony, the day is certain to come when he starts practicing.”

Teruko Izumiya wholeheartedly embraced this guidance. She decided to obtain Canadian citizenship and spend the rest of her life in Canada, with its beautiful autumn leaves and wonderful people. She never complained to her husband, even when sad or struggling. She kept everything in her heart and, when suffering, went to the Gohonzon and chanted in earnest.

While taking care of their home and raising their three children, she cheerfully and energetically opened the way for kosen-rufu in Canada. The circle of new members expanded steadily.

It was in March 1980 that Hiroshi decided to start practicing Nichiren Buddhism. Two of his beloved older sisters had just died one after another of illness, which brought him face to face with the difficult question of karma. He also reflected on being forced to spend his boyhood in an internment camp during World War II. Teruko had stayed up talking with him late into the night, honestly sharing her wish to practice Buddhism with him and enjoy happiness together.

When faced with inexplicable events that seem beyond their power to control, people through the centuries have called it fate or destiny, or seen it as the work of some higher power. But Buddhism examines why such events occur based on the law of cause and effect in life, and it teaches the way to transform those difficulties.

Eighteen years after his wife, Hiroshi Izumiya decided to become a Soka Gakkai member. That night he and Teruko did gongyo together for the first time. It was snowing heavily outside. The room was filled with joy, happy tears streaming down Teruko’s cheeks.

Installment 67

Shin’ichi Yamamoto had planned to visit Canada during his guidance tour of North America in October 1980. But just before his departure from Chicago, his flight developed engine trouble, and he was forced to cancel. He felt awful thinking about all the members who had been waiting there for him. He sent a poem to Canada’s chairperson, Teruko Izumiya:

I will never forget
how you have stood up
in the vast land of Canada.
The dawn of kosen-rufu
has finally arrived.

Shin’ichi flew on directly to his next scheduled stop, Los Angeles. He invited several Canadian leaders to join him there, so he would have a chance to meet and speak with them. Among them were Teruko Izumiya and her husband, Hiroshi, a friendly, handsome gentleman—the same age as Shin’ichi, it turned out.

Firmly shaking hands, Shin’ichi warmly congratulated Hiroshi on starting to practice Nichiren Buddhism and took a photograph with him. Tears glistened in Teruko’s eyes as she gazed at her husband’s profile.

Now, eight months later (in June 1981), Shin’ichi was visiting Canada, and Hiroshi and Teruko were welcoming him and his party at Toronto International Airport.

Shin’ichi made a point of having Hiroshi accompany him in his activities in Canada. He wanted the general director, who was responsible for the management of the organization as a registered not-for-profit corporation, to learn and absorb the spirit of supporting the members and ensuring their safety and well-being.

Shin’ichi said to Teruko, who as the organization’s chairperson and central leader had opened the way for kosen-rufu in Canada: “You couldn’t have achieved all that you have without your husband’s cooperation. The development of the Canadian organization owes a lot to him.”

When people achieve success, they often think it’s all their own doing. But behind every such achievement lie the efforts of many individuals. A leader who remembers that and remains humble and grateful will always win.

On Shin’ichi’s second day in Canada, June 22, a general meeting with about a thousand members took place in a large function room at a Toronto hotel. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the kosen-rufu movement in Canada, it marked a hope-filled fresh departure toward the new century.

Installment 68

At the meeting, Shin’ichi Yamamoto shared his joy at visiting Canada for the first time in almost 21 years and, reflecting on his memories of that initial visit, spoke of the importance of one person standing up with a self-reliant spirit.

“Zero multiplied by any number, no matter how large, is zero. But the number one can grow limitlessly when multiplied. Kosen-rufu here in Canada began its substantial development from Chairperson Izumiya standing up resolutely to take action on her own. And now, the organization has grown to the point where we can hold this meeting of nearly a thousand members.

“Everything starts with one person. That one person teaches others about the Mystic Law, the ultimate teaching for happiness; fosters people of courageous faith who can surpass them; and sets in motion a growing network of capable individuals. This is the principle of ‘emerging from the earth’ (“The True Aspect of All Phenomena,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 385), which describes the process by which the Bodhisattvas of the Earth make their appearance.

“Translating into reality such ideas set forth in Nichiren Daishonin’s writings is the Soka Gakkai’s mission. By doing so, we read the writings with our lives.”

Shin’ichi then mentioned that, on this current overseas trip, he had met with many government officials and academic and cultural figures in the Soviet Union and other countries.

“In all those encounters,” he said, “I stressed that peace is the most important concern for humankind.

“Buddhism teaches that all people equally possess the Buddha nature, and this is the teaching that underpins respect for the dignity of life. It’s the foundation of a philosophy of peace; and tolerance and compassion for others are its lifeblood.

“This philosophy, by its very nature, diametrically opposes all forces that glorify war, enslave people and urge them to their deaths. That’s why, during World War II, the Soka Gakkai was persecuted by Japan’s militarist government, which waged war using State Shinto as its spiritual pillar.

“I am not a politician, diplomat or businessman. But as an ordinary citizen, as an individual, I continue my dialogues for peace based on Buddhism.

“That is because I believe the surest way to peace is for people of every country to share the spirit of Buddhism, which teaches that all people are equally worthy of the highest respect, and to strengthen ties of friendship across national borders.”

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A tree’s branches spread and leaves flourish when its roots are deep and strong. The same is true of a movement for peace. Many people wish and call for peace, but a movement without the roots of a solid guiding philosophy will not endure. Our Soka Gakkai movement for peace has as its roots the great philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, a teaching of respect for the dignity of life.

When people are guided by the Buddhist principle that everyone is inherently a Buddha, they will not take others’ lives or deprive them of their right to exist. Moreover, Buddhism views all human beings as worthy of supreme respect, regardless of their ideology, ethnic background, nationality or religion. It does not denigrate or discriminate against anyone. With its spirit of compassion, it embraces all, no matter their differences; it never excludes.

Implanting in people’s hearts this principle of respect for the dignity of life—this seed of peace, the Mystic Law—is the practice of kosen-rufu and the foundation for achieving world peace. That was Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s firm belief and conviction.

In his speech, he affirmed that the purpose of life is to become happy in the truest sense and that, to do so, it is vital to solve the problem of death.

Nichiren Buddhism addresses the question of death at the most fundamental level, elucidating the eternity of life and the law of cause and effect. When we make this Buddhism our foundation, we can establish a sound view of life, bring forth the wisdom and strength to overcome adversity and attain a state of absolute happiness.

Shin’ichi closed by expressing his hope that, with this day as their starting point, the members in Canada would set their sights on the next 20 years and lead lives of complete fulfillment as a beautiful, pure-hearted Soka family.

At the end of the meeting, the members joined in singing a Soka Gakkai song. Twenty fife and drum corps members took the stage. Some had traveled from as far as Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal, and this was the first time for all of them to play together as a group. The leader of the fife and drum corps was Karen Izumiya, the eldest daughter of Hiroshi and Teruko. A new generation had been fostered.

Everyone in the hall stood, linked arms and swayed side to side to the music. Their singing resounded with great joy.

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On June 23, around a thousand members gathered in Caledon, just outside of Toronto, for a friendship gathering with a delegation of members from Japan.

The event—a garden party with a buffet lunch—took place on a tree-covered hill used as a ski resort in winter. The green slopes gleamed in the sunlight.

After a while, a mini culture festival began with a song by a children’s chorus. Japanese delegation members then sang “Atsuta Village” and the Chubu region’s song “This Path,” and performed traditional Japanese dances such as “Cherry Blossom Variations” and “Takeda Bushi.” Canadian members also put on a lively program, including a folk dance from Quebec, an instrumental performance of “Morigasaki Beach” by professional musicians and a women’s division chorus singing “Onward to Kosen-rufu.”

Shin’ichi Yamamoto then spoke, expressing his gratitude, “It has been like a dream for me to be treated to such wonderful singing, musical artistry and heartfelt dancing.” He proposed building a Soka Gakkai culture center in Canada and urged everyone to become suns illuminating and contributing to their communities while opening the way to a bright and promising future for kosen-rufu in Canada.

Before and after the festival, Shin’ichi spoke with and encouraged many members. He also greeted and thanked the ski resort manager who provided the venue.

Dialogue expands connections to Buddhism.

The manager’s stepmother was a Soka Gakkai member. Shin’ichi had encouraged her during his trip to Tehran, Iran, in 1964.

He and his party had gone to visit a Soka Gakkai member named Miki Ota at the Chinese restaurant she managed. But the owner told them that she had quit when her employment contract expired and was now traveling.

When one of the Iranian workers looked closely at Shin’ichi, he exclaimed in surprise, and brought out some magazines from the back room. They were copies of the Seikyo Graphic. He opened one, pointed to a photograph of Shin’ichi and said with a smile, “Mr. Yamamoto!”

Installment 71

Miki Ota had given the restaurant owner and employees copies of the Seikyo Graphic to show them how wonderful the Soka Gakkai was.

One of the employees said to Shin’ichi Yamamoto: “Ms. Ota was always telling us about you, Mr. Yamamoto, and we’ve seen your photos in these magazines, so we know you very well. We’re very happy to meet you.”

Shin’ichi shook hands with everyone and, as he was leaving, told them the name of the hotel in Tehran where he and his party were staying.

Later that day, Ota returned from her trip and dropped by the restaurant with small gifts for her former boss and coworkers, who informed her that Shin’ichi had come by to see her earlier.

Ota doubted that the Soka Gakkai president would come specially to visit her, since they had never met. But she went to the hotel they had mentioned to see if he was there.

Shin’ichi and his wife, Mineko, welcomed her warmly. In the course of their conversation, Ota mentioned that a Canadian man had asked her to marry him, and she wasn’t sure what she should do.

Shin’ichi encouraged her, saying that happiness is found within us, not somewhere outside, and that faith is the key to unlocking that happiness. If she challenged herself earnestly in her Buddhist practice, he said, she would definitely become happy, irrespective of her environment.

“No matter what hardship you may face,” he continued, “never abandon your faith. Throughout your life, wherever you may go in the world, persevere in your faith with steadiness, humility and determination.”

Happiness is found on the path to realizing kosen-rufu.

Several years later, Ota married the man who had proposed to her, and moved with him to Canada.

Shin’ichi spoke with her, now Miki Carter, her husband and her stepson who managed the ski resort.

Shin’ichi was happy above all that she had followed the guidance he had given her that day in Tehran and had persevered in her Buddhist practice. The seeds of encouragement he had sown 17 years before had endured the tests of time and had flowered here in Canada. Continually sowing such seeds enables the flower garden of kosen-rufu to keep expanding.

Installment 72

Shin’ichi Yamamoto said to Miki Carter: “Please persevere in your Buddhist practice with faith like flowing water. Continuing in faith is the key to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. That’s why Nichiren Daishonin writes: ‘To accept is easy; to continue is difficult. But Buddhahood lies in continuing faith’ (“The Difficulty of Sustaining Faith,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 471). Please strive for the ideal of kosen-rufu and dedicate your life to helping others become happy. That is where you’ll find your own happiness, too.”

As the Canadian author L. M. Montgomery (1874–1942) wrote, when we have ideals, life is “grand and great.”[19]

The next day, June 24, Shin’ichi visited the Toronto Community Centre on King Street West in Toronto. He did gongyo with around 150 members, praying for everyone’s health and happiness. “Please advance with confidence, hope and courage,” he urged them, “making your motto ‘Never stop practicing!’”

Then, Shin’ichi went with members to view Niagara Falls.

He had visited the falls 21 years earlier, but the sight of this massive cascade crashing down with a thunderous roar and sending up veils of mist remained as magnificent as ever. He gazed at it for some time and took photographs.

He vividly recalled his thoughts on that day two decades before when he had seen a rainbow stretching over the falls.

“The water falls powerfully without cease. A mist rises and, when struck by the rays of the sun, produces beautiful rainbows. In the same way, on the path of kosen-rufu, those continually moving forward each day, hearts filled with a fighting spirit, will have tremendous vitality. A rainbow of hope will always shine above them.”

Thinking of the rainbow network of kosen-rufu in Canada, which had developed from the efforts of a single individual, he sensed how true it was that action gives rise to joy and to hope.

Afterward, Shin’ichi and the others visited the home of Laura Secord (1775–1868), a Canadian hero. The house, known as the Laura Secord Homestead, was located about 15 kilometers (around 10 miles) from Niagara Falls.

Installment 73

In 1813, the United States and Great Britain were fighting a war over an area then known as British North America (part of Canada). Queenston, where Laura Secord lived, was a fiercely contested battleground. Her husband fought for the British and was wounded. The American forces commandeered the Secord house as lodgings for their officers. One day, Laura overheard some of these officers discussing plans for a surprise attack on the British. If it succeeded, the Niagara Peninsula would fall into the hands of the Americans.

“I have to convey this information to the British,” Laura thought. But the British headquarters was more than 30 kilometers (18 miles) away. And her husband was still recuperating. Laura decided to go herself, hurrying through trackless forest in enemy territory. How terrifying and grueling it must have been to make this journey alone. Thanks to her vital information, the British were able to prepare fully and defeat the Americans.

Laura’s courageous, life-and-death ordeal had saved the British that day, but for many years her contribution remained largely unknown. After the death of her husband, who had been disabled by his injuries, she continued to struggle with life’s hardships on her own.

Her heroism came to light only after the British Crown Prince Albert Edward (later King Edward VII) visited Canada in 1860 and heard about it. Laura was then already 85. She continued to live a quiet and modest life until her death at 93.

Her small white two-story wooden house had been restored in 1971, but the brick fireplace and chimney and a hand loom bespoke her plain and simple life there.

Deeply impressed by her story, Shin’ichi Yamamoto said to the others with him: “The actions of this one woman protected the British forces and Canada. It certainly is true that the actions of a single determined individual can be more effective than a force of ten thousand. One person is all it takes.”

Installment 74

Shin’ichi Yamamoto said to his wife, Mineko, beside him: “How Laura Secord lived her life reminds me of our women’s division members. She took bold action to save the British forces. She had to have courage and conviction to do that. And even though she contributed greatly, she remained humble. She supported her husband and took care of and raised her children. She was just like our women’s division members.”

Mineko nodded. “Yes, that’s true,” she said with a smile. “The efforts of women are behind many of the great moments in history, but they are rarely recognized.”

“I think so, too. That’s why, wherever I go, I try hard to search out and shine a spotlight on true heroes among ordinary people.”

Shin’ichi then said to the members accompanying him: “Many individuals, their names unknown to most, exert themselves tirelessly for kosen-rufu, wishing to contribute to peace and people’s happiness. It’s extraordinary. My conviction that the Soka Gakkai is a gathering of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, of Buddhas, grows stronger day by day.

“Hoping to shine a light on and pay tribute to such individuals in some small way, I have planted trees in their honor in various places or had plaques engraved with their names installed in culture and community centers.

“Leaders must never judge people based on their positions in the Soka Gakkai or their social status. They need to be discerning and identify who has been working the hardest for kosen-rufu, who has been striving with selfless dedication. Leaders must show the greatest respect for those working behind the scenes and value, praise and commend them to the utmost.

“A deep sense of gratitude for those working hard out of the limelight imbues our organization with the warmth of humanity. Without this spirit, the Soka Gakkai will become a coldhearted bureaucracy.”

Installment 75

In the light of the Buddhist law of cause and effect, our efforts for kosen-rufu, even if no one praises or recognizes them, are sources of our benefit and good fortune. The Buddha sees everything. In other words, everything is subject to this causal law.

That’s why it is important for each of us, as a matter of faith and personal conviction, to regard everything as part of our Buddhist practice. We should challenge ourselves by willingly taking on hard work for the sake of kosen-rufu, the Law and our fellow members, whether others know about our efforts or not.

The role of leaders is to be aware of, commend and honor members’ efforts so that they can all continue exerting themselves earnestly in Buddhist practice with joy and a sense of purpose.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto and his party went out into the courtyard of the Laura Secord Homestead and continued their conversation.

“The victory of the British forces,” Shin’ichi said, “was achieved with the selfless assistance of one woman, one ordinary person. In the same way, to succeed, all movements require the understanding, agreement, support and cooperation of the people. To advance kosen-rufu, it’s important that we always value our society and the people around us, that we sink deep roots into and contribute to our communities.

“As such, consideration for and friendly relations with our neighbors, as well as taking an active role in our community, are indispensable elements of kosen-rufu. If we alienate ourselves from our society or our community, kosen-rufu won’t progress.

“Laura Secord had to care for her wounded husband while also raising her children. As human beings, it is important to pay attention to the essentials of daily life and lead firmly grounded lives. That’s the grassroots strength of the people. When such individuals stand up, they can change society fundamentally.

“Our movement for kosen-rufu is attempting to make that happen, and women’s division members are the leading players.”

Shin’ichi gazed at Teruko Izumiya as he said these words. Her eyes sparkled, and she nodded with a determined look.

As a result of Shin’ichi’s visit, Canada went on to soar into a new chapter of worldwide kosen-rufu.

Installment 76

At 5:00 p.m. on June 25, with some 150 members gathered to see him off, Shin’ichi Yamamoto departed Toronto International Airport. After a 90-minute flight, he arrived in Chicago.

The 1st World Peace Culture Festival, one of the biggest events on his North America itinerary, was scheduled to be held in the city on June 28. This celebration would herald the start of a new chapter in worldwide kosen-rufu and mark the Soka Gakkai’s fresh departure as a global religious organization.

While in Chicago, Shin’ichi was interviewed by a local newspaper. The mayor also issued a proclamation designating the week of the festival, June 22 through June 28, as President Shin’ichi Yamamoto Week in recognition of his efforts for peace. It called upon all Chicagoans to welcome Shin’ichi and everyone who would be attending the festival.

Some of the Japanese leaders traveling with Shin’ichi shared their thoughts with one another.

“The age of worldwide kosen-rufu has really arrived!” one declared. “Undeniable proof is the great hope Americans have for our members’ contributions to society and for our SGI movement, which treasures young people and is filled with young people actively engaged in the world around them.”

Another said: “Unfortunately, Japan is still very insular. Many Japanese resent the rise of a new people’s movement and can’t see it objectively. The times are changing rapidly. With that narrow-minded attitude, Japan will be left behind the rest of the world.”

Still another added: “Since Tomomasa Yamawaki’s arrest in January for extortion, the blatant falsehood of his defamatory attacks on the Soka Gakkai through some mass media has come to light. We have a duty now to proclaim the true greatness of the Soka Gakkai.”

On June 27, a new Nichiren Shoshu temple opened outside Chicago, the fifth U.S. temple or temple branch office to be donated by the Soka Gakkai. High Priest Nikken attended the Gohonzon-enshrining ceremony. Shin’ichi also participated.

Shin’ichi continued to pray for kosen-rufu to advance through the harmonious unity of the priesthood and the laity. To strive solely to realize the great vow for kosen-rufu was the unchanging spirit pulsing within the Soka Gakkai.

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On June 28, the historic 1st World Peace Culture Festival, marking the Soka Gakkai’s flight into the 21st century, took place.

Nearly 20,000 people assembled at the Rosemont Horizon Stadium (today’s Allstate Arena) in the Chicago suburbs. Among them were SGI members from around the world as well as many distinguished guests, including ambassadors and embassy officials and staff from 17 countries and representatives from diverse spheres of American society.

The theme song “Morning Sun” began, heralding the dawn of a century of life. On stage, youth wearing white uniforms depicted waking up to a new day and then launched into a vibrant dance.

The stage had four sections, one in the center, one in the front and one on each side. The American members used all sections as they performed songs and dances of Latin America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. They had been rehearsing day after day to master each dance.

New York members who performed a Russian dance had been thinking of the people of the Soviet Union while trying to bring their spirit to life. As they rehearsed, they came to feel a sense of friendship toward these strangers in a distant land, transcending national and ideological differences. Culture has the power to bring hearts together and connect people.

Members of the friendship delegation from Japan performed traditional dances and folk songs. The Soka Gakkai Music Corps also performed. And when the Soka Chorus[20] sang a powerful rendition of “Song of Indomitable Dignity,” many of the pioneer women’s division members, who had moved from Japan to the United States, wiped tears from their eyes, recalling the many difficulties they had overcome.

A group of young men from Nagano Prefecture filled the stage to put on a dynamic gymnastics display. When they completed a five-story human tower, the audience cheered and applauded.

As an excited buzz hummed through the audience, two groups of members rushed out to the left and right stages—one performing a Palestinian folk dance and the other, an Israeli folk dance. When they finished, some dancers began moving toward the center stage. They hesitated, but then continued, as if spurring themselves on. Facing one another, they shook hands firmly.

The audience erupted in applause, expressing their shared prayer and wish for peace.

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Finally, it was time for music and dance from the festival’s host country, the United States. A broad array of exuberant, high-spirited American dances unfolded, from Western style complete with cowboy hats to Hawaiian dances, the Charleston, Swing and tap dances.

Then the scene changed, and the stage darkened. Spotlights illuminated two figures, a young man and woman. They powerfully recited Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s poem “To My Beloved Young American Friends—Youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth,” which read in part:

America, this land uniting nations,
where people from everywhere
have gathered in harmony,
a miniature of the entire world.
Only in the unity and solidarity of
so many diverse peoples
is to be found the principle and formula
for global peace.

When they finished, the stadium shook with applause as the members expressed their determination to create a groundswell for world peace starting from the United States.

For the finale, all the performers filled the stage, and some of them holding the flags of the world’s nations—Argentina, Austria and so forth—walked to the front of the stage to raise them high. It was a tribute to the ideal of America as a harmonious nation where people gathered from all around the world. And it was an expression of determination. Guests and members in the audience stood up to applaud and cheer as their country’s flag appeared. Then, the performers began to sing joyously, swaying from side to side.

This brilliant festival demonstrated that our planet, our world, is one. It marked the opening of a new chapter in the Soka Gakkai’s movement for worldwide kosen-rufu, a spirited fanfare signaling the start of a new journey resounding far and wide.

No force can stop this mighty flow of kosen-rufu, because it is the will of Nichiren Daishonin. To make this great vow of the Daishonin a reality is the reason for the Soka Gakkai’s appearance in modern times and its eternal mission.

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More than 30 media outlets, including television stations, sent reporters to the World Peace Culture Festival. Afterward, ABC News showed scenes of the event, explaining that the festival sought to promote world peace and respect for life, and that most of the performers were amateurs. An SGI member who was interviewed said proudly, “The aim of the Soka Gakkai movement is to contribute to world peace, while enabling everyone to fully express their potential.”

At noon the next day, June 29, the joy and excitement of the festival spread to the streets of Chicago. Under sunny skies, a repeat of selected performances took place in Daley Plaza in front of City Hall to express gratitude to the city and its citizens for their generous support.

Around 10,000 people, including guests from various fields and some 500 specially invited senior care facility residents, gathered for the event and applauded the spirited performances.

The program included an instrumental performance by the Music Corps, as well as folk dances from Italy, South Korea, Hungary and India. Members of the Japanese friendship delegation also took the stage for a rousing taiko drum performance and traditional firemen’s acrobatics with ladders. An orchestra played the festival theme song “Morning Sun,” and young men gave a dynamic gymnastics display with “human rockets” flying through the air.

One of the guests watching alongside Shin’ichi Yamamoto said: “I am deeply moved. Thank you for this wonderful cultural event!”

Enveloped in a symphony of applause and praise, the Soka Gakkai had made a fresh start toward the 21st century from the United States.

On July 1, Shin’ichi left Chicago and arrived in Los Angeles, his final stop.

That same day, the World Academy of Arts and Culture, headed by Dr. Krishna Srinivas, awarded Shin’ichi the title of Poet Laureate. The certificate, which he received later, recognized him for his “excellence in poetry.” Shin’ichi felt these words were too generous, and he made a vow in his heart: “I have written my poetry motivated by my wish to show the right way to live as a human being and to give people courage, hope and the strength to carry on. To live up to the honor bestowed on me, I will continue to devote my energy to composing poems and sending forth the light of encouragement!”

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While tirelessly working for peace and the happiness of all people, Shin’ichi Yamamoto also continued composing poems, many of which were dictated in spare moments in his busy schedule.

In later years, the International Poets Academy named him International Eminent Poet (1991), while the World Poetry Society Intercontinental bestowed on him the titles World Poet Laureate (1995), World People’s Poet (2007) and World Peace Poet (2010).

After completing his U.S. itinerary, Shin’ichi arrived at the New Tokyo International Airport in Narita (later Narita International Airport) shortly after 4:00 p.m. on July 8. He was greeted by a smiling President Kiyoshi Jujo and other Soka Gakkai leaders.

In the course of his 61-day trip, he had visited eight countries, including the Soviet Union and countries in Europe and North America, almost circling the northern hemisphere in his travels for peace. He had conversed with government officials and leaders in various fields in each country to promote peace and cultural exchange. He also devoted himself wholeheartedly to encouraging local members in order to advance worldwide kosen-rufu.

Shin’ichi had given his all to inspiring members at every event, whether at the 1st World Peace Culture Festival, the European representatives conference, informal discussions about faith, Gosho study sessions, general meetings, gongyo sessions or friendship gatherings.

He had striven earnestly, resolved that now was the time to leave eternal guidelines for the future. Determined not to waste a single moment, he even used his time riding the Paris metro, for instance, to compose a poem for the youth of France.

They were days of unrelenting struggle. But the only choice was to keep pressing forward. He had to ensure that the 21st century would be a century of peace and a century of life.

Shin’ichi had waited for and created the time to usher in the dawn of a new age. Each day, each moment, was a battle. No real construction or brilliant achievement can be accomplished without intense effort.

His work had led, at last, to the bells of dawn tolling the arrival of an age of victory. The morning sun of a new chapter of worldwide kosen-rufu now began its majestic ascent.

This concludes “Bells of Dawn,” chapter 4 of volume 30 of The New Human Revolution.


  1. The book was published in English under the title Search for a New Humanity. ↩︎
  2. Khristo Botev, “A Prayer,” in The History of Modern Bulgarian Literature, translated by Clarence A. Manning and Roman Smal-Stocki (New York: Bookman Associates, 1960), p. 176. ↩︎
  3. Translated from Chinese. Xie Bingxin, Bingxin quanji (Collected Writings of Bing Xin), vol. 1 (Fujian, Fuzhou Province: Haixia Wenyi Chubanshe, 1994), p. 243. ↩︎
  4. Ludwig van Beethoven, Beethoven: Letters, Journals and Conversations, edited, translated and introduced by Michael Hamburger (London: Thames and Hudson, 1992), p. 49. ↩︎
  5. Ibid., p. 40. ↩︎
  6. This song debuted as a women’s division song at the women’s division meeting held in Tokyo, August 1968. The tune of this Soka Gakkai song was used for the English song “Forever Sensei.” ↩︎
  7. Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays, translated by M. A. Screech (London: Penguin Books, 1991), p. 238. ↩︎
  8. Published in English in 1991 under the title Dawn After Dark. ↩︎
  9. Victor Hugo, Ninety-Three, translated by Frank Lee Benedict (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1988), p. 380. ↩︎
  10. Translated from German. Friedrich Schiller, “Spruch des Konfuzius” (A Saying of Confucius), Die Gedichte (The Poems), edited by Jochen Golz (Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1999), p. 475. ↩︎
  11. Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road,” Leaves of Grass: Comprehensive Reader’s Edition, edited by Harold W. Blodgett and Sculley Bradley (New York: New York University Press, 1965), p.158. ↩︎
  12. Ibid., p. 727. ↩︎
  13. Daisaku Ikeda, “Like the sun rising,” in Journey of Life: Selected Poems of Daisaku Ikeda (London: I. B. Tauris, 2014), p. 220. ↩︎
  14. Daisaku Ikeda, “To My Beloved Young American Friends—Youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth,” in Songs for America (Santa Monica, California: World Tribune Press, 2000), p. 63. ↩︎
  15. Ibid., p. 66. ↩︎
  16. Ibid., p. 69. ↩︎
  17. Ibid., pp. 71–72. ↩︎
  18. Emily Carr, Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin and Company Limited, 1966), p. 138. ↩︎
  19. L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea (London: L. C. Page and Company, 1909), p. 169. ↩︎
  20. A mixed chorus group of men’s, women’s, and youth division members in Japan. ↩︎
  21. Daisaku Ikeda, “To My Beloved Young American Friends—Youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth,” Songs for America (Santa Monica, California: World Tribune Press, 2000), p. 67. ↩︎

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