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Encouragement

Create a Symphony of Great Joy!

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Ludwig van Beethoven completed his Ninth Symphony, known for its choral section “Ode to Joy,” in 1824, at the age of 53, just three years before his death. It is the last complete symphony he composed.

The Ninth Symphony is famous for including a choral section, unlike any other symphony at the time. Beethoven created this gift for humanity through his innovative thinking and fresh creativity.

The choral section, “Ode to Joy,” sets to music a poem of the same title by Beethoven’s contemporary, the German poet Friedrich von Schiller.

Beethoven was 22 or 23 when he decided to set to music this poem, which brimmed with a love of humanity, peace and joy. He continued to cherish and nurture this dream over the years and finally, 30 years later, made it a reality, bringing his youthful vow to wonderful fruition.

As is well known, by the time he composed the Ninth Symphony, Beethoven had almost completely lost his hearing. It is said that after the symphony’s debut performance, Beethoven was unaware of the audience’s rapturous applause as he stood facing away from them on the stage. Only after being prompted to turn around did he witness their reaction, which he acknowledged with a bow.

Ikeda Sensei plays the piano as Mrs. Ikeda looks on, San Francisco, March 1993.
Joy—Ikeda Sensei plays the piano as Mrs. Ikeda looks on, San Francisco, March 1993. Photo by Seikyo Press.

The French writer and Beethoven biographer Romain Rolland called the Ninth Symphony an unsurpassed triumph of the human spirit. He wrote: “[It was] the most brilliant [victory] that has ever been won by an infirm and lonely spirit. Sorrow personified, to whom the world refused joy, created joy himself to give to the world. He forged it from his own misery.”[1] And he said that Beethoven’s life can be summed up by his words “Joy through suffering.”[2]

Beethoven encountered many forms of adversity: he lost his hearing; he was harassed by traditionalist elements of society; he was the target of envy; and he faced an endless series of problems related to his health, finances and family life. Yet through it all, he remained undefeated.

He fought, and he won. He broke through the dark clouds of suffering to attain a life state of joy as bright as the clear blue skies above the clouds.

The Ninth Symphony is proof of Beethoven’s victory in the final chapter of his life.

Buddhism also focuses on being victorious, and in such a struggle, there is always opposition and resistance, a succession of problems and difficulties. But true and enduring happiness comes only by triumphing over all those challenges. The same applies to achieving kosen-rufu. That is why I call out to you with all my heart: Be victorious!

The Tokyo Detention Center, where first and second Soka Gakkai presidents Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda were imprisoned in 1943 by the militarist Japanese government, was here in Sugamo, near the Soka Gakkai Toda Memorial Auditorium.

It was there that Mr. Makiguchi died on Nov. 18, 1944, at the age of 73.

In August 1944, Mr. Toda, then 44 years old, wrote in a letter from prison to his father-in-law: “Please be strong. … No matter how hard life is and how poor you are, please always be confident that as long as I’m alive, you are a ‘wealthy person’ [just like the Daishonin proclaimed][3](see “Four Bodhisattvas as the Object of Devotion,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 977).”

The Japanese nation was in turmoil in these final days of World War II, with air raids intensifying. Mr. Toda’s young son had been evacuated to the countryside, and Mr. Toda himself was still in jail. And yet how confident he was, declaring in effect: “I am a ‘wealthy person’ now and forever! And everyone connected to me is also a ‘wealthy person’!” Faith is the greatest form of wealth.

For those with faith, the more their problems and suffering, the stronger they become. They can bring happiness to all around them. Nothing disturbs or discourages them.

You are all emissaries of the Buddha. You are noble Bodhisattvas of the Earth. I hope you will live your lives with strength and fortitude, with the reassuring spirit “As long as I am here, you have nothing to fear!” and the conviction “I am truly a ‘wealthy person’!”

My dear and precious friends, I pray with all my heart every single day for your health, long life, safety and happiness.

Please advance joyfully and positively day after day, filled with vibrant life force. It is my sincerest wish that all of you continue to accumulate boundless good fortune through steady faith and practice and together celebrate the next great milestone of our 70th anniversary with magnificent victory (in 2000).

My best wishes to you all today! Thank you!

These are excerpts from Ikeda Sensei’s speech at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters leaders meeting held at the Toda Memorial Auditorium in Sugamo, Tokyo, on Nov. 16, 1990, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding. Video footage of the speech was broadcast during the Fifth Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting Toward Our Centennial, held on Nov. 18, 2021. This was translated from the Nov. 29, 2021, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

References

  1. Romain Rolland, Beethoven, translated by B. Constance Hull (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., Ltd., 1919), p. 54.
  2. Ibid.
  3. The phrase “wealthy person” comes from statements by Nichiren Daishonin in his writings: “From a mundane view, I am the poorest person in Japan, but in the light of Buddhism, I am the wealthiest person [literally foremost wealthy person] in all Jambudvipa [the entire world]” (“Four Bodhisattvas as the Object of Devotion,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 977); and “I, Nichiren, am the richest man [literally foremost wealthy person] in all of present-day Japan. I have dedicated my life to the Lotus Sutra, and my name will be handed down in ages to come” (“The Opening of the Eyes,” WND-1, 268).

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