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Ikeda Sensei

Live With Honor

Photo by Pobytov / Getty Images.

This essay, which was originally published in the July 2, 2005, Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, can be found in Men Shining With Youthful Brilliance: Guidance to the Men of the SGI-USA, pp. 18–23.

The nineteenth-century English poet Anne Brontë wrote: “While Faith is with me, I am blest; / It turns my darkest night to day.” We are living out our lives with faith in the supreme Mystic Law. It is the magnificent Buddhism of the Sun, which enables us to overcome every obstacle and hardship, to triumph over whatever destiny may bring. Never forget that it sets human beings on the truest, most powerful and profoundest orbit of victory in life. As men’s division members, it is our honorable mission and duty to resolutely protect this noble realm of faith, a realm of integrity and happiness, from any and all devilish forces and to impart boundless dignity and strength to all our fellow members.

• • •

The renowned British historian Arnold J. Toynbee endured a turbulent life. He witnessed two world wars in which many friends from his university days fell in battle. He also suffered the loss of a beloved son. He was assailed by baseless slander, and he experienced life’s difficulties in full measure. Nonetheless, Toynbee stayed strong, living up to his credo to exert himself on behalf of others.

Even in his 80s, he awoke each morning at 6:45 and, after breakfast, started working by 9. No matter how he felt that day, he sat down at his desk and set to the task at hand. As he once said to me, “If you wait until you feel like working, you’ll never accomplish anything.” To the last days of his life, he courageously and steadfastly remained shoulder to the wheel, struggling to accomplish all he could, embodying his perennial motto—Laboremus (Let’s get to work).

Let us, too, get to work again today, take on new challenges, set out in our respective places of mission. Let us launch into the great struggle for kosen-rufu. Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Life is limited; we must not begrudge it. What we should ultimately aspire to is the Buddha land” (“Aspiration for the Buddha Land,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 214). Brave and tenacious individuals of firm resolve are certain to win out in the end, no matter how arduous the challenge.

• • •

Japanese marine adventurer Ken’ichi Horie shows off his new wave-powered boat “Mermaid II” in November 2007. Photo by AFP/ Stringer / Getty Images.

Euripides, the eminent poet and playwright of ancient Greece, asked rhetorically: “Can any man attain great honors without effort? Has ever a weak and lazy man obtained the highest prize?” Of course not. On June 7, 2005, the maritime adventurer Ken’ichi Horie returned home safely to Japan after completing a nonstop solo circumnavigation of the globe in a sailboat following an eastward route. I have counted Mr. Horie as a dear friend for more than a decade.

When he crossed the equator on his latest voyage, I sent him a message: “Stay vigilant. Victory will be yours. My best wishes for your successful voyage.” I also had a message conveyed to him just before he sailed around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, the most perilous part of the journey, “I’m looking forward to the safe return of the world’s greatest hero.” When I learned of his triumphant homecoming, I gave a shout of delight.

This was Mr. Horie’s third voyage around the world. Now that he has also sailed the eastward route, he has become only the second person in history to have made such a nonstop solo circumnavigation in both eastward and westward directions. Mr. Horie is 66 (82 today). His latest voyage took 250 days and covered some 31,069 miles. Why does he continue challenging himself in this way?

“Once you’ve savored the sublime experience of surpassing your personal limits,” he says, “you can’t help but want to do it again.”

What a youthful spirit; what invincible courage. He is indeed a champion of champions. He first crossed the Pacific when he was 23. Since then, he has embarked on many adventurous voyages. He has often sailed into rough seas. Sometimes his sailboat has toppled over or even flipped upside down. But he has learned from each experience. Instead of being cowed by his failures, he regards them as lessons and makes them the fuel for future success.

As he has said, “New abilities can be drawn forth by continually challenging oneself and making efforts.”

Life is like a sea voyage. We each need to open up our own course in life with the strength of our convictions, unperturbed by the crashing breakers of life’s stormy seas. The fiercer the tempest rages, the more we need to rouse our own fighting spirit and man the tiller with all our strength and skill, crying: “Bring it on!” Through this type of arduous struggle, we can forge the practical wisdom to triumph consistently and, as victorious champions, create history.

• • •

The realities of society are quite strict. The world can be a cruel and harsh place. Though economic conditions may be improving, society’s front lines remain a turbulent scene of desperate struggle.

It is sheer agony to suffer a business failure. I was forced to experience this myself when working for my mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, helping with his businesses. It became a lesson ingrained in me. I will never forget the haggard look on Mr. Toda’s usually unruffled countenance.

It was a moment of true crisis for him. As a young man, I made a life-or-death effort to support him. He couldn’t pay me. My fellow workers quit. I was in terrible health. Yet, in spite of all that, I fought like a demon to protect Mr. Toda. And from the most desperate of straits, through the combined efforts of mentor and disciple dedicated to kosen-rufu, we overcame every hardship, clearing the way to Mr. Toda’s inauguration in 1951 as the second Soka Gakkai president.

He was 51—at the height of his abilities. He declared: “All I care about is kosen-rufu. Here I will make my stand. I am not afraid of anything anyone might say. There’s nothing that can stop me.” Buddhism is primarily concerned with winning. The purpose of Buddhism and faith is to enable us to do just that. Mentor and disciple dedicated to kosen-rufu share the sublime mission to resolutely demonstrate their faith through achieving absolute victory in life and society.

• • •

One of the epithets of a Buddha is “Hero of the World.” A Buddha is a valiant and noble champion who has conquered the sufferings of life in the real world.

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Buddhism is like the body, and society like the shadow. When the body bends, so does the shadow” (“A Comparison of the Lotus and Other Sutras,” WND-1, 1039). People cannot live apart from society. But to be constantly at the mercy of society’s ups and downs is a miserable existence. It is crucial for us to be strong and wise. The “body” Nichiren refers to is, on the personal level, our faith. Come what may, we need to summon our faith, hold our heads up and bravely face the challenges before us. No matter how difficult the situation seems, decide that you will beat it and chant with all your might. This is the all-powerful and invincible strategy of the Lotus Sutra.

Men’s division members are staunch leaders who guide our troubled and tumultuous world in a positive direction. The German poet Friedrich Hölderlin wrote that all great undertakings are a battle that can only be won through strength and spirit. My praiseworthy fellow men’s division members, since fight we must, let us fight joyously and courageously for a great cause. And, for the sake of the young people who will come after us, let us triumph over every obstacle with indomitable strength and spirit, for faith is our highest right, which we have freely chosen.

• • •

Nichiren Daishonin wrote a letter to the father of Nanjo Tokimitsu. Though the father had converted to Nichiren’s teachings, he remained confused and could not completely give up his attachment to his former erroneous beliefs. Hence, in this letter, Nichiren admonishes him not to be “of two minds” or “fear what others may say” (“Encouragement to a Sick Person,” WND-1, 82). To be “of two minds” here indicates a state of doubt and weakness in which one cannot commit oneself wholeheartedly to faith in the Lotus Sutra.

Genuine faith means to single-mindedly carry out one’s belief. On the other hand, timidly fearing what others will think, unable to refute opponents of the Lotus Sutra, is to be “of two minds.” Those of two minds can never attain Buddhahood, no matter how deeply they study the Buddhist teachings. To know what is correct and what is mistaken and yet neglect to speak up when the time comes is, in the Daishonin’s stern words, to act as a “deadly enemy of all living beings” who is “bound to fall into the great citadel of the Avichi hell” (“Reply to the Lay Priest Takahashi,” WND-1, 607).

Leaving it up to others to promote kosen-rufu is, in a strict sense, just another form of being “of two minds.” Also, Nichiren states, “To hope to attain Buddhahood without speaking out against slander is as futile as trying to find water in the midst of fire or fire in the midst of water” (“The Essentials for Attaining Buddhahood,” WND-1, 747). In the end, halfhearted efforts only result in an eternity of regrets. This is self-defeating. It is important to commit yourself. Charge ahead, without hesitation, and live out your life carrying the banner of the Soka movement as a proud member of the Soka Gakkai men’s division.

• • •

Nichiren Daishonin proclaims: “The essential message in this work [‘The Opening of the Eyes’] is that the destiny of Japan depends solely upon Nichiren. A house without pillars collapses, and a person without a soul is dead. Nichiren is the soul of the people of this country” (“The Actions of the Votary of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 772). The Soka Gakkai, which has inherited the spirit of establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land, is the pillar and soul of Japan. And the men’s division serves as the central pillar of the Soka Gakkai, a great bastion of noble ordinary people.

“It is better to live a single day with honor than to live to 120 and die in disgrace,” declares the Daishonin (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” WND-1, 851). A day dedicated to kosen-rufu is a precious day of good fortune that will last forever. Please do not leave yourself with regrets. The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, “Now’s the day, and now’s the hour; / See the front o’ battle lour [threaten].” Now is the time to stand up and face the challenge. No matter what happens, never retreat; battle on to the very end.

The secret to victory in any struggle is fervent prayer. The next step is to take action boldly. Maintaining courage, hope and perseverance, let us inspire everyone to action and encourage one another toward victory. This is the formula for winning in any endeavor. To the young men’s division members, to the praiseworthy active retirees who make up the Taiyo-kai (Sun Group) and to all the members of the men’s division, the wonderful golden pillar of kosen-rufu: Do not be defeated. My valiant men’s division champions—let’s fight together and score triumph after triumph.

I Will Do Great Things

Shine Brightly as Youthful Treasure Towers!