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The New Human Revolution

Seeking Spirit—Volume 27, Chapter 4

Installment 1

Fresh green leaves inspire hope. They brim with young energy and the promise of future growth. In that sense, they are a symbol of Tohoku[1] and its unlimited potential.

It was a beautiful time of year in Sendai, known as the City of Trees, with the fresh green leaves on the trees lining the streets sparkling in the sunlight.

At 2:20 p.m. on May 27, 1978, Shin’ichi Yamamoto landed at Sendai Airport in Tohoku’s Miyagi Prefecture. He then went by car to the recently completed Soka Gakkai Tohoku Peace Center[2] in Nishiki-cho, Sendai City.

Traveling with Shin’ichi were Soka Gakkai vice president Hisao Seki, who had long been responsible for Tohoku, and Soka Gakkai vice president and Tohoku Region general leader Susumu Aota.

In the car, Shin’ichi said: “The Soka Gakkai organization in Tohoku has become strong. The strength of our Tohoku members derives from their bravely rising to the challenge of each adversity they have encountered—such as the 1960 tsunami caused by an earthquake in Chile, or crop damage from cold weather—and creating ever-greater momentum for kosen-rufu.

“Just as lotus flowers bloom in muddy ponds, amid difficulty, the Tohoku members have awakened to their mission for kosen-rufu, revealed their strength and human brilliance, and demonstrated the power of faith. Undaunted by the most trying circumstances, they have shown through their lives the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism. They are truly Bodhisattvas of the Earth. When I see them, I see Buddhas.

“A resolute determination not to be defeated by anything is the spirit of Tohoku. That is also the Soka Gakkai spirit. That’s why I have such deep respect for our Tohoku members.

“As they each continue to forge their strength, they are making great strides toward attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime and ensuring the continued prosperity of Tohoku. A wonderful age is dawning.”

Aota, in the passenger seat, said, “I feel it’s important in that respect to focus on those working for kosen-rufu on the front lines of the organization and develop all our activities from there.”

“I agree,” Shin’ichi replied. “I would like our members at the forefront to gain conviction in faith by hearing the guidance and experiences of top leaders. That’s why I want those who are top leaders, including our vice presidents and prefecture leaders, to always strive to create opportunities to meet and talk directly with members. Actually, it’s vital that they do so.”

Installment 2

Shin’ichi Yamamoto went on to speak in detail about conducting activities focused on members at the forefront of our movement: “Discussion meetings are where members receive nourishment for their faith. That’s why leaders need to put in the greatest possible effort to ensure that such meetings brim with joy and conviction in faith.

“In addition, Gosho study meetings are where members can learn about and gain a solid understanding of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings. I therefore hope that top leaders will make themselves readily available for such meetings and give inspiring lectures that leave members with an appreciation of how profound Buddhism is and determined to do their best.

“Region and prefecture leaders tend to think that as long as leaders meetings—such as the general meetings of all chapter leaders in the prefecture—are a success, then that’s enough. But what really matters is what happens at the local chapter, greater block and block meetings[3] that take place after those leaders meetings and whether the members attending them feel energized in their faith.

“As the organization grows, region and prefecture leaders tend to turn their attention away from the front lines, becoming focused solely on headquarters and chapter leaders. When that happens, all activities become superficial. Focus must never stray from the frontline members.

“I often ask leaders at various levels how everyone in their organization is doing. The question is, who do they think of when they hear ‘everyone’? Is it the leaders they regularly contact or the members?

“Those who immediately think of the member they visited the day before, or the person they encouraged recently—readily recalling their faces—are true leaders of the people.

“Mr. Toda spent as much time as possible answering members’ questions at meetings. That was an expression of his concern for each member and his wish to see them become happy. He strove to make a personal connection with them.”

Placing utmost importance on each individual has always been the Soka Gakkai spirit.

Installment 3

Shin’ichi Yamamoto and his party arrived at the Soka Gakkai Tohoku Peace Center shortly after 3:00 p.m. The facility had just opened at the beginning of May. With a reddish-brown tiled exterior, it had four stories above ground and one below. It was a grand center for kosen-rufu.

Stepping out of the car, Shin’ichi said to the leaders greeting him: “You’ve all been striving tirelessly for close to three decades, since Sendai Chapter was established. Please relax over the next few days, then let’s make a fresh start together with a renewed spirit.

“Now, let’s take a group photo.”

Everyone smiled broadly for the camera.

Sendai Chapter had been established in May 1951—the same month Josei Toda became second Soka Gakkai president—and was this month celebrating its 27th anniversary.

Shin’ichi wanted to show his sincere appreciation to those who had opened the way for kosen-rufu while struggling against various forms of prejudice and persecution in their communities, which had deeply entrenched customs and beliefs.

With hardly a moment’s rest, he took part in a tree-planting ceremony. Two cherry trees were planted, one in honor of the women’s division members, the “mothers of kosen-rufu,” and the other in memory of a deceased member who had given his all to support the growth of the Tohoku student division.

After placing soil around the base of the women’s division cherry tree, Shin’ichi turned to Megumi Saima, Tohoku Region women’s division leader, and Hiromi Nozaki, Tohoku Region women’s division secretary and Miyagi Prefecture women’s division leader, and said: “I hope that the women’s division members will work together to raise this sapling into a towering tree. Whether fostering cherry trees or capable people, it is important to do so with great care and attention. Please make this tree a symbol of the Tohoku women’s division’s efforts to raise capable people.

“The Tohoku women’s division has in the two of you an excellent team who work well together. When central leaders work together in harmony, it results in tremendous growth. Unity is constructive and positive, while disunity is destructive and negative.

“Ultimately, it is the women’s division that effectively shoulders our organization. If the women’s division is strong, we can build a solid foundation for kosen-rufu.”

Installment 4

Megumi Saima and Hiromi Nozaki were born in the same year and had devoted themselves to kosen-rufu in Tohoku since they were in the young women’s division.

Saima had joined the Soka Gakkai in April 1954.

After graduating from high school, she entered the workforce. A coworker was a Soka Gakkai member, and he often spoke to her about Nichiren Buddhism and the organization. Because she had no interest in religion, she didn’t take him seriously and often laughed him off. She even made fun of him to her family at home.

Then one day, something he said to her about karma struck a sharp chord. Saima’s grandfather had died when her father was a child, and her father was raised by his mother alone. Saima’s maternal grandmother had also died when Saima’s mother was in elementary school. Saima had grown up hearing about this unfortunate family history, so she was intrigued by the assertion that one could change one’s karma.

She avidly read a copy of the Soka Gakkai newspaper Seikyo Shimbun that her coworker had given her. The articles featuring experiences of people who had transformed heavy karma to become happy moved her, and she decided to join the Soka Gakkai. Though embarrassed by how critical she had been, she resolved to give the practice a try.

On the afternoon of April 24, three days after she had joined the Soka Gakkai, President Josei Toda, youth division chief of staff Shin’ichi Yamamoto and other top leaders visited Sendai to attend the Sendai Chapter General Meeting. She went to Sendai Station to welcome them with a senior in faith, who had suggested the idea.

Many other members had gathered as well. Some were dressed rather shabbily, including a woman in a stained apron and a young laborer in work clothes. But all of their faces glowed with vitality. Saima was amazed that there were so many people practicing Nichiren Buddhism. She also saw Toda’s and Shin’ichi’s confident bearing at close hand, and was deeply reassured.

The chapter general meeting, which took place at the Sendai Civic Hall the next day, April 25, brimmed with energy. Saima listened with excitement as Toda declared: “The only path to happiness is chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon!”

His words resounded with his passionate resolve to help each person without exception become happy.

One’s powerful conviction and determination can deeply inspire and awaken others.

Saima decided to give her all to the practice.

Installment 5

Megumi Saima set out to share Nichiren Buddhism with others. She traveled from Sendai to Koriyama in neighboring Fukushima Prefecture to visit a young woman who was bedridden with tuberculosis. With tears in her eyes, Saima urged her to try practicing. The young woman would not be persuaded, however, and Saima left feeling useless.

On another occasion, Saima and a senior in faith went out in heavy rain to share Buddhism with a friend. Holding shabby umbrellas, they trekked up a long, unpaved mountain road, becoming splattered in mud up to their knees. Touched that they had come all that way in such conditions to tell her about Buddhism, the friend decided to join the Soka Gakkai.

Sometimes we may feel frustrated or discouraged in our Soka Gakkai activities. But nothing compares to the incredible joy we feel when someone is inspired to start practicing or make a fresh determination in faith. Having such experiences in our youth creates a solid foundation of faith throughout our lives.

About a year after Saima started practicing, her mother fell ill. The doctor diagnosed her with cancer and told her she had a year to live. Her mother was the same age that her own mother had been when she died.

Feeling that this was her family’s karma, Saima urged her mother, “Let’s practice Buddhism together and overcome our karma through the power of faith.”

Moved by her passionate plea, Saima’s mother decided to join the Soka Gakkai.

They began chanting earnestly together. Saima’s mother felt joy and life force rising from within. Her condition improved and she became stronger day by day. Her doctor was puzzled by this positive change. He examined her again and found her to be free of cancer.

On hearing this, Saima and her mother wept tears of gratitude.

Was the initial diagnosis incorrect? If not, then how had she recovered? Why had the cancer disappeared? They had no idea what the medical answer was, but it didn’t matter. They had surmounted the crisis. This was Saima’s first real experience of the benefit of faith.

In September 1955, Saima met Shin’ichi Yamamoto directly at the 2nd Youth Division Sports Meet “Festival of Youth,” held at the Nihon University athletic field in Setagaya, Tokyo.

She had traveled from Tohoku for the festival and took part in one of the competitions. Her event involved runners racing, at the sound of a starting gun, to pick up a sheet of paper on the track and follow the instructions written on it. The first to complete their task and cross the goal line would win.

Installment 6

Megumi Saima ran as fast as she could to pick up one of the sheets of paper. It said, “Put an apron and headscarf on Youth Division Chief of Staff Yamamoto and have him hold a broom and duster.”

She next ran over to a large pile of assorted clothing and props. After finding the items she needed, she rushed over to the tent where the leaders were watching the event, but Shin’ichi wasn’t there.

Wondering what to do, she noticed President Toda seated in the middle of the tent. Before she could stop herself, she asked him, “Do you know where Mr. Yamamoto is?”

Toda smiled and pointed to a red-and-white striped curtain. “He’s behind there.”

Saima found Shin’ichi organizing prizes with the other youth division staff. She shouted: “Mr. Yamamoto! Please put this on and come with me! Hurry, hurry!”

“All right,” he said easily.

Time was ticking, and his relaxed demeanor made her more frantic as she quickly helped him put on the apron and headscarf.

“Okay, let’s go!” Shin’ichi said with a smile and took off running with her. He was very fast and they were first to cross the finish line. As they stood in front of the tent to receive their prize, Shin’ichi turned to her and said: “You’ll have to excuse me as I need to get back to work. Please tell me your name and where you’re from.”

When Saima gave her name and said she was from Sendai, he added: “I’ll remember you. Please do your best for kosen-rufu in Tohoku.”

Wishing to come in contact with the main current of the Soka Gakkai and absorb whatever she could, Saima eagerly participated in the next year’s festival, as well as the one the following year, where Josei Toda delivered his “Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.”

Just as plants grow by absorbing nourishment from the soil, an enthusiastic seeking spirit spurs tremendous growth in faith. Where there is a seeking spirit, there is victory.

Saima continued to grow and develop, and she eventually became a central figure of the young women’s division in Tohoku.

Installment 7

In May 1961, the year after Shin’ichi Yamamoto became the third Soka Gakkai president, Megumi Saima was appointed the Tohoku No. 1 General Chapter young women’s division leader.

She was responsible for a large area and would go by night train to visit members, traveling as far north as Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture and to Iwate and Miyagi prefectures. Thinking of the members awaiting her visit, she always felt frustrated by the slow local trains.

Through her activities in the young women’s division, her view of faith changed dramatically. When she first started practicing, her prayers focused on transforming her family karma of dying young, as had happened to her maternal grandmother and her paternal grandfather.

Gradually, however, she came to understand that praying for the happiness of others and working for kosen-rufu were her life’s mission, and that in doing so she would savor vitality, joy and genuine happiness. Her faith evolved from focusing solely on her own and her family’s happiness to focusing on the happiness of others as well. She also gained a firm sense of purpose in life. This is one of the reasons why engaging in Soka Gakkai activities as a young women’s division member is so meaningful.

After getting married, Saima graduated from the young women’s division. Then, in 1965, she became a chapter women’s division leader under the “vertical line” organization[4] of the time. She participated in Soka Gakkai activities daily, accompanied by her two children, aged two and three.

Her chapter was centered in the shopping and entertainment area near Sendai Station. The members there grappled with all sorts of problems, including marital discord, illness and delinquent children. It was a heavy responsibility for a young woman in her early 30s who lacked life experience. She often didn’t know what to say to encourage her members. Sometimes she was so nervous that her words were completely off the mark. Visiting women’s division members to encourage them and offer personal guidance terrified her.

Around that time, Haruko Taoka, who had previously been the leader of Tokyo’s Bunkyo Chapter, became the women’s division leader of Sendai No. 1 General Chapter and started traveling from Tokyo to Sendai regularly to encourage members. Some months, she stayed there as many as 20 days, during which she visited as many members as possible. Saima acted as her guide and learned the basics of giving encouragement and guidance to members in the process.

Installment 8

Taoka always chanted daimoku [Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] earnestly before going out to encourage members. She chanted with great energy and focus and would not stop until she brimmed with strong life force.

When she visited women’s division members, she spoke with a warm, embracing smile and found out what was troubling them. She listened intently and nodded with empathy, tears sometimes welling in her eyes.

Then she spoke calmly and reasonably about the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism and the absolute power of the Gohonzon. If she felt something amiss in their attitude with regard to faith, she told them honestly and plainly, without mincing her words. Taoka’s approach came from her great conviction in faith and her compassion for others.

Finally, she offered concrete suggestions about what actions they might take, such as chanting more daimoku or sharing Nichiren Buddhism with others, and promised to visit them again.

Taoka brought Saima along on some of her follow-up visits. Saima found that the initial visits had been remarkably effective, with nearly everyone having overcome their problems.

At first, she was amazed that the members were so willing to share their deeply personal, serious and complicated problems with Taoka. But as she continued to go along on these visits, she noticed that Taoka’s genuine empathy touched each person’s life profoundly.

She also came to understand that offering personal guidance was an intense life-to-life exchange, a great spiritual struggle aimed at awakening the other person’s joy and conviction in faith.

In working together with seniors in faith, younger members can learn how to give guidance in faith and share Buddhism with others. This joint struggle is indispensable to fostering people who can genuinely contribute to kosen-rufu.

Saima wanted to become like Taoka. Learning from Taoka’s example, she chanted a lot and threw herself into encouraging and offering personal guidance to her members.

She made a practice of doing home visits each day, and as she continued, her fear of giving guidance and feelings of inadequacy gradually disappeared.

Installment 9

Shin’ichi Yamamoto took time on many occasions to encourage Saima so that she would develop into an outstanding leader of the women’s division in Tohoku. Sustained by his words of encouragement, whenever she encountered a difficulty in life, she overcame it through faith and strengthened her conviction in Nichiren Buddhism.

In June 1976, Saima became the Miyagi Prefecture women’s division leader, and in December the same year, the Tohoku Region women’s division leader.

Hiromi Nozaki, the Tohoku Region women’s division secretary, who was teamed with Saima, had spent her childhood in Tokyo.

When she was four years old, her father died in World War II, leaving Nozaki and her mother on their own.

When the air raids on Tokyo intensified, Nozaki was evacuated with other schoolchildren to Gunma Prefecture, while her mother went to live with her husband’s family in Kanagawa Prefecture.

After the war, Nozaki and her mother moved to her mother’s childhood home in Fukushima Prefecture. Before long, her mother went on her own to Sendai in neighboring Miyagi Prefecture to open a soba noodle restaurant. She worked very hard to put Nozaki through high school and junior college.

But perhaps from overwork, Nozaki’s mother developed a gastric ulcer, and her business stagnated, eventually to the point that she couldn’t pay her taxes. She sought relief from her suffering in different religions, but she couldn’t even get out of bed on many days. Her financial situation became dire.

Nozaki, meanwhile, having attended junior college and earned her qualification as a nutritionist, went to live with her mother in Sendai. This had been her mother’s wish. Unable to find work in her field there, however, she reluctantly took an office job at a coal mining company.

Anxiety and frustration plagued the two women. Around this time, Nozaki’s mother learned about Nichiren Buddhism from an acquaintance and joined the Soka Gakkai. Soon afterward Nozaki decided to start practicing, too. The confident assertion that her prayers would definitely be answered solidified her resolve. This was in July 1955.

Nozaki watched her mother’s health quickly improve after becoming a Soka Gakkai member, to the extent that she was soon back on her feet and happily doing the washing. The future, once so bleak, began to brighten.

Faith ignites the torch of courage in a person’s heart; it has the power to kindle the light of hope in the dark night.

Installment 10

Six months after joining the Soka Gakkai, during the New Year’s holiday in 1956, Nozaki took part in a pilgrimage to the head temple [in Shizuoka Prefecture]. There, she and several other young women’s division members from Sendai met second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda for the first time.

It was a cold winter day. Learning that they had traveled all the way from Sendai, Toda treated the young women to soba noodles. They held the steaming bowls with their frozen hands, blowing on the noodles as they ate.

While enjoying a bowl himself, Toda said: “This soup is so warm. I hope you will have warm hearts, just like this soup. Young people, especially, should have kind, generous hearts so that they can be good to their parents. You can’t help others become happy if you don’t have compassion for your own parents.”

Those words struck Nozaki deeply. At the time, unable to find a job in her field in Sendai, she spent her days in frustration and constantly argued with her mother. “I would have found a better job if I hadn’t come to Sendai,” she had even said. “But since you made me move here, it’s your fault I’m in this situation.”

She felt as if Toda knew just how harshly she had spoken to her mother. She was ashamed of herself for not appreciating her mother, who had raised her all on her own. She also reflected on her tendency to blame others when things didn’t go her way.

Kodo Nomura (1882–1963), a well-known writer from Tohoku with whom Shin’ichi was acquainted, wrote: “From the time we are born until we can stand up soundly on our own, we owe everything to the kindness and support of others.”[5]

Nozaki applied herself all the more seriously to her Buddhist practice. Soon after, in 1957, she got a job as a nutritionist at the Tohoku University Hospital in Sendai.

The following year, on April 2, 1958, Josei Toda passed away. Nozaki felt a deep sadness. In addition, though she was able to work in her desired field, she had a great deal of overtime and found it hard to balance her job and Soka Gakkai activities. Her mother’s ulcer also flared up again.

Though a dark cloud hung over her heart, Nozaki tried to find as much time as possible to participate in Soka Gakkai activities.

Installment 11

In June 1958, Shin’ichi Yamamoto was appointed to the newly established post of Soka Gakkai general administrator. Serving as the sole general administrator, he effectively took on full leadership of the entire organization while supporting General Director Takeo Konishi after second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s death.

Following his appointment, Shin’ichi quickly set off to encourage members throughout Japan, who were deeply saddened by Toda’s passing. He traveled to Hokkaido and the regions of Kansai, Shin’etsu, Kyushu, Chubu and Tokaido, and then went to Tohoku.[6]

Starting on November 1, he spent three days in Akita and Aomori prefectures. Then, on November 19, he went to Fukushima Prefecture to attend the inaugural meeting for Fukushima Chapter. The following day, November 20, he traveled for the first time to Yamagata Prefecture and attended the opening and Gohonzon-enshrining ceremony for a Nichiren Shoshu temple the Soka Gakkai had built and donated. He also attended the inaugural meeting for Yamagata District, which would be part of Akita Chapter.

Hiromi Nozaki traveled from Sendai to serve on the event staff for the occasion.

When the ceremony for the new temple finished, Shin’ichi spoke to each young staff individually. To Nozaki, he said: “Thank you for your efforts! Please continue doing your best, never letting anything defeat you.”

He then walked with the youth to the nearby Mamigasaki River. Night had fallen, and the moon shone in the sky.

“Let’s sing something!” Shin’ichi said, and they all sang “Moonlit Desert” and other songs together.

With many young women in the group, Shin’ichi also proposed singing “Tree-Lined Avenue of Life.”[7] It was the theme song of the 1937 Japanese film The Prosecutor and His Sister, the story of an orphaned brother and sister who support each other through life. The song expresses the brother’s heartfelt wish for his sister’s happiness:

Let’s live our lives brimming with hope,
whistling a tune of love
on this tree-lined avenue of life.

Installment 12

Everyone’s voices echoed into the moonlit late-autumn night sky.

As she sang, Nozaki felt that she was not alone and was deeply encouraged. To be dedicating her life to kosen-rufu alongside the youthful leader Shin’ichi Yamamoto filled her heart with joy, and tears welled in her eyes.

Having been weighed down by worry over her mother’s illness and her own struggles to balance work and Soka Gakkai activities, she now felt rejuvenated.

Songs can bring comfort, inspire hope and rouse a fighting spirit. Singing has tremendous power.

Nozaki’s struggles continued, but she refused to be defeated. Remembering how she had sung “Tree-Lined Avenue of Life” with Shin’ichi and the other youth, she would often hum it to herself as she went about her Soka Gakkai activities. Eventually, she became a young women’s division leader.

In 1961, when Nozaki was a Tohoku General Chapter young women’s division leader, plans for a Tohoku Young Women’s Division General Meeting were announced. Nozaki resolved to achieve an attendance that at minimum, including guests, matched the YWD membership of her general chapter.

For months, in addition to chanting abundant daimoku, she visited members each morning before work. She earnestly conveyed to them the meeting’s significance and the mission of the young women’s division.

“I will achieve every goal I set for kosen-rufu, without fail!”—this was her firm resolve.

Nozaki strove to treat each young women’s division member as if she were a dear younger sister. She was determined to live with the same spirit as Shin’ichi, who had encouraged her and the other youth through singing “Tree-Lined Avenue of Life.”

During her visits, Nozaki would listen sincerely to each member’s problems and say, “Let’s challenge ourselves to make this meeting a success and use it as a springboard to overcome our problems!”

Victory in faith always leads to victory in life.

In the end, the number of participants, who included many guests, surpassed the membership of the Tohoku young women’s division. The venue couldn’t accommodate them all, so a special guidance session was held outside after the meeting.

Her unwavering determination to win in her efforts for kosen-rufu, forged during her time in the young women’s division, had made her strong and given her an invincible spirit. She also gained the conviction that any situation could be transformed with powerful prayer and tenacious effort. This formed the foundation of her faith and the framework for her happiness.

Let’s live our lives brimming with hope,
whistling a tune of love
on this tree-lined avenue of life.

Installment 13

Nozaki was always mindful of how important it was to have a seeking spirit in faith.

For geographical and other reasons, Tohoku members had fewer opportunities to interact with top Soka Gakkai leaders than members in Tokyo and other major urban centers. Nozaki worried that might cause them to feel disconnected from the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, and she thought about what she could do.

When Shin’ichi Yamamoto became the third Soka Gakkai president, she vowed: “I will follow President Yamamoto as my mentor for kosen-rufu and do everything I can to stay in sync with him. Toward that end, I will seek guidance from top leaders to understand his spirit as much as possible, and I will consistently do my best to impart fresh energy to the Tohoku members.”

If she heard that a leader from Tokyo would be visiting the region and passing through Sendai, she would wait at the station for them and request guidance. She would then share what she learned with the members. Soon, the Tohoku young women’s division members felt pride in having a direct connection with the Soka Gakkai Headquarters.

Nozaki also visited the Headquarters regularly to receive guidance. These efforts led to her great personal growth.

When people lose their seeking spirit, they stop growing in faith and arrogance begins to set in. Buddhist practitioners must be eternal seekers of the way. That is the path to achieving human revolution.

After marrying a young men’s division member who was a teacher, Nozaki moved to the women’s division. Little by little, she demonstrated her abilities there, and in 1976 she was appointed Tohoku Region women’s division secretary and Miyagi Prefecture women’s division leader, succeeding Megumi Saima in that latter post.

In this phase of their lives, too, both Saima and Nozaki faced many challenges. But having developed and trained themselves through working hard in Soka Gakkai activities since their days in the young women’s division, they never became discouraged.

Life can be described as a long, intense struggle with destiny. Only by triumphing in that struggle can we achieve happiness. When we squarely confront life’s inescapable realities, engaging in that win-or-lose battle, we cannot but recognize the importance of having faith in the Mystic Law as a powerful source of life force and establishing an unshakable inner core.

Installment 14

Megumi Saima was organized and level-headed, and Hiromi Nozaki, always cheerful and upbeat. Working hand in hand, they were steadily becoming a new driving force for kosen-rufu in the Tohoku region.

On the afternoon of May 27, 1978, after planting a cherry tree at the Tohoku Peace Center to honor the women’s division, Shin’ichi smiled and said to the women present: “Cherry trees endure the long winter to bloom beautifully when spring finally arrives. They could be said to symbolize Nichiren Daishonin’s words ‘Winter always turns to spring’ (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 536).

“I hope that you, our Tohoku women’s division members, will overcome every hardship and trial through faith. Please bring flowers of happiness to bloom in your lives, just like this cherry tree.”

Shin’ichi next unveiled three stone monuments in the garden, each inscribed with a quote from one of the first three Soka Gakkai presidents, and then toured the center.

Afterward, he attended an informal gathering with leaders of the six Tohoku prefectures. He began by expressing his profound respect and appreciation: “I wholeheartedly applaud all of you who have engaged in pioneering efforts to promote kosen-rufu, embodying the spirit of ‘cutting short your sleep by night and curtailing your leisure by day’ (see “The Problem to Be Pondered Night and Day,” WND-1, 622) and ‘never begrudging our bodies or lives” (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 229). Weathering all hardships, you have built a solid Soka Gakkai organization in Tohoku. We may speak of ‘blizzards of adversity,’ but you have all literally made your way through fierce winter blizzards to advance our movement.”

Shin’ichi was well aware of how hard the members had struggled to open the way for kosen-rufu in their region. He had heard the experience of a man who had waded through chest-deep snow to tell others about Nichiren Buddhism and encourage members. He had also heard of a woman who, though shunned by people in her community because of her faith, always kept smiling as she continued her efforts to widen the circle of trust around her. She went on to help one person after another start practicing Nichiren Buddhism.

All of these members were true champions who had advanced kosen-rufu just as the Daishonin taught in his writings. Who, if not they, were the Bodhisattvas of the Earth? Who, if not they, were the Buddha’s emissaries?

Installment 15

Shin’ichi Yamamoto had observed the Tohoku members since the movement’s early days. So he knew that they never complained, no matter what difficulties they encountered.

Tohoku members had suffered through many natural disasters, including crop damage from cold weather and the 1960 tsunami triggered by a Chilean earthquake. But each time, their fighting spirit burned only brighter. They told themselves: “That’s precisely why we have the Gohonzon!” “That’s why we are here, to encourage people in our community!” “That’s why we must stand up for kosen-rufu!”

Their bravely getting back on their feet after being knocked down by the harsh winds of adversity had broadened the circle of understanding and support for the Soka Gakkai.

These noble members showed the most wonderful actual proof of faith. They did not do so through the “treasures of the storehouse,” through fulfilling worldly desires. Rather, they showed the true power of Nichiren Buddhism through the “treasures of the heart”—the brilliance of their humanity, exemplified by amazing inner strength and tremendous concern for others.

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being” (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 852). We demonstrate the supreme teaching of Buddhism through our actions, through how we live our lives.

When Shin’ichi thought of these members, he was sure that the momentum of kosen-rufu in Tohoku would increase and the region become a model of kosen-rufu.

He said to the leaders: “Looking toward the next decade, let’s ascend the summit of kosen-rufu together. Fresh progress gives rise to fresh hope.

“There will doubtless be days when blizzards rage along the way. The Daishonin says: ‘The greater the hardships befalling him [the votary of the Lotus Sutra], the greater the delight he feels, because of his strong faith’ (“A Ship to Cross the Sea of Suffering,” WND-1, 33). Facing great difficulties is a test of faith. The Daishonin also says: ‘Without tribulation there would be no votary of the Lotus Sutra’ (WND-1, 33). Those who walk the path of justice are destined to battle great obstacles. Never let that intimidate you.”

Installment 16

After the meeting, Shin’ichi Yamamoto went to the caretaker’s room at the peace center, where he enjoyed a conversation with the caretaker and others. He then met with Iwate Prefecture representatives in a conference room.

After listening intently to the leaders’ reports, he spoke with firm emphasis: “Iwate is a big prefecture. In some areas, old customs run deep, and there may be considerable misunderstanding and prejudice toward the Soka Gakkai. I know how challenging it can be.

“But if, for this reason, you resign yourselves to thinking it inevitable that kosen-rufu will progress slowly, you won’t reveal your true strength. Such an attitude will become the fundamental cause for defeat. Your struggle starts from vanquishing what could be called this ‘one evil’ of resignation.

“In addition, as leaders of Iwate, you need to set clear goals with a hopeful vision for the future, a vision unique to Iwate that considers the prefecture’s actual circumstances and the realities of local communities.

“Nichiren Daishonin writes: ‘I entrust you with the propagation of Buddhism in your province’ (“The Properties of Rice,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 1117). Take action with the awareness that the Daishonin has entrusted you with realizing kosen-rufu in your community. That will enable you to bring forth great strength.

“Many outstanding figures in diverse fields have come from Iwate. It is a treasure trove of capable people.

“Among them are Inazo Nitobe (1862–1933), under-secretary-general of the League of Nations and an agronomist and educator, who was a friend of first Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi; Takashi Hara (1856–1921), the first prime minister not from an elite family; and Shinpei Goto (1857–1929), a former mayor of Tokyo. Prime ministers Makoto Saito (1858–1936) and Mitsumasa Yonai (1880–1948) also came from Iwate. In the world of literature, there are the poets Takuboku Ishikawa (1886–1912) and Kenji Miyazawa (1896–1933). And there is the linguist Kyosuke Kindaichi (1882–1971).

“Indeed, Iwate’s harsh environment fosters capable people.

“The Soka Gakkai, too, brims with people who, while not necessarily famous, are truly capable. Many of them live in small villages where they are the only Soka Gakkai members, striving earnestly in their Buddhist practice amid opposition from those around them. They are all courageous ordinary people. Their valiant efforts will create the future and open an age of kosen-rufu in Iwate.

“As leaders, I hope you will treasure each of our members, encourage them without end and foster them to be champions, each with the ability and strength of a thousand. Kosen-rufu in Iwate is my earnest wish. I will visit Iwate very soon.”

Installment 17

Kosen-rufu means causing flowers of prosperity to blossom and enabling people everywhere to enjoy the fruits of happiness. Toward that end, Shin’ichi focused his attention on each prefecture and on individual towns and cities, taking every opportunity to meet and talk with members with the aim of fostering capable people.

Green leaves rustled gently in the breeze in the early summer sunlight, filling the air with a sense of hope.

On the afternoon of May 28, Shin’ichi attended a Miyagi Prefecture leaders meeting at the Tohoku Peace Center. As he walked around the grounds before the meeting, he heard someone calling to him from outside the gate, “Sensei!”

It was Yoshie Nakatsugawa, a women’s division greater block (present-day district) leader. With her was a man she had introduced to Nichiren Buddhism and two block (present-day group) leaders of the men’s and women’s divisions.

“Please, please come in,” Shin’ichi urged, and the four entered.

With evident excitement, Nakatsugawa introduced the new member. “Sensei, this is a coworker of mine. He decided to join the Soka Gakkai, and today he received the Gohonzon.”

“Is that so? Congratulations!” To the new member, Shin’ichi said: “Whatever happens, please continue to exert yourself in faith and become happy without fail!”

He then shook each person’s hand.

Through tears, Nakatsugawa said: “Last summer, my eldest son was hired to work at a local Soka Gakkai community center and has since solidified his resolve to dedicate his life to kosen-rufu. I know my late husband would be overjoyed. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Her husband had died of illness in 1964, at the age of 44, leaving her with their three children to care for, the eldest a sixth-grader.

Some people said heartless things to her because her husband, also a member, had died so young. They claimed it was because they had abandoned their ancestral religion and joined the Soka Gakkai. It pained Nakatsugawa, but she was not discouraged. Faith in Nichiren Buddhism enables us to tap inner strength.

Installment 18

Just before he died, Yoshie Nakatsugawa’s husband held her hand and said: “I know it will be tough for you, but please take good care of our children. Please raise them to become fine individuals who are respected by all. I’m counting on you.”

“I will. I will raise them to be outstanding people and successors in faith everyone can trust.”

After her husband’s death, Nakatsugawa vowed to herself: “I will fulfill the promise I made to my husband. I’ll be strong, no matter what. I have the Gohonzon. I will persevere in faith in accord with the guidance of President Yamamoto and the Soka Gakkai and become truly happy!”

Amid storms of destiny, Nakatsugawa stood up resolutely. She raised her children while working in the office of a steel mill.

As her three children started school, life grew increasingly difficult. But Nakatsugawa gritted her teeth and worked hard, exerting herself in Soka Gakkai activities as well.

She believed that it was only natural to work harder than others. But she also knew that without good fortune, such efforts would never bear fruit and that the only way to accumulate good fortune was through Buddhist practice.

Seeing how hard she worked, her children hesitated to tell her that they wanted to pursue their educations into high school and college. When they finally expressed their wishes, though, she smiled and told them not to worry.

It was a struggle for them all, but Nakatsugawa’s eldest son eventually graduated from university, and her daughter completed high school. And at the time of Shin’ichi’s visit in May 1978, her youngest was in his third year of university.

If possible, Nakatsugawa wanted to meet Shin’ichi to report to him in detail about her children and late husband and express her profound gratitude. Then, out of the blue, that rare opportunity came. But when she finally saw Shin’ichi, she could get out only a few words before she started crying.

Illuminated by the sun, tears sometimes shimmer like silver pearls or glisten like gold. As long as we remain steadfast in faith, all our hardships will turn into shining treasures.

Installment 19

Shin’ichi Yamamoto smiled warmly at Nakatsugawa. “I can see you have worked very hard to raise your children into fine young people after your husband’s death. That’s wonderful. You have triumphed. You are a great mother!

“Please feel free to stay as long as you like here at the Tohoku Peace Center today. It belongs to everyone. I’d like you to attend the leaders meeting with me, too.”

Nakatsugawa looked unsure. “But I heard that today’s meeting is for chapter leaders and above. I’m a greater block leader, so I can’t take part.”

“It will be fine,” Shin’ichi said. “I’ll get permission, so please don’t worry. Let’s go.”

Most participants were already inside the meeting room.

Entering the center’s lobby, he thanked the young women’s division Byakuren Group members for their efforts and greeted a young men’s division member who had just arrived.

Shin’ichi was determined to speak with and encourage as many people as possible. He took great pains to imbue the organization with a warm humanity.

In the interest of getting things done, organizations tend to prioritize efficiency. Doing so, however, often leads to conformity and eventually to bureaucracy and formalism.

People are unique; they differ as much in personality as they do in appearance. If an organization tries to force its members into a single mold, it will be unable to make use of their rich and diverse potential. It will lose its warmth and humanity, becoming cold and lifeless. At the same time, however, an organization of many people has to operate in a practical and efficient manner.

That’s where it becomes important to shine a light on and value each person. That means creating heart-to-heart bonds of trust among individuals.

Installment 20

The purpose of the Soka Gakkai organization is to achieve kosen-rufu. It exists so that all members can develop their faith, spread the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism and realize happiness for themselves and others.

The organization serves to support and foster each member, while organizational leadership positions exist to share and carry out that responsibility. As such, leadership positions do not make anyone superior or inferior. Nichiren Buddhism teaches that all people are equal.

As long as we always return to that starting point and bring people together through encouragement and trust, we can prevent our organization from becoming rigid and bureaucratic.

The Miyagi Prefecture leaders meeting opened with gongyo and was followed by remarks from leaders, choral performances and other agenda items. Then, it was time for guidance by Shin’ichi.

He urged the members to live out their lives with the Soka Gakkai and their fellow members, sharing their joys and sorrows.

“It is by encouraging each other in difficult times, overcoming hardships and savoring happy times together that we deepen and strengthen our ties.

“Mentor and disciple also forge an indestructible bond by experiencing joys and hardships together.

“Nichiren Daishonin faced many harsh persecutions throughout his life—the Izu Exile, the Komatsubara Persecution, the Tatsunokuchi Persecution and subsequent Sado Exile, and ‘other great trials that … are too numerous to mention’ (“The Blessings of the Lotus Sutra,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 671). Nikko Shonin [his disciple and designated successor] supported and assisted him, sharing his every hardship and joy. Shijo Kingo, too, accompanied him to the execution grounds during the Tatsunokuchi Persecution, holding the reins of his horse, prepared to die by his side.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the strength of the bond between mentor and disciple depends on the disciple’s resolve to share the mentor’s struggles and joys.”

The Daishonin also says: “If they [thoughtful persons] were people who understood their obligations or who were capable of reason, then out of two blows that fall on me, they would receive one in my stead” (“Reply to Yasaburo,” WND-1, 828).

The Daishonin met with great persecution to relieve all people from suffering. In this passage, he teaches that if his disciples feel genuine gratitude for him, then they should share in his struggles. He is telling us that the true path of humanity is having the empathy to share the sufferings of others.

Installment 21

Shin’ichi Yamamoto continued, “By sharing their joys and sorrows, not only mentor and disciple but fellow members, partners and siblings strengthen their bonds and let the beauty of their spirit shine through.

“This is also the reason for the Soka Gakkai’s warm camaraderie and strong unity.

“In our kosen-rufu activities, we will certainly face difficult challenges that become pivotal moments. Members who persevere and encourage one another to keep going, to not be defeated and who win victory after victory together, share an invincible bond. They forge lasting friendships.

“Among your friends and fellow members, some may suffer from illness, financial troubles, family discord or other hardships. Some may have even had their families or relatives turn their backs on them.

“We have a mission to listen to their problems, pray for their happiness and talk with them about Nichiren Buddhism. And in fact, that is what we have always done. We have shed tears with them, studied the Daishonin’s writings and chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo together, and persistently offered encouraging words. As a result, many have stood up in faith and overcome their difficulties.

“Those who encourage and share in others’ struggles and joys also deepen their conviction in faith and savor great benefits.

“For those receiving encouragement, meanwhile, a fellow member who empathizes with and supports and guides them in their most difficult time is a friend without equal, a person to whom they will be forever grateful.

“The most valuable treasure in life is the experience of struggling beside others, encouraging them and inspiring them until they awaken and act with strong faith. I hope you become people of whom countless others will say, ‘I will never forget that person for facing my problem with me and chanting for me’ or ‘Thanks to that person, I am happy today.’ There is no greater honor for a human being. Such a person is a champion of life worthy of the highest respect.

“The Soka Gakkai organization is formed of such heart-to-heart connections built through personal guidance and encouragement.”

Installment 22

Everyone listened intently with a strong seeking spirit.

Looking around the room, Shin’ichi saw many members he had fought alongside in his youth. Their faces were etched with wrinkles now, their hair graying.

Shin’ichi decided to talk about health. “There’s something I want to say to the men’s division in particular—that is, please take good care of your health.

“When you reach your 50s and 60s, though you may still be young at heart, physically you may not have the energy you once did. I hope, therefore, you will make your health a priority. It’s important to pray to the Gohonzon earnestly and with a resolve to be strong and healthy for the sake of kosen-rufu.

“Please stay healthy so that you can support and protect our members, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, and demonstrate the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism. I want you to take good care of yourselves, enjoy your lives and live fully to the very end.

“There may be times when you feel a little tired. You may try to tough it out, thinking, ‘I have strong faith, so I’ll be fine!’ when what you really need is to get to bed early and recover your energy. That’s just a sign of vanity. By overdoing it, you’ll only exhaust yourself and possibly end up on your back for a long time.

“If you have high blood pressure, for example, don’t think you can cure it through faith alone and avoid seeing a doctor. Get a checkup right away, follow your doctor’s advice and look after yourself.

“Of course, prayer is important. When you base yourself on prayer, your doctor will serve as a great protective force. But when you’re exhausted, it’s fine to just chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo three times at the end of the day.

“The sooner you rest, the sooner your strength will return. Then you won’t cause your family or your fellow members to worry. Using wisdom to create the highest value is the way of a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism.”

Installment 23

Nichiren Daishonin writes: “The wise may be called human, but the thoughtless are no more than animals” (“The Three Kinds of Treasure,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 852). Wisdom is crucial if we are to live with true human dignity and advance kosen-rufu. What’s more, Soka means “to create value.” As Soka Gakkai members, we tap our creativity and ingenuity to lead meaningful lives each day.

Shin’ichi next spoke about striving in faith for a harmonious family. He shared the story of a women’s division leader whose husband decided to start practicing after many years out of a wish to overcome an illness.

“If those who practice Nichiren Buddhism chant earnestly,” Shin’ichi said, “then their family members who don’t practice are sure to embrace faith in the Mystic Law someday. There’s no need to be impatient.

“Of course, it would be great if everyone in your family had strong faith. But some of you probably have spouses or partners who aren’t members, or you may be the only one in your family who is practicing and engaging in Soka Gakkai activities.

“Some of you as leaders may feel guilty or embarrassed because your children don’t have strong faith. Others may even criticize you for it.

“But don’t let that get you down! There is no need to be ashamed. Everything has a deep meaning. The important thing is to strive and chant earnestly each day for your children to embrace faith and become happy.

“The problem would be if you allowed your children’s not practicing cause you to lose conviction in faith, discourage you or make you reluctant to take part in Soka Gakkai activities. That would mean succumbing to devilish functions. Whatever happens, don’t become disheartened or feel bad; rather, keep giving your all with confidence and strong life force.

“You can also focus your energy on warmly encouraging the younger generation around you and do your best to foster them into successors!”

Installment 24

An ocean voyage is sure to encounter stormy weather and high waves. The same is true of life.

Even as Soka Gakkai leaders, we will face difficulties in life. We may struggle with illness, experience business failure or job loss, or suffer from family discord.

Human beings cannot avoid life’s inevitable sufferings. To live, therefore, means to grapple with them. There is no shame in having problems. Whatever troubles we have, we should just be our true, natural selves.

The important thing is to possess the strength to not be defeated, not give up and not falter in the face of any challenge. We should advance boldly and joyfully along the great path of kosen-rufu, firmly intent on changing our karma.

In closing, Shin’ichi said: “I am determined to protect all of you. My dearest wish and my vow is that you will become truly happy. Nothing else matters to me. I will end my speech today with sincere prayers for the success of our admirable Miyagi chapter leaders and the happiness of your families.”

The young men’s division members present then sang “Song of the New Century.” Their stirring, powerful voices soon had everyone singing along.

Written in Tohoku [northeastern Japan], the song came to be sung throughout the Soka Gakkai. It symbolizes Tohoku’s bright future. In everyone’s passionate performance, Shin’ichi saw a sun of hope rising over that northern region.

After the meeting, Shin’ichi invited the event staff and others to join him at the piano. Then, he played “The Three Martyrs of Atsuhara,” “Moon over the Ruined Castle” and other songs to express his appreciation.

A member of the young men’s division chorus group said: “Our chorus doesn’t have a name yet. Would you please give us one?”

Shin’ichi replied on the spot, “Let’s call it the ‘Unsung Chorus,’ for you are all unsung and unheralded true champions.”

Installment 25

Shin’ichi continued, his gaze fixed on the young men’s chorus members, “How about we make the official name the Miyagi Unsung Chorus?

“It’s important that you show proof of your faith in society, win trust, become successful and build a solid reputation. But these are not ends in themselves. Your fundamental goal is always kosen-rufu—to rid the world of misery and establish eternal, indestructible happiness for yourselves and others.

“That requires having the spirit: ‘Fame, social status and recognition mean nothing to me! I will work tirelessly to support and protect the people!’

“Striving for a just cause may result in your losing social standing, being maligned or facing baseless accusations. But even if that should happen, I hope each of you stays true to your convictions and keeps moving forward triumphantly as a proud, unsung champion. That’s the mark of a truly courageous person.”

A young women’s division member said, “Sensei, thank you for suggesting that we hold a Miyagi Prefecture Fife and Drum Festival.”

Shin’ichi had proposed holding such a festival to inspire the young women’s division in Miyagi to advance with hope. His idea had been adopted at the Tohoku Region Executive Conference the night before.

Shin’ichi replied: “It will be the first fife and drum festival to take place on the prefectural level. Members throughout Japan and around the world will be eagerly watching you. Please make it a great success, so that everyone will appreciate the experience and say how much they grew through it. May the youth become the driving force for kosen-rufu in Tohoku and open the way forward!”

Shin’ichi had been seriously considering various ways to enable young people to advance filled with hope.

Wherever youth brim with vitality, a brilliant golden future awaits.

The Chinese author Ba Jin (1904–2005) wrote: “The future belongs to youth. Youth are the hope of humanity and of our homeland.”[8]

Installment 26

Shin’ichi was determined to keep fighting, to keep taking action as long as he could. On the evening of May 28, after the Miyagi Prefecture leaders meeting, he and his wife, Mineko, went to the Soka Gakkai Tohoku Women’s Center (present-day Tsutsujigaoka Culture Center) in Sendai City for an informal meeting with some 50 representatives.

Shin’ichi talked about the goodwill exchanges taking place between the Miyagi members and members in Mexico and other topics. He wanted the conversation to inspire hopes and dreams for the future. Hope is the driving force for fresh development.

It was dark by the time the meeting ended. There was still one place Shin’ichi really wanted to visit that day—the ruins of Aoba Castle. Also known as Sendai Castle, it had been built on Mt. Aoba by Date Masamune (1567–1636) as a residence for the Date clan.

He had visited the castle ruins with his mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, many years earlier on the morning of April 25, 1954, the day of the Sendai Chapter General Meeting. They had chatted as they climbed the slope and stairs along the moss-covered stone walls of the castle ruins. Some 60 spirited Tohoku youth had accompanied them.

Toda said cheerfully: “The youth of Tohoku are developing. As long as the youth keep growing, there is no need to worry. You can tell the future just by looking at the youth!”

Gazing over the castle wall, Toda added: “When you visit a place, I recommend taking in a view of the area from higher ground, such as from a local castle or the top of a hill. It enables you to grasp the full lay of the land, which is important in understanding the hearts and lifestyles of the people who have lived there.

“In The Geography of Human Life, Mr. Makiguchi observed and analyzed the interconnectedness of nature and people’s lives. Seeking to clarify this causal relationship, he highlighted how our geographical environment affects us both physically and mentally and exerts a powerful influence over many aspects of how we live. His insight was truly profound.

“I believe the first step in gaining such understanding is to get a good overview of the area.”

Installment 27

As Josei Toda climbed the stone steps of the Aoba Castle ruins, his breathing became labored and his pace began to falter. Shin’ichi quickly took his arm and supported him.

Leaning on his disciple, Toda continued heading cheerfully for the castle’s main enclosure.

The open space featured a concrete statue of the famous Japanese warlord Date Masamune (1567–1636) in informal dress. Previously, there had been a bronze equestrian statue of Masamune, which had been erected in 1935 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of his death. It had been removed during World War II, however, under Japan’s Metal Collection Order, enacted to procure metal for the military.

The concrete statue was erected in 1953, the year before Toda and Shin’ichi visited the castle ruins. Because some thought the previous statue—Masamune on horseback, donning armor, helmet and sword—was too aggressive, the new figure represented him in informal dress.

Looking up at it, Toda said: “Masamune without his helmet and armor … it’s not the usual image. A master of the military arts, he was also a man of great wisdom, with a mind open to the world and deeply interested in culture. In that sense, this statue is also a fair depiction.”

Later, in 1964, in response to requests from local residents, a replica of the original equestrian statue was installed.

From the main enclosure, Toda and Shin’ichi took in the view of Sendai City through the morning mist and could see the Hirose River below bordered by greenery. Toda pointed to the city and said: “Though castles were usually built in the city center, when Masamune laid out Sendai, he centered the town on merchant families. He lined the main road running north and south with their shops and residences and granted them special privileges for conducting business. He was keenly aware of the need to stimulate commerce to enrich the domain.

“But then great adversity struck in the form of an earthquake and tsunami. And this happened more than once. Not all details are known, but the Date clan must have suffered significant damage.

“I think that Date Masamune’s greatness lies in how he courageously faced all those challenges.”

Adversity tests and strengthens us.

Installment 28

In October 1611, an earthquake hit Sendai and other parts of northern Japan. Damage was minor, but a massive tsunami followed. Waves as high as 20 meters [65 feet] struck the Sanriku Coast,[9] and in an instant seawater inundated the Sendai Plain. According to the historical record Sunpu-ki (Sunpu Chronicle), as many as 5,000 drowned in the Date domain, and crops suffered devastating salt damage.

Five years later, in July 1616, another major earthquake struck, causing the collapse of Aoba Castle’s stone walls. Then, too, a tsunami followed.

After the 1611 earthquake and tsunami, Date Masamune had a large Western-style ship built with assistance from Spanish people who were in Japan at that time. Using that ship, he would later dispatch Hasekura Tsunenaga (1571–1622) and others on a diplomatic mission to Europe with the aim of opening the way for foreign trade. It seems he looked to initiate international trade as a means to recover from the disaster-caused predicament.

Masamune’s desperation to rebuild Sendai must have prompted him to turn his attention to the outside world and take decisive action. But due to the Tokugawa military government’s ban on Christianity and other factors, his envoys’ trade negotiations in Europe did not succeed.

Another theory holds that Masamune wanted to forge a military alliance with Spain to topple the Tokugawa regime.

Incidentally, Hasekura Tsunenaga was not from a well-known samurai family. Masamune must have selected him for his ability. While Masamune’s diplomatic mission to Europe failed for various reasons, his choice in sending such a capable individual exemplifies his superior judgment.

In personnel decisions, it is crucial to take a sincere and honest look at someone’s ability rather than be blinded by their family background or title.

No organization or society can overcome turbulent times unless it earnestly strives to find and promote people of genuine ability. Capable people are the foundation for success.

Masamune also displayed a talent for poetry and was proficient in both Noh drama and the culinary arts. In addition, he is said to have enjoyed the Tanabata (Star) Festival, which has become a cherished tradition in Sendai. Masamune’s refinement became the basis for the development of Sendai, a city rich in culture.

Installment 29

Gazing down at Sendai City from the castle ruins, Toda said to Shin’ichi: “Date Masamune lost his vision in his right eye when he was a child and later came to be known as the One-eyed Dragon. With his sighted eye, he looked to the world and the future. Masamune’s progressive thinking and policy of promoting people based on ability rather than on family lineage are likely what strengthened the domain and helped it flourish.

“The Soka Gakkai, too, can build a foundation for enduring success if we foster many great leaders who work together. Indeed, ‘The people are our castle, our stone walls, our moat.’[10] Therefore, realizing the grand ideal of kosen-rufu depends entirely on raising capable individuals.”

Taking a deep breath, Toda looked at Shin’ichi. As if imparting final instructions, he added: “Warlords of the past went into battle with their castle as their fortress. Today, the Soka Gakkai is advancing toward kosen-rufu with capable people as its fortress.”

Shin’ichi had engraved these words deeply in his life.

“We must look for capable individuals,” Toda continued. “To find them, we must be able to see a person’s potential. And to do that, we have to be convinced that each is capable.

“If we can’t appreciate or accept people, we won’t be able to identify their positive qualities, strengths and talents. A cloudy or distorted mirror cannot reflect things correctly. In the same way, a clouded or distorted mind cannot accurately discern someone’s potential, unique traits or abilities.

“That’s why leaders must always strive to grow, to cultivate the ability to see things impartially and to expand their state of life.”

Shin’ichi then asked, “What should young people do to fully develop and demonstrate their strengths and qualities and become genuinely capable individuals?”

Toda replied: “That’s an important question. What do you think?”

Instead of responding immediately to Shin’ichi’s questions, Toda often first asked for his opinion. He wanted him to think deeply for himself and arrive at his own conclusions. That was Toda’s method for fostering capable people.

Installment 30

Shin’ichi began to explain his thoughts logically and methodically: “I think what’s most important in developing one’s true ability is awakening to one’s mission. As Bodhisattvas of the Earth, we have the great mission of realizing kosen-rufu, helping all people become happy and creating a peaceful world. I feel that grounding ourselves in that fundamental sense of mission is the best way to develop our potential. With that awareness, we can set our goals in life and work each day, each month, toward achieving them. Once we know our mission, the motivation, passion and strength to take on any task will emerge.

“Next, I think it’s important to have the spirit of self-improvement. Rather than being self-satisfied and avoiding challenges, we should strive to keep growing and advancing. That is also how we can bring forth creativity and ingenuity.

“Additionally, I feel it’s important that we persevere with patience. Whatever our talents or strengths, they can blossom fully and bear fruit only through consistent effort and experience over time.”

“That’s it!” Toda replied. “You’re absolutely right, Shin’ichi!”

“The first requirement is an awareness of mission. Without that, you won’t have a fundamental sense of purpose or direction in life, becoming lost and unable to show your real abilities. But once you have awakened to your life’s true mission, you can display your potential to the fullest.

“Second is a spirit to improve. Like a young sprout breaking through the earth and bursting forth, you need to have a sincere wish to grow, to challenge yourself and to move forward. Someone who lacks the will to improve cannot be called a youth, even if in their teens or 20s. Youth is another name for the spirit of self-improvement.

“Third is patience. It takes practice and effort over time to hone your innate abilities and make them shine. Toward that end, you need to persevere no matter what.”

Installment 31

Josei Toda looked directly at Shin’ichi. “Postwar youth are becoming less and less patient,” he added passionately. “It’s a tendency that’s only likely to grow. To truly excel in any sphere requires years of training and perseverance. On the way, you will experience pain, frustration, hardships and disappointments.

“But when you overcome such challenges, your efforts will eventually flower and bear abundant fruit. At the same time, no matter how talented you are, all will have been in vain if you give up along the way.

“A Japanese proverb says that if you sit on a cold stone for three years, it will become warm. Only with perseverance will you grow into a person of real substance and ability.

“Looking at society, we see many talented young people who, lacking patience and persistence, give up as soon as they encounter some small difficulty. That’s a terrible pity. And that’s why I want Soka Gakkai youth to face everything head-on and develop patience.

“Shin’ichi, let’s foster capable people. Let’s build an invincible castle of capable people here in Tohoku. I know we can do it. After all, perseverance is the hallmark of the people of Tohoku.”

Twenty-four years had passed since that conversation between mentor and disciple. On the evening of May 28, 1978, Shin’ichi once again walked among the ruins of Aoba Castle where the statue of Date Masamune stood.

The lights of Sendai City glittered like jewels below, and the night breeze was pleasantly cool.

His mentor’s words “The Soka Gakkai must build its castle from capable people” echoed in Shin’ichi’s mind.

Many capable individuals had been striving energetically in Sendai and throughout Tohoku, and a magnificent castle of Soka was taking shape.

But in the light of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, a great battle against unimaginable obstacles no doubt lay ahead on the path of kosen-rufu.

Taking in the night scene, Shin’ichi pledged in his heart: “No matter what happens, I will build an invincible castle of Soka to protect the people.”

Installment 32

Striving—striving with all one’s might. Striving wholeheartedly for the sake of treasured fellow members.

On the afternoon of May 29, Shin’ichi traveled from Miyagi Prefecture to neighboring Fukushima Prefecture, his first visit there since March the previous year. No prefecture leaders meeting or other large gathering was scheduled during his stay. He aimed to spend as much time as possible talking with central leaders, offering guidance and encouragement to create fresh momentum toward the future.

Shin’ichi arrived at the Fukushima Culture Center (present-day Koriyama Central Culture Center) in Koriyama City at 4:20 in the afternoon. There, he attended a dinner meeting with local headquarters leaders and other representatives to commemorate the center’s first anniversary. He spoke with them as they enjoyed a meal of curry and rice together.

Significant progress had been made in Fukushima over the past year. Members had united around the young prefecture leader, Norio Shiba, and held a number of successful events, including a prefecture general meeting. The year’s activities were showcased in a display of 20 photographs in the second-floor lobby.

Admiring the photos before dinner, Shin’ichi had said to Shiba: “Fukushima has achieved remarkable growth. Everyone I’ve met here is so bright and cheerful. That is very important. Victory in the realm of faith, simply put, comes down to whether everyone is practicing joyfully.

“Data such as propagation results and discussion-meeting attendance is necessary to assess the state of the organization. It is also valuable for planning activities. But numbers alone do not give a complete picture of the realm of faith.

“When we meet members, we need to discern whether they are practicing joyfully or just going through the motions out of a sense of obligation. From this, we can see the true state of the organization. The Soka Gakkai exists to enable all members to feel joy and conviction. That is also why we have leaders.”

Installment 33

At the dinner meeting, Shin’ichi continued talking about leadership and other topics.

“Young leaders are more likely to take a rational approach to getting things done. While it’s important to be practical, and your reasoning may be sensible, that’s not enough to inspire people. Humans are emotional beings. They are moved by emotion.

“The important thing is connecting with others through kindness, compassion and sincerity, and in that way gaining their trust and understanding. Only then can we inspire people to act on their own initiative.

“Don’t be someone whom others agree is capable but find rather cold. It’s okay to be coolheaded, but you need to have a warm heart. A Buddhist leader is one who can warmly embrace others; someone who can melt and revive people’s frozen hearts.”

After dinner, Shin’ichi went to another room where he encouraged and did gongyo with event staff and others. Afterward, he held several more discussions with prefecture leaders and with representative leaders from each division.

The next morning, he composed poems and wrote them in books and on decorative cards to present to local members. He also made time to speak with women’s division representatives. Then at 2:00 p.m., he and his wife, Mineko, left the Fukushima Culture Center by car.

Before heading to Tochigi Prefecture and their next destination, the Tochigi Training Center, they stopped at the Koriyama Community Center. Shin’ichi wanted to do gongyo there and offer prayers in memory of Takatoshi Nemoto, the center’s caretaker for many years, who had passed away the previous March.

The Koriyama center had started out as the Fukushima Community Center, and Shin’ichi had attended its opening ceremony in June 1960, just a month after becoming third Soka Gakkai president. He had many fond memories of the center. Nemoto’s widow, Su’e, now served as the center’s caretaker, carrying on the legacy of her late husband.

When he arrived, Shin’ichi smiled at Su’e and said, “I have come here to perform a memorial service for your husband.”

Installment 34

Takatoshi Nemoto died on March 17, 1977.

Just before that, from March 11 through March 14, Shin’ichi had stayed at the center during a guidance trip to Fukushima Prefecture and other parts of the Tohoku region. Nemoto died of heart failure three days after Shin’ichi left.

Shin’ichi had enjoyed an unforgettable encounter with him during his stay. While Shin’ichi was checking on the center late one night, he came upon a man vacuuming.

Shin’ichi was moved to see him hard at work. He felt as if he were watching a Buddha. With deep respect, he said to him from behind, “Thank you for your hard work.”

The bespectacled man was Takatoshi Nemoto. At the time, he was both the Koriyama Community Center caretaker and a staff member of the Fukushima Culture Center.

“Let me help you,” Shin’ichi said. But Nemoto replied firmly, “Please, there is no need.”

Shin’ichi appreciated Nemoto’s determination to take such good care of the new center behind the scenes.

“Please, I insist. Let me help you. Let’s take care of this castle of the Mystic Law together.”

Shin’ichi took the vacuum cleaner and began to clean the floor. Nemoto held the cord and followed Shin’ichi, thanking him again and again. After they had finished, Nemoto said with a smile, “This will remain as my fondest memory.” Shin’ichi would never forget his happy face.

Shin’ichi looked out the window of the Koriyama Community Center.

He saw a large, beautiful Japanese garden with azaleas blooming in one corner.

“What a lovely garden.”

Su’e smiled and said: “Thank you. My husband created it. He said he wanted to provide a place for you and the members to relax when visiting. He taught himself gardening through a correspondence course.”

Installment 35

“It’s a wonderful garden,” Shin’ichi said to Su’e Nemoto. “I’m touched by your husband’s sincerity. I wish I’d had a chance to enjoy a long talk with him while admiring his work … By the way, does the garden have a name?”

“It doesn’t,” Su’e answered.

“Well then, let’s call it Nemoto Garden. I want to honor your husband, who cherished the Soka Gakkai and protected this center.”

“Thank you. My husband often told me that he could only imagine how hard you must have worked to build community centers throughout Japan. He would talk about how the members in the early days didn’t have centers to hold meetings, so they had to use private homes and be extremely careful not to disturb the neighbors. He would say how fortunate we are now and that we must never take our community centers for granted.”

“That’s wonderful to hear. I am deeply moved.”

Shin’ichi and Mineko then went with Su’e to the caretaker’s office and continued to offer encouragement.

“It must be difficult to overcome the sadness of losing your husband,” Shin’ichi said. “But it’s important to live with a strong spirit. No one can avoid the pain of parting with loved ones. But your husband will always live on in your heart.

“And please think about how your husband would like to see you live. Grieving, depressed and constantly weeping? Or with your head up, looking toward the sun and striving for kosen-rufu on his behalf as well?

“If you are sad, your husband will be sad, too. But how happy he would be to see you rise from the depths of grief, smile and work for kosen-rufu. He would applaud you and be proud. That’s the best way to honor his memory. Be strong and live strong!”

Installment 36

Shin’ichi continued: “Nichiren Daishonin teaches that when those who uphold the Mystic Law die, they are quickly reborn into this world to once again dedicate their lives to the mission of kosen-rufu. Your husband may already have been reborn somewhere near you.”

Su’e smiled and nodded.

“All right, let’s go to the Gohonzon room to do a memorial gongyo for your husband.”

Several members from the local area had already gathered there.

“I’m very happy to see you all. We are about to conduct a memorial service for Su’e’s late husband, Takatoshi Nemoto. Please feel free to join us.”

A solemn gongyo began. Shin’ichi prayed earnestly for Nemoto and all Fukushima and Tohoku members who had passed away while striving for kosen-rufu.

The Daishonin says, “Now when Nichiren and his followers perform ceremonies for the deceased, reciting the Lotus Sutra and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the ray of light from the daimoku reaches all the way to the hell of incessant suffering and makes it possible for them to attain Buddhahood then and there” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 17). As these words indicate, through the power of our daimoku, the deceased can attain Buddhahood instantly.

After gongyo, Shin’ichi joined everyone in a group photo.

Shin’ichi and his party then left for the Tochigi Training Center in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture, arriving there at 3:30 p.m.

That evening, Shin’ichi attended a prefecture executive conference for all top divisional leaders in Tochigi, which continued the next day. After much discussion, they decided on several upcoming events, including a prefectural youth division general meeting in August and a meeting to commemorate Tochigi Day on November 6.

Shin’ichi also confirmed that in the interests of safety all young women’s division meetings should end no later than 8:30 p.m., even in the busiest periods. He further stressed that if leaders need to meet afterward, they should finish by 9:30. If they run later than that, they should let their parents or families know so no one has to worry. Accidents cause suffering not only for those involved but everyone in their lives. Buddhist practitioners should always exercise wisdom to prevent accidents.

Installment 37

On May 31, after completing his guidance tour to the Tohoku region and Tochigi Prefecture, Shin’ichi returned to Tokyo to attend various events. Then on June 8, he left for another guidance trip, this time to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island.

He arrived at Hokkaido’s Chitose Airport just after 4 p.m. With his wife, Mineko, he headed by car straight to a restaurant near the airport to meet with a group of Soka Girls Senior High School students visiting Hokkaido on a school trip. He was scheduled to attend a Hokkaido leaders meeting in Sapporo that evening, but he wanted to encourage these students, even if just briefly. They would be graduating the following spring.

In the 20 minutes he had, he spoke to them with all his heart. As their school’s founder, he encouraged them to create beautiful memories on this excursion and make the most of their final year at the Soka high school.

Then he hurried to the leaders meeting at the Sapporo Culture Center, where he gave a speech.

Addressing the audience, he said: “‘Our happiness in this life is nothing but a dream within a dream’ (see “The Fourteen Slanders,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 760), the Daishonin says. The happiness gained from pursuing fame and fortune is fleeting. True joy is found in striving for kosen-rufu. The noble work of reaching out to support and encourage those who are suffering become our greatest memory, creating a golden history in our lives.

“The purpose of our Buddhist practice is to transform our karma, enjoy life to the fullest and savor real happiness. Therefore, please always remember that the key to offering guidance is to impart hope and conviction.

“I hope you will show our members utmost consideration and encourage them so that they are genuinely reassured, feel lighter in body and mind, have a fresh sense of hope and strive joyously for kosen-rufu.

“When giving guidance, never pressure members or cause them to feel bad. That is not the way we encourage people in the Soka Gakkai. I hope you will be compassionate leaders who treasure each person and encourage them with great care and attention.”

Installment 38

The leaders meeting in Sapporo kicked off Shin’ichi’s 16 days in Hokkaido.

On this trip, he was determined to visit areas he had never been to before to search out, praise and encourage members who had worked hard to support the Soka Gakkai behind the scenes. Mineko wished to do the same.

The following day, June 9, Shin’ichi met at length with top leaders at the Hokkaido Culture Center. That afternoon, he went to the Toda Memorial Cemetery Park in Atsuta Village, where he gave his all to encouraging members. He joined in group photos with representatives from each division, members of various groups, behind-the-scenes staff and others, then did gongyo and talked with them. He also used his lunch break to offer guidance to members.

Devoting time and energy for the sake of one’s fellow members striving for kosen-rufu is tantamount to devoting one’s life to the Buddha.

On the afternoon of June 11, Shin’ichi attended the 6th Hokkaido Youth Division General Meeting, held outdoors in the Toda Memorial Courtyard of the Toda Memorial Cemetery Park.

Six thousand young men and women, brimming with hope and joy, waited in the refreshing early-summer breeze for the meeting to start.

At 12:10 p.m., it began with a stirring fanfare.

After opening remarks and words from Hokkaido young women’s and young men’s division leaders and others, Shin’ichi spoke.

Hokkaido held special significance for him. It was where he had poured his entire being into opening the way for kosen-rufu through summer guidance tours and by protecting the members during the Yubari Coal Miners Incident.[11] It was also where first and second Soka Gakkai presidents Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda spent much of their formative years. As such, it had profound ties to three generations of mentors and disciples.

It deeply moved Shin’ichi to think that some 6,000 brilliant young successors had gathered in Atsuta Village, Hokkaido, his mentor’s hometown.

Fondly recalling the first time he met Mr. Toda, he said: “More than 30 years have passed since I first met my mentor, Josei Toda, when I was 19 years old. During that time, I have regarded the training I received from him as my highest honor and have fulfilled every promise I made to him.”

Simply pledging to realize the mentor’s vision does not make a true disciple. Fulfilling that pledge does.

Installment 39

Shin’ichi had steadily realized each of his mentor’s visions: He had achieved the membership goal of three million households, built institutions dedicated to Soka education—­­from kindergarten through elementary and secondary schools, university and postgraduate programs—and established the foundation for worldwide kosen-rufu. He had accomplished all this and more.

He proudly conveyed his feelings: “I was an ordinary, unknown youth without social status, fame or fortune, but thanks to having a mentor in life, I have been able to lead a life of the greatest fulfillment, without any regrets. That is how I truly feel. I want to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to our members everywhere, without whose constant support none of these achievements would have been possible.”

Shin’ichi spoke powerfully: “Now it is your turn! I call on each of you to make a vow for kosen-rufu and dedicate your lives to fulfilling it, aiming 30 years into the future.”

When disciples strive to realize their mentor’s vision as their own personal commitment and mission, carrying on the mentor’s spirit, they can open the way to actualizing “the great vow for kosen-rufu through the compassionate propagation of the Law.” In other words, kosen-rufu can be achieved only through the eternal struggle of mentor and disciple united as one.

Shin’ichi next spoke about how to live to accomplish that.

“It’s important to make patient, steady efforts. You cannot be victorious in life or advance kosen-rufu with a ‘get-rich-quick’ mentality. Instead, you need to thoroughly polish and train yourselves and build deep trust in society.

“In the long run, society will come to appreciate the value of gradual, steady progress. With no solid foundation, any endeavor will collapse amid the tumult of the changing times. Persistence is key in both life and kosen-rufu.

“Those who persevere in Buddhist practice with patience, with faith like flowing water, will win in the end. Steady, continual efforts will open the way to a new age of kosen-rufu.

“I hope that you will dedicate yourselves to carrying out the great vow for kosen-rufu, resolved that your youth is the time to build a solid foundation of faith and philosophy toward your victory in life.”

Installment 40

Atsuta was the place where, while talking with his mentor, the young Shin’ichi had vowed to take dynamic action to realize worldwide kosen-rufu. Now, these valiant young champions gathered in Atsuta had set forth on a new journey with their sights on the next 30 years.

Before and after the youth general meeting on June 11, Shin’ichi had a full schedule encouraging members of the Hokkaido University Group and Future Group,[12] as well as meeting with the mayor of Atsuta Village and other local officials.

In the same spirit as her husband, Mineko also exerted herself wholeheartedly in encouraging members.

That evening, she visited the home of the Morai Block (present-day district) women’s leader, located near the Toda Memorial Cemetery Park.

Two days earlier, Shin’ichi had received invitations to the women’s division general meetings of each block in Atsuta Chapter. And the day before, June 10, two women had come to the cemetery park with the gift of an atsushi coat, which about 150 local women’s division members had helped sew.

This type of coat was made from fabric woven from the fibers of materials such as the bark of the ohyo tree, a species of elm. When Josei Toda left Atsuta for Tokyo as a young man, his mother had made him a similar coat, which he treasured all his life.

Shin’ichi spent some time talking to the women who delivered the coat: “Thank you for this rare and special gift. I would like to show it to the youth who attend the university group general meeting tomorrow. I’m sure they will be delighted. It’s a precious reminder of when Mr. Toda set out from Atsuta with such great aspirations. Let’s take a photo together to commemorate this occasion.”

Shin’ichi then gave the women two bags of sweets to share with the members.

After they said goodbye to Shin’ichi and started to leave, Mineko hurried over to inquire: “Do you have a ride home? And are there enough sweets there for everyone?”

“Yes, we came by car,” they replied. “And this is plenty.”

Mineko’s consideration touched them.

Consideration opens the door to people’s hearts, fosters heart-to-heart connections, and plants the seed of trust.

Installment 41

Shin’ichi wished he could attend all the women’s block general meetings he’d been invited to. But they were set for June 12, 17 and 20, and his schedule was already filled.

On the evening of the 10th, Shin’ichi shared his feelings with Mineko, and she responded: “I have time tomorrow evening to visit some of the members on your behalf and convey your gratitude. I can also rearrange my schedule to attend the general meetings on the evening of the 17th.”

Shin’ichi and Mineko were united in every way. They were allies and comrades in the movement for kosen-rufu.

The next day, Mineko visited the home of the Morai Block women’s leader to offer encouragement. Having been informed of the visit in advance, about 10 members had gathered there. Soon, a small meeting began.

Mineko said: “President Yamamoto really wanted to attend your general meeting but can’t because of previous commitments. So I have come on his behalf.”

She then asked each person’s name. One woman introduced herself and said with real feeling: “If it weren’t for the support and encouragement of my fellow members, I don’t think I would have maintained my faith until now.”

Mineko nodded. “It is very difficult to carry out our Buddhist practice alone, never mind realize kosen-rufu. President Yamamoto often says that it’s thanks to the members that he’s been able to accomplish everything he has.

“If we see parents and children as the vertical thread of a fabric, then fellow members are the horizontal thread. Only by strengthening and valuing these ties can we realize our own happiness and growth. I therefore hope you will treasure your parents, your children and your whole family. At the same time, please also cherish your fellow members. The essence of happiness and kosen-rufu is found in our connections with others.”

Installment 42

The vice women’s leader then introduced another member present and said, “Her husband died and she has been raising their five children alone.”

“That must be very difficult,” Mineko remarked. “Do you live far from here?”

“My home is on the other side of the mountain, and it takes about 50 minutes on foot. If I take the shortcut through the forest, it’s about 30 minutes, which is what I did today. I’m afraid to walk that route by myself, though, so I brought my daughter with me. She’s a young women’s division member.”

With an embracing smile, Mineko said: “So you always walk long distances to participate in Soka Gakkai activities. In your sincere seeking spirit, you are like Sage Nichimyo, who traveled all the way from Kamakura to Sado Island to visit the Daishonin with her daughter Oto.”

Her eyes widening in surprise, the woman said: “Who me?” Laughter filled the room.

Mineko smiled warmly. “All the efforts we make in our Buddhist practice will bring about a beautiful flowering of benefit in our lives without fail. No matter what happens, please never let anything defeat you. Your children will follow your dedicated example and grow into fine young people.”

Mineko then said to a woman holding a baby: “You’ve got to keep a constant eye on them when they’re that little, don’t you? How old is your baby?”

“Four months.”

“Raising children is hard work, but they grow up before you know it. I hope you will treasure each moment and foster your child into an outstanding successor of kosen-rufu. We can learn a lot from our children. By raising them, we grow, too. Our children are sometimes our ‘teachers.’”

“My kid’s my teacher?!” someone blurted out. Everyone burst into laughter.

“You are all so cheerful,” Mineko said to the women’s leader. “I’m overwhelmed. Cheerfulness is a sign of both friendship and unity.”

Installment 43

After speaking with the members, Mineko joined them in a group photo and warmly shook everyone’s hand. She then made her way to the home where the Morai Block women’s division general meeting would be held the following day, June 12.

In the car, a local women’s leader told Mineko that the husband there was not a member but supported his wife’s Buddhist practice.

Mineko hoped to meet and thank him from the bottom of her heart.

Consistently meeting and connecting with others and spreading understanding of the Soka Gakkai builds a strong foundation for kosen-rufu in the community. Kosen-rufu cannot be realized without friendship.

The couple greeted Mineko upon her arrival. The husband wore a suit and tie for the occasion. He had become a bit nervous when he learned that the wife of the Soka Gakkai president was coming.

They all went into the Gohonzon room, where the meeting was to take place the following day. Mineko sat down on her knees and said politely: “Thank you for your generous support. And thank you so much for offering your home for the general meeting.”

Taking the same formal posture, the husband replied that the members were always welcome to use their home.

A poster displaying the meeting’s agenda hung on the wall.

“What beautiful handwriting,” Mineko said. “Who’s is it?”

“My husband’s,” the woman answered.

“Really? Your penmanship is outstanding.”

The man blushed and wiped the sweat from his brow.

“I believe that the Soka Gakkai has grown in this community thanks to your support behind the scenes. I’m very grateful, and I look forward to your continued cooperation,” Mineko said, and bowed deeply.

She then took a photo with the couple. The man gradually relaxed and smiled as they talked.

He joined the Soka Gakkai two months later.

Installment 44

After attending the events in Sapporo on June 12 and 13, Shin’ichi boarded a 4 p.m. flight on the 13th to Kushiro in the eastern part of Hokkaido. It would be his first guidance tour there in 11 years.

He looked forward to his first visit to the Hokkaido Training Center in Bekkai, which was marking its 5th anniversary, and to meeting with pioneers of the local kosen-rufu movement.

From the plane window, he saw a sea of clouds below.

Fog often prevented landings at Kushiro Airport.

Shin’ichi said to Kaoru Tahara, a Soka Gakkai vice president and Hokkaido Region general leader: “It’s very cloudy. Do you think we’ll be able to land?”

“I’m sure it will be fine!” Tahara said confidently, which made Shin’ichi think:

“Members in eastern Hokkaido must be chanting earnestly for our safe arrival. That’s why he’s so certain we can land.”

As they approached the airport, the clouds suddenly parted as if opening a path, bringing the city below into view. Shin’ichi felt he was watching a grand drama of nature.

“This is a historic moment,” he said.

“It is!” Tahara exclaimed proudly.

They landed at 4:45 p.m. and then headed by car to the Hokkaido Training Center, about 140 kilometers (87 miles) away.

Shin’ichi was determined to meet as many members as possible, wholeheartedly encourage them and build an indestructible foundation of faith in their hearts.

When they reached Kushiro City, they saw a group of people waving at the car. Realizing they must be Soka Gakkai members, Shin’ichi asked the driver to pull over, and he opened the window.

“Thank you! Thank you for waiting for us!” he said and gave the members two boxes of candy.

As the car pulled away, Shin’ichi continued waving. He murmured to himself, “I wish I had more time … more time to talk with and encourage every one of these precious children of the Buddha.”

He was resolved to devote his life to working for kosen-rufu and supporting the members.

Installment 45

The car picked up speed.

“Please let me know if there’s anyone along the way we should call on. I don’t know when my next visit will be,” Shin’ichi said to Tahara.

“Thank you.”

The first place Tahara suggested was the home of Seinosuke and Yasu Ishizawa in Nakazono-cho, Kushiro. The Ishizawa family ran a gift shop selling ornaments and other items.

Shin’ichi rang the doorbell.

Yasu opened the door and exclaimed, “Sensei!”

At the sight of Shin’ichi, she was left momentarily speechless.

“Good evening! I’m sorry to stop by unannounced.”

“We … we’ve all been chanting for your and Mrs. Yamamoto’s safe arrival.”

“Thank you. The clouds suddenly lifted, and we were able to land. It was all thanks to your daimoku.”

“Wonderful! By the way, Sensei, my husband has completely recovered, and our shop is flourishing.”

Eleven years earlier, in August 1967, Shin’ichi had attended a leaders meeting at the Kushiro Community Center, where he had met and encouraged the couple.

In September 1966, Seinosuke, then the North Kushiro Chapter leader, had suffered a brain hemorrhage, which left him paralyzed on his right side and his speech impaired. His second son, Hiroya, who had just graduated high school and was preparing for his university entrance examinations, gave up his studies to take care of
the family business.

A doctor told the couple that they should consider themselves fortunate if Seinosuke could ever use the toilet unaided again.

“I’m a Soka Gakkai member! I won’t be defeated!” Seinosuke thought.

He chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo wholeheartedly and worked hard at his rehabilitation. Gradually he recovered until he could at last walk on his own. When he heard Shin’ichi was visiting the Kushiro Community Center, he and his wife hurried over to see him.

Shin’ichi said to them with conviction: “No prayer to the Gohonzon goes unanswered. I am certain you will make a full recovery. I hope to see you in good health the next time I come to Kushiro. No matter what, please live long.”

Conviction stirs conviction. Guidance is the work of awakening another’s faith through heart-to-heart connection.

Installment 46

Seinosuke and Yasu renewed their determination after receiving this guidance from Shin’ichi.

They looked back on their lives since joining the Soka Gakkai in 1958. They had started practicing Nichiren Buddhism because they wanted to cure their son Hiroya’s heart condition, and their prayer was answered soon after.

About a year and a half later, a fire destroyed their noodle factory and adjacent home. They barely escaped with the clothes on their back, but were able to recover even then.

They had faced many trials, big and small. But they vowed to never lose faith in the Gohonzon and to dedicate their lives to kosen-rufu. They earnestly chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and shared the Daishonin’s teachings with others. Because of this, they could surmount everything and change poison into medicine.

“There is no way we can’t overcome this health crisis, too. Next time President Yamamoto comes to Kushiro, let’s show him our victory.”

With this resolve, the couple gave their all to their Buddhist practice.

Now Yasu was sitting with Shin’ichi and the others in her home. She happily explained that their gift shop was doing very well and that their son Hiroya was now married with two children.

Soon her daughter-in-law and granddaughter came home, followed by Seinosuke and their grandson. Seinosuke walked with strong, sure steps.

“Sensei!” he exclaimed, kneeling and bowing his head.

Straightening up, he started to say, “My brain hemorrhage …” but his voice trailed off, tears filled his eyes and he began to sob.

Yasu spoke for her husband, saying, “He’s doing so well now that it’s hard to believe he ever had a brain hemorrhage.”

Shin’ichi squeezed Seinosuke’s hand.

“That’s really wonderful. Those who strive in faith always win in the end. That is the teaching of Nichiren Buddhism.

“The correct path of faith lies in living your life with the Soka Gakkai, whose mission is kosen-rufu. That’s why you were able to overcome your illness.”

Installment 47

Shin’ichi praised Seinosuke and Yasu’s victory in faith. Nothing made him happier than hearing about members’ experiences of receiving benefits.

He then went to their adjacent gift shop to greet the employees.

As he left, he said to the family: “Thank you for today. I am so happy for the wonderful memories. I will never forget you. Please stay well!”

The next day, Shin’ichi sent a poem to Yasu: “I gaze with admiration / upon the achievements / of a noble mother of Kushiro.”

Shin’ichi and his party left the Ishizawa home shortly after 6 p.m. and headed for a privately owned community center in Nishishunbetsu, Betsukai-cho, about 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) away. The center had been built by a local member who wished for the development of kosen-rufu in Betsukai. Shin’ichi was eager to visit and personally convey his appreciation.

Shin’ichi’s car sped through the darkening green landscape of the Konsen Plain. The sun soon dipped behind a veil of clouds and night set in.

When they arrived at the center, local members greeted them with joyful smiles.

“I’m here at last! I’ve wanted to visit Betsukai for a long time. But it’s so far away!” Shin’ichi said as he stepped out of the car. At that moment, a sudden chill came over him. The air was bitterly cold, and he did not feel well.

Betsukai, located to the north of Nemuro City, covered more than twice the area of Tokyo’s 23 wards. Its primary industries were dairy farming and fishing, and farmland stretched across its rolling hills with several times as many cows as people. It had relatively little rain and snow, but the temperature could fall as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit) in winter.

Shin’ichi gathered with the members inside the center for an informal meeting. Eventually, the conversation turned to how to help the Betsukai area thrive. They all gave it serious thought.

Continual improvement and innovation are necessary for the ongoing prosperity of any region or industry. Neglecting such work and being content with doing things the way they’ve always been done results only in decline.

Installment 48

Betsukai’s main products were dairy, salmon, shrimp, clams and scallops.

Learning this, Shin’ichi said: “It’s important to promote these specialties further. In addition, how about developing some new products using the Betsukai name? For example, ‘Betsukai Yokan (sweet bean jelly)’ or ‘Betsukai Cake.’ In any case, please chant wholeheartedly and use your creativity and wisdom to open the way for the region’s prosperity. That’s your mission.”

Shin’ichi went on to talk about what was necessary to advance kosen-rufu in such a vast area.

“The members here, more than anywhere, need to get along well and have strong unity,” he said. “Also, if people in the community criticize or malign our movement out of a lack of understanding, you mustn’t resent them. Instead, please warmly embrace them with your compassion, persist in talking with them and help them understand the Soka Gakkai through your sincere actions. This is all part of our Buddhist practice.”

Only with the courage and perseverance to face fierce winds of adversity can we open the way for kosen-rufu.

“No matter what happens,” Shin’ichi added, “if you don’t give up, continue contributing to the community and show actual proof of faith, kosen-rufu will expand greatly without fail.”

He and his party then departed for the Hokkaido Training Center in Odaito, Betsukai-cho, arriving shortly after 8:30 p.m.

“We made it!” Shin’ichi said. “Let’s first greet the event staff.”

Wearing a woolen scarf and heavy winter coat, Shin’ichi walked around the building. Some women’s division members were still there preparing for the commemorative gongyo meeting the next day.

“Thank you very much,” Shin’ichi said to them. “Please go home and get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Deep gratitude filled his heart as he thought of these noble members who had endured the harsh northern environment and given their all to building the foundation for kosen-rufu in this region.

Installment 49

The following day, June 14, Shin’ichi Yamamoto attended a tree-planting ceremony to commemorate his visit to the Hokkaido Training Center and then took a walk around the grounds. The center was located in northern Betsukai-cho, on the eastern bank of the Tohoro River, which forms the border with neighboring Shibetsu-cho.

Green woods stretched through the mist, and gleaming white swamp lantern flowers bloomed in the marshland.

Walking along a path through the marsh, Shin’ichi said to Kaoru Tahara: “This place is wonderful. Wherever I go, I can feel the sincerity of those who look after it. I am very grateful. It must be particularly challenging in the winter.”

A Hokkaido youth division leader talked about the harsh cold there.

He said that when the temperature dropped to around minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit), swans sometimes got their feet frozen in the water, and you could see them struggling to break free.

He then introduced Shin’ichi to a member of the event staff: “Sensei, this is Katsuji Sugayama, the Nemuro Headquarters young men’s division leader. Mr. Sugayama has also been devoting himself to the center’s maintenance.”

“Thank you! I know you well. You are a pioneer of kosen-rufu in Betsukai. I believe your experience ran in the Seikyo Shimbun three or four years ago. I read it. It was very inspiring.”

Sugayama couldn’t believe his ears. He was moved that Shin’ichi knew who he was.

Encouragement begins with getting to know the other person.

Shin’ichi shook Sugayama’s hand. Slightly built, he seemed a very sincere and genuine young man.

Born and raised in Betsukai, Sugayama had joined the Soka Gakkai in 1957.

His grandfather had moved the family to Hokkaido from Fukushima Prefecture in 1928. He eventually opened a starch factory, but he switched to dairy farming when the business hit hard times. However, this didn’t go well either, and with the added challenge of illness in the family, their financial difficulties continued. This prompted Sugayama’s grandfather and some of his other family members to join the Soka Gakkai. Sugayama started practicing as well. It was in the springtime of the year he turned 17.

Installment 50

Sugayama started practicing Nichiren Buddhism because he wanted to escape living a hand-to-mouth existence. He had no hopes for the future. Shy and clumsy with words, he felt inferior to others, and he strongly wished to overcome that as well.

A fellow young men’s division member spoke to him with conviction: “If you practice Nichiren Buddhism and wholeheartedly engage in Soka Gakkai activities, you will develop a strong life force and become a confident, capable person at ease in any situation. That is the case for everyone. It’s what we call human revolution.

“The future of Japan, no, the future of the world, depends on us, the youth. So you have a mission to help Japan and the world, starting from right here in Betsukai!”

These powerful words inspired Sugayama. He felt his world open up.

Earnest words filled with conviction and passion awaken the hearts of young people.

Sugayama began participating in Soka Gakkai activities. At the time, there were only four young men’s division members in Betsukai. They belonged to Sapporo Chapter, with Kushiro as the center of activities for eastern Hokkaido. Traveling there, however, was costly and time-consuming, so the best they could usually do was to be in touch once in a while.

In September 1960, Sugayama received a postcard from a fellow member informing him of an upcoming young men’s division meeting in Kushiro. But Sugayama didn’t think he could attend because he didn’t have the train fare.

The postcard stated that the Soka Gakkai was achieving groundbreaking progress under the leadership of third Soka Gakkai President Shin’ichi Yamamoto. It went on: “If you continue to let your environment defeat you and use that as an excuse not to attend meetings, you can’t expect to grow. The first step is to overcome your challenges, triumph over your weaknesses and decide to come to meetings. Make a fresh determination and put it into action! And become a person who can take the lead in Betsukai!”

The words “let your environment defeat you” pierced Sugayama’s heart. But as the day of the meeting approached, he still had not made up his mind whether to attend.

Installment 51

The day before the young men’s division meeting in Kushiro, while cutting the grass to feed the cows, Sugayama still pondered what to do.

It would take him three hours by train to get to Kushiro, but he didn’t have any money.

“The members want me to go, but how can I?”

Now and then, he looked up at the sky and let out a sigh. He took the postcard out of his pocket and read it again and again. Each time, the feeling that he should go grew stronger.

When he got home that evening, he lay down to relax. He pictured the faces of his fellow members in Kushiro.

“We’re waiting for you!” “We believe in you!” “Stand up!” they seemed to say. Sugayama got to his feet.

“That’s it! I can go by bicycle! I can’t let my circumstances hold me back. I want to meet with everyone and hear about President Yamamoto.”

These thoughts filled his heart.

“If I leave now, I should get there in time.”

He hopped onto his bike and set off decisively, as if throwing off his hesitation. The road was unpaved. He tightened his grip on the handlebars to make his way over the tree roots without falling.

There were no streetlamps or lights from people’s homes. The moon and stars were hidden behind a thick veil of clouds. Guided solely by his bicycle’s headlight, he pedaled furiously. The further he rode, the more labored his breathing became.

But telling himself that his fellow members were counting on him, he resolved to not give up. Energy surged through his legs as sweat dripped from his forehead.

When others believe in us, we can find courage and strength. The Soka Gakkai is a harmonious realm in which people come together and help one another develop and grow through such trust.

He pedaled for four or five hours.

Then something cold hit his face. He looked up into the darkness. It had started to rain.

Installment 52

The rain fell harder. After a while, Sugayama noticed a mound by the road—a large haystack. He stopped his bicycle and burrowed into the hay to take shelter. Soon the rain lifted.

He resumed his journey. When he was thirsty, he ate some wild grapes he found growing by the road.

Finally, dawn arrived. The city of Kushiro appeared through the morning mist.

“I will see everyone soon!”

He was relieved. Then suddenly, all his strength drained from him and he felt exhausted. He stopped his bike, lay down on some nearby grass, stretched out and immediately fell into a deep sleep.

The bright sun awakened him. He had slept a couple of hours and felt refreshed.

He set off again at a good pace, arriving in Kushiro around 8:00 in the morning.

He had traveled well over 100 kilometers (62 miles) in a single night. His face was covered in sweat and grime, but his heart was light. With his strong seeking spirit, he had surmounted his weakness.

Everyone at the meeting welcomed this champion from Betsukai with resounding applause and cheers.

They learned the true spirit of the young men’s division from his example. That fighting spirit reminded them of the bright sun rising over the Hokkaido wilderness. They were deeply moved.

At the meeting, Sugayama was appointed a young men’s division unit leader, a position on the front lines of the organization.

That night, he got back on his bicycle to return to Betsukai, his body light, his legs strong, his face flushed with inspiration and resolve.

A single youth in Betsukai had stood up, awakened to his mission from the remote past. The actions of one person taking initiative in their family, workplace or community will spread to many more, like flowers blooming in fragrant profusion. That is the unchanging principle for realizing kosen-rufu.

His job at the dairy farm was very demanding, but Sugayama chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo earnestly to not let his circumstances defeat him. He tried to be as efficient and productive at work as possible and made time for Soka Gakkai activities.

Installment 53

The day starts early for dairy farmers. At 5 a.m., Sugayama cleaned the cattle stalls, fed and milked the cows and gave them hay. The cows had to be milked twice a day. Depending on the season, he also had to either fertilize the pastures or harvest the grass. Add to that tending to his own vegetable patch and his daily tasks were endless.

Sugayama struggled financially. He took on part-time jobs, such as working as a mail carrier and at a sheet-metal plant. He also threw himself into Soka Gakkai activities. Every minute was precious.

In 1961, after serving as a young men’s group leader, Sugayama was appointed young men’s district leader. There were now 120 young men’s division members in Betsukai.

Sugayama upgraded from a bicycle to a motorcycle for his activities. It was not unusual for him to travel one or two hundred kilometers a day. He was ready to visit members as many times as necessary to help them grow in faith. That was his spirit.

In 1964, a former student division member who was a newly qualified teacher took a post at an elementary school in neighboring Nakashibetsu. But the vastness of the area and the harsh weather conditions often discouraged him from taking part in Soka Gakkai activities. Sugayama traveled 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) on his motorcycle each day to visit the young man.

After doing this for about a week, he went again to see him one evening after a meeting. He knocked on the door, but there was no answer. Having made the long trip, Sugayama decided to wait, so he sat down on the doorstep and started reading the writings of Nichiren Daishonin. It was April. Snow still lay on the ground, and it was bitingly cold.

The young man had already gone to sleep. When he awoke several hours later, he looked out of his window and was shocked to see Sugayama sitting on his doorstep, his breath rising in white puffs.

“He’s been waiting for me in this cold!” the young man thought. “Mr. Sugayama!” he called out. Tears filled his eyes.

The two men engaged in an earnest discussion. Struck by Sugayama’s kindness and sincerity, the teacher decided to become more active for kosen-rufu.

A passionate spirit warms and opens the hearts of others.

Installment 54

In 1965, Katsuji Sugayama was appointed a young men’s division corps leader, supporting young men in the chapter. On September 2, he received the corps flag from Shin’ichi Yamamoto at a meeting at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. He burned with a fighting spirit.

Sugayama was responsible for a vast area that included Betsukai, Nakashibetsu, Shibetsu, Rausu, Shibecha and Teshikaga, in total about the size of Fukuoka Prefecture (approximately 5,000 square kilometers [3,100 square miles]).

This was his arena of action. He started with a little more than 300 members. A year later, that number had grown to 470. The other young men inherited his spirit and carried on the example of his earnest and consistent efforts.

The name Betsukai came to be known throughout the Soka Gakkai in December 1970, at the 19th Young Men’s Division General Meeting, held under the theme of “Blazing New Trails.”

Masaru Sugitaka, who had moved to Betsukai from Tokyo to become a dairy farmer, shared his experience of overcoming hardship and achieving victory after eight years of difficulties.

Sugitaka had gone to Hokkaido filled with hopes and dreams and had married there. Though already a Soka Gakkai member, he was not serious about his Buddhist practice. At first, his dairy farm went well. But three years of unseasonably cold weather left a shortage of hay and other cattle feed, and he lost five of his ten cows. He cursed the heartless forces of nature. Even worse, his two-year-old son died in an accident.

In his despair, he remembered the words of his mother to never forget his Buddhist faith and practice.

A fellow member visited Sugitaka regularly, making the 100-kilometer (62-mile) round-trip journey in the depths of winter on his motorbike. The member was the elementary school teacher from Nakashibetsu whom Sugayama had supported and encouraged. Struck by his sincerity and passion, Sugitaka decided to challenge himself in faith.

He chanted earnestly, worked hard and summoned all his ingenuity to rebuild his dairy operation. Through these efforts, he increased his farm to about 43 hectares (106 acres). In addition, all the calves that were born were higher-priced females, and his herd grew to 30.

Sugitaka became a young men’s division block leader, and just as his leaders had done for him, he regularly visited members in his area to encourage them. One after another, they stood up in their Buddhist practice until all 23 attended the monthly discussion meetings.

As long as the tradition of offering heartfelt personal guidance is passed on, kosen-rufu in the local community has a bright future.

Installment 55

The Soka Gakkai Headquarters made a film based on the moving experience Sugitaka shared at the 19th Young Men’s Division General Meeting. It was titled Trailblazer.

After seeing the film, Shin’ichi said, “For such an inspiring experience to come from a place like Betsukai, there must be a trailblazer in faith encouraging the members there and offering them guidance.”

Shin’ichi’s focus was on leaders who diligently supported members behind the scenes. That trailblazer was Katsuji Sugayama. With deep emotion, Shin’ichi sent him a book in which he inscribed words praising the young man’s valiant efforts in overcoming countless trials.

Sugayama wept when he received Shin’ichi’s encouragement.

“President Yamamoto has taken the trouble to praise and encourage someone like me! I want to respond to his kindness. I want to show even greater actual proof of Nichiren Buddhism in my community. I will make my dairy operation a model in the area!”

Despite his resolve, Sugayama didn’t have the money to upgrade his facilities. If he were to take out a loan, he would be in over his head. Many had been forced out of the dairy business because they overinvested.

To make the most of his meager savings, he decided to build a cattle barn and silo himself. He started by felling trees his grandfather had planted and then set to work, teaching himself about milling lumber and construction. His neighbors looked at him skeptically.

Having ridden his motorbike all across the frozen wilderness to encourage his fellow members, Sugayama didn’t see this construction as a hardship.

Those who have trained and polished themselves based on Nichiren Buddhism can show incredible strength in both their lives and in society.

The Japanese educator Inazo Nitobe (1862–1933), who spent his youth in Hokkaido, said, “Human life is a training in and for strength.”[13]

The pleasant sound of construction reverberated over the fields of Betsukai in a hope-filled rhythm.

In 1973, after three years of hard work and with his family’s support, Sugayama completed a 400-square-meter (4,300-square-foot) cattle barn.

Installment 56

After the cattle barn, Sugayama built a feed silo and a two-story concrete family house.

He bought used farm machinery and repaired it himself. As much as possible, he grew his own cattle feed, researching the most nutritious types of grass to plant.

His dairy farm became very successful, and people’s skepticism changed to admiration and respect.

He acquired and developed more land until he owned 60 hectares (148 acres). His small herd increased to 50 milking cows and 20 heifers. He also worked hard to ensure a hygienic milking process and received awards of excellence.

At the Hokkaido Training Center in Betsukai, Shin’ichi said to Sugayama, “It must be hard to do Soka Gakkai activities in such a vast area.”

“I haven’t calculated the distance I’ve traveled, but I’ve gone through six motorcycles and five cars. I think all leaders in Betsukai travel just as much. If it’s to visit a member, we don’t mind going out when the temperature is below zero.”

He told Shin’ichi how a leader caught in a blizzard on the way home one evening had to take shelter in an unused water pipe overnight, and how another who was visiting a member had to stay there for three days, unable to return home because of heavy snow.

Activities in Betsukai were always a struggle against nature.

Smiling, Sugayama added, “I love the line from ‘Song of Human Revolution’ that goes ‘Pressing on through blizzards, we boldly advance.’”

“That perfectly describes your actions,” Shin’ichi said.

He then turned to a leader accompanying him. “Who is advancing kosen-rufu? Who is supporting the Soka Gakkai? Ordinary, unheralded men and women—sincere, dedicated and pure-hearted champions of the people, like Mr. Sugayama and the other members of Betsukai.

“These people have battled poverty and illness; they have cried and struggled in harsh circumstances. But through it all, they have steadfastly embraced the Gohonzon and stood up alongside me to strive for kosen-rufu. Resolutely challenging the storms of their destiny, they have encouraged their fellow members and shared Nichiren Buddhism with others. They are the protagonists of kosen-rufu. They are the Bodhisattvas of the Earth who have emerged in the Latter Day of the Law. They are the Soka Gakkai’s greatest treasures.”

Installment 57

On the evening of June 14, Shin’ichi attended a gongyo meeting to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the Hokkaido Training Center. Before the meeting, he went outside to greet participants from the two headquarters of Nemuro and Akkeshi, speaking to each person.

“Welcome! I’m so happy to see you!”

“Thank you so much for traveling here!”

“Please stay well! I’m praying that you live long!”

He put his arm around their shoulders, shook their hands and took photographs with them. He encouraged them wholeheartedly, determined not to let this precious opportunity slip by.

At the meeting, Shin’ichi said: “Only through actions based on compassion and a sincere desire to nurture each individual can we bring forth the boundless benefits of faith. The key is to practice for oneself and others. I want to affirm that all of you who courageously take such action are carrying on the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin.”

After the meeting, Shin’ichi and his wife, Mineko, traveled to Shibetsu-cho. They visited a restaurant run by a Soka Gakkai member to meet with several local members who had made invaluable contributions to kosen-rufu in the community.

Addressing a chapter leader suffering from poor health, Shin’ichi spoke about the fundamentals of health and faith: “The first thing is to continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo no matter what. Embracing in your heart the supremely noble goal of kosen-rufu, chant to be healthy so that you can give your all to fulfilling your mission. As you do so, a powerful life force will well forth from within.

“All Soka Gakkai leadership positions bear tremendous responsibility in advancing our movement for kosen-rufu. Carrying out those responsibilities may be challenging. But by willingly taking on hardship, you can attain even greater benefit and transform your karma. Never treat your position lightly. Regard it as the great path by which to fulfill your mission and achieve happiness, and work with courage and enthusiasm.”

Shin’ichi was in earnest. Upholding the banner of the Mystic Law, these members had braved the winds of adversity and were striving with all their might. He encouraged them with every ounce of his being.

Installment 58

One man at the restaurant, a block leader, was having a hard time financially. His seafood processing plant had suffered a huge setback a year earlier (in 1977) when the U.S. and Soviet Union announced an exclusive fishing zone extending 200 nautical miles (about 370 kilometers or 230 miles) from their shores. His business slumped [due to the accompanying drastic reductions in Japanese fishing quotas] and he was forced to close his plant. He now made his living selling pickled sansai mountain vegetables.

He had six children. Two of his sons attended Soka University, and his youngest daughter was in the third grade. Despite his challenges, he refused to give in and kept working hard, hoping to one day send his youngest daughter to a Soka school.

Shin’ichi said to him, “Thank you for sending your children to Soka University all the way from Shibetsu-cho.

“They will without a doubt come to appreciate your efforts and grow into fine young adults. Great leaders of the people often emerge from struggling families. Though your sons are far away, you can connect with them through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

“As for your business, keep researching, using your ingenuity and putting your all into it. Never think that things will just somehow turn out. It’s important to steadily win the trust and confidence of others.”

Through the toughest of circumstances, Soka Gakkai members have practiced hard and shown wonderful proof of victory. Their accumulated efforts have built the invincible bastion of Soka.

Shin’ichi wanted to do whatever he could to encourage this family. He purchased 20 five-gallon (18 liter) cans of pickled sansai mountain vegetables.

“You can send them to me little by little, as they are ready. There’s no hurry. Anyway, no matter what happens, never lose sight of the path of faith.”

Shin’ichi thought, “If just one person, if this one family stands up, my trip to Shibetsu will have been a success.”

He continued to pour his energy into meeting and encouraging members. He also visited a coffee shop to speak with the member who owned it.

Shin’ichi felt a chill and started shivering. When he took his temperature back at the Hokkaido Training Center, it was 38.5 Celsius (101 Fahrenheit).

Installment 59

On June 15, the third day of Shin’ichi’s visit to Betsukai, his fever had gone down a little.

Shortly before 1 p.m., the Hokkaido leaders meeting got underway with men’s and women’s division chapter leaders as well as other representatives from Kushiro and Doto zones.

The meeting included a conferral ceremony, the first for any area in Japan, for the new lapel pins for men’s and women’s chapter leaders. These new pins, depicting an eight-petal lotus inside a cherry blossom, had been announced along with the implementation of the new chapter system.

Shin’ichi had proposed to top Soka Gakkai leaders that the pins be presented first to the noble leaders in the easternmost part of Japan, who strove dauntlessly for kosen-rufu with a strong seeking spirit amid harsh winter conditions. Everyone agreed.

When Shin’ichi pinned one to a representative leader’s lapel, the room erupted in applause.

He truly felt that these members, chanting and spreading the Mystic Law and wholeheartedly encouraging their fellow members in this extremely cold region, were the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. He saw in their eyes the brilliant light of the Buddha’s compassion illuminating the troubled age.

On his first day in Betsukai, Shin’ichi had presented the members with a poem conveying his sincere feelings:

in the land of Betsukai—
let us together
send forth the winds of happiness.

At the meeting, Shin’ichi shared Nichiren Daishonin’s words, “These mountain valleys and broad plains where we live are all, every one of them, treasure lands of Eternally Tranquil Light” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 77).

He then said: “Wherever we embrace the Gohonzon and take action for kosen-rufu is the treasure land of Eternally Tranquil Light. It is the Buddha land. Therefore, no matter how harsh your environment, the place you are now is the place to carry out your Buddhist practice, to do your human revolution and to transform your karma. It is the stage upon which you can show proof of your happiness. Please triumph where you are. Become a trustworthy presence in your community. That is how you can demonstrate the validity of Nichiren Buddhism.”

Installment 60

After the leaders meeting, an outdoor friendship gathering took place in the Hokkaido Training Center garden. The skies were clear and the greenery sparkled in the sunlight.

The joyous occasion featured choral and taiko drum performances, a karate demonstration, folk dancing and an open-air tea ceremony.

Shin’ichi engaged with the members from start to finish. Asked to give the women’s division chorus a name, he suggested “Midnight Sun Chorus.” He also played the piano in hopes of bringing everyone a little joy. Learning that members had traveled to Betsukai from Kushiro on chartered buses, he thanked the drivers and invited them to the tea ceremony.

Shin’ichi spoke directly with many participants, shaking their hands and taking photographs with them.

He gave his all to each encounter, wishing to create lasting memories and inspire a turning point in that person’s faith.

When the festivities ended, he and Mineko saw off the members departing by bus.

“Thank you for coming! Stay well! We’ll visit Betsukai again someday!”

The members called out “Sensei! Sensei!” and waved eagerly. Shin’ichi kept waving until the last bus was out of sight.

That night, Shin’ichi visited a restaurant owned by a member in Shibetsu-cho and spoke informally with local members.

A man made an earnest appeal: “Sensei, I have a request. I’m so happy to be able to meet you, but many of our members still haven’t had the chance. Please create an opportunity for them.”

“I would like that very much. I’m returning to Sapporo tomorrow, but let’s hold a gongyo meeting before I leave. Please invite anyone who can be at the training center at noon.”


  1. Tohoku is a region located in northeastern Japan. ↩︎
  2. Later renamed the Aoba Peace Center. ↩︎
  3. Greater block and block meetings correspond to present-day district and group meetings, respectively. ↩︎
  4. Until 1970, the Soka Gakkai functioned as a “vertical line” organization, whereby new members automatically joined the same district and chapter as the person who introduced them to the practice, regardless of where they lived. ↩︎
  5. Translated from Japanese. Shiro Fujikura, Bahha kara Zenigata Heiji: Nomura Kodo Araebisu no Issho (From Bach to Heiji Zenigata: Kodo Nomura’s Life as Araebisu), (Tokyo: Seiabo, 2005), p. 75. ↩︎
  6. The Tohoku region is comprised of Aomori, Akita, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata and Fukushima prefectures. ↩︎
  7. Lyrics by Sonosuke Sato; music by Masao Koga. ↩︎
  8. Translated from Japanese. Ba Jin, Mudai-shu (A Collection of Untitled Essays), translated by Takashi Ishigami (Tokyo: Chikuma Shobo, 1988), p. 31 ↩︎
  9. Sanriku Coast: Coastal region on the Pacific Ocean, extending from southern Aomori Prefecture through Iwate Prefecture and northern Miyagi Prefecture. ↩︎
  10. Famous words by Takeda Shingen (1521–73), a military commander in the Sengoku period (1467–1615). ↩︎
  11. Yubari Coal Miners Union Incident: A case of blatant religious discrimination in which miners in Yubari, Hokkaido, were threatened with losing their jobs due to their Soka Gakkai membership. ↩︎
  12. University Groups are for members who graduated from or are currently enrolled in a given university, while Future Groups are training groups within the Future Division. ↩︎
  13. Inazo Nitobe, Editorial Jottings, vol. 2 (Tokyo: The Hokuseido Press, 1938), p. 70. ↩︎

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