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Triumph of the Human Spirit

Photo by Manuel Nägeli / Unsplash.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is the roar of the spirit of that great musical genius, who proclaimed, “At the end of the suffering, there is joy!”

—Ikeda Sensei[1]

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 was inspired by German poet Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” which extolled the triumph of humanity. At 22, Beethoven attempted to set it to music, but it took more than 30 years before the poem and melody were finally fused.

Beethoven lived a tumultuous life and suffered from gradual hearing loss. Toward the end of his life, despite his failing health and being deaf, he completed three notable works—including Symphony No. 9.

At its premiere in May 1824, Beethoven assembled the largest orchestra in his career. And although they only rehearsed twice, the performance received numerous standing ovations.

Since his youth, Ikeda Sensei has been fond of Beethoven’s works, reflecting on how the ninth and fifth symphonies sustained his spirit in the desolate conditions of postwar Japan. Sensei likens this masterpiece of joy as an expression of Nichiren Daishonin’s words “If in a single moment of life we exhaust the pains and trials of millions of kalpas, then instant after instant there will arise in us the three Buddha bodies with which we are eternally endowed.”[2]

To this day, “Ode to Joy” is regarded as one of the supreme achievements in the history of music. It is celebrated as the anthem of humanity and triumph, transcending generations and nationality.

Photo by Keith Lance / Getty Images.

METICULOUS: Beethoven considered and rejected over 200 different versions of the melody.

RADICAL: He broke many trends of his time and introduced a new creation that was a hybrid of symphony and oratorio.

GENIUS: Although he composed the symphony, he never heard a single note of his composition outside of his imagination due to his loss of hearing.

EPIC: The hour-long symphony includes four movements, with “Ode to Joy” in its fourth.


  1. A Revolution Dawns, p. 55 ↩︎
  2. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p. 214. ↩︎

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