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Vow

Vow
Volume 30, Chapter 6 (101–110)

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


Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

On the evening of Feb. 18, 1,500 youth division members participated enthusiastically in the 11th World Youth Peace Culture Festival, held at the Coliseo Theater in Buenos Aires. The theme of the festival, an event officially endorsed by the city, was “Melody of Hope in the Land of Ethnic Harmony.”

United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali sent a congratulatory message and many leaders of Argentine society attended. They included former Argentine president Arturo Frondizi; the mayor of Buenos Aires; and the presidents of National University of Córdoba, National University of Lomas de Zamora and National University of La Matanza. Representatives from SGI organizations in 10 nations of Central and South America were also in attendance.

Visibly moved by the event, one of the invited guests said: “The majority of people in Argentina trace their ancestry back to various European nations, which has at times been a cause of tension. Many feel a strong attachment to their country of origin, so their awareness of being fellow Argentineans tends to be rather weak. The festival’s theme ‘land of ethnic harmony’ expresses our heartfelt wish.”

He said he was moved and inspired to see a wonderful example of such harmony at the culture festival.

Another guest recognized the SGI’s focus on fostering global citizens, commenting that this is what the world needs today.

The theater’s stage was set to depict an airplane, expressing the idea of taking off from Argentina on a journey toward peace for the world and for all humankind.

The festival opened with a parade of flags, followed by fife-and-drum-corps, choral and energetic dance performances—all by young men and women who would shoulder the future. Six artists from the Colón Theater in Buenos Aires, one of the great theaters of the world, also performed a beautiful, uplifting dance.

The high point of the festival was a joint musical performance by the great masters of the Argentine Tango, Osvaldo Pugliese and Mariano Mores.

All those attending were captivated, unable to believe their good fortune to witness what could surely be called an event of the century, a dream combination. It was all the more special because after Pugliese’s retirement performance in November 1989, the culmination of his seven-decade career as a pianist and composer, it had been rumored that he would never perform on stage again.

Shin’ichi was profoundly grateful for these renowned artists’ generous gesture.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

On Feb. 15, three days before the 11th World Youth Peace Culture Festival, Mariano Mores visited the Coliseo Theater in Buenos Aires, where the festival would be held, and said to the SGI-Argentina members there preparing for the event: “The 18th, the date of the festival, is my birthday, but I’m not going to have a party. Instead, I will perform for President Yamamoto and all of you.”

When Mr. Mores learned of the festival, he applauded the idea and voiced his wish to help out in any way he could, promising to perform on that day.

Shin’ichi had first met Mr. Mores and his wife, Myrna, in April 1988, when the Argentinian artist was in Japan on a concert tour sponsored by the Soka Gakkai–affiliated Min-On Concert Association. On that occasion, Mr. Mores said that he wanted one day to compose a piece of music and present it to Shin’ichi. In response, Shin’ichi said that he would like to plant a cherry tree in a place with a fine view of Mount Fuji in honor of the couple’s son, Nito, who had passed away four years earlier.

Sometime later, Mr. Mores presented Shin’ichi with a musical composition titled “Ahora” (“Now”).

Osvaldo Pugliese had come to Japan in 1989 on his farewell tour, which had also been sponsored by the Min-On Concert Association. Shin’ichi had first met him and his wife, Lidia, at that time. During their conversation, Mr. Pugliese said he wished to compose a tango for Shin’ichi. Fulfilling his promise, he named the completed work “Tokio Luminoso” (“Shining Tokyo”) and presented it to Shin’ichi, at whose suggestion he added the subtitle “Ode to Friendship.”

On Feb. 16, the day after Mr. Mores dropped by the Coliseo Theater, Mr. Pugliese came to the same venue with his orchestra to rehearse for the youth festival. The instruments were all brought in, including Mr. Pugliese’s beloved grand piano. The 87-year-old maestro then tried to push the piano into place by himself. The SGI-Argentina members present were astonished; they hadn’t expected Latin America’s greatest tango artist to come for a rehearsal, much less see him try to move his own piano!

Both Osvaldo Pugliese and Mariano Mores responded in a personal way to Shin’ichi’s friendship. They wholeheartedly endorsed the festival of young people who cherished a wish for peace, and offered their unstinting support and cooperation.

Fostering friendship unites people. Peace is another name for friendship.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

Osvaldo Pugliese and Mariano Mores, the two giants of Argentine Tango, thrilled everyone at the Youth Peace Culture Festival with their unbelievable joint performance.

Deeply moved by all the festival performances, Shin’ichi Yamamoto applauded enthusiastically to express his encouragement and praise. He also composed a poem to commemorate the event:

Both heaven and earth
rejoice at
this culture festival
the heavenly deities of Argentina
are dancing with delight.

On the afternoon of Feb. 19, the following day, the 1st SGI-Argentina General Meeting was held at a venue in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. In addition to 2,500 members from across Argentina, members from three other countries in Latin America and from Spain also attended.

At the meeting, Shin’ichi was presented with an honorary doctorate by Argentina’s oldest university, the National University of Córdoba.

Among the reasons for conferring the honor, Rector Francisco Delich cited Shin’ichi’s efforts in establishing and spreading a “new humanism,” thereby showing that it is possible for the countries of Asia and the West to come together in harmony. The rector said: “He has taught us that the human race can overcome conflict arising from cultural and religious differences, and that we can forge friendships transcending geography, distance and time. This great universal message of peace and friendship transcends all national borders, as well as the borders in our minds created by ignorance that limit us. It unites all humanity as one.”

The general meeting also featured several performances, including Argentinian folk songs and dances, to welcome Shin’ichi to Argentina. Accompanied by strumming guitars and stamping feet, the songs and dances created a bright, exuberant atmosphere. The members expressed with their whole beings their joy in realizing at last this long-awaited meeting with Shin’ichi, 29 years after the Argentine organization first became a chapter.

Before and after the meeting, Shin’ichi took photographs with event staff and various groups, continuing to encourage everyone. The young people and children he met and encouraged on this visit would grow to become leaders of their country in the 21st century.

Encouragement is the driving force for growth and development.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s journey for peace continued.

On Feb. 20, 1993, Shin’ichi left Argentina for Paraguay, the next stop in his travels to open fresh horizons for kosen-rufu. It was his first visit to the South American country, which he found to be a beautiful land of forests and water, home to the vast Paraguay River and many other rivers that nourished the fields and people’s lives.

The mayor of Asunción, Paraguay’s capital city, welcomed Shin’ichi at the airport, presenting him with a plaque inscribed with the city’s emblem.

The next day, Feb. 21, Shin’ichi attended the 1st SGI-Paraguay General Meeting along with 700 members who gathered at the SGI-Paraguay Culture Center, and a “Friendship Evening” commemorating the 32nd anniversary of the kosen-rufu movement in Paraguay. Here, too, Shin’ichi began by first encouraging the children.

“I am so happy to see you all,” he said. “When you’re older, please come to Japan. I’ll be waiting for you!”

At the general meeting, Shin’ichi mentioned the names of the pioneer members and praised their efforts. He also read aloud the names of local organizations: Amambay District,[1] followed by each of the country’s chapters—Santa Rosa, Encarnación, Yguazú, Asunción—and thanked their members for their hard work.

The kosen-rufu movement in Paraguay began with Japanese immigrants, who faced indescribable hardships in their new country.

Though the members of SGI-Paraguay were few in number, all of them, starting with the immigrants from Japan, had made diligent efforts over the years to create deep-rooted ties of trust with people throughout society.

When the “World Boys and Girls Art Exhibition” was held in Asunción in 1990 (jointly sponsored by the SGI and Paraguay’s Ministry of Education and Culture), Paraguayan President Andrés Rodríguez attended.

And on the occasion of Shin’ichi’s visit to the country, the General Post Office of Paraguay had decided to stamp all mail items with a special “SGI” postmark throughout the duration of his stay. The official resolution announcing this noted that the SGI, an organization dedicated to value creation, was also a United Nations–registered NGO, its activities focused on the fundamental aims of promoting world peace, understanding among peoples and respect for culture. The resolution further stated that the SGI president’s visit would be welcomed with “expressions of esteem and friendship on the part of the national government and related institutions.”

Such recognition for the SGI was a result of the members’ steady efforts to make positive contributions to society.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

At the 1st SGI-Paraguay General Meeting, Shin’ichi Yamamoto declared: “The protective functions of the universe always safeguard those who have courage!”

Stressing the importance of standing alone, he continued: “It’s not a matter of numerical strength. If one person stands up in earnest, they can bring happiness to all those around them and also positively transform their environment. The vital point is actually chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and taking action for that purpose with earnest resolve.”

With the radiant sun of faith shining in their lives, SGI members continue to illuminate others and their communities with the great light of hope and revitalization, and to build a network of human harmony based on friendship and encouragement. This is the sure path for achieving kosen-rufu and demonstrates the significance of the pioneering SGI movement.

With the wish that members would remain steadfast in their commitment to Buddhist practice, never letting the flame of their faith die out, Shin’ichi urged: “Do not be swayed by life’s ups and downs. Take a long-term view of your life and keep pressing forward calmly.

“For your children, their job now is to study. Making school studies their top priority, while properly learning the basics of faith, is the way for them to put Buddhism into practice in their lives.

“Though it is important to pass on our faith to the next generation, religion is something that young people must choose for themselves. As adults, teach them and show them by your example that, if you earnestly chant, you can overcome any problem. Don’t be overly anxious or worried, and just let them grow freely, at their own pace.”

The members’ joy exploded at the “Friendship Evening.” A women’s division chorus and a children’s chorus filled the venue with uplifting song, and members also performed Paraguay’s traditional danza de la botella (bottle dance) to lively music.

The internationally acclaimed classical guitarist Cayo Sila Godoy, a friend of the SGI, also performed a piece he had composed especially for the occasion titled “Fantasía Japonesa” (Japanese Fantasy).

Youthful members of the Music Corps and the Fife and Drum Corps proudly performed the “Paraguay Headquarters Song,” which had been sung since the movement’s earliest days in the country. It was a song that held unforgettable memories for many members.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

Shin’ichi Yamamoto had planned to visit Brazil in 1974. But misunderstanding and prejudice toward the Soka Gakkai in Brazilian society led to him being denied a visa, and he ultimately had to cancel his trip.

The SGI-Paraguay Music Corps, hoping to perform for Shin’ichi and convey the spirit of the Paraguayan members, were already on their way to Brazil. Unfortunately, they were also refused entry, but they were able to travel by bus to the Iguazú Falls, a famous tourist destination near the Brazilian border.

“Let’s play here!” they decided. “Our hearts are sure to reach Sensei!”

They performed with all their might, competing with the thunderous roar of the waterfall.

Ten years later, in 1984, Shin’ichi finally visited Brazil for the first time in 18 years. The SGI-Paraguay members who traveled there for the occasion, their hearts dancing with joy, had enthusiastically sung the “Paraguay Headquarters Song” for Shin’ichi:

The sound of the wind, the swaying trees, the red earth,
our trekking through the forest,
the perspiring faces of friends who joined us
to open the way for a new community.[2]

When it was over, Shin’ichi said: “What a wonderful song! I can feel your determination. I will definitely visit Paraguay in the future.”

Nine years had since passed, and that long-awaited day was now here.

At the “Friendship Evening,” Shin’ichi applauded wholeheartedly after the performances by the Music Corps and the Fife and Drum Corps, and said: “Thank you! Our hearts have resounded as one.

“In the 21st century, I hope that you, the youth, will carry on the legacy of our pioneering members and freely soar into the skies of your mission. Please surpass me. When you do, the current of kosen-rufu will become a mightily flowing river, nourishing the entire world.”

On Feb. 22, Shin’ichi visited Paraguayan President Andrés Rodríguez at the presidential palace and presented him with a long poem titled “The Flow of the Great River of the People.”

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

After his meeting with President Rodríguez, Shin’ichi Yamamoto visited the Paraguayan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to attend a ceremony bestowing on him the National Order of Merit in the Grade of Grand Cross. The foreign minister, in his remarks, mentioned Shin’ichi’s activities for peace, saying: “Your efforts for peace, based on your belief that only through sincere dialogue can we eliminate discrimination and realize lasting peace and mutual understanding on a global scale, are a model for all humankind.”

Later that day, Feb. 22, Shin’ichi attended a ceremony at the National University of Asunción, in which he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Faculty of Philosophy.

The following day, Feb. 23, he departed for his next destination, Chile.

Shin’ichi presented the Paraguayan members with a poem:

Your skies, your land,
your flowing rivers, too,
conjure images of a Buddha land.
My dear fellow Bodhisattvas of the Earth,
I will never forget you.

As the plane from Paraguay flew over the Andes, their snowcapped peaks were visible below, glowing gold in the setting sun.

Chile would be the 50th country that Shin’ichi had visited. Each of his visits to countries around the world had been an all-out struggle for kosen-rufu, a journey into which he had poured his entire being to open a new page of history.

On New Year’s Day 1952, the year after he became second Soka Gakkai president, Josei Toda composed the poem: “Now, let us set out on a journey, / our hearts emboldened / to spread the Mystic Law / to the farthest reaches / of India.” And about 10 days before his death, he called Shin’ichi to his bedside and told him that he had dreamed of traveling to Mexico.

“They were all waiting. Everyone was waiting,” he said, summoning his last reserves of strength to speak the words. “They were all seeking Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. I want to go—to travel the world on a journey for kosen-rufu…”

“The world is your true stage,” Mr. Toda continued, urging Shin’ichi: “You must live as long as you can and travel the globe!”

Mr. Toda wished for the happiness of all humanity and for worldwide kosen-rufu, but he never was able to travel outside Japan. Shin’ichi engraved his words in the depths of his life, taking them as his mentor’s final wishes, and traveled the world in his mentor’s stead, bringing the Buddhism of the Sun to people everywhere.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

Shin’ichi Yamamoto was inaugurated as the third Soka Gakkai president on May 3, 1960, just over two years after the death of his mentor, Josei Toda. Five months later, on Oct. 2, he made his first overseas trip.

On arriving at his first destination, Hawaii, he found no one had come to meet him at the airport. The members who had planned to be there were absent because of a communication mix up. On some of his travels, he became seriously ill and suffered a high fever. And there were countries where, due to misunderstandings about the nature of the Soka Gakkai, his efforts to encourage members took place under surveillance by the authorities.

Shin’ichi traveled to countries in the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Oceania, motivated by his wish for the happiness of all people.

He also made many visits to communist countries, building bridges of friendship and cultural exchange.

To actualize Nichiren Daishonin’s wish for worldwide kosen-rufu, he devoted his entire being to traveling the world and continuing to sow the seeds of peace and happiness, the seeds of the Mystic Law. It was a journey of mentor and disciple, which he undertook while having an ongoing inner dialogue with his mentor, Josei Toda.

His trip to Chile would mark the 50th country he had visited.

He composed a poem in his mind:

Flying over
the snowcapped peaks of the Andes
bathed in the magnificent golden light
of the evening sun,
I cry, “I have won!”

Eventually, a crescent moon shone above the mountain peaks, Venus glittered beautifully and countless stars began twinkling in the sky. To Shin’ichi, it seemed as if the heavenly deities were celebrating.

On Feb. 24, the day after his arrival in Chile, Shin’ichi was presented with a certificate naming him an “Illustrious Visitor” at the City Hall in Santiago, the country’s capital. The resolution to confer the honor called his visit “a special opportunity to strengthen understanding between the people of Chile and Japan, and to consolidate the ties of friendship that make possible the sharing of fundamental human values.”

After the presentation ceremony, Shin’ichi visited the SGI-Chile Culture Center in Santiago and attended the 1st SGI-Chile General Meeting. The members were overjoyed to see him. They sensed that Chile had seen the end of its long winter of economic uncertainty and human rights abuses by a military dictatorship, and that a springtime of hope had arrived.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

In 1973, a military coup erupted in Santiago, Chile. Warplanes flew overhead, and tanks and armed troops filled the streets. The home of the husband and wife who were the central leaders of the Soka Gakkai members in Chile came under machine-gun fire in the fighting. The second floor was riddled with bullets, but the couple remained safe in the ground-floor room where the Gohonzon was enshrined.

Concerned for the safety of their fellow members, the couple immediately set about visiting them, making their way around the city day after day, despite the imposition of martial law. Assemblies were banned, so they held informal “family discussions” about Buddhism at the homes they visited.

For many years after that, too, meetings could only take place with the authorities’ permission, and only at a single community center. The members, however, remained in high spirits. They even tried to communicate how wonderful the SGI’s peace movement was to police officers who came to observe their meetings.

Now, excitedly describing the conditions at that time to Shin’ichi Yamamoto, one of the Chilean members said: “[Soka Gakkai] Presidents [Tsunesaburo] Makiguchi and [Josei] Toda both fought bravely for kosen-rufu in wartime Japan, under the surveillance of the ‘thought police.’ And you continued to send us warm encouragement from time to time, giving us courage. Knowing that you were aware of what we were going through filled us with strength.”

With their mentor in their hearts, the Chilean members had devoted themselves energetically to kosen-rufu. Because he was always with them, they remained undefeated.

It was only with the return of democracy to Chile some three years earlier that each chapter and district was able to freely hold meetings.

For the longest time, the members had wished and prayed for Shin’ichi’s visit to Chile, striving earnestly in their activities and waiting impatiently for that day.

Despite continuing political uncertainty and the vast size of their country, spanning some 2,600 miles from north to south, the members had carried out an arduous struggle. They had worked hard together, summoning all their wisdom and ingenuity to advance kosen-rufu. Shin’ichi was profoundly moved by their dedicated efforts.

Here in Chile, too, one of the countries farthest from Japan, a steady stream of Bodhisattvas of the Earth had emerged.

At the SGI-Chile Culture Center, Shin’ichi said to the future division members gathered: “Thank you for coming to welcome me. I have come from Japan, your neighbor across the ocean.”

The children appeared to be filled with wonder, their eyes sparkling.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

In his speech at the 1st SGI-Chile General Meeting, Shin’ichi Yamamoto praised the members for their tremendous efforts for kosen-rufu throughout the country: “You have striven your hardest, undefeated by adversity. You are assured of accumulating benefit as boundless as the vast expanse of the Andes.”

Shin’ichi then mentioned that Chile was the 50th country he had visited.

As he prepared to embark on his journey for world peace 33 years earlier (in October 1960), he had gazed at the towering summit of Mount Fuji, and now he had come to Chile, this country on the opposite side of the earth from Japan, home of the “Mount Fuji of South America,” the soaring Mount Osorno.

Shin’ichi powerfully called out to the members: “I am absolutely certain that Josei Toda would be delighted by this. But we have only just begun. With you always in my heart, as if we are together engaging in activities day after day, I will continue to travel the globe in high spirits!”

Citing Nichiren Daishonin’s words “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), Shin’ichi stressed the importance of wise and prudent conduct. He explained that practicing Nichiren Buddhism involves keeping the future of kosen-rufu firmly in mind and striving with open hearts to forge cordial and harmonious relations with members and nonmembers alike, showing consideration and mutual respect and treasuring friendship.

Faith equals daily life, and Buddhism is manifested in society. Shin’ichi wished to impress upon the members that, as these principles indicate, Nichiren Buddhism is a tolerant, engaged religion and that members should never create walls between the Soka Gakkai and society.

In conclusion, he urged that everyone without exception lead a life of great satisfaction, victory and good fortune.

References

  1. The members of Amambay District had traveled some 370 miles to attend the meeting, and the district was poised to soon become a chapter.
  2. The original Japanese lyrics were written by Kunio Yamamoto, a pioneer member of SGI-Paraguay. The English translation here is of the Spanish lyrics for the first verse of the song.

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