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Vow

Vow
Volume 30, Chapter 6 (131–139)

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.


On Nov. 26, Shin’ichi Yamamoto attended a joint executive conference with SGI representatives from Singapore and Australia.

At the meeting, he noted that the name Singapore means “Lion City” and discussed the significance of the lion in Buddhism: “In Buddhism, the Buddha is described as a lion, and his preaching of the Law as the ‘lion’s roar.’ Nichiren Daishonin taught that the word ‘lion’ has the significance of ‘mentor and disciple.’[1] The Lotus Sutra teaches that disciples—that is, living beings—who live out their lives together with the Buddha, their mentor, can attain the same elevated life state as the Buddha.”

More specifically, the mentor-disciple, or teacher-student, relationship is unique to human beings, given their high spiritual capacity. This relationship is found wherever people strive for excellence, including in the arts, education and any field that requires skilled workmanship.

Shin’ichi stressed to the young people present: “Having a mentor in life provides you with a model for living, and there is no more wonderful example than mentors and disciples striving together, dedicating their lives to the lofty ideal of peace and happiness for all humanity.

“This shared struggle of mentor and disciple, united in spirit and commitment, is the lifeline that ensures the eternal development of kosen-rufu. Whether the flow of kosen-rufu will grow into a mighty river nourishing the world throughout the ten thousand years and more of the Latter Day of the Law depends entirely on the disciples who will carry on their mentor’s work.

“Mr. Toda often said: ‘As long as Shin’ichi’s here, there’s nothing to worry about!’ ‘I can rest easy knowing you’re here!’ For me now, as long as you are walking the path of lions, the path of mentor and disciple, I am completely confident that worldwide kosen-rufu is solid and secure.”

Quoting the Daishonin’s call, “Each of you should summon up the courage of a lion king and never succumb to threats from anyone” (“On Persecutions Befalling the Sage,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 997), Shin’ichi also emphasized that the “heart of a lion king” is courage.

He said: “We all possess courage. Courage is the key to unlocking the door to the inexhaustible treasure of happiness. Many people, however, have sealed that door and remain adrift upon a sea of cowardice, weakness and indecision. I hope that you will all summon up great courage and vanquish every trace of cowardice in your hearts. That is the cause for victory in life.”

The future belongs to youth. Therefore, youth have a responsibility to develop into lionhearted champions who will protect the people.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

On the evening of Nov. 27, 2000, Shin’ichi Yamamoto and his party arrived from Singapore at the international airport in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. It was Shin’ichi’s second visit to the country, his first in 12 years.

In those dozen years, both Malaysian society and Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) had experienced remarkable growth. Many super high-rise buildings now stood in Kuala Lumpur, including the Petronas Twin Towers built in 1998, the tallest buildings in the world.

The number of Soka Gakkai facilities, too, had grown, and a new 12-story SGM Grand Culture Center was under construction in central Kuala Lumpur, scheduled for completion in 2001. Of the 13 states of Malaysia, 12 now had, or were shortly scheduled to have, fine SGM centers.

On Nov. 29, Shin’ichi was presented with an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Universiti Putra Malaysia, one of the country’s leading universities, in a solemn convocation ceremony held in his honor. The event overflowed with a spirit of goodwill and friendship.

Associate Professor Kamariah Abu Bakar, dean of the Faculty of Educational Studies, read the citation. Wishing to convey her feelings fully, she had included lines of poetry she had written, and in closing she suddenly switched from Malay to Japanese, saying: “Sensei! You are a remarkable person. May your lifelong dream of world peace be achieved.”

Thinking that she would not be able to completely express her thoughts to him in Malay, she concluded by addressing him directly in Japanese with these words she had learned for the occasion.

Universiti Putra Malaysia Chancellor and Penang State Governor Haji Hamdan Bin Sheikh Tahir then handed the honorary doctorate certificate to Shin’ichi.

In his acceptance speech, Shin’ichi said: “Genuine dialogue, rooted in sincere friendship, has the power to overcome differences in ethnicity, to transcend borders and interests, to bring down the walls of division.

“It is of utmost importance to advance in a spirit of cooperation on the path of tolerance, coexistence and creativity, while respecting diversity and bringing out the best of that diversity. Friendship realized through education, in particular, is the most powerful defense against that which would harm or undermine peace and human happiness.”

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

Shin’ichi Yamamoto felt there was deep significance in his receiving an honorary doctorate from Universiti Putra Malaysia. Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, and he, a Buddhist, was being recognized by one of its national universities.

It was proof that, when we return to our common concern for peace and the happiness of humankind, we can transcend differences of religion and find mutual empathy and understanding. It was also a testament to the tolerant nature of Islam.

Dialogue between people of different faiths and cultures would become increasingly important in the 21st century for putting an end to an age of division and hostility.

Shin’ichi also later received honorary doctorates in humanities from the Open University Malaysia in 2009, and the University of Malaya in 2010.

On Nov. 30, 2000, Shin’ichi met with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for the second time, at the prime minister’s office.

Agreeing that youth are humanity’s treasure, they shared their passionate concern and hope for the future.

On Dec. 1, Shin’ichi made his first visit to the Malaysia Soka Kindergarten (Tadika Seri Soka), after which he attended a Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) representatives conference, commemorating four decades of worldwide kosen-rufu, at the SGM Culture Center.

Enthusiastic applause resounded through the hall.

SGM was growing at an astonishing pace. Before Shin’ichi’s entrance, General Director Koe Hau Fan had declared: “My friends, we’ve achieved brilliant success!”

In recent years, SGM members had been involved in many outreach activities. Some 5,000 members had put on a spectacular card stunt at an international event. Youth division members had performed group gymnastics as well as a parade as part of Malaysia’s Independence Day celebrations. Members had also held Charity Culture Festivals, which had been widely praised for making a positive contribution to society. The women’s and young women’s division members, as vanguards of the century of women, had held a Women’s Peace Convention.

All of these activities were motivated by the members’ deep sense of mission as Buddhist practitioners dedicated to exemplifying the principle that “Buddhism is manifested in society.”

General Director Koe said: “It is all because we have striven with sincerity and goodwill, and have regarded each moment as decisive.”

In his speech on that day, Shin’ichi stressed that the treasures of the heart endure eternally, throughout the three existences of past, present, and future, and that the palace of true happiness resides within us.

He also presented members with a poem:

The world’s supreme
capital of victory,
Malaysia.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s tour of encouragement moved next to Hong Kong. This would be the last stop in his world travels for the 20th century.

On Dec. 4, 2000, he attended an executive conference of SGI leaders from Hong Kong and neighboring Macau, held at the SGI-Hong Kong Culture Center. To commemorate this visit, his 20th to Hong Kong, he presented the participants with a poem:

On my twentieth visit,
I give a resounding cheer
for kosen-rufu in Hong Kong!

Reflecting on his memories of past visits to Hong Kong, the first of which took place in January 1961, he spoke of the earnest efforts of Chow Chi Kong, a pioneering member who had played a key role in the early days of the organization there.

“Mr. Chow used to write letters every few days to members who were scattered throughout Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian countries. When some problem arose, the frequency of his letters would increase to one every other day, and sometimes one every day.

“Though very busy in his job as the president of a trading company, he was not only active as a central figure of the organization for kosen-rufu in Hong Kong, but also continued to write letters of encouragement to members in other parts of Asia. It must have required incredible effort on his part. And the letters he wrote were quite lengthy, often 5/five or even 10/ten pages.”

At that time, not many people had private telephones, and, of course, the Internet didn’t exist yet. Mr. Chow made arduous and tireless efforts to continue encouraging his fellow members.

Shin’ichi continued: “In a letter to the leader of a certain area, he wrote: ‘It’s important to create many opportunities to speak with members heart to heart. Home visits are the only way to do this. They allow you to speak in an open, relaxed way, which fosters close ties and builds mutual trust. This is easy to say, but difficult to put into practice.’ ”

Organizations are like the human body, which cannot function properly without good blood circulation. Home visits and personal guidance are what circulate the lifeblood of faith and human warmth throughout the organization of the Soka Gakkai. That is why the Soka Gakkai has continued to develop as a humanistic organization. Valuing each individual, taking a personal interest in their well-being, and making steady efforts in dialogue and offering encouragement represent the eternal and unchanging key to fresh growth and development for both individual members and the organization.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

At the Hong Kong-Macau executive conference, Shin’ichi Yamamoto spoke of the brilliant history of the kosen-rufu movement in Hong Kong: “My journey to realize Nichiren Daishonin’s prediction of the westward transmission of Buddhism began here in Hong Kong. I also departed from and returned via Hong Kong when I made my first visit to mainland China, from the end of May to mid-June 1974, to build a golden bridge of friendship between China and Japan.

“Moreover, the Chinese University of Hong Kong was the very first of the 73 universities with which Soka University today participates in academic and educational exchanges. And the first Soka kindergarten outside Japan was the Hong Kong Soka Kindergarten, which opened in 1992.”

Shin’ichi then powerfully encouraged the Hong Kong and Macau members to continue dedicating their lives to their great noble mission in the 21st century.

Earlier that year, in February 2000, a long-awaited auditorium had also been completed at the Soka Bodhi Tree Garden in India, and on Nov. 26 [a few days before Shin’ichi’s arrival in Hong Kong], a general meeting of Bharat Soka Gakkai, the SGI organization in India, had been held there to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding. Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism of the Sun was now shining brightly in India, the Land of the Moon,[2] and starting to illuminate Indian society. Shin’ichi felt that a magnificent path for kosen-rufu in the 21st century was now opening widely in Asia and the rest of the world.

On the evening of Dec. 5, Shin’ichi and Mineko were invited to a dinner at the official residence of Hong Kong Chief Secretary Anson Chan.

In 1993, Mrs. Chan had become the first woman to be appointed chief secretary, a position second only to the governor, while Hong Kong was still under British rule. Following Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997, she had been active as the chief secretary for administration of the Hong Kong Administrative Region, second only to the chief executive.

Her mother was the renowned Chinese painter Fang Zhaoling, whose works were at the time being shown to great acclaim in an exhibition at the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum. Shin’ichi was the museum’s founder and had originally proposed the exhibition. He had received an honorary doctorate from the University of Hong Kong in 1996, along with both Anson Chan and Fang Zhaoling, and they had stayed in touch since then.

Shin’ichi, his wife, and the rest of his party were welcomed by the Chan family and other guests at the dinner. Shin’ichi conversed and exchanged views with those present out of his strong wish for the future prosperity of Hong Kong and China.

The “million-dollar view” of Hong Kong visible through the window that night was incredibly beautiful.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

On Dec. 7, 2000, Shin’ichi Yamamoto attended the graduation ceremony of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Social Science, making him the first Japanese recipient of an honorary doctorate from that institution. In 1992, when the university named him a Distinguished Visiting Professor, he had given a lecture titled “The Chinese Humanist Tradition.”

On Dec. 8, Shin’ichi returned to Japan, flying from Hong Kong to Osaka, gateway to Ever-Victorious Kansai.

Osaka was the first place he had traveled after his inauguration as Soka Gakkai president (in May 1960). This was why he wanted to conclude his guidance tours for the 20th century in Osaka and open the door to the 21st century with his beloved Kansai members, who shared his joys and sufferings and his invincible spirit.

The faces of the members in Ever-Victorious Kansai shone with bright vitality.

On Dec. 10, Shin’ichi attended a Kansai representatives conference.

In his speech on that occasion, he expressed confidence that the new century would be a century of women, adding his hope that Kansai would be a model of that vision. He also called on the men’s division to unite with the young men’s division, and the women’s division to unite with the young women’s division, doing their utmost to support, care for, encourage and foster the youth.

On Dec. 14, a Soka Gakkai Headquarters leaders meeting was held in conjunction with a Kansai representatives leaders meeting and a Kansai women’s general meeting, at the Kansai Toda Memorial Auditorium in Toyonaka City, Osaka. As the last major meeting for 2000, it marked the organization’s fresh departure for the 21st century.

“From next year, 2001, we will begin the second series of Seven Bells,[3]aiming toward the year 2050!” Shin’ichi spoke of the start of a new series of seven-year periods of development and urged the members to work together, harnessing the solidarity of ordinary people, to make the 21st century a century of humanism and peace.

He also noted that women were taking active leadership roles around the world: “The times are clearly changing. Societies and organizations that respect and value women will flourish from now on.

“The Daishonin states that women open the gateway (see “The Treasure of a Child,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 884). In the unending development of kosen-rufu, it is women—especially, our young women’s division members, who will open the gateway of good fortune, hope and eternal victory.”

Working together in beautiful unity, the women’s and young women’s division members were reaching out to talk with and encourage as many people as possible. Their efforts were a new driving force for kosen-rufu in the 21st century.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

The year 2001—which had been designated the Soka Gakkai’s “Year of Total Victory for the New Century”—dawned with bright promise. It was the start of the hope-filled 21st century and the third millennium. Shin’ichi Yamamoto contributed a poem to the New Year’s Day edition of the Seikyo Shimbun:

As the new century unfolds,
our new stage
will be the entire world.
Let us refresh the flame of
resolve in our hearts!

Jan. 2 was Shin’ichi’s 73rd birthday. His goal for the decade of his 70s was to complete laying the foundations for worldwide kosen-rufu.

On May 3, Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo, Orange County, California, held its eagerly anticipated dedication ceremony. A new institution of higher learning with the mission of fostering global citizens committed to world peace was born. Yoshinari Yabuki, a member of the first graduating class of both Soka High School and Soka University in Japan, was appointed as its president.

Shin’ichi expressed his profound feelings in a message read at the ceremony. In it, he offered four principles for the university:

  • Foster leaders of culture in the community.
  • Foster leaders of humanism in society.
  • Foster leaders of pacifism in the world.
  • Foster leaders for the creative coexistence of nature and humanity.

On Sept. 11, 2001, four passenger jets were hijacked in the United States. Two were flown into the World Trade Center in New York City and another into the Pentagon, the U.S. Defense Department headquarters. The fourth crashed en route to its target.[4] These events came to be known as September 11, or simply 9/11.

Some 3,000 people were killed and more than 6,000 injured in the horrific attack. The U.S. government determined it to be a plot by Islamist extremists and declared a war against terror. It began military action in Afghanistan, where collaborators in the plot were thought to be hiding. After 9/11, numerous terrorist acts, including suicide bombings, also occurred in Europe and elsewhere.

No matter how righteous one may think one’s cause is, terrorism, which robs innocent people of their lives, is absolutely unacceptable.

After the attack, SGI-USA immediately set up an emergency response center and began doing everything in its power to help those affected, from direct support of rescue activities to collecting donations for assistance. Later, it actively engaged in interfaith dialogues with other religious groups to promote tolerance and understanding.

Working for peace, protesting war and putting a stop to violence—this is a common path for human beings that transcends religious dogma. Addressing such issues is also the original purpose of religion.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,[5] in his meetings with leading thinkers from countries around the world and in interviews with Japanese newspapers, Shin’ichi Yamamoto strongly made the case that this was the very moment to powerfully rally public opinion in support of peace and dialogue.

In his annual SGI Day peace proposal issued on Jan. 26 of the following year (2002), he stated that dialogue among civilizations is crucial for humanity in the 21st century and called for the development of coordinated, U.N.-centered international efforts to prevent terrorism. He also argued that in order to put an end to terrorism and to safeguard human security, the entire world needs to join forces to focus on the issues of human rights, eradication of poverty and disarmament.

Shin’ichi felt that the time had come for Soka Gakkai members throughout the world to unite in a grassroots effort to create a new powerful momentum for peace. The path to peace is always challenging. Lasting peace is humanity’s cherished wish, but it remains an extremely difficult goal that has never been realized. But that is precisely why the Soka Gakkai appeared! That is why Nichiren Buddhism, the key to human revolution, exists! We must build, through dialogue, a great network of ordinary citizens working together in friendship and trust!

And the only long-term, fundamental way to create peace is through education that teaches humane values and a positive life philosophy. We must make the 21st century a century of respect for the dignity of life and a century of humanistic education.

On Nov. 12, 2001, a Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting was held at the Toda Memorial Auditorium in Sugamo, Tokyo, to celebrate Soka Gakkai Foundation Day on Nov. 18. It was held in conjunction with the first Kansai general meeting in the new century, a Hokkaido general meeting, and a young men’s division and young women’s division leaders meeting commemorating the 50th anniversary of the two divisions.

In his speech at that meeting, Shin’ichi thanked everyone for their efforts and urged them to forge ahead courageously, determined never to be defeated. He asked that they always base themselves on faith and keep moving forward, no matter what happens in life. That, he said, is the spirit of practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism. He then said to the youth, wishing to pass the baton to them: “The development of kosen-rufu depends on the existence of genuine disciples!”

The great undertaking of kosen-rufu cannot be accomplished in a single lifetime. It can only be achieved when that mission is passed on from the mentor to the disciples, who in turn pass it on to the disciples of future generations.

Illustration by Kenichiro Uchida

Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s voice rang with resolve: “I will never forget what Josei Toda said at a meeting of the young men’s division Suiko-kai[6]: ‘As long as there is a core of youth—no, even a single true disciple—we will achieve kosen-rufu.’

“Who has been that one disciple? Who has given his life to spreading Nichiren Buddhism around the world, just as Mr. Toda taught? I am proud and confident to say that I am that one disciple.

“I would like you, my young friends of the youth division, to staunchly carry on the solemn spirit of the first three Soka Gakkai presidents, who are eternally linked by the bonds of mentor and disciple. Those who do so will be the ultimate victors. This is also the fundamental path for the Soka Gakkai’s ongoing success in the 21st century. It is the way for us to fulfill the great vow for kosen-rufu and create lasting world peace.

“I’m counting on you, the members of the young men’s division, young women’s division and student division! I’m counting on all Soka youth around the world!”

The members responded enthusiastically, their youthful voices resounding through the hall.

Portraits of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, the Soka Gakkai’s first and second presidents, hung on the walls at the back of the room. To Shin’ichi, it seemed that both were smiling and nodding in approval, warmly watching over the youth and everyone present, enfolding them in their compassionate gaze.

In his heart, he called out to the youth: “Let’s set forth together! As long as we live, let’s fight! Let’s advance with confidence and vigor as we vibrantly ring in the second series of Seven Bells!”

In his mind’s eye, Shin’ichi had an uplifting vision of the youth of Soka as majestic young eagles bathed in the dawning light of the third millennium. He saw them soaring, in an unending stream, into the vast skies of the world.

They were the countless multitudes of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, forever dedicated to fulfilling the great vow for kosen-rufu.

Manuscript completed on Aug. 6, 2018, at the Nagano Training Center.

Dedicated to Soka Gakkai founding president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi;
to my mentor, second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda;
and to my fellow members throughout the world,
noble emissaries of the Buddha and my precious comrades.

Daisaku Ikeda

This completes the 30th and final volume
of The New Human Revolution.

References

  1. In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren Daishonin says: “[With regard to the phrase ‘to roar the lion’s roar’ (Jpn. sa shishi ku):] The lion’s roar (shishi ku) is the preaching of the Buddha. The preaching of the Law means the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, or the preaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in particular. The first shi [which means ‘teacher’] of the word shishi, or ‘lion,’ is the Wonderful Law [Mystic Law] that is passed on by the teacher. The second shi [which means ‘child’] is the Wonderful Law as it is received by the disciples. The ‘roar’ [ku] is the sound of the teacher and the disciples chanting in unison. The verb sa, ‘to make’ or ‘to roar,’ should here be understood to mean to initiate or to put forth. It refers to the initiating of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in the Latter Day of the Law” (see p. 111).
  2. Land of the Moon (Chin Yüeh-chih): A name for India used in China and Japan. In the late third century B.C.E., there was a tribe called Yüeh-chih who ruled a part of India. Since Buddhism was brought from India to China via this territory, the Chinese seem to have regarded the land of the Yüeh-chih (moon tribe) as India itself.
  3. Seven Bells: The first series of Seven Bells refers to the seven consecutive seven-year periods in the Soka Gakkai’s development from its founding in 1930 through 1979. On May 3, 1958, shortly after President Toda’s death (on April 2), President Ikeda, then Soka Gakkai youth division chief of staff, introduced this idea and announced targets for subsequent seven-year periods. On May 3, 1966, President Ikeda spoke of a new series of Seven Bells that he envisaged unfolding in the 21st century. And in 1978, just before the end of the first series of Seven Bells, he stated that the second set of Seven Bells would begin from May 3, 2001, and continue through 2050.
  4. This fourth plane was initially flown toward Washington, D.C., but crashed into a field in Pennsylvania as passengers and crew attempted to regain control of the plane from the hijackers.
  5. On Sept. 11, 2001, four passenger jets were hijacked in the United States. Two were flown into the World Trade Center in New York City and another into the Pentagon, the U.S. Defense Department headquarters. The fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania en route to its target. These events came to be known as Sept. 11, or simply 9/11.
  6. The Suiko-kai (Water Margin Group) was a young men’s division training group formed by second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda. It was named after the ancient Chinese epic novel The Water Margin, which the group studied.

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