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Celebrating 30 Years of ‘The Sun of Jiyu Over a New Land’ With a New Pledge for Peace!

Photo by Cedric Letsch.

In the spring of 1992, the world’s eyes were on Los Angeles, as the verdict in the Rodney King trial sparked massive social unrest and a national debate about police brutality, racial discrimination and economic disparity.

In six days of intense rioting, more than 60 people were killed and 2,300 injured in Los Angeles, with over $1 billion in property damage concentrated in the city’s most disenfranchised neighborhoods.

It was in this aftermath that, on January 27, 1993, Ikeda Sensei attended the Second SGI-USA General Meeting, which was broadcast from the World Peace Ikeda Auditorium in Santa Monica, California, to some 60 locations around the U.S. 

During the meeting, Ikeda Sensei introduced his poem “The Sun of Jiyu Over a New Land,” saying:

Kansai is the heart of the kosen-rufu movement in Japan; Los Angeles, in America; and America, in the world. I would like to present this poem with my infinite hopes and expectations for the members of Los Angeles and the United States. Although this poem is dedicated to the Los Angeles members, it goes without saying that its message is relevant to all SGI-USA members.[1]

In this poem, Sensei expresses his fundamental wish for each individual to awaken to their true identity as jiyu, or Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who ceaselessly strive to build a harmonious society by helping others bring forth their limitless potential through faith in Nichiren Buddhism.

It was a theme he had continually emphasized to the American members since his first visit here in October 1960. To be sure, Sensei visited Los Angeles in August 1965, when the Watts riots erupted. The day before his departure, a Soka Gakkai leader urged Sensei to postpone his trip. He refused, emphasizing that now was precisely the time to make greater efforts to spread the Buddhist philosophy of respect for the dignity of life in America. While in Los Angeles, he addressed the members, saying:

I wish to declare … that as the Daishonin’s teaching spreads, the path to lasting peace will be opened and problems regarding nuclear weapons, racial discrimination and ethnic conflict will be resolved. This is because Nichiren Buddhism is the supreme philosophy that teaches that all people are equal and that, regardless of nationality, race or ethnic background, they possess the most noble and unsurpassed state of life of Buddhahood. Buddhism is the only path that leads to the actualization of enduring world peace and human happiness.[2]

On January 30, three days after presenting this poem, Sensei paid homage to the mother of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks. They met in Calabasas, California, and discussed their mutual dream of creating a world where the poor are not forgotten and war no longer exists.

Sensei’s message is perhaps even more relevant now. In a society where the division between people and nations grows deeper still, the poem calls on us to usher in the Second American Renaissance, in which we advance from “divisiveness to union,” “conflict to coexistence” and “hatred to fraternity.”

He continues, “In our struggle, in our fight, there cannot be even a moment’s pause or stagnation.”

This timeless poem expresses Sensei’s wish and expectation that America, as a multicultural nation, lead the way for all humanity.

The 30th anniversary marks an opportune moment to make a fresh pledge to create lasting change by helping many others still awaken to the life state of jiyu within.

Becoming the Sunshine

by Fahamisha Butler
Los Angeles

Driving back to my community on the day of the Rodney King verdict was scary. There were so many fires, and from afar, it looked like the whole neighborhood was burning. Anger was in the air, and you could feel it. It wasn’t only the verdict but so many other incidents of hate. I had been living just a few blocks from where Latasha Harlins, a Black teenager, was shot and killed at a convenience store by the owner’s wife because it was assumed she was stealing a bottle of orange juice.

At the time, I was a high school teacher and virtually all the students were Black. Everyone was deeply upset, and I had to pause traditional teaching. I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo each day for the wisdom to give them hope. I found relevant films and books to introduce to my students. I brought in community activists. I wanted them to see that a path forward exists, and they shouldn’t give in to despair.

I recently attended a conference at the SGI-USA Florida Nature and Culture Center and was approached by a man who said he was my student at that time! He said that he always enjoyed my class and that I was one of his favorite teachers.

The key to giving others hope, I realized, was creating hope within myself. I dove into reading Nichiren Daishonin’s writings more than ever. Nichiren reminds us that in order to transform the land, we need to transform our hearts.

“The Sun of Jiyu Over a New Land” has come to have deeper meaning for me over these 30 years. I have gone back to it in moments of struggle, especially in times of racial tension. One portion that strikes me is:

Beloved Los Angelenos!
I want you each to be
like the California sunshine,
showering on all people
the bright light and warmth
of your compassion.
Be people who extend hope and courage,
who inspire respect and gratitude
wherever you go.[3]

In this poem, I feel as if Sensei explains our role as Bodhisattvas of the Earth—to shed the warmth of our humanity to those around us.

I have read this poem over and over during the COVID-19 pandemic, when social inequality was put under a microscope. It speaks to me personally, as if Ikeda Sensei is telling me, “You have to break the shell of your lesser self and speak to the Buddha nature of each person you meet!” This has inspired me to plant seeds of the Mystic Law, telling many people about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo so they can have the tool to create their own happiness.

I’m determined to help the members in my chapter strengthen their practice and increase the youth division! The year 2030 will be here in just seven years, which inspires me to strive each day to build an unshakable foundation for kosen-rufu here in Los Angeles.

Forging a Deep Connection With My Mentor

by Dave Sedmak
Redondo Beach, California

The L.A. riots marked a turbulent time, and it was difficult to keep hope that we could transform society. When it happened, I recalled the 1965 Watts riots, and was thinking, I thought things were improving, but here we are again. I jumped into relief and clean-up efforts with other SGI-USA members. I’ll never forget the looks of anguish on people in the community who lost loved ones, homes or businesses. Not to mention the armed National Guard soldiers on each street corner.

What kept me going, however, was visiting SGI-USA members. Despite the profound challenges each member was facing, they were filled with determination to uplift the hearts of others. After each visit, I felt hope that we would get through this.

Then came January 27, 1993. I attended the meeting with Ikeda Sensei, where he presented “The Sun of Jiyu Over a New Land.” In the past, whenever I heard him say he was chanting for us, I couldn’t believe it. I felt he couldn’t understand what it was like to live or practice in America. As the poem was read, however, tears flowed down my cheeks. I finally understood that Sensei understands our country, our society, our city and our hearts. My relationship to him as a mentor completely changed. For the first time, I understood Sensei’s heart, what he was trying to accomplish and how he was trying to accomplish it.

What struck me in the poem was:

As each group seeks its separate
roots and origins,
society fractures along a thousand fissure lines. …
Seek out the primordial “roots” of humankind.
Then you will without fail discover
the stately expanse of  Jiyu
unfolding in the depths of your life.[4]

I feel this expresses our mission as SGI members, to unite with all people based on our common humanity. And actualizing Sensei’s vision for peace is dependent upon us.


  1. My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 202. ↩︎
  2. The New Human Revolution, vol. 10, p. 87. ↩︎
  3. MDFA, 213. ↩︎
  4. My Dear Friends in America, p. 208. ↩︎

The Sun of Jiyu Over a New Land

The Path of Soka Is the Runway to a Life of Triumph