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The New Human Revolution

Victory Isles—Volume 28, Chapter 4

Illustration courtesy of Seikyo Press.

Installment 1

A resolute spirit gives rise to resolute action.

As wave upon wave eventually erodes rock, persistent, tireless effort makes history.

The Russian author Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) wrote, “All our actions proceed from faith.”[1]

The flame of joy burns bright and proud in the hearts of those who are aware of their mission and work courageously to realize it, their days full of vitality and satisfaction.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto kept working, striving and fighting.

He returned from his fourth visit to China on the evening of September 20, 1978. On September 21, he gave interviews about his trip to several media outlets and busied himself writing articles that some newspapers and magazines had requested.

On the 22nd, he took a break from writing to meet with the newly assigned chief priest of a Nichiren Shoshu temple in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. To protect the Soka Gakkai members, Shin’ichi always treated members of the priesthood with utmost sincerity and respect.

On September 23, he attended and offered guidance at a headquarters leaders meeting at the Tachikawa Culture Center in Tokyo. The following day, he traveled to Shizuoka Prefecture, where he reported to Nichiren Shoshu High Priest Nittatsu on his visit to China. He then held an informal meeting with members from the local Fujinomiya area.

It was not unusual for Shin’ichi to attend four or five meetings a day to encourage members. For example, on September 25, he spoke with members he encountered around the headquarters in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, including visitors to the nearby Seikyo Shimbun building. That evening, he attended meetings for members from Tokyo’s Shinjuku, Setagaya and Shibuya Wards (held respectively at the Shinjuku Culture Center, the Soka Culture Center Kosen-rufu Hall and the Soka Culture Center Bodhisattvas of the Earth Hall). He also attended a Shinjuku young women’s division gongyo session (at the Soka Gakkai No. 2 Annex). At each of these events, he gave his all to encouraging the participants.

With kosen-rufu steadily advancing, the sun of Soka was beginning to shine around the world. As a result, devilish functions had gathered like dark clouds and repeatedly attacked the Soka Gakkai. Shin’ichi vowed to protect the members at all costs.

Installment 2

Shin’ichi was keenly aware that creating a solid trend toward world peace was part of his mission in this lifetime. So he continued to engage in dialogues with world thinkers and leaders.

On September 27, he met with a delegation from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which included Zhou Peiyuan, the president of Peking University. And on the 28th, he met with Britain’s ambassador to Japan, Michael Wilford, and his wife, Joan Law. On the 29th, he met with Gerhard Olschowy, a University of Bonn professor emeritus.

As the founder of Soka University and the Soka schools, Shin’ichi also attended as many of their events as he could.

At the opening ceremony for the Soka University Sports Day on September 30, he encouraged the students to forge wisdom as bright as the sun and bodies as strong as steel. At the closing ceremony, he urged them to hone their wisdom and build their character. He also played table tennis with exchange students from China, after which he talked to them about the best way to live, saying that a person’s humble character reveals their greatness. The following day, October 1, Shin’ichi attended Tokyo Soka Elementary School’s first sports day.

Each day was packed, yet still he asked the top Soka Gakkai leaders: “Are there any other meetings today? Is there anyone I should meet and encourage? Please let me know!”

Constantly in action, he always asked, “What’s next?” “What’s next?” and did everything he could to encourage and guide the members.

At the national prefecture leaders conference on October 5, he said: “Having been born human, what is the greatest happiness we can experience? It is teaching others about the Mystic Law. Those who share Nichiren Buddhism with many others gain immense benefit. There truly is no greater happiness. That’s why I will continue to strive with joy and gratitude as long as I live. I hope that you, too, will have this confidence and conviction.”

Installment 3

He went on to discuss the way of life of those dedicated to kosen-rufu: “The arena for our activities for kosen-rufu is always the real world. Buddhism does not exist apart from society. That’s why we must win in society.

“Toward that end, I hope you will first become people of outstanding character admired by all. With your clear actual proof of human revolution—becoming people everyone likes and trusts—comes the solid development of kosen-rufu. Please keep in mind that we live in a time when character counts most.

“Our deepening faith will reveal itself in our humanity, expressed in words and actions rich in warm care for others. Such humanity will determine the future of kosen-rufu.”

How do we demonstrate the great power of Buddhism? With actual proof. Overcoming illness, financial hardship or problems with human relationships are all wonderful examples of proof. At the same time, only our personal transformation and growth through human revolution can fully prove the validity of Nichiren Buddhism.

Shin’ichi committed himself to fostering new capable people who would shoulder the new age. After the national prefecture leaders conference, he met with men’s and women’s division representatives and spoke at length about the attitude needed to become leaders whose character shines.

“It may seem like a minor detail, but leaders should always be punctual. Never think it’s okay for you to be a little late because you are busy. That’s a form of arrogance and self-indulgence. It will destroy not only your own credibility, but the trust people have in Soka Gakkai leaders.

“You cannot foster capable people from a position of superiority. You can do so only by striving sincerely and sparing no effort to serve the children of the Buddha, the treasures of kosen-rufu. Please always remember this.

“Help members develop in this way and let them participate joyfully in activities, while you ultimately take full responsibility for everything. This is what it means to be a genuine leader.”

Installment 4

In his travels throughout Japan, Shin’ichi had many opportunities to speak with women and others who were the only ones in their families practicing Nichiren Buddhism. One woman told him that her husband had once practiced strongly but no longer participated in activities.

When Shin’ichi asked why, she said it was because of a problem with another member, “He says that during his time in the young men’s division, he was disgusted by the arrogance of one of his leaders.”

Perhaps that person mistakenly believed that his leadership position made him more important than others and thought of his members as subordinates.

The French philosopher Voltaire (1694–1778) observed that arrogance and violence cannot win the hearts of others.[2]

The role of Soka Gakkai leaders is to serve the members, the children of the Buddha, supporting and helping them become happy and attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. This must always be how we think of leadership in the Soka Gakkai. Because leaders work hard and take responsibility for kosen-rufu, the benefit and good fortune they gain through their efforts and Buddhist practice are immense.

Another member, troubled because her daughter had stopped doing activities, told Shin’ichi, “She says she stopped because she disliked being told to do activities like introducing others to Nichiren Buddhism when she didn’t understand their point.”

Just being told to take part in Soka Gakkai activities without understanding their purpose can be distressing. That is why we need to take time to talk with people and help them understand. We should explain to them the importance of sharing Nichiren Buddhism with others and what kind of benefits we have gained by doing so.

Once they are satisfied, we should do activities with them, carefully showing how and supporting them so they can accumulate benefits. As they strive in their practice and experience the power of faith, they will be motivated to participate earnestly.

Installment 5

It is important that leaders of kosen-rufu be resolved to enable all members they are responsible for to become happy without fail. They must also interact with them sincerely, one human being to another and form ties of deep trust. Only with such a foundation will leaders’ encouragement and guidance impact and resonate with members’ hearts.

This holds true not just with Soka Gakkai members but in all human relationships. Only through regular interaction can we build trust and have open dialogue.

When leaders do their utmost to forge beautiful human relationships, kosen-rufu is sure to expand steadily.

In addition, behind every individual who stands up and begins to practice sincerely there are always seniors in faith and fellow members who have consistently encouraged and cared for them.

Countless members attest that they owe who they are today to someone’s sincere encouragement or that a member’s character inspired them to start practicing Nichiren Buddhism. 

There is nothing more noble and beautiful than the bonds shared by Soka Gakkai members. Whenever someone suffers from illness or has troubles at work, we offer encouragement, listen to them and pray they will recover or overcome their problems. Our actions arise from our empathy and concern for our friends’ happiness.

Moreover, we don’t reserve our sincere care and concern only for members; we extend it to our neighbors, friends and others in our lives. Indeed, the human solidarity we are creating is becoming a precious treasure for society.

For this reason, it pained Shin’ichi deeply whenever he heard about someone who had stopped practicing because of issues with a leader. So he continued to offer guidance on leaders’ behavior and attitude from various perspectives.

Installment 6

The sun shone through a break in the clouds.

People gathered joyfully at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters in Shinanomachi, Tokyo. Many of the men were tanned and muscular, exuding strength and vitality.

This was the first time most of them had visited the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. Standing at the gate, they looked up at the marble facade of the Soka Culture Center glistening in the sunlight, their smiles dazzling.

The first general meeting of the Outlying Islands Department (present-day Victory Isles Division) would take place in the Kosen-rufu Hall of the Soka Culture Center from 6 p.m., October 7, 1978. The long-awaited general meeting would bring together representatives from about 120 islands, from those in the seas around Hokkaido in the north to the islands of Okinawa in the south.

The first to arrive were 22 members from Naoshima Island in the Seto Inland Sea. They had started their journey the night before, taking a ferry and a special express sleeper train to arrive in Tokyo in the morning. They toured the area around the headquarters while waiting for the meeting to begin.

Two members from Rebun Island off the coast of Hokkaido had departed before noon on October 6, traveling two and a half hours by boat to arrive at Wakkanai on Hokkaido’s northern end, where the season’s first snow was falling. There, they joined three members from Rishiri Island[3] and together took a 9 p.m. express train to Sapporo, which they reached at 6 a.m. on October 7. From there, they boarded a plane to Tokyo, arriving in Shinanomachi around noon.

One woman from Japan’s westernmost island, Yonaguni in Okinawa, attended. The island is only 69 miles from Taiwan, but 319 miles from Naha, Okinawa’s capital. On a clear day, the mountains of Taiwan are visible from the island. Even in October, its weather is tropical with temperatures reaching more than 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

To travel to Tokyo from Yonaguni Island first requires a six-hour ferry ride to Ishigaki Island. There is only one ferry service every four days, and if the seas are rough, the run is canceled. Next is a 75-minute flight to Naha. And then from there, a plane is the fastest way to Tokyo.

Members from these various outlying islands had crossed the sea, filled with eager seeking spirit, and gathered at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters in high spirits.

Nichiren Daishonin writes, “The great distances these persons traveled are indicative of their devotion” (“Letter to the Mother of Oto,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 1030).

Installment 7

Also on October 7, before the Outlying Islands Department meeting, the First Okinawa Chapter Leaders Meeting took place in the Mentor-Disciple Hall at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters.

Okinawa members strongly hoped that President Yamamoto would visit them again. During his Okinawa guidance tour in February 1974, Shin’ichi also visited the remote islands of Ishigaki and Miyako to encourage the members there. More than four years had passed since then.

Fukuyasu Takami, the Okinawa Prefecture leader, discussed this with the other Okinawa leaders. One said: “From his inauguration up through 1974, President Yamamoto has visited Okinawa seven times. At first, he came every year, but on average he’s come about once every two years. Since our membership has increased in the last four years, we should request that he make his eighth visit soon.”

Takami folded his arms, nodded, and said softly: “Of course, we would like him to visit. We would very much like him to visit … ”

Then, he fell silent. A long pause followed.

Eventually, he resumed in a quiet tone.

“I was just thinking, we say that we want President Yamamoto to visit Okinawa, but is it enough for us to simply wait for him? I think not. President Yamamoto has come here seven times because he cherishes Okinawa. But we’ve somehow taken this for granted, expecting him to come to us.

“There are many countries in the world that President Yamamoto has never visited. Members there may well wish for him to come, but before they ask, they travel to Japan themselves, seeking Nichiren Buddhism and President Yamamoto’s guidance. I’ve heard that members in Africa and Latin America spend years cutting back to save money for the trip and take 10 or 20 days off from work. That seeking spirit is the essence of faith and the true way of disciples, isn’t it?”

Installment 8

Takami’s words grew more impassioned.

“Actually, I’m reflecting deeply on my own attitude. I realize I have lost my seeking spirit and become dependent on President Yamamoto.”

Fixing their eyes on Takami, the other Okinawa leaders nodded.

Tamako Uema, the women’s leader, said: “You’re absolutely right. We should go to him. Why don’t we ask if at least some representatives can have a meeting at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters?

“Of course, there is no guarantee we would be able to see him, considering his busy schedule. But most important, I think, is having a strong spirit to seek our mentor. When we have that attitude, we will be able to understand President Yamamoto’s heart and absorb everything.” 

“Yes, yes,” Takami said, vowing to himself: “Nichiren Daishonin writes, ‘One who, on hearing the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, makes even greater efforts in faith is a true seeker of the way’ (WND-1, 457). President Yamamoto has traveled to Okinawa many times, pouring his heart and soul into offering us guidance. But instead of striving harder in faith and burning with ever-greater seeking spirit, we just sit here waiting for him to return. We must get rid of that lazy attitude!”

Out loud he said with resolve: “Let’s gather at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters! And let’s make a fresh start for Okinawa!”

Everyone’s eyes sparkled.

Takami contacted the Headquarters and arranged for the First Okinawa Chapter Leaders Meeting to be held there before the general meeting for the Outlying Islands Department. Chapter leaders of the second phase of kosen-rufu[4] and youth representatives would attend.

Shin’ichi sent them a message: “Please take utmost care. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing everyone.”

Installment 9

Members who would attend the Outlying Islands Department meeting gathered in Naha and joined up with those going to the Okinawa chapter leaders meeting. They all flew together to Tokyo in the morning. Some outlying islands members had traveled by boat to either Ishigaki or Miyako Island first and then flew to Naha, where they had stayed overnight.

Arriving at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, they boarded five chartered buses, which delivered them to the Soka Gakkai Headquarters shortly after noon.

As they entered the gate to the Soka Gakkai Headquarters carrying their bags, leaders lined up on either side, including vice presidents Susumu Aota and Hisaya Yamamichi, welcomed them with hearty applause.

“Hello! Thank you for coming!”

Their warm greetings dispelled the travelers’ fatigue.

The chapter leaders meeting got underway in the Mentor-Disciple Hall. As they prayed solemnly before the Soka Gakkai Joju Gohonzon,[5] which bears the inscription “For the Fulfillment of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu through the Compassionate Propagation of the Great Law,” everyone vowed to achieve kosen-rufu in Okinawa.

Yumie Fujiya, the Soka Gakkai women’s leader, and vice presidents Hisao Seki and Eisuke Akizuki thanked everyone for making the long journey and congratulated them on their fresh start.

Shin’ichi was at the nearby Soka Women’s Center, which had just opened in June. He had arrived in advance because he wanted to take commemorative photos there with the Okinawa members after their meeting.

When the meeting closed, the leader responsible asked everyone to go to the Soka Women’s Center. The elegant two-story building, with a tan brick tile facade and turquoise roof, was just a few minutes’ walk from the Headquarters.

When the members entered, Shin’ichi greeted them with a big smile.

“Thank you for making the long trip here! I’ve been waiting for you. You have all stood up and worked very hard for kosen-rufu to realize peace in Okinawa. You are Bodhisattvas of the Earth with a noble mission and great champions of kosen-rufu. I greet you with the same respect I would greet the Buddha. This is the proper way to behave, as a human being and as a Buddhist.”

Installment 10

Looking at each member from Okinawa, Shin’ichi continued: “I am overjoyed you took the initiative to come to the Headquarters. We cannot create happiness with a passive attitude, waiting for others to do things for us. With that attitude, if no one helps us, we will end up feeling sorry for ourselves and grow to hate and resent others. This is a cause of unhappiness.

 “Nichiren Buddhism is a philosophy of self-reliance, not dependence on others. It empowers us to stand up on our own and open a new way forward. Doesn’t it teach that by changing ourselves, we can change our environment and our society?

“You have all now stood up with that awareness and launched into action. This means that the second phase of kosen-rufu in Okinawa has truly begun. I wholeheartedly celebrate the bright and glorious future that lies ahead for Okinawa. Congratulations! Now, let’s take some pictures to commemorate this occasion. That’s why I asked you here.”

The members divided into four groups for photos. Shin’ichi joined the two groups of women first and then the two groups of men.

Afterward, he said, “You’ll all be attending the Outlying Islands Department general meeting tonight, won’t you?”

“Yes!” everyone responded cheerfully.

“I’ll be there, too, so I’ll see you again then.”

Cheers and happy smiles filled the room.

Shin’ichi left the Soka Women’s Center on foot. Outlying island members were walking around the Headquarters area, and he greeted and welcomed each one he met.

“Thank you for coming from so far away!” “I’ll be at the meeting.” “Hello. What’s your name?”—a brief encounter, a single word of encouragement can become a lifelong source of inspiration. To offer encouragement is to bring light to someone’s heart.

Installment 11

Before the meeting, Shin’ichi met with some women’s division representatives from the outlying islands.

In addition to its four main islands—Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu—Japan had close to 7,000 islands, including Okinawa. Of these, approximately 400 were inhabited.

Shin’ichi shared his thoughts about the outlying islands: “Japan comprises many islands. The country’s development and wealth should not be measured by the prosperity of its big cities but by the happiness and well-being of those living on its remote islands. Whether through public policy or cultural and educational initiatives, I believe it is very important to protect and enhance the livelihoods of people on the remote islands.”

After World War II, Japan experienced remarkable development, especially in major cities, but its remote islands were left far behind. In 1953, the government passed the Remote Islands Development Act to promote the development of outlying islands and improve residents’ quality of life. 

The act focused on building ports and roads, schools and medical clinics and installing electricity and simple water-supply systems. Enacted to remain in effect for 10 years, it had been amended and extended several times.

As Japan entered its period of high economic growth [from the mid-1950s through the early 1970s], increased demand for labor on the mainland led to people leaving the islands for jobs in the cities. The depopulation resulted in a marked decline in such industries as fishing and agriculture. In many cases, local areas could not afford to operate the schools and clinics that had been built there. Though the islands now had ports, roads, electricity, and water, little had been done to substantially boost local industries. In the end, the islands were forced to rely on public works projects.

The government’s remote island policy focused only on achieving a superficial parity of living standards with the main islands. It lacked a long-term vision and understanding from the perspective of the residents themselves.

Of course, building infrastructure is vital. At the same time, an important role of government is to promote key industries that will enable the islands to become self-reliant by making the most of their unique characteristics.

Installment 12

During his meeting with the women’s division representatives, Shin’ichi listened carefully to their reports. 

On many of the islands, it was difficult to make ends meet. A steady stream of people left to find work in the big cities. Despite such challenges, Soka Gakkai members devoted themselves to their Buddhist practice, wishing for people’s happiness and their islands’ prosperity.

Shin’ichi began to speak with a powerful voice: “I am well aware of how hard you have all worked to open the way for kosen-rufu, through sweat and tears. I receive many letters from members living on remote islands. And when I am visiting areas around Japan for meetings, I always try to meet and speak as much as possible with those who have traveled there from outlying islands.

“It is not by chance that you live where you do. You have emerged on your respective islands as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, emissaries of the Buddha whom Nichiren Daishonin has entrusted with realizing kosen-rufu on your island. Children of the Buddha, dispatched by the Buddha, will never be defeated. They will never be unhappy.

“So no matter how hard things are, I ask you to grit your teeth, be strong, be brave, have a big heart and persevere. I regard as true champions, true victors, those who have steadily won people’s trust and paved the way for kosen-rufu on remote islands despite facing opposition to their faith. Their faith is stronger than that of any leader, and they are the great heroes of the Soka Gakkai.

“My reason for attending tonight’s meeting is to praise and commend all of you. That’s my job as president.”

Carrying out kosen-rufu on a remote island is no easy feat. Each island has its own customs, practices, and traditions, which have shaped people’s thinking about religion. When people start to join the Soka Gakkai, island residents meet for the first time our vibrant, dynamic religion, which aims to realize happiness for self and others and to improve society. Naturally, this religion doesn’t fit preconceived notions, and misunderstandings and prejudices arise.

Installment 13

These misunderstandings and prejudices grew into an effort to rid the islands of Nichiren Buddhism and the Soka Gakkai for being incompatible with the islands’ customs, practices, and traditions.

In particular, the lower the social position or economic status of those who began practicing, the more intense the hostility and pressure directed at them and the more often it escalated into oppression and harrassment. In some cases, members were ostracized or targeted with violence, their human rights abused.

On an island, there is no where to hide. Even if members wished to file a complaint, some islands didn’t have a police station or police officers. And even if they did, the complex power relationships on the islands often placed more importance on local customs and unspoken rules than the law.

Against this backdrop, Soka Gakkai members nevertheless prayed for their islands’ prosperity and raised the banner of kosen-rufu.

In the 1960s, members living on an island with a population of approximately 3,000 and situated about 1.2 miles off the northwest coast of Kyushu faced an onslaught of persecution.

It all started when a couple named Haruyoshi and Matsu Konno became the first there to join the Soka Gakkai in May 1959. Matsu suffered from severe menopausal symptoms, so when an acquaintance in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, told her about Nichiren Buddhism, she and her husband began their practice, hoping it would help.

Soon after, she felt a great weight lift from her both mentally and physically, and she noticed her condition had improved. She realized that this must be a benefit of starting Buddhist practice that her friend had told her about. Overjoyed, the couple began sharing Nichiren Buddhism as they had been taught. Many local people were surprised to see the formerly downcast Matsu become so full of energy and speak with such enthusiasm about Nichiren Buddhism. And in just a few months, four new households began practicing.

The following August, regional summer guidance sessions with leaders dispatched by the Soka Gakkai Headquarters took place, and the number of members on the island increased significantly. A unit, the smallest frontline organizational level at the time, was formed and soon grew to 22 households. Then, in August 1961, during another round of summer guidance sessions, the next level of organization, a group, was formed. At that point, a fierce storm of obstacles and devilish functions started to arise, as described in the passage from the Daishonin’s writings “As practice progresses and understanding grows, the three obstacles and four devils emerge in confusing form” (WND-1, 501).

Installment 14

On the way home from a discussion meeting on the last day of the 1961 round of guidance sessions, Soka Gakkai members encountered a group of island youth brandishing hoes and scythes and shouting insults. Local power holders had instigated these youth because they were displeased by the growing number of Soka Gakkai members.

In another incident, a landlord ordered a member to vacate their home because they had invited a Soka Gakkai leader over.

Community power holders devised other ways to harrass Soka Gakkai members. They decided to collect donations for local shrines from each family directly instead of the usual way of paying out of village funds. Members who expressed disagreement were regarded as uncooperative and disruptive to the community and were subsequently ostracized. In some cases, they were completely shunned socially and deprived of the right to lease village-owned land.

The island’s industries were fishing and agriculture, of which tobacco was a major part. Members were also expelled from the island’s tobacco cooperative.

When Haruyoshi Konno, a tobacco farmer, was shut out of the cooperative, he switched to growing vegetables and other crops. But no one on the island would buy his produce. He had no choice but to sell it on other islands to earn a living. In addition, none of the stores on the island would sell any goods to Soka Gakkai members.

Learning of this via telegram, chapter young men’s leaders and Kyushu Region leaders visited the village mayor to question the village’s handling of the situation  and request cooperation toward a resolution. They also asked officers at the local police station to protect the rights of members as island residents.

But the attacks persisted, affecting even children.

Other children would taunt the children of Soka Gakkai families with cries of “Soka, Soka!” and would sometimes shove them or pelt them with stones. But no matter how they were bullied, the Soka Gakkai children said nothing to their parents. They knew how hard their parents were striving and didn’t want to cause them more worry.

The members remained undefeated. Each time they were harrassed, they told one another it was a chance to change their karma. They read the Daishonin’s golden words “No matter how many terrible enemies you may encounter, banish all fears and never think of backsliding” (WND-1, 395) and reaffirmed their determination.

Installment 15

Soka Gakkai members took legal action against the harrassers and encouraged one another as they worked toward a resolution.

The truly admirable thing about the members was that they did not retreat a single step despite the intense pressures on them and their livelihoods. They had all experienced benefits such as overcoming illness and family discord since they started chanting and teaching others.

“Persecution—bring it on! It’s just as taught in the Daishonin’s writings! It’s a sign that our faith is genuine. Now is the time to share Nichiren Buddhism!”—this was their spirit.

Treasuring Nichiren’s great conviction that “Those persons who have spoken slanderously of me will in time chant in the same way” (WND-1, 672), they walked 5 or 6 kilometers (about 3.5 miles) to neighboring villages to introduce others to Buddhism.

Eventually, many people began to see the members’ ostracization as a problem, and the village mayor, council chairperson, and other community leaders gathered to discuss the issue. They apologized to the Soka Gakkai, saying: “We deeply regret that pressure by certain power holders has resulted in the unfair treatment of Soka Gakkai members.” They also expressed their wish to work together with the members for the development of the village.

Three full years had passed since the persecution began. The faith of the island members, and their sincerity as human beings, had overcome all and resulted in magnificent victory.

In Nagasaki Prefecture, many of its dozens of islands, including Hashima Island—popularly known as Gunkanjima (Battleship Island)[6]—had prospered through coal mining. Another case of persecution took place on one such island.

The incident began in February 1962, when a Soka Gakkai group was established and members began enthusiastically sharing Nichiren Buddhism.

Nichiren writes that since this world is the domain of the devil king of the sixth heaven, when people begin the struggle to spread the Mystic Law, devilish functions will arise to oppose the Buddha’s forces. The advance of kosen-rufu always calls forth a storm of persecution and oppression.

Installment 16

In June 1962, a coal dust explosion on the island killed six people and injured nine others. Workers were already disgruntled with the mining company over labor conditions, including extended working hours to meet daily quotas. So after the accident occurred, rumors of workers forming a second labor union began to circulate, fueled by the fact that the existing union sided more with the company than the workers.

The company, meanwhile, was also distrustful of its employees. Some had accepted their moving allowance and never shown up for the job. Others left work early to play pachinko,[7] while others got drunk and missed their shift. When reporting why they missed work or had to leave early, those who opposed the Soka Gakkai blamed members.

For example, one wrote that he couldn’t get enough rest on his day off because a member came to his house to talk about Buddhism when in fact they had just watched television together. Another reported that a member had kept him up late talking about the organization.

The company housing where the miners lived consisted of blocks of row houses with paper-thin walls, and neighbors could easily hear each other’s voices. Whenever members held a discussion meeting, a neighbor might claim the noise had kept him awake and use that as an excuse for missing work the next day.

For their part, Soka Gakkai members had taken great pains not to disturb their neighbors during discussion meetings.

The company came to view Soka Gakkai members with hostility. It began requiring members to get company permission before holding meetings and even told some that if they wanted to have meetings, they should move out of the company housing.

Eventually, some members decided to hold discussion meetings outdoors so as not to disturb anyone.

When the company, which had been exerting undue pressure on Soka Gakkai members, heard rumors of a second labor union underway, it assumed the organization was leading the charge. The company saw this as an attack against it and reacted with open antagonism. But it was a complete misunderstanding.

Uneasiness about their oppressive response to the Soka Gakkai made company officials jittery. They became afraid of their own shadow.


Installment 17

Still, the company felt it had to curb the Soka Gakkai’s influence. It sent representatives out to members’ homes to pressure them and confiscate their Gohonzons.

Learning of this, young men’s division members on the island rose to action. Three or four young men, led by group leader Hirosuke Tayama, arranged a meeting with the company’s personnel officers to voice their protest.

“Isn’t freedom of religion a right equally recognized for all Japanese people? The company has no right to confiscate our object of devotion, the Gohonzon. That infringes on our religious freedom. It is oppression. You must return the Gohonzons you confiscated immediately!”

The personnel manager replied arrogantly: “By Gohonzon, I presume you are referring to the scrolls in the Buddhist altars. We took them only with the consent of the parties involved. Isn’t it also freedom of religion for someone to say they want to quit the Soka Gakkai?”

“Well, let me ask you, Why is the company getting involved with individuals’ religious beliefs in the first place? Now you’re even refusing to hire Soka Gakkai members! That is religious discrimination. We will fight to protect our basic human rights.”

“The company has stepped in because there’s a concern that Soka Gakkai members might cause trouble and impair our operations.”

“What are you saying? Where is your proof? Do you know what the Soka Gakkai teaches about jobs and work?”

Tayama went on to earnestly explain that the Soka Gakkai followed the guidance of “In faith, do the work of one; in your job, do the work of three,” and that President Yamamoto always encouraged members to be outstanding employees. As the conversation continued, the young men realized that prejudice and misunderstanding of the Soka Gakkai had led to the company’s unfair treatment of members. Their protest naturally grew into an opportunity to share Nichiren Buddhism.

Installment 18

Tayama spoke at length about the kind of religion the Soka Gakkai was and what it aimed to achieve. Gradually, the personnel officers’ attitudes and expressions changed. Some even nodded as they listened.

The manager said: “Let me ask you frankly, Is the Soka Gakkai planning to form a second labor union to oppose the company?”

“We have no intention of doing that. If, however, the company ignores the law and jeopardizes our human rights, we will fight with all our might.”

Tayama next asked about the confiscated Gohonzons. The company officials then revealed the names of the 15 households involved. They also said the Gohonzons were “in safekeeping.” It goes without saying that the company had no business removing the Gohonzons, which were the members’ personal objects of devotion, and it agreed to return them.

Through this discussion, the company came to understand that the Soka Gakkai was not planning to form a second labor union and that its guidance emphasized being good members of society. Thereafter, Soka Gakkai members could once again conduct activities in company housing, and more new members appeared.

Mahatma Gandhi said: “One has to speak out and stand up for one’s convictions.”[8]

To defend the truth and human rights, we need to summon our courage and speak out. It is always silence that allows evil to run rampant.

In 1972, the coal mine on the island closed. Many residents left in search of work elsewhere, but about 50 Soka Gakkai households decided to remain. Tiger shrimp farming and tourism became the island’s main industries, and Soka Gakkai members played a key role in the island’s revival.

These two islands are not particularly remote, located quite close to the Kyushu mainland. Nevertheless, Soka Gakkai members faced relentless persecution in both places. But they persevered and continued to pioneer the way for kosen-rufu.


  1. Leo Tolstoy, What I Believe, translated by Constantine Popoff (London: Elibron Classics, 2005), p. 156. ↩︎
  2. See Voltaire, Siècle de Louis XIV (The Age of Louis XIV),in Œuvres complètes de Voltaire (Complete Works of Voltaire), vol. 20 (Paris: P. Dupont, Libraire-Éditeur, 1823), p. 503. ↩︎
  3. Rebun and Rishiri Islands are two small islands off Hokkaido’s northernmost point. ↩︎
  4. In January 1978, the Soka Gakkai launched a new chapter system in Japan for the second phase of kosen-rufu. ↩︎
  5. In addition to the words “For the Fulfillment of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu through the Compassionate Propagation of the Great Law,” this Gohonzon also bears the inscription “To Be Permanently Enshrined in the Soka Gakkai” (Jpn Soka Gakkai Joju). As a result, it is commonly called the Soka Gakkai Joju Gohonzon. It is now enshrined in the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu in Shinanomachi, Tokyo. ↩︎
  6. It is known as Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) because its silhouette resembles a battleship. ↩︎
  7. A Japanese form of entertainment that is a cross between a pinball machine and a slot machine. ↩︎
  8. Mahatma Gandhi, The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol. 83 (January 20, 1946–April 13, 1946), (New Delhi: Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, 1994), p. 241. ↩︎

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