The New Human Revolution
A new chapter of history has opened. The sun of Nichiren Buddhism has risen brightly in the skies of the 21st century, and the banner of Soka humanism waves in 192 countries and territories around the globe.
Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Can there be any doubt that . . . [the Law] will be spread far and wide [Jpn. kosen-rufu] throughout . . . Jambudvipa [the entire world]?” (WND-1, 550). The Soka Gakkai has made these words of the Daishonin a reality, creating a great eternal river of worldwide kosen-rufu that will nourish and enrich the ten thousand years and more of the Latter Day of the Law. The Human Revolution (12 volumes) and its sequel The New Human Revolution (30 volumes), which describe the vow for kosen-rufu and the process of building peace, have reached their conclusion with the publication of this final volume.
Fifty-four years have passed since I began writing The Human Revolution on December 2, 1964, and 25 years since I started writing The New Human Revolution [on August 6, 1993]. I am sure my mentor, Josei Toda, is smiling and nodding in approval at the completion of this “day-to-day record” (WND-2, 843), or chronicle, of the Soka Gakkai’s efforts for kosen-rufu that his disciple poured his heart and energy into writing.
The Human Revolution begins just a short time before Japan’s defeat in World War II, on July 3, 1945—the day that Toda, who had been incarcerated by the country’s militarist authorities, was released from prison. Inheriting the legacy of his mentor—first Soka Gakkai president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who had fought against government persecution and died in prison for his beliefs—Toda set about rebuilding the Soka Gakkai, which was in a state of virtual collapse, and eventually took the lead as its second president. The novel goes on to describe how Toda, joined by his disciple Shin’ichi Yamamoto, achieved his lifelong goal of increasing the Soka Gakkai’s membership to 750,000 households and laid the foundations for kosen-rufu in Japan, before his death on April 2, 1958. It concludes with the inauguration of his successor, Shin’ichi, as the third Soka Gakkai president.
I decided to write The Human Revolution as a biographical novel about Mr. Toda to present the truth about my mentor, who bore the brunt of the public’s misunderstanding and criticisms of the Soka Gakkai, and to let the world know about his life and achievements. I also wanted to record for posterity the true history of the Soka Gakkai spirit and the path of genuine faith.
The Human Revolution began publication in serial form in the New Year’s day issue of the Seikyo Shimbun in 1965. After the appearance of the final installment on February 11, 1993, I received requests from many of our members to write a sequel.
The true greatness of the mentor is demonstrated by the lives and achievements of the disciples. In addition, to communicate Mr. Toda’s spirit to future generations, I knew I would have to chronicle the path taken by the disciples who carried on his legacy. The Seikyo Shimbun also expressed a strong desire for me to write a sequel, so, regarding this as my mission, I agreed.
I began writing The New Human Revolution on August 6, 1993, at the Nagano Training Center. Karuizawa, where the center is located, is a profoundly memorable place for me, for I spent my last summer with Mr. Toda there in August 1957, and it was during that stay that I vowed in my heart to write a novel about Mr. Toda’s life. That August 6 also marked 48 years since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the first use of nuclear weapons in history. This was the place and time I decided to begin writing The New Human Revolution.
I started writing my earlier novel, The Human Revolution, on December 2, 1964, in Okinawa, which had been the site of brutal ground fighting during World War II. I opened that novel with the words: “Nothing is more barbarous than war. Nothing is more cruel.”
In The New Human Revolution, I began with the words: “Nothing is more precious than peace. Nothing brings more happiness. Peace is the most basic starting point for the advancement of humankind.”
The aim of worldwide kosen-rufu is the realization of peace and happiness for all humanity. In these opening lines of my two novels, I wanted to leave an eternal record of my vow as a disciple to carry on the spirit and ideals of the first two Soka Gakkai presidents and change the direction of history from an age of war to an age of peace.
I was 65 years old when I began The New Human Revolution, planning on completing it in 30 volumes. I knew it would entail having to write amid my travels not only in Japan, but also to countries all over the globe. I undertook the task, fully recognizing that it would be an intense and unremitting struggle to complete it within my lifetime.
Serialization of the novel in the Seikyo Shimbun began on November 18, 1993.
Each day was a battle into which I poured my heart and soul. Calling to mind my precious fellow members in Japan and around the world striving so earnestly in faith, I tapped the deepest recesses of my being to write my tale, as if I were sending a letter of encouragement to each one of them. At the same time, I was also engaging in an inner dialogue with my mentor as I wrote. His voice would echo in my mind, urging me to transmit the Soka Gakkai spirit for posterity and fulfill my mission in this life. That would sweep away all weariness and fill me with courage.
I completed “Vow,” the sixth and final chapter of volume 30, on August 6, 2018, exactly 25 years after I had first begun the novel, and at the very same place, the Nagano Training Center. When I embarked on this chapter, I had already decided that I would aim for the final installment to be published in the Seikyo Shimbun on September 8, the anniversary of the day Mr. Toda made his Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons in 1957—because this day marks the starting point of the Soka Gakkai’s peace activities. To actualize my mentor’s wish for peace, I traveled around the world and worked with our members to create a growing tide of Soka humanism. I therefore felt that this was the only possible day to bring this story of Mr. Toda’s successors to its close.
The New Human Revolution begins with Shin’ichi’s departure on his first overseas journey on October 2, 1960, five months after his inauguration as third Soka Gakkai president on May 3. It describes his efforts in Japan to construct a castle of kosen-rufu embodying the victory of the people, and also his travels to 54 countries and territories, sowing the seeds of peace of the Mystic Law and building countless bridges of educational and cultural exchange. It continues up to November 2001, the year marking the start of the new century, a grand milestone toward which the Soka Gakkai had long worked.
In the course of those decades, the Cold War between East and West came to an end, and the Soviet Union, one of the main players in that conflict, collapsed. During the Cold War, in search of a way to unite humanity, Shin’ichi engaged in dialogues with many leading world thinkers, not least the historian Arnold J. Toynbee. At a moment of heightened tensions between the Soviet Union and China, he made repeated visits to both countries, meeting with Soviet Premier Aleksey Kosygin and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. He traveled to the United States, where he met and spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Later, he also met and spoke frequently with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, with whom he developed a warm friendship.
Nichiren Buddhism teaches that all people possess the Buddha nature. It is a profound teaching that affirms the dignity and preciousness of life and the fundamental equality of all human beings. Its spirit of universal compassion offers a model of human behavior. Nichiren Buddhism is a great philosophy that can transform suspicion into trust, hatred into friendship; eliminate war and conflict; and realize lasting peace. Shin’ichi’s travels for peace were an endeavor to make its humanistic principles and ideals the spirit of the age and bring the world together.
A major catalyst for the dynamic development of the Soka Gakkai, which was energetically advancing worldwide kosen-rufu, was its attainment of spiritual independence from the corrupt and ossified Nichiren Shoshu priesthood.
The Soka Gakkai had stoically endured the terrible treatment by priests who were openly contemptuous of believers. It had sought to maintain harmonious relations between the priesthood and the laity and continued to sincerely support Nichiren Shoshu. All of this had been solely for the sake of advancing kosen-rufu, the cherished wish of Nichiren Daishonin. But priests of Nichiren Shoshu became increasingly dogmatic and flaunted their clerical authority. In the process, they even came to reject as slander of the Law the artistic and cultural works that were inspired by other faith traditions yet were considered by people around the world as the heritage of all humanity. Growing ever more authoritarian, they adopted an unjust policy of extreme discrimination against the laity, and sought to establish a system in which lay followers were completely subjugated by the priesthood, with the high priest at its zenith. This was a betrayal of the Daishonin’s spirit and a violation of the Buddhist teachings of respect for the dignity of life and the equality of all people.
If this were to continue, the fundamental principles of Nichiren Buddhism would be distorted in a way that it no longer resembled a teaching for realizing happiness and peace for all humanity. With the rallying cry of “Return to the spirit of the Daishonin!” the Soka Gakkai rose up to carry out a religious reformation and remonstrated with the priesthood. Nichiren Shoshu’s response to the Soka Gakkai, the organization striving for kosen-rufu in exact accord with the Daishonin’s intent, was to issue a call for it to disband, followed soon after by a notice of excommunication.
November 28, 1991, the day Nichiren Shoshu sent that final notice, became the Soka Gakkai’s Spiritual Independence Day, marking its liberation from the fetters of the priesthood. The dark clouds hanging over the Soka Gakkai’s future were swept away and the path to worldwide kosen-rufu suddenly opened wide before us. It was the dawn of a new day when the Soka Gakkai would soar freely into the 21st century as a truly global religious movement.
The main theme of both The Human Revolution and The New Human Revolution is: “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.”
How, then, do we actually go about changing our destiny or karma?
The profound awakening that Josei Toda experienced while in prison holds the answer to this question. Wishing to grasp the truth of the Lotus Sutra, he carefully read its passages again and again and chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo each day in his prison cell. In the course of doing so, he eventually awakened to the fact that he had been present along with Nichiren Daishonin at the Ceremony in the Air depicted in the Lotus Sutra and was a Bodhisattva of the Earth entrusted with propagating the Law in the Latter Day. With inexpressible joy at this realization, he vowed to dedicate his life to kosen-rufu.
The Daishonin writes: “If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth” (WND-1, 385). As this indicates, we, who devote ourselves to kosen-rufu just as the Daishonin teaches, are irrefutably Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Why is it, then, that we—noble bodhisattvas tasked with the solemn undertaking of kosen-rufu—have been born with karma that causes us various kinds of suffering?
The “Teacher of the Law” (10th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra states: “These people voluntarily relinquish the reward due them for their pure deeds and, in the time after I have passed into extinction, because they pity living beings, they are born in this evil world so they may broadly expound this sutra” (LSOC10, 200). The Great Teacher Miao-lo of China identifies this passage as articulating the principle of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma.”
Just as this principle explains, we have chosen, in accord with our vow as bodhisattvas, to be born into the evil age of the Latter Day of the Law with all sorts of destinies, or karma—illness, financial hardship, family discord, loneliness, low self-esteem, and the list goes on—to help guide others to enlightenment. But by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, striving in our Buddhist practice for ourselves and others, and dedicating our lives to kosen-rufu, our vibrant life force as Bodhisattvas of the Earth and the expansive life state of Buddhahood well forth within us. Our lives will brim with the wisdom, courage, strength, hope, and joy to overcome every hardship and daunting obstacle that arises. As we bravely triumph over the onslaughts of karma, we demonstrate the validity of the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism and the tremendous benefit of our Buddhist practice, and further advance kosen-rufu. In fact, we have willingly taken on these hardships and sufferings in order to do just that.
Karma and mission are two sides of the same coin, and our karma directly becomes our unique and noble mission. That is why, when we dedicate our lives to kosen-rufu, there is no destiny that we cannot change.
We are all Bodhisattvas of the Earth and have a right to become happy. We are the lead players and stars in a glorious drama performed on the grand stage of life—a drama of changing the icy winds of winter into the warm sunshine of spring, transforming suffering into joy.
The New Human Revolution unfolds as a story of changing karma or destiny into mission. The quintessential teaching of Nichiren Buddhism does not view life and its phenomena as fixed or static, but elucidates life’s dynamism, in which everything is changing and open to change, as is seen in such principles as “earthly desires are enlightenment,” “the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana,” and “changing poison into medicine.” It also perceives the potential for Buddhahood in the depths of the life of each suffering human being, and teaches the way to awaken and manifest that life state—in other words, the supreme positive potential, creativity, and autonomy of human beings. This process of changing our lives, or inner transformation, we call human revolution.
Human beings are the builders and shapers of the societies, nations, and the world in which they live. Hatred and trust, disdain and respect, war and peace—all are the products of the human heart and mind. As a result, without human revolution, there can be no true personal happiness, social prosperity, or lasting world peace. Without this crucial element, any attempts to effect enduring change will be in vain. The philosophy of human revolution based on the principles of Nichiren Buddhism is certain to become a new guide for humanity as we set forth into this third millennium.
The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy observed to the effect that an immortal spirit likewise requires immortal deeds.1 It is my sincere hope that Soka Gakkai members will make the completion of The New Human Revolution a fresh starting point and stand up as “Shin’ichi Yamamotos” to work for the happiness of others. I pray that, through their tireless, tenacious efforts, they will create their own brilliant history of human revolution.
As long as suffering and misery exist anywhere on our planet, we must continue to weave with rich color and bold creativity the magnificent tapestry of human victory that is kosen-rufu. That is why our mentor-disciple journey to realize the great vow for kosen-rufu will continue forever.
In closing, I would like to thank the late Kaii Higashiyama, whose painting is featured on the cover of each of the 30 volumes of The New Human Revolution; Ken’ichiro Uchida, who created the illustrations for the novel’s serialized installments for 25 years; the editors and publishers of the Seikyo Shimbun; all those who have assisted in the process; and especially all of you, my readers.
September 8, 2018
—On the conclusion of the serialization of
The New Human Revolution in the Seikyo Shimbun,
at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters complex, Shinanomachi, Tokyo.
- *1Translated from Russian. L. N. Tolstoy, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii v 90 tomakh (Complete Works in 90 volumes), vol. 45 (Moscow: TERRA, 1992), p. 46.