Volume 30: Chapter 1, Great Mountain 11–20

Great Mountain 11

Nichiren Daishonin taught that all people equally possess the Buddha nature, and revealed the way by which anyone can attain enlightenment—that is, establish a life state of absolute happiness. He elucidated the core principles of human equality and respect for the dignity of life. This is what makes Nichiren Buddhism a universal teaching that can serve as the foundation for building peace for all humankind.

Shin’ichi sensed that behind the priests’ domineering attitude toward the lay believers lurked a frighteningly treacherous nature.

During World War II, when Japan’s authoritarian rulers increasingly sought to enforce thought control on the population, Nichiren Shoshu agreed to accept the Shinto talisman dedicated to the Sun Goddess. The Soka Gakkai’s first and second presidents, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, however, steadfastly upheld the correct teachings and principles of Nichiren Buddhism. As a result, they were jailed by the militarist government, and Makiguchi later died in prison for his beliefs. The priesthood reacted to these developments by taking numerous shameful measures against the Soka Gakkai, such as banning its members from making pilgrimages to the head temple.

Yet despite that history, the Soka Gakkai after the war continued sincerely to do everything it could to support and protect Nichiren Shoshu, believing that doing so was for the good of kosen-rufu.

But the priests, who claimed to be the disciples of Nichiren Daishonin, harassed and oppressed the Soka Gakkai, which persevered in selflessly propagating the Law, just as the Daishonin instructed. This unthinkable state of affairs had persisted from the prewar days.

When viewed in the light of Buddhism, however, the situation is absolutely clear. The Daishonin tells us who it is that will destroy Buddhism: “Neither non-Buddhists nor the enemies of Buddhism can destroy the correct teaching of the Thus Come One, but the Buddha’s disciples definitely can. As a sutra says, only worms born of the lion’s body feed on the lion” (WND-1, 302).

It is the followers of Buddhism, not non-Buddhists and others who denounce Buddhism, who will destroy it. The Lotus Sutra states that “evil demons will take possession of others” (LSOC13, 233), describing how the devil king of the sixth heaven1 will take possession of priests who will then sow confusion and disunity among believers. In this scenario, those wearing priestly robes will trample on the Daishonin’s spirit and obstruct kosen-rufu.

So it was that, during Toda’s lifetime, too, the Soka Gakkai suffered unreasonable attacks from Nichiren Shoshu priests.

Shin’ichi was reminded of a stern warning delivered by his mentor: “Kosen-rufu will never advance without the Soka Gakkai. Those who seek to destroy the Soka Gakkai, a harmonious community of practitioners, are in fact obstructing kosen-rufu!”

Great Mountain 12

After reflecting on the great path of correct practice that the Soka Gakkai was following, Shin’ichi Yamamoto then turned his attention to the immediate, urgent problem confronting the organization.

He thought: “Our top priority right now must be to put a stop to the priests’ reprehensible attacks and protect the members. That’s why we have accepted the various demands by the priesthood up to now, acquiescing each and every time.”

Whenever he learned of arrogant priests in different parts of the country behaving abusively toward Soka Gakkai members, it tore at his heart. He could picture the faces of anguished and suffering members, and hear their cries of sorrow and outrage. All the efforts the Soka Gakkai had made to break out of this situation had now been brought to nothing by the irresponsible words of Vice President Genji Samejima.

Shin’ichi thought: “The Soka Gakkai is the organization that Mr. Toda declared to be more precious than his own life. I absolutely must protect the Soka Gakkai and its members. What’s the best way to do that?”

He wasn’t afraid to bear the brunt of the priesthood’s attacks if it meant protecting his beloved fellow members. He had vowed from the day of his inauguration as third president that he would take full responsibility if anything happened. That vow remained unchanged.

The Soka Gakkai was experiencing a period of unprecedented development. It had become, in name and reality, the “king of the religious world” in Japan, and a strong and sure force for peace. The grassroots network of Soka Gakkai members was beginning to spread all across the globe.

Through Buddhist study that emphasized practical relevance to daily life, the members had soundly established the principles of Nichiren Buddhism as their guiding philosophy and standard for living. Many outstanding individuals had emerged and were playing active roles in every sphere of society, inspired by a profound commitment to kosen-rufu. In addition, the Soka Gakkai’s multifaceted, socially engaged movement for peace, culture, and education based on Buddhism was gaining widespread recognition, and the circle of understanding and praise for the organization was growing significantly.

In that way, the Soka Gakkai entered 1979—the year in which the Seven Bells would come to a close—enjoying unparalleled development.

Working toward that achievement, Shin’ichi had prided himself on always being able to report victoriously to his mentor, Josei Toda. His commitment to responding to his mentor was what drove him.

Great Mountain 13

For some time, Shin’ichi had been considering handing over the reins of the Soka Gakkai presidency to someone else.

When one person shoulders a responsibility for an extended period, it can be difficult for successors to develop. To ensure the eternal transmission of the Mystic Law, he wanted to create without delay a stream of successors.

In 1970, after serving as president for just over a decade, he had informed the executive leadership a number of times of his intention to step down at some point. But they had been against the idea, insisting that the presidency was a lifelong appointment.

Then, in 1974, he handed over his post of representative director of the Soka Gakkai as a religious corporation to the Soka Gakkai’s general director. On that occasion, and later in 1977, he again brought up the subject of passing on the post of Soka Gakkai president, but both times, the executive leadership insisted he stay on.

Now, the 19th anniversary of his inauguration was approaching and the Seven Bells were also coming to a close. He had been thinking again about handing the post of president to someone new when the right time presented itself. He was just 51 and, fortunately, remained in good health. He could still support and encourage everyone after stepping down.

When Shin’ichi as a Buddhist thought about the world situation, it was clear there was still much work he had to do.

He wanted to take more substantial and broad-ranging action for world peace. He felt it important to meet and engage in dialogue with many more world leaders. He wanted to put even greater energy into promoting culture and education based on the ideals of Nichiren Buddhism. Above all, he felt the time had come to develop the worldwide movement for kosen-rufu in earnest.

But if he began to play a more international role, the next Soka Gakkai president and the rest of the executive leadership to whom he would entrust the baton of kosen-rufu in Japan would have rough seas to navigate. Although the Soka Gakkai was enjoying unprecedented growth at that time, dark clouds loomed and stormy winds were blowing. It would not be an easy voyage. Challenging trials would be inevitable. The leaders carrying on after him would need to recognize devilish forces with the clear eyes of faith and have the determination and initiative to boldly take them on and forge ahead. Shin’ichi wanted everyone to have courage now more than ever.

Seneca, the ancient Roman philosopher, said: “The assaults of adversity do not weaken the spirit of a brave [person].”2

Great Mountain 14

Shin’ichi Yamamoto attended a meeting of Seikyo Shimbun distributors in the afternoon of April 3.

Though harsh challenges were assailing the Soka Gakkai, Shin’ichi continued his efforts undaunted.

With the wish that these members with a noble mission would become proud victors in life, Shin’ichi addressed the gathering: “Your work starts before dawn, and I am sure you tend to be short on sleep. But please do your best to take care of your health, so that you can carry out your mission safely each day.

“The key to avoiding accidents is to observe the basics in both faith and daily life. Neglecting the basics is a sign of carelessness, and actually arises from arrogance. Especially, in the realm of faith, those who neglect the basics, are consumed by a desire for fame and fortune, and try to get by with the least amount of effort always stumble in the end. But don’t forget that though they may fool others, no one can escape the strict Buddhist law of cause and effect.

“I hope that you will diligently practice the basics in every area, remain unswayed by circumstances, give sincere, serious, and wholehearted attention to dealing with each challenge you face, and triumph over all. As you repeat that process, your life will begin to shine brightly. I’d like you to have confidence in this.

“Running a local distribution center is hard, unglamorous work that often goes unrecognized, and rarely allows you to take a vacation. Moreover, it comes with a heavy responsibility. But because of your efforts and those of the members who deliver the paper, people can read the Seikyo Shimbun, and kosen-rufu advances.

“As you continue in your work, confident that the Buddhas and heavenly deities are aware of all your efforts, I am chanting for your well-being and safety every day, with the greatest respect and admiration.”

Wherever there were sincere members, Shin’ichi never hesitated to encourage them, no matter how tired he was. He had decided to commit his life to encouraging people and sharing Buddhism with them, regardless of the situation he found himself in.

Great Mountain 15

On the evening of April 4, Isamu Nomura, the youth division leader, received a telephone call from the attorney Tomomasa Yamawaki, who was serving as the liaison between the priesthood and the Soka Gakkai. Yamawaki said he urgently wished to provide an update on how things stood with the priesthood.

Nomura, together with Soka Gakkai General Director Kiyoshi Jujo, met with Yamawaki to hear what he had to say.

With a seemingly troubled expression, Yamawaki began: “Because of Vice President Samejima’s statements, the priesthood is preparing to launch an all-out attack on the Soka Gakkai. To resolve the situation, Mr. Samejima naturally will have to be dealt with, but that won’t be enough. President Yamamoto will most likely have to resign, not only as the head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations but also as Soka Gakkai president. The young priests who are critical of the Soka Gakkai will not let up in their attacks unless he does so.

“Think of what will happen if the priesthood’s anger continues to grow. You need to be prepared for the worst. High Priest Nittatsu is also very upset about this most recent incident.”

The words “prepared for the worst” pierced Jujo’s heart. Samejima’s careless remarks had ruined all the Soka Gakkai’s earnest efforts to restore harmonious relations with the priesthood, and become an easy mark for those scheming to take control of the Soka Gakkai.

Jujo contacted Shin’ichi, briefly relayed what Yamawaki had said, and requested that an emergency executive conference be convened.

Clouds blanketed the sky, but the cherry trees stood with regal majesty, branches outstretched in full bloom.

On the morning of April 5, Shin’ichi attended a Soka Gakkai executive conference at the Tachikawa Culture Center in Tokyo. Its purpose was to discuss how to handle the ongoing problems with the priesthood. Jujo was there, along with several other top leaders. They all looked heavyhearted.

The meeting began with a report on the assessment made by Yamawaki, followed by an update on the recent moves by various Nichiren Shoshu priests.

Shin’ichi thought that at last the devilish functions had revealed their hand. It was a plot to force him to resign as president and drive a wedge between him and the members, between mentor and disciples. It was, ultimately, nothing other than an attempt to destroy the Soka Gakkai, the organization advancing kosen-rufu in exact accord with the Buddha’s intent.

It is crucial to see through the maneuverings of devilish functions with the eyes of faith.

Great Mountain 16

Shin’ichi Yamamoto looked intently at each of the leaders present. They all wore expressions of deep concern, but none spoke. There was a long silence.

Prompted by Shin’ichi for his opinion, one of the leaders finally murmured: “You can’t go against the flow of the times . . . .”

A sharp pain shot through Shin’ichi’s heart—“What cowardice!” he thought.

Shin’ichi was prepared to bow in apology to the priesthood if that would bring an end to the turmoil. He realized he might have no choice but to resign. He also knew how hard everyone had tried to resolve the situation. Still, he found it pitiful that they should now view the unfolding events as “the flow of the times.”

“If we just allow ourselves to be swept along by circumstances,” he thought, “then what’s happened to the Soka Gakkai spirit?! What matters is the powerful inner determination to protect the Soka Gakkai with our lives, for the sake of kosen-rufu!”

Shin’ichi broke the continuing silence, saying sternly: “All right, I will resign as the head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations and as the president of the Soka Gakkai. I’ll take full responsibility. That’s what you’re suggesting, isn’t it? That will settle everything, right?

“But it must be the Soka Gakkai, not the priesthood, that decides when its president steps down. My resignation as president is something I have been thinking about for a long time, in order to open the way for the Gakkai’s future.”

Shin’ichi believed that they must not create a precedent in which the priesthood could pressure a Soka Gakkai president to resign. He also felt that if that were to happen, it would be an eternal blot on the priesthood’s own history.

It was, after all, the Soka Gakkai, through its sincere support, that had saved the priesthood from virtual ruin in the postwar period. And more importantly, the Soka Gakkai, with Shin’ichi’s leadership, was the one and only organization acting in accord with the Buddha’s intent—advancing kosen-rufu with selfless dedication just as the Daishonin taught, spreading the Mystic Law throughout the entire world.

One leader, overcome with emotion at Shin’ichi’s words, said: “Sensei! I am so sorry . . . .”

The path of kosen-rufu entails an intense and unrelenting struggle with the devil king of the sixth heaven. Precisely because the Soka Gakkai has been able, through faith in the Mystic Law, to recognize, fight, and defeat the workings of the devil king, it has succeeded in creating a great tide of kosen-rufu.

Great Mountain 17

Shortly before his death, Josei Toda had instructed his disciples to protect the third president throughout their lives. Doing so, he said, would ensure the achievement of kosen-rufu. It was key to the unity that would open the way to continuous victory.

It wasn’t that Shin’ichi Yamamoto wanted to be protected, but he was shocked to the core that everyone seemed to have forgotten this spirit their mentor had taught them for the sake of kosen-rufu.

Thinking of the future and with a prayer in his heart, Shin’ichi said to the top leaders present: “I am a lion! I’m not afraid of anything. You need to be lions, too! Otherwise, the members will suffer. Walk the great path of Soka mentor and disciple with dauntless courage and a strong fighting spirit. If you have that firm commitment, nothing will ever shake the Soka Gakkai. President Toda is watching!”

Shin’ichi then stood up and left the room.

From a window, he could see cherry blossoms dancing in the breeze. Stopping to gaze at them, Shin’ichi thought back to the momentous struggles waged by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda as mentor and disciple.

In June 1943, fearing persecution by the militarist authorities who were seeking to unite the country around State Shinto for the war effort, Nichiren Shoshu urged the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (forerunner of the Soka Gakkai) to go along, at least outwardly, with the government’s demand that they enshrine a Shinto talisman dedicated to the Sun Goddess.

Makiguchi refused and prepared to remonstrate with the authorities, ready to face the inevitable persecution that would result. At that time, his disciple, Josei Toda, also resolved firmly to continue propagating the Mystic Law even at the risk of his life. Toda was later arrested and imprisoned along with Makiguchi. He prayed fervently in his solitary prison cell that he could bear the brunt of all charges, so that Makiguchi would be released as soon as possible.

While Nichiren Shoshu became submerged in the polluted current of slander of the Law, the spiritual unity of mentor and disciple shared by Makiguchi and Toda safeguarded the correct teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. Makiguchi died in prison, but Toda lived to be released. Carrying on his mentor’s earnest wish, he rebuilt the Soka Gakkai and paved the way for the eternal propagation of Nichiren Buddhism.

The mentor in the Soka Gakkai is the leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth who appear in the present age with a vow to widely propagate the Mystic Law, and also serves as the main axle for the advance of kosen-rufu. When the disciples’ resolve aligns with that of the mentor, the wheels of kosen-rufu begin to move powerfully. That’s why the unity of mentor and disciples is the lifeline of the Soka Gakkai.

Great Mountain 18

Shin’ichi recalled the incident that took place in April 1952, during the head temple’s festivities for the 700th anniversary of the establishment of the Daishonin’s teachings.3

Soka Gakkai youth division members discovered Jiko Kasahara, an individual the priesthood had supposedly expelled from its ranks, at the head temple.

During World War II, Kasahara, then a Nichiren Shoshu priest, opportunistically espoused the erroneous doctrine that Buddhism is subordinate to Shinto. Seeking to court favor with the militarist authorities, he betrayed the Daishonin’s teachings. His actions at that time triggered the government’s oppression of the Soka Gakkai, and ultimately led to Makiguchi dying in prison.

Having found Kasahara on the head temple grounds during the 700th anniversary festivities, the youth division members took him to Makiguchi’s grave and pressed him to admit the error of his doctrine. This incident caused an uproar in the priesthood.

It was revealed that Nichiren Shoshu had secretly reinstated Kasahara as a priest, thus turning a blind eye to his fallacious doctrine that fundamentally distorted the Daishonin’s teachings.

In response to the incident, the priesthood convened a meeting of the Nichiren Shoshu Council, whose members adopted a resolution describing what happened as “a disgraceful incident unprecedented since the head temple’s founding.” Declaring that the Soka Gakkai president had assaulted Kasahara, troubled the high priest, and disturbed the faith of the lay followers visiting the head temple, they called for Toda to submit a written apology, be dismissed from the position of senior lay representative of Nichiren Shoshu, and be barred from visiting the head temple.

While protecting the unrepentant priest who had advocated the doctrine that Buddhism is subordinate to Shinto and trampled on the Daishonin’s teachings, the Nichiren Shoshu Council sought to take harsh disciplinary action against Toda, who had tried to correct that wrong.

Shin’ichi and other disciples of Toda rose up and expressed their firm determination to defend Toda, demanding that the council’s resolution be rescinded. They met individually with the members of the council and sincerely explained what had actually taken place with Kasahara, stressing the injustice of the resolution and requesting that it be withdrawn.

In these encounters, Shin’ichi was always polite, but inside he was burning with outrage.

He thought: “The council is seeking to single out President Toda for punishment, dismissing him as senior lay representative of Nichiren Shoshu and barring him from visiting the head temple. In that way, they are trying to drive a wedge between him as president and the members.

“Without President Toda, who will advance kosen-rufu? We must protect him, no matter what. He has always staunchly upheld the truth and is completely innocent of any wrongdoing. We cannot allow the priesthood to punish him!”

This was not only the fierce determination of Shin’ichi, but that of the Soka Gakkai’s top leaders and youth division leaders as well.

The devilish functions seeking to destroy kosen-rufu always plot to sever the bonds of mentor and disciple.

Great Mountain 19

Hearing the sincere and well-reasoned explanations of Shin’ichi and Toda’s other disciples, many of the Nichiren Shoshu Council members changed their minds and agreed with revoking the resolution that called for disciplinary action against the Soka Gakkai president. Further, High Priest Nissho Mizutani did not act on the resolution.

Overcoming the Kasahara Incident served to further strengthen the united spirit of mentor and disciple in the Soka Gakkai. Uplifted by the headwinds of adversity, it launched forward majestically toward achieving Toda’s goal of 750,000 member households.

Returning to the present, what concerned Shin’ichi now, however, was that he could not discern in the attitude of the top leaders the resolute mentor-disciple spirit of dedicating one’s life to kosen-rufu, the passionate fighting spirit of the Soka Gakkai.

The following day, April 6, Shin’ichi went to the head temple to participate in its annual Scroll-Airing Ceremony. There, he met with High Priest Nittatsu and informed him of his intention to resign as the head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations and also as Soka Gakkai president.

For Shin’ichi, his key priority was to protect members from the attacks of self-serving priests. Even if he stepped down as president, he was fully confident that the younger generation of members would carry the Soka Gakkai’s torch of kosen-rufu and boldly take their place on the grand stage of the 21st century.

When one has successors, one has no worries or regrets. Leaders who know that there are youth to succeed them are happy and confident, because then a bright, hope-filled future lies ahead.

On the afternoon of April 7, Shin’ichi welcomed a 20-member delegation of the All-China Youth Federation in front of the Zhou Cherry Tree, which was in beautiful bloom, near the Pond of Literature on the Soka University campus (in Hachioji, Tokyo).

At 10:00 that morning, the group of Chinese youth had visited the Seikyo Shimbun Building in Shinanomachi, Tokyo. After receiving a warm welcome from Soka Gakkai youth division representatives, the delegation had engaged in discussions with them to promote friendly exchange between China and Japan that would endure throughout future generations. Following that event, they went to Soka University, where Shin’ichi was awaiting them.

Shin’ichi keenly felt that this was the time to bring people around the globe together through a philosophy of peace. Whatever happened, whatever storms of adversity arose, he was determined to continue his work of building bridges of peace throughout the world.

Great Mountain 20

Shin’ichi Yamamoto said “Hello” in Chinese and thanked the group for coming.

He heartily embraced the youth delegation leader, Gao Zhanxiang, who was wearing a Mao suit, and shook hands with each of the delegation members.

Gao said excitedly: “We have been looking forward to meeting you, President Yamamoto, and now our dream has come true. We admire the efforts you have made to build bridges of friendship between China and Japan.”

In response, Shin’ichi explained for Gao and the others the origins of the Zhou Cherry Tree: “This cherry tree was planted on November 2, 1975, with our prayers for the health of Premier Zhou Enlai and the wish for lasting peace and friendship between our two countries. At my suggestion, the actual planting was done by students from the People’s Republic of China who had come to study at Soka University.

“A year earlier, in December 1974, Premier Zhou met with me at the hospital in Beijing where he was being treated. Despite his illness, he spoke of his earnest wish for friendly relations between China and Japan and for world peace. During our meeting, he reflected nostalgically that he had left Japan in the season of the cherry blossoms.

“I urged him to visit Japan and see the cherry blossoms again, to which he replied that he would like to do so, but that it would probably be impossible. His expression at that moment was tinged with sad regret. That’s why I proposed planting a cherry tree, of which he was so fond, and asked the Chinese students, who carried on his vision, to do the planting.”

Ties of friendship are woven from the threads of sincerity.

The young people from the Chinese delegation listened carefully and nodded as Shin’ichi spoke.

He continued: “Premier Zhou died in January 1976, about two months after this cherry tree was planted. In my profound sorrow at the news, I made a vow. That was to devote my entire being to the friendship between China and Japan that had been his cherished wish, and do everything possible to see that it endured forever.

“With that determination, I decided to look for the opportunity to plant two more cherry trees with young Chinese leaders in honor of both Premier Zhou and his wife, Deng Yingchao. In fact, we have made preparations to do so today, and I would like to ask you to assist me now in planting those trees with gratitude for these two great leaders and a shared vow for everlasting friendship.”

  • *1Devil king of the sixth heaven: Also, devil king or heavenly devil. The king of devils, who dwells in the highest or the sixth heaven of the world of desire. He is also named Freely Enjoying Things Conjured by Others, the king who makes free use of the fruits of others’ efforts for his own pleasure. Served by innumerable minions, he obstructs Buddhist practice and delights in sapping the life force of other beings, the manifestation of the fundamental darkness inherent in life. The devil king is a personification of the negative tendency to force others to one’s will at any cost.
  • *2Seneca, “On Providence,” in Seneca in Ten Volumes: Moral Essays, translated by John W. Basore (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1928), vol. 1, p. 7.
  • *3A more detailed account of this incident can be found in The New Human Revolution, vol. 27, “Justice” chapter.