Volume 30: Chapter 1, Great Mountain 31–40
Great Mountain 31
The Soka Gakkai is a gathering of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, which appeared in the world to actualize kosen-rufu, the wish that Nichiren Daishonin entrusted to his disciples. That is why its first and second presidents, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda, both focused their attention on the goal of realizing happiness for all humanity, and devoted themselves to opening the way for kosen-rufu through their selfless commitment to spreading the Law.
Carrying on that spirit as their disciples, we, the members of the Soka Gakkai, are spreading the Mystic Law with courage and pride in order to fulfill our mission in this lifetime. No matter what happens, as long as we stay on this noble path of Soka mentor and disciple, the development of our movement to compassionately spread the Law will never cease. Then, the wheels of history will move in the direction of world peace and happiness for all, and we will be able to lead lives of joy and true fulfillment. Shin’ichi wanted the members to remain steadfast in that conviction.
On the afternoon of April 16 (1979), Shin’ichi welcomed former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, who was visiting Japan, at the Soka Gakkai’s House of International Friendship (now Tokyo International Friendship House) in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward. It was their first meeting in four years.
Kissinger was born in Germany in 1923. His family was Jewish and moved to the United States when he was still a child to escape Nazi persecution.
He attended Harvard College, where he received a degree in political science. He went on to study and receive his doctorate at Harvard University, where he joined the faculty and, in 1962, was promoted to full professor. He later served as national security advisor and secretary of state to U.S. President Richard Nixon. During Kissinger’s term in office, he encouraged Nixon to visit China and the Soviet Union. He also played an important role in the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and in the Vietnam peace negotiations, and he worked to promote peace in the Middle East. His diplomatic efforts gained worldwide attention.
Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. Following the inauguration of U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1977, he left the White House and became a professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
“Welcome! I’ve been looking forward to our meeting!” Shin’ichi said, firmly shaking Kissinger’s hand. They strolled through the garden of the House of International Friendship and talked about each other’s recent activities.
Shin’ichi hoped that, through his dialogue with Kissinger, they could discover new possibilities for bringing about lasting peace.
Inspiration and insights gained through dialogue engender fresh wisdom and new ideas.
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After their walk through the garden, Shin’ichi Yamamoto and Henry Kissinger went inside and sat down in a reception room, where they continued their conversation.
Kissinger told Shin’ichi that a volume of his memoirs would soon be published, explaining that its focus was his work in foreign policy and diplomacy, rather than his personal life.
Shin’ichi immediately said: “Actual efforts and accomplishments are what matter most—whether they be in the field of diplomacy, or in the lives we build for ourselves.”
Kissinger smiled shyly.
They discussed many subjects, including the people who had had an important influence on their lives, messages they wished to impart to today’s youth, and situations taking place around the world. When the subject turned to the threat of war, Shin’ichi stressed that philosophies, religions, and ideals that promote peace are indispensable. Kissinger voiced his complete agreement.
Shin’ichi then touched on the history of India, the reign of King Ashoka, and the principles of Buddhism that served as a cornerstone for peace.
He said: “Ashoka was able to create an ideal government by basing himself on Buddhism, which teaches that all people possess the Buddha nature, the supreme and incomparable life state of Buddhahood. This principle is not only the foundation for respecting the dignity of life, but also a teaching of human equality. It gives rise to a philosophy that values peace and humanism.”
The two men agreed that they would need much more time to explore the various issues that they had raised in their discussion, and decided to meet again in the future to engage in a dialogue that could provide insights for shaping the 21st century.
That was realized when they met in September 1986 and spoke over two consecutive days. Their dialogue, which they also continued through correspondence, was serialized in the Soka Gakkai–affiliated magazine Ushio from January through August 1987. In September the same year, it was published as a book in Japanese, titled Heiwa to Jinsei to Tetsugaku wo Kataru (Discussions on Peace, Life, and Philosophy).
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Shin’ichi Yamamoto was determined that now was the time to communicate and spread the Buddhist philosophy of respect for the dignity of life and the equality of all people, which could serve as a cornerstone for peace, and to make it the guiding spirit for the 21st century.
On April 20, the 28th anniversary of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, he met and talked with Indian Express Editor-in-Chief S. Mulgaokar at the Kanagawa Culture Center. They discussed efforts for promoting peace, the mission of newspapers, and other topics.
Focused on the monumental goal of realizing world peace, Shin’ichi continued his dialogues with leaders and thinkers from countries around the globe. At the same time, motivated by his wish for the happiness of every Soka Gakkai member, he devoted each spare moment he could to visiting members at home and offering personal guidance. At the Kanagawa Culture Center, too, he greeted and spoke with dozens of visiting members, offering them words of encouragement and guidance.
He had firmly resolved that no matter what happened and whatever his position, he would keep on encouraging his dear fellow members, and forever walk together with ordinary, hardworking people.
Our efforts to value, support, and encourage one person and our actions to realize world peace have the same starting point. Both are inspired by the Buddhist teaching that all people are inherently Buddhas, and embody compassionate practice based on that belief.
Shin’ichi also spoke with Kanagawa Prefecture youth division leader Takayoshi Oga and other youth, telling them: “The world is your stage! Make the most of this precious life and join me in the great adventure of worldwide kosen-rufu!”
Seeing the resolve and commitment shining in the young people’s eyes, he felt boundless hope.
Shin’ichi was always vividly aware of the suffering that people around the world faced from war, famine, poverty, and other challenging realities. He also pondered deeply what he could do to bring an end to the Cold War that had been dividing the world.
As one concerned citizen, as a private individual, he was determined to continue conducting dialogues with world leaders for the purpose of bringing people together. He knew that, no matter how impossible it seemed, this was the only way to build peace.
Shin’ichi had a powerful vision of the Soka Gakkai embarking on a new voyage, headed into the vast new expanse of the 21st century that lay ahead, holding high the banner of humanity.
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On April 22, Shin’ichi Yamamoto went to the Nichiren Shoshu head temple to meet with High Priest Nittatsu.
It was a beautiful afternoon. Mount Fuji rose majestically in the blue sky, clouds floating above its snowcapped peak. Fierce cold winds were no doubt raging at the summit, but the mountain stood serene and imperturbable, a sight that Shin’ichi found inspiring and uplifting.
He had come to see resigning as head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations and as Soka Gakkai president as a positive step for the sake of the future.
Of course, his purpose in resigning was to protect his precious fellow members by bringing an end to the unreasonable attacks on the Soka Gakkai by some of the younger Nichiren Shoshu priests. But now, as the Seven Bells were drawing to a close, he sensed the arrival of a new day of dynamic growth and development for the Soka Gakkai. In addition, there were still many things he wished to accomplish for which, as president, he hadn’t had the time. One of them was holding interfaith dialogue for the sake of world peace. Another was to spend more time personally encouraging members, especially visiting pioneer members at their homes.
In his meeting with High Priest Nittatsu that day, Shin’ichi confirmed his intention to resign as the head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations, as he had previously informed him. He said that he would formally submit his resignation on April 26. Nittatsu told Shin’ichi that he would like, after that, to appoint him as the honorary head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations.
Shin’ichi further told the high priest of his plan to step down as Soka Gakkai president—a position he had held for 19 years—at this time coinciding with the completion of the Seven Bells.
Shin’ichi envisaged that, even after the start of a new phase for the organization, he would still be able to support the members and exert himself in activities for peace, culture, and education.
The Soka Gakkai is an organization dedicated to kosen-rufu; it appeared in the world to work for human happiness and world peace. It could, therefore, not permit the progress of kosen-rufu to falter. Shin’ichi not only resolved firmly to begin a fresh struggle in a new role, but also prayed earnestly for the fresh development of the Soka Gakkai as a whole. He called out in his heart: “A way forward opens when there is one determined individual. My disciples, rise up as lions! The crucial moment is here at last!”
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Shin’ichi Yamamoto contributed an article titled “Thoughts on the Completion of the Seven Bells,” which was published on the front page of the April 24 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai daily newspaper. This had been decided in consultation with the organization’s top leaders.
With the Seven Bells drawing to a close, Shin’ichi wished to convey his gratitude to the members who had worked alongside him, sharing hardships and joys together, and also to help prepare them for the new start the Gakkai would be making.
He began: “Walking the great path of kosen-rufu since the time of founding president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, we have advanced with the Seven Bells—a series of seven seven-year milestones or goals—as landmarks for our progress. We are now celebrating the culmination of the Seven Bells, which will end on Soka Gakkai Day this year, May 3, 1979.”
Shin’ichi then went on to express his deep respect and admiration for the members who had devoted themselves with unwavering commitment to the sacred task of compassionately spreading Nichiren Buddhism.
“Twenty-one years have passed since the death of President Toda, and I have been honored and privileged to serve as Soka Gakkai president for a full 19 years until the present—close to two decades—and along with you write a history of shared struggles and victories.
“I would like to take this opportunity to once again express my humble gratitude to all of you, valiant champions of the Mystic Law, who have striven energetically for kosen-rufu while continuing in every imaginable way to support me, despite my shortcomings. Please be assured that the invaluable work we have achieved together will become an eternal treasure in your lives.
“We are an assembly of ordinary people in the Latter Day of the Law. Much of what we have done, we have done through a process of trial and error. We have achieved progress and also experienced setbacks. But we have always weathered the stormy seas of adversity, created a rising tide of development, and directed our efforts toward consolidating that tide so that we could realize the Daishonin’s ideal of ‘establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land’ and the happiness and peace of all humankind.”
Who was it that had opened the way for kosen-rufu through selfless efforts to spread the Mystic Law, just as Nichiren Daishonin instructed? Shin’ichi knew without a doubt that it was the Soka Gakkai, that it was the dedicated members who had worked tirelessly alongside him for kosen-rufu. He firmly believed that the Bodhisattvas of the Earth had assembled under the banner of the Soka Gakkai to actualize the Daishonin’s mandate of kosen-rufu in the Latter Day of the Law, and that, without the Soka Gakkai, the Daishonin’s words would be false.
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In the article, Shin’ichi Yamamoto shared his vision for the future, noting that, in the face of emerging threats to humanity’s survival, the Soka Gakkai’s membership, a network of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, had spread to more than 90 countries, and that the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism was humanity’s only hope.
“We are still in the very early stages of our effort to foster peace and culture around the world, but it is undeniable that the seeds have been sown here on our planet and they are beginning to sprout. I have also exerted myself in this endeavor up to now. But the real work lies ahead, and we need to view it as a grand vision for the future that we must accomplish as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism.
“Religion is the heart of both peace and culture, and the underlying power that fosters them is the power of the human being that transcends national boundaries. From ancient times, religion has given life to culture.
“Peace, too, is something that must be built in the fortress of each person’s heart. Once we have established a certain foundation, it will then be up to us to turn the current of history toward enduring culture and peace.”
When followers of a religion restrict themselves to the confines of religion and close their eyes to the challenges of the real world, that religion will serve no purpose. Religion must be a force for bringing positive change to society. Our mission as Buddhists is to realize happiness for humanity and world peace. That is why Nichiren Daishonin called for “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.”
Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) wrote: “But, as always, religion remains the chief motivator and heart of human societies.”1
Shin’ichi continued: “We have made historic progress, and are now able to see in the distance the towering mountain range of kosen-rufu. We already have a sound force of capable people working for kosen-rufu, and a steady stream of young people who will carry on our movement into the 21st century is joyously emerging. This is extremely reassuring. We have long awaited this moment, this day. It is a victory won through the bonds of faith bringing together people from all spheres and walks of life, a song of human triumph.”
This was also Shin’ichi’s personal declaration of victory.
The reality of kosen-rufu achieved by the Soka Gakkai, by its members, is eternal and imperishable.
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Great things can only be accomplished through continuous effort. Truly great undertakings are only achieved when there are future generations of successors to carry on that work.
Shin’ichi Yamamoto continued with his thoughts in the article: “The important thing now, given that kosen-rufu is an unremitting, ongoing revolution, is how we pass the torch on to the next generation. The completion of one phase is the start of another. Each milestone must lead to the creation of a new, even more magnificent page in our history.
“Day after day, month after month, I have pondered long and hard over how best to develop our movement so that we can open a great path to the 21st century; secure peace and happiness for each of you, our members; and ensure that your children carry on the correct teaching of Nichiren Buddhism and your families flourish eternally. This has been my responsibility as I grappled with and sought to respond to the challenges of the times.
“And now our movement for the substantive realization of kosen-rufu has grown from a small stream into a mighty river, and that river is flowing powerfully into the vast ocean.”
Shin’ichi then wrote that he keenly felt the need to stabilize and perpetuate the flow of that mighty river. He concluded by calling for members to engrave deep in their hearts the Daishonin’s assurance that kosen-rufu would be achieved “as surely as an arrow aimed at the earth cannot miss the target” (WND-1, 385), and to renew their vow to continue exerting themselves in faith, practice, and study, the basics of Nichiren Buddhism.
Those who read Shin’ichi’s Seikyo Shimbun article “Thoughts on the Completion of the Seven Bells” that morning felt his deep gratitude for the members and resolve to make a fresh start, inspiring them to renew their own determinations.
No one imagined that Shin’ichi’s resignation as Soka Gakkai president would be announced later that very same day.
In fact, the members started the day filled with joy. Two days earlier, April 22, had been the final round in the nationwide local assembly elections, with voting for special ward assemblies in Tokyo and town and city assemblies throughout Japan. And by the previous evening, April 23, the votes had been counted and the Soka Gakkai–backed Komei Party had won a major victory.
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On April 24 at 10:00 a.m., a Soka Gakkai prefecture leaders meeting was held at the Shinjuku Culture Center, about a 10-minute walk from the Soka Gakkai Headquarters and the Seikyo Shimbun building in Shinanomachi, Tokyo. The participants, who had gathered from across the country, looked happy and upbeat, buoyed by the great success of Soka Gakkai–supported Komei Party candidates in the recent nationwide local assembly elections.
Although Shin’ichi was not yet present, the emcee announced the start of the meeting.
Soka Gakkai General Director Kiyoshi Jujo rose to speak first. The prefecture leaders meeting, taking place ahead of May 3, Soka Gakkai Day, was supposed to mark a fresh departure for organizational activities, but Jujo was grave and unsmiling.
He began by speaking of the origins of the Seven Bells.
“At the Headquarters General Meeting held on May 3, 1958, while everyone was still grieving over President Toda’s death, President Yamamoto shared the vision of the Seven Bells. Reaffirming President Toda’s observation that roughly every seven years since its founding, the Soka Gakkai had reached a major milestone in its development, he declared that the time had come to start ringing the fifth bell—to usher in the fifth seven-year period.
“This helped us overcome our grief and make a fresh start with bright hopes for the future, aiming for 1979—the year the final, seventh bell would come to a close.
“Now, that series of Seven Bells is ending. President Yamamoto has already announced a new vision for our development after this. From next year, 1980, we will advance our movement for kosen-rufu while aiming for a series of four five-year milestones leading to the year 2000, and then begin a new series of Seven Bells with the start of the 21st century.
“Since his inauguration, President Yamamoto has greatly expanded the movement for kosen-rufu from a stream to a river, and a river to an ocean, while implementing various changes to respond to the changing times. He has created a more democratic organization, ensuring that the will and needs of the membership are reflected in its leadership, and instituted a system of discussion and consensus. In 1974, he transferred the post of representative director of the Soka Gakkai as a religious corporation from the president to the general director.”
Shin’ichi had worked to build a new organizational structure for the sake of the future. Only by taking appropriate steps to reply to the needs of the times can we ensure that the Soka Gakkai flourishes forever.
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Looking toward the future, both society and the Soka Gakkai membership were certain to grow ever more diverse. That is why Shin’ichi felt it was even more important than before to draw upon a wide variety of opinions and ideas and ensure that the organization was driven by a system of collective leadership based on discussion and consensus. He envisaged an organization in which, while the president would play a pivotal role, the executive leadership would work closely together to move the organization forward.
Further, he had a vision of the organization in which each member would share a personal sense of responsibility for its development, as if they themselves were the president, and unite with fellow members to carry out activities for kosen-rufu.
General Director Jujo continued: “President Yamamoto has implemented various organizational measures to facilitate the president’s ability to lead effectively, even after he himself is no longer in that position.
“For a long time, he has been saying to us: ‘Things are fine while I’m still here, but what will happen to the Gakkai when I’m gone? I want to take steps now to prepare for that eventuality. I can’t remain the president forever. In the near future, I’ll need to hand over the reins, and support and assist the next president.’
“He also said: ‘You are only thinking about the short term, but I am looking far ahead and taking the necessary steps for the future.’
“Now, seeing the completion of the Seven Bells as an important milestone in our movement, President Yamamoto is announcing his resignation as president.”
Everyone in the room gasped. Some doubted their own ears. Others looked at Jujo, dumbfounded, and still others had tears in their eyes.
Jujo was also overcome with emotion, but he rallied himself to continue: “President Yamamoto said: ‘For the stability, continuity, and ongoing development of the Soka Gakkai, we must set forth with a new organizational structure and leadership lineup.’ After long and careful consideration of the matter, he has decided to step down as president.”
The mentor opens the way for the disciples. Genuine disciples widen and extend that path even further. Ensuring the continuation of the movement for kosen-rufu is the true path of mentor and disciple.
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The announcement of Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s resignation as Soka Gakkai president was so unexpected that the participants at the prefecture leaders meeting could not hide their surprise and confusion. They thought that he must be resigning to take full responsibility for the recent troubles with Nichiren Shoshu and put an end to the priesthood’s attacks on the Soka Gakkai. So when Kiyoshi Jujo explained that Shin’ichi was voluntarily stepping down, they found it difficult to accept.
It was an undeniable reality that the troubles with the priesthood had triggered Shin’ichi’s resignation. However, Shin’ichi also had a strong wish to make his resignation a positive move for the future.
Jujo’s forehead was covered with perspiration. Sensing from their expressions that his listeners were not fully satisfied with his explanation, he spoke more loudly: “President Yamamoto gave the following reasons for stepping down.”
He then began quoting from notes he had taken on Shin’ichi’s explanation for his decision: “‘First, having served as president for 19 long years, I feel I am approaching the limits of my physical endurance. Considering the long-term stability of the Soka Gakkai, I wish to pass on the baton while I am still in good health. Now is a perfect time, given that the disciples of Presidents Makiguchi and Toda are still playing a prominent role in the organization while a steady stream of capable young people is emerging.
“‘Second, the organizational and structural reforms needed in order to respond to the demands of society and the times, reforms that have been under consideration since 1970, have been steadily implemented, and a new set of rules and regulations based on those reforms will shortly be adopted. A sound deliberative and decision-making structure is now in place as the Soka Gakkai advances into the future. I feel that I can now hand over the running of the organization with an easy mind.
“‘Third, in recent years, I have been devoting considerable energy to promoting peace, culture, and education, based on the ideals of Nichiren Buddhism. I feel I need to make greater efforts and to blaze new trails in those areas for the sake of Japan and the rest of the world. I also would like to visit members around the country who have worked hard for kosen-rufu and created history alongside me over the years, and to do more writing as well. All of this requires time.’”
Jujo then continued: “These are the reasons that President Yamamoto has cited for stepping down.”
People, society, and the natural world all undergo changes. Faith in the Mystic Law and the Soka Gakkai spirit are the driving force for turning those changes into a catalyst for great development and growth, giving us the strength to embark on a fresh challenge, filled with hope.
- *1Leo Tolstoy, A Confession and Other Religious Writings, translated by Jane Kentish (London: Penguin Books, 1987), p. 90