Chapter 2, Awaiting the Time 11–20
Awaiting the Time 11
Among the members Shin’ichi spoke with on the evening of August 21 were Torao and Tami Tamori, who had served as the first chapter leader and women’s division leader of Karuizawa Chapter.
Torao was a baker who had honed his skills working at a first-class hotel. His wife, Tami, had suffered from a heart ailment, but when she joined the Soka Gakkai and started practicing Nichiren Buddhism, her health improved. This had inspired Torao to join the Soka Gakkai, along with their children, in 1955. He was able to realize his long-cherished dream of purchasing his own bakery, which deepened his conviction in the power and benefit of his Buddhist practice, and he joyfully shared Nichiren Buddhism with those around him.
But there were many people in his community who were prejudiced against the Soka Gakkai and disapproved of his Buddhist faith, leading to a decline in customers to his bakery.
A senior in faith confidently encouraged the Tamoris, who were distressed by this development: “Nichiren Daishonin clearly states: ‘If you propagate [this teaching], devils will arise without fail. If they did not, there would be no way of knowing that this is the correct teaching’ (WND-1, 501). Because you’ve both bravely stood up to take part in the struggle for kosen-rufu, devilish functions and obstacles have appeared. Isn’t this exactly as the Daishonin teaches?
“If you continue to persevere courageously in faith, just as you have been doing, you are certain to establish a state of genuine happiness. That’s why it’s important that you never slacken in your faith and practice.”
At the time, many members, to a greater or lesser degree, were facing similar problems. They responded by applying themselves to their Soka Gakkai activities with an even greater fighting spirit. They read the Daishonin’s writings and encouraged one another.
Torao thought: “The Daishonin writes: ‘The greater the hardships befalling him [the practitioner of the Lotus Sutra], the greater the delight he feels, because of his strong faith’ (WND-1, 33). The more challenging the situation, the more we need to rouse strong faith and press forward with joy and courage. This is the moment of truth!”
Soka Gakkai activities and the Daishonin’s writings went hand in hand, and Buddhist study was related to daily life. That was the source of the Soka Gakkai’s resilient strength. In retrospect, this was made possible by second president Josei Toda’s publication of the Nichiren Daishonin Gosho Zenshu (Collected Writings of Nichiren Daishonin). It opened a new epoch in which the correct teaching and principles of Nichiren Buddhism became established as a model of living for people from all walks of life.
Awaiting the Time 12
Torao Tamori gritted his teeth and continued striving earnestly in his Buddhist practice. In time, he received a contract to supply bread to one of the local schools, and also gained a growing number of non-Japanese customers. Later, he became a supplier to a major outlet for Western baked goods, and his shop went on to become one of the most popular and well-established bakeries in Karuizawa.
Not only did he show actual proof of the power of Buddhist practice in his work, but he also contributed to the development of his local community and the welfare of his fellow residents. His example helped dispel people’s misconceptions and prejudice toward the Soka Gakkai and brought widespread understanding and support.
While speaking with the couple, Shin’ichi decided to invite a group of local members to meet informally with him the next day at the coffee shop on the second floor of the Tamoris’ bakery.
At that gathering, Shin’ichi shared some of the conversations he had with Josei Toda in Karuizawa in the summer of 1957.
“Mr. Toda loved this place, with its remarkable scenic beauty, and spoke of his cherished wish of holding a summer training course here someday. With the opening of a training center here in Karuizawa, I feel we are a step closer to realizing Mr. Toda’s vision.
“Eventually, members from throughout Japan and around the world will gather at the Nagano Training Center, and it will become a dynamic energy source for kosen-rufu. That’s why it’s important for you to build an organization here in Nagano Prefecture that will be a model for the rest of the world. I will give you my full support.”
That evening, a joint leaders meeting of Karuizawa and Naka-Karuizawa chapters was held at the Nagano Training Center.
As the meeting drew to a close, Shin’ichi entered the room and joined the members for gongyo. He then sat down at the piano and played several songs to encourage them, including “Ureshii Hina-matsuri” (Happy Doll Festival), “Tsuki no Sabaku” (Moonlit Desert), and other pieces. The members were thrilled, and they responded with enthusiastic applause.
Engraving in their hearts the sight of Shin’ichi playing the piano for them, the members renewed their determination to proudly walk the noble Soka path of mentor and disciple.
No power or authority can sever the spiritual ties of mentor and disciple.
Awaiting the Time 13
Shin’ichi’s dearest wish was simply that everyone would continue in their practice with strong faith and become happy.
Intent on breaking the bonds of mentor and disciple in the Soka Gakkai, a treacherous, self-serving leader and Nichiren Shoshu priests had plotted together behind the scenes to prevent Shin’ichi from giving guidance at large meetings or appearing in the Seikyo Shimbun. In the oppressive atmosphere this created, a gloomy pall fell over the organization.
When he was restricted from attending large gatherings, Shin’ichi devoted his energies to visiting members at home and giving personal guidance. When he was told not to give speeches, he encouraged members by presenting them with poems or playing the piano for them.
Nothing can suppress an unwavering commitment to kosen-rufu.
Shin’ichi proposed to the members gathered at the Nagano Training Center: “If it’s O.K., why don’t we all come here again on Sunday, August 26, and we can take group photos together? If others would like to come, they’re also welcome.”
The members cheered in delight. This was something that the members in Nagano had long hoped for. The news spread quickly throughout the prefecture.
The prefecture leaders had no idea how many members would come. The youth division took the lead in making thorough preparations to receive them, so that there would be no confusion or disorder even if several thousand showed up. They also decided to set up three stands so that the photo-taking would move along smoothly.
In addition, they organized arrival times for each area. Some areas even arranged for charter buses to bring members to the center.
Many members, however, were expected to arrive by car. Worried that there might not be enough space for everyone to park, the leaders negotiated with the owner of a vacant lot on the road running in front of the center to see if they could use it for extra parking. They were given permission, but would have to clear the lot of brush and weeds before it could be used.
Young men’s division members immediately set themselves to the task with great energy. They were overjoyed to be able to work together with their mentor in this effort to encourage their fellow members.
Those who are always conscious of striving alongside their mentor and take action with that spirit brim with joy.
Awaiting the Time 14
Shin’ichi spent August 24, the 32nd anniversary of his joining the Soka Gakkai, at the Nagano Training Center. He did gongyo in earnest, vowing to make a fresh start with renewed determination.
Shortly after noon, he rode around the vicinity on a bicycle with youth division members. He wanted to recall memories of his mentor by visiting the area where Toda had spent his last summer.
When Shin’ichi returned to the training center, a group of young educators from the Soka Gakkai Education Department had just arrived by bus to take part in a training session.
While they were still on the bus, they were told that Shin’ichi Yamamoto was staying there, and they were overjoyed. They all lined up in front of the center’s entrance and greeted Shin’ichi with beaming faces.
“Thank you!” said Shin’ichi. “I am happy to see you all. Let’s take a group photo together!”
Shin’ichi then joined them in a photo and said: “As you can see, I am just fine! I hope that you will forge ahead energetically on the path of your mission, achieving one victory after another, proud to be members of the Soka Gakkai. Whatever might happen, never give up your faith. Please take this point deeply to heart. Nothing is more painful or heartbreaking for me than to see people stray from the path of kosen-rufu.”
That evening, Shin’ichi again visited the homes of local members and conversed with those gathered there.
On the morning of August 25, the following day, he played tennis with the Education Department members on the training center grounds and continued to encourage them.
The tennis court was a makeshift affair fashioned by local members to give people visiting the center for training sessions a memorable experience.
Afterward, Shin’ichi did gongyo with training session participants, and warmly applauded them as they departed on their return journey.
Shin’ichi prayed wholeheartedly and summoned all his wisdom and ingenuity to find the best ways, within the restrictions being placed on his activities, to bring courage and hope to the members. Nichiren Daishonin writes: “If the mind of faith is perfect, then the water of wisdom, the great impartial wisdom, will never dry up” (WND-1, 1015).
As long as we remain strongly committed to and pray for the realization of kosen-rufu, we can break through every obstacle and open the way to victory.
Awaiting the Time 15
From late morning on the 25th, rain began to fall and grew steadily harder as the day progressed.
Shin’ichi left the Nagano Training Center to visit the home of a family of pioneer members who had made important contributions to the development of kosen-rufu in Saku City.
Young men’s division members were out working in the rain, clearing the vacant lot nearby to provide extra parking for the group photo sessions scheduled the next day.
Shin’ichi said to a leader accompanying him: “Please let them use the bath at the training center when they’re finished, so they don’t catch cold. They’ll need to wash off the mud and perspiration, and warm themselves up.”
These young people were the Soka Gakkai’s precious treasures. He felt bad that they were working so hard, covered in mud, but he was determined to make sure that they didn’t get sick on top of that.
About 50 minutes later, Shin’ichi arrived at the home of Katsuo Ishizuka in Saku City. Ishizuka, a man in his 40s, was the Saku Headquarters leader.
Ishizuka looked deeply moved as he clasped Shin’ichi’s hand and said: “Sensei! Thank you for visiting our home.”
Ishizuka’s father was wearing a suit and his mother was dressed in a kimono. They courteously greeted Shin’ichi and the others.
Earlier during his stay, Shin’ichi had had an opportunity to speak with Ishizuka at the center, when the latter had come to help as an event staff. Learning that Ishizuka had created a private community center for Soka Gakkai meetings, Shin’ichi had wanted to go and thank him and his family.
Meeting places provided by members play an invaluable role in advancing kosen-rufu. Even if large Soka Gakkai centers were built in every area, it would still be members’ homes and private facilities that would serve as the meeting places for discussion meetings and other day-to-day Soka Gakkai activities on the district and chapter levels. They are the sites of magnificent Buddhist assemblies of the present day.
Shin’ichi and the others were shown into the living room of the Ishizuka home. In the conversation that ensued, Shin’ichi learned that it was Ishizuka’s father’s 80th birthday.
“As a gift, let me present you with a poem,” he said.
Looking at a daily tear-off calendar hanging on the wall, he asked: “May I write it on that?”
The calendar was taken down and, with a prayer for the health and long life of the elderly couple, Shin’ichi wrote next to that day’s date:
How delighted I am to behold
your golden countenance
at the venerable age of eighty!
Awaiting the Time 16
Shin’ichi said to Katsuo Ishizuka: “Please take good care of your father and mother for as long as they live. The path of humanity begins with showing appreciation to our parents. Those who always have a spirit of gratitude are genuine practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism.”
Thanking Ishizuka for providing a private community center for Soka Gakkai activities, Shin’ichi discussed several points that should be kept in mind on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s important to coordinate closely with the leaders responsible for holding the meetings about such details as parking for cars and bicycles and keeping voices down, so that you don’t cause any trouble for your neighbors. It may require considerable effort on your part, but it’s important to visit your neighbors regularly to talk with them, and tell them to let you know if there are any problems, maintaining open communication.
“Gaining the willing cooperation and support of your neighbors is in itself kosen-rufu. Private meeting places that members provide for Soka Gakkai activities are castles of the people that are dedicated to kosen-rufu. Building strong foundations of trust there will contribute to making the Soka Gakkai solid and secure.”
Shin’ichi then went to visit the Ishizukas’ private community center, which was located in the building next door. The ground floor housed the office of the electrical contracting firm that Ishizuka ran, and the upstairs floor, about 49 square meters (533 square feet) in size, was reserved for Soka Gakkai activities.
Local chapter leaders of Saku Headquarters were gathered there. Shin’ichi did gongyo with them, and then spoke with them informally.
He composed and presented poems to the Saku members:
I will never forget
the happy eyes
of the members in Saku.
Each day as I pray,
I wonder how my friends in Saku
are doing today.
After visiting the Ishizuka family, Shin’ichi went to the home of Tatsuomi Kurabayashi. The Kurabayashis were a family with deep ties to the area, whose ancestors had served as district officials since the early Edo period (1603–1868). The main house was 350 years old and known locally as Uguisu Yakata (Nightingale Mansion).
Tatsuomi Kurabayashi was standing in front of the house holding a traditional Japanese umbrella, waiting for Shin’ichi and Mineko.
“I came, just as I promised,” said Shin’ichi with a smile.
At a Soka Gakkai Headquarters leaders meeting in Tokyo six years earlier, Kurabayashi had told Shin’ichi about his family heritage and invited him to visit.
Awaiting the Time 17
Tatsuomi Kurabayashi was 71 years old and had five children, all active Soka Gakkai members. Four were present this day, and the other lived in the United States. Together with their spouses and children, they joined Kurabayashi in giving Shin’ichi and Mineko Yamamoto a warm and lively welcome.
Kurabayashi led Shin’ichi to the seat of honor before the ornamental alcove in the living room, saying: “Please, sit here.”
But Shin’ichi demurred: “No, that won’t do. Please, Mr. Kurabayashi, as my senior in life, you take the seat of honor.”
Kurabayashi looked momentarily uncertain, but at Shin’ichi’s courteous insistence, he took his place in the seat of honor with his back to the alcove.
A standing screen in the room was adorned with beautiful calligraphy. The lustrous black wooden pillars and the carved openwork panels above the doorway were of elegant design.
Shin’ichi asked about the history of the house, and in response Kurabayashi told him a legend associated with his family.
One winter night, the story went, the village headman, Hikozaemon, kindly rescued a fox that had fallen into an icy pond and was about to freeze to death. He warmed and dried the fox, and then set it free again. The fox barked happily and disappeared. The next morning, two pheasants were left on the outer veranda of the headman’s house. Seeing fox prints in the snow, the headman realized that the fowl were a gift from the fox, an expression of gratitude for having been rescued.
“That’s an example that people can learn from,” said Shin’ichi, as those seated nearby nodded earnestly. They were especially aware of the importance of repaying debts of gratitude, since at that time a group of ungrateful individuals had been plotting behind the scenes against the Soka Gakkai and inflicting suffering and grief on sincere and dedicated members.
When Josei Toda’s businesses were in crisis, too, many individuals whom he had done a great deal for and who had benefitted from his assistance and support suddenly turned on him, reviling him and expressing bitter resentment and hatred as they deserted him.
The great philosopher Socrates said that ingratitude is indisputably the greatest injustice.1
Nichiren Daishonin, stressing the importance of gratitude, cites ancient stories about an old fox and a white turtle repaying debts of gratitude and says: “If even lowly creatures know enough to do this, then how more should human beings!” (WND-1, 690).
Gratitude is the foundation for a life of genuine humanity.
Awaiting the Time 18
Ten grandchildren of Tatsuomi and his wife, Yoshino, entertained Shin’ichi and his party with performances on the koto (Japanese harp), harmonica, fife, and singing.
It was pure delight to see these young treasures of the future, who had inherited the faith of their parents and grandparents and were growing so splendidly. The movement for kosen-rufu develops and expands as Nichiren Buddhism spreads in our local communities, in society as a whole, and is passed on to the next generation and into the future.
The rain began to let up, and Shin’ichi took a walk in the garden, arm in arm with Tatsuomi Kurabayashi, who shyly repeated how thankful he was and that this would be the most memorable day of his life.
“Your life has been a great victory,” Shin’ichi said. “Your children and grandchildren have all grown to be fine individuals. But there is no end in Buddhist faith and practice. As long as you live, please keep striving for the sake of your fellow members, your community, and kosen-rufu. The most important time is from now on, in this culminating stage of your life. Please continue moving forward in high spirits—toward tomorrow and the future.”
Kurabayashi turned his head to peer intently at Shin’ichi, and he nodded in acknowledgement of his words.
Later, as an expression of his profound gratitude, Shin’ichi presented the family with a poem:
I fondly recall
the house in Saku,
a silver castle.
August 26 was the day when the group photo sessions would be held at the Nagano Training Center. Hearing that anyone was welcome to participate, members gathered from all around Nagano Prefecture.
The rain of the previous day had cleared, and a refreshing breeze blew through the trees. Members began to arrive at the training center in a steady stream from before noon. It was nearly four months since Shin’ichi and his activities had for the most part stopped being covered in the pages of the Seikyo Shimbun. Everyone wanted to meet or even just get a glimpse of him, and renew their vow for kosen-rufu.
The strength of the Soka Gakkai is the unity resulting from the ties of mentor and disciple that Shin’ichi had forged with each member and the bonds the members had forged among themselves.
Awaiting the Time 19
Three stands of bleachers for the group photographs had been set up at the training center.
Just before 1:00 p.m., Shin’ichi Yamamoto said to Mineko: “All right, a new struggle begins!” Wearing a polo shirt, he strode out to the center’s forecourt to greet the waiting members.
“I’ve been looking forward to seeing you all! Thank you for coming. Let’s make a fresh start toward the 21st century!”
The members cheered. An elderly woman, deep lines creasing her forehead, said with tears in her eyes: “Sensei! Not seeing your picture in the Seikyo Shimbun, I was so worried and sad. All this time, I have been praying with my whole heart. I am relieved to see you looking so well! I’m so happy!”
Shin’ichi encouraged the woman warmly: “Thank you! As you can see, I am fine. If you’re fine, I’m fine. I will keep the memory of you forever in my heart and chant daimoku for you every day. That way, we’ll always be together. We’ll be together in our next existence, too.
“Please live a long, long life. Please brim with ever greater energy and happiness. That itself is the driving force for kosen-rufu. It is a source of hope and inspiration for your fellow members.”
Then, Shin’ichi said in a rousing voice to another elderly woman in her mid-80s: “Please live to be 100! Please live to see the 21st century and the future of kosen-rufu! The Soka Gakkai will continue to grow and develop enormously. It will spread widely throughout the world. I am now beginning my struggle to make that happen.”
Shin’ichi also said to a men’s division member in a resolute tone: “The true greatness of the Soka Gakkai will be demonstrated without a doubt. Right now, Nichiren Shoshu priests are still maliciously attacking us and some tabloid magazines continue their reckless bashing, but if you let such things sway you, you are sure to regret it. The Soka Gakkai alone has undertaken efforts to realize kosen-rufu just as the Daishonin instructed. Never lose sight of that undisputable truth. Let’s fight on together!”
Awaiting the Time 20
The line of people waiting to take their place on one of the three stands of bleachers set up for the photo sessions at the training center seemed to stretch without end. Members had arrived in a steady stream from towns and cities all over the prefecture, including Iiyama, Nagano, Ueda, Hotaka, Matsumoto, Shiojiri, Suwa, Iida, and Ina.
Each time he completed a group photo session, Shin’ichi would speak with and encourage the members, shaking hands with dozens, and sometimes hundreds.
As the photo sessions were coming to a close, a handsome, tanned youth exclaimed with passion in his voice: “Sensei! Thank you! We young men’s division members are determined to live up to your expectations and fight and win!”
Shin’ichi smiled warmly and replied in earnest: “That’s right. When the mentor cannot take action out in front, it’s the job of the disciples to stand up and do so in the mentor’s stead. You’re not my true disciples if you can’t rouse energy or courage because you can’t meet me in person. Please create an unprecedented groundswell of progress for kosen-rufu with bold efforts surpassing your mentor.
“It is precisely for a time such as this that I have guided and encouraged you, giving my all to fostering you.
“Now is the time for you to proudly declare, ‘Leave it to us! Watch our struggle!’ and go out to encourage and brighten the hearts of the members on my behalf. That is the true spirit of mentor and disciple. Each of you is Shin’ichi Yamamoto! I didn’t raise you to be weak or fainthearted young people who cannot show their real strength at a crucial moment. Now is the time for you to take responsibility for the Soka Gakkai in your own communities. Nothing would be more disappointing than if, at such an important time, you were to give in to feelings of sadness and not be able to fully exert yourself.
“Those are my feelings, a cry from my heart. I’m counting on you!”
The eyes of the young people present sparkled with burning determination. Some tightened their jaws, and others balled their fists in firm resolve.
Addressing a gathering of 10,000 youth division members in October 1954, Josei Toda had said: “I hope you will rise bravely to meet the many challenges that lie ahead.”2
Shin’ichi felt exactly the same.
- *1Cf. Xenophon, Memorabilia, translated by E. C. Marchant, in Memorabilia; Oeconomicus; Symposium; Apology (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1997), p. 105.
- *2Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei Zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda), vol. 4 (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1984), p. 219.