Chapter 2, Awaiting the Time 41–50
Awaiting the Time 41
This time, members of the men’s, women’s, young men’s, and young women’s division chorus groups joined together to sing the choral section. Their resounding ode to victory was a true collaboration of people of diverse ages and backgrounds.
In his poem “The People,” Shin’ichi had written:
must be directed toward the people
Science without you is coldhearted
philosophy without you is barren
art without you is empty
religion without you is merciless
You should look down on those who sneer at you . . .1
Listening to the musical performance, Shin’ichi deeply pondered the significance of the Soka Gakkai’s purpose.
He mused to himself: “It is the Soka Gakkai’s mission to liberate the people from the yoke of every form of oppression and from the chains of karma! That is the heart of our humanism! I will fight! I will strive resolutely, for the people and for kosen-rufu! Whatever happens, I will stand on the side of the people and bring about an age of the people!”
The Fife and Drum Corps General Meeting reached its finale. The performers paraded down the aisles and took the stage for a grand chorus of “Angels of Peace,” which starts with the line “Angels of peace, members of the Fife and Drum Corps.”
Tears of joy sparkled on the cheeks of the young women as they sang with all their might. They were the culmination of their pure-hearted youthful spirit.
Shin’ichi had been asked to say a few words. He wanted to encourage them by conveying his appreciation and gratitude for all their hard work and dedicated effort.
When he rose from his seat in the audience with a mike in his hand, cheers and thunderous applause broke out.
“Your performance was very beautiful and impressive, and this has been a magnificent general meeting. I am deeply moved!” Shin’ichi said.
Awaiting the Time 42
It was the first time in quite a while that members had heard Shin’ichi’s energetic voice. They all listened intently.
“I can only imagine the incredible hard work and unflagging dedication that lies behind your beautiful performance, the determination and perseverance with which you practiced and honed your skills. In life, too, any beautiful accomplishment is backed by arduous effort.
“True to its theme, today’s general meeting is indeed the beginning of your hope-filled advance toward 2001. I will also begin a hope-filled advance toward that same goal. Let’s forge ahead together!
“Most of you are second- or third-generation Soka Gakkai members. You, my young friends, will have to make your way through raging storms amid the harsh realities of life in this world. Various problems and trials no doubt await you, whether in your studies, your work, your relationships, or with your health. But please be aware that only through experiencing such hardships and triumphing over them will you complete your hope-filled advance toward 2001.
“Always remember this day, and never forget the determination and perseverance you have shown. It is my wish that all of you, with strong faith, will climb to the summit of the 21st century, a shining new era of happiness.
“Thank you for your wonderful performance today. I am praying with all my heart for your happiness and victory in life.”
Once again, rousing applause swept the hall.
Shin’ichi was filled with joy, sensing that this generation of youthful successors was growing vibrantly and reaching for the skies of the 21st century. He felt a surge of unsurpassed hope.
The Fife and Drum Corps General Meeting was the last major event for the momentous year of 1979, a fanfare announcing a fresh departure into the 21st century.
A dramatic year—marked by turbulence, upheaval, and finally renewal—was coming to a close. On New Year’s Eve, Shin’ichi was at the Shizuoka Training Center. Thinking of first Soka Gakkai president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who was arrested in Shizuoka, he felt his own new struggle was beginning. The darkness was still deep.
He recalled the words of the Chinese writer Lu Xun (1881–1936): “The light always comes. Like the dawn, it cannot be obscured.”2
Awaiting the Time 43
Nineteen eighty began—the year that would mark the 50th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding.
Page three of the January 1 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun carried a picture of Shin’ichi Yamamoto and two poems he had composed to celebrate the New Year:
My heart free and limitless
at the start of a new year
in the eternal journey of life,
I pray with fresh resolve
and press onward.
Let us once more cross
mountains and valleys
proudly holding high
the banner of kosen-rufu.
Many of the Soka Gakkai members who saw the photo and accompanying poems sent letters expressing their delight to Shin’ichi and to the Soka Gakkai Headquarters and the Seikyo Shimbun.
A man from Kyushu wrote to Shin’ichi: “I didn’t expect you to be in the Seikyo Shimbun’s New Year edition, but seeing a photo of you looking so well along with the poems you wrote has encouraged me no end.
“While there are still Nichiren Shoshu priests in the area where I live who speak ill of the Soka Gakkai, I am certain that right and wrong will be clearly revealed. I will advance in my efforts for kosen-rufu again this year, filled with pride in being a Soka Gakkai member.”
A woman from Kansai wrote: “I sense your firm determination in the words, ‘Let us once more cross / mountains and valleys.’ They give me strength. I, too, will do my best, with fresh determination and a renewed spirit, undefeated by anything. We of Ever-victorious Kansai will triumph over everything as your proud disciples.”
How admirable they were, these noble lions of Soka! They remained true and steadfast in their faith while enduring repeated attacks from malicious priests and certain sectors of the media. Reading their letters, Shin’ichi could feel the strength of their commitment as indomitable as a mountain.
Awaiting the Time 44
The new decade dawned amid a time of turmoil in many parts of the world.
In April 1979, following the fall of the Pahlavi dynasty earlier that year, the new Islamic Republic of Iran was established with the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as its supreme leader.
In December 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, where civil war was ongoing. It seemed likely to become a protracted and costly conflict that might further exacerbate tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The deteriorating situation in the Middle East, meanwhile, resulted in an oil crisis that could wreak havoc on the global economy. It was extremely difficult to see what lay ahead, and the new year began shrouded in uncertainty.
At the Shizuoka Training Center on the morning of January 1, Shin’ichi Yamamoto prayed deeply, vowing in his heart to make even greater efforts to open the way to peace and advance worldwide kosen-rufu.
Before noon on January 14, Shin’ichi and his wife, Mineko, were in a room at the Kanagawa Culture Center gazing out at the harbor.
White clouds floated in the azure sky and the sea sparkled a deep blue. Looking through binoculars, Shin’ichi could see a white ship approaching. A bright orange sun was emblazoned on its side, and passengers were visible on deck. It was the large passenger ferry Sunflower 7. Turning slowly with a trailing wake, it headed toward the Osanbashi Pier in Yokohama.
On that day, some 800 members from Shikoku [the smallest of Japan’s four main islands] arrived at the Kanagawa Culture Center to see Shin’ichi after a day’s journey by chartered ferry.
The weather had been bad the previous day, and snow had also fallen in Tokyo and Yokohama. A low-pressure system was moving toward Japan’s eastern seaboard, and rough seas had been forecast. This had prompted discussions of whether the trip should be cancelled. But the Shikoku members were determined to go ahead with their visit and set out across the stormy seas.
On the evening of their departure, Shin’ichi had earnestly chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, praying that everyone would arrive safe and sound. He wanted them to create an enjoyable story of kosen-rufu.
Having such personal stories linked to the great drama of kosen-rufu enriches our lives.
Awaiting the Time 45
Over the months since Shin’ichi’s resignation, hopes grew stronger among the Shikoku members that he would visit their region. And it was not just the Shikoku members who felt this way. Many of the letters Shin’ichi received from members throughout the country were requests for him to visit their areas.
In Shikoku, the prefecture leaders discussed the matter.
With a serious expression, a women’s division leader began: “Would it be possible to ask Sensei to visit us in Shikoku? I think the only way to accelerate the movement for kosen-rufu here is for our members to renew their commitment to the shared struggle of mentor and disciple and, together with him, make a fresh start filled with the joy of faith.”
An elderly men’s division leader responded: “But Sensei is not allowed to offer guidance at large meetings or appear in Soka Gakkai publications, so I’m afraid we’ll just have to wait.”
“How long do we have to wait? Five years? Ten?”
“I don’t think anyone knows how long . . . .”
Pained by this exchange, Shikoku Region Leader Seitaro Kumegawa thought to himself: “There must be some way to fulfill everyone’s wish. We have to do something . . . . Since Sensei stepped down as president, a feeling of emptiness has spread among the members, and I sense that they are gradually losing their joy in their Buddhist practice. I know that this is the time for genuine disciples to stand up. But we need something—something to ignite their passion, and naturally the best way would be to create an opportunity for our members to meet Sensei. But how can we make that happen?”
Just then, an idea came to him.
He said decisively: “Since Sensei’s activities are restricted, let’s go to visit him!”
At these words, Shikoku Region Youth Division Leader Okimitsu Owada leaned forward eagerly and said: “Yes, why don’t we do that! There shouldn’t be any barrier separating us from Sensei. If any such barrier exists, it is an inner one created by the disciples themselves.”
Awaiting the Time 46
On December 16, 1979, while at the Kanagawa Culture Center to attend a Soka Gakkai Central Executive Committee meeting, Shikoku Region Leader Seitaro Kumegawa had the chance to participate in an informal meeting with Shin’ichi Yamamoto, along with other regional leaders.
“Sensei,” he said, “I have a request. We’re thinking about having a group of some 800 Shikoku members visit the Kanagawa Culture Center while you’re here. If we can, we’d like to charter a ferry to Yokohama Harbor. Would it be possible for you to meet with the members if they come?”
Shin’ichi said with a smile: “You’re saying they’re going to come all the way from Shikoku to visit me? Then, of course, I’ll meet with them. I am delighted at their spirit. I’ll be waiting for them.”
Kumegawa felt like dancing with joy at Shin’ichi’s reply.
Later, the schedule for their visit was arranged. They would depart by ferry from Takamatsu [the capital of Kagawa Prefecture in Shikoku] on January 13 and arrive at the Kanagawa Culture Center around noon on the 14th. The program of events for the day was to include an exchange meeting with Kanagawa members and smaller discussion sessions, with the group making their return voyage that same evening.
The Shikoku leaders had less than a month to make all the arrangements, and the New Year’s holiday period fell right in the middle. They immediately set to work chartering the ferry and organizing who would make the trip, and before they knew it, the day of their departure had arrived.
At 1:00 p.m. on January 13, 1980, the large passenger ferry Sunflower 7 left Takamatsu Harbor under cloudy skies. Soon after their departure, a leaders meeting was held on board.
One of the leaders who rose to speak said: “During Nichiren Daishonin’s lifetime, Shijo Kingo traveled from Kamakura to visit the Daishonin, who was exiled on Sado Island. And in spite of his advanced age, Abutsu-bo, who lived on Sado, later made almost yearly visits to the Daishonin at Mount Minobu.
“Following their examples, let us visit Kanagawa filled with seeking spirit and strengthen our determination to write a new page in the history of kosen-rufu!”
The members responded with great enthusiasm.
People with a seeking spirit brim with joy.
Awaiting the Time 47
At the shipboard leaders meeting, Shikoku Region Leader Kumegawa said: “The Soka Gakkai is in a challenging situation right now, and it’s difficult for Sensei to travel around the country and offer guidance. But no force can sever the bonds we share with him!
“If Sensei’s activities are restricted, then we, his disciples, can go to see him. When we burn with a powerful seeking spirit, there is no obstacle we cannot surmount. Let us, the Shikoku members, take the lead in celebrating together with Sensei the start of the year of the Soka Gakkai’s 50th anniversary!”
The leaders applauded in enthusiastic agreement. All were excited and inspired.
As in other parts of Japan, there were several areas in Shikoku—such as Ozu City in Ehime Prefecture and Kochi City in Kochi Prefecture—where members had suffered bitterly as they endured callous treatment and verbal abuse by malicious priests. In addition, a plot had been launched to sever the ties of mentor and disciple, the lifeline of faith for Soka Gakkai members. The members in Shikoku refused to quietly accept this situation any longer. That was their genuine feeling and determination.
Shin’ichi Yamamoto received regular updates on the progress of Sunflower 7.
He sent a message asking the members to relax and enjoy their voyage. When he learned that one of the meeting halls on the ship was equipped with a film projector, he encouraged them all to watch a movie there.
The voyage was pleasant, but late that night the low pressure system caused rough seas.
The ship rolled and shuddered, but members of the Doctors Division were on hand as first-aid staff. They had taken precautions such as making motion sickness medication available beforehand to anyone who needed it, and as a result no one fell ill.
Careful preparation is key to achieving success and avoiding accidents. That’s why Nichiren Daishonin stressed the importance of “usual prudence” (WND-1, 1000).3
The ship plowed on through the churning waves, and the members drifted off to sleep as they thought of their meeting with Shin’ichi the following day.
Awaiting the Time 48
The morning of January 14 dawned. The waves were calm as the slowly rising sun cast its light over the ocean.
From the deck of Sunflower 7, a snowcapped Mount Fuji gradually came into view. The members were struck by its dauntless image, having themselves endured slander and abuse from Nichiren Shoshu priests and triumphed over bitter storms of adversity.
From the ship’s lounge, members could be heard singing the well-known “Song of Friends” and other tunes. The young women were rehearsing, hoping to perform for Shin’ichi and Kanagawa members.
The ship sailed into the harbor in Yokohama just before noon. On the ship’s left side, members had put a row of banners, each bearing a large letter, to spell the words “Hello, Sensei!” But it turned out that the ship was going to dock on its right side.
“We need to move the banners to the other side!” someone shouted.
Young men’s division members quickly set to work to make the change, but in the confusion they positioned the banners in the same order they had been in on the left side, as a result now spelling the phrase backward. It made for a funny story.
When the ship arrived in the harbor, Shin’ichi said, “Let’s all go out to meet them!” and rushed out of the Kanagawa Culture Center.
The Shikoku members were standing on deck.
A banner reading “Welcome to Kanagawa” was set up at the pier, where a band comprising Kanagawa members was energetically playing the Shikoku Soka Gakkai song “Our Land.” Shin’ichi, wearing a black coat, stood in front of the musicians and waved to the Shikoku members aboard the ship.
Waving back, the members cried out “Sensei! Sensei!” the voices of some choking with tears of joy and emotion.
“Welcome! I’ve been waiting for you!” Shin’ichi called to them.
The Shikoku members walked down the gangway and were engulfed in the applause of Kanagawa members.
A Kanagawa young women’s division representative presented a bouquet to Shikoku Region Leader Kumegawa on behalf of Shin’ichi.
With a smile, Shin’ichi said: “Are you all feeling well? Thank you for coming. You have triumphed! The 21st century is now in view! You have made a fresh breakthrough for kosen-rufu!”
Committed action opens the door to a new age.
Awaiting the Time 49
Shin’ichi welcomed the men’s division members with a smile, shaking hands, hugging shoulders, and offering words of encouragement: “I was waiting for you! I am so happy to see you. Let’s make a fresh start!”
The passionate seeking spirit of the Shikoku members brought him immense joy. As long as they retained that determined commitment, the Soka mentor-disciple spirit to dedicate one’s life to kosen-rufu would live on forever.
Shin’ichi said to Kumegawa: “Who’d have thought you’d actually come by sea! What an exciting idea! That alone is enough to inspire everyone. In any sphere, it’s important to think creatively. To win in our efforts for kosen-rufu, we need wisdom and resourcefulness.
“All kinds of obstacles will arise on our way to kosen-rufu. But we must press on for our own and others’ happiness, and for the sake of peace. If a land route is blocked, for instance, then we’ll quickly have to think of new, alternative ways to proceed, such as going by air or sea, and keep moving forward. We can’t allow ourselves to be defeated.”
A thousand years ago, the great Kyrgyz poet Yusuf Khass Hajib (also known as Yusuf Balasaguni; c. 1018–69), wrote: “As long as you live, any wish can be realized. As long as you have wisdom, any goal can be attained.”4
Shin’ichi’s welcome of the Shikoku members was not covered by the Seikyo Shimbun. The paper wasn’t allowed to report on it.
When the young women’s division member presented Kumegawa with the bouquet from Shin’ichi, Shin’ichi was standing beside her, applauding the moment. But in the Seikyo Shimbun, Shin’ichi was cut out of the picture, and only his arms were shown. The paper’s editor had reluctantly taken this step.
In front of Kanagawa Culture Center, too, Kanagawa members warmly welcomed and applauded their fellow members who had traveled all the way from Shikoku. They shared their spirit of faith in sincerely seeking their mentor.
One of the Shikoku members proclaimed indignantly: “We refuse to meekly submit to [the priesthood’s] demands saying that we as disciples cannot meet with our mentor or address him as ‘Sensei’!”
Awaiting the Time 50
The Shikoku members divided into several groups to tour the Kanagawa Culture Center and the adjacent Toda Peace Memorial Hall.
The memorial hall had opened the previous year, in August 1979. A historic red brick building, formerly known as English House No. 7, it had been restored and renovated as an exhibition hall open to the public. It was created to pay tribute to the spirit and significance of Josei Toda’s Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons—delivered in Yokohama on September 8, 1957—and exhibit materials to highlight the horrors of war and promote peace.
Visitors could listen to a tape recording of Toda’s declaration. Also available for viewing was a 56-volume series of antiwar publications that the youth division had been producing since 1973, along with an English translation of selections from that series titled Cries for Peace: Experiences of Japanese Victims of World War II.
In addition, there were displays featuring photo panels and other materials capturing the lives of Japanese people during World War II, including the cruel battlefront conditions, scenes of the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the destruction caused by air raids throughout Japan, the Battle of Okinawa, and the plight of demobilized troops and civilians returning from abroad after the country’s defeat. There was also a corner where visitors could listen to recordings of accounts shared by those who had directly experienced the war.
One display showed the history of the Soka Gakkai’s peace movement, and another featured Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s peace proposals and his dialogues promoting friendship with world leaders and thinkers.
The Shikoku members viewed the displays, listened to the tapes, and not only reconfirmed the misery and brutality of war, but were deeply impressed by the fact that the Soka Gakkai was indeed creating a great groundswell for world peace. And they renewed their vow to build peace.
The UNESCO Constitution states that to achieve peace we must construct “defenses of peace” in people’s minds.5 An indispensable ingredient for achieving this lies in our human revolution, in each individual building a state of life that rises above all negative impulses such as greed and hatred.
The Soka Gakkai has built countless networks of friendship around the globe while constructing the defenses of peace in people’s hearts.
Our social mission as Nichiren Buddhists is to actualize the ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land”—that is, of realizing a prosperous society and peace for all humankind.
- *1Daisaku Ikeda, “The People,” Journey of Life: Selected Poems of Daisaku Ikeda (London: I. B. Tauris, 2014), p. 45.
- *2Translated from Chinese. Lu Xun, Lu Xun quanji (The Complete Works of Lu Xun), vol. 8 (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1996), pp. 89–90.
- *3In a letter to Shijo Kingo, the Daishonin writes: “It is a matter of rejoicing that your usual prudence and courage, as well as your firm faith in the Lotus Sutra, enabled you to survive unharmed” (WND-1, 1000).
- *4Translated from Russian. Yusuf Balasaguni, Blagodatnoe znanie (Beneficent Knowledge), translated from the Turkic language by S. N. Ivanov (Moscow: Nauka, 1983), p. 116.
- *5The Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO declares that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”