Chapter 2, Awaiting the Time 51–60
Awaiting the Time 51
At 1:30 p.m., the meeting hall on the third floor of the Kanagawa Culture Center was filled with happy smiling faces. The Shikoku-Kanagawa Joint Leaders Meeting was under way.
A Kanagawa leader stood up and said with deep feeling: “Dear friends from Shikoku! Welcome to Kanagawa!
“We have learned many things from you on this occasion. One is being united in faith, joining our hearts to seek our mentor and carry out our mission for kosen-rufu. Another is the spirit of bold initiative to forge ahead through stormy seas and achieve dynamic progress.”
It was almost nine months since Shin’ichi had resigned as Soka Gakkai president. In that time, the Kanagawa members—indeed, members throughout Japan and the world—had felt there was something terribly amiss with this state of affairs where disciples were being deliberately kept apart from their mentor.
That’s why the Kanagawa members were so inspired and moved by the courage and seeking spirit of the Shikoku members, who gave voice to their desire to come and meet with their mentor.
Next, a Shikoku representative rose to speak.
“I have heard that snow fell throughout Yokohama yesterday, but today we have warm, springlike weather. I feel we have been protected by the prayers of President Yamamoto and our fellow members.
“From now on, groups of Shikoku members will continue visiting Kanagawa when President Yamamoto is here, so please give them a warm welcome.”
General Director Kazumasa Morikawa thanked the Shikoku members for their dedicated efforts and then said: “An ocean voyage is not always smooth sailing. Sometimes there will be rough seas. Raging storms may also lie ahead. The same is true of the situation presently facing the Soka Gakkai. Carrying on with daimoku and unity, let’s begin a new hope-filled advance.
“Also, since our theme for this year is the Year of the Community, let’s show actual proof of development and victory in our communities and make a breakthrough in creating a new age.”
Action and actual proof are crucial.
Awaiting the Time 52
Shin’ichi entered the room where the joint leaders meeting was being held. He had come to do gongyo with everyone and pray for the visiting Shikoku members’ safe return and for the health and well-being of all the participants and their families.
He saw many familiar faces in the audience.
After addressing several members individually, he turned to speak to a group of Shikoku men’s division leaders seated to one side.
“Soka Gakkai leaders mustn’t be arrogant or scold people,” he said. “We must always respect and treasure our fellow members as children of the Buddha.
“President Toda sometimes scolded his disciples, but when he did so there was always some profound reason.
“First, was when he was trying to train his disciples for kosen-rufu, elevate them to the same life state as himself, and entrust them with the future of our movement. Especially since some would take on great responsibility one day, he could be very, very strict in the guidance he gave them.
“Second, was when he wanted to help people stand up in faith by defeating the devilish functions that were preventing them from moving forward.
“Some people speak and act on impulse without considering consequences, making it difficult for them to get along with others; some give in to self-destructive thinking; some try to avoid difficulty at any cost; some are quick to pass the buck when a problem arises and pretend they weren’t involved. Such tendencies and the weakness, dishonesty, and cowardice behind them represent serious faults. They act as devilish functions obstructing the growth of one’s faith and causing one to go astray from the path to happiness. President Toda would sometimes scold members to make them aware of such major downfalls and to put an end to them.
“Third, he would take members to task when they were causing trouble for many others or disrupting the unity of our movement for kosen-rufu, to put a stop to their actions for the sake of those individuals and others who might be affected by their behavior.
“In other words, whenever Mr. Toda scolded anyone it was always motivated at the deepest level by his profound compassion. To scold members without understanding this, simply trying to mimic his actions, is absolutely unacceptable. No leader has the right to do so. Even when you have to correct someone’s errors, you can do it by speaking to them in a calm and reasonable fashion.”
Awaiting the Time 53
Shin’ichi asked some of the members present what was going on in their lives, and used the topics that came up as opportunities to offer guidance and encouragement on faith and leadership.
Everyone had been hoping to have just this kind of free and open conversation with Shin’ichi.
The subject moved on to leaders’ interactions with members.
“As leaders, you must always respect the members’ wishes and be careful not to offend them or hurt their feelings.
“There are, of course, all kinds of people. Not everyone will simply accept what you have to say. Being a leader is very challenging, but true Buddhist practice lies in striving with an open heart to embrace everyone, doing your best to help them become happy, and patiently continuing to encourage them. All those dedicated efforts will bring you benefit and good fortune. It is because we are constantly buffeted about in a sea of humanity, that we can polish our life and make it shine. When we continue tenaciously to talk with members who have grown negative about their practice, and strive earnestly to encourage them, we will be able to deepen our character.
“All right, let’s do gongyo!” Shin’ichi said, and sat down to lead. The sound of mentor and disciples reciting the sutra and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with a shared vow for kosen-rufu reverberated powerfully.
From 3:30 p.m., dinner-discussion meetings were held. Shin’ichi took part with the men’s division and women’s division members on the eighth floor, and listened to reports from those seated at his table. After finishing their meal on the fifth floor, youth division members joined the gathering on the eighth floor, and a series of performances began.
A chorus sang the song “Leaving Tosa Behind,” and a dance group performed the Awa Odori dance, followed by a number of other musical items. Shin’ichi clapped enthusiastically for each performance and encouraged the members to have a good time.
When the singing and dancing came to an end, he said: “All right, let me play the piano for you.”
He began with the tune “Atsuta Village” [written in memory of his mentor leaving his hometown in Hokkaido].
He played the piano with the wish that the members would press forward bravely, emulating the courage and the determined spirit of his mentor, Josei Toda, as he made his way alone during his youth through the blizzards of Hokkaido.
Hardships forge character. Those who intrepidly challenge the fierce blizzards impeding the way to kosen-rufu are the greatest heroes.
Awaiting the Time 54
Shin’ichi also played on the piano “The Three Martyrs of Atsuhara” and “Cherry Blossoms.” His performance was infused with a prayer for all present to develop into brave and resolute people of faith who would lead lives blooming with happiness like the cherry trees in springtime.
Shin’ichi thought about the bold initiative taken by the Shikoku members. Their hearts aflame with seeking spirit, they had crossed turbulent waters to visit Yokohama at this particular time. Their actions would shine forever in the annals of kosen-rufu, a story passed down to future generations. What matters, he thought, is the kind of action we take to make a breakthrough when the Soka Gakkai is facing adversity.
“Finally,” Shin’ichi said, turning to address the audience, “I will play ‘Dainanko’ (The Great Hero Kusunoki).1 Let’s meet again.” He then faced the keyboard and played.
The lyrics to this song tell the story of the famous 14th-century Japanese warrior Kusunoki Masashige asking his son Masatsura to carry on his cause when he is no longer there. As they listened to the melody, the members were reminded of the Soka mentor-disciple bond. They pledged anew to carry on the Soka Gakkai spirit and pave the way forward for kosen-rufu, no matter what the circumstances. Shikoku, they vowed, would never be defeated, but instead would raise high the banner of Soka victory.
Tears glistened in the eyes of many of these members who possessed such ardent seeking spirit.
The gathering closed with the audience joining together in three cheers for the Soka Gakkai in Shikoku and a resounding round of applause.
Shin’ichi said: “Thank you! Stay well! I’ll see you off later today. Please give my very best to your family and all your fellow members in your local areas who took care of things in your absence. And youth division members, be good to your parents!”
Night had already fallen when the Shikoku members left the Kanagawa Culture Center.
More than 200 Kanagawa members had gathered on the pier to see them off on their return journey.
The Music Corps played the Shikoku Soka Gakkai song “Our Land” as the Shikoku members threw colorful paper streamers from the ship’s deck to those below.
Then, the Kanagawa members sang their prefecture song “Ah, the Sun Rises,” after which everyone joined in singing “Onward to Kosen-rufu” and “Song of Indomitable Dignity.”
The hearts of the members, comrades in faith, merged as one, their voices rising into the starry night sky.
Awaiting the Time 55
The ship’s whistle echoed over the night sea as the Sunflower 7 signaled its departure.
The Shikoku members were all out on deck. The ship quietly set sail.
The Kanagawa members who had gathered on the pier to see the Shikoku members off waved and shouted “Good-bye!” “Come again!”
The Kanagawa Culture Center, lights glowing in its windows, stood on the shore with the bright cityscape of Yokohama stretching out into the distance. The next moment, all the lights in the center went out. Then, many small moving lights appeared in the windows of the top two floors.
A call came in over the shore-to-ship telephone. “President and Mrs. Yamamoto are on the center’s top floor waving flashlights to see you off. Can you see the lights from the ship?”
This was immediately communicated to the Shikoku members over the ship’s intercom.
From the deck, they all waved toward the Kanagawa Culture Center’s top floor and called out: “Sensei! Shikoku will do its best!” “Please rest assured!” “We will be pioneers of kosen-rufu in the local community!”
Tears filled their eyes.
Shin’ichi and Mineko continued to wave their flashlights until the ship was out of sight. They couldn’t hear the voices of the members shouting as the ship sailed away, but they could hear what was in their hearts. The light that both sent out that day came to shine as an inextinguishable flame of courage and hope in the hearts of the Shikoku members.
Nichiren Daishonin writes: “The great distances these persons traveled are indicative of their devotion” (WND-2, 1030). Those with a seeking spirit experience growth, savor joy, and have appreciation, and this in turn becomes a powerful driving force for fresh development.
That evening, Shin’ichi chanted that the ship sail smoothly and everyone return home safely. He also contacted the ship late that night and once again asked that everyone convey his very best regards to the members who could not make the trip.
The next morning, he also phoned to check whether the voyage was progressing safely.
To him, his disciples were his most precious treasure, a bright source of hope for the future.
Awaiting the Time 56
On February 17, 1980, about a month after the Shikoku members traveled aboard the Sunflower 7 to visit the Kanagawa Culture Center, a group of 86 young women’s division members from Kyushu’s Amami Oshima Regional Headquarters made their way to the Soka Gakkai Tachikawa Culture Center (in Tokyo), where Shin’ichi Yamamoto was.
On February 1, 1979, the previous year, Shin’ichi had attended a Kyushu Region leaders meeting at the Kyushu Training Center. It was right before his trip to India, which would cap the completion of the Seven Bells.
Representatives from each prefecture of Kyushu were present, including a young women’s division leader from the outlying Amami Islands, of which Amami Oshima is the largest. While joining members in a group photo, Shin’ichi said to the Amami representative: “If you have any requests, please let the national young women’s division leader know later. Anything is fine. Please don’t hesitate. I’d like to respond to your requests as much as possible. I know that all of our young women living on the Amami Islands have been fighting hard in an extremely challenging environment.”
The Amami representative spoke with the national leader and asked whether it would be possible for the Amami Oshima Region Headquarters young women to hold a meeting at the Soka Young Women’s Center.
The Soka Young Women’s Center had opened in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, in December 1977.2 Since then, young women’s division members from around the country were eager to visit it.
Shin’ichi gladly gave the green light to the Amami leader’s request.
The young women of Amami vowed together to make even greater efforts to spread Nichiren Buddhism in their communities and then gather in Tokyo where President Yamamoto, their mentor and leader of kosen-rufu, was.
Nichiren Shoshu priests continued their malicious attacks against the Soka Gakkai. But the young women’s division members in Amami held high the banner of justice, defending the Soka Gakkai’s integrity, and strove with great passion to introduce others to their Buddhist practice. Then, less than three months after the young women’s leader met him at the Kyushu Training Center, Shin’ichi resigned as president.
It felt as if the sun was suddenly covered by clouds. Still, the members refused to be disheartened. They told one another: “This is the very time to reassure Sensei by achieving a great victory in our efforts to spread Buddhism.”
Adversity is a touchstone revealing a person’s true worth.
Awaiting the Time 57
In the past, Soka Gakkai members in certain areas of Amami Oshima had suffered intense persecution.3 Village leaders had confiscated Gohonzon, driven members from their places of work, and taken other harsh actions against them. Shop owners also refused to sell them daily necessities. Villagers even formed motorcades to protest the Soka Gakkai’s presence.
From the time they were children, many of the Amami young women’s division members had witnessed their parents’ wholehearted efforts to share Nichiren Buddhism with people in the community. They saw how they persevered in such adverse circumstances, often holding back tears of frustration, motivated by a sincere wish for the happiness of themselves and others.
That was the case with Amami Oshima Region Headquarters Young Women’s Division Leader Rei Osada.
When Rei was just a year old, her father died in an accident at sea, leaving her mother to raise her and her older sister alone. Though suffering from ill health, her mother worked as a seamstress to support them, but they were very poor.
They joined the Soka Gakkai as a family in 1958. Rei’s mother earnestly engaged in Soka Gakkai activities, convinced that practicing Nichiren Buddhism was the only way for them to transform their karma and become happy.
Day by day, she began to feel a renewed sense of purpose and hope in her life. Her health improved as well, and she gradually developed a strong conviction in the power of faith. She had been a very quiet person, but she began to take Rei, then still an elementary school student, with her when she went out to share Buddhism with others. Living in a village where local customs and traditions were deeply entrenched, they were invariably greeted with contempt, ridicule, and abuse wherever they visited, but her mother didn’t give up.
She would state firmly: “The faith taught by the Soka Gakkai is absolutely correct. If you practice it, you’ll definitely become happy.”
Observing her mother working so hard for the happiness of others, Rei felt she was seeing a true example of human strength and nobility.
When Rei was about 11 or 12 years old, her mother became sick with a high fever—so high that it quickly melted the ice in the ice bag she placed on her forehead. Rei nursed her through the night.
In her sickbed, her mother kept repeating: “If anything should happen to me, you must never leave the Soka Gakkai. You must never part with the Gohonzon.”
Those words made a deep impression on the young Rei’s heart. Eventually, her mother recovered and began to take part in Soka Gakkai activities again. She obtained more sewing work, and their life became more stable and secure.
Experiencing the benefit of Buddhist practice nurtures conviction and further strengthens one’s faith.
Awaiting the Time 58
As the priesthood was intensifying its criticism of the Soka Gakkai, the wife of the chief priest of the local Nichiren Shoshu temple summoned Rei Osada. She proceeded to badmouth the lay organization to Rei and pressed her to choose between Nichiren Shoshu and the Soka Gakkai.
Rei responded firmly: “The Soka Gakkai taught us about faith in Nichiren Buddhism. President Yamamoto and the Soka Gakkai encouraged and supported us. Not the priesthood!”
The hearts of the Amami members beat with an invincible fighting spirit, which was being carried on by the younger generation.
Shin’ichi’s resignation as Soka Gakkai president had come as a terrible shock to the Amami young women’s division members.
Rei urged them: “Let’s achieve a victory for the Soka Gakkai before we go to Tokyo, to the Soka Young Women’s Center, to meet with Yamamoto Sensei!”
She traveled from island to island to encourage her fellow young women’s division members. The area covered by the Amami Oshima Region Headquarters was very extensive, encompassing eight inhabited islands, of which Amami Oshima, where Rei lived, was the largest. Traveling from Amami Oshima to Tokunoshima Island took three hours by boat. It was five and a half hours to Okinoerabujima Island, and seven hours to Yoronjima Island. On those islands, young women leaders, burning with a vow for kosen-rufu, initiated fresh efforts to expand their network of hope and justice.
No distance could separate the hearts of mentor and disciple dedicated to advancing kosen-rufu. Vast oceans and towering mountains could not come between them. If anything, distance only made their bond grow stronger and deeper.
On the afternoon of February 17, 1980, a large group of young women’s division members from the Amami Oshima Region Headquarters arrived aboard two buses at the Tachikawa Culture Center in Tokyo, where Shin’ichi was. There were 86 members in all, from Amami Oshima, Kakeromajima Island, Tokunoshima Island, and Okinoerabujima Island.
The Amami young women had come to Tokyo having successfully achieved record-breaking victory in their efforts to share Nichiren Buddhism with people in their communities. Their faces were bright and happy.
Those who strive their hardest are beautiful. Their lives radiate joy.
Awaiting the Time 59
The young women’s division members departed from Amami Oshima’s Naze Harbor after 9:00 p.m. on February 15. Bright stars filled the night sky and seemed to smile down at them.
After traveling 11 hours by ferry, the young women arrived in Kagoshima (in Kyushu) on the morning of February 16, and from there flew on to Tokyo.
It was after 1:00 p.m. when their plane landed at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. They then made their way to Edogawa Ward, where the local Soka Gakkai organization had fostered close ties with its counterpart in Amami. They took part in a welcome gathering and a seminar hosted by the Edogawa Ward young women’s division members.
That evening, they finally stood in front of the Soka Young Women’s Center (in Shinanomachi, Tokyo), which they had all been eagerly looking forward to visiting.
It was only two degrees Celsius (around 35 degrees Fahrenheit), and their breath made white puffs in the cold air. Coming from Amami, where the average February temperature was over 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit), the young women had never experienced such cold before. But their hearts were glowing.
When Shin’ichi learned that they had departed from Amami Oshima, he chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, praying for their safe arrival. He also gave instructions that they be served warm sweet red bean soup, knowing they would be unaccustomed to the cold of Tokyo.
At the Soka Young Women’s Center, the young women exclaimed happily when they were served the soup Shin’ichi had so thoughtfully arranged for them, and they drank it with appreciation.
Afterward, they joined together for gongyo led by Yuko Machino, who had been appointed the national young women’s division leader the previous May (in 1979). They savored the joy of the “victory of youth” they had achieved in fulfilling their vow. Soka Gakkai President Kiyoshi Jujo also spoke to them of the great hopes Shin’ichi had for the Amami members, and they were filled with excitement at the prospect of meeting their mentor.
The following day, February 17, they visited Soka Gakkai Headquarters and the Seikyo Shimbun Building in the morning, and then in the afternoon they traveled aboard two chartered buses to meet Shin’ichi at the Tachikawa Culture Center in Tachikawa City, Tokyo.
At the culture center, Shin’ichi eagerly awaited their arrival. “Are the young women’s division members from Amami here yet?” he repeatedly asked leaders nearby.
When he thought of the earnest efforts these young women had made on the remote Amami Islands, with poor transportation, walking along dark roads at night, ever vigilant for poisonous snakes—all to encourage their fellow members and engage in Buddhist dialogue—Shin’ichi could hardly wait to personally encourage them.
Such things as age or social position are irrelevant in faith. The most precious treasures of Soka are those who strive steadfastly to realize kosen-rufu and to open the door to a better future. That was Shin’ichi’s conviction and belief.
Awaiting the Time 60
Shin’ichi welcomed the young women from Amami in the front lobby of the Tachikawa Culture Center.
“Welcome! Thank you for coming all this way! Please rest and relax now.
“I hope your parents are well. I haven’t forgotten the Amami members who opened the way for the development of kosen-rufu in their communities despite great obstacles and challenges. Please give my very best to everyone when you get back home.
“You all have great good fortune. The members in the early days of our movement battled persecution and gave their all to building a solid foundation for the Soka Gakkai. And upon that foundation they have built, you can now freely and enjoyably take part in Soka Gakkai activities. You must never forget the tremendous efforts and hard work of your parents and other pioneer members.”
Noticing a young woman in a wheelchair, Shin’ichi walked up to her and said: “Thank you for coming! I’ve been waiting for you!”
She was a member from Tokunoshima Island who had cerebral palsy, a condition that had made it difficult for her to walk or talk. But she resolved to visit the Soka Young Women’s Center in Tokyo along with the other members, meet President Yamamoto, and renew her vow for kosen-rufu, and had chanted earnestly to make it happen.
Having decided to go to Tokyo, she applied herself to exercises to improve her ability to speak and to walk. And she progressed to the point where she was able to walk slowly, unaided.
Shin’ichi said emphatically: “Everything’s going to be all right now. You are certain to become happy.”
Illness is not a cause of misfortune. Even if you are sick, you need to have hope, rouse your fighting spirit, and not give in to self-defeat.
The young woman in the wheelchair was determined to fulfill her mission for kosen-rufu, refusing to let her disabilities stand in the way. In so doing, she had already triumphed over herself.
Faith in the Mystic Law gives us the strength to rise to any challenge. As long as we remain steadfast in faith, the brilliant reward of victory and happiness will await us. That is why Shin’ichi told the young woman she was absolutely certain to become happy.
She looked at Shin’ichi with tears in her eyes and nodded in understanding and resolve.
This young woman later married, became a mother, and together with her husband led a life of genuine happiness.
- *1The lyrics to the song “The Green Leaves of Sakurai”—popularly known as “Dainanko” (The Great Hero Kusunoki)—were composed by the noted poet and scholar of Japanese literature Naobumi Ochiai (1861–1903). They describe the poignant leave-taking between the brilliant 14th-century military tactician Kusunoki Masashige (d. 1336) and his son Masatsura. As the father departs for battle, his young son declares that he will accompany him, ready to die at his side. But his father asks his son to stay behind and live to carry on his aspirations. “Dainanko” is often sung in the Soka Gakkai as an expression of the spirit of oneness of mentor and disciple.
- *2A new Soka Young Women’s Center was later built on another site in Shinanomachi, opening on May 3, 2006.
*3For a more detailed account of this history, see The New Human Revolution, volume 13,
chapter 3, “Shining Citadel.”