Chapter 2, Awaiting the Time 61–68
Awaiting the Time 61
One of the Amami young women’s division members stepped forward and said: “Sensei, please accept these as a token of our appreciation.” After she handed Shin’ichi some branches of Taiwan cherry blossoms from Amami Oshima, another young woman presented him with potted freesias from Okinoerabujima Island.
“Thank you! It’s as if spring has come early. Spring, alive with flowers, is a symbol of happiness. I want all of you to become happy, too. That’s the thing that makes me happiest, and it’s also proof of the validity of Nichiren Buddhism. I hope all of you will vow to become the happiest people in Japan and the entire world. Happiness is the goal of our faith, our Soka Gakkai activities, and kosen-rufu.”
Shin’ichi then handed the group’s leader a decorative card on which he had inscribed a poem for them:
Young women of Amami
have gathered from afar
and the heavenly deities
this historic day.
“Now, let’s take a group photo together as an expression of our vow to become happy.”
They divided into two groups for the photographs. Instead of sitting in the center of the front row for each group photo, Shin’ichi stood on one side at the back, as if watching over them protectively.
After the photos were taken, Shin’ichi said: “Your admirable seeking spirit is the hope of the Soka Gakkai. Your pure, strong faith, unshaken by anything, has the power to usher in a bright new age in the 21st century. I hope you’ll keep moving forward with confidence and a positive outlook.”
Hearing that a seminar on health was being held at the center, Shin’ichi said to one of the leaders: “Since these young women have come all the way from Amami, please introduce them at the seminar and give them an opportunity to interact with the participants. I’m sure it will be an inspiring experience for everyone.”
Shin’ichi wanted the young women to make as many wonderful memories as possible during their stay in Tokyo. He wanted to respond to their earnest seeking spirit with the utmost sincerity.
Awaiting the Time 62
Excitement filled the room when the Amami members were introduced to the seminar participants. Everyone was happily surprised to see these young people who were exerting themselves joyfully in faith on Japan’s outlying southern islands.
The young women performed two Amami folk songs, “Island Grown” and “White Sands in the Moonlight,” drawing enthusiastic applause from the audience.
Shin’ichi met and spoke again with Amami young women’s leader Rei Osada along with national young women’s leaders and others, after they returned from the health seminar.
Rei told him about the activities of a young women’s division member who was a teacher on Kakeromajima Island and about other members who had been unable to make the trip to Tokyo this time, although they had very much wanted to.
Shin’ichi nodded sympathetically as he listened to her report.
He also asked after a number of Amami men’s division and women’s division leaders, pioneer members, the caretaker of the Soka Gakkai center on Amami Oshima, and others.
“I’m glad to hear they are all doing well,” he said.
He gave Rei messages, as well as books and other small gifts, to take home with her for each of them.
Shin’ichi then said: “The islands and communities where you live may be small, but if you make them into models of kosen-rufu, Amami will become a source of hope and inspiration for members around the world. That will mean that you are all leading the way, serving as the driving force for the global development of our movement. In that respect, kosen-rufu in your local community contributes directly to worldwide kosen-rufu.
“With the conviction that where you reside now is your place of mission and a Land of Eternally Tranquil Light brimming with happiness, please advance together in friendship and harmony. Nichiren Daishonin writes: ‘It is not that the Buddha leaves his present place and goes to some other place’ (OTT, 192). Please work together to create a fresh breeze of worldwide kosen-rufu for the 21st century from Amami.
“Amami, do your best! Amami, don’t let anything defeat you!”
When the time came for the Amami young women’s division members to leave the Tachikawa Culture Center, Shin’ichi went outside to wave them good-bye as their buses departed.
Just as Shin’ichi hoped, Amami went on to become a model Soka Gakkai organization in Japan. And members who made that trip to Tokyo attested that the encouragement they received from Shin’ichi on that occasion was something they would treasure all their lives.
Words of encouragement motivated by the wish for someone’s happiness can function as a source of revitalizing light, rousing courage and strength.
Awaiting the Time 63
After seeing the Amami young women’s division members off, Shin’ichi paid a visit to a husband and wife from Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, who had made great contributions to the development of kosen-rufu over the years. They ran a small yakitori1 restaurant in Meguro Ward, so he went to meet and talk with them there before they opened for the evening.
He listened as they and other family members who had gathered for the occasion told him what was happening in their lives, and he warmly encouraged everyone. While life is filled with all kinds of difficulties and challenges, he said, overcoming them based on faith is the sure path to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.
Next, Shin’ichi went to the Soka Gakkai’s Meguro Peace Center (later renamed Meguro International Culture Center).
For the past year or so, since January 1979, priests at a Nichiren Shoshu temple in Meguro had been maliciously criticizing and maligning the Soka Gakkai. The local members, who had been working so hard for kosen-rufu, were upset and frustrated by this unwarranted attack on the organization. But they valiantly exerted themselves in their activities for kosen-rufu, confident that justice would prevail.
Shin’ichi had last visited the Meguro Peace Center to encourage members on March 11, 1979—a little more than a month before he stepped down as Soka Gakkai president. On that occasion, he said to a group of high school division members he met on the first floor of the center: “The future belongs to you. The time will come when you’ll be the ones taking full responsibility for our movement for kosen-rufu. For that reason, I hope you’ll study hard now, develop your abilities, and, when the time comes, strive confidently for the welfare of society and people’s happiness. I am eagerly looking forward to your courageous endeavors in the 21st century.”
As Shin’ichi started to climb the stairs to the second floor, a group of men were coming down. They explained that they were part of a special training group for younger men’s division members.
“What’s the name of your group?” asked Shin’ichi.
A man at the head of the group responded proudly: “We are the Brave Generals Group.”
“That’s a great name,” said Shin’ichi. “Who is your leader?”
“I am!” said the man at the front.
“And what’s your name?”
The group’s leader was in his 40s with rugged features and thick eyebrows.
“Brave Generals are exhilarated by raging tempests!” Shin’ichi remarked. “Difficulties set their fighting spirit ablaze!”
Awaiting the Time 64
Shin’ichi joined the members of the Brave Generals Group for a photo on the stairs of the Meguro Peace Center.
Turning to Meguro Ward Leader Yukihiro Sasai nearby, he said: “Soka Gakkai activities should be carried out with joy and enthusiasm. We have to let everyone be themselves.
“Rather than just doing things in one set, uniform way, it’s important for us as leaders to always think of how we can enable everyone to naturally display their own unique strengths and abilities to the fullest.
“Leaders’ personal examples of actively taking initiative is a vital driving force for progress. We have to inspire and motivate everyone with our own actions, enthusiasm, and dedication. A brave general imparts joy and ignites a fighting spirit in everyone’s heart.”
Now, 11 months later, Shin’ichi was visiting the Meguro Peace Center again.
Children’s voices rang out in the lobby and several men’s and women’s division members were present. An introductory meeting organized by Meguro’s Kakinokizaka Chapter was about to be held in the main hall on the second floor.
“I’m so happy to see all of you devoting yourselves to kosen-rufu with such pride, despite the difficult circumstances,” Shin’ichi said.
He then joined the members on the first floor, including the children, in a photo.
When he went up to the third floor, he found 20 or so men were gathered there. By curious coincidence, it was a training session of the Brave Generals Group.
Men’s division headquarters leader Joichi Katsuta, who was in charge of the group, said to Shin’ichi with deep emotion: “Sensei! Thank you for coming!”
“How remarkable to meet with the Brave Generals Group again!” Shin’ichi said.
“The members who joined you in a photograph last time have graduated, and now we have new members,” Katsuta informed him.
“That’s wonderful. Kosen-rufu can only advance if we foster a steady stream of capable individuals. Just trying to maintain our present level of development leads to stagnation. Our Buddhist faith and practice enable us to apply our ingenuity so that we can keep making fresh progress and move in the direction of hope, victory, and a new tomorrow. Please continue to foster capable individuals, each with the strength of a thousand and the courage to stand up alone. I want all our members in Meguro to become brave generals, always working to open the way to victory and communicate that spirit to the entire world. Long live Meguro, a gathering of Brave Generals!”
Awaiting the Time 65
“Let’s do gongyo together,” Shin’ichi said.
As he chanted, he prayed earnestly for everyone’s health, the prosperity of their families, and the successful endeavors of the Soka Gakkai organization in Meguro.
He then engaged in an informal discussion with women’s and young women’s division leaders.
The Meguro Ward women’s leader told Shin’ichi that they were all pouring their energies into offering personal guidance, determined not to lose a single member amid the continuing criticism of the Soka Gakkai by priests of the local Nichiren Shoshu temple, which had intensified after Shin’ichi stepped down as president.
“I’m sorry that you have to go through this. I know it must be very challenging, but we’re now at a crucial juncture. I’ll definitely turn this situation around. So until then, while it may be hard, please continue to do your best.”
Shin’ichi’s words brought tears to the leader’s eyes. “Sensei, we won’t be defeated!” she said. “We’ll protect our precious members to the very end!”
“I appreciate it, and I’m counting on you.”
Then, the Meguro Ward young women’s division leader said: “Our young women are actively holding chapter introductory meetings now and working hard to share our Buddhist philosophy with others. Lots of new members have also started practicing, and everyone is full of joy.”
“That’s very impressive. A new age has arrived. Actually, that is something we must bring about, so let’s create a new age together!”
Shin’ichi was delighted.
He and Mineko had married on May 3, 1952, and began their new life as a couple in Mita, Meguro Ward, which was close to where Josei Toda lived. They vowed together to join in supporting and assisting their mentor, and to help open the way for the future development of the Soka Gakkai, beginning a fresh page in their efforts for kosen-rufu. Shin’ichi was very happy to hear that the young people of Meguro were joyfully spreading the Daishonin’s teachings, ready to forge ahead dauntlessly through any onslaught of adversity.
After his discussion with the women’s and young women’s leaders, Shin’ichi went to the main hall on the second floor. The Kakinokizaka Chapter introductory meeting was already over, but event staff and some members of each division were still present. He joined with them in a group photo and then played “Happy Doll Festival,” “Moonlit Desert,” and “Tree-lined Avenue of Life” for them on the piano.
“I’ve played these songs out of the wish that it might lift your spirits in some small way. Whatever happens, always press forward with courage and confidence!”
During this difficult and stormy time, the members were striving valiantly. A new force was beginning to stir in the Soka Gakkai.
Awaiting the Time 66
It had been almost a year since Shin’ichi Yamamoto stepped down as Soka Gakkai president.
The situation surrounding the Soka Gakkai, however, was still troubled. Nichiren Shoshu had promised to stop priests from maligning the Soka Gakkai and pressing Soka Gakkai members to leave the organization and affiliate themselves directly with their own temples as danto members. But the majority of younger priests paid no attention to this. Instead, they seized on the opportunity to keep attacking the lay organization.
This group antagonistic to the Soka Gakkai continued to swell in number until it included two-thirds of priests with the rank of teacher.
At the end of April 1979, right after Shin’ichi announced he was stepping down as Soka Gakkai president and head of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations, the group began publishing a newspaper for danto members called Keimyo, and used it as a platform for bashing the Soka Gakkai.
In addition, in a special election for a vacant seat in the Nichiren Shoshu Council held in June, the group’s candidate won by a large margin.
The attorney Tomomasa Yamawaki had been continually at work inciting these priests to attack the Soka Gakkai, and their influence was expanding.
Many of the younger priests in this group were direct disciples of High Priest Nittatsu, having joined the priesthood as children in response to recruitment efforts by the head temple. And even though Nittatsu had prohibited criticism of the Soka Gakkai, these priests, with their new influence within the priesthood, ignored him.
Further, in July, when High Priest Nittatsu died and Shinno Abe became the new high priest, taking the name Nikken, they refused to follow the latter’s leadership and openly opposed him.
In January 1980, the fourth national general meeting of danto members was held.
In February, the group decided to run 16 candidates for the 16 seats of the Nichiren Shoshu Council in the council’s next election. This was part of their plan to take over control of the council and put further pressure on the Soka Gakkai. And they actually stood a good chance of winning a significant number of seats.
The Soka Gakkai was facing treacherous obstacles in every direction.
Nichiren Daishonin asserts: “Nichiren’s disciples cannot accomplish anything if they are cowardly” (WND-1, 481). Only by braving the crashing waves that pound us relentlessly and surmounting them can we sail forth into the great ocean of kosen-rufu.
Awaiting the Time 67
Shin’ichi was well aware that President Jujo and the rest of the Soka Gakkai executive leadership were under a great deal of strain as they worked exhaustively to deal with the continuing attacks by anti-Gakkai priests and other problems. But all he could do was entrust the running of the organization to them and quietly watch over their efforts.
Since stepping down as president, Shin’ichi had not attended most of the monthly Soka Gakkai Headquarters leaders meetings or the monthly Soka Gakkai Headquarters staff meetings. And very little coverage of his activities had appeared in the Seikyo Shimbun. Everything accorded with a plot devised by a treacherous lawyer and Nichiren Shoshu priests whose shared aim was to gain control over the membership by sidelining Shin’ichi.
Yet, while most members continued to forge ahead in the face of these harsh trials, proud to be walking the Soka path of mentor and disciple, a small segment of leaders lost their drive and conviction in the cause of kosen-rufu, and began to act and speak irresponsibly.
The mentor-disciple spirit is the bedrock of the Soka Gakkai. If this spirit is lost, the organization will be unable to fulfill its mission, and the path to kosen-rufu, Nichiren Daishonin’s cherished wish, will be closed off.
Shin’ichi had always radiated a powerful fighting spirit for kosen-rufu, serving as a bright source of inspiration for the members to move forward. But since he had not been able to speak freely at meetings for close to a year, their momentum was beginning to wane.
The inspiration of the mentor is crucial to helping disciples strengthen their courage and conviction and experience fresh joy. The lives of Soka mentors and disciples dedicated to kosen-rufu are one and united, and the bond they share must never be destroyed.
Shin’ichi vowed in his heart: “No one has the right to obstruct the unity of mentor and disciple. No matter how harshly the priests may attack me, I must break through the dark clouds of devilish functions and protect our members, the children of the Buddha!”
He knew he must seize the moment. The fiercer the battle, the more each second counts, and swift action opens the way to victory.
Awaiting the Time 68
An article by Shin’ichi entitled “Thoughts on My Mentor’s 23rd Memorial” appeared in the Seikyo Shimbun on April 2, 1980, the anniversary of Josei Toda’s death.2 In it, he called out: “If we lose sight of advancing kosen-rufu, I deeply fear that we will betray the spirit of both Nichiren Daishonin and his successor, Nikko Shonin. Let’s . . . make fresh strides in our efforts for the sake of kosen-rufu to help all people become happy!”
Toda lived on in Shin’ichi’s heart. The image of his mentor nobly dedicating his life to kosen-rufu, compassionately spreading the Mystic Law, was always in his mind. A powerful determination welled up within him to spend the rest of his life, too, working tirelessly for that cause, as befitted a disciple of Toda.
In the same article, Shin’ichi declared, “Practicing Nichiren Buddhism is a lifelong journey from which there can be no turning back,” and pledged to strive even harder, as Soka Gakkai honorary president and SGI president, to support his fellow members and promote culture and peace.
Now, after a year of patiently awaiting the time, Shin’ichi prepared to soar forth boldly once more. He sensed the day had dawned to mount a fresh counteroffensive.
Members everywhere throughout the Soka Gakkai, a gathering of ordinary people, overflowed with a passionate fighting spirit to carry on the shared struggle of mentor and disciple.
As the plot to drive a wedge between Soka mentor and disciples unfolded, members were no longer even permitted to address Shin’ichi as “Sensei,” or refer to him as their mentor.
But courageous men’s division and young men’s division members proclaimed defiantly in song, “We have a mentor!” expressing their resolve to protect the castle of Soka. Members brimming with seeking spirit also traveled by ferry all the way from Shikoku to visit Shin’ichi in Yokohama, while pure-hearted young women’s division members made the long trip from the remote Amami Islands to meet with him in Tokyo. And over 100,000 letters poured in from members around the country vowing to forge ahead undefeated.
The blizzard was fierce, but underneath the deep snow fresh sprouts were emerging.
This grassroots strength is the strength of the Soka Gakkai. These sincere, dauntless members are the treasures of Soka.
Shin’ichi vowed deeply in his heart: “I will stand up—with and for these members!”
(This concludes “Awaiting the Time,”
chapter 2 of volume 30 of
The New Human Revolution.)