Volume 30: Chapter 3, Launching Out 11–20

Launching Out 11

On the evening of April 26, at the Ronghu Hotel where he was staying, Shin’ichi Yamamoto met with Li Luogong, president of the Guilin Art Academy and a professor at the Guangxi Arts Institute. President Li had studied in Japan and was a distinguished painter, calligrapher, and seal engraver.

They had a lively conversation about calligraphy and painting, and Shin’ichi was struck deeply by President Li’s observation: “Calligraphy is not writing for writing’s sake. It arises from one’s thoughts and feelings and expresses one’s view of the world and the universe, as well as one’s character.”

Three decades later, in April 2010, Guangxi Arts Institute bestowed a lifetime honorary professorship on Shin’ichi.

On the morning of April 27, the Soka Gakkai delegation left Guilin, journeying through Guangzhou to arrive in Shanghai that evening. This was the last stop on their visit to China.

The following morning, Shin’ichi attended a ceremony at the Shanghai Indoor Stadium, where the delegation presented a gift of sports equipment to Shanghai City. In the afternoon, he visited the Shanghai Changning District Correctional Work-Study School, a boarding school aimed at rehabilitating 16- and 17-year-old youth.

The school’s principal led Shin’ichi’s group on a tour of the classrooms.

Shin’ichi shook hands with the students one by one and spoke with them. Young people have boundless potential. Wishing for each one of them to lead strong, positive lives, he clasped their hands firmly and encouraged them with his whole heart.

He said to them: “Life is long. There might be times when you experience a setback for some reason or other, but you mustn’t let it cause you to lose hope. As long as you keep challenging yourself, there is hope.

“But if you give up on yourself and become self-destructive, you are extinguishing the light of hope through your own actions. No matter what happens, don’t be self-defeating. Winning over yourself leads to winning over everything.

“Study hard here at your school and become victorious—for society, for your parents, and for yourself. Achieve great development, never be disheartened, and be sure to come to Japan someday!”

Grasping the students’ hands tightly, he also told them: “It’s all a matter of perseverance. Don’t be defeated!”

The students nodded in agreement, determination sparkling in their eyes.

Launching Out 12

On the afternoon of April 28, Fudan University President Su Buqing came to see Shin’ichi at the Jin Jiang Hotel, where he was staying in Shanghai. Shin’ichi had visited Fudan University in 1975 and 1978 to donate books, and he and President Su were old friends.

President Su was a renowned mathematician, and on this day they once again discussed mathematics and education. During their conversation, Shin’ichi asked President Su if there was an easy way to teach the difficult subject of mathematics. The president’s reply impressed Shin’ichi.

“In everything,” he said, “the process must move from the shallow to the deep, the small to the big, the easy to the difficult. It’s possible to teach mathematics if you explain each step along the way carefully and patiently and help students master them.”

President Su went on to say emphatically: “In other words, the learner must take it a step at a time, skipping nothing, and master the subject gradually and steadily. Then one must just keep moving forward, aiming at one’s highest goal. There will be times along the way when one feels it’s impossible, and such moments are crucial. If you keep persevering and forging ahead, you will reach a point where the way opens before you. It may be something like attaining enlightenment.”

When you advance toward a goal, obstacles are certain to rise in your path, and that is the moment of truth when the struggle with yourself begins. By vanquishing your own inner weakness—the tendency to give up or compromise—and continuing to press onward, the situation will change for the better. Victors are those who practice self-mastery.

In the ensuing years, Shin’ichi stayed in regular touch with Su Buqing. They met and spoke in person on six occasions.

In June 1987, Shin’ichi presented Su Buqing, then honorary president of Fudan University, with a poem titled “The Great River of Peace,” in tribute to the friendship and trust they shared. The poem contained the lines:

Just as a great river
starts from a single drop of water,
let us advance together as single drops
creating a Yangtze River of peace.

Launching Out 13

Following his meeting with Su Buqing, Shin’ichi met with the writer Ba Jin, who visited him that evening at the hotel.

Ba Jin was a prominent Chinese literary figure, internationally renowned for such works as Family and Cold Nights, who also served as first vice-chair of the China Writers Association. This was their second meeting.

They had first met at the Soka Gakkai Shizuoka Training Center on April 5, just before Shin’ichi’s trip to China, when Ba Jin was visiting Japan as head of a delegation of Chinese writers. Also present on that occasion was Bing Xin, one of the most famous women writers in modern Chinese literature, honorary chair of the China Writers Association, and vice-head of the delegation visiting Japan. Together they had enjoyed a lively discussion on literature, the state of literary arts in Japan, and Japanese writers such as Murasaki Shikibu (c. 978–c. 1014) and Natsume Soseki (1867–1916).

Six days after that meeting (on April 11), Ba Jin was a guest speaker at a lecture series (in Kyoto) sponsored by the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper. In his speech, he declared: “I wrote to battle enemies.”

Throughout his career, the Chinese writer had wielded his fiery pen with a passionate wish to awaken those who, under the yoke of the feudal ethical code that pervaded China before the revolution [carried out in the first half of the 20th century], were trapped in a prison of suffering, robbed of their youth.

Ba Jin said: “What are my enemies? All the outdated, traditional notions, all the irrational policies and systems that hinder the progress of society and the development of human potential, everything that destroys love.”

He was 75, but still brimming with the spirit of a warrior battling the people’s enemies.

“I am deeply impressed by your youthful spirit,” Shin’ichi said to Ba Jin [at their meeting at the Shizuoka Training Center]. “One of Japan’s biggest problems today is that young people, who should be the flag bearers and agents of change, have grown apathetic, succumbing to resignation and escapism. The current state of literature is partly responsible for this. I find it truly regrettable that there are so few writers and books rich in philosophy and ideals that can provide young people with sound principles, great hope, and lofty, eternal goals in life.

“It has always been the youth, the power of young people, that has changed society. They have a mission to create the future, and they possess the real ability to do so. They must not give up. For if they do, they are tossing away their own future.”

Launching Out 14

In their conversation in Japan, Shin’ichi had said to Ba Jin and the other visiting Chinese writers: “Next time, let’s discuss revolution and literature, politics and literature, peace and literature, and other such topics.” They all promised to meet again.

Shin’ichi had already reconnected with Bing Xin at a thank-you banquet in Beijing on April 24, which he held for his hosts during this most recent trip to China. Now, in Shanghai, he had the opportunity to meet with Ba Jin for the second time.

When Shin’ichi asked his thoughts on politics and literature, Ba Jin replied without hesitation: “Literature cannot be separated from politics. But politics can never replace literature. Literature can build the human spirit, but politics cannot do that.”

Next, they spoke about China’s Cultural Revolution.

During the Cultural Revolution, Ba Jin was labeled a counterrevolutionary and driven from the literary sphere. Thousands of posters condemning him were pasted up on walls, and he was denounced as a traitor. The Chinese writer stressed that it was important for him to seriously assess the suffering he had undergone, thoroughly analyze himself, and clarify what had happened at that time.

In his remarks at the lecture series in Japan earlier that month (on April 11), he said: “I have to write. I will continue to write. To do so, I must become a better, purer, and more useful person.

“My life will soon be over. I don’t want to leave without having done everything I must. I have to write; I cannot lay down my pen. I set my soul on fire with my pen, and when the flames burn my body to ashes, my love and hate will be left to endure forever in this world.”

We must not ignore the wrongs that take place in our world. We need to deeply contemplate their causes and essence and launch a struggle for a better future.

In his conversation with Shin’ichi, Ba Jin said: “I have begun a novel about the Cultural Revolution. I intend to take my time writing it.”

The fighting spirit for truth and justice is what builds a new society.

Launching Out 15

Through encounters, people become acquaintances; through repeated conversations, they become friends; and through sincere caring and mutual empathy, they become close friends.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto and Ba Jin continued to stay in touch, forging bonds of deep trust and strong friendship.

Later, Ba Jin became chair of the China Writers Association. In November 2003, the association joined with the Chinese Literature Foundation to honor Shin’ichi with an International Literary Award for Understanding and Friendship.

Two years later, in 2005, Ba Jin passed away at the age of 100.

Bing Xin had died in 1999 at the age of 98. Two years earlier, in 1997, the Bing Xin Research Society, whose president was Ba Jin, established the Bing Xin Literature Museum in Changle, Fujian Province, to preserve and promote her legacy. In September 2004, the museum presented Shin’ichi with the title of honorary director and his wife, Mineko, with that of friendship ambassador.

In response to these expressions of goodwill, both Shin’ichi and Mineko vowed anew to devote even greater energy to promoting friendship and cultural and artistic exchange between China and Japan.

April 29 was the day the fifth Soka Gakkai delegation to China would return to Japan. The manager of the Jin Jiang Hotel, where the group was staying, requested that Shin’ichi write something in the hotel guest book. Shin’ichi signed his name and added a poem:

A golden bridge
on this fifth visit to China—
Treatise on Hachiman

In his treatise “On Reprimanding Hachiman,” Nichiren Daishonin writes: “The moon moves from the west eastward,1 a sign of how the Buddhism of India spread in an easterly direction. The sun rises in the east, an auspicious sign of how the Buddhism of Japan is destined to return to the Land of the Moon [India]” (WND-2, 936). It was the Daishonin’s prediction of the westward transmission of Buddhism.

He entrusted to his disciples of later ages the mission to illuminate Asia and the world with the humanistic light of Nichiren Buddhism and create happiness for all people. Shin’ichi had poured his life into his travels for peace in order to actualize the Daishonin’s prediction.

Our social mission as Buddhists striving to realize the ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land” is to establish a philosophy of compassion and the dignity of life in people’s hearts, creating a prosperous society and lasting world peace.

Launching Out 16

A new struggle toward the new century began.

At 1:40 p.m. on April 29, Shin’ichi Yamamoto and the other delegation members departed from Shanghai’s Hongqiao International Airport for Japan.

Shin’ichi was headed for Nagasaki in Kyushu. He was determined to launch a fresh struggle to open a new way forward for kosen-rufu. Now was the time, he firmly resolved, to break free of the fetters imposed on him through the scheming of treacherous members and Nichiren Shoshu priests who were intent on severing the Soka mentor-disciple bond. With that goal in mind, he decided to attend commemorative gongyo sessions and other meetings in Nagasaki, Fukuoka, Osaka, Nagoya, and other cities on his way back from China and wholeheartedly encourage the members there.

He was well aware that this action on his part would trigger a backlash from the devilish forces seeking to destroy kosen-rufu, but he was determined that, no matter what might happen, he had to protect the members who were suffering as a result of the base and malicious attacks by authoritarian priests.

A beautiful rainbow spanned the sky over Nagasaki Airport that day. Shin’ichi and his party’s flight landed shortly after 4:30 p.m. on April 29.

Shin’ichi stood on the steps leading down from the plane. A large banner reading “Congratulations on the Great Success of the Soka Gakkai’s Fifth Delegation to China” hung from the observation deck and a crowd of Soka Gakkai members were there waving, welcoming him and his party home.

Shin’ichi waved back at them. From that moment on, he embarked on a fresh effort to encourage the members.

Nagasaki Prefecture Leader Tsuguya Umemori was smiling broadly, but when Shin’ichi shook his hand, he was overwhelmed with emotion and tears came to his eyes. The city of Omura, home of Nagasaki Airport, was one of the places where members had been bullied and harassed by Nichiren Shoshu priests. Holding back bitter tears, the members there had been waiting patiently for this day.

Shin’ichi called out: “The lion is here! Everything will be all right. Don’t worry.”

A young women’s division member said, “Sensei, welcome home!” and presented Shin’ichi with a bouquet.

“Thank you!” Shin’ichi exclaimed and then said to everyone gathered: “We are about to make a fresh start. The long journey for kosen-rufu has begun. Let’s open the door to the future!”

As long as we keep moving forward, a hope-filled tomorrow will come. As long as we burn with a fighting spirit, the future will be sunny and bright.

Launching Out 17

Shin’ichi made his way from Nagasaki Airport to the Soka Gakkai Nagasaki Culture Center. It was his first visit to Nagasaki in 12 years.

Nagasaki Prefecture Leader Tsuguya Umemori told him that a leaders meeting was being held at the center to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the establishment of Nagasaki Chapter. Shin’ichi went straight to the meeting room. The members burst into loud applause.

“It’s good to see you all again!” said Shin’ichi. “Let’s all give a big cheer to celebrate Nagasaki’s victory over storms of adversity!”

Umemori then led the audience in a resounding three cheers for the Nagasaki Soka Gakkai.

Shin’ichi explained that he had to leave shortly because he had a press conference at a hotel in the city to report on his visit to China, and then added: “How can we win in life and become happy? The life state of Buddhahood and the life state of hell both exist within our hearts. By drawing forth the life state of Buddhahood we can build indestructible happiness. To do that, we need to focus our mind on kosen-rufu and strive unflaggingly in our Buddhist practice, chanting with a vow to realize happiness for ourselves and others.

“Nichiren Daishonin writes: ‘You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others. . . . Teach others to the best of your ability, even if it is only a single sentence or phrase’ (WND-1, 386). If we strive earnestly for kosen-rufu, dedicating ourselves to spreading the Mystic Law and introducing others to our Buddhist practice, we will bring forth the boundless life state of Buddhahood within us and be able to transform all of life’s sufferings into great joy. That’s why even when in exile on Sado Island, the Daishonin could write: ‘Though we may be exiles, we have cause to be joyful in both body and mind!’ (WND-1, 312).

“Though we of the Soka Gakkai may pride ourselves on the membership goals we have reached so far—each new million milestone and, most recently, the landmark goal of 10 million—there are now more than 4 billion people on our planet. That means that only one person in several hundred is now a Soka Gakkai member. Viewed in that light, our movement for worldwide kosen-rufu is still in its infancy. We have only just begun. Our efforts will really take off in the 21st century.

“I want all of you to live long lives. Together let’s dedicate our lives to kosen-rufu!”

The members applauded with joy and a vow for kosen-rufu.

Launching Out 18

After encouraging the members at the commemorative leaders meeting, Shin’ichi hurried from the Nagasaki Culture Center to the hotel where the press conference was to be held.

At his meeting with the press, the gathered reporters asked him about the situation in China and his impressions from his fifth trip there.

After the press conference, Shin’ichi hosted a dinner to thank the members of the delegation who had accompanied him to China.

Reflecting on that visit, he said: “I believe that our trip to China has opened the curtain for world peace in the coming era. These two decades leading to the start of the 21st century will be an extremely important time for promoting exchange on the grassroots level and in the educational and cultural arenas, creating a groundswell toward peace that will unite the world.

“During that time, I’m sure China will achieve tremendous development and the world, too, will undergo rapid and radical changes. That makes it all the more imperative that we communicate the ideals of peace and the humanistic philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism far and wide. It will therefore be important for us to develop a Buddhist study movement that will delve deeply into the Daishonin’s teachings and spread its life-affirming principles throughout society and the world.

“In every respect, we have now entered a crucial stage in building peace in the 21st century; there is not a moment to be lost.”

When the dinner ended, an accompanying Seikyo Shimbun reporter said to Shin’ichi: “In addition to reporting on your return from China, I would like to write about your attending the leaders meeting held at the Nagasaki Culture Center to commemorate Nagasaki Chapter’s 22nd anniversary.”

“I have no objection,” Shin’ichi responded. “There is no need to hide the truth. We cannot achieve kosen-rufu if the mentor-disciple bonds of the Soka Gakkai are severed and the spirit of shared commitment is lost. That’s why I’m going to embark on a struggle together with our members. You can also report on my upcoming schedule. It’s time to launch a counteroffensive! The battle begins!”

The front page of the April 30 Seikyo Shimbun carried an article reporting on Shin’ichi’s return to Japan, his press conference, and his attending the leaders meeting at the Nagasaki Culture Center. It further stated that, after Nagasaki, Shin’ichi planned to travel to Fukuoka (also in Kyushu) and cities in the Kansai and Chubu regions to encourage members and offer them guidance.

Readers seized on this last piece of information. A powerful surge of joy raced through members’ hearts across Japan.

Launching Out 19

Shin’ichi was scheduled to depart Nagasaki for Fukuoka by train shortly after 1:00 p.m. on April 30. But there was one place he really wanted to visit before leaving. That was the home of Kikumaru Obayashi, the men’s division prefecture secretary, who lived in the Inasamachi area of Nagasaki.

At the 1st Kyushu Youth Division General Meeting, held in March 1973 in Kitakyushu City (in the northern part of Fukuoka Prefecture), Shin’ichi had promised Obayashi, then Nagasaki general headquarters young men’s division leader, that the next time he went to Nagasaki he would visit him at home.

When Obayashi told his mother, Shizuyo, about this, she said resolutely: “Making that happen depends on our faith as disciples. Let’s chant!” From that time, the whole family joined together in earnestly chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Shizuyo was one of the pioneering members of the kosen-rufu movement in Nagasaki.

The Obayashi home was on a hill overlooking Nagasaki harbor. Shizuyo, Obayashi, his older and younger brothers, and their wives greeted Shin’ichi. They took a group photo and did gongyo together.

Shizuyo had specially sewn cushions so that she would be ready to welcome Shin’ichi whenever he dropped by. Expressing deep gratitude for this sincerity, Shin’ichi had a friendly conversation with the family. As they talked, the subject turned to his resignation the previous year as Soka Gakkai president and chief representative of all Nichiren Shoshu lay organizations.

Shizuyo said that when she heard the news on TV, she trembled with outrage and shouted: “This is ridiculous! It must be a plot of some kind. It’s unacceptable!”

She absolutely refused to countenance injustice, ingratitude, and the kind of evil that would destroy kosen-rufu. She had spent the last year filled with bitter indignation at the arrogant speech and actions of Nichiren Shoshu priests, and was determined to show everyone that truth and justice would prevail in the end.

No outside pressure could prevent the wellspring of the Soka spirit from flowing powerfully in the members’ hearts.

“Thank you!” said Shin’ichi. “Your sons have inherited your spirit. You have won. I will act freely from now on. And I’ll come to Nagasaki again.”

As their conversation came to a close, a local young women’s division leader stopped by to ask for personal guidance. Shin’ichi encouraged her up to the very last minute before his departure.

Launching Out 20

When Shin’ichi Yamamoto got to Nagasaki Station, a large crowd of members had gathered to see him off. While being careful not to cause any disruption for the station staff and other passengers, Shin’ichi warmly addressed them: “Thank you. I am well aware of your efforts.

“Please become happy. It’s important to advance with complete confidence that you can. Bodhisattvas of the Earth who have dedicated themselves unflaggingly to kosen-rufu cannot fail to become happy.

“Let’s work together to build a new Soka Gakkai.”

Even after boarding the train, he bowed and waved from his seat, continuing a heart-to-heart dialogue through the window glass.

After the special express train Shin’ichi was riding left Nagasaki Station, it stopped at Isahaya, Hizen-Kashima, Hizen-Yamaguchi, Saga, and Tosu. Soka Gakkai members had gathered at each station. Because his visit to Fukuoka had been reported in the Seikyo Shimbun, it was relatively easy to deduce which train he would be taking.

When the members saw Shin’ichi, they smiled broadly and waved. But there were others on the platform who hid behind pillars and gazed at him from a distance. Having been so harshly criticized by the priests even for calling him “Sensei,” they didn’t want to cause any trouble for him. Shin’ichi felt very deeply for those members. He wished he could get off the train and encourage them with all his might.

Shin’ichi said to a leader accompanying him: “These unheralded members built today’s Soka Gakkai. In the burning heat of summer and the freezing storms of winter, praying for the happiness of their friends, they chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, went to engage them in dialogue, and actually advanced our movement for kosen-rufu. They are the driving force that will realize a change in the destiny of society, the nation, and finally all humankind. Each of them is a child of the Buddha with a noble mission, who has appeared in order to actualize the Daishonin’s ideal of ‘establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.’ I will fight for these people!

“Leaders need to show the greatest respect to these sincere members, treasuring, protecting, and encouraging them above all.”

The organization and its leaders all exist to enable members to become happy.

  • *1This refers to the direction of the moon’s apparent retrograde motion. While the moon rises in the east and sets in the west like the sun, because of the direction of its orbit around the earth, each night it appears a little farther to the east of its position in the sky at the same time the previous night.