Volume 30: Chapter 3, Launching Out 21–30
Launching Out 21
That evening (April 30), Shin’ichi Yamamoto arrived at the Kyushu Culture Center (now the Fukuoka Central Culture Center) in Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City. When he stepped out of the car, he immediately made his way over to the members who had gathered outside.
Many of them had thought they might not get to meet with Shin’ichi in person. So they were overjoyed when he walked up to them and called out: “Thank you! You have triumphed!”
A man and an elderly woman shook Shin’ichi’s hand and wouldn’t let go. One woman showed him a magazine she had brought, saying: “I was able to open the restaurant I’d always dreamed of, and it’s been featured in this magazine. Please come and see it.” Smiling, Shin’ichi said he would.
People sharing bonds forged through faith, bonds free of discrimination of any kind—this is the essence of the Soka family.
The next day, May 1, a large number of members gathered at the center from early in the morning. When he saw this, Shin’ichi beckoned them over and expressed his appreciation for their efforts, shaking their hands and joining them in group photos. Their number kept growing, troubling the young men’s division leader on duty.
“If this keeps up,” he thought, “we won’t be able to handle all the visitors, and Sensei will be exhausted.”
He did his best to steer the members away from where Shin’ichi was. Noticing this, however, Shin’ichi said with deliberate sternness: “No one has the right to stop those who have come here to meet me from doing so.”
Having been unable to meet with members freely for the past year since stepping down as president, he had long been waiting for the time when he could encourage members like this without constraint. He was determined to meet with everyone he could and put all of his energies into encouraging them.
The young men’s division leader was ashamed that he had failed to fully grasp what was in his mentor’s heart.
That day, Shin’ichi went to the restaurant owned by the woman who had invited him there earlier. He strove to meet as many members as possible, resolved to spare no effort.
He was determined not to let the time for launching his counteroffensive slip by. In his heart, he called out to the members: “Lions, stand up! The time has come to fight!”
Launching Out 22
On the afternoon of May 1, Shin’ichi visited the Soka Gakkai Kyushu Memorial Hall in Fukuoka’s Nishi Ward (later Sawara Ward). That evening, he attended a meeting of Fukuoka Prefecture headquarters leaders at the Kyushu Peace Center in Fukuoka’s Hakata Ward, where he called out to those present, wishing to infuse them with a lionlike spirit: “Never lower the banner of kosen-rufu in your hearts! Never lower the banner of your efforts to share Buddhism with others! Never extinguish the bright flame of faith for attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime!”
Shin’ichi powerfully repeated those words.
Representatives from neighboring Oita Prefecture, a region whose members had suffered deeply because of the problems with the priesthood, were also at the meeting.
In Oita’s Beppu City, the chief priest of a local Nichiren Shoshu temple had been maligning the Soka Gakkai, declaring it guilty of slandering the Law. Certain individuals, who had been deceived by this and quit the organization, were now going around distributing pamphlets critical of the Soka Gakkai. The members had responded by strengthening their unity and staunchly proclaiming the integrity of the lay organization.
Shin’ichi joined the Oita members for a group photo in the lobby of the Kyushu Peace Center.
He said to them: “The greater the hardships you undergo, the more your faith is polished and the brighter it shines. Your struggles will go down forever in the history of kosen-rufu.”
“Sensei! Please come visit us in Oita!” the members called out, many with tears in their eyes.
Shin’ichi nodded emphatically.
Throughout Shin’ichi’s visit to Fukuoka, members flocked to the Kyushu Culture Center, Kyushu Peace Center, and Kyushu Memorial Hall, as news spread that by doing so they would be able to meet Shin’ichi.
Some arrived by taxi or bicycle. Some came dashing from their homes, still dressed in their house clothes. By the time Shin’ichi left Fukuoka the following afternoon on May 2, he had encouraged more than 20,000 members.
Before Shin’ichi’s departure, Takeo Yamaoka, the Oita Prefecture secretary, visited him at the Kyushu Peace Center.
Yamaoka had received an urgent report that a Nichiren Shoshu chief priest in Oita had been trying to persuade a leading Soka Gakkai member to quit, and he had gone to the priest’s temple to lodge a protest. His discussion with the priest in question had gone on into the middle of the night. It was only after that that he was able to make his way by train to the center in neighboring Fukuoka.
In any battle, prompt action is of the essence.
Launching Out 23
On the train to Fukuoka, Takeo Yamaoka did his best to control the outrage and resentment he felt toward the Nichiren Shoshu priests.
The chief priest he had visited had expressly stated in the past that he and his fellow priests would not urge Soka Gakkai members to quit the organization and directly join the local temple instead. But they had surreptitiously proceeded to do just that. When pressed on the matter, the chief priest simply talked around the subject. Yamaoka felt he had seen the true nature of the Nichiren Shoshu priests.
Shin’ichi listened to Yamaoka’s report in the caretaker’s room at the Kyushu Peace Center. With a warm smile, he said: “You must be exhausted. I understand completely. One of my discussions with the priests lasted six hours.”
He then continued: “We must absolutely protect the precious children of the Buddha. We must work to ensure that they all become happy without fail, and to do that, we must fight wholeheartedly, with our last ounce of strength. That’s my determination. That’s the spirit of Soka leaders. Please protect my disciples, the members who are children of the Buddha, in my place. I’m counting on you!”
Shortly thereafter, Shin’ichi left the Kyushu Peace Center to fly to his next destination, Kansai.
Yamaoka from Oita and other Kyushu members stood in the center’s garden and looked up into the sky, waving to Shin’ichi’s plane as it soared above. As they did so, they made a powerful vow in their hearts to their mentor that Kyushu would be victorious. The early summer breeze was pleasant. They all sensed that a new breeze of progress for the Soka Gakkai had begun to blow from Kyushu.
It was May 3, 1980. In February, the Soka Gakkai had designated May 3, the date both Toda and Shin’ichi had been inaugurated president, as Soka Gakkai Day. Shin’ichi spent that first Soka Gakkai Day at the Kansai Culture Center in Tennoji Ward, Osaka, together with his beloved fellow members in Kansai.
The Kansai Culture Center had just opened five days before. The new building was light brown, with five stories above ground and one below, and would now serve as the Soka Gakkai’s main center in Kansai.
The clear May sky of ever-victorious Kansai was beautiful to behold. A fresh stage of development was about to begin.
Launching Out 24
A gongyo meeting commemorating Soka Gakkai Day was scheduled to be held at the Kansai Culture Center on May 3, starting from 1:00 p.m.
However, a steady stream of members, largely those without tickets for the afternoon meeting, started arriving at the center excitedly from the morning, filling the surrounding area. Members all over Kansai had heard by phone from relatives and friends in Nagasaki and Fukuoka how Shin’ichi had encouraged members there. This news spread like wildfire, and members turned out with the eager wish to meet Shin’ichi.
The Kansai leaders and event staff at the center held an urgent meeting to discuss how to handle the growing crowd. They ushered members without tickets to the fourth-floor meeting room of the adjacent annex building that was serving as the auxiliary venue for the day’s meeting.
Shin’ichi arrived at the Kansai Culture Center from the Kansai Makiguchi Memorial Hall in Toyonaka City, Osaka Prefecture, just before 11:00 a.m. He immediately thanked the event staff inside the center.
Members continued to converge on the center, brimming with ardent seeking spirit. The gate at the entrance to the annex had been closed out of consideration for the members’ safety.
A short while later, Shin’ichi came out into the center’s courtyard. A loud cheer went up. When he saw all the people waiting outside the closed gate, Shin’ichi said to the youth division event staff: “Please open the gate and let them in.”
“There’s no more room inside the center to accommodate them,” one of the staff members said.
“That’s all right. I’ll encourage them out here. These members are the most important of all.”
When the gate was opened, those waiting outside rushed joyously into the courtyard. Some curious passersby even followed in along with them.
“Welcome!” said Shin’ichi to everyone. “I’m happy to see you.” He shook hands and took one group photo after another with members.
He directed the event staff: “Please record their names, so we can send them copies later.”
He also took photos with event staff, including members of the Soka Group and Gajokai. Shin’ichi’s heart was filled with a burning determination to encourage each and every member.
That is the true Soka spirit.
Launching Out 25
Shin’ichi walked toward the fire escape stairs outside the annex. A young man serving as event staff said: “The annex’s Ever-Victorious Hall is the auxiliary venue for today’s meeting, and the PA system has been set up so that members there can listen to the meeting taking place at the main venue next door.”
“Let’s start by encouraging them first, then,” Shin’ichi said.
His wife, Mineko, climbed up the emergency staircase with him.
To enter the hall from the stairway, the door had to be unlocked from inside. One of the event staff rushed into the building, making his way through the packed room to open the door. People looked at him expectantly, wondering what was about to happen.
Then, with a loud creak, the door in the side wall near the front of the hall opened, and Shin’ichi could be seen standing in the doorway.
He raised an arm in greeting, and when handed a microphone, he said: “Hello everyone! I hope you’re all well!”
A gasp arose from the enthusiastic crowd. It was a moment they had long been waiting for. They looked at Shin’ichi, their faces beaming with joy. Some had tears in their eyes.
“Thank you for coming all the way here today. No authority or power can sever the deep bonds that unite us!”
Loud cheers erupted and thunderous applause shook the room.
“Who are the ones supporting the Soka Gakkai? Far more than those in the limelight, it is those who are working hard behind the scenes. They are true Buddhas and genuine victors. And you are those people. There would be no Soka Gakkai or kosen-rufu without you.”
Shin’ichi felt deep affection for these members. The eyes of some were swollen with tears as they listened intently to his words and nodded their approval. He called out powerfully to them: “While struggling each day with all sorts of personal problems and hardships, you are devoting yourselves with a bright, positive spirit to sharing Buddhism with others. Your actions shine with the brilliance of true humanity; they are those of Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Please join me in forging ahead with fresh resolve!”
The members responded unanimously in agreement, their voices brimming with determination.
When he stepped outside the annex, there were even more members gathered there. Shin’ichi took photos with them, too.
He gave his whole being to encouraging them all, as if he was attending to Buddhas.
Launching Out 26
At the day’s main venue, the Kansai Culture Center, the commemorative gongyo meeting was already under way, with President Kiyoshi Jujo in attendance.
Shin’ichi proceeded to the third-floor hall, entering as the meeting was nearing its end. Everyone had been waiting eagerly to see him, and their joy exploded when he finally appeared. Taking the microphone, he said: “On this bright and sunny May day, I would like to heartily congratulate you on this celebration of Soka Gakkai Day and the opening of the Kansai Culture Center.
“The Mystic Law is eternal. Our lives as practitioners, too, are eternal and always aligned with the Mystic Law. Viewed from the perspective of our eternal lives, our present existence is but one milestone on the journey of our mission to realize kosen-rufu.
“The road to kosen-rufu is an unending struggle against devilish functions. In his writings, the Daishonin stresses the importance of pressing ahead steadily on the great path of faith without being swayed by the ‘eight winds.’1
“The ‘eight winds’ are workings that agitate people’s minds and cause them to lose their faith—things such as short-term gain, worldly honor, praise, censure, suffering, pleasure, and so forth.
“Our human revolution, through which we cultivate self-mastery, is the key to establishing our own happiness and advancing kosen-rufu. Let us win over the ‘eight winds’ with resolute faith and make fresh hope-filled strides toward the 21st century!
“I call on you to make mighty Kansai a model for Japan and the world, and to forever be the trailblazers of kosen-rufu. I am also determined to keep writing new pages of history in our ever-victorious struggle and in life as long as I live, together with all of you.
“Cheering on the development of Kansai, I would like to close by expressing my deepest appreciation and respect for your sincere devotion.”
Next, everyone joined in a chorus of the Kansai Soka Gakkai song “Ever-Victorious Skies”: “Now again forming our ranks . . . .”
Their song of triumph reverberated into the skies of ever-victorious Kansai. It signaled the spirited stand of Soka mentor and disciples holding aloft the banner of Buddhist humanism and the start of a religious reformation led by awakened people, rejecting the oppressive authoritarianism of the priesthood.
Launching Out 27
After the meeting, Shin’ichi went to one of the other rooms at the Kansai Culture Center to encourage members there. He also attended another commemorative gongyo meeting that started at 5:00 that evening.
Shin’ichi played the piano to encourage the participants, and continued at every opportunity to take photos and firmly shake hands with them. Eventually, his hand grew red and swollen, but still he made his way tirelessly among the members.
Later, he stopped by the Kansai Office of the Seikyo Shimbun, where he wholeheartedly encouraged the paper’s reporters and other staff before going to the Kansai Makiguchi Memorial Hall.
There, that evening, resolved to make a powerful fresh departure, Shin’ichi took up a calligraphy brush and with his entire being wrote in bold strokes: “May 3.”
In the right margin, he listed the dates of May 3 in various years that he regarded as particularly significant:
May 3, 1951
May 3, 1960
May 3, 1979
May 3, 1983
May 3, 2001
May 3, 1951, was the day Josei Toda became second Soka Gakkai president, while May 3, 1960, marked Shin’ichi’s inauguration as third president. May 3, 1979, was the date of the Headquarters general meeting Shin’ichi attended a short time after announcing his resignation as third president (on April 24).
May 3, 1983, the 32nd anniversary of President Toda’s inauguration, and May 3, 2001, in the new century, were two milestones Shin’ichi had set, with an unbreakable vow, for creating fresh groundswells of unprecedented development for the Soka Gakkai.
He also wrote in the lower right corner of the calligraphy:
This date is
the starting point of the Soka Gakkai.
Inscribed on May 3, 1980.
My heart serene and tranquil.
Palms pressed together.
A year had passed since Shin’ichi had stepped down as president. The dark intrigues of treacherous individuals colluding with priests of Nichiren Shoshu to destroy the Soka Gakkai and enslave the membership were becoming more apparent each day. Just as described in the Daishonin’s writings, the devil king of the sixth heaven was attempting to obstruct people’s Buddhist practice and hinder kosen-rufu.
In ever-victorious Kansai, Shin’ichi set forth with determination in a new struggle for victory.
Launching Out 28
During the morning of May 4, Shin’ichi attended a gongyo meeting for Tottori Prefecture members held at the Kansai Toda Memorial Auditorium in Toyonaka City, Osaka Prefecture. The members had come all the way from Tottori (on the southwest coast of Japan’s main island). He joined them at the meeting, wishing to do everything he could to encourage and support them.
It had been almost two years since he last attended a meeting of Tottori members, during a visit to Yonago back in July 1978. The faces of those now gathered in the auditorium shone with joy and seeking spirit.
Tottori Chapter was established on May 3, 1960, the same date that Shin’ichi was inaugurated as the third Soka Gakkai president. The gongyo meeting was, therefore, also a celebration of the chapter’s 20th anniversary. With deep emotion, Shin’ichi addressed these members who continued to strive alongside him.
“Thank you for making the long journey here. Seeing your bright and cheerful faces, I feel I am looking at a future filled with hope. On this beautiful, sunny May day, it seems the heavenly deities are celebrating with you. Please enjoy these skies of ever-victorious Kansai to the utmost.
“You are all noble Bodhisattvas of the Earth. Battling and winning in your own struggles with karma and destiny day after day, you are showing proof of the great benefit of practicing Nichiren Buddhism and carrying out your mission for kosen-rufu. All adversity is just a step toward achieving a state of boundless happiness. Always advance serenely based on faith, come what may, and create deeply meaningful, golden memories.
“All sorts of things happen in the course of our lives, but in the long run, those who exert themselves earnestly in their Buddhist practice invariably triumph and shine without fail. There’s no need to try to be someone you’re not. You are fine just as you are. Please continue to advance together with the Soka Gakkai.
“Buddhas have problems, too. Problems are part and parcel of life. But Buddhism teaches that ‘earthly desires are enlightenment’ and ‘the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana.’ Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables us to transform suffering into joy and happiness. In this degenerate world filled with unremitting hardships, you, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, have emerged to create happiness for yourselves and others. To become happy, please win over yourselves. I will also send you daimoku.”
Shin’ichi’s guidance deeply penetrated the members’ hearts.
When we awaken to our mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth and rise into action to fulfill it, courage and powerful life force surge forth from within us.
Launching Out 29
On May 4, an Osaka Prefecture chapter leaders meeting celebrating the opening of the Kansai Culture Center was held in four sessions. Shin’ichi attended all of them and poured his whole heart into his guidance, wishing to make a new start together with these all-important chapter men’s and women’s division leaders. He told them:
Please put your health first and take vibrant leadership for kosen-rufu in your communities. If you are in good spirits, all the chapter members will be, too. Be leaders who are always brimming with vitality.
No matter what great material wealth, social position, or worldly honors one may gain, if one is plagued by a nagging sense of emptiness, one’s life will not be truly happy. In contrast, when you earnestly exert yourself in faith and participate in meetings and other activities for kosen-rufu, you will feel light in both body and mind and savor a sense of inner fulfillment. That fulfillment is the greatest satisfaction and happiness possible in life.
In the course of carrying out activities for kosen-rufu, there may be times when people say unpleasant and hurtful things to you. But in light of the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and the writings of Nichiren Daishonin, it is only natural that you will encounter difficulties, because you have appeared in the Latter Day of the Law and are spreading Buddhism as emissaries of the Buddha. Also, please remember that your continued efforts for kosen-rufu enable you to transform your karma in this lifetime and establish a state of eternal happiness. When you think of it that way, all your hardships are actually a source of joy!
Never allow the flame of faith for attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime to die out. Please know that steadfast faith—an unflagging, lifelong commitment to remain part of the movement for kosen-rufu—is the key to great victory in life.
Each time, Shin’ichi put everything he had into giving guidance. Between sessions, he took group photos with the new members of the 13 university groups in Kansai. He also played the piano for the chapter leaders and shook hands with many of them. The fourth and final session of the chapter leaders meeting came to a close after 8:00 p.m.
A large group of members from neighboring Nara Prefecture also arrived at the center, and a gongyo meeting was hastily arranged for them as well.
Never spare any effort for the sake of the members—this was Shin’ichi’s spirit and is the eternal and unchanging spirit of all true leaders of the Soka Gakkai.
Launching Out 30
From 11:00 a.m. on May 5, Soka Gakkai Successors Day, representatives of the high school, junior high school, and boys and girls divisions gathered at the Kansai Culture Center for the 5th Successors Day Commemorative Gongyo Meeting.
A year earlier, Shin’ichi had spent May 5 at the Kanagawa Culture Center. Though he had wanted to attend a meeting with Future Division members and encourage them with all his might, the situation at the time prevented him from doing so. But now he felt strongly that the time was right. He very much wanted to meet and give his all to fostering the Future Division members, wishing to entrust these young phoenixes with the future of kosen-rufu in the 21st century.
When Shin’ichi entered the room, representatives of the boys and girls division presented him with a paper samurai helmet (an item traditionally associated with Children’s Day in Japan, which is celebrated on May 5).
Addressing the members at the meeting, he said: “You are all like young saplings that will put down roots in the earth and grow into tall trees. Young trees need stakes to support them, and they must be watered. It takes a lot of hard work to make them grow.
“Please be aware that your parents are making untold efforts in the midst of the harsh challenges of society to raise and help you grow. Having a sense of appreciation for your parents is one of the most important human qualities.
“There might be times when you and parents have a difference of opinions and you get mad at them. But just take everything as encouragement for your personal growth. Being willful or spoiled is self-defeating, whereas a spirit of patience and perseverance enables you to develop yourself. Such experiences will all become precious spiritual treasures for you in the future.
“As members of the Future Division, you are all at an age when it is important to master the basics and build a solid foundation. Building a foundation requires patience. Persevere in your studies. And in the realm of faith, don’t forget to develop yourself, growing like a tall tree to become a person who can make great contributions to kosen-rufu.”
The Japanese philosopher Kitaro Nishida (1870–1945) said: “Patience and perseverance are of prime importance in any endeavor. Don’t give up if you fail once or twice. Be persistent and tenacious, trying again and again, employing all your ingenuity. The sages of old tell us that genius lies in perseverance.”2
- *1Eight winds: Prosperity, decline, disgrace, honor, praise, censure, suffering, and pleasure. In a letter to Shijo Kingo, the Daishonin writes: “Worthy persons deserve to be called so because they are not carried away by the eight winds. . . . They are neither elated by prosperity nor grieved by decline. The heavenly gods will surely protect one who is unbending before the eight winds” (WND-1,794).
- *2Translated from Japanese. Kitaro Nishida, Nishida Kitaro Zenshu (Collected Writings of Kitaro Nishida), vol. 18 (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1966), p. 513.