Volume 30: Chapter 3, Launching Out 61–65
Launching Out 61
Also, on the evening of May 13, a Japan-Soviet Student Friendship Festival took place at Moscow State University.
It began with a colorful parade by the Fuji Fife and Drum Corps, angels of peace, in the university’s front courtyard, and then moved to its Palace of Culture, where a celebration of friendship and peace unfolded.
The Soka University Ginrei Chorus and others in the Soka Gakkai delegation sang a number of Japanese songs, including “Kuroda Bushi” and “Haha” (Mother). When they sang the much-loved Russian folk song “Katyusha,” the whole audience clapped along as one. Moscow State University students also performed piano and chamber music, and sang and danced to Russian folk songs in traditional costumes. Toward the end, the choruses of both universities together sang “Shiki no Uta” (Song of the Four Seasons) in Japanese and “Waltz of Friendship” in Russian. The hearts of all from Russia and Japan became one.
Shin’ichi had fond memories of the Palace of Culture. Six years earlier, in May 1975, he had delivered a lecture here titled “A New Road of East-West Cultural Exchange.” In it, he shared his conviction that cultural exchange could open a new Silk Road of the spirit and connect the hearts of people all across the world.
Now, watching this exchange of culture and friendship between Soviet and Japanese youth, Shin’ichi felt that indeed a new spiritual Silk Road was being opened. Leaning forward in his seat, he heartily applauded each performance.
The following afternoon, on May 14, Shin’ichi visited the Kremlin and met with Soviet Premier Nikolai Tikhonov. Since it was the premier’s 76th birthday, he presented him with a bouquet of flowers.
Shin’ichi said to him: “I am not a politician, a businessman, or a diplomat, but I hope you will allow me to offer some frank suggestions as an ordinary citizen who loves peace.”
“I’d be happy to!” the premier responded, and the two enjoyed a friendly conversation.
All people essentially desire peace. It is not flowery rhetoric or pretense that draws forth that inner spirit from people’s lives, but only open, honest dialogue coming from genuine and sincere humanity.
Launching Out 62
Shin’ichi said to Premier Tikhonov: “The hope of all humankind is that war will be prevented. I believe that if you and General Secretary Brezhnev were to meet for thoroughgoing talks with the president of the United States and leaders of China and Japan—in a mutually agreeable location somewhere outside of Moscow, such as Switzerland—the people of the world would be enormously reassured. I very much hope you will call for such a summit for the sake of world peace. It is important to continue holding talks to totally reject war and give humanity a sense of security.”
Shin’ichi also spoke about Japan-Soviet relations: “Before focusing on such things as treaties, there is a need, I feel, for your country to engage in cultural exchange with Japan to better understand the hearts of the Japanese people and foster mutual trust. Top leaders of our two countries should meet regularly for talks and, without being held back by past positions, be forward-looking and interact in a way that will gain the support of both countries’ citizens.”
Mentioning the economic and trade issues between the two countries, Premier Tikhonov acknowledged that cultural exchange perhaps lagged somewhat and that Shin’ichi had made an important point. He said he intended to pursue greater bilateral exchange to promote peace and culture.
Shin’ichi also gave the premier a letter addressed to General Secretary Brezhnev, thanking him for the invitation to visit the Soviet Union.
He also urged a meeting between U.S. and Soviet leaders in his 1983 and 1985 peace proposals, which were issued on SGI Day, January 26. Many people were very concerned about the continuing serious tensions between the two countries.
When Mikhail Gorbachev became general secretary in 1985, he steered a course toward ending the Cold War. He held a summit with Ronald Reagan, the U.S. president, that November in Geneva, after which the pace of dialogue between East and West accelerated.
In December 1989, Gorbachev met with U.S. President George H. W. Bush in Malta. They together declared the end of the Cold War and their intention to embark on building a new world order through cooperation between the Soviet Union and the United States.
In 1990, Shin’ichi met with Gorbachev, who had become the Soviet Union’s first president. They went on to forge a lasting friendship and together published a dialogue, Moral Lessons of the Twentieth Century.
Launching Out 63
On the evening of May 14, after meeting with Premier Tikhonov, Shin’ichi sponsored a banquet at his hotel to thank those who had assisted him during his visit. He also invited guests from various fields.
The next day, Shin’ichi and his party visited Tolstoy House and the State Literary Museum of Leo Tolstoy, both in Moscow.
The house, a two-story wooden structure built in the 19th century, retained its original form. The floorboards creaked underfoot, a reminder of its age.
Tolstoy spent the last 19 years of his life in this modest home. In his study, a desk, chair, pen holder, and ink pot were kept as they were then. Tolstoy chopped his own firewood for the stove that warmed the room, and the apron he wore while doing so was also on display.
He had composed Resurrection, his great final work, and many other important writings here.
Shin’ichi and the others then made their way to the museum. In the high-ceilinged, richly historic building, Tolstoy’s elementary school compositions, the diary he kept throughout his life, manuscripts of War and Peace and Anna Karenina, and busts and paintings of him were on display.
Shin’ichi’s eyes were drawn to a large green glass paperweight, which sat next to a censored manuscript. A gift from workers at a glass factory, it was etched with their names and words of praise for Tolstoy: “You have shared the fate of many great people ahead of their time. . . . Russian people will always be proud, seeing you as their own great dearly beloved.”1
Tolstoy fought tirelessly to improve the lives of those forced to endure poverty. He used his pen to combat the lies and hypocrisy of church and state. As a result, his works were harshly censored or their publication blocked, and the Russian Church excommunicated him. Enraged, the people defended Tolstoy and cried out for truth and justice.
Awakened people saw through the clergy’s deceptions and sought a religion truly concerned with the welfare of human beings. The wisdom of the people rejects the false and dishonest elements of religion and embraces the true and humane.
Launching Out 64
Tolstoy continued his quest to identify the nature of a genuine religion and what constitutes true religious faith. He perceived God as existing within the human being. This was not the God taught in churches, but God as the highest pinnacle of the human spirit, the crystallization of conscience. Committed to realizing peace and happiness for all people, he taught moral regeneration, the rejection of violence, and nonviolent resistance to evil. That stance was incompatible with the teachings of the Russian Orthodox Church of his day, which had close ties with the state.
Because of this, his novel Resurrection and other writings on religion such as What I Believe and The Kingdom of God Is Within You could not be openly published in Russia. They had to be published and distributed underground or in other countries.
Victor Hugo (1802–85), who had a profound influence on Tolstoy, famously declared: “Derision is counted by posterity as the sound of honor.”2
As the government and the Church intensified their efforts to suppress Tolstoy, he found great support among the people. This gained him growing praise and trust from around the world. One of those deeply inspired by Tolstoy’s ideas was Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948).
The Russian Church’s excommunication of Tolstoy backfired completely. It stirred worldwide support for Tolstoy, which made it difficult for the government or the Church to touch him. Instead, they focused their oppression on Tolstoy’s disciples, exiling Vladimir Chertkov (1854–1936). Paul Biriukov (1860–1931) was also sentenced to internal exile for eight years. Undaunted, he later completed the biography Leo Tolstoy: His Life and Work, in which he sought to give a genuine account of his teacher’s life and accomplishments.
Ordinary citizens were also subjected to persecution for supporting Tolstoy, and mere possession of one of his banned books was cause for arrest. But the people, who keenly sensed Tolstoy’s sincerity and were sympathetic to his ideas about religion, remained steadfast in their support.
The value of religion is measured by what it brings people. A religion truly concerned with people’s happiness brings them courage, hope, and wisdom, fortifies their spirits, and enables them to free themselves from the chains of suffering.
Launching Out 65
Visiting Tolstoy House and the State Literary Museum of Leo Tolstoy, Shin’ichi was inspired by the great writer’s life, giving him renewed courage. He savored a proverb that Tolstoy cited in his final diary entry: “Do what you must, come what may.”3
Shin’ichi felt a deep sense of mission to carry through with the challenge he was devoting his life to—world peace through the accomplishment of worldwide kosen-rufu.
The group next visited the Space Pavilion of the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy. The exhibit about satellites reinforced their appreciation of the Soviet Union’s commitment to their space program. Shin’ichi shared his impression with the government official showing them around: “What a marvelous display of technological prowess! I hope these wonderful achievements can be used for the peace and prosperity of humanity. This is what the people of the world are waiting and hoping for.”
May 16 was the last day of Shin’ichi’s eight-day trip to the Soviet Union. That evening, he was scheduled to fly to Frankfurt, West Germany, where he would begin his tour of European countries.
Before departing, he was invited by Vyacheslav Yelyutin, the Minister of Higher and Secondary Specialized Education, and his wife to sail along the canal connecting the Moscow and Volga rivers. They had an impassioned discussion about educational exchange.
From the boat window, Shin’ichi saw beautiful greenery covering the banks. The canal made Moscow an inland port city, the center of an extensive waterway network linking five bodies of water—the White Sea, Baltic Sea, Caspian Sea, Sea of Azov, and Black Sea.
It occurred to Shin’ichi that educational exchange can be likened to canal building. With a view to the future, it is an effort that links people of different nations, ideologies, and ethnic backgrounds, creating ports of friendship leading to the great ocean of peace.
At 7:00 p.m., Shin’ichi and his party departed on their flight from Sheremetyevo International Airport, seen off by Moscow State University Rector Anatoli Logunov and others. Operating under daylight saving time, the northern capital of Moscow was still sunny at that hour, and the plane took flight under the bright rays of the evening sun.
Shin’ichi was excited, knowing that many members were eagerly awaiting him in Europe.
(This concludes “Launching Out,” chapter 3 of volume 30 of
The New Human Revolution.)
- *1Rosamund Bartlett, Tolstoy: A Russian Life (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), p. 391.
- *2Translated from French. Victor Hugo, Actes et Paroles, III: Depuis l’Exil (Acts and Words, III: Since the Exile), in Oeuvres Complètes (Complete Works), edited by Jean Massin (Paris: Le Club Français du Livre, 1970), vol. 15, p. 1382.
*3Cf. Leo Tolstoy, Tolstoy’s Diaries: Volume II, 1895–1910, edited and translated by
R. F. Christian (London: The Athlone Press, 1985), p. 677.