Volume 30: Chapter 4, Bells of Dawn 61–70
Bells of Dawn 61
Around the time Shin’ichi left Whitman’s birthplace, 4:00 p.m., a US-Japan friendship meeting was held at a high school auditorium in New York with local members welcoming a delegation of members from Japan.
A chorus of New York members sang the “Sukiyaki Song” (Ue wo Muite Aruko) and “Morigasaki Beach” in Japanese, and also performed ballet and other dances. The members from Japan sang regional folk songs and performed classical Japanese dances. It was a pleasant and enjoyable cultural exchange.
Shin’ichi’s poem “To My Beloved Young American Friends—Youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth” was presented at the meeting. A young man read it aloud in English:
The world today is ailing.
This continental land, America,
is also faltering, about to succumb
to the same illness.
In the past, the land of America
was a symbol of freedom and democracy—
fresh new focus of the world’s hopes.1
In his poem, Shin’ichi stressed that youth who upheld the Mystic Law in America had a mission to revitalize the United States, their beloved homeland, and the entire world.
Chanting the Mystic Law
with resonant, resounding voices,
plant your feet on the earth of society;
sink in your roots,
bring forth flowers and blossoms,
as you continue to speak,
to converse, to call from the heart,
to move and meet—
for this friend here
for that friend there
for the people of this city,
for friends far away.2
He also extolled the United States—a melting pot of diverse people—as a microcosm of the world, asserting that a formula for world peace would be found in their unity and solidarity.
World peace is not some distant goal. It starts with learning to trust and respect those around us, overcoming our own prejudices, discriminatory attitudes, hatred, and animosity.
Bells of Dawn 62
Shin’ichi also called out in his poem:
You who advance,
who never lose sight
of the single point
of our clear and certain goal,
however opinions may differ.
Today again study!
Today again take action!
Today again strive!
Pace today’s meaningful progress,
tomorrow, advance another cheerful step.
Each day fusing your life
with the sublime Mystic Law,
wipe the sweat from your brow
as you ascend the hill of completion
toward the summit of priceless self-perfection.
Be as the Lotus Flower
blooming amidst the
muddied realties of society.
to fear nothing
to stand unswayed
the power to surmount any obstacle.
Faith is the source from which
all solutions flow.
Faith is the engine that propels us
in the thrilling voyage of life,
a life victorious and transcendent.3
Shin’ichi wanted to convey the message that the undertaking of kosen-rufu, of building a new age, would only be achieved by moving forward steadily, one step after another, day after day. He also wanted the youth to know that this struggle was one of human revolution, which starts with gaining self-mastery.
He closed his poem by announcing that he was passing the baton to his youthful successors:
With complete faith in you
I entrust to you the entire endeavor of kosen-rufu.
to every corner of the Earth!
from this yet narrow path
you will forge a grand passage
into the future,
I am happy and filled with joy.4
The auditorium erupted in applause. The youth of America engraved these heartfelt words in the depths of their lives and rose up to take action.
Bells of Dawn 63
After leaving New York, Shin’ichi Yamamoto arrived at Canada’s Toronto International Airport (now Toronto Pearson International Airport) shortly after 4:00 p.m. on June 21. On hand to greet him and his party were General Director Hiroshi “Lou” Izumiya; his wife, Chairperson Teruko “Ellie” Izumiya; and many members bearing flowers and waving Canadian flags.
It had been 21 years since Shin’ichi’s last visit in October 1960, during his first trip overseas. The only one to greet him at the airport then had been Teruko Izumiya, who was not yet a Soka Gakkai member.
That March, Teruko had married Hiroshi Izumiya, a Japanese Canadian working for a trading company and, in April, had moved with him to Canada.
The morning of Shin’ichi’s arrival, Teruko had received an airmail letter from her mother in Japan, who was a Soka Gakkai member. She had written to tell her daughter about Shin’ichi’s visit to Canada and asked her to meet him at the airport.
Teruko wasn’t sure whether she should go. She was pregnant and wasn’t feeling well. Also, she didn’t want to have to deal with someone trying to persuade her to practice Nichiren Buddhism. The things her mother had told her about receiving benefit through faith sounded like outdated superstition to Teruko, and she felt a resistance to practicing herself. But if she didn’t go to the airport, she would be letting her mother down. Not wanting to do that, she decided to go.
Shin’ichi sincerely thanked Teruko for welcoming him and his party and asked her about her family. He talked about why faith is important and explained that Buddhism teaches the ultimate law of life.
Nineteen months later, Teruko, who had always been sickly, started practicing with the hope that it might help her become healthy. She didn’t want her husband to have to worry about her, and she also knew that joining the Soka Gakkai would put her mother’s mind at ease.
The seeds of the Mystic Law, once sown in a person’s heart, will sprout when the time is right. Helping those around us form a connection with Nichiren Buddhism and planting those seeds is key.
Bells of Dawn 64
“I stand alone on my own perfectly good feet”5—this was the self-reliant spirit of the Canadian painter and writer Emily Carr (1871–1945).
Having started practicing Nichiren Buddhism, Teruko Izumiya engaged in Soka Gakkai activities completely on her own. Using as her guide issues of the Seikyo Shimbun she received from Japan, she visited people she knew and spoke to them about Buddhism.
To attend Soka Gakkai meetings, she had to travel by bus or plane across the US border, to Buffalo, New York, or New York City.
Her husband was very understanding of her Buddhist practice and often drove her to and from activities, but he was disinclined to start practicing himself.
Hiroshi Izumiya had been born on Vancouver Island in 1928. His father had moved to Canada from Wakayama Prefecture and made a living as a fisherman.
When the Pacific War broke out in 1941, Japan became an enemy of Canada, which was part of the British Commonwealth. The following year, the majority of Canadians of Japanese descent were sent to internment camps in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, where in winter temperatures dropped below minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit).
Some Japanese Canadians volunteered to serve in the armed forces to prove their loyalty. Others denounced their decision as a betrayal. Bitter feuding and hostility caused deep, painful rifts in the Japanese Canadian community.
When the war finally came to an end, they had no homes to return to. The Canadian government presented them with choice of either returning to Japan or relocating to eastern Canada.
Hiroshi’s father was already over 70 years old and had always hoped to spend his final years in Japan. The family thus moved back to Wakayama Prefecture.
Hiroshi eventually made his way to Tokyo. Determined to go to university, he studied diligently while working at a store on an American military base. He also applied himself to improving his Japanese language skills, which had been rather limited, and succeeded in gaining admission to the economics department of Keio University, a prestigious private university. On graduating, he worked for a foreign bank but after a while started thinking about returning to Canada and acting as a bridge to promote relations between Japan and Canada. He found a job at a Japanese trading firm that had an office in Toronto.
Those who have suffered in war have a mission to live for peace.
Bells of Dawn 65
In 1960, the Japanese trading company Hiroshi Izumiya worked for established a Canadian subsidiary. That year, he married Teruko, whom he had met in Japan. Teruko had arrived in Canada only that spring, and it was later that year, when Shin’ichi visited Canada for the first time, that she greeted his party at the airport in Toronto.
After joining the Soka Gakkai, Teruko decided to dedicate herself to working for kosen-rufu in Canada. Although her husband was supportive of her Soka Gakkai activities, it weighed on her that he showed no signs of wanting to practice himself.
In the fall of 1964, during a trip to Japan, she visited Shin’ichi at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters, holding her lovely little daughter, Karen, by the hand. She had been pregnant with Karen when she met Shin’ichi four years earlier.
Having started her Buddhist practice on her own in Canada, Teruko had no doubt experienced many hardships. When she began to speak to Shin’ichi, tears welled up in her eyes.
Shin’ichi listened intently and nodded, and then said in a powerful voice: “Each day must be a constant challenge for you. But in the light of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, you made a vow in the distant past to work for kosen-rufu and are now living in Canada as a Bodhisattva of the Earth. It is important that you awaken to this mission and determine to carry it out. Please be confident that is the noblest life there is, the source of unsurpassed joy, fulfillment, and happiness.
“We all have our own karma. We never know what will happen in life. Even people who seem quite wealthy may be racked by anxiety and worry, unable to resolve the fundamental issues of aging, sickness, and death.
“As Soka Gakkai members, we are engaged in an unprecedented, never-before-attempted, sacred endeavor—that is, teaching all people the way to attain an unshakable state of absolute happiness and thereby transforming the destiny of society, the nation, and all humankind. In that respect, it’s only natural that we’ll face many hardships, isn’t it? Indecision makes one cowardly, so be firm in your resolve. When you are, limitless courage and strength will well forth.”
Bells of Dawn 66
With a firm resolve, a person will have a guiding focus in life. And when such an individual becomes the core or pivotal force of the organization, the wheels of kosen-rufu begin to turn.
Referring to Teruko’s husband, Hiroshi, Shin’ichi said: “Be sure not to push faith on your husband. Strive to be a good partner and create a happy family. You can show how wonderful this Buddhism is through your own behavior and how you live your life, both as a wife and as a human being. If your interactions with your husband are wise and sincere, with a wish for your family’s happiness and harmony, the day is certain to come when he starts practicing.”
Teruko Izumiya wholeheartedly embraced this guidance. She decided to obtain Canadian citizenship and spend the rest of her life in Canada, with its beautiful autumn leaves and wonderful people. She never complained to her husband, even when sad or struggling. She kept everything in her heart and, when suffering, went to the Gohonzon and chanted in earnest.
While taking care of their home and raising their three children, she cheerfully and energetically opened the way for kosen-rufu in Canada. The circle of new members expanded steadily.
It was in March 1980 that Hiroshi decided to start practicing Nichiren Buddhism. Two of his beloved older sisters had just died one after another of illness, which brought him face to face with the difficult question of karma. He also reflected on being forced to spend his boyhood in an internment camp during World War II. Teruko had stayed up talking with him late into the night, honestly sharing her wish to practice Buddhism with him and enjoy happiness together.
When faced with inexplicable events that seem beyond their power to control, people through the centuries have called it fate or destiny, or seen it as the work of some higher power. But Buddhism examines why such events occur based on the law of cause and effect in life, and it teaches the way to transform those difficulties.
Eighteen years after his wife, Hiroshi Izumiya decided to become a Soka Gakkai member. That night he and Teruko did gongyo together for the first time. It was snowing heavily outside. The room was filled with joy, happy tears streaming down Teruko’s cheeks.
Bells of Dawn 67
Shin’ichi had planned to visit Canada during his guidance tour of North America in October 1980. But just before his departure from Chicago, his flight developed engine trouble, and he was forced to cancel. He felt awful thinking about all the members who had been waiting there for him. He sent a poem to Canada’s chairperson, Teruko Izumiya:
I will never forget
how you have stood up
in the vast land of Canada.
The dawn of kosen-rufu
has finally arrived.
Shin’ichi flew on directly to his next scheduled stop, Los Angeles. He invited several Canadian leaders to join him there, so he would have a chance to meet and speak with them. Among them were Teruko Izumiya and her husband, Hiroshi, a friendly, handsome gentleman—the same age as Shin’ichi, it turned out.
Firmly shaking hands, Shin’ichi warmly congratulated Hiroshi on starting to practice Nichiren Buddhism and took a photograph with him. Tears glistened in Teruko’s eyes as she gazed at her husband’s profile.
Now, eight months later (in June 1981), Shin’ichi was visiting Canada, and Hiroshi and Teruko were welcoming him and his party at Toronto International Airport.
Shin’ichi made a point of having Hiroshi accompany him in his activities in Canada. He wanted the general director, who was responsible for the management of the organization as a registered not-for-profit corporation, to learn and absorb the spirit of supporting the members and ensuring their safety and well-being.
Shin’ichi said to Teruko, who as the organization’s chairperson and central leader had opened the way for kosen-rufu in Canada: “You couldn’t have achieved all that you have without your husband’s cooperation. The development of the Canadian organization owes a lot to him.”
When people achieve success, they often think it’s all their own doing. But behind every such achievement lie the efforts of many individuals. A leader who remembers that and remains humble and grateful will always win.
On Shin’ichi’s second day in Canada, June 22, a general meeting with about a thousand members took place in a large function room at a Toronto hotel. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the kosen-rufu movement in Canada, it marked a hope-filled fresh departure toward the new century.
Bells of Dawn 68
At the meeting, Shin’ichi shared his joy at visiting Canada for the first time in almost 21 years and, reflecting on his memories of that initial visit, spoke of the importance of one person standing up with a self-reliant spirit.
“Zero multiplied by any number, no matter how large, is zero. But the number one can grow limitlessly when multiplied. Kosen-rufu here in Canada began its substantial development from Chairperson Izumiya standing up resolutely to take action on her own. And now, the organization has grown to the point where we can hold this meeting of nearly a thousand members.
“Everything starts with one person. That one person teaches others about the Mystic Law, the ultimate teaching for happiness; fosters people of courageous faith who can surpass them; and sets in motion a growing network of capable individuals. This is the principle of ‘emerging from the earth’ (WND-1, 385), which describes the process by which the Bodhisattvas of the Earth make their appearance.
“Translating into reality such ideas set forth in the Daishonin’s writings is the Soka Gakkai’s mission. By doing so, we read the writings with our lives.”
Shin’ichi then mentioned that, on this current overseas trip, he had met with many government officials and academic and cultural figures in the Soviet Union and other countries.
“In all those encounters,” he said, “I stressed that peace is the most important concern for humankind.
“Buddhism teaches that all people equally possess the Buddha nature, and this is the teaching that underpins respect for the dignity of life. It’s the foundation of a philosophy of peace; and tolerance and compassion for others are its lifeblood.
“This philosophy, by its very nature, diametrically opposes all forces that glorify war, enslave people, and urge them to their deaths. That’s why, during World War II, the Soka Gakkai was persecuted by Japan’s militarist government, which waged war using State Shinto as its spiritual pillar.
“I am not a politician, diplomat, or businessman. But as an ordinary citizen, as an individual, I continue my dialogues for peace based on Buddhism.
“That is because I believe the surest way to peace is for people of every country to share the spirit of Buddhism, which teaches that all people are equally worthy of the highest respect, and to strengthen ties of friendship across national borders.”
Bells of Dawn 69
A tree’s branches spread and leaves flourish when its roots are deep and strong. The same is true of a movement for peace. Many people wish and call for peace, but a movement without the roots of a solid guiding philosophy will not endure. Our Soka Gakkai movement for peace has as its roots the great philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, a teaching of respect for the dignity of life.
When people are guided by the Buddhist principle that everyone is inherently a Buddha, they will not take others’ lives or deprive them of their right to exist. Moreover, Buddhism views all human beings as worthy of supreme respect, regardless of their ideology, ethnic background, nationality, or religion. It does not denigrate or discriminate against anyone. With its spirit of compassion, it embraces all, no matter their differences; it never excludes.
Implanting in people’s hearts this principle of respect for the dignity of life—this seed of peace, the Mystic Law—is the practice of kosen-rufu and the foundation for achieving world peace. That was Shin’ichi’s firm belief and conviction.
In his speech, he affirmed that the purpose of life is to become happy in the truest sense and that, to do so, it is vital to solve the problem of death.
Nichiren Buddhism addresses the question of death at the most fundamental level, elucidating the eternity of life and the law of cause and effect. When we make this Buddhism our foundation, we can establish a sound view of life, bring forth the wisdom and strength to overcome adversity, and attain a state of absolute happiness.
Shin’ichi closed by expressing his hope that, with this day as their starting point, the members in Canada would set their sights on the next 20 years and lead lives of complete fulfillment as a beautiful, pure-hearted Soka family.
At the end of the meeting, the members joined in singing a Soka Gakkai song. Twenty fife and drum corps members took the stage. Some had traveled from as far as Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal, and this was the first time for all of them to play together as a group. The leader of the fife and drum corps was Karen Izumiya, the eldest daughter of Hiroshi and Teruko. A new generation had been fostered.
Everyone in the hall stood, linked arms, and swayed side to side to the music. Their singing resounded with great joy.
Bells of Dawn 70
On June 23, around a thousand members gathered in Caledon, just outside of Toronto, for a friendship gathering with a delegation of members from Japan.
The event—a garden party with a buffet lunch—took place on a tree-covered hill used as a ski resort in winter. The green slopes gleamed in the sunlight.
After a while, a mini culture festival began with a song by a children’s chorus. Japanese delegation members then sang “Atsuta Village” and the Chubu region’s song “This Path,” and performed traditional Japanese dances such as “Cherry Blossom Variations” and “Takeda Bushi.” Canadian members also put on a lively program, including a folk dance from Quebec, an instrumental performance of “Morigasaki Beach” by professional musicians, and a women’s division chorus singing “Onward to Kosen-rufu.”
Shin’ichi then spoke, expressing his gratitude: “It has been like a dream for me to be treated to such wonderful singing, musical artistry, and heartfelt dancing.” He proposed building a Soka Gakkai culture center in Canada and urged everyone to become suns illuminating and contributing to their communities while opening the way to a bright and promising future for kosen-rufu in Canada.
Before and after the festival, Shin’ichi spoke with and encouraged many members. He also greeted and thanked the ski resort manager who provided the venue.
Dialogue expands connections to Buddhism.
The manager’s stepmother was a Soka Gakkai member. Shin’ichi had encouraged her during his trip to Tehran, Iran, in 1964.
He and his party had gone to visit a Soka Gakkai member named Miki Ota at the Chinese restaurant she managed. But the owner told them that she had quit when her employment contract expired and was now traveling.
When one of the Iranian workers looked closely at Shin’ichi, he exclaimed in surprise, and brought out some magazines from the back room. They were copies of the Seikyo Graphic. He opened one, pointed to a photograph of Shin’ichi, and said with a smile: “Mr. Yamamoto!”
- *1Daisaku Ikeda, “To My Beloved Young American Friends—Youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth,” in Songs for America (Santa Monica, California: World Tribune Press, 2000), p. 63.
- *2Ibid., p. 66.
- *3Daisaku Ikeda, “To My Beloved Young American Friends—Youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth,” Songs for America (Santa Monica, California: World Tribune Press, 2000), p. 69.
- *4Ibid., pp. 71–72.
- *5Emily Carr, Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr (Toronto: Clarke, Irwin and Company Limited, 1966), p. 138.