Volume 30: Chapter 4, Bells of Dawn 71–80
Bells of Dawn 71
Miki Ota had given the restaurant owner and employees copies of the Seikyo Graphic to show them how wonderful the Soka Gakkai was.
One of the employees said to Shin’ichi: “Ms. Ota was always telling us about you, Mr. Yamamoto, and we’ve seen your photos in these magazines, so we know you very well. We’re very happy to meet you.”
Shin’ichi shook hands with everyone and, as he was leaving, told them the name of the hotel in Tehran where he and his party were staying.
Later that day, Ota returned from her trip and dropped by the restaurant with small gifts for her former boss and coworkers, who informed her that Shin’ichi had come by to see her earlier.
Ota doubted that the Soka Gakkai president would come specially to visit her, since they had never met. But she went to the hotel they had mentioned to see if he was there.
Shin’ichi and his wife, Mineko, welcomed her warmly. In the course of their conversation, Ota mentioned that a Canadian man had asked her to marry him, and she wasn’t sure what she should do.
Shin’ichi encouraged her, saying that happiness is found within us, not somewhere outside, and that faith is the key to unlocking that happiness. If she challenged herself earnestly in her Buddhist practice, he said, she would definitely become happy, irrespective of her environment.
“No matter what hardship you may face,” he continued, “never abandon your faith. Throughout your life, wherever you may go in the world, persevere in your faith with steadiness, humility, and determination.”
Happiness is found on the path to realizing kosen-rufu.
Several years later, Ota married the man who had proposed to her, and moved with him to Canada.
Shin’ichi spoke with her, now Miki Carter, her husband, and her stepson who managed the ski resort.
Shin’ichi was happy above all that she had followed the guidance he had given her that day in Tehran and had persevered in her Buddhist practice. The seeds of encouragement he had sown 17 years before had endured the tests of time and had flowered here in Canada. Continually sowing such seeds enables the flower garden of kosen-rufu to keep expanding.
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Shin’ichi said to Miki Carter: “Please persevere in your Buddhist practice with faith like flowing water. Continuing in faith is the key to attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. That’s why Nichiren Daishonin writes: ‘To accept is easy; to continue is difficult. But Buddhahood lies in continuing faith’ (WND-1, 471). Please strive for the ideal of kosen-rufu and dedicate your life to helping others become happy. That is where you’ll find your own happiness, too.”
As the Canadian author L. M. Montgomery (1874–1942) wrote, when we have ideals, life is “grand and great.”1
The next day, June 24, Shin’ichi visited the Toronto Community Centre on King Street West in Toronto. He did gongyo with around 150 members, praying for everyone’s health and happiness. “Please advance with confidence, hope, and courage,” he urged them, “making your motto ‘Never stop practicing!’”
Then, Shin’ichi went with members to view Niagara Falls.
He had visited the falls 21 years earlier, but the sight of this massive cascade crashing down with a thunderous roar and sending up veils of mist remained as magnificent as ever. He gazed at it for some time and took photographs.
He vividly recalled his thoughts on that day two decades before when he had seen a rainbow stretching over the falls.
“The water falls powerfully without cease. A mist rises and, when struck by the rays of the sun, produces beautiful rainbows. In the same way, on the path of kosen-rufu, those continually moving forward each day, hearts filled with a fighting spirit, will have tremendous vitality. A rainbow of hope will always shine above them.”
Thinking of the rainbow network of kosen-rufu in Canada, which had developed from the efforts of a single individual, he sensed how true it was that action gives rise to joy and to hope.
Afterward, Shin’ichi and the others visited the home of Laura Secord (1775–1868), a Canadian hero. The house, known as the Laura Secord Homestead, was located about 15 kilometers (around 10 miles) from Niagara Falls.
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In 1813, the United States and Great Britain were fighting a war over an area then known as British North America (part of Canada). Queenston, where Laura Secord lived, was a fiercely contested battleground. Her husband fought for the British and was wounded. The American forces commandeered the Secord house as lodgings for their officers. One day, Laura overheard some of these officers discussing plans for a surprise attack on the British. If it succeeded, the Niagara Peninsula would fall into the hands of the Americans.
“I have to convey this information to the British,” Laura thought. But the British headquarters was more than 30 kilometers (18 miles) away. And her husband was still recuperating. Laura decided to go herself, hurrying through trackless forest in enemy territory. How terrifying and grueling it must have been to make this journey alone. Thanks to her vital information, the British were able to prepare fully and defeat the Americans.
Laura’s courageous, life-and-death ordeal had saved the British that day, but for many years her contribution remained largely unknown. After the death of her husband, who had been disabled by his injuries, she continued to struggle with life’s hardships on her own.
Her heroism came to light only after the British Crown Prince Albert Edward (later King Edward VII) visited Canada in 1860 and heard about it. Laura was then already 85. She continued to live a quiet and modest life until her death at 93.
Her small white two-story wooden house had been restored in 1971, but the brick fireplace and chimney and a hand loom bespoke her plain and simple life there.
Deeply impressed by her story, Shin’ichi said to the others with him: “The actions of this one woman protected the British forces and Canada. It certainly is true that the actions of a single determined individual can be more effective than a force of ten thousand. One person is all it takes.”
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Shin’ichi said to his wife, Mineko, beside him: “How Laura Secord lived her life reminds me of our women’s division members. She took bold action to save the British forces. She had to have courage and conviction to do that. And even though she contributed greatly, she remained humble. She supported her husband and took care of and raised her children. She was just like our women’s division members.”
Mineko nodded. “Yes, that’s true,” she said with a smile. “The efforts of women are behind many of the great moments in history, but they are rarely recognized.”
“I think so, too. That’s why, wherever I go, I try hard to search out and shine a spotlight on true heroes among ordinary people.”
Shin’ichi then said to the members accompanying him: “Many individuals, their names unknown to most, exert themselves tirelessly for kosen-rufu, wishing to contribute to peace and people’s happiness. It’s extraordinary. My conviction that the Soka Gakkai is a gathering of Bodhisattvas of the Earth, of Buddhas, grows stronger day by day.
“Hoping to shine a light on and pay tribute to such individuals in some small way, I have planted trees in their honor in various places or had plaques engraved with their names installed in culture and community centers.
“Leaders must never judge people based on their positions in the Soka Gakkai or their social status. They need to be discerning and identify who has been working the hardest for kosen-rufu, who has been striving with selfless dedication. Leaders must show the greatest respect for those working behind the scenes and value, praise, and commend them to the utmost.
“A deep sense of gratitude for those working hard out of the limelight imbues our organization with the warmth of humanity. Without this spirit, the Soka Gakkai will become a coldhearted bureaucracy.”
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In the light of the Buddhist law of cause and effect, our efforts for kosen-rufu, even if no one praises or recognizes them, are sources of our benefit and good fortune. The Buddha sees everything. In other words, everything is subject to this causal law.
That’s why it is important for each of us, as a matter of faith and personal conviction, to regard everything as part of our Buddhist practice. We should challenge ourselves by willingly taking on hard work for the sake of kosen-rufu, the Law, and our fellow members, whether others know about our efforts or not.
The role of leaders is to be aware of, commend, and honor members’ efforts so that they can all continue exerting themselves earnestly in Buddhist practice with joy and a sense of purpose.
Shin’ichi and his party went out into the courtyard of the Laura Secord Homestead and continued their conversation.
“The victory of the British forces,” Shin’ichi said, “was achieved with the selfless assistance of one woman, one ordinary person. In the same way, to succeed, all movements require the understanding, agreement, support, and cooperation of the people. To advance kosen-rufu, it’s important that we always value our society and the people around us, that we sink deep roots into and contribute to our communities.
“As such, consideration for and friendly relations with our neighbors, as well as taking an active role in our community, are indispensable elements of kosen-rufu. If we alienate ourselves from our society or our community, kosen-rufu won’t progress.
“Laura Secord had to care for her wounded husband while also raising her children. As human beings, it is important to pay attention to the essentials of daily life and lead firmly grounded lives. That’s the grassroots strength of the people. When such individuals stand up, they can change society fundamentally.
“Our movement for kosen-rufu is attempting to make that happen, and women’s division members are the leading players.”
Shin’ichi gazed at Teruko Izumiya as he said these words. Her eyes sparkled, and she nodded with a determined look.
As a result of Shin’ichi’s visit, Canada went on to soar into a new chapter of worldwide kosen-rufu.
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At 5:00 p.m. on June 25, with some 150 members gathered to see him off, Shin’ichi departed Toronto International Airport. After a 90-minute flight, he arrived in Chicago.
The 1st World Peace Culture Festival, one of the biggest events on his North America itinerary, was scheduled to be held in the city on June 28. This celebration would herald the start of a new chapter in worldwide kosen-rufu and mark the Soka Gakkai’s fresh departure as a global religious organization.
While in Chicago, Shin’ichi was interviewed by a local newspaper. The mayor also issued a proclamation designating the week of the festival, June 22 through June 28, as President Shin’ichi Yamamoto Week in recognition of his efforts for peace. It called upon all Chicagoans to welcome Shin’ichi and everyone who would be attending the festival.
Some of the Japanese leaders traveling with Shin’ichi shared their thoughts with one another.
“The age of worldwide kosen-rufu has really arrived!” one declared. “Undeniable proof is the great hope Americans have for our members’ contributions to society and for our SGI movement, which treasures young people and is filled with young people actively engaged in the world around them.”
Another said: “Unfortunately, Japan is still very insular. Many Japanese resent the rise of a new people’s movement and can’t see it objectively. The times are changing rapidly. With that narrow-minded attitude, Japan will be left behind the rest of the world.”
Still another added: “Since Tomomasa Yamawaki’s arrest in January for extortion, the blatant falsehood of his defamatory attacks on the Soka Gakkai through some mass media has come to light. We have a duty now to proclaim the true greatness of the Soka Gakkai.”
On June 27, a new Nichiren Shoshu temple opened outside Chicago, the fifth U.S. temple or temple branch office to be donated by the Soka Gakkai. High Priest Nikken attended the Gohonzon-enshrining ceremony. Shin’ichi also participated.
Shin’ichi continued to pray for kosen-rufu to advance through the harmonious unity of the priesthood and the laity. To strive solely to realize the great vow for kosen-rufu was the unchanging spirit pulsing within the Soka Gakkai.
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On June 28, the historic 1st World Peace Culture Festival, marking the Soka Gakkai’s flight into the 21st century, took place.
Nearly 20,000 people assembled at the Rosemont Horizon Stadium (today’s Allstate Arena) in the Chicago suburbs. Among them were SGI members from around the world as well as many distinguished guests, including ambassadors and embassy officials and staff from 17 countries and representatives from diverse spheres of American society.
The theme song “Morning Sun” began, heralding the dawn of a century of life. On stage, youth wearing white uniforms depicted waking up to a new day and then launched into a vibrant dance.
The stage had four sections, one in the center, one in the front, and one on each side. The American members used all sections as they performed songs and dances of Latin America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. They had been rehearsing day after day to master each dance.
New York members who performed a Russian dance had been thinking of the people of the Soviet Union while trying to bring their spirit to life. As they rehearsed, they came to feel a sense of friendship toward these strangers in a distant land, transcending national and ideological differences. Culture has the power to bring hearts together and connect people.
Members of the friendship delegation from Japan performed traditional dances and folk songs. The Soka Gakkai Music Corps also performed. And when the Soka Chorus2 sang a powerful rendition of “Song of Indomitable Dignity,” many of the pioneer women’s division members, who had moved from Japan to the United States, wiped tears from their eyes, recalling the many difficulties they had overcome.
A group of young men from Nagano Prefecture filled the stage to put on a dynamic gymnastics display. When they completed a five-story human tower, the audience cheered and applauded.
As an excited buzz hummed through the audience, two groups of members rushed out to the left and right stages—one performing a Palestinian folk dance and the other, an Israeli folk dance. When they finished, some dancers began moving toward the center stage. They hesitated, but then continued, as if spurring themselves on. Facing one another, they shook hands firmly.
The audience erupted in applause, expressing their shared prayer and wish for peace.
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Finally, it was time for music and dance from the festival’s host country, the United States. A broad array of exuberant, high-spirited American dances unfolded, from Western style complete with cowboy hats to Hawaiian dances, the Charleston, Swing, and tap dances.
Then the scene changed, and the stage darkened. Spotlights illuminated two figures, a young man and woman. They powerfully recited Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s poem “To My Beloved Young American Friends—Youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth,” which read in part:
America, this land uniting nations,
where people from everywhere
have gathered in harmony,
a miniature of the entire world.
Only in the unity and solidarity of
so many diverse peoples
is to be found the principle and formula
for global peace.3
When they finished, the stadium shook with applause as the members expressed their determination to create a groundswell for world peace starting from the United States.
For the finale, all the performers filled the stage, and some of them holding the flags of the world’s nations—Argentina, Austria, and so forth—walked to the front of the stage to raise them high. It was a tribute to the ideal of America as a harmonious nation where people gathered from all around the world. And it was an expression of determination. Guests and members in the audience stood up to applaud and cheer as their country’s flag appeared. Then, the performers began to sing joyously, swaying from side to side.
This brilliant festival demonstrated that our planet, our world, is one. It marked the opening of a new chapter in the Soka Gakkai’s movement for worldwide kosen-rufu, a spirited fanfare signaling the start of a new journey resounding far and wide.
No force can stop this mighty flow of kosen-rufu, because it is the will of Nichiren Daishonin. To make this great vow of the Daishonin a reality is the reason for the Soka Gakkai’s appearance in modern times and its eternal mission.
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More than 30 media outlets, including television stations, sent reporters to the World Peace Culture Festival. Afterward, ABC News showed scenes of the event, explaining that the festival sought to promote world peace and respect for life, and that most of the performers were amateurs. An SGI member who was interviewed said proudly: “The aim of the Soka Gakkai movement is to contribute to world peace, while enabling everyone to fully express their potential.”
At noon the next day, June 29, the joy and excitement of the festival spread to the streets of Chicago. Under sunny skies, a repeat of selected performances took place in Daley Plaza in front of City Hall to express gratitude to the city and its citizens for their generous support.
Around 10,000 people, including guests from various fields and some 500 specially invited senior care facility residents, gathered for the event and applauded the spirited performances.
The program included an instrumental performance by the Music Corps, as well as folk dances from Italy, South Korea, Hungary, and India. Members of the Japanese friendship delegation also took the stage for a rousing taiko drum performance and traditional firemen’s acrobatics with ladders. An orchestra played the festival theme song “Morning Sun,” and young men gave a dynamic gymnastics display with “human rockets” flying through the air.
One of the guests watching alongside Shin’ichi said: “I am deeply moved. Thank you for this wonderful cultural event!”
Enveloped in a symphony of applause and praise, the Soka Gakkai had made a fresh start toward the 21st century from the United States.
On July 1, Shin’ichi left Chicago and arrived in Los Angeles, his final stop.
That same day, the World Academy of Arts and Culture, headed by Dr. Krishna Srinivas, awarded Shin’ichi the title of Poet Laureate. The certificate, which he received later, recognized him for his “excellence in poetry.” Shin’ichi felt these words were too generous, and he made a vow in his heart: “I have written my poetry motivated by my wish to show the right way to live as a human being and to give people courage, hope, and the strength to carry on. To live up to the honor bestowed on me, I will continue to devote my energy to composing poems and sending forth the light of encouragement!”
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While tirelessly working for peace and the happiness of all people, Shin’ichi also continued composing poems, many of which were dictated in spare moments in his busy schedule.
In later years, the International Poets Academy named him International Eminent Poet (1991), while the World Poetry Society Intercontinental bestowed on him the titles World Poet Laureate (1995), World People’s Poet (2007), and World Peace Poet (2010).
After completing his U.S. itinerary, Shin’ichi arrived at the New Tokyo International Airport in Narita (later Narita International Airport) shortly after 4:00 p.m. on July 8. He was greeted by a smiling President Kiyoshi Jujo and other Soka Gakkai leaders.
In the course of his 61-day trip, he had visited eight countries, including the Soviet Union and countries in Europe and North America, almost circling the northern hemisphere in his travels for peace. He had conversed with government officials and leaders in various fields in each country to promote peace and cultural exchange. He also devoted himself wholeheartedly to encouraging local members in order to advance worldwide kosen-rufu.
Shin’ichi had given his all to inspiring members at every event, whether at the 1st World Peace Culture Festival, the European representatives conference, informal discussions about faith, Gosho study sessions, general meetings, gongyo sessions, or friendship gatherings.
He had striven earnestly, resolved that now was the time to leave eternal guidelines for the future. Determined not to waste a single moment, he even used his time riding the Paris metro, for instance, to compose a poem for the youth of France.
They were days of unrelenting struggle. But the only choice was to keep pressing forward. He had to ensure that the 21st century would be a century of peace and a century of life.
Shin’ichi had waited for and created the time to usher in the dawn of a new age. Each day, each moment, was a battle. No real construction or brilliant achievement can be accomplished without intense effort.
His work had led, at last, to the bells of dawn tolling the arrival of an age of victory. The morning sun of a new chapter of worldwide kosen-rufu now began its majestic ascent.
(This concludes “Bells of Dawn,” chapter 4 of volume 30 of
The New Human Revolution.)
- *1L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea (London: L. C. Page and Company, 1909), p. 169.
- *2A mixed chorus group of men’s, women’s, and youth division members in Japan.
- *3Daisaku Ikeda, “To My Beloved Young American Friends—Youthful Bodhisattvas of the Earth,” Songs for America (Santa Monica, California: World Tribune Press, 2000), p. 67.