Volume 30: Chapter 5, Cheers of Victory 11–20
Cheers of Victory 11
In June 1918, an orchestra of German POWs performed Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at the Bando camp.
Beethoven incorporated voices—soloists and a chorus—in the fourth movement of that work, with lyrics based on the poem “Ode to Joy,” by the German poet Friedrich Schiller. All people coming together as one family—this is the theme of the Ninth Symphony. This hymn to humanity, this music of friendship reverberated from Tokushima.
Now, a Soka Gakkai women’s chorus was singing the choral section:
Clouds drifting across the clear skies
The birds singing in the forests and groves . . . .1
Applauding enthusiastically, Shin’ichi felt as if he could hear the Tokushima members’ cheers of victory as they emerged triumphant from the oppression of authoritarian priests. Their hearts blazed with the joy of dedicating their lives to kosen-rufu. This joy itself was proof of their great victory.
The following day, November 10, Shin’ichi took part in a tree-planting to mark the auditorium’s completion, sat for photographs with event staff, and led a gongyo session.
He said: “Nichiren Daishonin writes: ‘Myo [of myoho, the Mystic Law] means to revive, that is, to return to life’ (WND-1, 149). We who embrace the Mystic Law will, therefore, always find a way forward. No matter how difficult the situation we may find ourselves in, we can turn it around and overcome it. Brimming with dynamic life force, we forge ahead anew. That is why we never give up, never despair.
“We are all originally magnificent Buddhas. Being convinced of this is the essence of our faith. Believe in yourselves, have confidence, and dedicate yourselves to kosen-rufu, spreading the light of happiness of the Mystic Law throughout your communities.”
Shin’ichi was going to neighboring Kagawa Prefecture that day, and he encouraged the Tokushima members up until his departure.
To be seriously committed means to give your all at every moment.
“Tokushima is a wonderful name!” he said. “It means island of virtue, a home to people of noble character. Please create fresh momentum for kosen-rufu in Shikoku, starting from Tokushima!”
Cheers of Victory 12
Shin’ichi left the Tokushima Auditorium at 2:30 p.m. and headed by car to the Shikoku Training Center in Aji-cho, in neighboring Kagawa Prefecture. After about an hour, he suggested they stop at a coffee shop, wanting to give his driver a short break.
In the coffee shop, the Shikoku youth leader, Okimitsu Owada, part of the group traveling with them from Tokushima, asked Shin’ichi if he could meet with Shikoku youth representatives. Shin’ichi replied immediately that he’d be glad to. He wanted to respond sincerely to this direct and earnest request from the youth.
It was decided to hold a small youth gathering on the evening of November 12.
Shin’ichi had the highest hopes for the Shikoku youth with their strong fighting spirit.
That August (1981), Owada had visited Shin’ichi at the Nagano Training Center and expressed his desire to generate new momentum for kosen-rufu, starting from Shikoku.
“If I may speak frankly,” he had said to Shin’ichi, “at this time, when Soka Gakkai publications only rarely report on your activities, I feel that the mentor-disciple spirit is all the more important. So we are thinking of creating an exhibition space at one of our centers in Shikoku to highlight your writings and actions for peace.”
Though he spoke somewhat hesitantly, Owada’s passion was obvious. Shin’ichi appreciated his sincerity.
“I understand your feelings. Please confer with the Shikoku Region leader and other top local leaders about how best to give hope to the members.”
The Shikoku youth began to research Shin’ichi’s activities for world peace. They learned that in 1968, wishing to prevent China’s isolation from the global community, Shin’ichi had called for Japan to normalize diplomatic relations with China. At the height of the Cold War, he had visited China and the Soviet Union a number of times to build bridges of friendship and work to relieve tensions between the two countries. Seeking a way toward peace, he had engaged in dialogue with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the United Nations secretary-general, and other leaders. The young people’s research revealed Shin’ichi’s broad-ranging activities that rose above ideology.
Wishing to proudly communicate their mentor’s contributions to peace, the Shikoku youth had gone on to organize an exhibition at the Shikoku Training Center. Held from October 3 through November 3 (1981), it had been viewed by more than 61,000 people.
Cheers of Victory 13
The exhibition on Shin’ichi Yamamoto’s activities for peace, which the Shikoku youth had planned and organized, became a ray of light that illuminated a new path forward for kosen-rufu.
Innovative future development will not be realized if we simply wait to be told what to do. We must identify the obstacles to progress, the problems of our times and society, and actively and continually strive to resolve them. That is the path to creating something new. As a poet from Shikoku, Masaoka Shiki (1867–1902), said: “Revolution and reform are the work of the new generation of youth emerging to take their place in society.”2
Shin’ichi arrived at the Shikoku Training Center in Kagawa Prefecture a little after 5:00 p.m. on November 10.
He attended a leaders meeting there that evening commemorating Kagawa Day. Everyone applauded as Shin’ichi made his way to his seat.
The members were in high spirits. They had suffered the words and actions of deceitful priests intent on severing the Soka ties of mentor and disciple. But they had now brilliantly overcome it all and were gathering joyously. It was time for a triumphant fresh start.
In a strong voice, Shin’ichi declared: “I will take the lead once again! I don’t want you to worry or suffer anymore. Those who understand my feelings, fight along with me!”
It was a lion’s roar, cutting through the constraints imposed on him. The thunderous applause seemed never to end.
Shin’ichi was thinking: “If the Soka mentor-disciple bond remains strong, we can overcome any evil. I must not allow authoritarian priests to obstruct the advance of the Soka Gakkai, the organization carrying out kosen-rufu in accord with the Buddha’s intent. Now is the time for our counteroffensive!” This was the vow that blazed in his heart.
Whatever happens, the Soka mentor-disciple spirit must not be allowed to perish. That would cut off the path to kosen-rufu.
The organization would be run, of course, through consensus under the leadership of President Akizuki. But Shin’ichi was resolved, for the sake of the youth, to demonstrate and convey through his own actions the essential Soka path of mentor and disciple.
Cheers of Victory 14
After attending the Kagawa Day commemorative leaders meeting at the Shikoku Training Center, Shin’ichi conferred with top Shikoku leaders and others.
The next day, November 11, he again exerted himself all out. He encouraged members gathered at the training center, and then visited the site of the new Shikoku Culture Center, which was under construction in nearby Chokushi-cho, Takamatsu City. He did gongyo at the adjacent Soka Gakkai Takamatsu Auditorium with local members who, hearing he was there, had come to see him, and encouraged them by playing the piano. Back at the training center, he met informally with Soka Gakkai staff and top Shikoku leaders.
He said: “Here in Shikoku, I have declared that I will once again take the lead in our movement for kosen-rufu as a lion of Soka. I will begin constructing a new era from here. This is because Shikoku is a forerunner in our movement. Please never forget this golden moment. Its significance will become all the greater and more profound with time.”
Shin’ichi’s words brimmed with passion and conviction.
That evening, youth division and young men’s division leaders from Shikoku’s four prefectures3 gathered at the training center to discuss their meeting with Shin’ichi the following day. One proposed: “At tomorrow’s gathering, let’s show Sensei our resolve and reassure him that the future of Shikoku is secure. Let’s compose a song conveying our determination and commitment and then sing it for him.”
Everyone heartily agreed.
“It’s important that we all work together to create this song, so please suggest words or phrases for the lyrics.”
On a whiteboard, they wrote down whatever came to mind, such as “the toil of youth” and “our chosen path.” Using these as inspiration, they worked on the lyrics, and just before daybreak they had completed three stanzas of four lines each. They had all put their heart and soul into creating this new Shikoku young men’s division song.
Such single-minded dedication is an admirable quality of youth; it has the power to break through seemingly impossible barriers and open new paths.
Cheers of Victory 15
November 12 finally came, the day of Shin’ichi’s meeting with Shikoku youth division representatives.
That morning, Tomohiro Suginuma of the Shikoku young men’s music corps arrived at the Shikoku Training Center. He had been asked to compose the music for the new song, as he had done for other Soka Gakkai songs, such as the Shikoku Region song “Our Land” and the high school division song “Torchbearers of Justice.”
When he looked at the proposed lyrics, he asked whether the four-line stanzas could be expanded into six lines, to create a fresh feeling. The young men who had written the lyrics had themselves felt that the four-line form didn’t allow them to express their spirit and resolve fully.
They began rewriting, which was surprisingly challenging. Still, they managed to complete the task by afternoon, and the music was finished by evening.
That afternoon, Shin’ichi had attended a leaders meeting commemorating November 11, Ehime Day, at the training center, where he spoke about the phrase “responding with joy” from the Lotus Sutra.
“For us, ‘responding with joy’ refers to the great joy that rises within us when we hear the supreme teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The Daishonin says: ‘Rejoicing is faith, and faith is rejoicing’ (GZ, 835).4 This teaching enables us to overcome all sufferings, attain Buddhahood in this lifetime, and establish a state of unsurpassed happiness. And it has the power to lead all people to enlightenment into the eternal future. When convinced of this, we will overflow with endless gratitude and irrepressible joy at encountering the Mystic Law. That jubilant, vibrant state is itself the state of supreme happiness.
“When we respond with joy, we cannot help sharing the Mystic Law with others, and we spontaneously begin to spread this teaching. That, in turn, leads to even more benefit. This growing circle of joy is kosen-rufu. Propagating the teaching results naturally from the joy of faith.
“Please always remember that joy arises when you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in earnest, and when you actively and willingly take action for kosen-rufu.”
Cheers of Victory 16
Shin’ichi wanted to reaffirm that the Soka Gakkai was a joyous gathering of ordinary people, and that the joy of each member was the driving force for Soka Gakkai activities.
He closed his remarks by urging everyone to join in making a fresh start with “Faith is rejoicing” as their motto.
The youth meeting at the Shikoku Training Center began a little before 6:00 p.m. About 80 Shikoku youth representatives and about 10 Ehime Prefecture leaders attended. After a series of reports on youth activities, youth leader Okimitsu Owada rose and said: “Sensei! We have created a Shikoku young men’s division song, and we’d like you to listen to it.”
The eyes of Owada and the others who worked on the song were puffy and red. Shin’ichi guessed that they must have stayed up all night.
“Certainly! What’s it called?”
“The Song of Dawn.”
Shin’ichi smiled. “Commonplace lines like ‘Ah, the dawn has arrived’ lack freshness. And without freshness, it will feel as if dawn is still far off.”
Someone handed Shin’ichi the lyrics, and the song played on the cassette deck.
Ah, the dawn has come
Set out as forerunners . . .
“Just as I thought—‘Ah, the dawn has come,’” he said humorously.
Shin’ichi looked over the lyrics. “It’s a good song,” he said, “but it feels like you just stitched together some inspiring words.”
The youth men smiled ruefully; it was the truth. They felt as if Shin’ichi had seen their whole process.
Shinji Takahata, the Shikoku young men’s leader, spoke out: “Sensei! Please help us improve it. Please infuse it with your spirit.”
Takahata’s gaze was earnest, expressing his youthful eagerness to open the way for a new age. Shikoku was a land of hopeful aspiration.
Cheers of Victory 17
Shin’ichi looked at the young men and said: “If you want my help, I can try. May I make some revisions?”
They responded with a resounding “Yes!”
“Okay, then, let’s work together to create a wonderful song that will be sung through the ages.”
Shin’ichi immediately went over the lyrics.
“First, regarding the opening line, ‘Ah, the dawn has come’—the word ‘dawn’ appears in many Soka Gakkai songs and other well-known school songs. How the song begins is very important. The first line is crucial. We need something that evokes a vivid, colorful image, such as that of the full moon rising, or the sun’s first rays bursting forth.
“I think for this song, the color should be crimson. How about starting with ‘Ah, the crimson . . . .’ Then we can make the song’s title ‘Song of Crimson.’
“As for the music, it should be upbeat and energetic, fresh and original, building as the song proceeds. What about something like this?” Shin’ichi hummed a melody.
Suginuma, the composer, immediately transcribed it into notes, which set the tone for the whole song.
“While bearing in mind the style of our songs until now, I’d like the melody to be something new and ahead of the times, a tune people will enjoy hearing even without knowing the words,” Shin’ichi said.
“If I may, it shouldn’t sound rushed or unsettled but rather confident and dignified—a melody you just want to sing along to.”
The meeting turned into a song-writing session.
Let’s revise this phrase ‘storm of devilish functions,’ too. How about ‘arrogant devilish functions’?
“Instead of using phrases similar to those we’ve used in songs before, it’s important to be creative and original.
“Our aims of establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land and realizing worldwide kosen-rufu have aspects that are completely original. They are new, unprecedented concepts, which means we need fresh expressions to communicate them.”
Cheers of Victory 18
As he spoke with the youth, Shin’ichi continued to revise the lyrics. Through the song-writing process, he sought to teach them the Soka Gakkai spirit and to foster their awareness as successors.
“In the line ‘the castle of kosen-rufu that our pioneers have built’ in the third verse, let’s change it to ‘that our dear pioneer women have built.’ It’s more specific. I’d like to use ‘pioneer women’ here to represent all our pioneer members who built the Soka Gakkai in the early days.
“This is important. Today, we have wonderful training centers such as this one and fine community centers around the country. The Soka Gakkai has effectively become Japan’s largest religious organization. But for us to reach this stage, our pioneer members, including many of your mothers and fathers, worked extremely hard, through many painful struggles.
“Though disparaged as a gathering of the poor and sick and having to fight prejudice and insults due to misunderstanding of our movement, they never retreated. Rather, they continued to strive tirelessly and energetically to share Nichiren Buddhism.
“No matter how difficult things became, they always had high hopes. That’s because they believed that their successors—that is, you—would grow to be fine, outstanding people and take the lead in kosen-rufu and society. That’s why they could keep going, determined to succeed, to remain undefeated.
“You mustn’t betray the hopes of these pioneers, of your mothers and fathers. To do so would be the height of ingratitude. I want you all to grow to be upstanding individuals whom our pioneer members can look to and say: ‘We have fostered a stream of fine successors. That’s our greatest honor!’”
Shin’ichi finished revising all three verses, making some 30 changes.
“I’ll keep thinking about how we can improve it. I want to create the very best song, one that our youth will sing forever. Let’s create a song affirming the declaration of our counteroffensive for kosen-rufu.”
Shin’ichi continued his revisions into the late hours. He thought deeply, infusing his spirit into every word.
Cheers of Victory 19
On the afternoon of November 13, the next day, Shin’ichi attended a gongyo session in the auditorium of the Shikoku Training Center to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Kochi Chapter.
During his visit to Kochi three years earlier (in 1978), he had stayed at the Kochi Training Center, near Ashizuri-misaki [a cape that is the southernmost point of Shikoku], out of his wish to encourage all the members in Kochi Prefecture. He offered guidance and encouragement to each person he met during his visit.
Having overcome countless obstacles in the intervening years, members now gathered at the training center with fresh courage and hope.
At the gongyo session, Shin’ichi cited several passages from Nichiren Daishonin’s writings, including: “Without tribulation there would be no votary of the Lotus Sutra” (WND-1, 33). Reaffirming that great obstacles are inevitable on the path of kosen-rufu, he went on to discuss the proper attitude of faith.
“Times of trouble reveal the essence of a person’s faith. Some may display cowardice and flee or betray their fellow members. Others may decide ‘This is the crucial moment’ and rise up with firm resolve. The difference lies in whether one tries each day to polish and forge one’s faith. We can’t establish strong faith overnight.
“We consistently exert ourselves in Soka Gakkai activities so that we can persevere courageously with unshakable faith in times of adversity.
“We are ordinary people, humble everyday citizens. For this reason, we may be disparaged and persecuted. But because we spread the supreme and unparalleled Mystic Law, we are certain to succeed in advancing kosen-rufu.
“The Daishonin also states: ‘The Law does not spread by itself: because people propagate it, both the people and the Law are respectworthy’ (GZ, 856).5 Accordingly, those who propagate this supreme Law can lead the most wonderful lives possible.
“All of the unfounded attacks and outrageous treatment you’ve had to endure because of your efforts for kosen-rufu and for the Soka Gakkai will become sources of eternal good fortune for you. Don’t be disturbed by people’s trivial words and actions. Rather, live your lives following the unsurpassed way and in perfect accord with the teachings of Buddhism.”
There was a burst of loud applause.
Members throughout Shikoku’s four prefectures—Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, and Kochi—began taking initiative as forerunners in the Soka Gakkai’s counteroffensive.
Cheers of Victory 20
That same day, Shin’ichi encouraged the gongyo session participants, groups from various divisions, and event staff. He also took commemorative photos with many members. In between, he continued revising the “Song of Crimson.”
Each time he made a change in the lyrics, he informed the youth involved.
Suginuma, who was composing the melody, had come up with a draft based on the part Shin’ichi had hummed the previous day.
Late that afternoon, Shin’ichi toured the training center. Looking into the auditorium, he found a small group of young men singing the revised song and recording it. He listened for a while and shared his impressions of the music with Suginuma.
“I think the melody is a little too complicated. Let’s make it more uplifting and easier to sing.”
That evening, a cassette recording was delivered to Shin’ichi. After listening to it, he said: “The melody is very good, so that takes care of the music! But now the music outshines the lyrics. Let’s see if we can improve the lyrics some more!”
Shin’ichi polished the lyrics further.
On November 14, he listened to the tape at the Shikoku Training Center and again at the Shikoku Culture Center and Shikoku Soka Gakkai Women’s Center, making additional revisions to the lyrics each time.
While enjoying a communal bath with some Shikoku men’s and young men’s division leaders that evening, he continued to go over the lyrics. The young men requested that the song, instead of being only for Shikoku members, be presented as a song for the young men’s division nationwide.
“If that’s the case,” Shin’ichi responded, “Let’s make it even better—the absolute best.”
After his bath, he examined each word and phrase again to see if there was any way he could improve it.
The creative process is a struggle with one’s own willingness to accept easy compromises. A new path can be blazed only by overcoming that temptation and pushing oneself to the very limits, taking on challenges, making efforts, and applying one’s ingenuity. Shin’ichi wanted to communicate to his young successors this spirit of unremitting struggle that is key to creating something new.
- *1Lines from one of the most popular versions of original Japanese lyrics that were created for the choral section of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and that were not translations of Schiller’s poem. This version was composed by Toichiro Iwasa (1905–74).
- *2Translated from Japanese. Masaoka Shiki, Byosho Rokushaku (A Six-Foot Sickbed) (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1927), pp. 67–68.
- *3The four prefectures of Shikoku are Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, and Kochi.
- *4“Oko Kikigaki” (The Recorded Lectures); not included in WND, vols. 1 or 2.
- *5From “Hyaku Rokka Sho” (The One Hundred and Six Comparisons); not included in The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vols. 1 and 2.