Volume 30: Chapter 5, Cheers of Victory 41–50
Cheers of Victory 41
On December 11, Shin’ichi spent the morning wholeheartedly encouraging members who came to see him at the Oita Peace Center. He greeted them warmly and posed for photographs with them.
He also inscribed many pieces of calligraphy to present to members. These included one for the Oita 170 Group, with whom he had reunited on December 9. He also wrote a calligraphy for the newly established Oita Young Men’s Twenty-first Century Group and another for the Oita Young Women’s Twenty-first Century Group, expressing his good wishes for their futures.
“Are there any other members I should write calligraphies for? I’m sure there are still many others who worked hard during the painful troubles with the priesthood.”
When the prefecture leaders suggested names, Shin’ichi immediately dipped his brush in ink and inscribed individual calligraphies. He incorporated their names alongside the Chinese characters for cherry tree or mountain [expressing the wish that their lives would blossom brilliantly and remain unshaken].
In the afternoon, he visited a privately owned activity center, where he met with a small group of Oita Prefecture representatives. At their request, he revised the lyrics for an Oita prefectural song that a team was writing and made some suggestions for the melody.
In the evening, an open gongyo session was held at the Oita Peace Center. Here, too, Shin’ichi not only led the members in gongyo but afterward poured his entire being into encouraging them and offering guidance in faith.
He noted that many well-known figures in Japanese history had a connection with Oita: “Otomo Sorin (1530–87), the Sengoku period feudal lord, converted to Christianity and helped introduce Western culture to Japan. The late Edo period Confucian scholar Hirose Tanso (1782–1856) founded the private academy Kangien and fostered many students who went on to become outstanding leaders of society. The pianist and composer Rentaro Taki (1879–1903) produced beautiful musical works, and the writer and educator Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835–1901) founded a prestigious university.
“What will we, as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism, accomplish and leave behind? Our gift to posterity will be spreading throughout the world the great Law of life revealed by Nichiren Daishonin, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and ensuring that it continues to be passed on eternally.
“Our mission in this world is to share the Mystic Law—the universal key to attaining absolute happiness—with as many people as we can during our lifetime.
“This is the only way to earn the praise of Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law; to create an everlasting memory of our lives in this world; and to make the cause for gaining the highest distinction and honor as Buddhists. Having this conviction is the essence of being a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism.”
Cheers of Victory 42
Shin’ichi continued: “I don’t care if barrages of criticism are directed at me personally, because I’ve been prepared for that from the start. All that matters to me is that you will lead happy lives and enjoy boundless benefits through faith in the Gohonzon. That is my greatest joy. And your doing so proves that I am fulfilling my responsibility.
“I am praying earnestly that all of you will be safe and well.”
Those were his honest feelings. His gongyo session with the members had naturally evolved into a warm, heart-to-heart exchange.
As he would be heading to Kumamoto Prefecture the next day, Shin’ichi said to the Oita leaders that evening: “I really want to go to Taketa tomorrow. I want to see our members there before going to Kumamoto. After all, they suffered terribly during our troubles with the priesthood.”
On the morning of December 12, Shin’ichi met informally with Oita Prefecture and Kyushu Region leaders and discussed the future development of kosen-rufu on the community level. After listening to several reports, he said with deep emotion: “When I think of our members who have suffered so much until now, I wish I could visit each one at home, walking from house to house to encourage them.
“But my schedule makes that impossible. On my behalf, please encourage the members I could not meet this time and convey my feelings.
“It is essential that you treasure and support every noble child of the Buddha who has worked so hard for kosen-rufu. Please consider that a crucial part of your mission as leaders.”
Many members had gathered at the peace center in the hopes of seeing or meeting with Shin’ichi even briefly. He did gongyo with them and then, at 10:00 a.m., boarded a chartered bus to Taketa. This mode of transport had been chosen because it would allow Shin’ichi to have discussions and do other work while en route.
Kosen-rufu is a battle against time.
Cheers of Victory 43
Taketa City is located in southwestern Oita Prefecture [about 42 kilometers (26 miles) from Oita City] and had in past times flourished as the town surrounding Oka Castle.
On the bus, Takeo Yamaoka, the Soka Gakkai’s Oita Prefecture secretary, shared some of the castle’s history with Shin’ichi.
It was said to have been built in 1185 by Ogata Saburo Koreyoshi, a nobleman and warrior, who fought on the side of the Minamoto clan and distinguished himself in a battle that defeated the forces of the Taira clan. He built the castle hoping that Minamoto no Yoshitsune, who had fallen out with his older brother Minamoto no Yoritomo [founder of Japan’s first shogunate], would take up residence there.
The castle was virtually unassailable. It was situated atop the natural stronghold of a high plateau scored with ravines, surrounded by mountains, and flanked by the Shirataki River to the south and the Inaba River to the north. But Yoshitsune was ultimately never able to take up residence there, and Koreyoshi himself was later captured and exiled. His hopes to support Yoshitsune wound up unfulfilled.
In the 14th century, the castle became the main residence of the Shiga clan. In a conflict that broke out in 1586, forces of the powerful Shimazu clan attacked Oka Castle and surrounding castles. While the others fell one after another, Oka Castle is said to have been protected by the young lord Shiga Chikatsugu, who fought valiantly to save it.
With the abolition of clans and the establishment of prefectures during the Meiji Restoration (1868), Oka Castle was torn down and its wooden structures destroyed. Its ancient moss-covered stone walls still stood, however, reminding people of its former glory.
The composer Rentaro Taki (1879–1903), who spent part of his childhood in Taketa, composed the famous melody “Kojo no Tsuki” (Moon over the Ruined Castle), recalling the ruins of Oka Castle. A bronze statue of Taki stands in the outer enclosure of the old castle site, and a stone monument engraved with the song’s lyrics, written by Bansui Doi (1871–1952), stands in the main enclosure.
Shin’ichi said with deep feeling: “So Oka Castle was built as a demonstration of Ogata Koreyoshi’s loyalty to Yoshitsune? That’s a beautiful story.
“And Shiga Chikatsugu’s valiant struggle reminds me of the dauntless fighting spirit of our Taketa members.”
The castle’s stone walls were visible amid the trees through the bus window.
Shin’ichi composed a poem:
Gazing at Oka Castle,
the inspiration for
“Moon over the Ruined Castle,”
I praise the Taketa members’
battle to protect the Law.
The heroic members of Taketa had fought bravely against the abuses of clerical authority and ushered in the age of a people-centered religion.
Cheers of Victory 44
The bus arrived at the castle’s parking lot, and when Shin’ichi stepped outside, several members ran up to him, calling “Sensei!”
“Thank you!” he said. “I have come to see you, great champions of the people!”
The members gripped his extended hand, and Shin’ichi returned a firm grasp. The eyes of one rugged man filled with tears—an expression of his unsurpassed joy at having fought and triumphed after enduring for so long the heartless attacks by malicious priests.
Shin’ichi ate lunch with about 50 local representatives at a restaurant next to the parking lot, conversing with them and listening to their reports. They told him that members had gathered in the ruins of the castle’s main enclosure.
Shin’ichi said: “All right, I’ll go and meet them!”
Getting into a car with two local leaders, Shin’ichi went to encourage the members.
On their way, one leader said: “We fully supported the local chief priest, doing our best to protect the Daishonin’s Buddhism. At first, he would speak about the importance of harmony between priests and the laity. But then he suddenly started criticizing and attacking the Soka Gakkai. And all that time, he was working behind our backs to persuade members to quit the organization.”
In one block (present-day district), 32 out of 45 households quit the Soka Gakkai at once. It was heartbreaking. Enduring this trial, the leaders visited the members’ homes scattered throughout the mountains. They earnestly encouraged everyone, determined to prevent even one more person from falling away from the noble and honorable movement of Soka.
The other, older leader seated next to Shin’ichi described the priests’ behavior as “utterly inhuman.” He bit his lip to keep his emotions in check.
Shin’ichi nodded with an understanding smile. “You have endured great hardship, but you have won and made Taketa rise again. Thank you!”
Shin’ichi bowed his head with gratitude and respect. Tears fell from the man’s eyes.
The harsher the winter, the greater the joy we feel at the arrival of spring. Hardships give rise to joy.
Cheers of Victory 45
A steady stream of members made their way to the castle’s main enclosure. A man in a suit vigorously climbed the stone stairs. A youth strode energetically, carrying an elderly member on his back. A woman walked with hurried steps, perspiration glistening on her forehead. Everyone shared happy smiles.
Shin’ichi got out of the car and began climbing to the outer enclosure. A dozen or so young men waited for him there, brave youth who had fought to protect the members from the priests’ malicious schemes. Shin’ichi shook hands firmly with each one, offering words of encouragement.
When he arrived at the main enclosure, about 300 members cheered and applauded as he came into view.
I have come to see you all,” Shin’ichi said. “I have come here to set forth anew into the 21st century with you, my precious, dedicated friends. Let’s take a group photograph—a picture to commemorate the great, historic victory for kosen-rufu that all of you in Taketa have achieved.”
There were several children, including a little boy about two years old in the arms of his grandmother in the front row.
Shin’ichi thought: “This beautiful scene of the victorious spirit of the people will no doubt be engraved forever in the hearts of these children.”
The Seikyo Shimbun photographer looked through his viewfinder. There were too many people to fit them all in. He had to sit on the shoulders of another photographer to get everyone into the frame.
The Taketa members had fought and broken through the heavy clouds of bitter hardship, and their faces glowed. A blue sky stretched above them and in their hearts.
The shutter clicked.
Shin’ichi said: “Since we’re here at the ruins of Oka Castle, let’s all sing ‘Moon over the Ruined Castle’!”
Takeo Yamaoka, the Oita Prefecture secretary, led the singing. Shin’ichi joined in.
A blossom-viewing banquet at the castle in the spring
The moon reflected in the sake cups passed around . . .
Waves of emotion swept through the members’ hearts.
As long as one has faith, the sun of victory is sure to rise.
Cheers of Victory 46
Takeo Yamaoka, who led the chorus of “Moon over the Ruined Castle,” had traveled to Taketa many times to boldly confront the priests over their disgraceful behavior and do his utmost to encourage the local members. When he thought of those painful times and Shin’ichi’s heartfelt encouragement, he was overwhelmed with emotion.
Buddhism is a struggle to be victorious. The law of cause and effect is uncompromising.
These noble children of the Buddha had weathered storms of devilish functions and pressed forward in their efforts for kosen-rufu. They sang with great feeling, their heads held high and their faces bright.
Singing along, Shin’ichi called out in his heart: “You have won! As courageous champions of Soka you have steadfastly protected our noble castle of kosen-rufu. Now it’s time for us to set forth anew! Let’s embark on this journey together, to the summit of the 21st century!”
“Thank you!” said Shin’ichi when the song ended, raising his arms in a victory salute to the Taketa members. They gave three cheers in response, swinging their arms high. Their voices rang out as one, cheers of victory announcing the dawn of an age of the people.
“I will never forget this day as long as I live!” said Shin’ichi. “Stay well!”
As he started walking, the members followed him, chatting pleasantly.
The winter sun above smiled down.
After a while, Shin’ichi stopped.
“Today, I’d like to take my own photograph of you, the brave champions of Taketa. I will engrave each of your faces in my heart forever. Please line up on the stairs.”
Shin’ichi held up the camera he carried for snapping scenic photos and pressed the shutter. Every face beamed.
The ruined castle, bathed in moonlight, had long watched over the impermanence of the world, the endless cycle of prosperity and decline. Now, it had transformed into a castle of hope and joy, bright with sunshine, caressed by the breezes of eternal happiness, and resounding with a song of triumph.
Cheers of Victory 47
After taking a photograph of the Taketa members, Shin’ichi returned by car to the parking lot where he would board his bus to travel on to Kumamoto.
Members making their way down from the castle’s main enclosure formed a crowd around the bus. Shin’ichi went among them and called out: “Please live long! Please become happy without fail!”
He shook hands and encouraged one person after another before finally boarding.
As the bus pulled away, members waved and shouted: “Sensei, goodbye!” “Thank you!” “Oita will never be defeated!”
Standing inside the moving bus, Shin’ichi waved back vigorously from the window. As the bus approached a curve, he went to the opposite side and continued waving.
An invisible yet firm bond connected him and the members. It was the bond of faith, the bond of their vow from the infinite past, and the bond of mentor and disciple united in the cause of kosen-rufu.
Shin’ichi was headed on his first visit to the Soka Gakkai Shiragiku Auditorium in Aso-machi (part of present-day Aso City).
The bus crossed the border from Oita Prefecture into Kumamoto Prefecture and made its way through the foothills of Mt. Aso. Ahead in the distance, Shin’ichi and the others saw three kites in the sky. As they got closer, they could make out the images on the kites—a sunrise, a lion, and a young eagle.
“I bet those kites are flying over the Shiragiku Auditorium!” Shin’ichi said.
At 2:00 p.m., the bus entered the front gate of the auditorium grounds. In an open space outside the gate, some young people were flying the kites. One, wearing a school uniform, appeared to be a high school student.
Stepping off the bus, Shin’ichi said to the leaders who greeted him: “Thank you for all your hard work. Now, let’s launch a new effort!”
In Kumamoto, too, members had suffered storms of abuse and defamation from hostile priests. Enduring this unforgivable persecution, they had fought bravely to the end.
Each time we conquer the devilish forces that try to destroy our movement, the momentum of kosen-rufu accelerates.
Cheers of Victory 48
Instead of going straight into the auditorium, Shin’ichi stopped to pose for photos with local members outside, talking with and thanking them for their efforts.
He called over the high school student who had flown one of the kites and sincerely encouraged him. The young man’s name was Yuto Homma, and he was a senior at a prefectural high school.
“I saw the kites! We could see them clearly from a distance. It must have been cold standing outside. Thank you! I hope that you will also soar freely into the skies of the future.”
Shin’ichi then entered the building, where a large meeting was under way with Soka Gakkai President Eisuke Akizuki. As he walked into the room, Shin’ichi spotted a young man in a wheelchair and went directly over to him. His name was Hironori Nonaka, a first-year high school student with muscular dystrophy who lived in a long-term care facility.
The young man had felt sad and depressed for a time, unable to find hope for his future because of his illness. But very recently, he had been inspired to begin practicing Nichiren Buddhism seriously after hearing the experience of a young men’s division member who had overcome meningitis.
His mother, Fumino, seeing her son start to chant in earnest, vowed to welcome Shin’ichi to Kumamoto with a personal victory of introducing someone to the practice. Up to then, she had avoided talking about Buddhism with people who knew about her son’s condition. She thought she could offer no convincing proof of the benefit of faith in the Gohonzon.
But encouraged by her son’s new commitment to his practice, she found the courage to go with her daughter to talk about Nichiren Buddhism with a mother whose child was undergoing treatment at the care facility for the same illness.
The woman’s reply surprised Fumino: “I am impressed by how you support your son’s battle against illness without giving up, and to hear you speak with optimism, energy, and conviction about how wonderful the Buddhism you practice is.” The woman decided to join the Soka Gakkai.
No life is without worries and struggles. Being alive means battling problems and karma. The key is to never part with the Gohonzon, no matter what. It is important to have courage and hope, chant bravely, and fight on. That will demonstrate to others the strength, brilliance, and dignity of human life, promoting understanding and support for our activities as practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism.
Cheers of Victory 49
Standing next to Hironori Nonaka and stroking his shoulder, Shin’ichi said: “Be strong. Everyone has a special mission. Those who don’t let their weaknesses defeat them are true victors.”
Nonaka felt he was hearing genuine words of encouragement spoken to him for the first time, rather than mere words of consolation.
The following day, he received a bouquet of roses from Shin’ichi. As he held the flowers, he was filled with deep gratitude to have lived to see this day.
Nonaka was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy before starting elementary school, and his doctor said he probably would not live until the sixth grade. He commuted to school from the care facility and, after graduating from junior high, pursued his high school studies by correspondence. Over those years, 19 of his friends at the facility had died of their illness.
Inspired by Shin’ichi’s encouragement, he resolved: “My life may be short, but I will live each day to the fullest and carry out my mission!”
Nonaka’s example of living in earnest, with strength and energy as he looked toward the future despite the challenges of his illness, deeply impressed his peers.
A local high school invited him to speak at its annual culture festival. In his presentation, titled “The Courage to Live,” he shared his battle with illness and hopes for the future. It moved and inspired the audience.
After doing gongyo with the members in the auditorium, Shin’ichi spoke with them in a relaxed manner.
“No matter our age, our practice of Nichiren Buddhism is indispensable. A plane taking off could be likened to one’s youth, while a plane flying steadily through the sky is like one’s maturity. During that time, the aircraft may be rocked and shaken by turbulence.
“To fly safely and arrive at the destination of happiness, we need enough fuel and a powerful engine to get us through. That is, we need a strong life force. And our Buddhist practice is the source of that strength. We also need reliable instruments that will keep us on the correct course—in other words, a sound philosophy. That sound philosophy is Nichiren Buddhism.”
Cheers of Victory 50
Shin’ichi continued: “It eventually comes time for the plane of life to land. Landing is said to be the most challenging part of flying. In life, it is the final phase of our journey, the decisive point when we touch down on the runway of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime. This culminating period is crucial to crowning our lives with magnificent victory.
“I hope that all of you will remain young at heart as you age and continue to strive wholeheartedly for kosen-rufu and the happiness of others, living each day to the fullest. Continue to seek the way, rise to life’s challenges, and stay youthful as long as you live.”
In closing, he said: “The white chrysanthemums on display outside [this Shiragiku (White Chrysanthemum) Auditorium] and the flowers in the entryway and by the windows all exude your sincerity. I want to applaud and express my appreciation and praise for everyone’s efforts. It would be wonderful if the auditorium could remain decorated like this until the New Year for the enjoyment of all who visit.”
Shin’ichi composed several poems that day. For the young women’s division members in Kumamoto Prefecture, he wrote:
like the flowers of that name,
their eyes shining
in the scarlet dusk.
And for the members of Taketa in Oita Prefecture:
At the castle,
hearing the song
of moonlight over the ruins,
I rejoice at the smiling faces
of the Taketa members.
Shin’ichi and his party left the Shiragiku Auditorium in Aso, arriving at the Kumamoto Culture Center in Kumamoto City a little before 6:00 p.m. Without resting a moment, he took part in an informal meeting with prefecture leaders.
Afterward, he said to them: “Please let me know of any homes or shops I should visit to encourage members. I want to visit as many places and meet as many members as possible. For our movement to achieve dynamic development, it is vital to meet with members individually, listen to their problems and concerns, and converse with them until they are satisfied. And we need to inspire them with our conviction in faith. Personal guidance is an earnest dialogue that aims to revitalize a person at the deepest level.”