Volume 30: Chapter 5, Cheers of Victory 51–60
Cheers of Victory 51
At noon the following day, December 13, Shin’ichi met with a group of around 50 divisional representatives at a coffee shop owned by a member. He then visited the Soka Gakkai’s Minamikyushu Women’s Center.
After returning to the Kumamoto Culture Center, he joined members in a series of group photos. In the evening, he attended a prefecture leaders meeting commemorating the center’s fifth anniversary.
At the meeting, Koichiro Hiraga, the prefecture leader, announced plans to hold a culture festival the following May. He also delivered a “Kumamoto Declaration,” which expressed the members’ vow as they made a fresh start toward the new century.
In his speech, Shin’ichi praised all the Kumamoto members for their valiant efforts, singling out those from Minamata, Yatsushiro, Hitoyoshi, Arao, Amakusa, and Aso regions. He then stressed the importance of working in unity of purpose for kosen-rufu.
“It is no exaggeration to say that being united in purpose is a top priority for advancing kosen-rufu. The Soka Gakkai’s unprecedented development is due, of course, to the power of the Buddha and the power of the Law embodied in the Gohonzon. But it is also because our members have been united in their commitment, based on faith, to work for kosen-rufu in their communities.
“Discussion and planning are crucial in carrying out our activities. Reaching consensus can be difficult, however, since people may have many different ideas and opinions. When that happens, always return to the basic question, ‘What is the purpose of our activities?’
“For example, to carry passengers safely to their destination, airline pilots and crew must do their jobs responsibly, putting safety first. Pushing themselves beyond their limits or taking unnecessary risks could well result in catastrophe. Similarly, in Soka Gakkai activities, we must bring our members, the Buddha’s children, safely and securely to their destination of lasting happiness. Thus, we need to consider all factors so that everyone can lead joyful lives.
“If we all share this same sense of purpose and work together in solid unity, our discussions will be fruitful, and we will achieve our organizational goals.
“Mr. Toda often used to say: ‘Those who cannot work in harmony in the realm of faith will fall by the wayside.’ Please take this lesson to heart.”
Cheers of Victory 52
Shin’ichi then touched on the behavior common to those leaders who disrupted the organization during the recent problems with the priesthood: “There have been certain leaders who, claiming to be confidants or special disciples of mine, caused you all much trouble. Ultimately, they used my name under false pretenses to deceive the members.
“Every day I interact with members from all walks of life, and I always strive to treat everyone equally when offering guidance or encouragement. When it comes to faith, I have no ‘special’ connections with anyone.
“If I had to say which leaders were closest to me, to whom I have entrusted everything, it would be late President Jujo and our current President Akizuki. So please don’t allow anyone to deceive you by saying they are my confidants or special disciples. Please be aware that anyone saying such things must have some ulterior motive. The foundation for unity in carrying out activities for kosen-rufu is working together under the leadership of the Soka Gakkai president. I say this for the sake of the future.”
Shin’ichi then shared a passage from the Daishonin’s writings: “Even a feeble person will not stumble if those supporting him are strong, but a person of considerable strength, when alone, may fall down on an uneven path” (WND-1, 598).
“To continue in our Buddhist practice to the very end of our lives,” he said, “it is important to have good friends—people who assist us on the path of faith. The existence of supportive fellow members is indispensable. Even the weak can remain upright if those supporting them are strong. Yet someone with reasonable strength, if alone, may stumble and fall on a rough road. I hope that with strong bonds of encouragement as fellow members, you will all, without exception, climb the mountain of kosen-rufu of the 21st century.”
After the leaders meeting, Shin’ichi visited the editorial office of the Seikyo Shimbun’s Kumamoto bureau, located within the Kumamoto Culture Center. He wanted to see the early edition of the next day’s paper, which would carry the group photo he had taken with the Taketa members at Oka Castle. On the bus from Taketa to Aso, he had asked the Seikyo staff reporters traveling with them to pass along his request to print the photo as large as possible.
Cheers of Victory 53
While Shin’ichi was waiting at the editorial office, the early edition of the December 14 issue arrived. He immediately opened it and saw the photograph spread across pages two and three. It was unusual to publish such a large photo. Each person’s face was clearly recognizable. They stood proudly, and the picture seemed to proclaim their victory.
The accompanying headlines read: “Long Life and Happiness to the Brave Members of Taketa in Oita!” “A Grand Chorus of ‘Moon over the Ruined Castle’ at Oka Castle,” “Three Hundred Members Who Endured Pain and Bitterness.”
Shin’ichi spoke to the staff reporters near him: “This is wonderful. It’s very powerful. I know the members will be delighted! Thank you!”
From early morning the following day, joy exploded among the Oita Prefecture members. The photo was like a magnificent painting. It depicted the mentor and disciples of Soka, having weathered the storm, vowing to continue their far-reaching journey of kosen-rufu into the 21st century.
Many in the photograph clipped it from the paper and framed it or kept it as a family treasure. Later in life, in times of suffering or sadness, they would look at it to cheer themselves up, rousing the courage to keep striving.
Shin’ichi also traveled to neighboring Fukuoka Prefecture on December 14 and visited the Soka Gakkai Kurume Community Center. After doing a solemn gongyo with the members and encouraging them, he visited the Soka Gakkai Yame Community Center for the first time. Yame was a place where both first president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and second president Josei Toda had exerted themselves to spread the Mystic Law in the pioneering days of the Soka Gakkai’s movement. Shin’ichi also visited the home of Yame Chapter’s first leader, who had contributed greatly to the development of kosen-rufu in the region, and spoke with him and his family.
After that, Shin’ichi visited the Soka Gakkai center in Chikugo City, a privately owned facility made available for the members’ use, where he did gongyo and spoke with Chikugo representatives and Fukuoka Prefecture leaders.
He wished to reaffirm that unexpected difficulties would inevitably arise on the road to kosen-rufu, and that the leaders’ presence and behavior would be crucial at such times.
Nichiren Daishonin writes: “In battles soldiers regard the general as their soul. If the general were to lose heart, his soldiers would become cowards” (WND-1, 613).
Cheers of Victory 54
Employing the example of British prime minister Winston Churchill, Shin’ichi spoke about the qualities required of leaders.
During World War II, Nazi Germany, under the rule of Adolf Hitler, bombed London. Churchill walked through the burned-out ruins, chomping on his cigar and flashing the V for Victory sign. His presence gave people courage.
Shin’ichi said: “Churchill was determined that London would survive and Great Britain would not be defeated. Londoners sensed this spirit, were inspired, and rose up. Determination creates waves, conviction resonates, and courage spreads like fire.
“Also, witnessing the extremes to which Hitler was willing to go, the British people recognized him for the mad, destructive tyrant he was. They refused to lose to a country ruled by such a leader. Theirs was a flame of justice fueled by decency and a wish for peace.
“Those who attack and try to wreak havoc on our noble organization of the Soka Gakkai today are base, irrational destroyers of the correct teaching, no matter how they pretend to be on the side of right. We need to see through their malicious behavior and triumph over it. Otherwise, we cannot pave the way forward for kosen-rufu.
“No matter how great the difficulty, as leaders, please continue to forge ahead calmly and boldly on the path of your mission with rock-solid conviction, with the determination to win without fail. Your example will reassure and inspire the members.
“As leaders, you must have conviction and confidence; be sincere and likable; be healthy, making sure to lead a balanced lifestyle so that you can exercise leadership with energy and vitality; be a shining presence at your job and workplace because showing actual proof in the real world enhances the quality of your leadership; and be impartial and exercise good judgment and discretion when giving guidance. These are the points I’d like you to bear in mind as you move forward.”
Cheers of Victory 55
Shin’ichi returned to the Kumamoto Culture Center that evening. The next morning, December 15, he met with the Nagasaki and Saga prefecture leaders, whom he had invited to the center. They discussed future activities and other topics. In the afternoon, he took part in an open gongyo meeting.
In addition to members from Kumamoto City, representatives from Amakusa City; Yatsushiro, Hitoyoshi, and Minamata cities in the Jonan region; and Kagoshima, Saga, Nagasaki, and Fukuoka prefectures attended the lively and inspiring gathering.
A convoy of buses had brought members from Amakusa and the Jonan region. Everyone was jubilant.
Manipulated by scheming priests, many Soka Gakkai leaders in those areas had quit the organization and affiliated themselves directly with their local Nichiren Shoshu temple. Having once professed owing everything to the Soka Gakkai, they turned suddenly into the pawns of authoritarian priests. They spoke ill of the Soka Gakkai and urged members to quit.
The members seethed with indignation and frustration. “If they want to increase their temple members,” they thought, “they should go out and share Buddhism with people themselves! Instead, they prey on weak Soka Gakkai members still inexperienced in faith, urging them to quit and join the temple! Those are the actions of cowards, not people of faith!”
Though outraged, members kept silent out of a wish to preserve harmony between the priesthood and the laity. The intolerable situation went on for so long that they came to think they had no choice but to endure it. Gritting their teeth, they continued chanting for the progress of kosen-rufu and for right to prevail over wrong.
They encouraged themselves and made even greater efforts to share Nichiren Buddhism, determined to create once more a Soka Gakkai that was bright, cheerful, and free.
Things eventually started to change. After a long, harsh period, they could at last see a new dawn of hope and now welcome Shin’ichi to Kumamoto.
The members eagerly made their way to the Kumamoto Culture Center. With their mentor firmly in their hearts, they had triumphed in their bitter struggle. Shin’ichi had long wished to meet these members, who had endured so much and fought so hard, and encourage them as if embracing each one.
The ties of mentor and disciple united in the cause of kosen-rufu are unbreakable, regardless of distance or circumstance.
Cheers of Victory 56
The meeting signaled a hope-filled new start. After remarks by the Kumamoto Prefecture leader and others, an Amakusa Declaration and a Jonan Declaration were adopted, each expressing the members’ vow to promote kosen-rufu in their areas.
The former stated: “Amakusa is a place with a sad and an all too tragic history. But today we pledge, based on the great teachings of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, to do our utmost to make Amakusa an ideal realm of happiness. . . . We, ‘Amakusa Shiros1 of the Mystic Law,’ vow to make Amakusa a model of kosen-rufu, striving vibrantly, with an ever-youthful spirit of faith.”
The leaders of each prefecture then rose to speak. The Kagoshima Prefecture leader reported that a new Kagoshima Culture Center would be completed within the coming year. The leader of Saga announced that a prefectural friendship festival would take place in spring, bringing together 20,000 people. And the Nagasaki leader shared that the Isahaya Culture Center would be completed by spring.
As members delighted at all this good news, Shin’ichi took the microphone. He began by noting that, before coming to Kumamoto, he had visited Oita for the first time in 13 and a half years. He then spoke about the battle fought by a group of soldiers from Oita’s Nakatsu district during the Satsuma Rebellion.2
“In 1877, troops of former samurai led by Saigo Takamori (1828–77) engaged forces of the new Meiji government in a fierce battle at Tabaruzaka Hill, but they were defeated.
“Meanwhile, several dozen volunteers from Nakatsu led by Masuda Sotaro (1849–77) formed what is known as the Nakatsu Corps. They joined Saigo’s troops in Aso and made some headway in the fighting. Ultimately, however, government forces defeated them, and they lost their lives. It was a brave battle, yet terrible in its tragedy.
“My resolve, my credo, is not to sacrifice even a single person in our efforts for kosen-rufu. In war, ordinary people are the ones who suffer the most; they are always forced to endure pain and hardship. Transforming that history into one of happiness and hope is the spirit of Nichiren Daishonin and the starting point of our Soka movement.”
In his poem “The People,”3 Shin’ichi had written:
I will fight,
fight until the day
when on this earth,
your rough hands tremble
and your humble faces shine
with the joy of living.
Cheers of Victory 57
Shin’ichi spoke with conviction: “In the light of the sutras and the Daishonin’s writings, obstacles are sure to arise when we dedicate our lives to kosen-rufu and work tirelessly to spread the Mystic Law. The persecution we have encountered has occurred because of our faith in the Lotus Sutra.
“But as the Daishonin teaches in ‘The Opening of the Eyes,’ obstacles lead to enlightenment. Practicing Nichiren Buddhism means to strive for kosen-rufu, call forth difficulties by doing so, and use them as an impetus to propel ourselves toward a wonderful life and unsurpassed happiness.
“Even when we’ve run out of options and seem on the brink of defeat, we have the Gohonzon. As long as our faith remains firm, we will definitely win in the end. We could also say that all our efforts and hardships will serve as assets we can put to use for the rest of our lives.
“A comfortable, secure life is not necessarily a happy one. Having difficulties is not necessarily a misfortune. In other words, if we build a strong self that nothing can defeat, we can enjoy navigating the rough waves of adversity with relative ease, as if we were surfing. That is the purpose of faith and our Buddhist practice.
“Therefore, no matter how great your difficulties, don’t feel sorry for yourself. Live with a bright, positive spirit and stay true to your convictions.
“Kumamoto is famous for the folk song ‘Tabaruzaka Hill.’ There are all kinds of hills in life. The path to kosen-rufu, too, has steep and rocky stretches that seem insurmountable. But we who dedicate our lives to the mission of kosen-rufu must surmount those fateful hills, one after another, without fail. That is the challenge of life and faith. Never lose heart at the sight of a little hill.
“‘Tabaruzaka Hill’ contains these lines:
“With blood-stained sword in one hand
Reins in the other
A handsome youth
Valiant on horseback
“Let us entrust the next generation entirely to our gallant successors in the youth division, who in one hand hold compassion and in the other the great philosophy of life.”
In closing, he said: “I sincerely pray that our Jonan and Amakusa members will lead lives of good fortune and success through ever greater dedication and unity.”
Cheers of Victory 58
When Shin’ichi finished his speech, loud applause rang out. Many from Jonan and Amakusa, in particular, brushed away tears. Faces flushed, they continued clapping enthusiastically, expressing their determination.
The meeting concluded on this emotional high.
After exiting the Kumamoto Culture Center, the participants hurried to Itchobata Park, a two-minute walk away. Shin’ichi had proposed they take a group photo together there.
A scaffold had been set up for the photographer. The only way to fit 1,500 members into a single shot was to take it from a considerable height.
Just as they all gathered, Shin’ichi arrived. It was a beautiful, warm, springlike day.
“All right, let’s take a picture together!” he said. “You have bravely endured, fought, and won. You are all true lions. Let’s make this photo a record of a vibrant new start. I’ll make sure it’s prominently featured in the Seikyo Shimbun.”
The members cheered.
Shin’ichi proposed: “You have magnificently surmounted the hill of adversity and are now enjoying a springtime of victory. Let’s all proudly sing ‘Tabaruzaka Hill’ together!”
Beloved by the people of Kumamoto, the song expresses a deep pride for their homeland.
Everyone in the park sang slowly and powerfully, their voices resounding:
The rain falls ceaselessly
Drenching man and horse
The insurmountable slopes of
With blood-stained sword in one hand
Reins in the other
A handsome youth
Valiant on horseback
The members sang with all their heart. As they did so, they reflected on Shin’ichi’s guidance at the meeting and pledged to surmount all hills of adversity in their path. Their eyes shone with determination.
Determination is the power that brings forth strength.
Cheers of Victory 59
The sound of the Kumamoto members’ jubilant, lively voices rose into the sunny sky.
As they sang, memories of their bitter struggle with anti–Soka Gakkai priests and the hardships they had to endure flashed through their minds. But now they tasted the joy of victory.
Singing along, Shin’ichi called out in his heart to his dear Kumamoto members, congratulating and thanking them for their valiant efforts.
The song continued:
Until you reign supreme
Dare not even a flea
Harm your precious body!
When they had finished, Shin’ichi suggested: “Your victory song rang out for all to hear. We have brilliantly surmounted our Tabaruzaka Hill. Let’s give a cheer for your great victory and Kumamoto’s fresh start toward the 21st century!”
Everyone gave three cheers filled with pride, swinging their arms high as their voices soared into the sky.
The photographer snapped his shutter.
The photo was printed large across the second and third pages of the December 17 Seikyo Shimbun. Another inspiring image of the victory of kosen-rufu by unsung men and women had been created.
Shin’ichi also composed poems for Jonan and Amakusa representatives:
How admirable are my friends
who have bravely endured
the storms on the
south of the castle [Jonan]
of the Mystic Law.
I will never ever forget
the smiling faces
of both young and old
proudly dedicated to kosen-rufu
On December 16, Shin’ichi returned to Tokyo, having completed his nine-day guidance tour to Kyushu.
On December 22, he attended a gongyo meeting with representatives from Odawara in Kanagawa Prefecture and Gotemba in Shizuoka Prefecture at the Kanagawa Training Center [in Hakone]. In these areas, too, anti–Soka Gakkai priests had maligned and callously treated the members. But, united in their vow with their mentor, they had not been defeated.
The mentor-disciple bond is an unshakable spiritual pillar.
Cheers of Victory 60
Shin’ichi was determined to travel the country encouraging the members who had suffered over the havoc caused by the Shoshin-kai priests and make a fresh start with them toward the 21st century.
Odawara and Gotemba now belonged to two different prefectures—Kanagawa and Shizuoka. In the Edo period (1603–1868), however, both had been part of the same Odawara domain. Soka Gakkai members there took great pride in their areas being home to the magnificent Mount Fuji.
In August 1975, Odawara members invited representatives from Gotemba to attend their Hakone Pampas Grass Festival. And the Gotemba members reciprocated by inviting representatives from Odawara to their Gotemba Family Friendship Festival in September.
From then on, even after the troubles with the priesthood arose, members of the two areas continued to encourage one another as they pressed ahead tirelessly on the steep and rugged road of kosen-rufu.
They were driven by their conviction and resolve: “It’s the Soka Gakkai that taught us about faith, about practicing Nichiren Buddhism!” “The Daishonin writes, ‘If you propagate [this teaching], devils will arise without fail. If they did not, there would be no way of knowing that this is the correct teaching’ (WND-1, 501). We won’t be defeated!”
They had all proudly walked the path of mentor and disciple and now assembled together at the Kanagawa Training Center [in Hakone].
The skies were sunny and bright blue. Beyond the mountains of Hakone, one could clearly see the snowcapped Mount Fuji. With arms over one another’s shoulders, everyone sang the well-loved song “Mount Fuji”:
Peering out from above the clouds,
You gaze down on the mountains in all directions . . .
“We will be like magnificent, towering Mount Fuji!”—that was the spirit of Odawara and Gotemba members.
Shin’ichi composed a number of poems for them that day.
at Mount Fuji
in its dazzling silver armor,
we, too, aspire
to be just as dauntless.
As we strive with
boundless and unending
devotion to kosen-rufu,
let’s never be afraid of scaling
even the steepest peaks under the sun!
In the closing weeks of that year, Shin’ichi also visited Itabashi, Koto, Setagaya, and Edogawa wards in Tokyo, as well as the Kanagawa Culture Center in Yokohama.
Nichiren Daishonin writes: “You cannot strike fire from flint if you stop halfway” (WND-1, 319). Only through unceasing, all-out effort can we open the way forward for kosen-rufu.
- *1Amakusa Shiro: A 17th-century Catholic who led an uprising of peasants against the shogunate, which prohibited Christianity. The uprising was soon quashed, and Amakusa was executed at age 17. He is admired as a heroic figure in Japanese.
- *2Satsuma Rebellion: Rebellion which lasted from January to September 1877. The last major armed uprising in Japan. Former samurai of the Satsuma domain (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture), under the leadership of Saigo Takamori (1828–77), rose up to protest reforms of the new Meiji government, which abolished the samurai class and accompanying privileges, thus undermining the samurai’s traditional way of life and standard of living. The rebellion was crushed by the government’s conscript army, bringing to an end to the samurai’s power.
- *3The poem was composed in September 1971.