Volume 30: Chapter 5, Cheers of Victory 71–80

Cheers of Victory 71

After joining the Soka Gakkai, Sato earnestly took part in activities. By nature, he was sincere and conscientious.

At that time, Akita belonged to Kamata Chapter’s Yaguchi District, and Shin’ichi’s in-laws, Yoji and Akiko Haruki, served as the district leader and the chapter women’s leader. The couple took turns visiting Akita almost every month, making the 12-hour overnight train journey to offer guidance and encouragement.

They carefully and patiently taught Sato and other Akita members the basics of faith. They would sometimes have members accompany them when they offered personal guidance or introduced others to Nichiren Buddhism. They stressed the importance of reading the Daishonin’s writings and speaking with conviction about the principles of Buddhism. The endearing, pure-hearted Akita members soaked up the Harukis’ lessons like sand absorbing water and quickly grew in capability.

Faith in the Mystic Law is passed on through taking action together for kosen-rufu. Newer and younger members learn and grow by following the examples set by their seniors in faith.

In 1954, a year after Sato joined, the first large group in Akita was established with a membership of 800 households. In 1956, it evolved into Akita Chapter, with Sato being appointed chapter leader. His younger sister Tetsuyo Sato became chapter women’s leader at the same time.

Sato ran a business that did exploratory drilling for hot springs and wells. In January 1955, Josei Toda, concerned about the lack of safe drinking water at the head temple, called on Sato to explore for groundwater in the area. Numerous attempts had been made since the late 19th century, but geologists had always concluded that there was no groundwater.

As the temple flourished with more Soka Gakkai members visiting each year, finding a source of safe drinking water became urgent. Over three months, Sato drilled as deep as 200 meters in places that seemed promising, but he never reached water.

Toda told him they needed to find water to support the priesthood and to protect the members, the children of the Buddha. Sato was moved by Toda’s concern for the welfare of the priesthood, which arose from his wish for kosen-rufu.

Cheers of Victory 72

Sato continued chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with powerful resolve. One day, drilling in yet another spot, he struck water at a depth of just 26 meters. It was a miraculous find. The water was of good quality, with an ample flow rate of 216 liters per minute. As a result, they were able to lay pipes to provide water throughout the head temple grounds.

As long as he lived, Sato could never forgive the priests for cruelly trampling on the sincerity of the Soka Gakkai members, who had done so much to support and protect Nichiren Shoshu.

In January 1979, three months before stepping down as president, Shin’ichi visited the Aomori Culture Center and met with Tohoku representatives. Sato and his younger sister Tetsuyo were among them. Sato had been diagnosed with lung cancer two years before and been told that he probably had only three months, or at most a year, to live.

Shin’ichi squeezed Sato’s hand and said: “As long as you remain steadfast in faith, you have nothing to fear. Live each day to the fullest.

“Every sunrise leads to a sunset. Make the closing chapter of your life like a magnificent, radiant sunset. As a sun illuminating others, give guidance that will shine forever in members’ hearts.”

Sato rose up like a phoenix. He took the initiative to visit members’ homes and give them personal guidance. Inspired by his encouragement, many burned with a passionate spirit to “refute the erroneous and reveal the true.” They pledged to one another to firmly defend the castle of Soka. A life spent fighting for one’s ideals shines beautifully.

The following May [1980], Sato died at age 66, three years after his diagnosis, thus demonstrating the Buddhist principle of “prolonging one’s life through faith.” His final years were like a beautiful golden sunset.

Shin’ichi’s wife, Mineko, with one of their sons, visited the family in Shin’ichi’s stead to offer condolences.

At Sato’s request, he was placed in his coffin dressed in a tailcoat and holding a walking stick that Shin’ichi had given him. Sato had said it would symbolize his departure on the journey of kosen-rufu in his next life.

A year and eight months had passed since then. When Shin’ichi visited Sato’s home, he did gongyo with Sato’s wife, Mieko, his sister Tetsuyo, and other family members and relatives, praying for this dedicated pioneer’s eternal happiness.

Cheers of Victory 73

After gongyo, Shin’ichi said to the family warmly: “Koji was a man of fine character and wholehearted faith. He made outstanding contributions to our movement.”

He looked intently at each of them. “Koji built a solid foundation of good fortune for the Sato family. I hope you will carry on his legacy of faith and always continue to bring flowers of happiness to bloom.

“In a relay race, even though you receive the baton from the lead runner, you have to keep running to reach the finish line. As Koji’s successors, it’s your responsibility to show actual proof in many different ways so that everyone around you will exclaim: ‘That’s the Sato family for you!’

“The second chapter for the Sato family has now begun. Let’s make a fresh start together!”

On the evening of January 11, Shin’ichi attended an Akita Prefecture representatives conference at the Akita Culture Center. Announcements about opening a prefecture women’s center and plans to build a new culture center in southern Akita made the meeting a joy-filled new beginning.

Taking the microphone, Shin’ichi spoke about how to live as genuine practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism: “It is nothing special. All sorts of things come up in life. ‘Whatever happens, I will sit in front of the Gohonzon and chant!’—maintaining this spirit and continuing in our Soka Gakkai activities is to live with faith. Above all, genuine practitioners are those who make kosen-rufu the center of their lives and devote themselves to spreading the Mystic Law, based solidly on the Daishonin’s writings.

“In the past, some people have for a time put on a great show in their activities, but they eventually stopped practicing and turned against the organization. If you look closely, you’ll invariably find that they were self-centered, obsessed with fame and fortune, self-righteous, and vain.

“Ultimately, all they cared about was themselves. They used faith and the organization for their own selfish ends. However adept such people may be at impressing others, their true nature is always exposed in the end. This is the uncompromising nature of the Mystic Law and the realm of faith.”

Cheers of Victory 74

Shin’ichi frankly shared his feelings with the Akita members, who had weathered many hardships: “I have been deceived by people quite a few times over the years. Some have taken advantage of me or tried to discredit me.

“I knew that some claiming to be disciples were like that. I was also warned about such people by others. ‘That person has ulterior motives,’ they said, ‘so you should distance yourself from him as soon as possible.’ Nevertheless, I have been embracing and tolerant. Fully aware of their true nature and hidden agenda, I persisted in efforts to speak with them to awaken their faith. Time and again, I firmly pointed out their underlying life tendencies and gave them guidance.

“Why? Because, even when deceived or let down, the mentor believes in the disciples and works wholeheartedly to help them change for the better. That is my spirit.

“But those who are clearly acting with ill intent—causing suffering to their fellow members, the children of the Buddha; sowing turmoil in the organization; and undermining the movement for kosen-rufu—are enemies of the Buddha. We must resolutely oppose them. We cannot hesitate.

“People eager to discredit others have a guilty conscience. To hide their own wrongdoing, they desperately attack others. That is what I have learned in my more than three decades of Buddhist practice.

“All of our actions are subject to the law of cause and effect, the law governing all life. Only with conviction in this uncompromising law can we live as Buddhists.

“We of the Soka Gakkai have been devoting ourselves tirelessly to kosen-rufu, world peace, and the happiness of others. Self-serving priests and those deceived by them cannot recognize this indisputable fact. The Daishonin describes how evil people saw Shakyamuni Buddha, whose life radiated a golden brilliance: ‘Some saw his color as ashen, some saw him as tainted, and some saw him as an enemy’ (WND-2, 1079).

“Everything appears distorted to distorted eyes. Hearts twisted by envy, anger, and prejudice cannot see the Soka Gakkai as it truly is. That’s why they accuse us of slandering the Law. Being despised by evil people proves that we are in the right.”

Cheers of Victory 75

Shin’ichi finished speaking. The participants’ hearts were filled with determination and pride as members of Akita, known as the “champion of Japan’s northwestern coast.”

On his way out, Shin’ichi walked to the back of the room and smiled at a woman there. It was Tomiko Sekiya, the Tazawa Headquarters women’s division guidance leader.

He had met Sekiya in January 1979 during an informal gathering at the Mizusawa Culture Center in neighboring Iwate Prefecture. As a representative of Akita Prefecture, she had reported on the outrageous attacks being made there against the organization by priests and danto members—Nichiren Shoshu lay believers who were critical of the Soka Gakkai.

She had recounted, for instance, how, in February 1978, danto members stood at the local temple’s entrance turning away Soka Gakkai members to prevent them from attending the chief priest’s monthly Gosho lecture. But Sekiya told them they had no right to do so and entered the temple’s main hall anyway. The chief priest shouted at her to get out.

Unflinching, she demanded to know why.

“The Soka Gakkai is slandering the Law!”

“How is it slandering the Law?” she asked without the slightest hesitation. Refusing to retreat, she defended the Soka Gakkai.

“Obstacles and devilish functions the Daishonin warns about have finally begun to attack us!” she thought. And she redoubled her efforts to encourage her fellow members.

The bold confidence of this one woman and her well-reasoned arguments to challenge error and reveal the truth inspired many Soka Gakkai members to stand up and take action.

Three years had passed since that meeting in Mizusawa.

Shin’ichi now said to Sekiya: “You did a fantastic job, even though you had no seniors in faith to consult! The Soka Gakkai is being protected by people who share my unwavering determination to help everyone become happy, to stand up and take full responsibility. This is what it means to champion the Soka Gakkai’s cause.

“Being an onlooker or a critic rather than someone who takes personal initiative to support and protect the Soka Gakkai is a mark of cowardice. Being a slave to others’ opinions leaves one easily shaken and prone to badmouthing the organization.

“You remained true to your convictions. You triumphed brilliantly. Thank you!”

Cheers of Victory 76

Shin’ichi continued: “Time now for a fresh start! Let’s advance together, aiming for the 21st century, for May 3, 2001.”

“Yes. I’ll be 81 then,” Sekiya said. “I promise to stay well. Would you let me come and see you again?”

Shin’ichi smiled. “That’s almost 20 years from now. Let’s meet many, many, many times before that. I will never forget those who strive their hardest for kosen-rufu at the crucial moment. Your name will shine forever in the history of kosen-rufu.”

Later, he sent Sekiya a poem:

Let us live on together
into the new century
as Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

The next day, January 12, a prefecture leaders meeting was held to commemorate the opening of the Akita Culture Center.

Also attending were representatives from Oita Prefecture, where members had triumphed over the troubles with priesthood too. At the meeting, it was announced that the two prefectures would form a sister relationship and together build a “rainbow bridge of kosen-rufu.” Akita Prefecture also reaffirmed that its fresh start would focus on reinforcing chapters and creating inspiring discussion meetings.

In his speech that day, Shin’ichi said: “My sole wish is that you will all be healthy, enjoy security, and have wonderful lives. Always remember that is the purpose of your Buddhist practice and what it means to apply faith in daily life.”

Why do we practice Nichiren Buddhism and carry out Soka Gakkai activities? Of course, it is to realize kosen-rufu and the Daishonin’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.” And the fundamental purpose is to achieve our own happiness. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and working for kosen-rufu and a peaceful world by spreading the life-affirming principles of Nichiren Buddhism make our lives vibrant and joyous and enable us to do our human revolution and transform our karma. Through our daily Soka Gakkai activities, we bring happiness to blossom in our families and our communities.

Cheers of Victory 77

At the Akita Prefecture leaders meeting, Shin’ichi then spoke about what will be our most profound memories of life in this world.

“Each of us has many memories, but most fade with time. Memories of practicing Buddhism, however, will endure, consciously or unconsciously, as the very best for all eternity. From the standpoint of the law of cause and effect, our activities for kosen-rufu are causes toward our eternal happiness; they are engraved in the innermost depths of our lives as joyful and vibrant memories.”

As the Daishonin says: “Single-mindedly chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and urge others to do the same; that will remain as the only memory of your present life in this human world” (WND-1, 64).

Shin’ichi reminisced about his days as acting chapter leader of Tokyo’s Bunkyo Chapter and leading the campaign in Kansai where members introduced 11,111 households to Nichiren Buddhism in a single month. By striving wholeheartedly for kosen-rufu day after day, he said, we create golden memories that will adorn our lives forever.

Later that day, Shin’ichi said to the Akita leaders: “Many of those I’ve talked with here at the center say they wish their chapter and district members could also participate in gongyo sessions. How about holding some for everyone tomorrow?”

They all nodded happily.

“All right, it’s decided. Up to now, we’ve had gatherings just for chapter leaders and above, but from tomorrow anyone who wants to can attend. Tomorrow will be decisive. Even if we need two or three sessions, that will be fine. I have to go out for a meeting with representatives in the morning, but I’ll come back to join the members for group photos after the morning gongyo sessions are over.”

The snow that began the night before was still falling on the morning of January 13. Akita members gathered in high spirits, having made their way through the snow from places such as Noshiro in the northwest and Omagari in the central area of the prefecture.

“Amid howling winds, / we gather on snowy fields / for our struggle for kosen-rufu . . .” goes a line from the prefectural song “Whirlwind,” which the members often sang.

Cheers of Victory 78

That morning, after gongyo with staff and others at the Akita Culture Center, Shin’ichi attended a conference in the city. Returning just past noon, he headed to the park in front of the culture center for the commemorative photo.

The participants of the two morning gongyo sessions were gathered there in excited anticipation. The snow was still falling, but everyone’s spirits were high.

The past few years had been incredibly frustrating for the Akita members. Anti–Soka Gakkai priests regularly demanded members quit the Soka Gakkai in exchange for conducting funeral services. Some priests delivered long, rambling tirades against the Soka Gakkai at funerals, which relatives and friends who were not members also attended. On top of that, some priests coldly asserted that the deceased had not attained Buddhahood. It was cruel and despicable, utterly inhuman.

Having endured and rebuffed such pressure, the members now set forth on a new journey toward the 21st century with Shin’ichi. Their hearts brimmed with the joy that spring had come at last.

As the snow fell, Shin’ichi arrived wearing a white parka. It was minus 2.2 degrees Celsius (28 degrees Fahrenheit). The crowd of some 1,500 members cheered and applauded.

Shin’ichi stepped onto a riser and took up the microphone.

“Thank you for gathering here despite the snow!”

“We’re fine!” shouted cheerful voices.

“Your strength and energy epitomize the spirit of ‘pressing on through blizzards, we boldly advance,’ as the ‘Song of Human Revolution’ goes. Let’s sing it today as a declaration of Akita’s great victory!”

Their voices rang out with a passion that could melt the snow.

Take your stand, and I will take mine, too,
each in our own realm of kosen-rufu, standing up alone . . .

Shin’ichi sang along as a fighting spirit blazed in everyone’s heart. It was a proud victory song of Soka mentor and disciples.

Cheers of Victory 79

Shin’ichi made another suggestion to the members who had fought so hard: “Let’s give a victory cheer to celebrate your brave struggle and great triumph!”

The members roared in approval.

A series of cheers resounded across the snowy landscape, a powerful declaration of the people’s victory.

They pumped the air with their fists and raised their voices, expressing the joy of victory with their entire beings.

The falling snow was like a whirling shower of blossoms, as if the heavenly deities were joining them in celebration. At that moment, the Seikyo Shimbun photographer, from the raised platform of a bucket truck, snapped the shutter.

Shin’ichi called out: “Stay well! Please don’t catch cold. Let’s meet again!”

The day’s third gongyo session began just after 1:30 p.m.

Shin’ichi led gongyo and then took the microphone.

He reaffirmed that faith, practice, and study make up the basics of Buddhist practice in Nichiren Buddhism, stressing that they are the purpose of Soka Gakkai activities. He also explained that by doing Soka Gakkai activities, we put the teachings of Buddhism into practice, transform our karma, and attain Buddhahood in this lifetime.

He announced that because there were many outstanding educators among the Akita membership, it had been decided at that morning’s conference to form an Akita Educators Group for local members of the Soka Gakkai Education Division. He voiced his hope that members of the new group would contribute actively to their communities.

Shin’ichi also noted that Ota Area in Semboku County (present-day Ota Area in Daisen City) in Akita Prefecture was one of the communities in Japan where kosen-rufu was advancing the most. He spotlighted the pioneer members who had been the driving force for that development, praised their efforts, and sincerely encouraged them.

Cheers of Victory 80

Joryo Komatsuda was the first district leader in Ota Area.

He learned about Nichiren Buddhism in 1953, when his fifth son, who was attending university in Tokyo, returned home for a visit. Joryo’s wife, Miyo, suffered from poor health. His eldest son, in only three years of marriage, had lost young children in close succession and then his wife, who died of sepsis.

Having inherited large, productive rice fields owned by his family for generations, Joryo was financially comfortable. Nevertheless, he felt dejected. Unhappy with a life so plagued by misfortune, when he heard about the law of cause and effect taught in Nichiren Buddhism, he decided, though somewhat skeptical, to join the Soka Gakkai along with his wife and eldest son. The three of them became the first Soka Gakkai members in the area.

As Joryo’s wife did gongyo regularly, she grew stronger day by day, and laughter began to fill the formerly gloomy house. In addition, the members who came to encourage them brimmed with a strong, positive, and optimistic spirit, even while grappling with their own serious challenges. This convinced Joryo of the power of faith.

He eagerly wished to share Nichiren Buddhism with others, and the first person he introduced was one of his cousins. His parents-in-law also began to practice.

Joryo would put aside time, set out with his wife—both donning traditional straw cloaks and reed hats to protect against the elements—and go to meet with people to talk with them about Buddhism. He and his wife had many relatives in the area, and the practice spread from one to another and from one acquaintance to another, the circle of members steadily expanding. In 1959, a district was formed in Ota Area, and Joryo became the district leader.

By the time he reached the 10-year mark in his practice, 47 families related to him or his wife had joined the Soka Gakkai. The membership in the southern part of the prefecture, where Ota Area was located, had grown to about 4,700 households.

But things did not always go smoothly. In 1963, Joryo’s house burned to the ground while he was away. The family home and household goods, which had been passed down through generations, were destroyed.

Some expressed doubts about Buddhism on this account: If it was such a great teaching, why wasn’t Joryo protected, as he had promised that practitioners would be. But in response, Joryo just smiled and said confidently: “I’m fine, so don’t worry. I have the Gohonzon!”

The sun of conviction shining in our hearts dispels the dark clouds of anxiety shrouding those around us.