Part 2: Human Revolution
Chapter 15: “Faith for Overcoming Obstacles” [15.13]
15.13 President Makiguchi’s Noble Struggle
President Ikeda explains the key to developing “faith for overcoming obstacles” by referring to the example of first Soka Gakkai president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi during his struggle in prison, the starting point of the Soka Gakkai.
In 1944, President Makiguchi spent what was to be his last New Year’s Day in his cramped solitary cell in the Tokyo Detention Center. There was one hard straw mat, and the rest of the floor was wood. He had no heating. He had no Gohonzon. That January, Mr. Makiguchi wrote several letters to his family from this cold, spartan prison cell.
In one dated January 7, he wrote: “I am fine, Sadako.1 I have greeted my 74th New Year’s here. For the three days of the New Year holiday we received pounded rice cakes and other delicious treats. Please take care of the family, and don’t worry about me.”2
In 1944, Mr. Makiguchi would become 74 years old according to the traditional Japanese custom counting a person’s age as one year from the day of birth. [He, in fact, turned 73 that year, according to the Western way of calculating age.] Incidentally, Nichimoku Shonin3 was also 74 when he died on his way to remonstrate with the government authorities.
Mr. Makiguchi calls the plain prison fare “delicious.” The amount was probably small, lacking in nutrition, and of the poorest quality, but he does not complain. We can see how serene and composed he is.
He also wrote: “What I am going through is nothing compared to the sufferings of the Daishonin on Sado.”4 His standard of comparison for his time in prison was the persecution endured by the Daishonin. Compared to what the Daishonin suffered while in exile on Sado, his experience in prison is nothing serious, he declares. We are the successors of Mr. Makiguchi. I hope you will have this same spirit.
What is the use in allowing ourselves to be disturbed by life’s minor troubles and hardships? They are the fate of all human beings, and will never disappear completely. The four sufferings of birth, aging, sickness, and death are an inseparable part of human existence.
A life that goes by without any hardships, problems, or sadness would be incredibly empty, shallow, and meaningless. The ultimate teaching of the Daishonin’s Buddhism is that earthly desires or sufferings lead to enlightenment. The greater our suffering and the deeper our pain, the greater the enlightenment and joy we will gain.
On January 7, Mr. Makiguchi also wrote: “When you believe wholeheartedly in the Gohonzon, even if you suffer from a succession of ailments or troubles, you will be able to overcome them.”5 He is voicing his great conviction that though the three obstacles and four devils6 are bound to arise when we exert ourselves assiduously in our Buddhist practice, we can definitely surmount them and turn poison into medicine if we remain steadfast in faith.
Ten days later, January 17, Mr. Makiguchi wrote: “Concentrating utterly on my faith is my work at this time. As long as I do that, I have nothing to worry about. Depending upon one’s state of mind, one can be completely safe even in hell.”7 [The prison censors blacked out the word “hell.”]
On January 26, he wrote: “Depending on one’s state of mind, even hell can be enjoyable.”8 [This entire sentence was blacked out by the censors.]
Because of his lofty state of mind, Mr. Makiguchi’s cold, dark prison cell became a safe, enjoyable place, a place where there was nothing to worry about. He had truly attained a calm and imperturbable state of mind—reflecting the Buddhist principles that “hell is itself the Land of Tranquil Light9” and “earthly desires are enlightenment,” as described in the Daishonin’s writings.
This was the magnificent faith and life state of the founder of the Soka Gakkai. Mr. Makiguchi was a person who deeply internalized the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin.
When we consider what Mr. Makiguchi endured, all sufferings seem minor. There is no greater pride than being Mr. Makiguchi’s successors.
From a speech at a nationwide youth division leaders meeting, Tokyo, January 15, 1992.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.
- *1Sadako refers to the wife of Mr. Makiguchi’s third son, Yozo, who died in the war just prior to Mr. Makiguchi’s death.
- *2Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 10 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1987), p. 282.
- *3In May 1333, the Kamakura military government fell and power reverted to the imperial court in Kyoto. Nichimoku, Nikko’s successor, resolved to remonstrate with the new authorities and urge them to accept the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. In the November that year, he set out for Kyoto accompanied by two disciples, but died along the way.
- *4Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu, vol. 10, p. 282.
- *6Three obstacles and four devils: Various obstacles and hindrances to the practice of Buddhism. The three obstacles are (1) the obstacle of earthly desires, (2) the obstacle of karma, and (3) the obstacle of retribution. The four devils are (1) the hindrance of the five components, (2) the hindrance of earthly desires, (3) the hindrance of death, and (4) the hindrance of the devil king.
- *7Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu, vol. 10, p. 284.
- *8Ibid., p. 285.
- *9Land of Tranquil Light: Also, Land of Eternally Tranquil Light. The Buddha land, which is free from impermanence and impurity.