Happy New Year! This year, we will be studying the twelve volumes of The Human Revolution. As we look at one volume each month throughout the year, we will provide, on the Mens’ Division website, a short excerpts page with suggested discussion questions, as we have been doing in past years. We will also provide each month a series of longer highlights from each volume, which we hope you will read, study and digest on your own. However, nothing can replace the treasure of reading this entire work, especially in its new edition published by World Tribune Press and available at SGI-USA bookstores (including on-line), and we encourage all men’s division readers of this page to own and read the complete work.
For January, we present a few short excerpts from the Preface and from Volume I below, with discussion questions following. Let’s advance through our study to “Create Waves of Victory through Human Revolution!”
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Preface, p. viii
“The twenty-eight years during which I was engaged in writing The Human Revolution were very busy and active ones for me. I utilized every spare moment I could find to push forward with my narrative page by page, for I was convinced that the life of my mentor constituted a model for the manner in which an individual could carry out a splendid human revolution within his or her own life. If I could capture in writing Mr. Toda’s spirit of sincerity and truth, I was sure it would open the way for a human revolution in the lives of all persons. “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind” – this was the conviction that dominated my writing.”
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Prelude chapter, pp 121-122
In this passage, Josei Toda talks with the group of four men who had been attending his first series of lectures on the Lotus Sutra.
“Toda, when did you manage to learn all that? Just memorizing it would be hard enough, but you seem to grasp it thoroughly. It’s uncanny.”
The other three had the same question.
“It’s hard to explain,” Toda said, offhandedly. “All the Buddhist sutras deal with human life. During the persecution, I chanted hard and studied in prison, and I seemed to remember it. Before that time I guess I was just too busy making money.”
“You remembered it?”
The four raised their heads and stared at him.
Toda knew the Lotus Sutra thoroughly. He was confident that this teaching, the core of Buddhism, would provide the driving force that could restore the nation and give rise to cultural prosperity.
Yoichiro Honda was struck both by Toda’s conviction and his penetrating discussion of Buddhist philosophy. He and Toda had been classmates in grammar school. He thought he knew Toda better than anyone, but the Toda he was seeing now was a man beyond his imagination.
He was utterly astonished.
“It’s incredible to hear you expound the sutra like that. Professor Josei, the night school teacher! It’s almost superhuman.”
“No, it’s nothing superhuman. I’m the most ordinary of ordinary men. Whatever I have, I’ve acquired through faith; that’s all. You can do the same.”
Toda took out a cigarette and lit it in the candle flame.
“The Daishonin taught that those who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo are Bodhisattvas of the Earth. ‘Were they not Bodhisattvas of the Earth, they could not chant the daimoku’ (WND, 385). Maybe it’s hard to see yourselves in that light, but as long as you embrace the Gohonzon and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, you’re definitely following the way of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. And, by the way, to save people from unhappiness and spread the Daishonin’s teachings, you need good health – so take care of yourselves.
“What counts most is your determination to practice the Daishonin’s teachings. There is nothing vague or questionable about his words. Would the Buddha make up stories? We’re the ones who keep doubting, denying, looking for flaws. We cause ourselves a lot of needless grief, we mortals of the Latter Day of the Law!”
The fascination these lectures held for them was largely due to Toda’s personal charm. His four listeners were astounded at the radical change in him since the war, and they envied him a little. They had been with Toda for years now, but in terms of the future, he had already far surpassed them. No one can know his or her future. Tomorrow lies shrouded in darkness, where the countless problems of human existence await. What counts is a person’s life force.
Toda’s charm seemed to sparkle brighter each day. The change in the man was incomprehensible, but others could not deny it – it was right before their eyes. Toda simply said it resulted from practicing the essence of Buddhism, the Daishonin’s philosophy of the oneness of body and mind. He proceeded to teach them about human revolution, the change of destiny achieved by practicing the correct teachings of Buddhism with sincerity and courage.
The transformation of a human being – the recognition of one’s own dignity and individuality and the full flowering of his or her potential – is the shortest road to the transformation of society, education, science, government, culture and indeed, the whole of life. Toda stressed this over and over.
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Suggested discussion questions:
1. President Ikeda explains that the famous quote from the Preface, “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind” was always in his mind in writing this work. He amplifies and elaborates on this point in the excerpt from the Prelude chapter above. What does this phrase mean to you in your own life? What would it mean for each of us to keep it always in mind in our daily lives?
2. Mr. Toda says, “I’m the most ordinary of ordinary men. Whatever I have, I’ve acquired through faith; that’s all. You can do the same.” Recently, President Ikeda has often encouraged us all to “become presidents of the Soka Gakkai.” What does this mean to you? Do you feel you can do it?
3. Is it hard to see yourself as a Bodhisattva of the Earth? See your fellow members in that way? Toda says, “We’re the ones who keep doubting, denying, looking for flaws.” How can we overcome this tendency? What does this challenge have to do with accomplishing our human revolution?