This month we continue our study of The Human Revolution. This excerpt comes from Volume II, the “Emerging From the Earth” Chapter, pages 218-244 in Book I of the current edition. Suggested discussion questions follow. Please also see the “highlights” reading, also available on the SGI-USA website, with longer excerpts from Volume II. We encourage all Men’s Division members to own and read the complete work, available through your SGI-USA bookstore..
In this chapter, young Daisaku Ikeda, represented by the character Shin’ichi Yamamoto, attends his first discussion meeting in August of 1947. He meets President Toda, and at the end of the question and answer session, is introduced to his mentor.
“Sir!” Shin’ichi suddenly broke the silence with a spirited voice. All eyes turned to him.
“There’s something I’d like you to explain to me.”
Narrowing his eyes behind his glasses, Toda looked at Shin’ichi. “All right, go ahead. Ask anything you want.”
“Sir, what is a correct way of life? The more I think about it, the more confused I become.” He said this with a serious expression, his eyes opened wide. His rather long eyelashes cast shadows around his eyes, making him look innocent but somehow sad.
“Well now, that is the most difficult question of all.”
With a happy smile on his face, he crushed out his cigarette, “There is no one else in this world who can confidently answer your question. I can, however, because I have been fortunate enough to live, to some extent, the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin..”
* * * * *
Toda answers the first question and then three more. President Ikeda writes, “Toda spoke to this young man on an equal,one-to-one basis, treating him as an adult. Toda’s attitude and language were indeed sincere.” This next excerpt follows Toda’s answer to the last question.
It was a succinct and direct answer, too simple perhaps, but in the way in which he answered, there was not the least trace of ideological game playing. Shin’ichi Yamamoto stared at Toda’s face.
At this time, he came to his ultimate moment of decision. “How succinctly he answers! There is no confusion in him. I think I can believe and follow this man. He answered my questions politely and sincerely, without any superfluity. What will this man mean in my life?”
Thinking it impolite to monopolize the discussion any further, Shin’ichi urged his friends, Ito and Masaki, saying: “Why don’t you ask questions? I think this is a very good opportunity.”
“No, that’s all right. “ Murmuring this, they became silent and would show no further reaction.
At that night’s meeting, almost all the Soka Gakkai’s top leaders were present. They watched Toda and the young man with the intense hope that Shin’ichi Yamamoto would decide to join.
Toda said nothing. Yamamoto gazed fixedly, his face flushed. He made as though to speak again but fell into uneasy silence. Suddenly he stood up with determination and said: “Thank you very much, sir. As the Chinese sage says in the Book of Rites: ‘It is better to think again when you disagree with someone; it is also better to think again when you agree.’ Following your guidance that I should study and practice as befits a youth, I would like, if I may be permitted, to study under you. Allow me to recite a poem of my determination, as a token of my gratitude, although it is a very poor one…”
Toda nodded silently. Everyone was astonished. Closing his eyes,
Shin’ichi recited resonantly:
From whence do you come?
And where do you go?
The moon has set,
But the Sun has not yet risen.
In the chaos of darkness before the dawn
Seeking the light,
To dispel the dark clouds from my mind
To find a great tree unbowed by the tempest
I emerge from the earth.
The two young lovers of literature who accompanied him applauded with admiration. The participants in the meeting also applauded, as if taken by him. They were somewhat dumbfounded—what a strange young man this was! They had never seen anyone recite a poem at a discussion meeting, and they paid no attention to its contents. Hearing the last portion, Toda beamed happily.
Yamamoto of course did not know about the bodhisattvas who emerged from the earth as described in the Lotus Sutra. The last line had come to his mind because he cherished in his heart wonder at the great vitality of nature. From the burned-out ruins, unknown grasses were now growing profusely, and green leaves were emerging with the passage of time. He had wanted to make a poem describing the incredible power of nature for several days, and this meeting chanced to become a place for reciting an impromptu poem.
As soon as Yamamoto sat down with a shy air, Toda spoke to him.
“Mr. Yamamoto, you seem vigorous enough, but how is your health?”
Shin’ichi was startled. “Not so good, sir. I have a lung problem.”
“Tuberculosis? Don’t worry. I had it, too. One of my lungs was terribly affected, but it healed before I knew it. Eat a lot of roasted chicken and rice, and sleep well when you are tired. Don’t worry, anyway. Take care of yourself.”
After saying this in one breath, he said as if to himself, “Nineteen years old! Fine! Nineteen years old…”
Suggested questions for discussion:
Toda says that he can confidently answer young Shin’ichi’s question about the correct way of life because he has been fortunate enough to live the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. What does it mean for each of us to live the Daishonin’s Buddhism?
Although he didn’t understand much of the Buddhist philosophy Toda spoke about, Shin’ichi was clearly deeply affected by Toda’s character. How can we as Men’s Division members develop our lives to be able to earn this kind of trust among our successors, the youth division and our new members, in order to help them practice and grow in faith?