February 2007 Highlights

The Human Revolution Vol II
Readings for February, 2007

(Chapter titles and page numbers from the current edition are given for each excerpt)

Mountains and Rivers, pp 162 – 164

President Toda addresses a rural discussion meeting with powerful conviction about
the true nature of democracy and the ability of the Daishonin’s Buddhism to save the nation.

“To be happy, you need a religion that works. You could call such a religion the true motivating force of daily life. The Daishonin risked his life to teach this principle. Real happiness is as strong, pure and lasting as a diamond, but we cannot achieve it just through our own will. We need an object to focus on that will bring out the life of Buddha from within us. Why? Because all conditions of life, including Buddhahood, emerge in response to factors in the environment.

“The object I’m referring to is the Gohonzon. Through its power, the power of the supreme Law, we can change ugliness into beauty, loss into gain and evil into good and bring out the eternal life of Buddha from within ourselves. Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law, appeared in this world to make this possible.”

Toda’s voice rang with conviction. His words had the power to pierce the heart. He went on to discuss conditions in Japan and explained that the loss of the war and the ensuing turmoil mirrored the worlds of Anger, Animality and Hell. Japan had ignored and reviled the Daishonin’s teachings now for seven hundred years, and this chaos was the final outcome. It had fallen by its own heresy and had no recourse left but to embrace the correct teachings of Buddhism, Toda insisted.

He continued: “I am deeply troubled by the present state of Japan. Restoring our nation will demand a sound philosophy—a philosophy and a means to practice it. A philosophy without a practice is no more than an ideological game.

“Japan fell because the people were forced to accept Shinto. What philosophy, what ethic must we adopt now in order to rebuild our country? Phony religions that cheat the public and destructive communist ideas are flourishing like weeds. But we of the Soka Gakkai will help restore our homeland by practicing the great philosophy of Nichiren Daishonin.”

He was an eloquent speaker, a man of passion. His words poured from him, each one seeming more precious than gold.

It was a rallying cry. “Japan will never rise again, not as a truly peace loving nation, unless it is upon the foundation of a valid religion and a correct philosophy that is free from contradiction. Politics, economics, culture and so on must of course be based on that same foundation.

“The supreme philosophy of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism fulfills that need, and the basis of it is the Gohonzon.” He spoke conclusively, but his words were backed up by profound conviction and experience.

“This Gohonzon has existed in our country for seven hundred years. But almost no one has been aware of it, or if they were, they paid no heed. Most of you have probably heard about it for the first time today. Now that you do know about it, however, I sincerely hope you will begin this practice immediately and experience the immense benefit of the Gohonzon, for your own sake, as well as for your families and your country.”
Toda raised his head and looked out across the audience, as though speaking to each one personally. Beside the rostrum, Masuda announced, “Now we’ll have a question-and-answer session. I’m sure there are many things you’ll want to know about, after hearing the speakers. Feel free to ask anything. Those who have questions, please raise your hands.”

One young man raised his hand and stood when recognized.

“Sir, would you please explain how the Lotus Sutra relates to democracy?” he asked with artless simplicity.

“Good question.” Toda responded to the young man immediately and with kindness.

“Since the war, you hear people saying ‘democracy,’ ‘democracy’ everywhere you turn. It’s a natural reaction, after their bitter experiences with the military dictatorship that steered us into the war in the first place. They know now that they can never be happy unless sovereignty rests with the people.”

The young man nodded. Toda continued, as though reasoning with his own son.

“The underlying principles of democracy are freedom, equality and humanitarianism. Fine. I endorse them wholeheartedly. In the light of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings, however, they are only part of the truth. The reason is this: Western democracy is deeply influenced by Christianity, an elementary teaching that fails to clarify the law of causality. Nor does it explain the three existences—past, present and future. Therefore, though democracy today preaches freedom and equality, it treats these concepts superficially or solely in terms of the present world.

“Social systems and political structures do have a great influence on human happiness, but they are powerless to free people inwardly or to break the shackles of their destiny. That’s the great limitation of such institutions.

“We can neither understand nor purify our lives throughout past, present and future without the Lotus Sutra—that is, without Nam-myoho-renge- kyo as expounded by Nichiren Daishonin. How can we realize the ideal of true democracy unless we first realize the highest within the human being?

“Western democracy, because of its strong Christian leanings, is spiritual and idealistic. The so-called people’s democracies are usually materialistic. Both are one-sided. Buddhist democracy is based on the Daishonin’s philosophy of the oneness of mind and body, and it embraces both the spiritual and the material. I can tell you that without this philosophy, we will never establish the democracy that humankind is crying for. I hope you’ll think this over carefully for yourself.”

“I think I understand now, sir,” said the young man, naively.

Toda grinned. “Really? It’s not all that easy, you know.”

* * * * *

Light and Shadow, pp. 184-186

Toda sets the example, leading the postwar discussion meetings that became central to
the growth and strength of the SGI.

Every night, Toda rushed off to discussion meetings in remote parts of the city, making use of every spare moment he had. There were no streetlamps in Tokyo then, and the roads were dark and cold. Nearsighted as he was, he found it hard to negotiate the uneven streets at night. Time after time he tripped and nearly fell, but he never failed to show up in high spirits at the scheduled time.
Some meetings were held in cramped apartments or in attics where the floor tilted so crazily that it demanded great effort just to sit up against the force of gravity. In other places, the floorboards were ready to give way at any moment, and the metal fixtures on the chests of drawers tapped out a tinny rattle whenever anyone walked across the floor.

Most of these homes were poorly lit, but whenever Toda appeared in the doorway with his hearty “Good evening!” faces brightened immediately. Right away, people were bursting with questions, as though they’d prepared them in advance and were waiting impatiently. The meeting got underway at once, even if just a few people were present. Toda shunned formality and went straight to the heart of things.

Munching a mint, Toda listened attentively to their rambling questions; he would summarize them, restate them simply and then reply. In this way, he encouraged these people who had nowhere to turn, by communicating to them the depth and power of faith and the radiance of the Gohonzon’s blessings.

Many arrived late on account of their jobs. The room was already packed by the time they entered the room, and people continually had to squeeze in closer; but the meetings never failed to be bright, warm and exciting.

Toda would call on those close to him to speak on the history of Buddhism, the purpose of life, the meaning of happiness or the theory of the Ten Worlds. Then gradually, he would speak to the newcomers about the validity of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. He gave them just enough at first to provoke questions. This is the Buddhist principle of leading people toward the truth by causing them to doubt or question the values and beliefs they already held.

The discussion meeting consists of about ten to twenty people, usually around a dozen. No gathering could be simpler. The young, the elderly, men, women and the handicapped—anyone can freely attend. There are no distinctions of wealth or education. Naturally, there is a central figure, but the intention is that all members participate. Anyone, whether a leader or a first-time guest, is free to relate his experiences, state his opinions or ask questions. It is a bright and earnest gathering in which people can talk together without formality until they are convinced. It is a place where people can drop all pretenses and openly seek the truth in the beautiful comradeship of heart-to-heart rapport.

The discussion meeting is a model of democracy. It is a vast ocean, and the Gakkai, a great ship. The ship of human salvation will make headway only over the waves of a great sea.

Lectures serve their own purpose, as do mass meetings; but when held exclusively, such gatherings will automatically generate a gulf between leaders and the people.

The value of every religion should be measured by its ability to save people from their sufferings. Deceitful tactics are employed by religious fads or profit-making organizations masquerading as religions. The Gakkai will never adopt means that would degrade Nichiren Buddhism. Nor do we need to. The discussion meeting has been the noble tradition of the Gakkai since the days of President Makiguchi.

* * * * *

Light and Shadow, pp. 194-195

As inflation and labor unrest grip the war-torn nation, Toda encourages members that while activities in the political or economic realms may seem important, it is only kosen-rufu that will ultimately create a better society and solve the deepest problems and sufferings of the people.

Among his followers were some who, chosen to serve on their union struggle committees, showed up less often for Gakkai activities. Toda worried about them. Even some of his closest, long-time associates wondered if social reform through wage struggles didn’t rate top priority. Building a democratic society was the most pressing issue of the day, they argued. They weren’t abandoning Gakkai activities, but right now, shouldn’t they take second place?

When confronted with such questions, Toda assumed an expression of absolute earnestness.

“You think I don’t know how you feel?” he demanded harshly. He took a deep breath and then went on.

“My beloved followers are fighting for their livelihood. For your sake, I’ll gladly march at the head of your demonstrations and wave the red flag or whatever, if you need me to. You, yourselves are completely free to do as you wish.

“But if you think that’s going to solve everything, you’re fooling yourselves. When compared to the fundamental solutions of the supreme Law, such methods are marginal, at best. But, in any case, once you start fighting you have to win. Whatever happens, don’t forget for even a moment that sincere prayer to the Gohonzon is the ultimate cause for all success. Otherwise there’s no point in practicing Buddhism.”

It sounded like encouragement and yet like a warning. His followers looked at him uncomprehendingly. All that had registered was the deep affection behind his promise that if they needed him, he would march with the red banner at their head. They searched his face with new intensity. Lost in thought, he compressed his lips tightly for a moment and then continued, as though speaking to himself.

“Economic and political struggles ultimately end in compromise. Of course, they’re crucial. But trying to solve everything that way is like navigating a rough sea in a tiny boat. Our battle for kosen-rufu is a battle to calm the waves and let every boat sail in safety. Religious reform is conducted on a completely different level—it’s a stern, uncompromising, fundamental struggle. Someday you’ll realize that.”

On the evening of February 2, 1947, after his lecture on the Lotus Sutra, Josei Toda addressed the issue again. “If you’re sick with something medicine can cure, then fine, go see a doctor. But the diseases medical science cannot touch—those are the toughest problems life has to offer. No matter how difficult your problem, though, there’s a way to solve it. What if I told you there exists an absolute cure for everything?

“By the same principle, if striking will end your grievances, go ahead and strike. I know you’re all for waging economic and political battles, and if you can settle your difficulties by such methods, you’re of course free to do so. But I warn you, any problems you can solve that way are minor ones.”

His listeners swallowed and watched him with intense expressions.

“Life presents major problems that no method has yet solved. People resign themselves completely in the face of them. But when we really think about it, such problems are all too common. Problems of personality, family relations, karma, the four sufferings—birth, old age, sickness and death—too many to name. And whether you call it society, the general public, or labor and capital—ultimately, what you’re talking about is no more than a collection of individual human beings. What’s needed then is a means to resolve fundamentally the problems of the individual and of society at large. That’s possible only through a supreme and workable religion.

“Incidents like the general strike will recur in the future under many different guises. People will taste first hope and then despair. They’ll be confused, not knowing which way to turn. They’ll try one way, then another, and when they see that no matter what they do, it won’t work, they’ll wake up to the greatness of the Daishonin’s Buddhism. They cannot help understanding. That day will be kosen-rufu.

* * * * *

Skirmish, pp. 216-217

As new, false religions crop up exploiting desperate citizens, youth division members challenge them, confronting their arrogant leaders in debate. But to their surprise, when they proudly report their activities at a leaders’ meeting, Toda strictly admonishes them.

“I don’t remember teaching you to be so elated about a trifling victory over a small fry like Taniyama. You are too proud of yourselves. I feel pity for you. You are not following the true intent of my guidance. Whose disciples are you? Iwata, tell me!”

The deflated Iwata could not open his mouth. Many senior leaders present seemed at a loss as to what had upset Toda.

“Can’t you say whose? You are not in the least my disciples.”

Berated in this sudden manner, they trembled, bewildered.

“If you have mastered even a particle of Nichiren Daishonin’s doctrine, the doctrines of other religions are no match for you. That you will win is evident from the beginning. You think your success is entirely due to your own ability and merit—nonsense!

“Don’t act like a hero. Be prudent in your words and actions, and be people of excellent character who can be genuinely admired by both friends and opponents. I have never taught you to act in the way you behaved.”

Toda glanced at the directors. “Harayama, Konishi and Kiyohara, do you understand how I feel?” Nodding a little bit, the directors could only keep silent, because they themselves tended to side with the youths.

Toda, speaking more calmly, resumed his speech, “Look, I’ll repeat. Giving some embarrassment to a leader of such a trifling religion, you lose your head and immediately become arrogant. I feel pity for such narrow-mindedness. Kosen-rufu is the great work to be conducted by the messengers of the Buddha. The enemy that will confront you on the way to achieving this noble goal is far stronger than you can ever imagine.

“I’m not saying you were wrong for having gone to the S. Order’s headquarters. I’m not particularly encouraging you to do so, but if you’re determined to go by all means, then that’s OK. Don’t get the mistaken idea, however, that to visit the headquarters of other religions is some special form of propagation. A housewife wholeheartedly trying to save her unhappy neighbors with true sincerity is equally admirable.

“It is a gross mistake to think that refuting ideology at temples and headquarters will someday topple them. What is vitally needed now is for you to realize that you need training to develop the ability to truly help and guide unhappy people.

“The full-scale struggle we will carry out in the future is not just child’s play. Don’t waver from faith on such occasions. Those who are vainly proud of themselves now will abandon faith in their time of greatest need. Because I don’t want you to retreat from your faith when you have to work harder for kosen-rufu, I am frankly pointing out your faults. Don’t forget this.”
Toda talked to them patiently. The eyes of the young members filled with tears.

“Those who participate in Gakkai activities thinking only of their own honor or wishing to impress others will eventually be stalemated in faith.”

Then he added, “Now, men should not weep after a victorious battle. Oh, I’m sorry. There are ladies, also!” Gazing at Eiko Mikawa and Kyoko Imamatsu, he laughed happily.

Although the mentor’s guidance to his disciples was strict, the atmosphere of the meeting room became loving and warm.

The young members thereafter carried out vigorous activities for the next two years, together with other new members, strictly observing Toda’s remarks of that day. Regrettably, Toda’s warning came true, as four of those young people, including Iwata, temporarily faltered in their faith. Later they reawakened and assumed active roles once again.

* * * * *

The Axle, pp. 246-249

Thinking deeply about the future, Toda realizes that true unity is essential to the development of the organization, and that the correct and strong spirit of faith is the essential “axle” -- the basis for such unity. In this excerpt, he speaks to a group of leaders about this subject, in the fall of 1947.

Josei Toda pondered the ideal form the Soka Gakkai should take. Its advance and construction became increasingly important each day, and its responsibility heavier. Around this period he spoke to the leaders closest to him about how the Soka Gakkai should conduct itself in the face of the dissension that hampers various religious organizations.

“Nowadays, no organization can escape internal difficulties. There must be many reasons for this. Fundamentally, there is so much disunity because of their slander of Buddhism. The only organization that can escape such evil destiny may be the Soka Gakkai. The reason is quite simple—because we uphold the Daishonin’s Buddhism. We can be united because our belief is the basic axle of our organization. Therefore, even though the wheel turns at a tremendous speed, or, in other words, even if the wheel called the Soka Gakkai becomes large and spins rapidly, there is nothing to worry about as long as the axle of faith is strong and sound. I am doing my best to make this axle as solid as a diamond. For this, strong faith is vitally needed.

“Many organizations have been involved in vigorous activities recently, but you should not be in the least influenced by them. They are doomed to reach a deadlock or to be split. They can never be free from internal strife as predicted in Buddhist scriptures. It is their unavoidable and natural fate.

“When the Soka Gakkai becomes an even greater organization in the future, many capable leaders will emerge and take leadership for kosen-rufu. Seeing this, people outside the organization, motivated by jealousy or by their own schemes, will say, ‘It will soon break up’ or ‘It will suffer from divisiveness.’ Never be swayed by them, however. According to the principle of ‘faith first’ and ‘Nichiren Buddhism as the basis’ we can always advance with unity and beautiful friendship—which is beyond the imagination of outsiders—until the day of kosen-rufu. The most vital elements are the leaders and their faith. Let’s awaken to our mission and strive for its achievement, so that we will never be castigated by Nichiren Daishonin.”

The leaders present felt it quite strange that Toda should formally bring up such a matter at that time. They thought there was not the least symptom of the Soka Gakkai’s breakup in those days and that the organization itself was not big enough. Moreover, the destruction of the Gakkai during the war
was due to military suppression rather than because of internal strife. The Soka Gakkai itself was not responsible.

Observing the clouded faces of his audience, Toda became irritated. “You may not understand what I am talking about now. But remember this. If ever there should appear even the smallest hint of your forgetting the Soka Gakkai’s ultimate purpose and thereby some sort of split develops, our organization will immediately dissolve.

“What would happen to a wheel’s axle if it had even the slightest crack? Its function as an axle would be completely destroyed. The axle in our organization is quite different from others. Disturbing the harmonious unity of believers is one of the five cardinal sins. As the Soka Gakkai is an organization of pure and genuine heart, it can be firmly united as Nichiren Daishonin taught.

“If people seek only after superficial fame and honor, they will come to a deadlock, because the Soka Gakkai is a society with a sublime mission. I think they had better go to some other organization. No matter how many times you cry ‘unity,’ however, you cannot strengthen it. To strengthen ‘unity,’ you must have an indestructible axle, which is pure and steadfast faith, as well as the realization of your mission as leaders. When each of you fully exhibits your ability and advances vigorously toward our goal, solid unity will naturally be formed.

“Then there will be nothing in the world to be afraid of. As the Daishonin stated, ‘If the spirit of many in body but one in mind prevails among the people, they will achieve all their goals’ (wnd, 618). ‘Many in body’ means the environment in which you live and the life in which you can fully develop your personality. ‘One in mind’ signifies faith and determination toward the common goal of kosen-rufu. All of us, including myself, forge on as we abide by the teachings of the Daishonin. This is the Gakkai spirit.”

Pausing for a moment, he raised his head, as if to look up at something. His rosy cheeks looked mild, but his facial expression was still surprisingly stern.

“I want to repeat this, taking our development into consideration, even into the remotest future. I hope that you, the leading staff members, will realize that you are the axle of the Soka Gakkai. You may think you are devoted to the practice of faith, and I believe you are, but you should not forget your mission as leaders within the Soka Gakkai, which itself has a sublime mission. Speaking more concretely, if ever there should appear even the slightest friction between you and me, the Soka Gakkai’s axle would no longer be indestructible. Do you follow me? You must embrace a stronger and purer faith than you have now, throughout your lives.

“True unity cannot be formed only through a particular frame of mind and mental training. When you maintain fervent faith in the Gohonzon, close unity will naturally develop, with faith as its foundation. This is the primary difference from labor unions and other organizations, whose main concern is economic gain and loss. Their unity is destined to split because it is based upon gain and loss only, but our unity is not. If our organization can no longer be united, it means its destruction.

“Even in the Daishonin’s days, several persons foolishly quit the faith and severely slandered his teachings. Due to the workings of the causal law, however, they all suffered great loss as a result and died in misery. Moreover, at the time of the second high priest, Nikko Shonin, there were false priests who sought only fame and self-interest.

“Because the Soka Gakkai has been created according to the will of the Buddha, it is a wonderful organization beyond your imagination. The axle turns smoothly and develops the organization. Now is the time for an indestructible axle to be created by all means.

“And I want you to be excellent parts of this solid axle. Do you understand? Can you follow me a little? Please understand.”

* * * * *

The Axle, p. 253

At the Second General Meeting in October 1947, leaders report about the growth of the organization throughout Japan. While some of the leaders seemed satisfied, Toda examines and reflects on the true condition of the organization and its leadership, in terms of the axle.

Reporting on the past activities was comparatively well done, but Toda fully realized that real and capable leaders were lacking. Activities were actually happening on a nationwide scale, yet for some reason the fresh and dynamic power of budding growth was insufficient. Josei Toda could discern the general condition of the organization more vividly than anyone else, and he himself carefully checked the axle, which was the basic foundation of the Soka Gakkai organization.

He was listening to Mishima’s report with a sorrowful heart. Most of the leaders were overjoyed at the report of the organization’s nationwide development, however, thinking it the satisfactory result of their efforts. It certainly may have been attributable to their efforts, but this development was probably more affected by spontaneous actions in each provincial area.

* * * * *

The Axle, p. 256 - 257

At the conclusion of the Second General Meeting, Toda continues to reflect on the
stagnant spirit in the organization.

At the end came the singing of a Gakkai song. When the members sang “The Song of Comrades,” Toda discreetly wiped tears from his cheeks. He was deeply disappointed that the day’s general meeting was, quite contrary to his expectations, conducted in an atmosphere of low spirits. Somehow, dull force of habit turned the general meeting lifeless. Just about a month before, he had spoken about the axle to his close staff, as if speaking to himself. His premonition unfortunately came true at the general meeting.

Habitual activity spoils people and causes them to forget all sense of pioneering, mission and construction. He had to examine each of the axle’s components, because he came to realize that the failure of the general meeting was not due to the meeting itself but to the current leadership. He had thought that the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai would successfully develop into the Soka Gakkai after the war. Josei Toda himself was not the same man. The top leaders around him, however, were not a bit different from those who surrounded President Makiguchi. Even in that period of unprecedented transformation following the defeat in war, they could not break through the force of habit of many years that underlay their faith and purpose. Such inertia stems from what Buddhism calls the fundamental darkness inherent in life….

The first difference in the practical activities of the prewar and postwar Soka Gakkai lay in the lectures on the Lotus Sutra and the youth division’s refutation of erroneous religions. The Lotus Sutra lectures were later replaced by lectures on the Daishonin’s writings and became the backbone of the Gakkai’s study of Buddhism. Toda knew well, through his prewar experiences, how weak and miserable are religious organizations that have no philosophical basis or basic understanding of the doctrine they embrace. Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is based on a great systematic and valid doctrine. He continually emphasized that to foster faith, fervent study of Buddhism is vitally needed, and that the study of Buddhist theories deepens one’s faith.

* * * * *

The Axle, p. 261

Toda responds to a youth division member’s request that the Soka Gakkai acquire a nicer headquarters building.

One young member broke into the discussion, looking up at the Shogakkan’s second floor ceiling.

“Every school has a very nice headquarters building. Sir, we also would like to have a building that can accommodate at least two hundred to three hundred people.”

At these blunt words, Toda response was immediate and stern. “The Soka Gakkai is not a moneymaking business. If it were, we would have to have a beautiful building in order to attract guests. Through startling the believers with gorgeous architecture, salesmen for false religions collect money. This is a conventional tactic. How villainous they are! The Soka Gakkai will never be an enterprise. Our purpose is fundamentally different from theirs. If the Headquarters building becomes necessary above anything else for the promotion of kosen-rufu and for the happiness of humankind and society, then we can build it with hearty contributions from our members. If actually necessary, won’t the Gohonzon bestow it upon us? It is not the true spirit of the Soka Gakkai to be envious of such insidious buildings or to kowtow to those who have them. What counts is not the edifice but faith. What is most necessary now is not a building but able characters.”

Toda looked around at the youths’ faces and then his eyes ran up the wall of the second floor to the ceiling. The walls were musty, and the paint was peeling here and there. The ceiling was smoke-stained and leaky. There could be no simpler Headquarters. Strangely enough, however, it was always filled with a bright and vigorous feeling.

“This room is sufficient for the time being, isn’t it? Japan’s present condition is far more miserable than this room. We, as the pillar of Japan, are responsible for the destiny of this country. It is the Soka Gakkai’s mission to change this wretched destiny for the better. Well, just wait and see! You should not worry about the building. What you must do first of all is polish yourselves. Advance with the high spirit and determination ‘I will achieve kosen-rufu by myself,’ without having the least doubt of the Daishonin’s Buddhist philosophy.

“You are the Gakkai’s motivating power for the future. You must be the indestructible axle of the Gakkai wheel. One devoted to Buddhist practice is defined in the Daishonin’s writings as the most respectable person in the Latter Day of the Law. You may think you should be ashamed for the newcomers because of these shabby Headquarters. But this is not what young pioneers should think!”