This month we continue our study of The Human Revolution. The excerpts below come from Volume III, the “New Start” chapter, pages 270-272 and the “Ripples” chapter pages 341-342 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 III. We encourage all Men’s Division members to own and read the complete work, available through your SGI-USA bookstore..
In this chapter, Josei Toda begins the pivotal year of 1948 with New Year’s gongyo, together with the top leaders. Responding to a request from a leader to “continue to show your favor towards us this year, just like last year,” President Toda responded by offering the following guidance:
“Everything in the universe, from the heavenly bodies to the smallest creatures, constantly changes. Nothing can be just as it was even a moment before. It is an illusion to think that you can remain the same. This being the case, what is most important is how you change, for better or for worse. If you do not constantly consider this fact, then you are practicing merely from habit and you have become completely indifferent to whether you are changing for better or for worse. This is the true danger in practicing out of habit.
“When your faith falls into dull inactivity, it is exactly the same as giving up your faith. Faith is a practical activity to help you change rapidly for the better. The basic power to reform all phenomena in the universe is called Buddha or even life itself. Nichiren Daishonin further defined this power as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and materialized this profound Law as the fundamental object of devotion in the form of the Gohonzon for the sake of all posterity. In the Gohonzon, too, the Ten Worlds are mutually possessed, and thus we tiny human beings inherently share this marvelous power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the great universe itself. This realization must be the basis of our faith.
“If you fail to realize this, despite all your efforts, it is like slandering the very thing you do. It is as meaningless as a machine without a motor or a pianist who sits in front of a piano but never touches the keys. It is nonsense to feel you can practice faith in such a lukewarm manner. The unhappy life you are now confronted by may seem as if it will last forever, but it surely will change so long as you embrace this faith; it will definitely turn into happiness. This change of human destiny follows the natural principle of the universe.
“Likewise, happiness may seem like it will endure forever, but unless your happiness has a firm foundation in faith, your life will change into an unhappy one without your even being aware of it. The same is true for a nation. Japan is now occupied by a foreign power, suffering in helpless misery. People are wondering when we will know happiness again. Thinking this way, they are thrown into despair. Yet I, for one, have not in the least given up hope!”
“I declare, without a doubt, that we can do the very thing that no one else has been able to do. This is what Nichiren Daishonin absolutely guaranteed! Though an unworthy disciple, I, Josei Toda, can say with conviction that I have never found a word of the Daishonin’s to be false. This is because his Buddhism correctly reveals the ultimate truth of all truths.
“We are going to realize what all people regard as the ideal—that which no one else has ever achieved and therefore has been thought to be impossible. There can be no greater accomplishment for humankind. Ours is the most difficult task imaginable, but we can achieve it without fail. None of us, however, should ever have the conceit to feel that it is because we are especially capable that we can do this. It is only because the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin possesses the necessary and tremendous power.
“We will have to experience terrible things if we study and practice with only a halfhearted resolution and fall into force of habit. Buddhism is strict. That’s why I have to say this to you. Beginning with my response to ‘just like last year,’ I have spoken too long. However, even when you are speaking such casual words, I can see the true aspect of what is in your hearts. This is the functioning of faith. A human’s inner life has neither shape nor color, but it reveals itself in every phenomenon. Please do not feel that I am belittling your sentiments; understand that the true aspect appears in all phenomena and all phenomena reveal the true aspect.”
This is guidance from President Toda given on the third day of the 1948 summer training course, the first attended by the young Daisaku Ikeda. There were many new members in attendance.
Toda started to speak powerfully. “The reason we were born in the Latter Day of the Law cannot be realized except by those who devote themselves to the Gohonzon. Those who strive in politics, those who are devoted to charitable work and those who work in educational and cultural circles—their individual achievements can never be eternal. You may not realize your mission now, but your life naturally knows it. You came into this world in the Latter Day of the Law with the greatest mission. When you realize this with a keen sense of responsibility, supreme delight and honor will emerge in your life.
“You may wonder what I am talking about, but there can be no illusion about this fact. We are surely incomplete common mortals, and yet we must accomplish the noble work of the Buddha. Why? You will come to understand the reason without difficulty if you ponder your life and realize that you yourself are the Buddha; your seeds of Buddhahood were planted in your lives in the remote past.
“Of course, it is up to you whether you accept this as a mere fable or hypothesis or as the golden teaching of Nichiren Daishonin. If you practice faith correctly, you will definitely realize that this is the essence of Buddhism. Whether you know it in your mind or not, your life is already aware of it. There is a great difference between understanding this intellectually and coming to understand it through your practice. Thus, I hope you will come to realize your mission through your practice of faith.
“We were born into this turbulent world, which has no parallel in history, to achieve our mission as the envoys of the Buddha. We wanted to be born as common mortals, but if we remain common mortals without awakening to the fact that we are essentially Buddhas, we will be no different from those who do not practice and pursue shallow happiness.”
Suggested Discussion Questions:
President Toda spoke strictly about the danger of practicing with “only a halfhearted resolution” or out of force of habit. If this has happened to you, how did you break out of this slump? How can we keep ourselves from falling into this state in the first place? How can we help each other constantly progress in faith?
In his training course speech, Toda said “it is up to you whether you accept this [that “you yourself are the Buddha”] as a mere fable or as the golden teaching of Nichiren Daishonin,” and urges his listeners to understand this deeply through their practice. What does this mean to you?
What can we learn from the fact that Toda gave such deep guidance about their mission to such new members? How can we apply Toda’s spirit in our efforts today in America?