This month we continue our study of The Human Revolution. The excerpts below come from Volume IV, 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 IV. We encourage all Men’s Division members to own and read the complete work, available through your SGI-USA bookstore.
“Growing Ripples” pp. 478-9
In this excerpt Shin’ichi has just learned that Toda’s publishing business will have to be suspended. Feeling shocked and disappointed, Shin’ichi leaves the office to go out for lunch, and sees Toda cheerfully playing shogi (“Japanese chess”.) This sight inspires in him the following reflections.
At one moment, he could not understand his mentor, but the next he would realize what sort of man he was. “Everything is all right with him,” he thought. “He shows that he is ready to fight again. He remains steadfast no matter what happens!”
Toda’s words from a few days earlier still lingered in Shin’ichi’s ears. He and Toda had been walking along a street in Kanda in the rain, both out to run an errand together. Nonchalantly, with no particular reason, Toda murmured, “Yamamoto, we may fail sometimes in the long course of life. Even though we may lose the first battle, one cannot say that we will be defeated in all struggles in life.”
One may suffer both in life and business, but overall victory or defeat cannot be determined before the full course of that life is taken into account. Shin’ichi, the youthful lover of philosophy, had thought Toda’s words quite true, although it felt true only in the realm of ideas. Now it suddenly entered the realm of actuality. He once again found himself digesting what Toda had said to him.
“Should the earth itself stop rotating on its axis, my mentor would be steadfast,” he thought. “When they hear of his plans to suspend publication, some will sympathize with him while others will ridicule him. Still others will be critical of him. There will arise a whirlpool of misunderstanding and distorted views as a matter of course. No matter what the world may say about him, however, he will never change in the least. Even if his company goes into bankruptcy or his magazine is discontinued, the distinguished persona of Josei Toda can never be buried in obscurity. This is absolutely the truth. One day people will understand him and render him the full respect due him….”
“In my own case as well, I must likewise be unchangeable. Even if I’m forced to suffer under the worst circumstances, my essential nature will never change, either. People may guess, incorrectly, that things have changed when they have not. The eyes of the general public are therefore quite untrustworthy. Then how absurd it is to be afraid of people’s judgment, which is subject to change as easily as a leaf blowing in a breeze! My mentor is unchangeable, and I am unchangeable, too. Isn’t that enough? I will devote all my life to the ultimate goal, just as I have been doing, under the direction of my mentor. When my service becomes necessary for the reconstruction, I will hurl myself into it, whatever difficulty I may have to confront.”
* * * * *
“Raging Waves” p. 496
In August 1950, Toda suffered his second business collapse within a year when he was forced to close his credit association. Here he expresses his determination to his employees at that moment.
“I have now been defeated in the realm of economics, but I have never lost a struggle in life. I am not lost in my faith by any means. You may rest assured that my resolution is not, and will not be, changed even a bit in terms of my devotion of my entire being to the great cause of kosen-rufu. Unless the Daishonin’s Buddhism itself is defeated, I Toda, will never be defeated in faith.”
“As long as my faith remains invincible, the Daishonin will surely hold out his hand to help me, even if I may fall into hellish agonies. Perhaps I am being reproached by the Daishonin. There can be nothing meaningless in Buddhism. I’m sorry for you, but I myself take it as rather fortunate.”
* * * * *
“Raging Waves” p. 510
In order to protect the Gakkai from negative repercussions from his business failure, Toda resigns as general director. In shock following Toda’s announcement, Shin’ichi finds Toda alone in his office, and the following dialog ensues.
“Sensei, if Mr. Mishima becomes the general director, does he also become my mentor?”
“No, he doesn’t! I am your mentor, although I cause so much trouble for you all the time.”
An instant and obvious answer had come from Toda; these were the very words that the pure-hearted youth, Shin’ichi, desired most to hear with this entire being. An inexpressible delight shot through his whole body. He felt as if he had discerned the brightly lit beacon of a lighthouse through the darkness of the raging waves, or as if had experienced the great relief of finding a spring of pure water in the boiling heat of the desert.
“This is enough,” he thought. “It doesn’t matter what may happen, even if the credit association my go into bankruptcy, or if Toda may resign as general director – so long as the thread connecting Toda and myself remains unbroken.”
* * * * *
“Raging Waves” p. 516
In the following months, the “special procurement boom” led to a resurgence of the Japanese economy, but it was too late to help Toda’s credit association. President Ikeda explains that this seeming misfortune actually led to Toda’s strengthening of his sense of mission and eventual victory.
In those days, while the vitality of the postwar Japanese economy began to emerge, Josei Toda was forced to engage all of his energies in the liquidation of his business. If his credit association had been able to endure for even half a year longer, the influence of the unexpected prosperity of the Japanese economy would have brought about a favorable result.
Such a prospect however, was truly superficial. Toda had embraced an unprecedented mission known only to him. The seed of his mission to attain kosen-rufu in his vanquished nation had already been planted in his destiny. Now the time had come. Not even a devil could have prevented its sprouting.
Compared to this sublime mission, success or failure in business did not matter to him. No doubt, many insurmountable obstacles were needed to make him realize his mission more keenly and to enable him to reveal his true destiny. His suffering from economic failure was a function of the Buddhist principle of obstacles spurring growth -- leading to the accomplishment of one’s chosen mission.
Suggested Discussion Questions:
1. The steadfastness of Toda and his determination in the face of defeat clearly inspired the young Shin’ichi. How do you think these qualities were manifestations of Toda’s human revolution, and what does this mean to you in your own life and practice?
2. Have you had an experience of “obstacles spurring growth?” Of misfortune or defeat actually becoming the source of victory, of leading you to deepen your own faith and sense of mission?
3. At the end of Vol. IV, President Ikeda writes, “It can well be said that the behind-the-scenes story of these two men during that period were the deciding factors of the Soka Gakkai’s development and existence today.” What does this mean to you and your own human revolution?