July 2007 Highlights

The Human Revolution Vol. VII
Readings for July 2007

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

“Flight” p. 813

1953 was a year of unprecedented growth for the Soka Gakkai. President Ikeda begins Volume VII by describing the spirit underlying this achievement.

Practice is the lifeblood of religion. Any religion, if oblivious to this major premise, is nothing but a dusty relic. A true religion must be powerful enough to provide a fresh motivating force that can steer the current of history toward a new direction.

The year 1953 marked the beginning of the 701st year since the founding of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. From his declaration of the correct teaching, Nichiren Daishonin waited twenty-seven years before he inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon of the essential teaching, or the supreme object of devotion—the ultimate purpose for which he made his advent into this world. The innumerable and indescribable persecutions that befell him during this period are well known.

The rapid development of the Soka Gakkai following the seventh centennial celebration was the result of its full-scale efforts to carry out practical activities. The history of the Soka Gakkai shows that at no time did the organization make greater strides than in 1953, a fact that is evident from the fabulous rate of increase in membership. From the strength of slightly more than twenty thousand households at the beginning of that year, the Soka Gakkai grew to a fantastic seventy thousand households by December with the addition of fifty thousand newly converted families. The astounding year’s achievement was clearly the fruition of the conviction with which second President Josei Toda made his New Year’s determination. A variety of epoch-making plans lay deep in his mind.

"Under the Wings" pp. 878-883

Haruko Taoka is the leader for Bunkyo Chapter. She has been suffering greatly due to the lack of propagation results that her chapter has accomplished under her leadership. She is distraught and seeks guidance from Pres. Toda who encourages her and tells her that he will dispatch Shin’ichi to help her.

“I understand. You need cry no more,” he said with fatherly affection as if trying to shelter her under his invisible wings.

“I wish I could personally come to the aid of Bunkyo, but my position does not allow me to spend all my time taking care of your chapter alone. Instead, I will lend you Shin’ichi, my right-hand person. Will that be all right? Are you sure you will not complain?”

“I am quite sure, sir. Please do so by all means,” Haruko replied as if through reflex action. She hardly knew anything about Shin’ichi Yamamoto except that he had been promoted to corps leader only a few months before. Every issue of the Seikyo Shimbun newspaper reported the brilliant activities of other leaders, but not a line had ever appeared concerning Shin’ichi.

Conscious of Haruko’s anxiety, Toda smiled.

“Shin’ichi is young, but he is almost frighteningly sharp and efficient. Take everything he will say or do from the standpoint of faith. He is a person of extraordinary caliber, perhaps poles apart from any of the leaders you have known so far. I tell you, he is close to my heart.” Toda placed his hand on his breast, then suddenly assumed a serious look.

“By the way, how is your husband doing? Is his business going well?”

“Yes, sir. He is doing all right,” Haruko answered in a low voice, feeling Toda had touched a sore spot. Her husband, Kin’ichi Taoka, was a unit leader, but he disliked the practice of faith. Other than occasionally chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon three times out of formality, he did not engage in any Gakkai activities, devoting all his energy to his trade instead.

Shin’ichi Yamamoto, a twenty-five-year-old up-and-coming corps leader, was to visit Taoka’s house for the first time on the evening of April 25 for a meeting of group leaders. They began to arrive one after another, every mind dominated by a defeated feeling. They had gathered by the scheduled time and waited for their new acting leader to arrive, but it was already past seven and he had not appeared. None of the twenty-four group leaders had thought of sending someone to bring Shin’ichi, who was coming to their chapter for the first time, or even going out to the nearby alley to meet him. They remained seated, quietly waiting.

Suddenly someone appeared at the entrance.

“Good evening. May I come in?” Cheerfully greeting the people, Shin’ichi Yamamoto entered the room.

“Oh, what a wild search I had! I thought you lived in a large residence, Mrs. Taoka, and looked only for a large house. No wonder I couldn’t find this place easily—your house is so small, hidden behind the others.”

He made no apology for being late, but he’d obviously had tremendous difficulty in locating this house. Everyone burst out laughing at his remark. Shin’ichi knelt facing the Gohonzon and chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo three times in a sonorous voice. The group leaders followed, but their voices were not in unison. Shin’ichi rang the bell and they chanted once again, but they still lacked harmony. They tried over and over again, everyone now quite serious, and finally were able to chant in perfect unison.

Shin’ichi turned to face the people.

“All campaigns essentially depend on whether there is harmonious unity among the members. Even the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo three times is an important factor in deciding victory or defeat.”

Shin’ichi spoke almost casually, but his words awakened the leaders for the first time to the true strictness of faith. They felt his brief guidance pierce their hearts and now they understood why Shin’ichi had made them repeat Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—in their unharmonious chanting, he had sensed the lack of solidarity in the chapter. Shin’ichi opened the meeting by reminding the participants of the correct attitude toward faith, because he knew that it was neither theory nor policy but only such an attitude that would bring people’s minds together. He did not scold them; instead, he convinced them of their disunity through their own experience.

“When all of you begin to work in perfect harmony, the result will not be a mere mathematical total of your individual capabilities. You will display an enormous power that you never even imagined you had. So let us set a target of increasing our membership by two hundred households.”

They were stunned. The acting leader must be joking, everyone thought. The mention of two hundred households left the group leaders speechless. To them, it was a fantastic dream. Just who was going to convert that many families, they wondered, as though they had nothing to do with it. They remained mute, eyes round with disbelief.

“You will be able to fulfill the target without fail if you do as I say,” Shin’ichi said assuringly, aware of their utter amazement. “Enjoy your activities. Move ahead cheerfully and pleasantly. For that purpose, however, you must first establish a firm unity among all chapter members.”

It was not long before the group leaders saw Shin’ichi’s prediction come true. Bunkyo, the worst chapter in February, gradually began to rise in propagation results. In September, it finally reached the coveted goal of two hundred. By the end of the month, it converted seventy-five more households. Thus Bunkyo rose among the ranks of chapters. In December, the chapter achieved an incredible result of 431 families, establishing Bunkyo as one of the best medium-sized chapters.

After driving home to the leaders the importance of unity, Shin’ichi began to talk with the participants one after another, asking their names, inquiring into the situation in their groups and their families and interspersing the conversation with proper guidance. That finished, he turned his eyes to Haruko.

“Your chapter is better than I expected,” he said encouragingly. “With all these able leaders, there’s no reason Bunkyo shouldn’t achieve splendid results. You needn’t worry in the least, I assure you. Let’s together launch an earnest, full-scale campaign from now.”

He immediately worked with the members to create a schedule for the following month. They marveled at the unbelievable speed with which he planned everything. As time passed, their minds also began to function more quickly. Haruko Taoka felt as though a heavy burden was removed from her shoulders. Josei Toda had been correct in describing Shin’ichi as young but almost frighteningly sharp and efficient. Her heart overflowed with admiration for the acting leader. Then she remembered Toda’s words, “Take everything he will say or do from the standpoint of faith.” She resolved to follow Shin’ichi to the end.

Haruko’s secret resolution tacitly conveyed itself to all the chapter members, who accepted it as their own determination. They grew more confident every day, their hearts filling with joy. The higher the post they occupied within the chapter, the more attached they were to Shin’ichi Yamamoto. Shin’ichi, though younger than most of the members, treated them as if they were his own beloved chapter members. Thus Shin’ichi, a leader from another chapter, united in amicable harmony with the Bunkyo members. This was a rare phenomenon in those days when there was a strong chapter consciousness.

For the first several weeks, the acting leader frequently came to Bunkyo Chapter, sometimes two or three days a week, attending discussion meetings and district lectures. The groups were scattered over a wide area, some of them located as far as Sagamihara and Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture. He found time in his busy life to move from group to group, quickly invigorating the chapter at the lower levels. Literally throwing his entire being into full play, he focused on training people of potential and building a powerful organizational basis.

Shin’ichi also never failed to show consideration for the Taokas. In those days, Kin’ichi Taoka operated a rice business. He would come home from his shop in the evening, but whenever he found a meeting going on there he would stealthily enter the dining room, finish his supper and then disappear. One evening, Shin’ichi caught a glimpse of Kin’ichi from the back room where a meeting was being held.

“Mr. Taoka!” he called out in a loud voice.

Kin’ichi gave up all hope of sneaking away and, summoning his courage, entered the room, looking embarrassed.

“How do you do, Mr. Taoka?” Shin’ichi greeted him pleasantly. “I always deeply appreciate the efforts of Mrs. Taoka.”

“Oh, you are flattering, Mr. Yamamoto,” Kin’ichi replied, bewildered at Shin’ichi’s flawless courtesy.

The people in the room smiled at the heartwarming exchange between the youth and the elderly man. As it turned out, Kin’ichi did not hate the practice of faith. In fact, he had converted some of his friends. He had, however, tried to keep clear of the leaders because he detested those who dominated the members. Now, meeting the polite Shin’ichi, he realized that he had been wrong to resent all leaders. Furthermore, he learned that Shin’ichi had been anxious to talk sincerely with him, to encourage him to develop unflinching faith. He felt not so much ashamed as sorry for his misunderstanding.

Later, Kin’ichi became a district leader and in a few years took the place of his wife as the capable leader of one of the strongest chapters—fruit of the discipline with which Shin’ichi had trained him.

To give life to the feeble Bunkyo Chapter, Shin’ichi took one effective measure after another, each with lightning speed, in almost bewildering succession. At every meeting, he always found time to lecture on an appropriate passage from the Gosho, convincing the members that only through pure faith could they be directly connected to Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. In a few years, Bunkyo Chapter grew strong enough to surpass all other chapters in propagation results and entered the ranks of the toplevel chapters.

As he rose higher in status and assumed heavier responsibilities within the Soka Gakkai, Shin’ichi’s visits to Bunkyo Chapter grew less and less frequent. Perhaps he may have deliberately stayed away, since the initial objectives had been fulfilled and the immovable basis built. “I will lay the foundation. You will do the rest as you see fit, confident and cheerful,” was his motto.

"Under the Wings" pp. 904; 906-7

President Toda gives guidance to Kamata and Sendai Chapters in which he urged members to engage in behavior that reflected their profound missions.

On May 24, Sendai Chapter held its third general meeting in the city’s leisure center with more than thirteen hundred members participating. An organization advances quickly when those who form its nucleus cooperate thoroughly with one another. Sendai Chapter was one such example. The meeting was proof that Sendai had grown faster than any of the other outlying chapters.

In his speech, Toda penetrated to the heart of the Mystic Law and then warned the participants against reckless action.

“I will not ask whether you are sincerely practicing, because propagation is something you should carry out on your own initiative. Instead, I want to ask whether your businesses are doing well, whether you are making money and whether you are enjoying good health. Nothing pleases me more than to see that you are showered with benefits. You tell me you are practicing and are involved in the propagation campaign, but as long as you remain in poverty, you cannot call yourselves my disciples. Ours is the faith through which one can carry on a flourishing business as well as improve his family’s living. Those who think only about faith and neglect their work are flouting the teaching of Nichiren Buddhism. Through our vocations we contribute to society and thus have the chance to manifest the power of our faith. The Gosho states that doing your best in any task is in itself the practice of the Lotus Sutra. Any of you who neglects your work and spends all of your time doing propagation activities only shames our organization. Such a person should be removed from the membership.”

After this warning, Toda discussed the significance of offering alms. We offer alms in the true sense of the word, he said, only when we find the time and means in our busy and demanding circumstances to devote ourselves to propagation. He emphasized that only by so doing can one obtain true benefits, and he urged the members to avoid irresponsible behavior.

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“The power of the Gohonzon is absolute. People often ask me, ‘Why has it not spread until now?’ This is an important question, and today I would like to give a clear-cut answer. Although the sun always holds the same amount of heat, laundry will not dry quickly in the early morning. When the sun has risen to the middle of the sky, the wash dries in an instant. It is seven centuries since Nichiren Daishonin established the Gohonzon. Now the Gohonzon is throwing its brilliant light upon all people who find themselves in the depths of unhappiness. Will this continue for ten thousand years, or perhaps twenty thousand? No one can tell. At any rate the Gohonzon contains tremendous benefit. Those who do not take faith now will eventually prove to be losers.

“Now we are propagating the the correct teaching of Buddhism of the Latter Day of the Law. All of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Buddhist deities must be grateful for our efforts. Your positions as votaries of the correct teaching are unshakably praiseworthy. You can be certain of your benefits. Without faith and practice on your part, however, the Gohonzon will not bestow on you the power of the Buddha nor the power of the Law. Many of your representatives today spoke of the benefits they obtained, but they are nothing compared to mine. Supposing that the benefits that I have received are as great as this auditorium, theirs are only the tip of a finger.

“There is one thing that fills me with awe and yearning: the Gohonzon. I will do everything possible to fulfill my duty—salvation of the poor, the sick and those who suffer. I will not mind any criticism, because it is nothing compared to my mission.”

"The Oath of Suiko Kai" pp.924; 929-930

Based on Shinichi Yamamoto's personal request to President Toda, the Suiko-kai, a select group of young men, was created. The purpose of this group was for these young men to receive direct training from President. Toda.

“Why do we, members of the Suiko-kai, meet twice a month despite our packed schedule? It is because we want to make certain that the great noble mission of our Soka Gakkai will be achieved without fail. Kosen-rufu is a task never before undertaken. True, religion forms the basis of human beings’ lives; it constitutes the deepest soil of human society. It goes without saying that a religious reformation will cause the change of society as a whole. To be more specific, a religious reform will inevitably lead to changes in politics, economics, education, society and culture. If we concentrate our efforts only within the category of religion, kosen-rufu may turn out to be a lopsided partial movement. It is certain that the spread of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism will bring peace and prosperity to humankind. This naturally presupposes a reform in every field of human society.

“True, faith is most important in our lives, but I do not want you to cling to it so narrow-mindedly that you refuse to turn your eyes to the wider spectrum of society. We need not, and must not, become peddlers of religion. Nothing is more secure and easygoing than to live exclusively in a religious world. You should not follow that path. You must grow into efficient and genuine members of society who, awakened to the supreme philosophy of the Mystic Law, will display their full capabilities and contribute to society. This is the only way to save those who are suffering in these difficult times of the Latter Day of the Law. This great path alone leads to the boundless ocean of the Gohonzon’s mercy.

“Who will lead the march along this royal road? You alone! Pioneers are nowhere but in this very room! From this group you will soar into the infinite sky. If you truly resolve to devote your lives to your mission as members of the Suiko-kai, I will lay all of my hopes on your future. I will set my heart at rest and entrust you with the historic task of attaining kosen-rufu.”

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President Toda shares with Suiko kai members his vision of global kosen-rufu

Toda confided to the youths the concept and process of kosen-rufu that he had previously kept to himself. Most of them listened only enraptured, as if being told some Utopian dream. Their thoughts did not extend far enough to consider who would take responsibility for materializing his scheme. They were simply awed by the grandeur of Toda’s ideas.

There were several, however, who were wide awake. These men intently sought to absorb everything the president said. Above all, Shin’ichi would question Toda whenever he wanted some point further clarified, as though the president’s plans would be executed under his personal charge. Shin’ichi guessed that kosen-rufu would have to be realized after his mentor was gone; he sometimes seemed to be pressing Toda for his will. At such times Toda became delighted but contained himself. He would provide a clear-cut answer for Shin’ichi’s question, an unusually serious and rigid expression on his face.

At one time the question of kosen-rufu in the Orient developed into a discussion of kosen-rufu of the world. Toda spoke in an excited tone of his spectacular vision that would be brought to reality on a global scale.

“The Gohonzon is the object of devotion for all humankind. It is like a sun throwing its light over the entire world. It is not something exclusive or nationalistic, limited only to the boundaries of Japan. Since the Gohonzon’s power is without limit, it is certain that Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism will eventually spread throughout the world. Once the righteousness of the Mystic Law is proven in our country, it goes without saying that the correct teaching of Buddhism will reach every corner of the globe, carried by the current of the times. People all over the world are searching for a superior life-philosophy. At present they don’t know of the Gohonzon’s existence; they have never even dreamed it. But they have already begun to see, in the accelerating progress of material civilization, an indication of humankind’s path toward self-destruction. It won’t be long before they realize that doom is inevitable. At that time they will finally discover the existence of the Gohonzon and yearn to embrace it. Who will lead these people? No one but you and those who follow you.

“You may think I am talking about the distant future, but our modern materialistic civilization appears to be rushing headlong toward a deadlock. My prediction will come true before the turn of the century, if not ten or twenty years earlier! This is a certainty. When the time comes, what will you do? It is you who will have to live in such an age.”

After making this prediction, Toda cast his eyes on the members one after another, his glasses glinting in the light. The young men, almost drunk with excitement, could not readily come up with any concrete answer to Toda’s question.

"Moments Without Rest" pp.944-947

Next to President Toda's business office was a branch office that he used for Soka Gakkai activities. Having the ability to finish his business by noon, he would devote his afternoons giving personal guidance to members who were suffering from various difficulties. Here, he encourages a man who has been having difficulty conducting propagation in his community due to social discrimination.

“Nichiren Daishonin himself admits that propagation is the most difficult of all tasks,” said Toda consolingly. “It is a Buddhist practice that demands strong life force, patience and untiring effort. If you are discouraged after trying for only two or three months, how will you be able to maintain faith throughout your life? You have been engaging in propagation, even though without conspicuous results, and this in itself is praiseworthy.”

For some reason, the farmer lapsed into a moody silence despite Toda’s encouragement. After hesitating awhile, he finally opened his mouth to speak.

“I cannot do it any more, sir.”

“Why not?”

“To be honest with you, I am a burakumin. None of the villagers will take me seriously.” Burakumin were descendants of a class considered subhuman in ancient Japan because of the nature of the work they did. Even now, burakumin are considered socially unacceptable by some people, and this background had spoiled the man’s attempts at propagation. There was bitter grief in his confession—the acute pain he had to suffer because of unreasonable social discrimination.

Toda felt his heart break. Simultaneously there arose in him an infinite affection for the farmer. With fresh determination and full confidence in Toda’s words, this man had embarked on a wholehearted propagation campaign. Now, his initial hopes thwarted, he simple-mindedly believed that his chance for happiness was doomed because of a long-established social injustice.

“I know how you feel, but there is no need to despair,” said Toda reassuringly. He gave a cigarette to the farmer, lit one for himself and began to smoke. The man held the cigarette between his fingers, but made no move to light it.

“Conventional society may discriminate against you, but Buddhism makes no such distinction between people. Rather, the Buddha treats all people equally. In his eyes, everyone, whether prime minister or beggar, is a human being. This is ideally how society should be, but it is not. To cure this and other social defects, we are accelerating our movement for kosen-rufu.

“You must never consider yourself inferior to others. Don’t forget that you embrace the Gohonzon, which means that you are a child of the Buddha. You are already in a tremendous state of life. Rather, you should pity those who turn a deaf ear to your words. Miserable indeed are the villagers who ridicule your propagation efforts and do not take you seriously. It is not you but they who are to blame. These villagers, still bound by convention, are an anachronistic, outdated, pitiful bunch of people.”

Toda spoke, gazing at the work-worn skin of the farmer’s clenched hands, as though sharing each morsel of his sorrow.

“Don’t be discouraged even though you have not converted anyone. If you consider yourself base and curse the world for that, you do not deserve to be a child of the Buddha. What you have done in your village is to sow in the heart of the listener the seed of Buddhahood that, although it may not bud immediately, will doubtless sprout, grow and bear fruit some day. This in itself is a magnificent form of propagation. You may have failed to convert a family each month, but yours is a special case. The Gohonzon surely knows all about it. As I have just said, you are actually performing the noblest act in this world by engaging in propagation. There is no reason to think of yourself as contemptible. You will obtain blessings without fail. Rest assured of my words.

“You must not harbor blind resentment against the world. Nichiren Daishonin himself says he was ‘born poor and lowly to a chandala family’ (wnd, 303). Chandala indicates the lowest class of people, outside the four castes in Indian society. The Daishonin was born in this life as the son of a humble fisherman and declared himself the child of a chandala family in order to identify himself with the unhappy people in the Latter Day of the Law, of whom you are one. The fact that the true Buddha in the time of the Latter Day of the Law made his advent into this world in the form of a common mortal has vital significance in Buddhism. In any event, to the people of the Latter Day of the Law, including you, Nichiren Daishonin is the dearest and most gracious Buddha. You are now one of his children. Never humiliate yourself under the yoke of worthless tradition.”

The farmer, who had seemed forlorn, finally looked up. A faint smile had replaced the sorrow in his eyes. Toda was now dwelling on the historical background of social injustice, determined to excise by the root the peasant’s grief.

“Even in ancient and medieval times there were several groups of people who were treated unfairly. Later, a rigid class system allowed the feudal barons to maintain their political and economic supremacy. Each class was permitted to follow only certain vocations. Soon the idea formed that because a person was of low status, his occupation must likewise be despicable. This prejudice led people to regard with contempt those engaged in certain types of work and, as years passed, this developed into social discrimination. Such an absurd concept still exists today—a disgraceful relic of feudal times. No matter how severely others may persecute you, however, the Soka Gakkai absolutely does not discriminate against you or anyone in any way. Consider me your best friend. If you are confronted with a problem, visit me any time. I tell you again: Never humble yourself under the pressure of adversity. What you should do now is develop confidence and a new, broader outlook on life. Quietly but steadily advance step by step toward a reform of this antiquated prejudice—for the benefit of your many friends who find themselves in the same plight and also for your own children. No matter what happens, remember that the Gohonzon is always watching and protecting you.”

“I thoroughly understand, sir. Thank you a thousand times. I look to you for continued guidance.”

The farmer bowed many times in his stiff, almost awkward manner, his calloused hands on his knees. Once again Toda felt a boundless affection for this simple and honest man. Then an idea struck him, and he sent his secretary into the adjoining room. The secretary returned with a bundle of choice kelp that had arrived from Toda’s hometown in Hokkaido that morning.

“I am also the son of a humble fisherman in Hokkaido—the child of a chandala family—and I take great pride in it,” Toda said. “This kelp from my hometown just arrived this morning. I give this to you as a token of our meeting today. Take it home and enjoy it; it’s a great delicacy.”

It was a sizable bundle.

“You mean I can have all of this, sir?”

“Certainly.”

“Oh, how generous of you. I don’t know how to express my thanks. This is a most wonderful gift.”

Moments Without Rest" pp.965-966

As 1953 comes to a close, the Soka Gakkai has accomplished astounding growth under President Toda's tireless leadership. President Toda reflects on his own physical challenges as he considers the urgency of reaching the target of 750,000 families embracing Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.

His thoughts now emerged from the past and gazed into the future. The membership had increased to seventy thousand households this year. It would probably become at least one hundred fifty next year, and the year after it would be…Even without undue optimism, his calculation assured him that the organization would embrace 750,000 families in a few more years at the latest.

How he longed for a membership of 750,000 households—sufficient strength to put the movement for kosen-rufu on a solid foundation. While indulging in thought, Toda felt his heart suddenly begin to throb with an unusual palpitation. He put his hand on his chest and, chanting Nam-myoho- renge-kyo, rubbed it.

He became aware how much his health had weakened. The misery of prison life had physically destroyed him, and ten years of fierce fighting, during which he had never completely recovered his health, had consumed his body to the point of irrecoverable exhaustion. He was forced to realize that he was now in the last years of his life.

The Soka Gakkai would come closer to the goal of 750,000 households every minute and with it, he now knew, his own life came closer to an end. His mind awakened anew to the eternal flow of life, Toda reverently faced the Gohonzon to do gongyo.