Soka Spirit
Embarking into a New Year with Hope and Joy

At the 25th Headquarters Leaders Meeting, held in conjunction with the 13th Nationwide Youth Division Leaders Meeting and the Byakuren General Meeting, at the Makiguchi Memorial Hall in Hachioji, Tokyo, on January 8, 2009. SGI members from 21 countries and territories were also present at the meeting.

January 8-An Important Date in the Soka Gakkai’s History of Mentor and Disciple

Today, January 8, is the anniversary of the date that marks a crucial landmark in the Soka Gakkai’s history of mentor and disciple, for it was on this day in 1945 that Josei Toda was informed that his mentor Tsunesaburo Makiguchi had died in prison the previous year (on November 18, 1944). On that day, Mr. Toda, who had continued waging his struggle for truth in prison, vowed to become a “Count of Monte Cristo” of the Mystic Law and vindicate his mentor and the cause for which the latter gave his life. This year marks the 65th anniversary of Mr. Makiguchi’s death.

Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda-the first and second presidents of the Soka Gakkai-were arrested by Japan’s wartime militarist authorities in July 1943 for resolutely upholding life-affirming teaching of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. Under a government crackdown on the organization’s activities, a total of 21 Gakkai leaders were rounded up and arrested by the authorities. Nineteen of them, one after another, compromised their principles in the course of harsh interrogation. Only Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda remained true to their beliefs to the very end.

Mr. Toda later wrote a novel titled The Human Revolution, in which he described in detail the inhumane treatment he experienced in prison during the war. He recorded himself as saying to the interrogating police officers on one occasion: “You’d better not be treating Mr. Makiguchi harshly! . . . As the Gakkai’s general director, I was the one who had complete control over the running of the organization. You can find out whatever you want just by asking me. You should let Mr. Makiguchi and the others go.” While in prison, Mr. Toda prayed steadfastly that all the blame would fall on him, and that his elderly mentor would be released as soon as possible. This is an example of the true mentor-disciple spirit; it epitomizes the spirit of a genuine disciple.


Building a Peaceful Society

Mr. Makiguchi, as I said earlier, died in prison. But his devoted disciple, Mr. Toda, survived the ordeal behind bars. He gained his release in July 1945, just a few weeks before the war’s end. Amid the charred ruins of bombed-out Tokyo, Mr. Toda rose up alone with firm resolve, pledging deep in his heart to vindicate his mentor by carrying on his aims and building a peaceful society. His two years in prison had seriously undermined his health, leaving him physically weak and debilitated, but his heart shone with the golden pledge he had made to Mr. Makiguchi.

Mr. Toda went on to devote his entire being to kosen-rufu-a revolutionary movement for the peace and happiness of all humankind, a human revolution waged in the depths of people’s lives.

Obstacles Are Inevitable on the Road to Kosen-rufu

When we dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to kosen-rufu, we are certain to encounter momentous obstacles. In “On Practicing the Buddha’s Teachings,” the Daishonin writes: “Once you become a disciple or lay supporter of the votary who practices the true Lotus Sutra in accord with the Buddha’s teachings, you are bound to face the three types of enemies [i.e., arrogant lay people, arrogant priests, and arrogant false sages]”1 (WND-1, 391). In exact accord with this passage, the first three presidents of the Soka Gakkai have indeed come face-to-face with the three powerful enemies. All three of us fought against them and triumphed over them.

Mr. Toda faithfully served and supported Mr. Makiguchi, even accompanying him to prison. I, too, dedicated my entire youth to serving and supporting Mr. Toda as he struggled against great adversity. I refused to allow anyone to get away with defaming my mentor with blatant lies. I would unhesitatingly go anywhere on my own to confront the perpetrators of such slander and set the record straight. I worked and prayed tirelessly for my mentor. I gave my all for him and resolutely protected him. I have no regrets. My whole life has been devoted to the shared struggle of mentor and disciple. I was able to forge ahead in the turbulent times of my youth and achieve victory after victory because I always based myself on the mentor-disciple spirit.

A Testament to the First Two Presidents

As the third president of the Soka Gakkai, I made the achievements of Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda known throughout the world-establishing their reputation as great advocates of peace and justice. As a true disciple of both these noble mentors, I have been privileged to receive honors and awards from leading academic institutions in many different countries.

All of the precious honors that I have received are a testament to the greatness of Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda, who gave their lives for their beliefs. These accolades also embody immense good fortune that is shared by each one of you-the dedicated members everywhere who are proudly walking the Soka path of mentor and disciple alongside me-and that will flow on to your descendants in future generations. This is clear from the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin.

I wish to declare that the first three presidents, together with all of you, noble comrades in faith, have created a brilliant drama of victory that will shine forever in the pages of human history.

A Powerful Driving Force for Victory

Mr. Toda once wrote in a letter that his Buddhist belief was based on the ultimate truth, and that, thanks to Mr. Makiguchi, he had gained a solid grounding in faith, practice, and study in regard to that belief. That was why, he said, he never lost his youthful passion.

Mr. Toda was always filled with deep gratitude for his mentor who had taught him the essence of the Daishonin’s Buddhism.

Conviction in faith and gratitude for one’s mentor in faith-these are a powerful driving force for victory in all things.

Unlimited Hopes for the Youth

We also have with us today young men and women who will soon be celebrating Coming-of-Age Day. Congratulations to all our new adults! I am happy to announce that an oak tree will be planted in your honor at the SGI-USA Florida Nature and Culture Center later this year.

[SGI Newsletter Editors’ Note: Coming-of-Age Day is a Japanese national holiday held on the second Monday in January, which marks the coming-of-age of youth who turn 20 between April 2 of the previous year and April 1 of the current year.]

The oak is known as the king of the forest because of its sturdiness. It is widely regarded as a symbol of courage, strength, and longevity. The great German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) wrote:

If it [the oak] grows up snugly sheltered from the wind and weather, it becomes nothing; but a century’s struggle with the elements makes it strong and powerful, so that, at its full growth, its presence inspires us with astonishment and admiration.2

Offering a similar message, Mr. Toda once said to a youth division member:

As the Daishonin says, in the face of hardship “the wise will rejoice while the foolish will retreat” (WND-1, 637). You mustn’t take the course of the foolish. Use hardship as an opportunity to reflect upon yourself. Practice with strong faith and see what happens. You’ll gain ten times the benefit you have so far!

With unlimited hopes for our new adults, I call out to them: You, my young friends, who will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai (in 2030)! Don’t be afraid of storms of tribulation, but grow into strong and mighty trees.

I also trained and developed myself through struggling amid various trials and challenges. I have not the least bit of regret for anything in my life. Working alongside Mr. Toda, I weathered and triumphed over all manner of tempests. I pride myself on having served my mentor to such an extent that no one could possibly have done more. I dedicated my life to the true way of mentor and disciple and created a realm of the genuine Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. I stood up on my own, as a solitary youth.

Clearly Distinguishing between Right and Wrong

In a letter dated January 11, 1276, the Daishonin writes: “This year the question of which Buddhist teachings are right and which are wrong will definitely be resolved” (WND-1, 650). In accord with this spirit, it is crucial to leave clear and indisputable proof of the victory of the correct teaching of the Daishonin’s Buddhism. The spirit of refuting the erroneous and revealing the true and of winning based on Buddhism is the essence of the Soka Gakkai spirit.

The Daishonin states: “The element ku in the word kudoku [benefit] . . . refers to the merit achieved by wiping out evil, while the element toku or doku refers to the virtue one acquires by bringing about good” (OTT, 148). The way to eradicate the evil or the darkness and delusion in our lives is to chant abundant daimoku, make efforts to further kosen-rufu, and to fight against any evil that causes people suffering and misery. This is how benefit is achieved. Fighting against evil produces benefit. In one of his famous plays, the Spanish poet and playwright Lope de Vega (1562-1635) has a king explain that he could not show mercy without first weighing what was right and wrong.3 I dedicate the great writer’s call to distinguish between right and wrong to you, my courageous young friends of the youth division, who are raising the banner of truth and justice high into the skies.

Entrusting the Future of Kosen-rufu to the Youth

To all the young people who have gathered here at this particular moment in time, I simply wish to say: I entrust the future of kosen-rufu to you. Aurelio Peccei (1908-84), the cofounder of the Club of Rome, with whom I published a dialogue, was a person who had overcome much suffering and tribulation in his life. He, too, had the highest hopes for young people, declaring that the young often have a better grasp than their elders of the essential changes needed in our accepted value systems and patterns of behavior, as well as more energy and drive to implement those changes. He also described young people as possessing the flexibility needed for self-renewal, and as being actively committed to putting new ideas into practice and working on their own self-improvement as they made their way into the future.4 All of our new young adults, please do your best!

[SGI Newsletter Editors’ Note: January marks the celebration of Coming-of-Age Day in Japan. A national holiday, it falls on the second Monday in January, and celebrates the coming-of-age of youth who turn 20 between April 2 of the previous year and April 1 of the current year.]

Leaders, Value Young People!

The future must be entrusted to the youth. I had the good fortune of encountering Mr. Toda when I was 19. I gave my all to assisting and supporting him, and now I’m 81. I’ve lived all these years faithful to the pledge I made in my youth. It is vital that the Soka Gakkai value young people above all. Our leaders should never think of using or exploiting the youth for their own personal ends. Rather, they should have deep respect and gratitude for the youth, who are earnestly dedicating themselves to kosen-rufu.

Leaders should work selflessly to build the stage upon which the youth can be active. This is the spirit and way of life of a true Soka Gakkai leader.

Mr. Toda said to me: “You’ve done a good job. I’ve had a fine disciple in you. My life is fulfilled because of that.” Please also do your best, and lead honorable, admirable lives.

Oneness of mentor and disciple means that even though mentor and disciple may be separated by great distances or may not be able to meet in person, their hearts are always one in their shared struggle for kosen-rufu. It is the heart that is important.

Carnegie: A Self-made Man

The American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a self-made man. He rose from poverty through hard work, continual study, and constant efforts to improve himself. As such, he had no patience with idle people who enjoyed unearned privilege and social position. He privately felt nothing but scorn and disdain for them, writing of one such individual: “He is nothing, has done nothing, only an accident, a fraud strutting in borrowed plumes.”5

When the president of the United States [Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901)] visited the Carnegie steelworks (in 1891), the entrepreneur personally introduced him to the managers of each department-young people of singular energy and ability.6 Carnegie tried to work in partnership with his employees and implement suggestions they had made. According to a famous story, he paid one particularly highly skilled plant manager the same salary as the president of the United States.7 Carnegie’s logic was that the president was the top political leader in the United States, while his employee was the top manager in his field; therefore, the latter didn’t deserve to receive any less than the president.8

Those working on the front lines, doing the actual hard work, are the most precious and worthy of all.

Recognizing Those Striving Behind the Scenes

Behind many great achievements in history are the unseen efforts and contributions of countless individuals. Mr. Toda insisted that one of the jobs of leaders is to shine the spotlight on such people and recognize and applaud their efforts. In the Soka Gakkai, those working behind the scenes are all of our dedicated members.

Mr. Toda also said to leaders: “The members of the Soka Gakkai are children of the Buddha. I would like to thank them for their efforts and relieve their fatigue. . . . Leaders should pray for each of their members to become happy as soon as possible.” He also stated: “The Gakkai members who joyfully share Buddhism with others day and night are emissaries of Nichiren Daishonin. . . . Those who engage in this effort are the most noble of all, for they are striving in exact accord with the Buddha’s intent. They are truly deserving of the greatest respect.” He would often make such statements.

Inheriting Mr. Toda’s commitment to kosen-rufu, I have fought tirelessly for that cause, united in spirit with my fellow members around the world. Any leader who loses sight of this spirit of shared commitment to kosen-rufu and is consumed by self-interest is a fraud. If, in the future, our top leadership ranks become filled with arrogant, domineering people-people who have neither the compassion nor the dedication to prayer nor the practical ability necessary to help others become happy-the real Soka Gakkai will cease to exist.

In 1979, I was forced to step down as the third president of the Soka Gakkai. Certain individuals had emerged who wished to destroy the path of mentor and disciple that Mr. Toda and I had built. I waged a solitary struggle against them. The only person who knows all that I went through at that time and who faithfully supported me throughout is my wife.

Treacherous, self-serving individuals who lose their faith and are ruled by jealousy and blinded by ambition-people whom the sutras describe as “worms within the lion’s body”-seek to sever the bonds of mentor and disciple. People of overbearing arrogance are the ones who try to destroy Buddhism. This is an important lesson we must always remember.

A True Leader Is Dedicated to Serving Others

This year will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of American President Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), who paved the way for the abolition of slavery in the United States with his Emancipation Proclamation. One of the qualities that characterized this outstanding leader was his humility and unaffectedness.

Carnegie praised Lincoln’s warm humanity, saying: “I never met a great man who so thoroughly made himself one with all men as Mr. Lincoln.”9 He also remarked: “His manners were perfect because [they were] natural. . . . His attentions [to others] were not graduated. They were the same to all, as deferential in talking to the messenger boy as to [the secretary of state]. His charm lay in the total absence of [pretension]. . . . He was the most perfect democrat, revealing in every word and act the equality of men.” 10

Genuine leaders in a democracy are humble and don’t think they are better than others. They listen to others and are dedicated to serving them.

Be Alert

In honor of the many women who are here today, I’d like to share the words of the renowned Heian-era author Murasaki Shikibu (born circa 973). British historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975) and I discussed her masterwork, The Tale of Genji, in our dialogue.

In the novel, a father warns his daughter about protecting herself from harm: “A woman must always be alert and watchful.”11 Of course, the situation today is different from 11th-century Japan, but these words still offer a valid lesson for women. Women are also the target of violence and aggression in our society, and a small lapse in vigilance can lead to terrible consequences.

Each and every young women’s division member is the most precious treasure. Please take care not to get home too late at night. Get plenty of sleep, and lead your youth wisely and happily, staying safe and healthy, and getting on well with everyone around you.

Earnest Prayer Is the Key

In The Tale of Genji, Murasaki writes: “No art or learning is to be pursued halfheartedly, but each has its professional teachers, and any art worth learning will certainly reward more or less generously the effort made to study it.”12 In the art of living, too, if we find a good teacher or mentor and apply ourselves diligently to mastering that art, we are certain to make great progress.

Murasaki also notes that it is quite commonplace for those who enjoy the advantages of power and position to become unwitting sources of trouble for others.13 And she observes further: “The arrogance of the great may cause much suffering.”14 In all times and places, there have been people who, gaining power and position, become arrogant and look down on others.

Murasaki also writes: “Alas, a monk may be saintly [in appearance] but still harbor an abyss of jealous evil.”15 The Tale of Genji depicts members of the Buddhist clergy who, because of their obsession with envy and desire, are destined to a miserable fate even after death.

In the present day, we have the corrupt and degenerate priests of the Nikken sect. It’s important that we fight against such priests who try to block the way to happiness and destroy kosen-rufu, as well as those former Gakkai leaders who have abandoned their faith and turned against their fellow members. To take on this struggle is the spirit of a genuine practitioner of the Daishonin’s Buddhism, and earnest prayer is the key to our success. I know that for this purpose our women’s division members in particular are constantly chanting daimoku with powerful intensity and focus.

Murasaki further writes: “The heart decides what is to become of us. The great-hearted have great good fortune.”16 This is a deeply meaningful statement. As the Daishonin proclaims: “Fortune comes from one’s heart and makes one worthy of respect” (WND-1, 1137). No matter what hardships we may face, if we remain strong and invincible in our hearts, we can break through all challenges. People who live their lives with a vigorous optimism will not be defeated. They are certain to win out in the end. Faith in the Mystic Law is the ultimate driving force for achieving that victory.

Recognize Evil for What It Is

An ancient Chinese classic of military strategy warns: “When one evil act is done, a hundred evils will form.”17 Corrupt, unscrupulous people are crafty. The wicked are drawn together. At the same time, people who see wrongdoing but pretend not to be aware of it are also crafty. We mustn’t remain silent in the face of inhumanity or injustice; we must stand up against it.

It is reprehensible to exploit, trample on, and dupe people, seeking personal fame and fortune at their expense. It is deplorable to spread lies and false rumors to discredit decent, honest people who are working harder than anyone for the happiness of others. It is despicable to betray one’s mentor, one’s fellow members, and one’s beliefs. Based on strong prayer, we must stand up with the firm resolve not to permit such abuses or betrayals.

Russian author Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) lamented a society that was ruled by greed and ruthless self-interest, and asserted that the only way that this could be changed was through a spiritual revolution-a change in the hearts of people themselves. He declared: “Human evil can be overcome by human beings, and . . . this alone is their task and the point of life.”18

No matter what fine appearances the crooked and corrupt may present to the world, their true nature is ultimately vile and base. They are devious, grasping, and self-serving. Don’t be deceived by them. You need to see them and their underhanded schemes for what they are.

Another ancient Chinese classic of military strategy states: “Making rewards and bestowals clear, being strict in . . . punishing are methods for stopping evil.”19 If a single corrupt or crooked individual is allowed to go unchallenged, a thousand good people stand to suffer as a result. We must sternly denounce evil and resolutely triumph over it. With the mentor-disciple spirit as our anchor and solidly uniting together, we can eradicate the evil that seeks to destroy kosen-rufu. We must advance with staunch faith, not begrudging our lives in this effort. The victory of truth over falsehood will be clearly manifested in the end.

Spring Is Close at Hand

In January 1951, Mr. Toda’s businesses foundered, plunging us into a winter of extreme hardship. At that time, I wrote in my diary: “When winter comes, spring cannot be far off. Although it is the dead of winter, my heart races to think of spring close at hand. Whatever hardships I must face, I must never give up hope.”20 Spring always comes to those of strong faith-with that firm determination, I opened the way to a victorious spring of Soka.

Mr. Toda once said to a Kansai member who was facing serious challenges: “You’ll experience ups and downs in your health and financial situations, but they are certain to improve over the long term. Just remain absolutely steady in your faith and practice.” In our journey through life, we will encounter valleys of problems and mountains of adversities, but there is no trial that we can’t overcome through our faith and practice. When we dedicate ourselves to the Mystic Law, everything will become nurturing sustenance for our lives, a great treasure, and we will definitely be able to win in the end.

The pioneering African environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Wangari Maathai-whom, incidentally, I have also had the good fortune to meet-has said: “Each of us can make a difference, and together accomplish what might seem impossible.”21

You each possess a sublime power and a great mission. Your individual progress can transform your family, your community, and your society.

To all our members, including those who are struggling with the present financial crisis, I wish to offer a vigorous cheer of encouragement: Resolve to be triumphant!

Ascending Life’s Glorious Peaks

This brings us to the end of this most meaningful and memorable first Headquarters leaders meeting of 2009. Thank you.

Please be well and stay healthy as you continue your ascent of life’s glorious Mount Fujis, challenging yourselves and winning, day after day. The majestic peak of kosen-rufu, of Youth and Victory, and of our upcoming 80th anniversary-these are all our Mount Fujis.

Thank you for listening so patiently today.

1 Three types of enemies: Also, the three powerful enemies. Three types of arrogant people who persecute those who propagate the Lotus Sutra in the evil age after Shakyamuni Buddha’s death, described in a 20-line verse section of the “Encouraging Devotion” (13th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The Great Teacher Miao-lo of China summarizes them as arrogant lay people, arrogant priests, and arrogant false sages.

2 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann, translated by John Oxenford and edited by J. K. Moorhead (New York: Da Capo Press, 1998), p. 193.

3 Translated from Spanish. El mejor alcalde, el rey (The Best Judge, The King) (Madrid: Ediciones C’tedra S. A., 1993), pp. 115, 154.

4 Cf. Aurelio Peccei, One Hundred Pages for the Future: Reflections of the President of The Club of Rome (New York: Pergamon Press, 1981), pp. 175-82.

5 Andrew Carnegie, Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1920), p. 10.

6 Ibid., p. 347.

7 Ibid., p. 203. 8 Translated from Japanese. Kojin Shimomura, “Jinsei Zuiso” (Essays on Life), in Shimomura Kojin Zenshu (Collected Writings of Kojin Shimomura) (Tokyo: Kokudosha, 1975), vol. 5, p. 521.

9 Andrew Carnegie, Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie, p. 101.

10 Ibid., pp. 101-2.

11 Murasaki Shikibu, The Tale of Genji (Unabridged), translated by Royall Tyler (New York: Penguin Books, 2002), p. 473.

12 Ibid., p. 329.

13 Ibid., p. 354.

14 Ibid., p. 762.

15 Ibid., p. 355.

16 Ibid., p. 648.

17 The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, translated by Ralph D. Sawyer with Mei-ch’n Sawyer (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1993), p. 305.

18 Leo Tolstoy, Tolstoy’s Letters, edited and translated by R. F. Christian (London: The Athlone Press, 1978), vol. 2 (1880-1910), p. 403.

19 The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China, p. 259.

20 Daisaku Ikeda, A Youthful Diary: One Man’s Journey from the Beginning of Faith to Worldwide Leadership for Peace (Santa Monica, California: World Tribune Press, 2000), p. 79.

21 Wangari Maathai, afterword to Unbowed: A Memoir (New York: Anchor Books, 2007), p. 306.