Monday, May 13, 2013

Tribute to the Women's Division by Daisaku Ikeda




THE LIGHT OF THE CENTURY OF HUMANITY

By Shin’ichi Yamamoto (Pen name for Daisaku Ikeda)

Like Flowers of the Field

One morning, I heard my wife softly singing to herself—a song at once familiar and at the same time completely fresh to my ears:

Like flowers of the field,
tossed by the wind.
Like flowers of the field,
delighting all who see.

“What’s that song?” I asked. “It’s quite famous,” she replied. It was “Flowers of the Field,” a beautiful melody that had been made popular by the Japanese husband-and-wife duo Da Capo.

Smiling, my wife continued:

Like flowers of the field,
beaten by the rain.
Like flowers of the field,
soothing all who see.

“What a nice song,” I said. “It captures the heroic spirit of ordinary people.” Hearing it set me quietly contemplating.

*

“Flowers of the field”—the name of no specific flower is mentioned in the lyrics. This might be a good thing. Different people living in different places have different images of “flowers of the field.” For instance, in Japan, we might picture cudweed, or cymbidium orchids, or violets, or field mustard blossoms, or lilies, or cosmos.
The north country is still under a deep blanket of snow. When the snow finally melts and the first shoots of Japanese butterbur and amur adonis begin to appear at the foot of the mountains, people’s hearts will leap with joy, knowing that spring has come.
The Echizen daffodil grows even on the steep cliffs facing the pounding waves of the Japan Sea, enduring winter’s fierce winds until spring arrives.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki were devastated by the atom bomb. People thought it would be decades before plant life could grow once more in its scorched earth. But oleanders quickly bloomed there again, bringing hope and courage to the survivors struggling to rebuild their lives.
I think we all have an image in our hearts of hardy flowers of the field blooming cheerfully, undaunted by wind or rain.
Whether noticed or not, these wildflowers, in the place where they have taken root, put forth stems, spread their leaves, and flower beautifully, each in their own distinct way. Some bloom by the wayside in such inconspicuous and incongruous places that they invite our astonishment and admiration for their strength and tenacity. I have frequently photographed such blossoms, pressing the shutter as a way of applauding their unheralded efforts.

“‘Flowers of the Field’—why, it’s the perfect anthem for our women’s division,” I commented.

Nodding in agreement, my wife said: “Yes. As a matter of fact, it was a women’s division member from Meguro who told me about the song in a letter she sent me.”
The woman, it turned out, was a member of the first graduating class of Kansai Soka Junior and Senior High Schools. She had been struggling hard, doing her best to care for a daughter afflicted with a chronic illness. She had been chanting earnestly and forging ahead valiantly, one day after another without rest or respite. Then she heard this song and began to sing it to herself:

Life is sometimes filled with hardships,
But rainy and cloudy days, too, are followed by sunshine,
That’s when you appreciate
the dauntless spirit of flowers of the field.

“Dauntless spirit”—surely that is another way of describing courage. Life is a series of on-going challenges; it is a struggle to bring the flowers of happiness into bloom, regardless of the difficulties we may face along the way.

My wife, her eyes bright with emotion and her words full of praise and admiration, is always recounting to me the courageous struggles and noble victories of our women’s and young women’s division members in different parts of Japan and throughout the world.

Once during a visit to Hyogo Prefecture in the Kansai region, I shared a poem I had read in my childhood:

Trampled
and trampled again
still it blooms—
the smiling dandelion.

This poem is a wonderful description of the many ordinary men and women who bravely live out their lives, a smile on their faces, no matter what hardship and adversity they encounter.

Why isn’t the dandelion defeated by constant trampling? The key to its strength is its long and sturdy root, which extends deep into the earth. Dandelions may have a taproot more than one full meter in length.
The same principle applies to people. The true victors in life are those who, enduring repeated challenges and setbacks, have sent the roots of their being to such a depth that nothing can shake them. The German writer Schiller captured this image perfectly in The Maid of Orleans, his play about Joan of Arc, in the phrase: “O beauteous flower of victory!”

On February 12, the 3,000th installment of The New Human Revolution was published. The heroines of this novel are ordinary women. Some of these characters are based on women living in foreign countries, wracked by homesickness, weeping as they gazed over the seas toward their land of birth. Encountering the Mystic Law, these women rose to the challenge of transforming their own karma and courageously embarked on a new life as proud pioneers of worldwide kosen-rufu. Around the globe and in Japan, these intrepid Soka women struggled bravely against illness, accidents, economic hardship, family discord, and a host of other problems. Overcoming one painful, trying obstacle after another, they created great dramas of personal victory exemplifying Nichiren Daishonin’s words: “Winter always turns to spring” (WND, 536). Today, these women are enjoying truly wonderful golden years, overflowing with happiness and good fortune.

In contrast, arrogant individuals or groups who ridiculed and inflicted pain on these noble women of kosen-rufu have, as we all know, sunk into utter obscurity. As the Daishonin declared: “In the past, and in the present Latter Day of the Law, the rulers, high ministers, and people who despise the votaries of the Lotus Sutra seem to be free from punishment at first, but eventually they are all doomed to fall” (WND, 997). These are stern and uncompromising words.

Our pioneering Soka women have been uncrowned ordinary citizens, without special social status, wealth, or fame. And it is these very women who have built the Soka Gakkai into the great organization it is today. Buddhism exists so that these women can become happy.

The Daishonin declares that in the Lotus Sutra “the enlightenment of women is expounded as a model [for the enlightenment of all living beings]” (WND, 930). Buddhism teaches that women who have made the greatest efforts, who are challenging themselves the most, will be wreathed in unsurpassed flowers of happiness. This is the brilliant path to happiness for all women struggling with hardship and difficulties in the real world.

A poet wrote:

Gaze down calmly
on washed-out pretenders,
and follow your own
flower-adorned path
without regret.

Wildflowers are neither vain nor haughty, neither jealous nor servile. Living in accord with their unique mission, characterizing the Buddhist principle of “cherry, peach, plum, and damson blossoms,” they neither envy other flowers nor belittle themselves. They take pride in their identity, knowing that each is a flower with a bloom like no other.

Even the prettiest and most delicate wildflowers are by no means weak. They may seem fragile, but they are strong. They are not perturbed by rain or wind. Embodying the same indomitable spirit, our motto is “Nothing can defeat us!”

My wife, too, regards the frontline struggles for kosen-rufu she has carried out since her youth as her greatest pride and honor. When the youth division was established in July 1951 by President Toda, I was a young men’s division group chief and my wife was a young women’s division group chief. The following month, a new young woman joined the Soka Gakkai, and my wife visited her home to enshrine her Gohonzon. My wife was younger than her, but senior in faith. She became close to the young woman and did her utmost to be there for her, listening to her problems, offering advice, and encouraging her. That member grew tremendously and became a young women’s division leader herself. Later, she went on to serve admirably as one of the top leaders of the women’s division until the end of her life.

During the historic February Campaign of 1952, the youth division, burning with the spirit of refuting the erroneous and revealing the true, held a study presentation meeting with President Toda attending. My wife rose to the podium as a representative of the young women’s division and gave a presentation on the erroneous belief that personal misfortune was caused by the negative workings of deceased spirits, an idea that was especially popular among several of the new religions that appeared in Japan after World War II. She explained the issues with great clarity and resoundingly debunked the idea.

A smiling Mr. Toda watched warmly over my wife and the other young women. It was his conviction that the growing strength of the young women’s division members based on Buddhist study is the flower of hope of kosen-rufu.

Renowned Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai took time out of her extremely busy schedule during her recent trip to Japan to visit me at the Seikyo Shimbun building on February 18. The founder of the Green Belt Movement, Dr. Maathai is a “green crusader” who was awarded the Nobel Peace prize last year (2004).

Members of the Soka University Pan-African Friendship Society welcomed Dr. Maathai with a rendition of the Kenyan song “This Is Our Home.” Dr. Maathai sang along cheerfully as she swayed to the music’s infectious rhythm:

This is our home.
Our aim is to plant trees here.
Our home is a home of womenfolk.
Come, let’s carry the tree seedlings and plant.

In the past, the Green Belt Movement was persecuted, and Dr. Maathai herself was jailed for her activism on several occasions. She was even tortured. Throughout everything, and while raising three children, she courageously acted on her beliefs in her effort to break the vicious cycle of poverty and environmental destruction.

I have heard that the first seven trees Dr. Maathai ever planted were African tulip trees, known for their fiery red flowers. The red flame of courage burning in her heart has, over the last three decades, kindled similar flames in the hearts of over 100,000 people, while the planting of those first seven trees has led to more than 30 million trees being planted.

In A Quiet Revolution, a film on environmental issues produced with the cooperation of the SGI, Dr. Maathai says: “It is very important for us to take action at the local level, because sometimes when we think of the global problems, we get disempowered, but when we take action at the local level, we are empowered.”

These words resonate with the philosophy that drives the grassroots activities and networks of our women’s and young women’s divisions. That is why Dr. Maathai has also expressed her sincere empathy with our Soka philosophy and movement, which values the individual and society, and life and the environment.

Dr. Maathai, who herself espouses a philosophy of hope, has declared: “We know that the little we are doing is making positive change. If we can multiply that several million times, we can change the world—definitely.” It is just as she says.

We need to continue expanding our network of “flowers of the field,” bringing one blossom after another into harmonious and happy bloom. This is how we will achieve a truly spectacular “quiet revolution” in the century of women. Harmony is life’s greatest beauty, its flower.

I remember an incident that took place many years ago, when the Soka Gakkai was still a small organization. My mentor Josei Toda’s business was in dire straits: we had no money, no capable staff, and were at rock bottom. One day, Mr. Toda suddenly plucked a flower nearby and put it in my shirt pocket, as if it were a medal of honor. I was spending my days striving desperately and completely alone to serve, fight for, and protect my mentor. Mr. Toda said to me: “I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused you. You’re really doing a fine job, Daisaku.” Some snickered at my floral medal of honor, but to me it was an award for kosen-rufu presented by my mentor in kosen-rufu. No tribute could have been greater.

When I returned to my shabby apartment, I placed the flower before the Gohonzon and chanted daimoku with deep gratitude. I still wear my mentor’s floral medal of honor in my heart, and I continue my struggle in the same spirit as that youth so long ago. The flower my mentor bestowed on me has now been transformed into 23 shining national medals of honor from countries around the world.

Buddhism says that the disciple is like the plant and the teacher, the earth. It also sets forth the path of repaying debts of gratitude, explaining that the flowers of victory brought to bloom by the disciple will return to the earth as good fortune for the mentor, and that new flowers of victory will be born from the earth of mentor and disciple. My wife and I are proud to have followed this path throughout our lives. Our foremost wish is to bestow all our sincere, dedicated Soka women with a floral crown of happiness that sparkles brighter than any jewel-encrusted tiara. We wish to present them with a floral crown of absolute victory, a floral crown of eternity, happiness, true self, and purity.

*
Our conversation that morning began with a song about flowers of the field.
“Another day of fresh challenges lies ahead of us, doesn’t it?” my wife said.
“That’s right!” I responded. “Let’s keep working for the happiness and victory of ordinary people, who are the most precious of all!”
A smile blossomed on my wife’s face like a lovely flower.
The flowers of the field, too, rise up excitedly:“Spring is here! Spring!”

(Translated from the March 5, 2005 issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai daily newspaper)

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