I’d like to talk about two brave actions that occurred on the 4th of July in different years. Both were fraught with extreme death-risking danger. Both were actions of justice and righteousness and were undertaken, despite great risk, for the betterment of all, not just some, of humankind . Both promised a freedom only previously dreamed of. Both required a vital revolution in the very fabric of human existence. Both would vastly change human society, and both were victorious, but the process of accomplishing both revolutions did not end at a specific point in time but are ongoing and are upon us to see to the glorious conclusion they warrant.
One of the stark contrasts between the first and second revolutions is that the activity held on July 4 by the former group, was held in strict secrecy because its adherents knew that were it carried out openly, they would all have been captured and hanged by the ruling authorities and the revolution they were trying to carry out would have perished, whereas that carried out by the latter group on their respective July 4 was carried out openly with no regard to the certain risk it posed, their leader deeply confident in the knowledge that his death was unimportant and that as long as he maintained his quest to change human society in such an earth-defying and vital way, it would surely result in an unprecedented success for unlimited generations to follow. However, the participants in both revolutions knew that their lives were in grave danger every step they took closer to their cherished dreams for humankind but that it was definitely worth the price they might have to pay.
The first revolution, which took place 237 years ago, you are all familiar with so I need not speak of it any more. The second revolution, which took place 70 years ago, is still vastly unknown to most of human kind. It is this revolution that I would like to focus on. Because it is well described in the following passage from The Human Revolution (Volume 1, pages 297-299) by the book’s author, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, I will hereby convey the story as told by him:
“On July 4, 1943, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi held a discussion meeting at a hotel in Rendaiji, Izu [an island off the coast of and part of Japan], for several members of the local district. A few people had accompanied him from Tokyo. Shortly before this…several other leaders [of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, Makiguchi’s Society for the Creation of Value in Education, which was centered on the philosophy and practice of Nichiren Buddhism] had been arrested and detained … The dreadful arm of the law was reaching toward Makiguchi every moment, and he knew it. Urged by his sense of responsibility, however, he dared to visit Izu.
“Half a year earlier, he had forthrightly resolved, ‘Now it is high time to remonstrate with the government!” Putting this resolution into practice foretold an inevitable confrontation with government authorities.
“In Makiguchi’s heart was clearly revived the dauntless declaration of Nichiren Daishonin, who, seven hundred years earlier, remonstrated with the Kamakura government in the face of the Mongol threat: ‘Let the gods forsake me. Let all persecutions assail me. Still I will give my life for the sake of the Law…whatever obstacles I might encounter, so long as persons of wisdom do not prove my teachings to be false, I will never yield! (The Opening of the Eyes, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin-p. 280). [Thomas Jefferson is known to have made statements in this vein.]
“How many times a day had Tsunesaburo Makiguchi meditated on this passage… He must have been deeply convinced the time had come for him to carry out persistently the way of a disciple of the true Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin.
“I will never break my oath!” For the seventy-three year old Makiguchi, suspension of the scheduled trip to Izu would mean defeat in his faith. [When Washington’s soldiers had given up all hope in the winter of 1976-77, he read to his soldiers a tract of bravery written by Thomas Paine, known as “The American Crisis”: “Will we shrink from this moment of crisis on which the war’s outcome hangs, or shall we stand firm and turn the situation to our favor?” “On a cold blizzardly day…General Washington gathered soldiers who, after successive defeats, had lost their spirit and become thoroughly exhausted. The brave general had Paine’s essay read to the soldiers, as though calling out to them on the front lines of the battlefield….Paine’s cry, arising from his soul as he contemplated the desperate situation, filled each soldier with the infinite power of courage and hope. In this way, the American army righted itself and launched a great offensive. Crossing a frozen river swiftly, they crushed the enemy soldiers who had been caught off guard… This battle changed the course of the war and…led to victory and independence.” (My Dear Friends in America, p. 13)] It was wartime… [Makiguchi] could not allow himself to neglect a single member who was seeking guidance.
“What is most important in Buddhism is, above all, our day-to-day practice. Without practice, there is no longer any Buddhist faith. Neither his age, nor strict surveillance by the authorities, nor the fact that it was only a distant countryside village could deter Makiguchi from making the journey. Because of his fervent faith, nothing could restrict his activities. To advance unshakably toward one’s own goal with utmost confidence in one’s belief, even at the risk of one’s life—no way of life could be more sublime.
“It was an age of perversity when those who truly loved their country and heartily wished for the happiness of the people were called traitors. What a senseless time! We should never again allow such a tragic age to come about or such leaders to assume power again.
“On July 5, 1943…Makiguchi’s party left Rendaiji…to hold a discussion meeting…in Shimoda. In the evening, Makiguchi headed for Suzaki to carry out propagation activities. Kishiko Hayashi had asked Makiguchi to visit her parents’ home there with the sincere desire that he convert her aged father….Makiguchi…talked with Kishiko’s father until late at night. At the father’s invitation, he spent the night…
“The following morning, July 6, shortly after breakfast, two detectives from the Shimoda Police Station came to the house and asked to see Makiguchi. They requested that he accompany them to the police station. Kishiko turned pale.
“Makiguchi bowed to the family members and said, ‘Thank you very much for your kindness. My best regards.’
“He walked briskly to the front of the group and the two detectives followed…the midday sun beat down on their backs as the group took what seemed like a long journey down the road to the Shimoda Police Station…
“Many thoughts went through Makiguchi’s mind as he walked in silence, such as the future of his many disciples… A sense of emergency must have propelled the authorities to search for him in Shimoda. ‘They must surely be after the leaders of the Society [Soka Kyoiku Gakkai],’ he thought. He shook his head…and prayed that his disciples would have strong faith.
“’Yes the time has come—I cannot avoid clashing head-on with government authorities…’”
Makiguchi never saw freedom again. He remained in detention where he was tortured for maintaining his faith and never giving up his convictions. He died in prison on his 74th birthday, a year later, November 18, 1944. The Soka Gakkai International, now in 193 countries around the world, is spreading the Daishonin’s teaching of peace and human revolution, inner change based on respect for the absolute sanctity and dignity of all life without exception, the ultimate movement for freedom and equality. All his sufferings have been proven by his disciples to be a total victory for the faith and for humankind.
Now this is where it is our turn.