Ode to Josei Toda

Here is an ode to Josei Toda the 2nd President of the Soka Gakkai , inspired by a reading of the  "HumanRevolution " The quotations and some passages are from this inspiring novel.

 I had read the ‘Human Revolution “quickly through the first time mainly to know of the early days and growth of the Soka Gakkai. I came across many passages that dealt with Buddhist theory and the principal ideas of Nicheren’s Buddhism which I could not easily understand and determined to read the book once again with the aim of picking up al the vital messages that would help deepen my faith. I was also keen on understanding Josei Toda the man and the factors that lead to the phenomenal spread of the Soka Gakkai. As I read through the book a second time I marveled at this remarkable man and his remarkable mission in life.

The first few chapters brought out the deep faith by which Josei lived. His faith was in no way shaken by the years of imprisonment and deprivation he faced. Although sad and distressed by the destruction of the Jishu Gakkan , the night school Toda had founded , his faith gave him an indomitable spirit .He was sad but stronger and certainly not defeated.

Then there was Toda’s relationship with the Gohonzon, full of love and reverence .I quote from a passage in the book on his return from prison … ‘As he gazed at the Gohonzon a sense of peace came over him .He was like a child returning to his mother after a long separation .The compassionate presence of the Gohonzon enfolded him, comforting his spirit, assuaging pain and erasing the bitter memories of prison.”

Although Toda was seriously ill on his return from prison and a mere shadow of a man, his spiritual vitality bore him up. His failing eye sight and health did not prevent him from making a strong determination to spread the life giving faith of Nicherin Daishonin’s Buddhism to all men.

During his years in prison, his prayer was that the Dai- Gohonzon would protect his family. If they must die at the hands of the enemy or suffer humiliation, he prayed that they would enter the land of the Buddha, as the wife and son of Josei Toda, votary of the supreme law, and be received warmly by Nicherin Daishonin. He was prepared for his own death and the possible death of his wife and son, but inwardly he knew that his prayers would be answered .He felt convinced that he would survive his ordeal and eventually launch a great campaign for the propagation the true faith.

It was during an air raid alert during the first night of his return, as he knelt before the Gohonzon that Josei heard within his soul, the determination to spread the life giving faith to all men .I quote from the book “In the dark of the night, when no one heard or knew, there sounded within this man, the bell of a new morning .. Not for him alone but for all Japan as well.”

Within a few days of his return from prison, Toda set about taking stock of the business world he had established, which had been destroyed in the war. He saw the re- building of the of his business enterprise as the first step in reviving the Soka Gakkai.Extreme devastation of the Japanese economy by the war did not deter him from his goal. We learn from this that the propagation of faith must be preceded by achievements and success in our daily lives. We need to constantly show proof of the benefits of our faith .Sensei in his guidance at the 4th Future Division General Meeting  held in Japan on 28th July ’91 asked the young students to strive to improve their grades even by a little. He said “truly happy are those who exert themselves to the extent they can say with satisfaction … I have accomplished this much.”

The chapter on reconstruction also drew attention to two key principles of Buddhism, namely the need for all men to have a mentor. ‘No matter how successful and famous one becomes one is forlorn and isolated with out a mentor.” Also true and abiding friendship is possible only when it is based on a common belief in some great cause. These principles indicate that the revival of the Soka Gakkai would require a strong mentor such as Josei Toda and a deep study and understanding of the essence of Nicherin Daishonin’s Buddhism among the future leaders of the society.

The changes taking place in the Japanese society after World War 2 , such as the separation of religion from the state , the introduction of parliamentary democracy , with equal freedom for all religions paved the way for the revival of true Buddhism in Japan .Josei Toda longed to rush out to teach the world of Nicherin Daishonin’s Buddhism .However he choose to abide his time till he could build a small but devote group of people who could help in propagating the true religion .He followed the prophesy that those chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo  would increase to two , then to three, and then to hundred. Thus Josei Toda had decided to gradually gather the faithful in small numbers at first and then in thousands and millions.

Toda’s plea to the small group of members who had gathered at the first death anniversary of President Makiguchi to spread the faith as it was the late Presidents earnest desire, met with dis- approval and a Luke warm response .In spite of this set-back Josei Toda firmly held to his determination to achieve the spread of true Buddhism. Josei’s strength of conviction came from his clear understanding of his mentor Makiguchi’s desire that all his followers work towards the propagation of the faith with devotion .In the ‘Human Revolution “ Josei shows his close identification with the belief that he and his followers are the Bodhisattvas  prophesized in the Lotus Sutra to save the world. In considering the great mission ahead of him, pride and determination welled up within him as he considers the words of Nicherin Daishonin …” Do not make light of my followers, for in their origins they are the great Bodhisattvas who have served the Buddha for eighty trillion years .In the future their services will prove greater than those people who served Shakyamuni in the eighty years of his earthly life.”

We learn from the life of Josei Toda , the immense strength of purpose and determination that arises  when one aligns one’s  beliefs to the Gosho.

The key elements of the faith Josei Toda propagated to his immediate followers related to the core of Nicherin Daishonin’s teachings i.e. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo which is the final and supreme teaching of Nicherin Daishonin .

Josei Toda’s visit to Ryogo to spread the true faith gives us some indication of the long and pain staking effort required to increase the membership of Soka Gakkai .As Toda observed .. ‘ Human experiences are the most powerful tools for converting people to the faith .’ The beneficial power of the Gohonzon cannot be understood by theory alone , it must be grasped through the actual practice of faith and through experiences .”

Josei Toda approached the task of explaining the fundamental principles of Nicherin Daishonin’s Buddhism by referring to the ten states of existence and man’s inherent desire to adopt a happy state .He went on to say “ We cannot attain lasting happiness by means  of our own unaided will .We must  have an object of strong enough to set in motion the Buddha nature inherent in all men .The one object that can do this is the Gohonzon , which by means of the power of  it’s Myoho , can change ugliness to beauty , evil into goodness and loss into gain.”

Josei Toda’s approach to rebuilding the Soka Gakkai was to affect a human revolution in each individual on a person to person basis. He firmly believed fervent faith and courage dedicated to a central mission alone would lead to the growth of the Soka Gakkai .Faith also would be the binding force that would build the organization together as it grew large .

As I read through ‘The Human Revolution” I developed a strong attachment to this remarkable man and I found my own faith deepening .Now for me Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is an article of faith , an embodiment of the supreme law from which I can continuously derive sustenance to face up to day to day challenges.


Author: hari008

Business Leader , Mentor and Executive Coach with a long track record of achievement , developing high performance teams and mentoring team members who now hold responsible positions in several leading companies

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