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Let’s Create a Symphony of Great Joy!

December 17, 2021

The following are excerpts from President Ikeda’s speech at the Soka Gakkai Headquarters leaders meeting held at the Toda Memorial Auditorium in Sugamo, Tokyo, on November 16, 1990, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding. Video footage of the speech was broadcast during the most recent Headquarters leaders meeting on November 18, 2021, also held at the same venue as that earlier meeting.

 

Ludwig van Beethoven completed his Ninth Symphony, known for its choral section “Ode to Joy,” in 1824, at the age of 53, just three years before his death. It is the last complete symphony he composed.

            The Ninth Symphony is famous for including a choral section, unlike any other symphony at the time. Beethoven created this gift for humanity through his innovative thinking and fresh creativity.

            The choral section, “Ode to Joy,” sets to music a poem of the same name by Beethoven’s contemporary, the German poet Friedrich von Schiller.

            Beethoven was 22 or 23 when he decided to set to music this poem, which brimmed with a love of humanity, peace, and joy. He continued to cherish and nurture this dream over the years and finally, 30 years later, made it a reality, bringing his youthful vow to wonderful fruition.

            As is well known, by the time he composed the Ninth Symphony, Beethoven had almost completely lost his hearing. It is said that after the symphony’s debut performance, Beethoven was unaware of the audience’s rapturous applause as he stood facing away from them on the stage. Only after being prompted to turn around did he witness their reaction, which he acknowledged with a bow. 

            The French writer and Beethoven biographer Romain Rolland called the Ninth Symphony an unsurpassed triumph of the human spirit. He wrote: “[It was] the most brilliant [victory] that has ever been won by an infirm and lonely spirit. Sorrow personified, to whom the world refused joy, created joy himself to give to the world. He forged it from his own misery.”[1] And he said that Beethoven’s life can be summed up by his words “Joy though suffering.”[2]

            Beethoven encountered many forms of adversity: he lost his hearing; he was harassed by traditionalist elements of society; he was the target of envy; and he faced an endless series of problems related to his health, finances, and family life. Yet through it all, he remained undefeated.

            He fought, and he won. He broke through the dark clouds of suffering to attain a life state of joy as bright as the clear blue skies above the clouds.

            The Ninth Symphony is proof of Beethoven’s victory in the final chapter of his life.

            Buddhism also focuses on being victorious, and in such a struggle, there is always opposition and resistance, a succession of problems and difficulties. But true and enduring happiness comes only by triumphing over all those challenges. The same applies to achieving kosen-rufu. That is why I call out to you with all my heart: Be victorious! 

The Tokyo Detention Center, where Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda were imprisoned in 1943 by the militarist Japanese government, was here in Sugamo, where this Soka Gakkai Toda Memorial Auditorium now stands.

            It was there, in the inmate infirmary, that Mr. Makiguchi died on November 18, 1944, at the age of 73.

            In August 1944, Mr. Toda, then 44 years old, wrote in a letter from prison to his father-in-law: “Please be strong. . . . No matter how hard life is and how poor you are, please always be confident that as long as I’m alive, you are a ‘wealthy person’ [just like the Daishonin proclaimed][3] (WND-1, 977).”

            The Japanese nation was in turmoil in these final days of World War II, with air raids intensifying. Mr. Toda’s young son had been evacuated to the countryside, and Mr. Toda himself was still in jail. And yet how confident he was, declaring in effect: “I am a ‘wealthy person’ now and forever! And everyone connected to me is also a ‘wealthy person’!” Faith is the greatest form of wealth.

            For those with faith, the more their problems and suffering, the stronger they become. They can bring happiness to all around them. Nothing disturbs or discourages them.

            You are all emissaries of the Buddha. You are noble Bodhisattvas of the Earth. I hope you will live your lives with strength and fortitude, with the reassuring spirit “As long as I am here, you have nothing to fear!” and the conviction “I am truly a ‘wealthy person’!” 

*

My dear and precious friends, I pray with all my heart every single day for your health, long life, safety, and happiness.

            Please advance joyfully and positively day after day, filled with vibrant life force. It is my sincerest wish that all of you continue to accumulate boundless good fortune through steady faith and practice and together celebrate the next great milestone of our 70th anniversary with magnificent victory (in 2000).

            My best wishes to you all today! Thank you!

 

Translated from the November 29, 2021, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai daily newspaper

 

[1] Romain Rolland, Beethoven, translated by B. Constance Hull (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., Ltd., 1919), p. 54.

[2] Ibid. 

[3] The phrase “wealthy person” comes from statements by the Daishonin in his writings: “From a mundane view, I am the poorest person in Japan, but in the light of Buddhism, I am the wealthiest person [lit. foremost wealthy person] in all Jambudvipa [the entire world]” (WND-1, 977); and “I, Nichiren, am the richest man [lit. foremost wealthy person] in all of present-day Japan. I have dedicated my life to the Lotus Sutra, and my name will be handed down in ages to come. (WND-1, 268).