ON MY fifty-fourth birthday, in 1960, it was publicly announced that my son Koichi would succeed me as president of Rissho Kosei-kai. At the time, he was a student in the Department of Buddhist Studies at Rissho university (which is unrelated to Kosei-kai). The decision to follow Japanese tradition and make the presidency a hereditary position was made by a council of chapter heads from the entire nation, in accordance with the regulations of Kosei-kai. To Koichi, the decision came as a shock. He said, "My father has undergone a continuous course of ascetic disciplines. He founded the organization. He blazed the path and brought the teachings of our faith to many people. I lack the kind of experience in discipline that he has. I have achieved nothing and am unsuited to be the next president of Rissho Kosei-kai." I found his modesty and his strict attitude toward himself moving. At least, he did not merely accept the presidency without resisting. He was willing to examine himself and his fears directly.
Koichi is a sincere, studious, and straightforward person. He was young when this decision was made, and he was completely unwilling to compromise with himself. I did not find it unusual that a man of religion like Koichi should be disturbed by the offer of the presidency. It would have been odd if he had experienced no suffering and uncertainty. I told him, "I have traveled my own path and have founded the organization. As the second president, you must travel your own path." But still Koichi continued to think about the matter.
I once met Yasuharu Oyama, a master of the game of shogi (sometimes called Japanese chess), and he told me that he had not the slightest intention of allowing any of his children to take up shogi. When I asked why, he explained: "If I had reached only some of the higher degrees of the game, I would have allowed my children to pursue it because it would have been possible for them to go farther than I and to fulfill the wish for a perfection that I had not attained. But since I am a master, I have gone as far as is possible. If my children undertook to learn shogi, no matter how hard they tried, they could never do more than attain the level I have reached; they could not surpass me. I think it is wrong to force children to carry this kind of burden all their lives."
What Oyama said about his children and shogi revealed the strictness and the limitations of the fields of activities in which things depend on winning and losing. It revealed something even more important, since it made me see clearly that there are no limits to Buddhism. For all people and in all places, its truth is inexhaustible. Oyama's remarks indicated the resolute will of a father who does not want his children to copy what he has done because he wants them to grow and develop constantly. Steady progress is the most important thing in life. The Buddha teaches that it is not the person who walks in the Buddha's shadow that is closest to him, but the person who fervently seeks the way. For a believer and a practicer of the Lotus Sutra, even though the course may be slow, it is vital that daily progress in self-refinement be made. The person must be farther along the way tomorrow than he is today and still farther along the way the day after tomorrow than he will be tomorrow. My wish for my son was not that he follow the path I have followed, but that he continue to grow and develop as he follows the path ordained for Koichi Niwano.
Rissho Kosei-kai was founded March 5, 1938. Koichi was born on the twentieth of the same month in the same year. He grew up with Kosei-kai and experienced many tests and trials with the organization throughout his infancy, childhood, and adolescence. During the summer vacation of his first year in primary school, he went with his mother and brothers and sisters to the country.
Before our separation, there had been countless happy family moments with Koichi and the other children. I remember a field day at the school of his older sisters. I was persuaded to go and took the whole family. I participated in a parents' obstacle race consisting of running a little way from the starting line, picking up and putting on a mask, and then raising a sandbag to the shoulders before running on to the finish line. I have strong legs; and at that time my work made me accustomed to lifting and carrying. When I won the race, Koichi was so delighted that he called out, "My father came in first! My father came in first!" It made me happy to see how proud he was.
When he completed his master's degree at Rissho University, in 1968, Koichi first went to work at the Lotus Sutra Cultural Research Center, headed by Nichijin Sakamoto. Later, after leaving that center, he came to work at the Kosei-kai headquarters. At that time, I brought my son together with the chief director, Motoyuki Naganuma. I do not have the slightest idea what they talked about during their first meeting; but afterward, Koichi's outlook brightened.
Because he had experienced the suffering and complications of hesitation in the face of his own task, Motoyuki Naganuma understood the predicament Koichi found himself in when it was decided to make the presidency hereditary. Koichi understood Naganuma too and had confidence in him as a leader. This relation enabled Koichi to assume a positive attitude toward the heavy responsibility of becoming the next president. He was given added emotional stability by his marriage to Ayako Kakeba.
My heart was warmed as I watched my son and his bride at the impressive wedding celebration, attended by members of Kosei-kai from all over Japan. The service took place in Kosei-kai's Great Sacred Hall, on January 22, 1967. During the celebration, "Prediction of the Destiny of Arhats, Training and Trained," chapter nine of the Lotus Sutra, was read. In this chapter, the Buddha predicts the future buddhahood of his own son, Rahula.
Rahula was said to be a person who, though enlightened, concealed his blessed state and lived with ordinary people in an ordinary fashion so that he might lead them to enlightenment naturally. This personality is virtually that of my son. On the day of his wedding, in gratitude to the Buddha for the happiness of the newly married couple, I addressed these words of Shakyamuni to them: "The two of you must not walk the same path."
On the surface, this might seem an inappropriate way to congratulate and encourage young people about to begin married life. But I wanted Koichi and his bride to understand the deeper meaning of the Buddha's words. The pioneer is always alone; when he travels in a party, he himself is the only person on whom he can constantly rely. For the person who sets out to carry the truth of the Law to others, the decision and determination to act alone are of the greatest importance. Resolution to carry out one's mission without assistance is the only way for true development. The person must be prepared to face the isolation of loneliness. Shakyamuni Buddha requires that people who propagate his teachings have the strength to face isolation. In married life, the strength and the willpower to walk one's own path are the source of true cooperation and mutual assistance.
I have profound trust in my son Koichi. I believe that he has undergone severe trials in order to reach an understanding of the gravity of his own fate and his own karma. Neither I nor anyone else can know what this understanding has cost him, but I am firmly convinced that the discipline to which he has submitted himself will someday bear fruit.
In 1970 my son Koichi changed his name to Nichiko, when he became head of the dissemination department of Rissho Kosei-kai. He is fervently active throughout Japan. At the age of thirty-seven, Nichiko adopted as his motto: "Heaven helps those who help themselves."
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