Mr Zhu was born in 1923, 10 February in Jiang Su, China. He was the second child in the family, with an elder sister and a younger brother and sister. When he was studying in Senior High school, the China-Japan war broke out and disrupted his education. He took refuge in a temple and did self-study. He had a strong desire for knowledge, devouring thick literary textbooks, ranging from Chinese Classics to contemporary Chinese Literature from the likes of Ba Jin, Lu Xun, Lin Yu Tang and so on. It was through such youthful efforts that lay the foundation of his depth of knowledge.
He studied law in Nanjing University from 1941 until his fourth year when student demonstrations forced the university to close. He furthered his studies in Japan, majoring in Politics and Economics in Tokyo University of Agriculture. After the war, he obtained accreditation from Nanjing University after passing a national examination. He subsequently worked as a civil servant in Taiwan before joining the private sector.
In the spring of 1960, Mr Zhu was despatched to Japan for a business convention. He observed that the post-war Japanese society was brimming with youthful energy. He was introduced to Soka Gakkai by a friend and read the book on Value Creation by the First Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. He was attracted to the idea of Buddha nature in all human beings and the need to save humanity and identified with the philosophy expounded in the book. During his 2- month stay in Japan, he visited the Headquarters of Soka Gakkai, read Gakkai publications and eventually received the Gohonzon on 10 May 1960.
Upon returning to Taiwan, Mr Zhu was informed by Soka Gakkai that there were about 20 Gakkai members in Taiwan. With Mr Zhu as the central figure, kosen-rufu in Taiwan started its first step. In May 1962, five districts were established in Taiwan and Mr Zhu was appointed the district chief of BeiTou District. These were Mr Zhu’s thoughts of his appointment “Maybe the dream of many are about promotions and accumulating wealth, but doing the right things and making positive contribution to society is my real aspiration. I believe that this Buddhism will help Taiwan society. With my connection and my background, I can’t shirk this responsibility to talk to people about the philosophy of this Buddhism.”
Nothing could win over strong prayers. On 27 January 1963, President Ikeda, then Soka Gakkai President touched down at Songshan Airport in Taipei on his return from Hong Kong. Taipei wasn’t included in his original itinerary, but due to a flight change, he was required to make a stopover at the airport. Mr Zhu and other members were at a prayer meeting, where they were chanting for Mr Ikeda’s safe journey, when they received news of his sudden stopover in Taipei.
Everyone was excited about the sudden and unexpected meeting with President Ikeda. Hoping to welcome President Ikeda, the members in the southern regions made overnight trips and waited at the airport since dawn. When they saw the back of President Ikeda, they shouted,” Sensei! Sensei!” President Ikeda turned around and was amazed to see so many Taiwan members. At that time, the arrival hall and the transit waiting area was only separated by a fence. President Ikeda and Mr Zhu managed to shake hands using their fingers through the fence. That was a precious moment in history.
A few minutes later, the Women Division members who were at the prayer meeting arrived at the airport. About 50 members surrounded President Ikeda at the airport lobby for a group photo. President Ikeda said, “I was attracted here by your chanting.” The members were elated. “Please continue your faith in this Buddhism for life. For the well-being of the people of Taiwan, no matter what happens, no matter how adverse the situation, I hope you will not allow the flame of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism to be extinguished. Actual proof of faith will only become conspicuous in 30 or 40 years. You will never fail to win in the end! Winter always turns to spring (WND, page 1305)” His warm encouragement and resolute tone were forever etched in the hearts of these members and it became the prime point of Taiwan kosen-rufu movement.
On the evening of April 9, local district leaders gathered at Mr Zhu’s home, and under the supervision of a senior officer of the foreign affairs section of the Taipei Police department, a meeting was held to announce the disbanding of the Soka Gakkai oragnisation in Taiwan. Upon knowing the adverse situation they were in, President Ikeda wrote a handwritten letter to encourage the Taiwan members. In the letter, he wrote, “Doesn’t the Gosho say, ‘As practice progresses and understanding grows, the three obstacles and four devils emerge in confusing form, vying with one another to interfere.’? Never be swayed, never fear! Encountering persecution verifies that we are practising the correct teaching. It is only by facing great obstacles that we can attain Buddhahood in this lifetime.”
When President Ikeda knew that Mr Zhu was turning 40 at that time, he remarked. “He is still young. Real victory doesn’t come until one’s seventies and eighties. There is no way this situation will persist for decades. The day will definitely come when the members in Taiwan will carry out Gakkai activities freely. Night always gives way to day. Winter always turns to spring. Now is the time for the members to store their energy, just as plants do when they send their roots deep into the soil, so that when dawn comes, when spring arrives, they can cause a great flourishing of kosen-rufu.
The important thing is that the members patiently endure this time of hardship with the determination not to retreat a single step, and that they work to steadily build a solid foundation for kosen-rufu in the future. If they triumph over this obstacle, the Soka Gakkai in Taiwan will see tremendous growth. It will usher in a golden age in the twenty –first century.”
“Endurance requires courage more than anything else” became Mr Zhu’s guiding principle from that point onward.
With the dissolution of the chapter, joyful gatherings could no longer be held. Mr Zhu vowed to protect religious freedom. He kept the passion and conviction of faith in the members burning through the steadfastness of a father and the warmth of a mother. The police stepped up its surveillance and crackdown on members. Some members had their homes raided and their Gohonzon seized. Others had their copies of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings and other Soka Gakkai publications, as well as their Soka Gakkai pins and other items confiscated.
He was a mid-level manager with a promising future in a large cement manufacturer. When the police began watching him, the company management pressed him to give up his Buddhist practice. Of course, Mr Zhu’s determination never wavered. As a result, not only was his future advancement at the company blocked, he was removed from his post. Forced into a position where he had little real work to do, Mr Zhu left his office earlier than usual and made use of his vacation days. Taking advantage of this extra time, he began to translate the Daishonin’s writings into Chinese. Moreover, he chose to translate them into classical Chinese in order to achieve the highest degree of accuracy. Having decided to make this work his personal mission, he went about it with quiet diligence.
Someone once asked Mr Zhu, “Was there ever a time you felt so depressed that you can’t continue to chant?” What would you do in this moment? Mr Zhu replied, “Everyone experiences happiness, anger, sadness and joy. But when I think of the many members and people who need me, I will not allow myself to stay in such a state for too long. I picked myself up and got revitalised quickly.” This episode was shared by the current general director of Taiwan Soka Association, Mr Lin Zhao.
Mr Zhu spared no efforts in developing the youth division. Even in the midst of the adverse and oppressive environment, he thought of ways to enable youths to study and understand Daishonin Buddhism so that they can walk the correct path of kosen-rufu. In March 1967, Youth Gosho Study Classes began. Due to the clamp down on religions, the size of gatherings was limited. Mr Zhu conducted separate study sessions for the YMD and YWD. The study sessions were conducted twice a month in Mr Zhu’s house.
As the police came for spot checks quite frequently, the study sessions had to shift from the living room to the dining room and even to Mr Zhu’s son’s bedroom at times. The materials used for the study were publications from Soka Gakkai headquarters which included Human Revolution and Gosho. He would explain the difficult Buddhist terms using examples from daily life to enable the youths to understand the essence.
To be continued…