Nichiren Daishonin had foreseen that he would encounter opposition upon his declaration as he was living at a time when the society placed staunch attachment to the practice of Nembutsu. It was a teaching which encouraged people to believe that they could gain rebirth in a Pure Land after death. By declaring that the practice of the Lotus Sutra would enable people to bring forth the Buddhahood in this lifetime, was indeed challenging the fundamental mindset of the time which believed that ordinary people were powerless to affect change by themselves. As a consequence, he incurred anger and hatred from the powerful religious authorities of his day whom in cahoots with the shogunate, oppressed and persecuted Nichiren Daishonin leading to his near execution and exiles.
These persecutions arose out of Nichiren Daishonin's fervent wish to free people from suffering and transform an evil age by widely propagating the teaching of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
In the Gosho - Reply to Yasaburo, Nichiren Daishonin wrote:
At first I pondered whether or not I should speak out. Yet what was I to do? Could I turn my back on the teachings of the Buddha who is father and mother to all living beings? Resolving to bear whatever might befall me, I began to speak out, and in these more than twenty years I have been driven from my dwelling, my disciples have been killed, I have been wounded, exiled twice and finally came close to being beheaded. I spoke out solely because I have long known that the people of Japan would meet with great suffering and felt pity for them. Thoughtful persons should therefore realize that I have met these trials for their sake. If they were people who understood their obligations or who were capable of reason, then out of two blows that fall upon me, they would receive one in my stead.
Contrary to reason or common sense, Nichiren Daishonin was escorted to the execution ground at Tatsunokuchi without undergoing any kind of judicial hearing. Even worse, his captors paraded him around the town, treating him as if he was a rebel and traitor. What complete madness it will bring if an authority wields absolute power to apprehend and sentence a suspect on the spot. How devastating it will be when the demonic power of the authority is left unbridled!
In like manner, South Africa's first black President Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, by the authority, for 27 years for high treason, depriving him of freedom. Although both fighters live in different age, the function of the authorities which persecuted Nichiren Daishonin and Nelson Mandela is identical in its diabolical nature.
In his published work, 'One By One', President Ikeda writes:
The intensity and scale of his struggle stagger the imagination. His imprisonment dragged on for twenty-seven-and-a-half years, more than ten thousand days. As he himself has said, "South Africa's prisons were intended to cripple us so that we should never again have the strength and courage to pursue our ideals.
[One By One, Pg 36]
The prison condition was harsh and the regulations were vicious and humiliating. Prisoners were segregated by race, with black prisoners receiving the fewest rations. Political prisoners were kept separated from ordinary criminals and received fewer privileges. To make matters worse, the rules were subject to the sudden disposition of the guards.
President Ikeda continues:
Even under the hellish conditions, Mandela managed to study and encouraged other prisoners to share their knowledge with each other and to debate their ideas. Lectures were arranged in secrecy and the prison came to be known as "Mandela University."
Mandela never relented in his efforts to change mistaken views and create allies among those around him. Eventually, his indomitable spirit gained the respect of even the prison guards.
[One By One, Pg 36, 37]
For most of his life Mandela fought for an end to apartheid (a system of segregation based on race that gave advantages to whites while restricting blacks to labour reserves) in South Africa. The white minority government of South Africa held rigid belief and absurd assumption that due to the ignorant nature of the blacks, any protests staged by the blacks would be instigated and controlled by a small group of leaders. Hence, this led the authorities to divert their attack on the leadership of the Africa National Congress (ANC). In actuality, he was merely giving voice to the outrage, prayers and hopes of millions of individuals.
The tendency to label people is not unique to South Africa. Such prejudiced attitudes are at the root of human rights abuses everywhere. By lumping people into categories, our ability to imagine their thoughts and feelings is stunted. We can longer put ourselves in their shoes. We stop recognizing them as individuals, as our fellow beings. They are there in front of us, but we do not see them.
[One By One, Pg 38]
It is a dream of Mandela to transform South Africa into a land ruled neither by blacks nor whites. What he hopes for is a "rainbow nation" in which all people enjoy equal treatments. From the dock at the opening of the defence case in the trial on 20 April 1964 at Pretoria Supreme Court, Mandela closed his statement with these words: "During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
Herein, we wish to borrow an infamous quote of SSA Young Men Division Chief Khoo Ghee Han: "Whether you like it or not, we represent the organization!" Let’s not jump into blaming Ghee Han for making such audacious and domineering remarks. It is natural to believe that these words were not sprouted out from his sudden whim but as a result of previously held conception. This idea of representing the organization should have been rehearsed for umpteen times in his mind after being emboldened by his peers’ agreement. To speak simply, it is no longer the notion of representing the organization upheld alone by Ghee Han but by all of his peers in the top leadership.
The representatives of the association were empowered by the general masses. The empowerment was borrowed from the people and it should not be robbed from the people. It will be a sad blunder on the part of the top leaders to harbor opinion that the empowerment comes naturally and without the requirement of hard earned efforts. It is all because what that are contained within the empowerment are 'trust and respect'. Once trust and respect are violated, what transpires are despotism and oppression. It will cease its existence of a peace loving organization of the people, for the people and by the people.
In the conclusion, President Ikeda writes:
The most profound philosophies are born in those who have endured the most severe oppression. In Mandela's own words, "It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man's freedom is a prisoner of hatred; he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness... The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.
[One By One, Pg 42]
During the recent Annual General Meeting of SSA held at it’s headquarter building, the Management Committee further exerted its intimidation towards those whom patronize the Hosshaku Kempon Facebook. It further demonstrated its stance that it would not condone the act of the patrons. To coerce another to stop or remove his/her Facebook posting is the action of oppressor, a prisoner of hatred who robs another of their freedom. Let’s exercise prudence not to fall into the same life-state of the prejudiced and narrow-mindedness. In contrast, we have to manifest the life-state of absolute freedom to liberate both the oppressor and the oppressed.