Narrating the legend of Sang Nila Utama who threw his crown into the sea in order to save his crew, President Ikeda wrote:
“This is indeed a fitting legend for Singapore, the noble land of capable people. A fancy crown is unimportant. What matters is advancing with the spirit of a lion for the sake of one’s friends and others, never fearing the harshest adversity. The crown of true champions of the people sparkles on the heads of youth who have this spirit.”
In the midst of the Jubilee SG50 celebration, let us reaffirm our vow as Bodhisattvas of the Earth in this garden city of Singapore, to be uncrowned heroes who worked tirelessly for the happiness of fellow Singaporeans and the advancement of kosen-rufu in this country we hold so dear!
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Singapore, also known as the garden city, has developed from a small fishing village with only a few hundred people to today’s bustling city full of skyscapers in just two centuries
SGI PRESIDENT IKEDA’S GUIDANCE
THE SKYSCRAPERS OF SINGAPORE
SGI President Ikeda’s Guidance for the Future Division - Spread Your Wings toward the Future
A series of encouragement from SGI President Ikeda addressing members of the junior high and high school divisions.
A youthful life entails growing boldly and courageously, reaching for the sky. Those who are youthful soar limitlessly in their own unique way, at their own pace.
The cityscape of Singapore has this dynamic youthful spirit.
In between various engagements, I viewed the skyscrapers of the city shooting into the tropical sky. A colorful rainbow also stretched across the sky as if celebrating the future of this small yet mighty country that has grown so vibrantly while harmonizing diverse cultures.
A dear friend of mine, President David Tay of The Photographic Society of Singapore, said that he believes that photographs can capture not only physical phenomena, but also our dreams.
Envisioning a great dream for the future of the youthful and growing city-state of Singapore, I pressed the shutter on my camera.
* * *
Singapore, which has overcome numerous difficulties and obstacles as it developed, is known as the Lion City. A statue of a merlion, with the head of a lion and the body of a fish, is the symbol of this maritime nation.
Why has Singapore come to be called the Lion City?
According to legend, a young king was sailing the seas with his crew in order to build a new capital when they came upon a beautiful island. But when they saw that island in the far distance, a storm assailed their ship. The crew tossed whatever they could overboard to lighten their load. Even so, their ship was on the verge of sinking. Was there nothing else they could throw overboard? At that moment, the king, wishing to save his crew’s life, tossed his crown into the sea. The storm instantly abated, and the ship and all its passengers made their way safely to the island.
When they landed, they encountered a magnificent lion. The king, wishing that his new capital would be like the lion—the king of beasts—named the island Singapura, the Lion City. This is the legend of Singapore’s origin.
This is indeed a fitting legend for Singapore, the noble land of capable people. A fancy crown is unimportant. What matters is advancing with the spirit of a lion for the sake of one’s friends and others, never fearing the harshest adversity. The crown of true champions of the people sparkles on the heads of youth who have this spirit.
* * *
Looking at a map of the world, we see that Singapore is located at one degree north latitude, on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, almost directly on the Equator. Relatively small in area—about 700 square kilometers (about 270 square miles)—its beauty has led it to be dubbed the “Jewel of the Southern Ocean.” I have visited this bustling republic three times.
The population of 5.4 million is comprised of three main ethnic groups—Chinese, Malay, and Indian—as well as Eurasian and other ethnicities. The multilingual and multicultural city-state has the strongest economy in Asia and is one of the world’s leaders.
Singapore began as a small fishing village, but located at the crossroads of the eastern and western civilizations, it connects the Pacific and Indian oceans and quickly grew as a center for trade. When it was a British colony, numerous immigrants came to Singapore to earn their living, making the city-state what it is today.
During World War II, Japan invaded Singapore, and under its oppressive military rule, many suffered and lost their lives.
After the war, Singapore sought its independence. Until 1963, it remained a self-governing state within the British Commonwealth, but then it joined the Federation of Malaysia, gaining its independence from the British.
However, two years later, in 1965, the Malaysian Parliament suddenly voted to expel Singapore from the Federation of Malaysia. This was the beginning of a perilous road for Singapore, which had few natural resources.
The city-state lacked both sufficient food and water. How could a nation without such basic resources survive? How could a country made up of several different ethnic groups overcome the obstacles it faced?
The people of Singapore decided to make the most of their human resources, and rallied together in unity.
* * *
The first prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew (1), took the lead at this time. He is someone from whom many leaders of other countries seek advice. I met him on my first visit to Singapore in 1988, and we spoke of the world’s future.
Mr. Lee studied diligently in his youth. But when all the schools were closed by the occupying Japanese forces, he was forced to interrupt his education.
After the war, he went to study at Cambridge University in the U.K., where he applied himself assiduously, pledging that he would become the best in his class. And in his final examinations, he fulfilled his vow, receiving the highest score and graduating with honors.
The dean of Cambridge warmly encouraged young Mr. Lee, speaking to him about how to live a good life. He told him to remember that: “What is past is past. What has happened has happened. That is that. It’s the future that counts, that makes life worth living.” (2)
With that advice of the dean engraved in his heart, Mr. Lee looked to the future and continued to strive with persistence.
Eventually, he was elected as prime minister and set about building a society in which everyone, regardless of their origins or social status, had the opportunity to succeed. Focusing on peace and security and promoting education, he fostered many capable people while also attracting the world’s top companies and talents to Singapore. The nation of capable individuals built through the unity of the people of Singapore grew and developed into one of the economic giants of the world.
* * *
Singapore Soka Association (SSA) members have worked hard to overcome the misconceptions and lack of understanding of their fellow citizens. Many were still hostile toward Japan due to its wartime experiences and were suspicious of the Soka Gakkai as a religious organization originating from a country that once invaded it. They have done this by striving tirelessly for the happiness of one individual after another and the prosperity of their society.
Today, the SSA is fully recognized as one of Singapore’s representative groups, and its members are annually invited by the government to perform at their National Day event celebrating Singapore’s independence. As model citizens of Singapore and the world, the members of SSA are burning with a lionhearted spirit as they expand their network for peace, culture, and education.
When I met with then Singapore President S. R. Nathan in 2000, he praised the performances of the SSA members, as well as those of Soka Gakkai Malaysia (SGM) members, which he also saw. He said he had always been impressed, not only by their wonderful presentation, but by the fact that young people were taking a leading role in these performances.
Considering the history and bright future of Singapore in fostering capable people, I founded a Soka kindergarten there in 1993.
As its founder, I have visited it a number of times, shaken hands with its bright-eyed students, and created many fond memories with them. Classes there are conducted in both Chinese and English.
I am overjoyed to see how the kindergarten’s graduates are now making wonderful contributions to society in Singapore and around the world. Some of them have gone on to study at Soka University in Japan and Soka University of America.
* * *
This month (November 2014) marks 70 years since Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the founder of our Soka movement, passed away (in 1944). Imprisoned by the militaristic Japanese authorities, Mr. Makiguchi never abandoned his convictions. He gave his life for truth and justice and died in prison for his beliefs.
In his revolutionary work Jinsei Chirigaku (The Geography of Human Life), written over 100 years ago, Mr. Makiguchi called for engaging in exchange with other nations as neighbors in the spirit of global citizens. He stressed that we should be aware that we are citizens of our local community, citizens of our country, and citizens of the world.
Being grounded in one’s community connects one to the larger world. For you, your community is, first, your family—your mother and father, your brothers and sisters; then, it is your school—your classmates, teachers, and friends.
In addition, there are SGI members in your area who are looking forward to your growth. They are also part of your community.
People who realize that they are supported by many others, and who appreciate the people in their lives, can forge a connection to the world. In addition, I hope you will all study foreign languages, because they are a passport for global citizens.
Humanity is waiting for many global citizens to grow vigorously and confidently. As the proud successors to the first three Soka Gakkai presidents, each of you has a precious mission to step up and take your place among those global citizens in the future.
* * *
I have presented the Singapore members with a poem. In it, there are the following stanzas:
Children of the lion,
gazing steadily upon the future,
you must know that those who are strong
are so because of ceaseless training…
Strive always to challenge
the problems of today.
Devote yourselves wholeheartedly
to the mission that you find before you.
This is where your training is to be found,
bringing forth the brilliant crown
of eventual victory. (3)
* * *
Youth and life are a struggle. They are a continual struggle against being intimidated by harsh circumstances or letting barriers to stand in one’s way.
Don’t allow the past to hold you back. Just win in the present. A new challenge begins from this day, from this moment.
Nichiren Daishonin often writes of the “heart of a lion.” For example, he says: “Those with the heart of a lion king are sure to attain Buddhahood” (WND-1, 302), and “Each of you should summon up the courage [lit. heart] of a lion king and never succumb to threats from anyone. The lion king fears no other beast, nor do its cubs. Slanderers are like barking foxes, but Nichiren’s followers are like roaring lions” (WND-1, 997).
In other words, a lion king is a courageous person.
What is courage? It is the spirit to never be defeated, to get up again each time you’re knocked down. It is the spirit to challenge yourself, pouring all your strength into each problem that arises in front of you. And it is the spirit to keep seeking and striving, to continuously polish and perfect yourself day after day.
The Daishonin also explains: “The word shishi, or ‘lion,’ is made up of two elements, the first shi, which can be taken to mean a teacher, and the second shi, which can be taken to mean a disciple” (OTT, 168). When teacher and disciple are united in spirit, supreme courage, wisdom, and strength well up from within.
Mr. Makiguchi had Mr. Toda as his disciple; Mr. Toda had me as his disciple; and I have all of you as my disciples. That’s why we, Soka mentors and disciples, have nothing to fear!
1 Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew passed away on March 23, 2015, at the age of 91.
2 Alex Josey, Lee Kuan Yew: The Struggle for Singapore (London: Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1980), p. 32.
3 Daisaku Ikeda, Songs of Victory (Tokyo: NSIC, 1988), pp. 198–199.
(Translated from the November 1, 2014, issue of the Mirai [Future] Journal, the Soka Gakkai monthly newspaper for the junior high and high school divisions)