Another View of Ikeda 

By Mona

I would like to tell you all about a small incident that happened to me years ago. I happened to be in London for a few days, where I bumped into an old friend whom I had tried to shakubuku a few years earlier.

He had been a student at Eton, the infamous elite boarding school where they actually wear tuxedos to class. Since then, he had graduated from school and was working in London. He asked me how I was and if I still practiced that Buddhism. Harry (not his real name) wanted to talk to me more about it and asked me if we could meet for dinner the next day to discuss it. I told him that I would love to but that I was on my way to Paris for the weekend.

Somehow he managed to find out the details of my trip from someone else and to my surprise showed up in Paris a day later. Now it was difficult to find me because I was staying at a no-name cheap motel. But he managed to do so. This time he invited me to lunch at his five-star hotel. This was Paris in the middle of a summer heat wave and I was glad to go anywhere that even hinted that it may have air conditioning.

Naturally, I was also happy to talk to him about Buddhism. He was interested in everything I said and asked me one question after another. Did I mention that I was in Paris for the weekend? Well, it was my first time there and I really did want to get some more sightseeing done, but Harry wanted to talk to me about Pres. Ikeda. So our lunch turned into tea and then dinner. I couldn’t believe that I spent one whole day out of my three days in Paris doing shakubuku.

Oh well, I was on vacation and my next stop was Spain. My sister lives there and so I planned on staying there for at least two weeks. So the next week, in Spain, while I was planning what to do for the weekend with my sister, she says, “Oh, I forgot to tell you — your friend Harry called and he is coming here for the weekend.”

Now when a guy follows a girl from London, to Paris, to Spain, one wonders if he is really interested in only Buddhism. Harry shows up as promised, with another guy Tom (not his real name). Tom was Harry’s classmate at Eton and a count. They both wanted to know all they could about this Buddhism. This time they were in a hurry, because Harry had some important work to do in London. After a couple of hours, I asked them if they would like to chant with me. They said they weren’t interested in chanting. I said, “What? What was all this questioning about?” Harry says “Mona, you keep on talking about this Daisaku Ikeda and we wanted to know more about him. You see in our world, his name comes up often and knowing about him really helps. Things like that are important for us to make it to the top. But frankly if I may be so bold, you really don’t know about him.”

Well, that upset me, and I said “What do you mean? He is my mentor, I have followed him for years and met him and even traveled with him, and you say I don’t know him?”

Then Harry said something to me that really made me think — he said “The problem is that you see him as a Buddhist leader; you read his books because he is your leader. You look at him as a religious man, but have you ever thought that many people would be interested in the non-Buddhist aspects? He is a great writer and has a lot to say. He is very well-respected among the intellects of the world. We came all this way because we thought you could really teach us about what a great man he is, however your viewpoint of him is so narrow-minded, you only see him from a certain angle.”

At this point, I was really angry, but I realized that they may have a point. I decided to read Sensei’s books with this point in mind.

These guys were right, they knew what they were talking about. They helped me open my mind

So what happened to Harry and Tom? These guys that knew what was necessary to make it to the top, did just that. By the age of 30, Harry was vice-president of one of the largest investment firms in the world. His company saw that he knew a lot about Japan and even send him to Tokyo for year. During his stay in Tokyo, he lived in the most expensive part of the city, yet managed to have a five-car garage. He retired at the age of 35 and now lives in his own huge chalet in the outskirts of London with his wife and kids.

Tom doesn’t have the expense of kids and so he was able to buy a castle at the age of 32. The only big mistake that either of these guys ever made in their lives is that they didn’t choose to marry me! Okay, just joking on that: Harry’s wife is a wonderful person.

Oh, and guess what? Once in a while when they feel the need? They chant.