Looking up, I see sunlight glimmering through the leaves.
The trees of Oirase stand like venerable, wise persons.
Gazing upward from the streambed where I stand, I see deep-green leaves of August, filled with life, extending from treetops and branches toward small patches of blue sky.
Nothing is more deserving of praise than a tree that has endured.
Beauty approaching divinity.
Not a thing is missing. Perfection. Its trunk, massive. Its bark, thick.
In Japanese it is called mizunara--water oak.
Its name derives from the large amount of water it stores.
These trees grow to 100 feet in height; I am told that their average age is around 300 years.
As I gaze upward, the constant murmur of the mountain stream cleanses my ears, punctuated from time to time with the chirping of birds.
Could there be a bird that does not sing?
Could there be a tree that does not reach toward the heavens?
The tree stakes its very existence on just one thing. It wants only to fully display the power it has hidden within.
"I will live my life! I will fully extend and perfect my life!"
Without confusion or hesitation, proud, majestic, the tree lives life as it is, true to itself.
And in the land of Oirase, such noble trees line the streambeds in "green groves." And the name Aomori, the prefecture in which Oirase is located, means "green groves."
It was my first visit to Aomori in 15 years. Summer, 1994. I had flown from Sapporo on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido to the airport in Misawa. From there, I made my way to one of Soka Gakkai's centers in the Tohoku region.
My last visit had been in January 1979. At that time the Soka Gakkai, and I personally, had been forging ahead through an intense blizzard of opposition and difficulty. It was a time in which those characterized in the Lotus Sutra as "the devil and the devil's people" were running amok.
But the members endured that long, long winter.
They gritted their teeth and persevered for 15 years. Before the indomitable light of the sun of justice, the sordid ice of turpitude melted to nothing. The "grove" of capable and victorious friends thrived vibrantly.
About 1,000 feet below the grounds of the center flows a mountain stream of Oirase.
While talking with my precious friends of the Tohoku region, I walked among this beautiful natural setting, a masterpiece of nature.
A cool, clear stream. Glistening spray emerging where it meets the mossy rocks. As the waves pound the boulders, they yield white foam, then once again calmly return to the glassy green pool.
The contours of the earth form rapids, pools, waterfalls--constantly changing vistas.
On the sloping banks of the ravine, yellow and white flowers bloom, leaning toward the current. Fallen trees lie dampened by the flow.
In places, the growing trees have come up against heavy boulders, sometimes displacing them, or else breaking them or even lifting them upward.
What tenacity! They simply keep pressing skyward, straight toward the heavens, no matter what may get in their way. The taller they grow, the deeper they sink their roots into the earth.
In this way, a tree is a bridge that connects heaven and earth. Though small, this bridge is thoroughly alive--a living antenna by which the earth converses with the cosmos.
All in the universe is a continuous struggle. So it is with the growth of plants and trees. Winning that struggle, they grow green and flourish.
In the growth rings of this oak are engraved a history of all its hardships, all its struggles and all its glorious triumphs. Recorded are winters when branches bow under the weight of snow, as well as summers of joyous profusion.
The cracks in its bark give it the appearance of the wrinkled, sun-tanned skin of a mature man. To this tree, I ask in my heart, "Wouldn't you like to go somewhere else some day?"
But the tree seems to smile warmly and reply: "Of course not! This is my place! It is here that I have struggled and won! Could there be any greater place than this?"
Ah! Precious tree--always endowed and ever abiding in the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light. Your proud form reminds me of a great philosopher who is awakened to the truth of the universe.
[Adapted from an essay in Our Beautiful Earth: Photos and Essays of My Travels, by Daisaku Ikeda, April 2, 2000, Seikyo Press, Tokyo, Japan.]