Jan 22, ’09 4:55 PM
SGI President Ikeda’s Dialogue with Actor Orlando Bloom.
“Welcome, youthful prince of the arts!”—with those warm words, SGI President Ikeda greeted the actor Orlando Bloom and friends at the Nagano Training Center in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, on July 30. One of Hollywood’s most promising young stars, Mr. Bloom is an SGI member from the U.K. Enjoying their first meeting with Mr. Bloom,
President and Mrs. Ikeda spoke of many topics with him, including art and life, the importance of family and friends, and environmental and social activism.
Large white clouds drifted slowly through the blue summer sky. At 1:30 P.M., the bus carrying actor Orlando Bloom and his party arrived at the Nagano Training Center.
Stepping off the bus, Mr. Bloom flashed his world-famous smile and waved to greet the members gathered there to welcome him. Just beyond waited SGI President Ikeda, both arms raised in a “V” for victory. Mr. Bloom immediately embraced the SGI leader warmly, after which the two men exchanged a firm handshake. “I am very pleased to welcome one of the world’s leading young artists,” said Mr. Ikeda. “Thank you for coming. You have many friends here in Japan.”
Mr. Bloom replied happily in Japanese, “Arigato!” (Thank you!) “I’ve heard about your wonderful activities,” the SGI leader continued. “I’m sure your mother must be very proud of you.” With a deep nod, the actor said he hoped she was.
The Ikedas then greeted and welcomed those who had accompanied Mr. Bloom, including actress Kate Bosworth; Mr. Bloom’s sister, Samantha Bloom, who is also an actress; his artist friend David Miles; his oldest friend Kris Gifford; and Simbiat Hall. The SGI leader expressed his heartfelt appreciation for their visit, joined by divisional representatives from throughout Japan.
Mr. Bloom, who in addition to his busy schedule as a top Hollywood star actively involves himself in SGI activities, presented Mr. Ikeda with a card in which he had written:
30 July 2006
With the sword of the Lotus Sutra
at my side,
With integrity as my staff,
with you and all the Buddhas of
the ten directions as my mentor,
With kosen-rufu as my goal, I will
climb the mountainous path of the
Mystic Law until I gaze out from the peak.
There I will ready myself with gratitude
for the next adventure.
I look forward to climbing many mountains
lifetime after lifetime at your side.
Sincerely, your disciple and friend,
As he handed President Ikeda the card, he said that in composing his message he had been inspired by the SGI leader’s speeches.
“We are friends and comrades forever,” said Mr. Ikeda. “The playwright August Strindberg wrote: ‘The actor must control the role and not let the role control him.’ The important thing is to remain true to yourself. That’s exactly what you are doing. You don’t define yourself solely in terms of your profession as an actor, of your work—that world is not enough for you. For you are dedicating your life to others, to society, and to the eternal philosophy of Buddhism. That is a very noble, very admirable attitude. It is the most worthwhile kind of life there is.”
Mr. Bloom pledged to make a positive contribution with his life by working to improve society and the world and to live up to the SGI leader’s high expectations.
“Life is long,” replied Mr. Ikeda. “The important thing is to remain true to a lofty goal to the very end. And Buddhism enables you to adorn the final chapter of your life with brilliant success, just as the golden sun colors the sky in glorious crimson hues and beams of sublime light. To do so, you need to keep making an effort year after year and winning year after year. Success today doesn’t automatically guarantee success tomorrow. Final victory is eternal victory. That’s my advice to you as a friend,” concluded the SGI leader in a powerful voice filled with sincerity and earnest concern for his young friend. It was an emotional, deeply moving encounter.
A beautiful display of orchids stood at the entrance to the room where they held their conversation. “In Asia, orchids traditionally symbolize the spirit of welcoming an honored guest,” explained Mr. Ikeda. Indicating Mount Asama, visible from the training center, Mr. Ikeda recalled his memories of gazing at the peak with his mentor Josei Toda, and he went on to tell his guests about the place named Onioshidashi (Devilish Protrusions), an area marked by grotesquely shaped rock formations created by lava flows from the great eruption of Mount Asama in 1783.
During the meeting, President Ikeda personally presented the actor with the Soka Art Award in recognition of his contributions to art and culture, saying:
“Our awards may not be famous or influential, but they are awards from ordinary people who genuinely love culture and art.” With a laugh, the SGI leader added, “My wife said to me earlier that while you’re very handsome in your photos and films, you’re even better looking in person.” Mrs. Ikeda also welcomed the guests, saying how happy she was to meet such wonderful young people and thanking them for taking time out of their busy schedules to meet with them.
Orlando Bloom’s mother Sonia had a strong influence on him. She had a deep love for the arts, and she never failed to encourage and support her son in all his interests, including theater, poetry, painting, and music. The name “Orlando” is said to mean “famous throughout the land” in ancient Teutonic. Lauding Mr. Bloom’s much-deserved fame as an actor throughout not only the land of his birth but the entire world, Mr. Ikeda said: “Your victory is also your mother’s victory. Your mother is truly great. Please give my best regards to her.” Nodding and putting his hand to his heart, Mr. Bloom expressed his gratitude to the SGI leader and reaffirmed his love and appreciation for his mother.
A very active child, Mr. Bloom was always injuring himself. At the age of 21, when he was studying to become an actor at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, he faced a major crisis when he fell from the height of three stories and broke his back. The doctors predicted that he might never walk again, but encouraged by his friends and family, he made a miraculous recovery. The experience also helped him grow enormously as a human being, and he remains grateful to the friends who supported and assisted him through that painful, challenging time.
“Buddhism is the great teaching of human revolution and transforming our karma,” said the SGI leader. “My wife and I and your many friends in Japan will be earnestly praying that you will advance triumphantly through life, continuing to fulfill your great mission in complete safety from now on.” Quoting the Great Teacher Miao-lo’s statement cited by the Daishonin, “The stronger one’s faith, the greater the protection of the gods” (WND, 614), Mr. Ikeda emphasized that if Mr. Bloom continued to pray intensely and deeply to live each day in safety, he would definitely be able to transform his karma in this respect. Then, with a touch of humor, he added: “The next time you have an accident, we’re going to fine you!”—a remark that brought laughter to all present.
Last year, Mr. Bloom presented Mr. Ikeda with a set of DVDs of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in which he had a major role. The movies broke box office records around the world and won numerous academy awards. Based on the J. R. R. Tolkien books, the films tell the story of a group of courageous friends who carry out a noble mission, banding together to fight against a powerful evil and restore true peace to the world. Orlando Bloom played the role of the elf prince and master archer Legolas Greenleaf, and his performance was widely acclaimed by fans everywhere.
When the heroes are surrounded by what appear to be the overwhelming forces of the enemy, Legolas cheers one of them on, saying: “Your friends are with you!” President Ikeda compared this spirit to the camaraderie and fellowship shared by SGI members, and spoke of the importance of advancing into the future together with the same deep ties of friendship.
The day before his meeting with Mr. Ikeda, Orlando Bloom visited Soka University in Hachioji, Tokyo, where he inscribed a card for the prospective students who would visit the campus on the Open Campus Day (July 30) with his autograph and this message:
To the future students of Soka University, Without climbing the mountain you cannot gaze out from the peak. With my very best wishes for your future.
29 July 2006
When this sincere message from a popular Hollywood star was communicated to the youth gathered at the Open Campus orientation meeting, they were encouraged and delighted. Expressing his deep appreciation for Mr. Bloom’s inspiring words to future Soka University and Soka Women’s College students, the schools’ founder said:
A famous Japanese author wrote: ‘Rather than worrying about your future, thinking, “Perhaps I should become this. Perhaps I should become that,” first be still and build a self that is as solid and unmoving as Mount Fuji.’2 My friend Mikhail Gorbachev, the former president of the Soviet Union, keeps one of my photographs of Mount Fuji in hisoffice in Moscow.
‘A life as strong and solid as Mount Fuji’ is our shared motto. I hope that you, Orlando, with your love of mountains, will grow into a brilliant actor shining as majestically as Mount Fuji, and that you build a network of victory and success as lofty as the Himalayas.”
Expressing his thanks for this encouragement, Mr. Bloom mentioned that he hoped to someday climb Mount Everest for charity. Mr. Ikeda recalled taking a photograph of the Himalayas on his visit to Nepal (in November 1995) and presented the actor with a print of it as a memento of their meeting. The photograph shows the mountain peaks glittering gold in the sunset as plumes of smoke rise from homes at the mountain’s foot, signs of villagers cooking the evening meal. Former Nepalese Ambassador to Japan Kedar Bhakta Mathema described the photo as an Impressionist painting and, calling it very imaginative, remarked that while there were many photographs of the mountains, it was the only photo he had seen that captured both the towering peaks and ordinary people’s homes.
The SGI leader noted that Sir Edmund Hillary, who, together with the Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, was the first to successfully scale Mount Everest, had sent him a copy of a book he had authored. President Ikeda cited the mountaineer’s words from another publication: “In the end it is the man himself that counts. When the going gets tough and things go wrong the same qualities are needed to win through as they were in the past—qualities of courage, resourcefulness, the ability to put up with discomfort and hardship, and the enthusiasm to hold tight to an ideal and to see it through with doggedness and determination.”
The ultimate source of all these qualities, concluded President Ikeda, is faith. Mr. Bloom listened intently to his mentor’s every word, as if engraving them on his heart, solemnly stating: “All my questions have been answered.”
Mr. Ikeda then introduced the words of Shakespeare:
Fear no more the lightning-flash,
Nor the all-dreaded thunder-stone;
Fear not slander, censure rash (Cymbeline, Act IV, Scene II)
He added: “I have heard that you, too, have been the target of malicious rumors and false media reports that have been very unpleasant for you. The same has happened to me.
Nichiren Daishonin writes: ‘Worthies and sages are tested by abuse’ (WND, 303). Only an insignificant, lightweight person is always praised and never criticized.”
Nodding deeply, Mr. Bloom expressed his agreement, and President Ikeda continued with greater urgency: “The Soka Gakkai’s founding president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi said: ‘To be despised by fools is the greatest honor.’ The first three presidents of the Soka Gakkai have all fought in this spirit. From the perspective of Buddhism, the present age is a time when people’s spirits are sullied and impure. There are many who are envious of anyone who achieves something positive or worthwhile and they go out of their way to make trouble for them. But you mustn’t let such people stop you. Just keep moving forward, impervious to their assaults.”
The topic returned to films, and Mr. Ikeda mentioned that two films had been made based on his novel series The Human Revolution some three decades ago. The first one, The Human Revolution, opened in September 1973 and was viewed by more than 5 million people. It broke box office records in Japan and received the commendation of the Advisory Council on Children’s Film Viewing. The second film, a sequel titled The Human Revolution II, opened in June 1976 and became an even bigger hit than its predecessor and the top-earning film of that year.
When the SGI leader mentioned that the books had been adapted for film by leading Japanese screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto, who had also written the screenplay for Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, Mr. Bloom expressed surprise and interest. He noted that he was very fond of the characters in the Kurosawa film, saying that he had studied the film for his character Legolas. The young actor was very excited to learn after his meeting with Mr. Ikeda that the late Mr. Toshiro Mifune, one of the film’s leading characters, was a Soka Gakkai member and had a close relationship with the SGI leader.
In spite of his celebrity, Mr. Bloom exhibits an unaffected charm, youthful sincerity, and a powerful desire to learn and improve himself—admirable qualities that no doubt contribute greatly to his skill and popularity as an actor. His discussion with Mr. Ikeda became even warmer, and the SGI leader, saying he hoped they could meet again, asked where he lived. “In a suitcase,” responded Mr. Bloom, provoking the sympathetic laughter of all present. With his busy shooting schedule and other activities, he has little time to relax at home.
“At the moment I have a home in London that I am renovating,” he explained, “and I am going to make it a ‘green house’—as in environmentally friendly.” He continued:
“We came to Japan on this trip as guests of Fuji Rock Festival [in Niigata Prefecture], which launched Global Cool, an environmental organization working for the prevention of global warming and climate change.” Speaking of the problem of global warming, he expressed his personal commitment to working for environmental causes.
Offering a simple but easily comprehensible example, he explained that if everyone in the U.K. and Japan simply unplugged electrical appliances when they weren’t using them, an enormous amount of energy would be saved. Mr. Bloom persuasively compared the power of this change in individual consciousness and behavior to the teaching of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism that each of us has the ability to transform our lives and make a difference in our environment.
“This is a very important issue,” agreed Mr. Ikeda. “If we don’t take action, we will destroy the Earth. Humanity is facing an urgent crisis.” The SGI leader went on to talk of his meeting last year with Nobel Peace laureate and environmentalist Dr. Wangari Maathai of Kenya, and he asserted that improving the environment is one of the top priorities for the future of humanity. With deep feeling, Mr. Bloom said, speaking of the Nagano Training Center: “This is such a beautiful environment. We live on an amazing planet, and we must be certain that we preserve it for our children and grandchildren—and also so that when we come back in our next lifetime and are together again, it will still be here.”
“I am very happy that you are thinking so seriously about humanity’s future, Orlando,” said the SGI leader. “Up to now, people have made industrial and economic growth the top priorities and forgotten the importance of living in harmony and symbiosis with nature. It is time for us to reflect on that and correct it. Buddhism teaches the oneness of life and its environment. Because human beings and the environment are one and indivisible, destroying the environment is the same as destroying humanity.”
Time flew by as the actor and the Buddhist leader talked of many subjects, from films to life, faith, and the future of the human race. As he again reluctantly said farewell,
Mr. Ikeda shook his guest’s hand firmly and said: “You are my true friend and comrade.”
He voiced the hope that they meet again and urged the young man to be well and stay healthy. “I also hope we can meet again,” said Mr. Bloom. “Thank you very much.” And he then stepped back onto the bus, leaving a lasting impression of his unaffected charm.
Orlando Bloom was born on January 13, 1977, in Canterbury, Kent, England. At the age of 16 he went to London, having decided he wished to become an actor. His film debut was in Wilde (1997). Studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, he appeared in numerous productions and mastered the actor’s art. Two days before graduation from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, at the age of 22, he was cast as Legolas in Lord of the Rings. The movies in the series went on to break international box office records, and won several academy awards. With his good looks and skilled portrayal, Mr. Bloom became a star. In addition to the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003), he has appeared in Black Hawk Down (2001), Troy (2004), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Elizabethtown (2005), and the two Pirates of the Caribbean (2003 and 2006) films.
(Translated from the August 7, 2006, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai daily newspaper)
*1 August Strindberg, Open Letters to the Intimate Theater, translated by Walter Johnson (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1966), p. 36.
*2 Eiji Yoshikawa (1892–1962), in his novel Miyamoto Musashi about the 17th-century master swordsman of the same name.
*3 Sir Edmund Hillary, editor, Challenge of the Unknown (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1958)