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The Tradition of Soka University

These are excerpts from an essay by Daisaku Ikeda first published in Japanese in the Seikyo Shimbun newspaper on March 15, 1998. In Japan, the academic year begins in April. March is the month of graduation and induction ceremonies.

Education, because it shapes future leaders, is our most crucial undertaking.

­In the spring of 1930, Mr. Makiguchi wrote in a letter to a friend: "Recent educational policies as well as classroom teachers have become completely bureaucratic and listless, destroying the whole purpose of education. This places Japan's future in grave peril."

The decline of education brings the moral and spiritual decline of the nation's citizens and of society itself. That is why Mr. Makiguchi called for educational reform and desired more than anything to foster outstanding educators.

On November 18 of the year he wrote that letter, Mr. Makiguchi, together with Josei Toda, founded the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai or Value-Creating Education Society [the forerunner of the present Soka Gakkai].

Mr. Makiguchi believed that the purpose of education is to enable children to live lives of happiness. The vision he cherished of the kind of teacher who would carry out that sacred task is not of someone who sits ensconced on the throne of learning as an object of veneration, but rather of a public servant who guides those aspiring to ascend that throne themselves.

His was a revolutionary cry for humanistic education.

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Mr. Makiguchi often shared this vision with his family members: "In the future, there will be a school system that puts the methods of value-creating education into practice. It will span kindergarten to university level. Young Toda will see to it that my work is carried on."

And Mr. Toda said to me, his disciple, "Daisaku, let's establish a university, Soka University. I hope this can be achieved in my lifetime, but that may not be possible. Should that be the case, Daisaku, I'm counting on you to do it. Let's make it the best university in the world!" This was in the late autumn of 1950. At the time, Mr. Toda's business ventures were in dire straits. And yet he retained the ability to gaze serenely into the distant future.

I consider education to be the culminating undertaking of my life. Unlike Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda, who were both teachers, I never studied as a teacher nor taught in the classroom. Nevertheless, I have been able to establish the Soka educational system and gain recognition for the ideals and principles of value-creating education throughout the world. That has been my mission as their disciple. In this way I have been able to realize the wish of my noble mentors and predecessors.

Mr. Makiguchi's authoritative statement of his educational ideals, Soka Kyoikugaku Taikei (The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy), has so far been translated into four languages. This is the cause of immense joy. And in both Brazil and the United States, a number of schools have incorporated Mr. Makiguchi's ideas into the teaching curriculum, all producing remarkable results. The students are excited about their studies and grades have improved. In Brazil, value-creating education has gained particularly widespread public acceptance. In 1995, there was one school using this method; today [just three years later] there are eighteen.

We are facing a worldwide educational crisis, and over the years Mr. Makiguchi's educational ideas have come to shine as a counterbalancing source of hope, a lifeline in the darkness.

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In what has become a school tradition, I have over the years received many bound volumes of essays written by Soka University students upon graduation. These include essays from students from the very first graduating class through to those of recent years. There are some two-dozen volumes all told. I keep them close to hand and continue to pray for the growth and happiness of each graduate. I frequently go through the essays, asking after their authors; I may send a book, a short message, or a poem to encourage them. For me, each of the graduates is a precious individual, a student who chose to study at the university I founded. The bond we share is one forged through the vows made in our respective youths . . .

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