Soka Gakkai Eternal Guidelines for the 21st Century

I will explain why the Soka Gakkai and the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) emphasize "Peace, Culture and Education." EDUCATION: Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, an elementary school principal, established the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (Society for Value Creating Education) in 1930 with the help of Josei Toda who was also an elementary school teacher. In his epoch-making book, "The System of Value Creating Education," Makiguchi warned that the Japanese educational system had no goal. It only taught techniques of reading, writing and arithmetic and the students were required only to memorize facts. Makiguchi declared that the goal of education should be "to make students HAPPY, not only in the class room but also for the rest of life." He emphasized "Wisdom" is more important than "Knowledge" in order to become happy. Makiguchi further elaborated that students are happy when they are CREATING something in their work. In order to be creative, education should not be limited to the class room alone. Students should learn from their community where the rest of people are engaged in their actual work to make their living. Teachers are the immediate environment for students. Teachers must first become happy in order to show students how to become happy. Then, Makiguchi hit a dilemma: What is happiness? How could he himself become happy? He searched for the answer and found it. It was Nichiren Buddhism which was founded by Nichiren Daishonin (a monk in the 13th century Japan) based upon the Lotus Sutra, the highest teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha (also known as Gautama Budda who started Buddhism in India in the 5th century BC). Nichiren taught that everyone has a 'Buddha Nature' which is the potential to become a Buddha. Since everyone is a potential Buddha, each and every individual is respect-worthy and precious. Everyone's life is equally precious - regardless of that person's gender, wealth or poverty, social status, or education. When these principles are taught and respected in a nation, peace will prevail in the nation and the people will become happy. Nichiren then taught that people can recognize their innate Buddha Nature by chanting repeatedly "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo," which was the most appropriate way of practicing the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. Originally, the purpose of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai was to spread the method of "Value Creating Education" among teachers. Before WWII, the membership consisted of 3,000 teachers and their families. PEACE: Around that time, the Japanese militaristic government was invading China and preparing for a larger scale of war. To Makiguchi, war was the absolute evil, because it destroys the happiness of all people. Since Buddhism teaches the absolute preciousness of all life forms, Makiguchi publicly declared his anti-war stance against the government and the Shinto religion upon which the militarism was based. Makiguchi and Toda were imprisoned as thought criminals during WWII, and Makiguchi died in 1944 for his protest against militarism and Shintoism. After WWII, Toda took the leadership and changed the name of the organization to Soka Gakkai. He eliminated the term "Kyoiku" (education) to emphasize that Nichiren Buddhism should not be limited to teachers alone, but should be for everyone. He fought against established authorities which supported WWII, especially other religious organizations, all of which cooperated with the war effort of Japan. Toda's goal was to spread this peaceful teaching throughout Japan and then to Asian countries where Japanese militarism slaughtered countless human beings and destroyed their villages and cities. In 1957, several months before his death, Toda declared, "the nuclear bomb is the Satanic Evil which threaten the rights of all human beings to live. Therefore, the Soka Gakkai will ETERNALLY fight against this evil." Daisaku Ikeda, a disciple of Toda, became the 3rd president of the Soka Gakkai in 1960. His goal was to continue Toda's effort to spread Nichiren Buddhism throughout the world to bring eternal peace on earth. Five months after he became the president, he started his campaign to visit foreign countries to encourage members living there. To date, he has made more than 160 foreign trips and visited 44 countries. He single-handedly encouraged members in these countries to stand up to work for the sake of world peace. These members, who met Ikeda and were moved by his strong determination and sincerity, decided to take the same path. All of them recognized that without world peace, there WILL BE NO individual happiness. Today, we have members in many countries, including several ex-communist countries, chanting Nam-Myoho-renge-kyo and working for world peace. Ikeda believes that "Education" is the key to bring eternal world peace. Everyone in the world should learn the preciousness and sacredness of human life through education. Everyone should learn that human life can only be protected when our natural environment - animals, plants, food, water and air - are protected. The maintenance of peace and the protection of our environment can only be accomplished when the appropriate education which emphasizes these two aspects are adopted. Ikeda established schools for the "Soka Educational System" which Makiguchi and Toda dreamed about. He founded Soka Kindergarten, Soka Jr. and Sr. High schools and Soka University in Japan. Then, Soka Kindergartens were built in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia and so on. All these schools do not aim at providing any special religious education. They are regular schools, except that the emphasis on creativity and the principles of establishing the preciousness of human life and the protection of natural environment are the backbones of their education. All these schools emphasize exchange programs with foreign schools. Students and teachers from around the world are frequently invited to these Soka Schools, and Soka School teachers and students themselves visit foreign schools and have been enrolled in exchange programs. Ikeda believes that establishing mutual friendship among people with different religions, ethnic backgrounds and cultures is the key for eternal world peace. CULTURE A "Religion" is like the earth and "Culture" is like the flower which blossoms on the earth. Underneath all human endeavors, be they art, language, literature, scholastic work or custom, there has always been the development of spirituality and vitality of human lives which were created and supported by religions. At the end of the 2nd millennium, if we look backward to the past 2,000 year history of human civilization, we will be shocked to recognize that history has been nothing but conflict and violence between different cultures, ethnicity, and in particular, religions. Even during the Twentieth century, 200 million people, most of them women and children, were killed simply because they happened to embrace DIFFERENT beliefs, or belong to different ethnic groups or nations!! The Soka Gakkai and the SGI believe that we can establish world peace only when we can build a NEW CULTURE, which transcends the difference of "ethnicity" or "nation" and identifies all human beings as ONE RACE. The eternal goal of the Soka Gakkai and the SGI is to create such a new culture which is "For human beings" and "For peace", not "For a government" and not "For the authority." Only with the power of such new culture, we can overcome the current world situation, which is split by authoritarian nationalism and narrow-minded, intolerant ethnocentricity, and is suffering from violence and intolerance. This is the reason why the Soka Gakkai and the SGI emphasize cultural exchange among different countries. In Japan, we have the Min-On music association, the Fuji Art Museum, the Tokyo-Fuji Art Museum and the Institute of Oriental Philosophy. Through these organizations, vigorous cultural, exchange activities have been conducted which have contributed to the mutual understanding among peoples with different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Ikeda (now as the honorary president of the Soka Gakkai and the president of the SGI) himself has engaged in dialogues with leaders of the world, which include historians, scholars, physicians, psychologists, novelists, human-rights activists, peace activists, pioneers of new social movements and politicians. These dialogues were published . Ikeda is showing through his action that WORLD PEACE can be achieved by EDUCATION and CULTURAL EXCHANGE. All SGI members are trying to follow the same path to the best of their ability.