Celebrating the 90th Anniversary of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi & Josei Toda Taking Faith

Changing the Destiny of Humanity

Plum trees and Lake Toya and Mt.Yotei in Hokkaido. Photo by Getty Images/azuki25.

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi was a forward-thinking geographer, educational theorist and religious reformer, who lived and worked during the tumultuous early decades of Japan’s modern era. Mr. Makiguchi and his disciple, Josei Toda, founded the Soka Gakkai on November 18, 1930. Photo by Seikyo Press.

Founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi dedicated his life to awakening the great potential of people, especially the children in his classrooms. The purpose of the value-creating pedagogy he developed over time was to teach his pupils how to create value in everyday life, thereby constructing happy, fulfilling lives. Hearing of Mr. Makiguchi’s educational philosophy, the young educator Josei Toda sought him out, and they first met in 1920, just after Mr. Toda’s arrival to Tokyo from the northern island of Hokkaido. Mr. Toda immediately took on Mr. Makiguchi as his mentor and, together, they worked to develop a philosophy of education centered on the happiness of each student.

The efforts of these two revolutionaries were in direct opposition to the government’s educational mandate, which aimed for each child to become a pawn in Japan’s imperialist objectives. Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda faced one obstacle after another in their quest to transform the Japanese educational system. And Mr. Makiguchi’s anguish at the condition of his country directed him to seek more effective ways to transform the educational climate.

In June 1928, a colleague introduced him to the teachings of 13th-century Buddhist reformer Nichiren Daishonin. Mr. Makiguchi was particularly impressed by Nichiren’s treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” which was written in dialogue form between a host, representing Nichiren, and a guest, someone inquiring about the state of society and how to discern correct Buddhist teachings from erroneous ones. He seems to have related to the concerns voiced by the guest in the treatise and was convinced by Nichiren’s responses. In that sense, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi was convinced to practice Nichiren Buddhism by Nichiren Daishonin himself.

Immediately after taking faith in Nichiren Buddhism, Mr. Makiguchi convinced his disciple, Josei Toda, to take faith as well. While both men were not naturally inclined to religion, Mr. Makiguchi found that Nichiren’s philosophy gave further depth and power to his theory of value, and Mr. Toda was able to resolve questions of life and death that had bothered him since the passing of his first wife and infant daughter. As they experienced the power of practicing Nichiren Buddhism, they envisioned a movement for educators seeking to reform education, and named it the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, or Value-Creating Education Society. As their conviction in Nichiren Buddhism strengthened, however, the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai shifted its primary focus to studying and propagating Nichiren’s teaching and chant-ing Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

Both Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda never compromised their faith and commitment to Nichiren Buddhism, even when unjustly imprisoned for refusing to compromise their beliefs.

Mr. Makiguchi died a martyr in prison, and Mr. Toda emerged to rebuild the organization as the Soka Gakkai. His disciple, Daisaku Ikeda, cherishing as his own the spirit of these two founders, has led the spread of Nichiren Buddhism on a global scale.

Now, in 2018, 90 years later, SGI members are chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in 192 countries and territories based on the conviction that “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind” (The Human Revolution, p. vii).

At every moment someone in the world is chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, calling forth the Buddha nature in their own lives and from their environment, and contributing to the construction of the harmonious and peaceful world that the founding Soka Gakkai presidents first envisioned.

(pp. 22-23)