Our History

UCLA—Uncovering the Greater Self

JOE SOHM / VISIONS OF AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES


In the spring of 1974, the Watergate scandal dominated the news, and the U.S. was still a year away from ending its involvement in the Vietnam War. Meanwhile, fresh in people’s minds were the tragic assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy six years earlier.

It was in this milieu that, on April 1, 1974, Soka Gakkai President Ikeda delivered his first overseas university lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles, shortly after 3 p.m. In Japan, it was just past 7 a.m. on April 2, the day his mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, passed away 16 years before.

As President Ikeda took the podium, he addressed the students—youth perhaps disillusioned by the current of the times—offering his deepest respect to them as people who would shoulder the future not only of America but also the entire world in the 21st century.

For that reason, he told them, “I would like to speak to you not as a lecturer at a podium, but as one friend talking to another about the future” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 19, p. 174).

President Ikeda delivers his first overseas university lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles, April 1, 1974. Photo by Seikyo Press.

In his 75-minute speech titled “The Enduring Self,” President Ikeda introduced ideas that were fairly unknown in Western society. He sought to convey the Buddhist view that all phenomena are impermanent—that human beings suffer because they grow attached to and become shackled by their fleeting desires.

He called for a shift from a civilization dominated by concerns of the “lesser self” to one based on the “greater self.”

“The 21st century must be a century of life, a century in which life is valued to the utmost,” he said. “Realizing the dream of a civilization that celebrates humanity depends on whether we can uncover the true nature of life, which is eternal, unchanging and invincible” (p. 177).

On his way to the hotel after his lecture, he resolved deep in his heart: “As Mr. Toda wished, for the sake of peace and the happiness of people everywhere, I will continue to speak at universities around the globe in order to advocate the wisdom of Buddhism toward realizing a bright future for humanity” (p. 180).

Continually reinforcing the Buddhist themes of compassion and respect for the sanctity of life, President Ikeda has delivered 32 overseas lectures at such academic institutions as Harvard University, Columbia University’s Teachers College, Peking University, Moscow State University, University of Bologna and Institut de France.

One year after his UCLA address, President Ikeda received his first honorary doctorate from an educational institution of higher learning—Moscow State University—for his efforts in the realm of education. He has received 385 such honors to date.

On Jan. 2, 2018, the Chicago-based DePaul University, the nation’s largest Catholic University, introduced the first master’s in education of its kind—Value-Creating Education for Global Citizenship. The Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies in Education was thereby launched on Jan. 2, the 90th birthday of Daisaku Ikeda, founder of the Soka schools system.

The program offers a comprehensive examination of the educational philosophies and practices of Soka educators Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda. WT