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The Brilliant Path of Worldwide Kosen-rufu

Volume 15: Chapter Two—Soka University

Chapter Summary

Illustration courtesy of Seikyo Press.

Soka University opened on April 2, 1971, in Hachioji, Tokyo. Shin’ichi Yamamoto had devoted himself wholeheartedly to the task of constructing this university, a vision he inherited from his mentors, first and second Soka Gakkai Presidents Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda.

Acknowledging the university’s autonomy, however, Shin’ichi did not attend the opening or entrance ceremonies.

In May 1971, after a Soka Gakkai young women’s sports event at the university, Shin’ichi informally met with student representatives, encouraging them: “Soka University is a student-centered university. I therefore hope you will boldly take on every challenge with the awareness that you are the university’s leaders, you are its main protagonists” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 15, p. 114).

With this, students of the university’s first class strove to develop the school with the same sense of responsibility as their founder.

At the same time, however, a group of faculty members felt that the university should distance itself from Shin’ichi, as he was also president of the Soka Gakkai.

As a result, the students took the initiative to officially welcome their founder by inviting him to their student festival, the Soka University Festival, which he attended. The next year, in July 1972, Shin’ichi attended the Takiyama Festival, hosted by students living in the dormitories.

That fall, after agonizing over the decision, Soka University’s Board of Directors informed the students of a plan to increase tuition. The students opposed this plan, explaining that they had not been included in the process and that this went against the founder’s aim to create a student-centered university. As a result, the board cancelled the tuition hike.

After this, a student committee was established to assess the university’s financial situation, and eventually the students proposed raising the tuition to keep the university up to par with the changing economy.

In 1973, Shin’ichi attended the university’s entrance ceremony for the first time. On this occasion, he urged the students to become creative individuals who exemplify the university’s aim to foster individuals who contribute to humanity and the happiness of all people.

That July, at the Takiyama Festival, Shin’ichi performed the bon-odori folk dance with the students, and heartily hit the taiko drums until his skin began to peel. He poured his entire being into encouraging the students.

Later that fall at a reception for roughly 700 business leaders held during the Soka University Festival, Shin’ichi met with each of the guests. He personally greeted and handed his business card to each person, determined to make inroads for students’ employment prospects.

In March 1975, at the university’s first commencement ceremony, Shin’ichi called on the graduates to never forget the deep bonds they had created. Due to his tireless efforts to foster them, countless Soka University graduates have developed into leaders who are contributing to their respective fields in cities all around the world.

Unforgettable Scene

Illustration courtesy of Seikyo Press.

“First, Win With Your Minds, Then With Your Ability”

Soka University’s Baseball Club was founded in the same year as the university’s official opening in 1971. In May 1975, the team was invited to watch a friendly exhibition game between the teaching staff of Soka University and the Soka Junior and Senior High Schools. At the event Shin’ichi Yamamoto gave them the following guidance.

Filled with high expectations for their futures, Shin’ichi said: “I hope you will become a team whose dynamic spirit is admired and appreciated by all. Both Soka University and the baseball club are still in their infancy, and I’m sure you are undergoing much hardship. Experiencing such difficulty, however, is of utmost importance for your growth.” …

One member of the club spoke up, “What should we do when a game is going badly for us and we are taking a real beating?”

“When you’re in trouble like that,” Shin’ichi replied, “you should all come together and renew your resolve to do your best. This is true in both baseball and life. When you are defeated in any struggle, it’s actually because you have defeated yourselves before your opponent has. You mustn’t allow yourselves to succumb to pressure or adverse circumstances. That’s the time to refresh your commitment to winning and reignite your burning desire for victory.”

When the game finished, Shin’ichi said: “Let’s practice together. I’ll hit balls to you.” The club members chased down Shin’ichi’s hits with all their might, firmly gripping each fielded ball.

With each catch, Shin’ichi would shout: “Great!” or “Nice catch!”

The club members may in fact have been catching the sincere hopes and expectations of their school’s founder. Some even had tears in their eyes as they fielded Shin’ichi’s hits.

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The Soka University Baseball Club went on to establish an illustrious record, winning numerous league championships as well as making a good showing in the national tournament. Some of the club members even went on to become professional ballplayers.

In later years, as an expression of his hopes for the club’s victory and glory, Shin’ichi offered them the following guidance: “First, win with your minds, then win with your ability. Practice is the game, and the game is practice.” The tradition of building one’s character through baseball was steadily created at Soka University with the support of the school’s founder. (NHR-15, 125–28)

Illustration courtesy of Seikyo Press.

Soka University Students Are My Life

In the autumn of 1973, on the opening day of Soka University’s student festival, a reception was held for business leaders and representatives of the press. Upon arrival, Shin’ichi immediately started to greet the guests individually, exchanging business cards and engaging them in conversation.

Each time he handed someone his card, Shin’ichi bowed and said: “I am Shin’ichi Yamamoto. Thank you for coming. Next year our graduates will be looking for jobs. They are Soka University’s first class, so I hope you will support them and give them any advice you may have.” …

Shin’ichi was in earnest. He knew that if the students had attended more established schools, they would have had a greater advantage in job hunting and could probably gain employment in the company of their choice. He was also keenly aware that they had chosen to come to the school he had founded despite the fact that they were unlikely to enjoy such benefits. That was why he wished to meet directly with business leaders and sincerely ask their assistance in supporting Soka University graduates. He felt that this was his duty as the university’s founder, and he was deeply committed to carrying it out …

Shin’ichi walked around the room in an attempt to meet each of the 700 guests in attendance. As he made his way, speaking with everyone, he began to perspire heavily.

Some people might question why he was exerting himself to that extent, but a new path cannot be blazed without such all-out effort. Opening a way forward requires changing one’s mind-set.

Shin’ichi asked one of the guests: “Did you see any of the Soka University Festival? I’m curious to know your honest impressions.”

The guest replied: “At most university festivals these days, anything goes as long as it is entertaining. But this one was different. In many cases, the students had clearly studied their chosen topics for their displays and presented their conclusions in a forthright manner. I also sensed their strong desire for social justice, which is how students should be. I am looking forward to Soka University graduates taking their place in society.”

“Thank you for your kind words,” Shin’ichi said. “I will share them with the students. Soka University students are my life. They are all very pure-hearted and have infinite potential. Please assist them in the future.” (NHR-15, 206–07)

Key Passages

Academic study and achievements are not merely to be tools for personal advancement. They should be used in the pursuit of happiness for others, and university study should be devoted to serving and contributing to the lives of those who could not pursue advanced learning themselves. (NHR-15, 101)

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Education starts with teachers. Their character is the source of the value creation that is education. In that sense, teachers themselves constitute the students’ primary educational environment. (NHR-15, 187)

Volume 15: Chapter One—Revitalization

Volume 15: Chapter Three—Flowering