After College

AFTER COLLEGE

-Hiromasa Ikeda

Just before graduating college, I was talking one day with several schoolmates at a coffee shop near our campus, when the conversation turned to finding employment. The exchange was bright and cheerful: One friend reported being hired by a well-known corporation; another, by a major manufacturer; and another, by a famous department store.

As for me, I had yet to make up my mind about what I would do next. I had considered the possibilities of studying abroad and becoming a scholar but hadn’t settled on anything specific. From then on, though, I prayed more earnestly than ever to the Gohonzon for clarity. Years later, I learned that representatives of several leading firms had directly approached my father to offer me jobs. He never mentioned this to me, however.

It was sometime near the end of my elementary school days, as I recall, that a foreign journalist came to interview my family. At some point in the conversation, my brothers and I were asked, “What kind of person would you like to become when you grow up?” In unison, we replied, “Someone like Daddy!” The interviewer laughed and jokingly said, “Having three Soka Gakkai presidents could be a problem.” At our age, of course, we had no idea what sort of position the president of the Soka Gakkai was, nor did we understand what kind of activities our father was engaged in. We simply knew that we wanted to become like him.

“There is no need for you to become great or famous people,” our father would tell us from time to time, even when we were older. “Actually, I’d prefer that you not. All I care about is that you remain true to the correct path of faith and do your best for the sake of the Soka Gakkai, whatever your position in life. Working devotedly within the Soka Gakkai is directly connected to world peace and every other aspect of life.”

While I was still pondering my career path, my mother commented once after our evening prayers: “Recognizing and repaying debts of gratitude are among the highest human virtues. You owe a great deal to the Soka Gakkai, so please do something to show your appreciation.” With those words, I decided what I had to do.

There was an opening for a social studies teacher at Kansai Soka High School, and I was fortunate enough to be offered the job. My mother supported my decision to accept and said to me: “You were born and raised in Tokyo; instead of staying here, it will be good for you to work hard and experience life away from home. This will be an asset to you in the future.” And so I was off to Osaka, the place where my father had created unforgettable memories in his youth.[1]

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The Soka Gakkai began as a group of educators known as the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, the Value-Creating Education Society. While it has evolved into an organization devoted to the spread of Buddhism, a noted scholar has praised our organization as a “university of humanism.” Indeed, there seems to be no other religious group that encourages not only the study of Buddhism, but also the reading of literary prose and poetry and the singing of songs, utilizing creative ways of learning to introduce and convey the ideals of Buddhism.

When I first awoke to faith in Buddhism, I remember being deeply impressed with President Toda’s statement that reason enhances faith, and faith, in turn, seeks reason. It meant to me that our faith is consistent with sound reason, that the Buddhism we embrace accords with the principles of society.

Both first and second presidents Makiguchi and Toda were educators, and my father, their successor, has poured a tremendous amount of effort and energy into education. He once told me, “President Makiguchi said that, although one function of education is to gain knowledge, its ultimate purpose is to create a happy person.” I have always felt that there is something amiss in a society that overly emphasizes academic credentials and gives little attention to the development of the whole person.

Having these things in mind, naturally I wrestled with the fundamental questions of why, what and how an educator should go about teaching students. Many teachers, of course, simply went forth to teach without giving these concerns much thought. Such was the state of education at the time. The fact that I was able to develop a personal sense of mission as a teacher is something I attribute to those words of Mr. Makiguchi passed along to me by my father. And so I was determined that kansai Soka Schools would become an institution that fully actualizes Mr. Makiguchi’s thoughts, spirit and objectives for education.

My father told me when I was hired to teach: “Please take care of your health and do your absolute best for the schools and each of your students. Setting yourself a goal of ten years, give your all to the endeavor with patience and perseverance. That’s the way to ensure victory for yourself, your students and the schools.”

And my mother said to me: “If this were a time of war, every man would have to join the military and be sent to the battle-front. If you look at it from that perspective, there’s no better time to live that right now, a time of peace. Don’t forget how fortunate you are.”

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In April 1978, on my first day as a teacher at Kansai Soka High School, I was full of energy and enthusiasm. The students, too, were full of life, and the campus also seemed vibrant and alive. I was brimming with appreciation and joy for the opportunity leaders of the twenty-first century, whose eyes glowed with excitement for the future. As I stood in class and addressed my students for the first time, I declared in my heart that I would provide them with an education that would enable every one of them to find happiness.

While I was teaching at Kansai Soka High School, my younger brother Shirohisa completed graduate school at Soka University and joined the faculty there. And my youngest brother, Takahiro, graduated from Soka University and became a teacher at Kansai Soka Elementary School. I remember our father telling us at that time, “The three of you together represent a complete and well-rounded Soka education.” My mother also seemed pleased.

“Education is neither a right nor an obligation. It is a most important mission.” This was the maxim our father, the founder of Soka Schools, gave to us an educators.

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The ten years toward which my father had advised me to aim in my teaching career came to an end in 1988. That year, I left my teaching post and joined the staff of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters. Those ten years seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, yet they are ten golden years I shall never forget.

I am very happy to report that faculty members, both senior and junior to me, with whom I shared sweat and tears working to develop the school, now from the core of Soka education. Also, there is no greater source of pride and joy for a teacher that to witness the growth of one’s students. That is truly a delight unique to those in the teaching profession. And now, as I see my former students active in many fields and disciplines, in their communities as well as in the Soka Schools, I am confident that a might tradition of Soka education has been established.

Published August 9, 2000


[1] In 1956, second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda sent his young disciple, Daisaku Ikeda, to Osaka.

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