Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 28: The Three Founding Presidents and the Path of Mentor and Disciple [28.1]

28.1 The Strength and Kindness of President Makiguchi

President Ikeda has repeatedly stressed that the mentor-disciple relationship in Nichiren Buddhism hinges completely on the disciple. And he has personally demonstrated a brilliant example of this as a disciple of second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda.

In his diary entry for January 7, 1951, a 23-year-old Daisaku Ikeda, then striving single-handedly to support Mr. Toda, whose businesses were in dire straits, wrote: “No matter what hardships may befall me, I will always count as my highest, greatest happiness the honor of having studied under this man [Josei Toda].”

This chapter features selections in which President Ikeda discusses the lofty mentor-disciple spirit shared by the first three Soka Gakkai presidents.

The first installment focuses on the life of founding president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. In addition to being a geographer who authored Jinsei chirigaku (The Geography of Human Life), Mr. Makiguchi was a great educator who served as a principal at several elementary schools and published the work Soka kyoikugaku taikei (The System of Value-Creating Education). Though he never met the organization’s founder, President Ikeda has worked tirelessly to let the world know of Mr. Makiguchi’s noble life and achievements.

Josei Toda was an individual of incomparable strength and unbounded kindness. He had tremendous compassion for the poor and unfortunate. The person who most impressed Mr. Toda was Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, an individual who was also both strong and kind.

On snowy winter days as an elementary school teacher in Hokkaido, Mr. Makiguchi would go out to meet students making their way to school and walk some of them home when the school day was over. He would watch carefully to ensure the weaker children didn’t fall behind the others, sometimes carrying a younger child on his back while leading older ones by the hand. In the mornings, he would prepare warm water to gently soak children’s hands chapped by the cold. “How does that feel? Is that better now?” “Yes, but it stings a little!” What a beautiful, touching scene!

Later, after moving to Tokyo, Mr. Makiguchi became known as an outstanding school principal, but because he refused to curry favor with those in positions of power, they resented him. This led to him being persecuted and transferred from one post to another.

During this period, he was made the principal of a school [Mikasa Elementary School] attended entirely by children from poor families—many so poor that they couldn’t afford umbrellas for their children to protect them from the rain. At his own expense, he provided food, such as bean rice cakes, for the students who couldn’t bring lunches from home—even as he struggled to support his own family of eight. To avoid embarrassing those in need, he set the food out in the janitor’s room, so the children could take it without drawing attention.

In his kindness, he was prepared to do anything to enable children to become happy. He wrote that he was nearly driven to madness by his wish to somehow rescue the children he witnessed suffering under an educational system that stressed rote learning and stifled individuality.1

If the interests of his students were at stake, he would not hesitate to confront the educational authorities. He took action with righteous anger. In one instance, he boldly spoke out against the existing policy of sending school inspectors—who exercised uncontested authority—to observe classrooms with the aim of enforcing rigid uniformity in education.

His attitude and actions made him a target of the authorities’ ire, while at the same time winning him the love and admiration of ordinary citizens. When he was forced to leave a school, his students cried, and even parents and teachers wiped tears from their eyes—testimony to just how well loved he was.

Ultimately, Mr. Makiguchi died in prison for resisting the demands of Japan’s militarist government. Without a thought for his own life, he fervently rejected the militarism that brought such unhappiness to the people. He refused to accept the government’s erroneous ideology.

True kindness remains strong in the face of injustice. Nichiren Buddhism teaches that anger can serve either good or evil. Anger for the sake of good is necessary. But just reacting angrily out of emotion is “the nature of beasts” (WND-1, 302). The greater the person, the greater their compassion. Great compassion is what makes them strong and kind.

From Discussions on Youth, published in Japanese in March 1999.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.

  • *1Translated from Japanese. Cf. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, “Shogen” (Preface), Soka kyoikugaku taikei (The System of Value-Creating Education), in Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu (Collected Writings of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi), vol. 5 (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1982), p. 8.