Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 28: The Three Founding Presidents and the Path of Mentor and Disciple [28.11]

28.11 My Training at “Toda University”

From January 1949, Daisaku Ikeda began working at a publishing company run by his mentor, Josei Toda. As Mr. Toda’s business enterprises fell into financial difficulty during the tumultuous postwar years, President Ikeda gave up attending night school to devote all his energies to supporting his mentor in his struggles. In return, Mr. Toda offered him daily private lessons in a wide variety of fields of learning and Nichiren Buddhism. In this selection, President Ikeda recalls those days of learning at what he fondly calls “Toda University.”

On a cold and windy winter day in 1950, Mr. Toda asked me with a very solemn expression: “Japan’s economy is in a state of turmoil, and my work will become more and more time consuming. So can I ask you to quit school?”

I replied without a moment’s hesitation: “Of course. I’m happy to do whatever you ask.”

With a stern yet kind gaze, he said: “In exchange, I will take on the responsibility of becoming your personal instructor.”

Not long afterward, Mr. Toda began to invite me to his home every Sunday for private, one-to-one instruction.

The classes of this “Toda University,” filled with the bright energy of our heart-to-heart exchange, started in the morning and went on through the afternoon. Mr. Toda would frequently ask me to stay for dinner as well, and I would always return home in high spirits.

Soon, however, Sundays alone were not sufficient, so Mr. Toda began to give me daily instruction every morning at his office.

My lessons at his office began on Thursday, May 8, 1952, and continued through 1957. In other words, they started right after the first anniversary of Mr. Toda’s inauguration as Soka Gakkai president and continued until shortly before his death.

At the very start, Mr. Toda said to me: “I will give you a broad higher education. I want to give you a better education than what you could receive at a prestigious university. Many who graduate from university don’t remember what they’ve learned. The most they can do is retain the general outlines. I intend to provide you with a truly well-rounded, living education.”

Our classes took place before the workday began, from a little past 8:00 until about 9:00, just short of an hour.

Mr. Toda was very strict about getting to work on time. I always got to the office before him, did some tidying and cleaning, and then waited for his arrival.

He would enter the room with a brief “Hello!” and immediately begin the class. I sat right in front of him, and other employees also pulled up chairs and joined us.

Each class started with students taking turns to read aloud from the textbook, followed by comments and explanation from Mr. Toda.

Sometimes, he would criticize the textbook saying that its argument was illogical, forced, or superficial, or that a particular scholar was attempting to overextend a principle to apply to cases that it didn’t fit. His keen intelligence was truly astonishing.

He didn’t permit us to take notes. He wanted us to engrave his words in our hearts. Explaining his reason for this, he told us the following story.

A certain Japanese scholar of “Dutch learning”—a branch of Western learning during the Edo period—had gone to Nagasaki to study Western medicine. He filled his notebooks with every word of instruction from his teachers, not wishing to miss a single phrase or sentence. Then, on his sea journey back to his hometown, the ship sank and his notebooks were all lost. Having concentrated entirely on writing everything down, not a jot of information remained in his head.

“I want you,” Mr. Toda said, “to put everything into your heads. No note-taking.”

That made each class an intense struggle for us. I later heard from a friend who also took these classes that Mr. Toda told him that I absorbed everything like a sponge.

Our first subject was economics. That was followed by law, then chemistry, astronomy, and life science. We also studied Japanese and world history, as well as classical Chinese, finally moving on to political science.

We usually used the most recently published textbooks. For example, for chemistry, we used the Japanese edition of The World of Science series, and sometimes, within a matter of days of a new volume being published, it would be incorporated into our early-morning lectures. Mr. Toda was trying to teach us the importance of staying on the cutting edge.

When I look at my diaries from that period, I find numerous entries about his classes. For example, in an entry dated December 22, 1953, when I was 25 years old, I wrote: “How can I ever repay my debt of gratitude to my mentor, who has striven to raise this disciple without regard even for his own health? Now is the time—the time to develop capability, strength, and ability. Must develop capability in every area in preparation for the future.”

From an essay series “Thoughts on The New Human Revolution,” published in Japanese in the Seikyo Shimbun, December 7, 1999.

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