Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 28: The Three Founding Presidents and the Path of Mentor and Disciple [28.4]

28.4 The Soka Gakkai’s Founding and the Mentor-Disciple Spirit

The publication date of volume one of Mr. Makiguchi’s masterwork, Soka kyoikugaku taikei (The System of Value-Creating Education), is recognized as the day of the Soka Gakkai’s founding—November 18, 1930. The spirit of mentor and disciple lies at the heart of this history.

November 18, 1930, the day celebrated as the founding of the Soka Gakkai, is the publication date of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi’s Soka kyoikugaku taikei (The System of Value-Creating Education). The publication of this groundbreaking work was also the product of the shared struggle of mentor and disciple.

It was while he was the principal of Shirokane Elementary School in Shiba, Tokyo, that the name Value-Creating Education was chosen for his educational theory. This was during a period when the head of the Tokyo government’s Education Department, the chief of school inspections, and others tried to orchestrate the removal of Makiguchi, who advocated educational reform and refused to tolerate injustice. Makiguchi had been seriously thinking of publishing the theory, which he had developed from his hands-on experience and reflections when he was a principal, as a guide and resource for future elementary school teachers.

One winter evening, Makiguchi and Toda talked late into the night, seated around the charcoal brazier at Toda’s home. That was when Toda heard that his mentor wanted to leave a record of his educational theory.

In those days, most Japanese academics took an avid interest in Western scholarship. There was little likelihood that a book on educational theory by an unknown Japanese elementary school principal would sell, so it was quite obvious that no publisher would be willing to take it on.

Immediately after telling Toda that he wanted to publish his theory, Makiguchi admitted that the prospects were dim: “Of course, it is unreasonable to publish a book that won’t sell and will only lose money.”

Toda replied with conviction: “Sensei, I’ll take care of it!”

“But it will be very costly.”

“I don’t care. I’m not wealthy, but I have 19,000 yen. I’ll gladly invest it all.”

At the time, an elementary school teacher’s starting monthly salary was about 50 yen. Toda operated a private academy, the Jishu Gakkan, with the aim of putting his mentor’s educational theory into practice. He was willing to invest everything he had in the world to ensure that his mentor’s ideas would be published and shared with others.

Toda said: “I left Hokkaido without a penny in my pocket. I am who I am today because of my encounter with you. I don’t care if I’m back to being penniless again.”

Makiguchi looked intently at Toda and then nodded: “All right, if you’re so determined, let’s go ahead with it!” Makiguchi’s eyes sparkled brightly. He added softly, as if to himself: “Well, then, what shall I call it?”

“What’s the aim of your educational theory?” asked Toda.

“In short, to create value.”

“Mmm, let me see. ‘Ethic for Creating Value’ and ‘Educational Theory for Creating Value’ both sound rather long-winded.”

“Yes, they’re not quite right, and something like ‘Creative Education’ doesn’t quite capture it, either.”

His cheeks flushed with excitement, Toda said: “Sensei, what if we take the first Chinese character of each of the words sozo (creation) and kachi (value) to make the word soka, and call it ‘Value-Creating Education’ (Soka kyoikugaku)?”

“Yes, that’s a good name!”

“All right, let’s settle on ‘Value-Creating Education.’”

It was already past midnight. Through the dialogue of mentor and disciple, the term soka was used for the first time to express “value creation.”

The biggest problem in publishing Makiguchi’s theory was organizing the manuscript. It wasn’t, in fact, a real manuscript; in the midst of his pressing duties as a principal, Makiguchi had mostly jotted down his thoughts on the backs of envelopes and advertisements, scraps of paper, and whatever else was at hand as the ideas came to him. The same ideas often appeared twice or even three times, and the existing material could never be published as a book unless it was carefully ordered and edited.

But there were no volunteers for this arduous job. Makiguchi had also wondered what to do about this problem.

Now, Toda said: “Sensei, leave it to me.”

“I can’t possibly let you do that, too. I know you’re a mathematical genius, but compiling and editing a manuscript is an entirely different matter, and I’m afraid it will be too difficult.”

Makiguchi turned down Toda’s offer out of his wish not to burden him any further.

Toda replied: “Sensei, granted, I may not have great literary skills or be able to use complex academic language, but if the book ends up being too difficult for someone like me to understand, who will ever read it? Who are you publishing this for? To be read only by the world’s leading scholars and academics? If you’re willing to publish a book that even I’d understand, I’ll gladly take on the task of compiling and editing it.”

And so it was that Makiguchi accepted Toda’s offer.

Cutting out the repetitive bits with scissors, Toda placed the scraps of paper on the floor of a small room in his home. They filled the space. When he could see them in their entirety like that, he detected a consistent approach and a brilliant theory.

Toda took on this laborious task out of his gratitude to Makiguchi.

On November 18, 1930, the first volume of The System of Value-Creating Education was published. The Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (Value-Creating Education Society; the forerunner of the Soka Gakkai) was listed as the publisher. In addition, Toda had the book title and Makiguchi’s name printed on the cover in gold lettering—another sign of his sincere dedication as a disciple.

In his preface, Makiguchi expressed his appreciation for the young people who had helped with the editing and proofreading of the manuscript, and he cited the significant contributions of Josei Toda, in particular. Makiguchi noted that Toda became convinced of the validity of his ideas after experimenting with them at the Jishu Gakkan and thereby gaining positive results. He added that Toda played a major part in the completion and promotion of his educational theory. He also praised Toda’s textbook Suirishiki shido sanjutsu (A Deductive Guide to Arithmetic) as a pioneering work truly embodying the ideas of value-creating education.1

Likening himself and Toda to Nikolai Grundtvig, the founder of the folk high schools in Denmark, and his youthful disciple, Christen Kold, Makiguchi regarded Toda’s existence as “a ray of light illuminating the still uncertain future of value-creating education.”2

From its very beginnings, then, the Soka Gakkai originated in the mentor-disciple relationship. That’s why to keep the spirit of Soka vibrantly alive, the path of mentor and disciple must be communicated and perpetuated forever.

From The New Human Revolution, vol. 23, “Bold Struggle” chapter.

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

  • *1Cf. Makiguchi, Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu, vol. 5, pp. 8–9.
  • *2Ibid., p. 9.