By Jason Goulah
After more than a decade of researching Daisaku Ikeda’s educational philosophy and practice, I am not only interested in the Ikeda Center’s second core conviction, but I am convinced that it is both the means and goal of the other six convictions. As I understand it, the second conviction derives from Ikeda’s philosophy and practice of ningen kyoiku, a concept he has used regularly since the 1950s. Literally “human education,” but more frequently translated into English as “humanistic” or even “humane” education, ningen kyoiku is Ikeda’s formula—both in and outside the context of schooling—for becoming “fully human” in the richest, truest sense of the term.
In his 1993 speech, Radicalism Reconsidered, Mr. Ikeda asserts that we are born human only in a biological sense; we must learn and train—educate—ourselves in the ways of being and becoming human. Emphasis on continually becoming is key in his understanding of human education. It is the process he calls “human revolution.” Moreover, there is no defined telos, no model of being “human” toward which all should strive; rather, each individual should seek to improve and expand in his or her own way, as they are, the inherent qualities that make us human. These qualities for Ikeda are courage, wisdom and compassion, and their development gives rise to the appreciation of and dedication to dialogue, interdependence with and appreciation of the Other, creativity and imagination.
Such a view of education, as its Latin etymology indicates, is analogous to Ikeda’s Buddhist philosophy of “pulling out” or tapping one’s inherent potential toward the same qualities of courage, wisdom, compassion and growth in the dialogic space of the Other. As he states in volume 1 of Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, “Human education and Buddhism are two aspects of the same reality. That is why . . . I, based on the Lotus Sutra, actively promote a movement for education and culture.” Thus, in secular human education as in Buddhism, an individual realizes his or her fuller human self through dialogue, inner transformation, creativity and imagination, awareness of local-global interdependence, and a belief in the Other’s unlimited potential as equal and equally valuable to one’s own. These in turn foster a greater, volitional sense of being human, which thereby enhances one’s volitional engagement in dialogue, inner transformation, creativity and imagination, awareness of (and action based on) interdependence, and interaction with the Other. And the process continually repeats in endless progression toward both becoming “fully human” and fostering others’ full humanity.
Unfortunately, such perspective has gained little traction in current educational policies and practices. While the U.S. and other countries focus on and legislate schooling in terms of standardized accountability, “sameness-as-fairness,” and cutthroat competition as the means to revive a moribund economy and engender happiness, Daisaku Ikeda’s philosophy and practice of ningen kyoiku—embodied in the Ikeda Center’s 20 years of socially engaged peace, learning, and dialogue, as well as in the 14 Soka schools he founded in Brazil, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United States—is the prime point to which we must return in the ongoing discourse on education. Far deeper than the policies and processes of schooling, ningen kyoiku is the means by which we transform ourselves to transform local and global society.
Dr. Jason Goulah is Associate Professor and Director of Bilingual-Bicultural Education and Director of World Languages Education in the College of Education at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. He has authored over 30 articles and chapters on Daisaku Ikeda’s philosophy and practice of education. He is the editor of Daisaku Ikeda, Language and Education (2013 Routledge) and (with Andrew Gebert) of Makiguchi Tsunesaburo (1871-1944): Educational Philosophy in Context (2013 Routledge).