Education & Philosophy

The Four Aspects of Daisaku Ikeda's Education Philosophy

Our latest multi-author volume, Hope and Joy in Education: Engaging Daisaku Ikeda Across Curriculum and Context (Teachers College Press, 2021), has rightly been celebrated for how its diverse chapters make the case for the more optimistic and celebratory aspects of teaching and learning, especially now, when schooling challenges seem so severe. However, it would be a mistake to overlook Jason Goulah’s insightful introduction to the volume. 

In it, Goulah draws upon his deep and extensive knowledge to create a concise summation of Daisaku Ikeda’s education philosophy and what it means for the advancement of “human education.” Bearing in mind the expanse of Ikeda’s body of work, this is an invaluable contribution. Here is a brief look at the four key aspects of Ikeda’s education philosophy that Goulah discusses in his piece.

1. A Commitment to Dialogue
For Ikeda, writes Goulah, “a commitment to dialogue is the essential starting point for truly human becoming, the master key for Ikeda’s concept of human revolution,” described by Goulah as the “volitional and continual transformation within the deep interiority of one’s life” that enables the full realization of the potential and mutual growth of both self and other. Such realization is the most fundamental task of education. Since human revolution, and the related process of “human becoming,” cannot be carried out “individually or in isolation,” dialogue becomes the preeminent mode of realizing our capacities. In this regard, Goulah quotes Ikeda’s insight that, as in sessions of jazz improvisation, in dialogue “participants can give life even to each other’s seeming mistakes or failures. As a result, all involved are dynamically elevated, and previously unrealized heights of creativity are reached.” In dialogue we learn about ourselves and how to think creatively about the building of ever-expanding cultures of peace.

2. A Commitment to Global Citizenship
“Ikeda advocates for education,” states Goulah, “that fosters an ethic and identity of global citizenship as transcending all boundaries in our own hearts and awakening to a shared humanity beyond race or nation.” Crucially, as Ikeda explains, education of this sort isn’t homogenizing. In fact, one of his three characteristics of the global citizen is “the courage not to deny difference; but to respect and strive to understand people of different cultures, and to grow from encounters with them.” The other two are: the wisdom to perceive the interconnectedness of all life and living; and the compassion to maintain an imaginative empathy that reaches beyond one’s immediate surroundings and extends to those suffering in distance places. Goulah emphasizes that Ikeda sees these two as mutually reinforcing: Compassion adds warmth and feeling to the wisdom, and wisdom ensures that compassion will truly be helpful for others. He also notes that it is Ikeda’s inclusion of courage that makes Ikeda’s philosophy of global citizenship unique. Many acknowledge wisdom and compassion, says Goulah, but, in Ikeda’s view, without courage to get outside our comfort zones to engage with the Other, both internal and external, we will not find ourselves in a position where our wisdom and compassion can really make a difference in the world.

3. A Commitment to Value Creation
There is no understanding Ikeda’s education philosophy without grasping how it centers on “the principle of value creation as central to genuine happiness.” In fact, as Goulah tells us, at the young age of 22 he promised his mentor Josei Toda that he would found institutions “based on the principle of value-creating education,” a promise he made good on. Value-creating education originated with Toda’s mentor, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. This pedagogy, explains Goulah, “endeavors to foster an ever-expanding capacity to create value in terms of individual ‘gain,’ social ‘good,’ and aesthetic ‘beauty,’ as well as develop a cognition, or facticity, from which to create that value.” Value creation is not “values education” or “moral education,” clarifies Goulah. “rather, value-creating approaches engage students in learning to learn and to drive wisdom from knowledge to create meaning in and from any positive or negative situation.” This last part is key. In the words of Ikeda, “our lives are filled with opportunities to develop ourselves and those around us. Each of our interactions with others … is an invaluable chance to create value.” It is the emphasis on acting in the present moment that provides a grounding for larger scale value-creating efforts.

4. A Commitment to Creative Coexistence
Ikeda, states Goulah, “advocates for a deep and action-oriented understanding of interdependence that he calls kyosei.” Kyosei can also be translated as symbiosis, coexistence, harmonious coexistence, and creative coexistence. In Goulah’s view, the latter is the best and most comprehensive translation because it “captures his vision of interdependence as more than just a passive state of relationality.” Our task, then, is to embrace the “value-creating potential of interdependence,” writes Goulah, and in so doing individuals can “unlock their greater self of wisdom, courage, and compassion.” Here, Goulah invokes Ikeda’s concept of the “poetic spirit” as being essential to realizing our potential, since the “trappings of society” can numb us into blind acceptance of a status quo in which connections of all sorts are weakened or denied. Thus, writes Ikeda, “there is an abundant need … to revive a poetic spirit that will forge strong bonds connecting human beings with one another and with all things in the cosmos.” Finally, Goulah observes that for Ikeda, diversity is inherent to creative coexistence; there is no one way of doing it. “Rather,” writes Goulah, “individuals should seek to improve and expand the inherent qualities that make us human in their own way, as they are, and as is appropriate for them.”