Years ago, just as those questions were asking themselves in my daily life, I learned about Soka education thanks to my attendance at events at the Ikeda Center. I was reminded that learning’s most powerful foundation rises from encouragement and appreciation. Here was what had always been fundamentally part of my educational experience, and yet was increasingly absent from the loudest words about American education.
Encouragement: how deeply we need the courage to take risks in thought, to examine something freely and fully, regardless of what may happen to our own long-held beliefs or assumed truths. We daily need courage to see things differently, to see from other and others’ perspectives, to step from what we know into the unknown and take the time, sometimes painfully long, truly to learn. In the United States, how we like to think about this as an individual achievement, the person solitary and self-sufficient. And yet we know it is not so. Courage is neither abstract nor created in a vacuum. Encouragement is that process by which a person gains creative and innovative strength.
And yet how do we discern the difference between strength that is creative and strength that is destructive? Sadly, in our times of increasing militarism and “zero-sum gain,” courage has been equated with the power to kill or the power to eliminate. We have set aside the courage of peace making, the courage of inclusion, the courage of creating value (soka). What makes the difference? As I learned from my visits to Soka schools: appreciation. How we look askance at the word in academia, associating it with a “lesser” mental activity. We do not stop to see the range of thought it involves and the extent of evaluation that it demands. I am reminded of Emerson’s comment about “Self-Reliance”: “If anyone imagines that this law is lax, let him keep its commandment one day.” Appreciation is neither superficial nor slight. It comprises multi-dimensions of history, cultural understanding, psychological and sociological breadth, as well as the always-ongoing hard work of empathy.
I return to the twenty-seven of us meeting twice a week in our spider web spinning. What courage will we need, collectively and individually as we embark on the unknown? How will appreciation enter to help us think more fully about the fragmented lives and lands that cry the truth of our contemporary world? The unknown beckons. Entering it as compassionate thinkers following the slender strands in this web of relation, we journey together, creating value as we go, knowing “All are needed by each one; / Nothing is fair or good alone.”
From Lou Marinoff, Professor and Chair of Philosophy at The City College of New York, founding president of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, and author of the bestseller Plato Not Prozac!
Humanistic education is a necessary cornerstone of 21st century global citizenship. Only by a thorough appreciation of the universal essence of humanity can people fully develop their own potential, and also co-exist harmoniously. The Humanities themselves are under siege of late, partly because too many leaders and educators have come to believe that technologies alone will solve our human problems. That view being misguided, we must work with renewed vigor to heighten awareness of global humanistic values, and their diverse expression through humanities and the arts.
From Jason Goulah, Professor of Bilingual-Bicultural Education and Director of the Institute for Daisaku Ikeda Studies in Education at DePaul University
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.