Mahi Takazawa

What the Soka Orientation Brings to Global Citizenship Education

Imagine a world where students are nurtured from budding shoots to maturity in a garden fertilized by humanistic educational ideals and cultivated by a host of educators who model the Buddhist bodhisattva ideal. These teachers practice the virtues of wisdom, courage, and compassion through their thoughts and words and actions, thus instilling these values in their students.

Through sincere care and trust in the potential of their students, they provide hope and encouragement for their students to become not only happy human beings, but persons who can challenge themselves to create value out of any condition and contribute to society.  

Having attained this self-confidence, students are encouraged by teachers to engage in processes of active dialogue through which they develop an orientation toward global citizenship that extends beyond cognitive global awareness, linguistic proficiency, and international travel experience. Rather, the ultimate goal is for students to develop an ethos of global mindfulness: a genuine concern for the wellbeing of the planet and for all humankind.

Finally, as a result of the teachers’ own growth and inner transformation, accompanied by an accumulation of daily positive actions on behalf of their students, fruits of change are harvested even in the hearts of the most challenging or resistant students. Inspired by the humanity of their teachers, these protégés naturally align themselves with the cause of alleviating global suffering, both by acting individually and in concert with others.

This vision, based on the Buddhist thinking of Daisaku Ikeda and the general philosophy of Soka (value-creating) education, is certainly idealistic, but it should not be written off as mere wishful thinking. Rather, it should be seen as a critical corrective to our current reality of a fragmented globalized world suffering from a litany of environmental, economic, sociopolitical, and spiritual crises, along with the problems of climate change and nuclear weapons, which threaten our very existence. In my view, this need is further justified here in the “Divided” States of America, where close-minded American-centric and xenophobic attitudes have been proliferating. 

Why is Ikeda’s vision so relevant and equal to our challenges? From the Buddhist perspective, the causes of these global issues exist in the collective minds of people deluded by negative tendencies such as arrogance, greed, and ignorance. Our plight is further exacerbated by a failure to make human happiness the goal in every field, including in education. In his 1996 Teacher’s College address, “Thoughts on Education for Global Citizenship,” Mr. Ikeda emphasized this point, stating that “the human being is the point to which we must return and from which we must depart anew.” He also stated his conviction that education for global citizenship holds the key to resolving problems facing our planet.

The concept of global citizenship, with its assortment of definitions and critiques, is not novel to mainstream education. Unfortunately, it is too often based on an outdated industrial model with an amoral orientation predominantly driven by economic and political interests with the aim of developing human “capital” for global economic competition. Contrastingly, global citizenship education based on Soka education philosophy aims to rethink the concept of global citizenship by bestowing it with a deeper humanistic and ethical meaning. Drawing inspiration from his predecessor, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, and Buddhist humanism, Mr. Ikeda proposed in the Teachers College talk the following interdependent triad of virtues as a non-prescriptive framework for global citizenship:

  • Wisdom to perceive the interconnectedness of all life
  • Courage to not fear or deny differences, but to respect people of different cultures
  • Compassion to maintain an imaginative empathy for those suffering in distant places

He also recommended the following elements – human rights education, environmental education, developmental education, and peace education – to be part of the basic curriculum for global citizenship education.

While many may be cynical or dismiss education for global citizenship based on Soka education’s humanistic philosophy, I believe it is those simple, yet profound virtues such as wisdom, courage, and compassion that we need the most now to boldly address global issues confronting humanity.

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Mahi Takazawa is a recent graduate of University of San Francisco’s doctoral program in education and a former Education Fellow of the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue. His research focuses on Soka education and education for global citizenship. 


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