Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Makiguchi - First President


Tsunesaburo Makiguchi’s father abandoned him and his mother when he was very young. Shortly afterwards, his mother tried to kill herself and young Tsunesaburo by jumping off a cliff into the sea holding him in her arms. A dramatic start to a life that ended with him dying alone in a prison cell. But Mr. Makiguchi’s legacy lives on today in the millions of SGI members around the world and the Soka schools founded by President Ikeda.


MAKIGUCHI – THE EDUCATOR

Makiguchi was an elementary school teacher and later a principal. He was concerned about the welfare of all of his students and used to take extra sandwiches to work for children from deprived areas so they could eat breakfast and be able to concentrate on their studies. At the turn of the century, most girls only attended elementary school and then helped their mothers at home, so he introduced correspondence courses, so that teenage girls could continue their education after elementary school at home.

He was very disappointed with the Japanese education system which believed in force feeding students facts and information, rather than guiding and connecting relevant studies to the students’ needs. In the introduction to the first volume of “The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy”, Makiguchi explained:

I am driven almost to distraction by the intense desire to prevent the present deplorable situation - ten million of our children and students forced to endure the agonies of cutthroat competition, the difficulty of getting into good schools, the "examination hell" and the struggle for jobs after graduation - from afflicting the next generation.


MAKIGUCHI – THE PHILOSOPHY OF VALUE

He believed that the ultimate goal of education should be the attainment of happiness.

In 1996, at a speech at Columbia University, President Ikeda described Makiguchi’s philosophy as "the capacity to find meaning, to enhance one's own existence and contribute to the well-being of others, under any circumstance."

Makiguchi's Philosophy of Value explained that our happiness is based on the amount of BEAUTY, GAIN and GOOD we create in our lives and can be summarised as follows:

HAPPINESS = BEAUTY + GAIN + GOOD

BEAUTY represents the aesthetic values (art, music, design, etc.) that appeal to our senses and improve a part of our lives.

GAIN represents everything that we find rewarding in life, that enhances our entire existence and allows us to progress and advance our lives. It can include anything that makes our personal lives more convenient or comfortable.

GOOD represents those things that benefit or create joyful harmony within our community or society making it a better place to live.

He also proposed a theory of ANTI-VALUE, the opposites of these three VALUES, as UGLINESS, LOSS and EVIL. Values that can cause UNHAPPINESS and negatively affect our lives and society.

The greatest happiness can be achieved through GOOD, and obviously any GAIN shouldn’t be at the expense of GOOD, so an individual that improves their life through promotion shouldn’t be trampling on others to get there. Similarly, a drug dealer can GAIN financially, but society suffers from this EVIL.

Makiguchi believed that Value wasn’t something that existed outside ourselves, but was something that we can create within each moment through our interactions with the environment. Similarly, depending on how much effort and energy we put in and our focus, this value can be negative, minimal, positive or infinitely great.

In Discussions On Youth, President Ikeda is asked “What criteria should we go by when looking for a job?” and he replies:
Mr. Toda once said, “Everyone’s ideal is to get a job they like (beauty) that offers financial security (benefit*), where they can contribute to society (good) (Discussions on Youth, p76)


                  *In Japanese “ri” can be translated as benefit or gain.
"Gain" is usually used when describing Makiguchi's Values.

MAKIGUCHI – THE BUDDHIST

Mr. Makiguchi was introduced to Buddhism in 1928 and he really connected with the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra. He saw several similarities with his own philosophy of Value that he had been working on for several years. He wrote:


"Other than freeing people and the world from suffering, what meaning could there be for the existence of religion in society? Isn't freeing people from suffering the value of gain? Isn't freeing the world from suffering the moral value of good?"


THE PHILOSOPHY OF VALUE AND THE LOTUS SUTRA

Like the Philosophy of Value, The Lotus Sutra explains that happiness is the main reason people were born in this life and the Buddha’s focus is on the benefit of all living beings.


BEAUTY - The image of the lotus flower and the imagery in the Lotus Sutra represent great beauty.
GAIN       - The teachings of the Lotus Sutra are to allow individuals to improve THEIR lives.
GOOD    - The Lotus Sutra should be shared with others to ultimately benefit all of society.

In the Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, President Ikeda explains: Creating value in daily life is the heart of the Lotus Sutra” (WOTLS 4, p103)


THE SOKA GAKKAI

The Soka Kyoiku Gakkai was founded on 28th November 1930 (coinciding with the publication of Volume 1 of “The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy”) and the central themes were the theories of value and value-creation. Initially the membership was made up of teachers and principals that wanted to improve the quality of teaching in their schools, but as Buddhism became a larger part of the meeting, some educators left and people from different areas of society joined. In 1943, when President Makiguchi and Josei Toda’s were imprisoned and the organisation’s activities were suppressed by the government, there were roughly 3000 members.

Josei Toda later rebranded The Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (Value-Creation Education Society) as the Soka Gakkai (Value-Creation Society) and maintained the Buddhism and the Philosophy of Value, but extended the reach into all areas of society, not just the field of education.

In one of his speeches in 1992 at a Women’s Leaders’ Meeting, Daisaku Ikeda said:

"Mr. Makiguchi advocated helping children develop the ability to chart and advance upon their own chosen course. … Value-creating education, he asserted, means to cultivate the ability to create benefit and remove harm, to emphasize good and avoid evil, to create beauty and cast off the ugly, while at the same time being responsive to all environments."

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