Founder's Message - Fourth Graduate Commencement Ceremony
Calabasas, California | December 16, 1998
Do not be bound by the narrow confines of a particular ideology or culture! Open wide the windows of your heart and life!
Message from the Founder
On the Occasion of the Fourth Commencement Ceremony, Soka University of America, Graduate School
To the hope of the 21st century, the standard-bearers of a new renaissance of life, the members of Soka University of America’s fourth graduating class! My most heartfelt congratulations on your brilliant departure on the voyage of life!
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to my respected friends, Dr. Lou Ann Guanson and the other distinguished guests who have found time amidst the many demands of their pressing schedules to attend this graduation ceremony.
And as the founder of Soka University, I wish to thank most deeply the members of the teaching faculty who have so sincerely encouraged and guided the students–these young people who are more valuable to me than my own life.
And finally, I would like to express my congratulations to all the family members and friends of the graduating class.
In January 1995, thanks to the kind support of Dr. Guanson, I had the unique privilege of speaking on the subject of human security at the East-West Center at the University of Hawai’i. I consider it one of the most significant events of my life that I was able to participate in a “dialogue of civilizations” in this most august setting on the beautiful rainbow island of Hawai’i, rich with the beautiful and varied hues of human diversity.
Last month, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution designating the year 2001 the “United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations.” In our world today, civilizations which previously had only limited contact are now drawing and encountering one another at a pace and with a depth unknown in earlier times.
We must not allow these inter-civilizational encounters to end in the tragedy of conflict and confrontation. We must persist in developing the kind of dialogue based on friendship through which genuine peace can be created. It is not too much to say that the future of humankind rests on the success of our efforts to do this.
The great philosophers of the American Renaissance such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau derived profound spiritual inspiration and creative energy from their own encounter and dialogue with non-Western civilization. It was likewise Emerson and Thoreau who introduced the American people to the Lotus Sutra, the essence of Mahayana Buddhism.
The philosophy of American Renaissance, which drew from the wisdom of the East, eventually influenced Lev Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi, and then returned to American soil through the ideas and actions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In this way, the philosophy of nonviolence has traversed and embraced the entire world.
At present, I am conducting a dialogue with Professor Majid Tehranian, an Iranian-born scholar who teaches at the University of Hawai’i. Our dialogue is on the vast theme of “Islam and Buddhism.”
To the young successors gathered here today, I wish to say this. Do not be bound by the narrow confines of a particular ideology or culture! Open wide the windows of your heart and life! Spread the wings of youth as you pursue vibrant exchange with friends throughout the world!
Soka University of America is a university that seeks and creates bonds of friendship, on basis of impartial equality, with the entire world. I hope that you will always maintain a profound sense of pride at having studied at this center of learning, as you set out as brilliant pioneers of a new global civilization in the twenty-first century.
Next year will witness the first step toward the realization of a unified European currency. Years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi, the intellectual father of the European Economic Community. During our discussion, he shared with me these words, “A civilization, if it is to be genuine, must, in addition to having a basis in scientific technology, be based on a respect for human dignity.”
The philosophy of Soka Education grew out of an absolute pacifism rooted in a firm respect for sanctity of human life.
As you proceed on your chosen path of life amidst the swamp-life realities of society, you will find yourselves facing constant trials and challenges. At such times, I hope that you will remember the example of the father of Soka Education, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who continued to travel and take action for the sake of individuals until just moments before he was arrested by the authorities of militarist Japan. And, with strength and perseverance, that you will dance the dance of your own unique mission in life!
I ask you to share with me the founding spirit of this school as you create a clear and wide path of victory that will be traveled by untold numbers of your juniors, those who will follow after.
One person who is said to have had a decisive impact on the formation of Emerson’s thinking and character was his aunt, Mary Emerson. In particular, Emerson made the following words part of his personal philosophy, the creed to which he adhered throughout his life. “Scorn trifles, lift your aims: do what you are afraid to do: sublimity of character must come from sublimity of motive.”
Life is long and you are all young. There is no need for you to be anxious or impatient. If everything goes smoothly from the start, it is human nature to become lazy and passive. The most valuable and praise-worthy way of life is to be found in the steady, step-by-step efforts to improve and elevate yourself.
Each of you is precious and irreplaceable. I will always continue to pray that, without exception, you will adorn this life with victory, health, glory, and happiness.
I would like to conclude this message by sharing with you these words of Mahatma Gandhi. “My goal is friendship with the world and I can combine the greatest love with the greatest opposition to wrong.”
As I offer these words, I feel that I can envisage the great rainbow solidarity of the seven members of the fourth graduating class, stretched brilliantly across the skies of the 21st century.