Founder's Message - Ninth Graduate Commencement Ceremony
Calabasas, California | December 10, 2003
The courageous, dedicated efforts you make from today will be looked on by humanity a century hence as the first steps in a revolution.
Message from the Founder
On the Occasion of the Ninth Commencement Ceremony, Soka University of America, Graduate School
Calabasas Campus, Wednesday, December 10, 2003
As they graduate today, I wish to offer my heartfelt congratulations to my dear friends, the students of the ninth graduating class of Soka University of America, Calabasas! With sentiments of utmost joy and pride, I can clearly envision each of you as you set out on your courageous journey of life, taking on the challenge of realizing the ideals of education in the 21st century.
I would like to offer my sincere gratitude to Dr. Lou Marinoff and all the distinguished guests who have kindly taken time from their busy schedules to attend today’s ceremony.
May I also extend my deepest appreciation to Dr. Tomoko Takahashi, SUA Provost and Graduate School Dean, and all the members of the faculty and administration of SUA for warmly watching over the students, encouraging their development and nurturing their growth during the past one and a half years.
I wish also to share this immense joy with all the family and friends of the graduates on this special day.
I understand that all this year’s graduates will be moving on to careers in the field of education, language education in particular. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the father of Soka Education, was convinced that efforts in the fields of politics and economics can at best treat the symptoms of societal malaise. Education, in contrast, can treat the underlying causes and bring about a more fundamental renewal. This is the spiritual heritage to which you are all heir. I hope that you will courageously engage in the noble endeavor to transform language and linguistic differences from a barrier into a bridge, a means of creating heart-to-heart bonds of mutual appreciation and respect.
In February of this year, I had the privilege of meeting with Dr. Marinoff. Dr. Marinoff is a practitioner of philosophy who has pioneered the effort to bring philosophy back into the lives of ordinary people, applying it as a source of wisdom to enable individuals to overcome hardships amidst the realities of daily life. Dr. Marinoff has indicated that he considered countering widespread feelings of personal pointlessness the fundamental philosophical challenge for the 21st century.
It is easy to understand how such a sense of powerlessness has taken root in people’s minds. Throughout the world there is conflict and warfare; vast numbers of people continue to suffer from poverty and hunger. And while all may fervently desire peace, the possibility of realizing peace seems at times to be receding from our reach. In the face of such intractable realities, feelings of frustration, anger and despair build up, instilling a paralyzing sense of powerlessness.
Yet Dr. Marinoff also urges us to remember the value of patience and courage. It is up to each of us, he writes, “how much consolation you will find in the notion that if you can exercise patience and courage—two cardinal virtues—change will come. We are almost always able to extract meaning and purpose from events, even horrific events.”
I fully support his view. In the philosophy of Buddhism, a “Buddha” refers to the supreme state of life that embodies various qualities and virtues that exist in potential in all people. Among the qualities of a Buddha is the ability to endure. This means exercising forbearance in a disordered world, continuing always to act with compassion. Another quality of a Buddha is freedom from fear. This means saying what is right for people’s happiness undeterred by fear of the repercussions.
These are, in other words, the virtues of patience and courage, and they are not something given to us from without. They are strengths that we must summon forth from within. And it is action rooted in a solid philosophical outlook and an ennobling sense of mission that enables us to make this potential manifest. To live a life of dedicated service among the people, for the people, as one of the people—it is only in such a life that one can savor a sense of genuine fulfillment and joy. This is the insight that Dr. Marinoff expresses when he writes, “The surest way to counteract feelings of emptiness in your life is to help someone else.”
One hundred years ago on December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers succeeded in the first powered flight in human history. The longest flight time recorded that day was a mere 59 seconds, the distance flown about 852 feet (260 meters). There were only five people present to witness the event. Yet, this brief flight was revolutionary for it ushered in an era of air and eventually space travel.
The Wright Brothers made full use of the technological skills they developed building bicycle as they conducted their groundbreaking research into flight. They developed experimental kite and wing designs, corresponded with scientists and observed birds in flight. Risking life and limb, they flew their glider in strong winds. They developed original physics theorems as they continued to refine and improve their designs. This first historic leap into flight was a crystallized expression of their courage— their refusal to be deterred by what others said—and of the patience that enabled them to continue the painstaking effort of basic research.
Our challenge is to change the world through education.
The first small step you take today may seem insignificant. I believe, however, that the courageous, dedicated efforts you make from today will be looked on by humanity a century hence as the first steps in a revolution. I believe that future humanity will offer you its heartfelt respect, saying that it was from the struggles waged by the ninth graduating class that the great path of Soka Education grew.
I hope that each of you will make indispensable contributions wherever you are. Please win unwavering trust from the people around you through your sincere and earnest efforts. Your victory is the victory of Soka Education, and as founder, it is the greatest possible victory.
I will continue to pray that you may enjoy good health and happiness, that you will contribute with unhindered freedom to the creation of a better world. I look forward to the day when I can meet with you all. Until then, please stay healthy and well!