Soka University of America (SUA) is a private university in Aliso Viejo, California. Originally founded in 1987, it was established on its current campus in 2001 by Daisaku Ikeda, the founder of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist movement. Though affiliated with Soka Gakkai, it maintains a secular curriculum which emphasizes pacifism, human rights, and the creative coexistence of nature and humanity.
A much larger and older sister school, Sōka University in Japan, is located in Hachiōji, Tokyo. SUA encompasses both a four-year liberal arts college and a graduate school offering a Master's program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change. SUA also hosts the Pacific Basin Research Center and the newly created SUA Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Human Rights.
The university has an endowment of $1.2 billion as of 2017, giving it the second-highest endowment per student of any college or university in the United States.
SUA is a secular and nonsectarian university founded by Daisaku Ikeda, the President of Soka Gakkai International (SGI). SUA's philosophical foundation originated in the work of Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, who was the first President of Soka Gakkai (previous name Soka Kyoiku Gakkai) and created a society for educators dedicated to social and educational reform in Japan during the years leading up to World War II. Makiguchi was an elementary school principal, strongly influenced by John Dewey and American educational progressivism.
Between 1930-1934, Makiguchi published his four-volume work, Sōka Kyōikugaku Taikei (Value Creating Education System), to argue for his belief that education should proceed through dialogue instead of "force-feeding" information to students. This student-centered and humanistic philosophy, he argued, made "the purpose of education" an effort "to lead students to happiness." Education, he asserted, should be directed toward "creating value" for the individual and society. Makiguchi was a pacifist and an ardent believer in religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Jailed by Japanese authorities during World War II for ideas and actions inimical to the war effort, he died in prison on 18 November 1944. After the war, as the Soka Gakkai organization grew, Makiguchi's educational philosophy became the centerpiece of a number of Soka schools in Japan advocated by his successors, Jōsei Toda (second President of Soka Gakkai, a former elementary school teacher) and Daisaku Ikeda (third President of Soka Gakkai), who is the founder of SUA. Ikeda describes the founding of SUA as the fruition of the dreams of Makiguchi and Toda.