Courage and standing alone

Today is the birthday of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944). Makiguchi was a Japanese geographer, educational theorist and religious reformer. His forward-thinking theories are now widely used in business management, governance and teaching.  However, during his life time, he remained largely unknown and died in prison at the age of 72 for his opposition to Japan’s militarism and nationalism during World War II.

Makiguchi was not rich or famous, two of his children died and in his old age, he died alone in prison while most of his followers left him in fear of the military authorities.  Compared to our twitter and facebook era- his life could be seen as that of loneliness and failure.  Sometimes it may also feel that what we are doing is being unrecognised, that we too are alone in our work (and we are hardly earning any money).  In a way, this does not matter.  Living true to ourselves is what matters.  There are many famous people who got awards, only for that to be taken away in their old age or after their death. Some squandered their wealth or their families did it for them.  Many such people died unhappy, having lived a lifetime pursuing triviality, instead of their passion.  There are also many people who stood alone and now, after their death, many follow in their paths and their hearts.  Only time decides the individual’s true worth. It is always best to be true to one’s heart and work towards ‘great good’.

In Makiguchi’s words- “A thousand sheep cannot hold their own against a single lion. A single courageous individual dedicated to the Great Good can accomplish far more important things than a thousand cowards who practice only passive and minimal good. It’s not the number, but the quality of people that matters.” 


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