May 3: The Starting Point of the Soka Gakkai

Celebrating our proud history of Soka Gakkai Day.

Photo: iStockPhoto

SGI members around the world celebrate May 3, Soka Gakkai Day, as “New Year’s Day of the SGI.” It is a time when members set fresh goals and determinations as they advance with strong life force, aiming to achieve kosen-rufu and challenge their own human revolution. In a May 3 commemorative message, SGI President Ikeda summed up the spirit of Soka Gakkai Day: “The moment and the place where you are right now is what matters. When committed disciples rise into action with a self-reliant spirit, the sure flame of Soka will burn and spread brightly from where they are, from that very moment” (May 3, 2008, World Tribune Special Insert, p. B). The following are significant May 3 anniversaries in the Soka Gakkai:

May 3, 1951

Josei Toda is inaugurated as second Soka Gakkai president. 

Although the Soka Gakkai had just 3,000 active members at the time, Mr. Toda vowed in his inauguration address to spread the lifeaffirming philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism to 750,000 families in his lifetime. Waging a fierce struggle to pull people out of the widespread illness and poverty that consumed postwar Japan, he proclaimed that day: “If my goal should not be attained by the end of my life, you need not hold a funeral for me, but just throw my remains into the sea off Shinagawa, all right?” (The Human Revolution, p. 563).

“My mentor had struggled against the cruel oppression of the military government and stood alone in a war-ravaged, defeated Japan to build a citadel of peace for all humanity,” President Ikeda recalls of Mr. Toda. “He took up the cause of kosen-rufu in exact accord with the will of Nichiren Daishonin, bringing the Daishonin’s Buddhism to life in an age when it was on the verge of perishing. He dove into the anguished, suffering masses of the people. Talking with them, sharing their laughter and their tears, he lit the torch of happiness for 750,000 households” (The Human Revolution, p. 1973).

May 3, 1952

Daisaku Ikeda and Kaneko Shiraki marry. 

President Ikeda later recalled that Mr. Toda personally selected the date of the wedding ceremony, with a profound intent, marking the first anniversary of his inauguration as second Soka Gakkai president.

How did your husband propose to you?

Mrs. Ikeda: He simply said, “Put your trust in me and stick with me.” As I look back, however, I had been drawn to his humanity, and so I had no other thought in mind than to marry him.

What attracted you the most about him?

Mrs. Ikeda: I liked the fact that my husband respected and praised his mentor highly. To have served such a distinguished teacher as Mr. Toda since the age of 19 was Daisaku’s greatest source of pride. He would tell me: “It has nothing to do with money or honor. I have met and have been taught by a great mentor, and I feel like the most fortunate person in the world” (From Kaneko’s Story: A Conversation With Kaneko Ikeda, pp. 48–49).

May 3, 1960

Daisaku Ikeda is inaugurated the third Soka Gakkai president. 

Photo: Seikyo Press
Photo: Seikyo Press

Gazing at a picture of his late mentor, Mr. Toda, the 32-year-old Daisaku Ikeda vowed in his heart to accomplish the worldwide transmission of Nichiren Buddhism for the sake of peace: “Sensei, following in your footsteps, I now begin my great lifelong struggle for the Law” (The Human Revolution, p. 1970).

May 3, 1979

Soka Gakkai President Ikeda’s resignation is announced. 

By May 3, 1979, the Soka Gakkai had become an international organization with millions of members. On that day, at the headquarters general meeting—which was supposed to be a joyous occasion celebrating Soka Gakkai Day— it was announced that President Ikeda had resigned from his position as third Soka Gakkai president nine days before on April 24, 1979.

Behind his sudden resignation were the machinations of the corrupt Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and traitorous Soka Gakkai leaders who, hungry for power, conspired to exploit the organization and bring about its downfall.

After the headquarters general meeting, President Ikeda went directly to the Kanagawa Culture Center, which faces Yokohama harbor and the Pacific Ocean. There, he made a powerful determination to stand alone in spreading Nichiren Buddhism throughout the world.

Thirty years after his resignation, at a nationwide leaders meeting on April 14, 2009, President Ikeda for the first time unveiled a calligraphic work that he wrote on May 3, 1979— kyosen, or “shared struggle.” Beneath that calligraphy, he included the following:

54th Year [of the Showa period, 1979]
The evening of May 3
I am determined to advance kosen-rufu
Throughout my life,
With an unshakable heart,
Trusting there are true comrades

May 3, 1980

President Ikeda pens the calligraphy “May 3.” 

Photo by Seikyo Press
Photo: Seikyo Press

President Ikeda inscribed the calligraphic work in Osaka on May 3, 1980. He included the inscription:

This date [May 3] is
the starting point of the Soka Gakkai
inscribed on May 3, 1980
My heart serene and tranquil
With palms pressed together


President Ikeda inscribed the work as an expression of his victory over the trying circumstances of 1979. He did not reveal this calligraphy publicly for 30 years. It was first displayed at the April 17, 2010, Headquarters Leaders Meeting celebrating May 3, Soka Gakkai Day.

May 3, 1988

Soka Gakkai Mother’s Day is established.

President Ikeda recognized that the Soka Gakkai’s growth was largely due to the efforts of the women’s division members—the “mothers of kosen-rufu.” On April 27, 1988, at the First Nationwide Soka Gakkai Women’s Division Leaders Meeting held in Tokyo, he therefore proposed that May 3 also be designated Soka Gakkai Mother’s Day in the spirit of appreciation for their vital role in the organization. At that meeting, President Ikeda also proposed a new women’s division flag that would feature red, yellow and blue hues—symbolizing harmony and victory (red); glory and intellect (yellow); and seeking mind and fortune (blue). From this proposal emerged today’s SGI tri-colored flag.

In his February 2009 poem “A Symphony of Great and Noble Mothers,” President Ikeda likened the mothers of Soka to the sun—brightest of all.

He also writes: “The 80 years of the Soka Gakkai / have been victorious because of mothers’ prayers! / The 50 years of fierce struggle of the third president / have been triumphant because of mothers’ prayers!

“Mother / means someone who is never defeated; / it is another word for a person / who is guaranteed to win in the end” (April 17, 2009, World Tribune Special Insert, p. D).

May 3, 2001

The first May 3 of the 21st century, and the founding of Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo, Calif. 

On May 3, 2001, President Ikeda established Soka University of America, a nonsectarian fouryear liberal arts college, grounded in the Buddhist principles of peace, human rights and the sanctity of life. U.S. News & World Report ranks it among the top national liberal arts colleges.

May 3, 2030

The 100th anniversary of Soka Gakkai Day. 

Noble vow- From around the globe, 250 representatives gather in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, for the SGI Youth Training Course. Sept. 4, 2015. Photo: Seikyo Press.
Noble vow—From around the globe, 250 representatives gather in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, for the SGI Youth Training Course. Sept. 4, 2015. Photo: Seikyo Press.

In his 2016 New Year’s message, President Ikeda writes: “Our SGI movement is dedicated to imparting infinite hope to those weighed down by suffering and to fostering capable individuals who will build a bright future. It is extending a network of peace in the community, society and the world—a network woven from beautiful human ties and founded on a commitment to the happiness of each individual.

“As we set our sights on 2020, the Soka Gakkai’s 90th anniversary, and further, on 2030, the Soka Gakkai’s centennial, let us initiate a fresh advance with the brand-new vibrant life force of time without beginning” (Jan. 1, 2016, World Tribune, p. 2).