Feature

60 Years of Trailblazing Peace

The History of the Student Division.

Photo: RNMitra / iStock / Getty Images Plus.


This month marks 60 years since second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda established the Soka Gakkai student division on June 30, 1957. SGI President Ikeda has called the student division members “trailblazers” of the Soka Gakkai’s movement for peace. In this article, we will learn the founding spirit of the student division, how President Ikeda developed the members of the student division into humanistic leaders in society and how the members of the SGI-USA student division are developing based on this spirit.

June 30, 1957:

Establishing the Student Division

[Josei Toda] earnestly hoped that [the student division members] would become the compassionate and wise leaders of a new age, leaders who would fight for and protect the people.

This revolution of leadership, revolution of society’s elite, is the eternal and unchanging mission of the student division.[1]Kosen-rufu: Our Mission, vol. 2, p. 282.—SGI PRESIDENT IKEDA

The Soka Gakkai student division was the final group that second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda established in his lifetime.

Josei Toda speaks at the establishment of the student division at Azuba Civic Hall, Tokyo, June 30, 1957. All photos by Seikyo Press.

At the inaugural meeting, held on June 30, 1957, at Azabu Civic Hall in Tokyo, President Toda expressed his wish that the student division members become engaged intellects who would fight for and protect the people.

Addressing the 500 student division members gathered, he said, “If half of you become company directors and the other half receive doctorates, that’ll be enough.”[2]The Human Revolution, p. 1605. He was counting on these 500 students to become great leaders in all spheres of society, who could move the world in the direction of peace.

President Toda first suggested establishing the student division in April 1956 in a conversation with his most trusted disciple, Daisaku Ikeda. They were discussing how to amplify waves of humanism throughout the world, when President Toda said, “Daisaku, it’s about time we formed a student division, wouldn’t you agree?” From that point on, mentor and disciple began making preparations for the establishment of the student division based on their wish to realize Nichiren Daishonin’s goal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land” into the distant future.

June–July 1957:

Incidents in Yubari and Osaka Surround the Establishment of the Student Division

What good is intelligence if you refuse to fight against injustice? What good is learning if you don’t protect the people? What good is youth if you don’t use it to strengthen and forge yourself as a human being?[3]Kosen-rufu: Our Mission, vol. 2, p. 282.—SGI PRESIDENT IKEDA

The student division was established amid severe storms of persecution by corrupt authorities directed at the Soka Gakkai’s fledgling people’s movement. Daisaku Ikeda, in fact, couldn’t attend the student division inaugural meeting, because he had been dispatched to Yubari, a coal-mining village on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, to support and protect the local members.

During an election one year earlier (in July 1956), many Soka Gakkai members had voted for a candidate who was endorsed by the Soka Gakkai instead of the one representing the coal miners union.

The union, who had a firm grip on the Yubari citizens for decades, pressured members to recant their faith or face expulsion from the union, in a case of blatant religious discrimination.

Soka Gakkai members were treated as outcasts at the mine, while their wives and children were ostracized in the community. Defamatory posters were pasted on electricity poles and criticisms broadcast by radio.

The young Daisaku Ikeda inspired the members in the face of persecution, saying: “If the established powers were going to unjustly oppress the people, then we would rise up under the banner of justice to defend them; we would fight with undying courage!”[4]Ibid., p. 281.

After repeated debates, the union leadership on July 2, backed down from their threats to strip Soka Gakkai members of union membership.

Just one day later, on July 3, 1957, Daisaku Ikeda boarded an airplane to Osaka to present himself for questioning by the authorities. He had been falsely accused of breaking electioneering laws in Osaka. President Ikeda recalled: “It goes without saying that what was behind all this was the political establishment’s fear of the Soka Gakkai as a new popular movement dedicated to the rights of the people.”[5]Ibid., p. 283.

He made a brief stopover at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, where President Toda, his wife and other Soka Gakkai leaders greeted him.

President Toda’s novel The Human Revolution had been printed several days earlier, on June 29, and he handed a copy to Mr. Ikeda. In an emotional encounter, President Toda, concerned about his young disciple’s health, said to him: “If, just if, you should find yourself facing death, I would come to you instantly and throw myself upon you to shield you from harm as we die together.”[6]The Human Revolution, p. 1619.

In the first, full-fledged attempt to try to destroy the Soka Gakkai, Osaka authorities imprisoned the Daisaku Ikeda that same day, on July 3, 1957. It was 12 years to the day Mr. Toda was released from prison, where he was held for being a “thought criminal” during World War II for refusing to recant his beliefs. Based on this history of unwavering commitment to kosen-rufu, July 3 came to be known as the Day of Mentor and Disciple.

Daisaku Ikeda is released from the Osaka Detention House where he was held on false charges, Osaka, July 17, 1957. He was fully exonerated of all charges on January 25, 1962.

Mr. Ikeda was released from jail two weeks later, on July 17, but the legal fight was far from over. After a four and a half year trial, President Ikeda was fully exonerated of all charges, on January 25, 1962.

President Ikeda writes about the student division’s establishment during this tumultuous period: “The newly formed student division sailed out bravely onto these troubled waters and rang the bell heralding the start of a new era.”[7]Kosen-rufu: Our Mission, vol. 2, p. 283.

President Ikeda Trains Core Student Division Members

Please study in order to benefit others and achieve victory in life. Study voraciously so that you may help suffering individuals find happiness. Whatever dark nights of hardship you may encounter, never lose sight of this fixed polestar, the purpose of your studies.[8]Ibid., p. 289.—SGI PRESIDENT IKEDA

By 1962, the student division had grown to 12,000 members, which was double the membership from the year before. President Ikeda was convinced that the key future leaders of the Soka Gakkai and society as a whole would emerge from the student division. With this determination, he began giving lectures on The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings to student division representatives on August 31, 1962. Why study what may be Nichiren Daishonin’s most difficult work? President Ikeda explained to the student division leaders at that time:

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings represents the quintessence of all systems of thought and philosophy. It fully elucidates the principles of Nichiren Buddhism—its view of life, religion and the cosmos. The time has come for the Soka Gakkai to apply those principles to realizing human happiness and prosperity in every realm, including government, business, education, art, literature and journalism. That is why I want the student division leaders to study The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings and gain a profound understanding of the matchless philosophy and principles of Nichiren Buddhism.[9]The New Human Revolution, vol. 6, pp. 275–76.

President Ikeda lectures on The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings to student division representatives in Japan, August 1962.

For five years, President Ikeda met regularly with this group, developing them into core Soka Gakkai leaders and influential figures in Japan and in other countries as well. He wanted these young people to develop unshakable conviction in the basics of Buddhist practice and their mission for kosen-rufu. For example, while discussing the passage where Nichiren explains Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, President Ikeda goes into depth in explaining nam, which means devotion:

More specifically, we might say that this devotion is dedicating ourselves to the realization of kosen-rufu with the resolve to propagate Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and the Gohonzon of the oneness of the Person and the Law widely as our purpose and lifelong goal. This is the path that leads to absolute happiness.[10]NHR-6, 283.

Learning the profound mission of the Soka Gakkai as direct disciples of Nichiren Daishonin, the student division members have truly developed into “trailblazers” of worldwide kosen-rufu, just as President Ikeda envisioned.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Kosen-rufu: Our Mission, vol. 2, p. 282.
2. The Human Revolution, p. 1605.
3. Kosen-rufu: Our Mission, vol. 2, p. 282.
4. Ibid., p. 281.
5. Ibid., p. 283.
6. The Human Revolution, p. 1619.
7. Kosen-rufu: Our Mission, vol. 2, p. 283.
8. Ibid., p. 289.
9. The New Human Revolution, vol. 6, pp. 275–76.
10. NHR-6, 283.