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Daisaku Ikeda Bio

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Daisaku Ikeda was born in Tokyo on Jan. 2, 1928, the fifth of eight children, to a family of seaweed farmers. Growing up during World War II, he endured firsthand the profound devastations of war, including the death of his eldest brother who was killed in action in Burma (present-day Myanmar). This experience as a teenager gave birth to a lifelong passion to work for peace and root out the fundamental causes of human conflict.

SGI President Ikeda with his wife, Kaneko. Photo by Seikyo Press.

In 1947, at 19, Daisaku encountered Buddhism through a meeting with Josei Toda, an educator, pacifist and leader of the Soka Gakkai. Mr. Toda had been imprisoned during the war together with his mentor, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. Both had held firm to their religious convictions in the face of oppression by the military authorities who imposed State Shinto ideology on the population as a means of sanctifying their war of aggression. Mr. Makiguchi died in prison, a martyr to his beliefs.

President Toda’s resolve to stand up to the militarist regime impressed the young Daisaku, who would later write: “The words of a person who had suffered imprisonment for his convictions carried a special weight. I felt intuitively that I could trust him.”

In his view, global peace relies ultimately on a self-directed transformation within the life of the individual, rather than on societal or structural reforms alone.

President Toda was engaged in the process of rebuilding the Soka Gakkai, which he had founded together with his mentor and fellow educator, Mr. Makiguchi, and which had been all but destroyed as a result of wartime persecution.

The young Daisaku shared Mr. Toda’s conviction that the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism, with its focus on the limitless potential of the individual, cultivated through an inner-directed revolution, could help revive society in the devastation of postwar Japan.

Although his association with President Toda lasted only 10 years, President Ikeda describes his mentorship as the defining experience of his life and the source of everything he has done and become.

In May 1960, two years after Mr. Toda’s death, Daisaku Ikeda, then 32, succeeded him as president of the Soka Gakkai. In 1975, he became the founding president of the Soka Gakkai International, now a global network linking over 12 million members in 192 countries and territories. President Ikeda writes: “Everything depends on the people. That is why it is vital to forge a growing network that brings people of goodwill and conscience together.” Under his leadership, the movement began an era of innovation and expansion, becoming actively engaged in initiatives promoting peace, culture, human rights, sustainability and education worldwide.

To put into practice the educational philosophy of his predecessors, Mr. Makiguchi and Mr. Toda, he established the Soka (value-creation) schools system, which includes Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo, California. The nondenominational school system is based on an ideal of fostering each student’s unique creative potential and cultivating an ethos of peace, social contribution and global citizenship.

President Ikeda has also founded a number of independent, nonprofit research institutes that promote peace through cross-cultural, interdisciplinary collaboration, including the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue and the Toda Peace Institute. The Min-On Concert Association and the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum promote mutual understanding and friendship between different cultures through the arts.

President Ikeda is a strong proponent of dialogue as the foundation of peace. Since the 1970s, he has pursued dialogue with individuals from diverse backgrounds—prominent figures from around the world in the humanities, politics, faith traditions, culture, education and various academic fields—to discover common ground and identify ways of tackling the complex problems facing humanity. Over 80 of these dialogues have been published in book form.

The central tenet of President Ikeda’s thought, grounded in Buddhist humanism, is the fundamental dignity of life, a value he sees as the key to lasting peace and human happiness. In his view, global peace relies ultimately on a self-directed transformation within the life of the individual, rather than on societal or structural reforms alone.

This conviction is expressed most succinctly in the preface of The Human Revolution, his novelization of the Soka Gakkai’s history and ideals in postwar Japan: “A great inner revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.”

President Ikeda is a prolific writer who has published more than 250 translated works, ranging from commentaries on Buddhism to biographical essays, poetry and children’s stories.

On this, his 92nd birthday and with great appreciation, we wish him “Happy Birthday.”

—Adapted from daisakuikeda.org