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Ikeda Sensei

Building Peace Through Dialogue

Friends talking in the city
FG Trade / Getty Images.

This essay by Ikeda Sensei was originally published in the Aug. 24, 2021, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper.

I would like to offer my deepest sympathies to our members around the world struggling in the wake of various natural disasters, including in western Japan, which recently suffered devastating torrential rains.

As Nichiren Daishonin indicates in his treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land,” torrential rains, along with epidemics, are calamities that have caused people suffering and hardship throughout the ages.

Today, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and seemingly never-ending natural disasters, how can we help each person remain undefeated by these challenges and change poison into medicine? We need to think about this in terms of our local communities, societies and the world at large, and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and work together toward that end. This is how we fulfill our vow to realize Nichiren’s ideal of “establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land.”

I wish to express my profound gratitude to those who are engaged in natural disaster relief and reconstruction efforts, as well as the medical professionals who are fighting so hard to save and protect lives during the pandemic.

I am also praying wholeheartedly for the health, long life and safety of all our precious members everywhere.

August is a month for strengthening our vow to realize a world without war and expand our network of individuals committed to peace.

I first met my mentor, Josei Toda, on Aug. 14, 1947, the eve of the second anniversary of the end of World War II. I was 19 years old at the time. This was about three months after my family received notification that my beloved eldest brother had been killed in the war, and I saw my mother’s grief-stricken reaction to the terrible news.

Mr. Toda had survived wartime imprisonment for his beliefs and emerged a leader of a grassroots movement for peace. The day we met, he taught me the right way to live, and 10 days later, on a sweltering Aug. 24, I joined the Soka Gakkai. I embarked on the shared journey of mentor and disciple, upholding the great vow for kosen-rufu, for world peace.

On Aug. 24, 1950, my third anniversary of embracing faith, at a time when Mr. Toda’s businesses were in dire crisis, Mr. Toda and I, mentor and disciple, discussed founding the Seikyo Shimbun, the Soka Gakkai newspaper, as a voice speaking out for the dignity of life.

On the evening of Aug. 14, 1952, I took the Tsubame special express train across the bridge over the Yodogawa River into Osaka, determined to open new spheres for kosen-rufu. That night, I attended a discussion meeting in Sakai City, and from that gathering of resilient, optimistic ordinary people, I energetically initiated a valiant struggle to build Ever-Victorious Kansai.

In August 1955, I was in my mentor’s home region of Hokkaido leading the Sapporo Summer Campaign to expand our movement for kosen-rufu there. At that time, the members and I studied Nichiren’s writings and encouraged one another, determined to create a wonderful society guided by the life-affirming principles of Nichiren Buddhism. And we welcomed Mr. Toda to Hokkaido with a new propagation record on Aug. 24, my eighth anniversary of faith.

Year after year, I have continued to win victories of mentor and disciple in the month of August, my starting point in faith. Together with my steadfast fellow members and my comrades in the men’s division, I have walked the correct path of life toward the realization of peace and humane values.

The Daishonin closes his treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land” with the wish and pledge: “I hope we may set about as quickly as possible taking measures to deal with these slanders against the Law and to bring peace to the world without delay, thus insuring that we may live in safety in this life and enjoy good fortune in the life to come” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 26).

Whatever happens, we will always powerfully chant and move forward holding high the banner of truth. We will reach out to those around us who are suffering and work for the happiness of all people and world peace. With patience and perseverance, and through sincere dialogue, we will continue to open the way to a peaceful, secure society, and to realize for ourselves and others the eternal happiness of attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime.

By interesting coincidence, Aug. 15, 1947, the day after my encounter with Mr. Toda, is the day when India, the birthplace of Buddhism, gained its independence.

I am reminded of some words by the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, who was born 160 years ago this year. He declared that human history is waiting in patience for the triumph of the downtrodden.[1] These words were written during one of his visits to Japan.

On his first visit to the country in 1916, Tagore arrived in Kobe and from there traveled to Osaka and Tokyo. He stayed for some time in Yokohama, and that summer he visited the home of pioneering Japanese entrepreneur Eiichi Shibusawa (1840–1931) in Asukayama in Tokyo’s Kita Ward, and also visited Izura in Ibaraki Prefecture. In Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, he sat under a large tree to talk with a group of students from a Japanese women’s university.

Incidentally, I received the wonderful news that on July 19, 2021, the young women’s division anniversary, our Kayo-kai membership in India surpassed 50,000. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, our young women’s division members in India have continued to expand a beautiful flower garden of happiness with their pure and resilient spirit, like the lotus flower that blooms in muddy water (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 263).

Happy are those who are undefeated.
Happy are those who are unafraid.
Happy are those who have strong faith.
You are all queens of happiness.

These are the words my wife, Kaneko, and I presented to the women of Soka in India three decades ago [during a visit in 1992].

My wife has also maintained a firm resolve to lead an undefeated life together with her fellow members. She was 9 years old when she started practicing Nichiren Buddhism along with her parents, making this year her 80th year of practice.[2] As a forerunner of the future division, she once guided Tsunesaburo Makiguchi by the hand from the nearest train station to her family home for a discussion meeting. She was also among the first members of the young women’s division when it was founded by Mr. Toda, and continued to work hard for kosen-rufu even after becoming a mother and a women’s division member, like the members of the current women’s division Young White Lily Generation in Japan.[3] She continues to chant earnestly that her fellow Soka women, the suns of peace, not only in India but throughout the entire world, will lead undefeated lives of happiness and victory day after day.

Josei Toda delivered his Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons on Sept. 8, 1957, at Mitsuzawa Stadium in Yokohama. This was a profoundly significant event.

About two months later, despite his dire health, he announced his wish to visit Hiroshima for a guidance tour. The privations of his two years of incarceration during the war, combined with his momentous efforts for kosen-rufu over more than a decade, had left him in a state of extreme physical debilitation. Out of deep concern, I pleaded with him to cancel the trip, but he scolded me, declaring his resolve to go even if it cost him his life.

A further decline in his condition ultimately prevented him from realizing his wish. But why was he so determined to go? He said that members there were awaiting his visit, especially, his attendance at a kickoff meeting scheduled to be held at the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Hall [now the east wing of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum].

My mentor’s fierce determination to travel to the first place to be bombed by an atomic weapon and there take action to sever at the root the devilish nature of authority that was threatening people’s fundamental right to survival brought tears to my eyes as his disciple.

We of the Soka Gakkai, linked by bonds of mentor and disciple, are courageously carrying on the great struggle of Nichiren. Engaged in an unceasing battle with the devil king of the sixth heaven who seeks to take possession of the saha world, the Daishonin declares: “Not once have I thought of retreat” (“The Great Battle,” WND-2, 465).

The horrors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima are depicted in the series of paintings “The Hiroshima Panels” by Iri and Toshi Maruki. Iri Maruki was from Hiroshima and his wife, Toshi Maruki, was from Hokkaido.

During the U.S. Occupation, the horrific reality of the bombing was suppressed by strict military censorship, and conversation on the subject dwindled away. This angered Mr. Maruki. Motivated by his conviction that the use of atomic weapons must not be swept under the rug, that he had to leave a record of it for posterity, he created, together with his wife, “The Hiroshima Panels.”

It is time for the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, world citizens, to boldly take the lead and expand our network of people dedicated to transforming the destiny of humankind.

This powerful, unstoppable feeling that “I cannot remain silent!” is the driving force for rescuing truth in a society where indifference, cowardice and forgetfulness are widespread.

The Daishonin made the same declaration: “I cannot keep silent on this matter” (“On Establishing the Correct Teaching,” WND-1, 7). His lion’s roar for truth resonates across seven centuries, deeply resounding in Mr. Toda’s penetrating insight into the diabolical thinking underlying atomic weapons.

The spirit of Mr. Toda’s anti-nuclear weapons declaration lives on in the Soka Gakkai’s “struggle of words.”

That is why I chose Aug. 6, 1993, the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, as the day to begin my serialized novel The New Human Revolution; and on that same day 25 years later in 2018, having given my whole heart to the endeavor, I brought it to a close. The final installment was published in the Seikyo Shimbun on Sept. 8, 2018, the anniversary of Mr. Toda’s Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons.

Now I have passed the baton to the next generation. The Shin’ichi Yamamotos of the new era, my beloved disciples and successors who share my commitment, are carrying out their own magnificent and diverse dramas of human revolution around the world.

This year, marking the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, the 30th Soka Gakkai Youth Summit for the Renunciation of War took place online. Youth division and high school division members from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Okinawa and other parts of Japan eagerly participated. Our youth division and future division members, the successors of our movement, are resolutely carrying on the vow to put an end to war and nuclear weapons. Nothing could be more reassuring.

Recently (on June 30), Arab Scientific Publishers Inc. of Lebanon published an Arabic translation of my dialogue Choose Life with Arnold J. Toynbee (1889–1975). Next year will mark 50 years since we began our dialogue, which has now been published in 30 languages.

I am sure that Professor Toynbee would be delighted at this, and I would like to express my thanks to all who have contributed to the many translated editions of the book.

Professor Toynbee believed that creativity arose from the chance encounter of individuals. That is why he entrusted us of the Soka Gakkai with the task of carrying out dialogue based on the spirit of “Choose life,” bringing people and cultures together.

Now, in both our immediate local communities and in the wider global community, we must engage even more in dialogue on the many issues that confront us—such as epidemics, climate change, division and conflict—pool our wisdom and demonstrate our ability to create positive new value.

It is time for the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, world citizens, to boldly take the lead and expand our network of people dedicated to transforming the destiny of humankind.

In my early days of working alongside my mentor, I copied a line from a Walt Whitman poem in my notebook: “Human bodies are words, myriads of words.”[4]

Empty, flippant words are meaningless. Nothing is more eloquent than such human qualities as courage and conviction exuding from a person’s whole being, a sincere voice, a bright smile and an act of immense kindness. Our seniors in faith are perfect examples of this.

Let’s each share the hope-filled philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism with others in our own unique way in the place where we are! With the passionate, indomitable spirit exemplified by the Daishonin when he says “Still I am not discouraged” (“The Essentials for Attaining Buddhahood,” WND-1, 748), let us further expand our efforts in dialogue!

My dear young friends, advance forward, ever forward! My noble comrades, advance in high spirits, making a song of life, a song of peace resound powerfully!


  1. See Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds, in Collected Poems and Plays of Rabindranath Tagore (Delhi: Macmillan India, Ltd., 1991), p. 328. ↩︎
  2. Kaneko Ikeda began her Buddhist practice on July 12, 1941. ↩︎
  3. At the Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting held on Nov. 18, 2019, it was announced that women’s division members under the age of 50 would be referred to as the Young White Lily Generation in Japan. The white lily is one of the symbols of the women’s division. In conjunction with this development, the Young Mother’s Group was dissolved and absorbed into this larger group. ↩︎
  4. Walt Whitman, “Song of the Rolling Earth,” Leaves of Grass: Comprehensive Reader’s Edition, edited by Harold W. Blodgett and Sculley Bradley (New York: New York University Press, 1965), p. 219. ↩︎

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