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Our History

Happy Birthday, President Toda!

Photo courtesy of Seikyo Press.

This month we celebrate the 122nd anniversary of second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s birth. Josei Toda was born on Feb. 11, 1900, in Ishikawa Prefecture in the Hokuriku region of Japan. He was an educator, publisher and entrepreneur who was responsible for publishing Soka kyoikugaku taikei (The System of Value-Creating Education), the seminal work of his mentor, founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. The book’s publication on Nov. 18, 1930, is recognized as the founding date of the Soka Gakkai.

During World War II, military authorities imprisoned Mr. Toda and his mentor as “thought criminals.” On Nov. 18, 1944, the anniversary of his work’s publication, President Makiguchi died in prison a martyr to his beliefs.

Mr. Toda experienced two profound awakenings in prison. The first was his realization that “the Buddha is life itself.” The second was an awakening to his identity as a Bodhisattva of the Earth, whose purpose was to spread the essential teachings of Buddhism. These realizations, together with his determination to eradicate misery from the world, became the impetus for his efforts to develop the Soka Gakkai following his release from prison.

He became the second Soka Gakkai president on May 3, 1951. In the little more than a decade after his release from prison, together with his youthful disciple Daisaku Ikeda, he built a dynamic organization with a membership exceeding 750,000 households in Japan. His ability to translate complex Buddhist concepts into clear, practical guidance helped thousands of people struggling amid postwar devastation to rebuild and find purpose in their lives. President Toda’s concept of human revolution, the transformation of one’s own state of life, became a guiding principle for the members’ Buddhist practice. This framed the otherwise abstract idea of the attainment of Buddhahood as a self-motivated change in one’s inner life that creates a transformation in one’s circumstances and in society as a whole.

President Toda ardently opposed war and the existence of nuclear weapons. His 1957 Declaration for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons is seen as the starting point of the Soka Gakkai’s peace movement.

—Adapted from

Leaving No One Behind!

The Invincible Life of the Lion King