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Our History

Oct. 2, 1960

Photo by Ross Parmly / Unsplash.

Ikeda Sensei had been the third Soka Gakkai president for just five months when, on Oct. 2, 1960, he boarded Japan Airlines Flight 800 to Honolulu. It was his first overseas journey to spread Nichiren Buddhism.

As the plane roared over the Pacific Ocean, Sensei placed his hand over his jacket’s inner breast pocket, where he carried a photograph of his beloved mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda.

Just before his death, Mr. Toda said that he dreamed he had gone to Mexico: “They were all waiting. Everyone was waiting. They were all seeking Nichiren Buddhism. I want to go—to travel the world on a journey for kosen-rufu” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, revised edition, p. 2).

Pressing the limits of his own mortality, Mr. Toda urged his young disciple to carry on in his stead. “[Daisaku], the world is your challenge; it is your true stage. It is a vast world” (NHR-1, revised edition, 3). Armed with his mentor’s injunction and a philosophy that illuminates the preciousness of human life, Sensei traveled on that first trip  to the United States, Canada and Brazil to sow the seeds of Buddhism throughout the world.

In the U.S., he visited seven cities—Honolulu, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. He met Soka Gakkai members, many of whom were Japanese women married to American servicemen and struggling with isolation in a foreign land.

Sensei awakened them to their mission as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, who vowed to guide others to enlightenment as they overcome their own suffering. Together with their mentor, these ordinary people pioneered the kosen-rufu movement in the U.S.

The SGI has since grown to encompass more than 11 million practitioners in 192 countries and territories, making it the largest and most diverse lay Buddhist movement in the world.

In his 55th anniversary message in 2015, Sensei again called on the members in America to play a leading role in “this magnificent movement of the people.” “The SGI-USA’s progress serves as a model for and gives hope to the entire world,” he wrote. “The greater the development of the SGI-USA, the greater the momentum will be for the progress and expansion of worldwide kosen-rufu” (Oct. 2, 2015, World Tribune, p. 2).

—Prepared by the World Tribune staff

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