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Establishing a Network of Peace Throughout the World

Taking concrete steps to spread Nichiren Buddhism globally, Ikeda Sensei led the Soka Gakkai’s expansion to 192 countries and territories.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Everything Begins From the Revitalization and Joy of One Person

Already 158 representatives had gathered from 51 countries and territories in the meeting hall. Shortly past 11 a.m. on Jan. 26, 1975, Ikeda Sensei and his wife, Kaneko, arrived before the assembly inside the Guam International Trade Center Building, a white structure not far from Guam’s airport. The First World Peace Conference, at which the Soka Gakkai International would be established, was about to begin.

Sensei went to the guestbook, where he took up a pen. After signing his name, he wrote in the column for nationality, “The World.” From the perspective of Buddhism, which teaches the equality and dignity of all people’s lives, nationality or race do not matter. The idea of global citizenship his mentor, Josei Toda, had put forward resounded in Sensei’s heart.

Upon his appointment as Soka Gakkai International president, Sensei urged those gathered:

Rather than seeking after your own praise or glory, I hope that you will dedicate your noble lives to sowing the seeds of peace of the Mystic Law throughout the entire world. I shall do the same.[1]

The hall shook with applause, signaling the participants’ fresh resolve. Each understood that the reason they could gather that day as practitioners of the Mystic Law was solely because of Sensei’s efforts to sow seeds of encouragement worldwide over the past 15 years since he became the third president.

The first time that the words worldwide kosen-rufu appeared as a headline in the Seikyo Shimbun was on Oct. 5, 1960. It was three days after Sensei had departed on his first overseas trip for world peace from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.

International travel was uncommon at the time, and only a handful of Soka Gakkai members lived abroad. Members in Japan had a limited sense of the world, so there was great excitement about his trip.

Some members thought that Sensei would launch a whirlwind of propagation abroad, just as he had done in Japan. But his top priority was to listen to those he met. At every discussion meeting, he listened and responded to the members’ questions.

In Honolulu, he met a Japanese woman who had married an American soldier stationed in Japan during the Korean War. She told Sensei, “I want to go back to Japan.”[2]

Her husband hailed from the Aloha State, but the life she had dreamed of upon moving to Hawaii did not materialize. Telling of her many challenges—the language barrier, financial hardships and her husband’s physical abuse—her shoulders heaved as she sobbed loudly. Tormented, she said, “I don’t know what to do.”[3]

Many women in the room faced similar circumstances, and her tears triggered their sobs. Nodding empathetically, Sensei said softly:

It must have been very hard for you. You must have really suffered. But you have the Gohonzon, haven’t you? Faith is the power to survive.[4]

Sensei explained the Buddhist teaching of transforming karma and encouraged her. He concluded:

Your becoming happy affects not only you but will lead to the revitalization of all Japanese women living here in Hawaii. Therefore, you must not be defeated by your suffering. Instead, live strongly and invincibly.[5]

In San Francisco, too, women grappled with similar struggles. Once again, Sensei listened and encouraged them with his whole being. He gave them three guidelines: acquire citizenship and become good American citizens; obtain driver’s licenses; and master English.[6]

Don’t seek an ideal life some place far away, Sensei urged. Rather, he hoped these women would sink roots in society, win trust and become happy right where they were.

You Are Important’

At a discussion meeting in Brazil, too, Sensei said warmly: “Please feel free to ask me anything you like. That’s why I have come.”[7]

A man who had emigrated from Japan told of his struggle to farm the unfamiliar land. Now, heavily in debt, he wanted to know what he should do.

Sensei asked, “Was there some problem with the fertilizer you used?” and “What about the relationship between the soil and the vegetables you are trying to grow in it?”[8]

Politely, Sensei explained:

Buddhism is a teaching of unsurpassed reason. Therefore, the strength of your faith must manifest itself in the form of studying, exercising your ingenuity and making twice as much effort as anyone else. Earnest chanting is the wellspring for the energy to challenge these things. Your chanting must also be a pledge.[9]

During his visit to nine cities in the U.S., Canada and Brazil, Sensei did not emphasize propagation or increasing the membership. Instead, he stressed the importance of each person becoming happy and persevering in faith.

Peace starts by lighting a flame of courage in the hearts of those who have lost hope or who are battling the realities of life. Sensei writes:

Though such efforts might seem insignificant and far removed from the goal of world peace, the essential basis for peace lies only within the human being. [Shin’ichi Yamamoto][10] was deeply convinced that genuine peace could not be achieved without the revitalization of all individuals and the establishment of true joy and happiness in their lives.[11]

Whether in Japan or on guidance trips abroad, Sensei embodied these ideals in his actions.

Three months after this first overseas trip, on Jan. 28, 1961, Sensei left for Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, India, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia. From Oct. 4, 1961, he traveled to Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.

Everywhere he went, even in countries without any Soka Gakkai members, Sensei chanted daimoku, determined to permeate the land with Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. He prayed that in the future many Bodhisattvas of the Earth would appear in each place he visited.[12]

In January 1962 he visited the Middle East; in 1964, he went to Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Sensei had visited 36 countries and territories by the SGI’s establishment in 1975, sowing seeds of encouragement, kosen-rufu and peace everywhere he went.

Weathering Storms

Pathways to advancing kosen-rufu always entail difficulties and require great effort to build.

This was particularly true in countries that Japan had invaded during World War II. When people there learned that the Soka Gakkai was based in Japan, prejudice and misunderstanding often led them to be harshly critical. The authorities in Taiwan issued an order for the organization there to disband in 1963, and the South Korean government forbade the Soka Gakkai from propagation activities, labeling it an anti-state group.

In the 1960s and ’70s, a number of military governments emerged in Central and South America. Some of these authorities restricted religious gatherings, forcing members to take extreme care in conducting activities and preventing Sensei from visiting.

Still he sent messages and letters to Soka Gakkai leaders there. Whenever international members visited Japan, he made time to meet with and encourage them, treating each encounter as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

At times, Sensei warmly encouraged them with the spirit “There’s no need to feel anxious. I’m here with you, so you’ll be just fine.” And at other times, he sternly advised them, trying to infuse in them the essence of the Soka Gakkai spirit.

For example, to youth from Uruguay, he said:

For the next five years do your best, remaining true to your faith. Now is the time for you to accept whatever suffering comes your way and strive your hardest. You cannot achieve kosen-rufu unless you are true champions![13]

His persistent wish and passion was to inspire each person and to never allow that person to become unhappy.

With the ongoing Cold War, Sensei reminded members around the world to not let differences in political systems sway them. In 1981, he discussed the purpose of the SGI in what was then a divided Germany:

As you know, both capitalism and communism have reached an impasse. Mind you, our aim is not to criticize either system. Our activities as Buddhists begin by shining a light on the individuals who make up each society.[14]

Members in each country took the initiative, engaging as good citizens and contributing to their communities. Support for and trust in the SGI grew steadily year by year. To honor Sensei’s leadership, a succession of local governments issued honorary citizenships, and an unprecedented number of educational institutions (409) conferred on him honorary academic titles.

In February 1987, Sensei received a national medal of honor from the Dominican Republic. At a meeting with Dominican members, he said that he wished he could divide the award into smaller pieces to give to each person because they had all worked so hard. He emphasized that most important is each person’s happiness and that his receiving the medal would enable the Dominican members to conduct their activities more freely. His honor, he said, is seeing SGI members become happy.

Shin’ichi Yamamotos of a New Era

On Nov. 28, 1991, the Soka Gakkai celebrated its spiritual independence, shedding the chains of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, which schemed to destroy the Soka Gakkai.[15] Following this, Sensei initiated a Soka Renaissance, a new start for worldwide kosen-rufu based on the essential spirit and teachings of Nichiren Daishonin.

In 1993, he went on a three-month trip with an intensive schedule through North and South America and Asia. On Aug. 6, he began work on The New Human Revolution at 65, resolved to undertake the fierce struggle to complete the 30-volume work in his lifetime.

Volume 1 begins with the main character, Shin’ichi Yamamoto, departing on a journey for worldwide kosen-rufu holding firm in his heart the injunction of his mentor, Josei Toda: “The world is your challenge.”[16]

The novel’s opening lines read: “Nothing is more precious than peace. Nothing brings more happiness. Peace is the most basic starting point for the advancement of humankind.”[17]

Translated into many languages, it continues to provide nourishment for members around the world. By learning about Sensei’s struggles for peace, members young and old, including those who have never met him in person, can communicate with their mentor in their hearts; they can vow to be Shin’ichi Yamamotos of the 21st century who advance kosen-rufu.

The people’s network of Soka spanned 115 countries and territories when the novel’s serialization began; it has now grown to encompass 192 countries and territories. Sensei completed the 30th and final volume, on Aug. 6, 2018. As of 2024, outside Japan, the growing ranks of SGI members—“Shin’ichi Yamamotos of the new era”—number nearly 3 million.

Accolades for the SGI’s movement for peace, culture and education continue without cease throughout the world. In recent years, the Taiwan government, which once harassed the organization there, has, through its Ministry of the Interior, recognized the Taiwan Soka Association as an excellent community organization 21 times. In South Korea, too, local governments and various institutions have conferred numerous honors upon Sensei and Mrs. Ikeda.

In 2016 and 2023, respectively, the SGI organizations in Italy and Germany gained official recognition as religious organizations, enabling each to further contribute to kosen-rufu in their countries.

On Sept. 2, 2023, Sensei sent a message to youth representatives who gathered in Japan from 44 countries and territories and to members throughout the world, saying:

Together with all the Shin’ichi Yamamotos around the globe who are growing without bound, let us pledge to … [change] the destiny of humankind.[18]

Over his lifetime, Sensei visited 54 countries and territories, planting the “seeds of peace of the Mystic Law.” And through a shared struggle with his disciples who are an “extension of his life,”[19] those seeds continue to be planted throughout the globe. Due to these united and compassionate efforts, Bodhisattvas of the Earth will continue to emerge like beautiful flowers around the world.

January 2, 2024, World Tribune, pp. 12–14


  1. The New Human Revolution, vol. 21, p. 33. ↩︎
  2. NHR-1, revised edition, 41. ↩︎
  3. Ibid., p. 42. ↩︎
  4. Ibid., p. 43. ↩︎
  5. Ibid., p. 44. ↩︎
  6. See Ibid., pp. 110–11. ↩︎
  7. Ibid., p. 267. ↩︎
  8. Ibid., pp. 267–68. ↩︎
  9. Ibid., p. 268. ↩︎
  10. Ikeda Sensei appears in The New Human Revolution as Shin’ichi Yamamoto. ↩︎
  11. NHR-1, revised edition, 45. ↩︎
  12. See NHR-3, revised edition, 40. ↩︎
  13. NHR-22, 345. ↩︎
  14. NHR-30, 342. ↩︎
  15. Spiritual independence: On Nov. 28, 1991, the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood sent an excommunication notice to Sensei and the Soka Gakkai’s members, marking the Soka Gakkai’s formal disassociation from Nichiren Shoshu. SGI members throughout the world have since celebrated Nov. 28 as our Day of Spiritual Independence. ↩︎
  16. NHR-1, revised edition, 3. ↩︎
  17. Ibid., p. 1. ↩︎
  18. Sept. 15, 2023, World Tribune, p. 3. ↩︎
  19. The Human Revolution, p. 1922. ↩︎

Unsparing Encouragement for the Triumph of the People

Striving to Transform the Destiny of Humankind