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Our Pledge on SGI Day

Recounting Ikeda Sensei’s contributions to global peace, Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada calls on us to carry on our mentor’s work.

Illustration by ladyastronaut / fiverr.

The following statement by Soka Gakkai President Minoru Harada was translated from the Jan. 26, 2024, issue of the Soka Gakkai’s daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun.

Today, Jan. 26, marks the start of the 50th year since the founding of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) in 1975.

On that historic day, Ikeda Sensei concluded his speech by appealing to the members: 

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]

From that time onward, he continued to work at the forefront of our movement to prevent the tragic history of two world wars from repeating. He engaged in dialogue with leaders and intellectuals from various countries to forestall—from the spiritual perspective of Buddhism—the further deepening of divisions and conflicts in the world. At the same time, he sought to energetically foster a culture of peace through the solidarity of the people.

Toward this end, Sensei conducted more than 1,600 dialogues with leaders and experts from around the world, some 80 of which culminated in the form of publications. The first of these was his dialogue with Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi (1894–1972), known as the father of European integration, published in 1972.

Sensei met Count Coudenhove-Kalergi for the first time in 1967, a time when the Vietnam War was escalating, following which they engaged in dialogue several times. Warning that if the division of the world were to persist, nothing could prevent a third world war leading to the utter breakdown of our entire civilization, Count Coudenhove-Kalergi stated: “Only a new wave of religion can stop this trend and save humanity. Soka Gakkai therefore is a great hope.”[2]

I believe he made this statement because he sensed Sensei’s deep commitment to work and travel tirelessly to realize the fervent wish of his mentor, second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, which was to rid the world of misery.

An episode that illustrates the underpinnings of this commitment is introduced in The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra. In 1964, when Sensei was writing his lecture on “The Selection of the Time,” the world was still reeling from the shock of the Berlin Crisis of 1961, which took place the year after he was inaugurated as the third president of the Soka Gakkai, and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

He poured his heart and soul into drawing forth from every word and phrase of the Gosho Nichiren Daishonin’s spirit as an admonitory reflection on the contemporary world. And he came to the passage, “great struggles and disputes such as have never been known in the past will break out in Jambudvipa” (“The Selection of the Time,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 542). Among the study department leaders with whom he was discussing this passage, there were those who suggested that it could be interpreted as predicting the occurrence of a third world war. Sensei adamantly rejected this conclusion: 

If World War III were to occur, the entire human race would be wiped out by nuclear weapons. Must humanity be subjected to even crueler and more horrible suffering than it already has? To allow this to happen would show an abominable lack of compassion as a Buddhist! Let us decide right now that it is World War II to which the Daishonin refers when he speaks of “great struggles and disputes such as have never been known in the past.” Whatever happens, we cannot permit another world war to occur. … Let us definitely achieve kosen-rufu—the dream of lasting peace and happiness for all humanity![3]

Upholding this conviction, he made his first visits to China and the Soviet Union in 1974, the year before the establishment of the SGI. He began preparations for his trip to the Soviet Union immediately after returning from China in June. Even though some urged him to reconsider and others voiced virulent criticisms of his visits to these communist countries, Sensei remained steadfast.

The reason I’m traveling to the Soviet Union is that I want to do whatever I can to prevent a third world war. That’s why I am going there after my visit to China, and then I will go to the United States. As an emissary of Nichiren Daishonin, I’m going equipped with a philosophy of peace and reverence for life, determined to raise the curtain on an age of world peace.[4]

Undeterred by the storms of controversy and against the backdrop of rising Cold War tensions, Sensei made his first visit to the Soviet Union in September 1974, revisiting China in December of the same year. He then headed to the U.S. on Jan. 6, 1975, to deliver to the United Nations Headquarters 10 million signatures gathered by Soka Gakkai youth division members calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

On Jan. 26, 1975, he attended the inaugural meeting of the Soka Gakkai International on the island of Guam, the site of fierce fighting during the Pacific War. Following the SGI’s establishment, he accelerated his efforts to transmit messages of peace to the world.

In a speech at the headquarters general meeting held in Hiroshima that November, Sensei stressed the need for states to commit to never being the first to use nuclear weapons as a priority toward abolition. In May 1978, he issued a proposal to the First Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament (SSOD-I), in which he reiterated his long-standing call for a prohibition on the manufacture, testing, storage and use of nuclear weapons by any nation, in order to ultimately eradicate them from the planet. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which entered into force in January 2021, fully aligns with this early appeal.

In June 1982, he also submitted a proposal to the Second Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Disarmament (SSOD-II) and in January 1983, he issued the first of his annual peace proposals on the occasion of SGI Day. From then until 2022, he penned a total of 40 annual proposals.

The first peace proposal focused on the threat of nuclear weapons, and from that point on, alongside discussions of global issues ranging from conflict prevention, human rights, and environmental and humanitarian problems, a recurring theme year after year was the prohibition of nuclear weapons with many concrete proposals for paving a path to their abolition.

Sensei consistently advocated for a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons through his annual proposals and at every other opportunity. And in fact, the TPNW was adopted by the U.N. on July 7, 2017.

On Aug. 14, 2017, the 70th anniversary of his first meeting with Mr. Toda, Sensei shared his thoughts about the adoption of the treaty: 

In my own concrete proposals for abolishing nuclear weapons, I have placed special importance on the following four points:

1) Building solidarity in civil society for vocal opposition to nuclear weapons.
2) Stressing the utter inhumanity of nuclear weapons in abolition discussions.
3) Urging the adoption of international agreements abolishing nuclear weapons within the forum of the United Nations.
4) Ensuring that the voices of the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (hibakusha) are reflected in the fundamental spirit of any such agreements.

Since the launch of its initiative “People’s Decade for Nuclear Abolition” in 2007, the SGI has undertaken wide-ranging activities with the aim of creating a network of citizens working for peace. It has also collaborated in projects and seminars with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and other like-minded groups.

In the midst of our continuing efforts to broadly advocate and spread awareness of the above four points in international society, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was finally adopted by 122 nations at the U.N. Headquarters.

As President Toda’s disciple, I felt an incomparable pride and satisfaction in this historic achievement that is helping fulfill the vow I made with my mentor that day at the Mitsuzawa Stadium.

The signing of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is scheduled to begin at the opening of the General Assembly session in September, the very month we celebrate the 60th anniversary of President Toda’s declaration.[5]

From the time President Toda made this declaration, Sensei worked tirelessly for its realization in the spirit of mentor and disciple striving in unity. This conviction is distilled in the concluding words of what proved to be his final peace proposal in 2022:

The inhumane nature of nuclear weapons is not limited to the catastrophic consequences of their use. No matter how many people strive for a better world and society, or for how long, once an exchange of nuclear forces begins, all will have been for naught. The reality of the nuclear age is that we are compelled to live in constant company with the worst—the most incomprehensible and absurd—danger imaginable. 

The SGI’s commitment to nuclear abolition traces back to President Toda’s 1957 declaration calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons. In the midst of an intensifying arms race among nuclear-armed states, the Soviet Union had successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) the month before, creating a new reality in which all parts of the globe were now exposed to the possibility of nuclear attack.

In the face of this chilling reality, Mr. Toda stressed that the use of nuclear weapons by any state must be absolutely condemned, voicing his outrage at the underlying thinking that justifies their possession: “I want to expose and rip out the claws that lie hidden in the very depths of such weapons.”

I remember as if it were yesterday my mentor’s indignation at the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons, which can rob each of us of the meaning and dignity of our lives and can destroy the workings of human society root and branch. As his disciple, determined to realize his vision, I felt his righteous anger in the depths of my very being.

With the conviction that the destiny of humankind cannot be transformed without resolving the challenge of nuclear weapons, the fundamental evil of modern civilization, I have consistently addressed this issue in my annual proposals since 1983 and have worked for the outlawing of nuclear weapons.

Several decades later, the TPNW, a treaty resonant with the spirit of Mr. Toda’s declaration, has entered into force, and the first meeting of states parties is about to take place. The crucial stage has now been reached in efforts to abolish nuclear weapons, the keenly sought goal of so many of the world’s people, starting with the hibakusha—both the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and those impacted by the development and testing of these weapons around the world.

Completing this task is how we can fulfill our responsibility to the future. Firm in this belief, the SGI will continue to advance, growing the solidarity of civil society with a special focus on youth, toward the creation of a culture of peace where all can enjoy the right to live in authentic security.[6]

Let us pass on these words as the core values of the Soka Gakkai’s mission in society and as our pledge to Sensei that we will work together to fulfill.

These passages from the last peace proposal—together with Sensei’s appeal at the inauguration of the SGI, founding Soka Gakkai President Tsunesaburo Makiguchi’s advocacy of humanitarian competition and the spirit that animated Mr. Toda’s call for the abolition of nuclear weapons—will serve as the enduring foundation for the Soka Gakkai’s peace movement. On this basis we will work with like-minded people and organizations for the realization of a world without nuclear weapons, a world without war.

The SGI pledges to continue to develop ideas and proposals toward the resolution of the diverse challenges facing humanity, including the abolition of nuclear weapons and the prevention of war, the protection of the environment, the universal realization of human rights, addressing the climate crisis and various humanitarian issues.

Sensei once referred to the following words of Mr. Toda as the inspiration that motivated the sustained effort to issue a peace proposal every year:

It is important to make specific proposals toward the peace of humankind and to take the lead in seeing them realized.

Even when such proposals are not fully or immediately accepted, they can serve as a “spark” from which a movement for peace will eventually spread like wildfire. Theorizing that is not grounded in reality will always remain a futile exercise. Concrete proposals provide a framework for the transformation of reality and can serve to protect the interests of humanity.[7]

As disciples of Ikeda Sensei, let us each follow in the footsteps of the three founding presidents in their pursuit of peace and humanism. As the bearers of a culture of peace actively fulfilling our unique mission, let us transform the tragic history of human misery, expanding a robust solidarity of the people into the limitless future.

February 16, 2024, World Tribune, pp.6-8


  1. The New Human Revolution, vol. 21, p. 33. ↩︎
  2. See Koichi Saito, Shashin: Ikeda Daisaku o ou (Daisaku Ikeda: A photographic diary), (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1969), p. 97. ↩︎
  3. The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 1, p. 166. ↩︎
  4. The New Human Revolution, vol. 20, p. 138. ↩︎
  5. Oct. 20, 2017, World Tribune, p. 3. ↩︎
  6. <accessed Jan. 26, 2024>. ↩︎
  7. See The New Human Revolution, vol. 30, pp. 628–29. ↩︎

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