The pioneering Buddhist philosopher, educator, author, and peace activist Daisaku Ikeda, who served as the third president of the Soka Gakkai Buddhist movement from 1960–79, and was the founding president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), died at his home on 15 November. He was 95 years old.
Ikeda was instrumental in helping to spread Buddhist thought around the world through the Soka Gakkai, and was an influential leader of the socially engaged Buddhist movement. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
A public statement posted on Ikeda’s website and on the website of the Soka Gakkai shared:
Daisaku Ikeda, Honorary President of the Soka Gakkai and President of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), passed away from natural causes at his residence in Shinjuku, Tokyo, on the evening of November 15. He was ninety-five. A funeral has been held with members of his immediate family; the time and date of commemorative services will be announced shortly. (Soka Gakkai)
Born in Tokyo in 1928, Ikeda was the fifth of eight children. His experiences in Japan during World War Two would play a pivotal role in Ikeda’s view of violence and conflict and his lifelong commitment to peace. In 1947, aged 19, Ikeda met Josei Toda (1900–58), educator and leader of the Soka Gakkai. He was inspired by Toda’s conviction and gift for explaining profound Buddhist concepts to embrace Nichiren Buddhism, taking Toda as his mentor.
At the age of 32, Ikeda succeeded Toda as the third president of the Soka Gakkai in 1960, heralding a period of innovation and dynamic growth, including overseas expansion. Ikeda dedicated himself to developing initiatives in the areas of peace, culture, and education based on Buddhist ideals. The Soka Gakkai International (SGI) was founded in 1975 as an umbrella organization for the growing network of Soka Gakkai member organizations around the world, and Ikeda became its president.
In the subsequent years, Ikeda traveled widely, visiting more than 50 countries and meeting world leaders such as China’s former premier Zhou Enlai and former president of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev.
“The central tenet of Ikeda’s thought, and of Buddhism, is the fundamental dignity of life, a value which he sees as the key to lasting peace and human happiness,” the Soka Gakkai noted on their website. “In his view, global peace relies ultimately on a self-directed transformation within the life of the individual, rather than on societal or structural reforms alone. This idea is expressed most succinctly in a passage in his work The Human Revolution, Ikeda’s novelized account of the Soka Gakkai’s history and ideals: ‘A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.’” (Soka Gakkai)
The president of the Soka Gakkai, Minoru Harada, and Senior Vice President Hiromasa Ikeda released a video message following Ikeda’s passing. The video was recorded at the Three Founding Presidents Conference Room of the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu on 18 November, and includes a message from SGI Honorary Women’s Leader Kaneko Ikeda:
Founded in 1930, the Soka Gakkai (the Value Creation Society) is a Japanese Buddhist movement based on the teachings of the 13th century Buddhist priest Nichiren (1222–82). Nichiren taught devotion to the Lotus Sutra, believed to contain the teachings of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, toward the end of his life, as the exclusive means to attain enlightenment. Soka Gakkai centers its teachings on the Lotus Sutra, with recitation of the mantra “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” (“Glory to the Dharma of the Lotus Sutra”) as its main devotional practice.
The Soka Gakkai International, founded by Daisaku Ikeda in 1975, is an NGO with consultative status to UN ECOSOC. As a global community-based Buddhist organization that promotes peace, culture, and education based on respect for the dignity of life, the Soka Gakkai is involved in peace activism, education, and politics, with members in 192 countries and territories around the world.
Some of the Soka Gakkai’s high-profile members include actor Orlando Bloom, jazz musician Herbie Hancock, and singer Tina Turner.
Peace is not simply a matter of living a quiet, detached, or carefree life. Peace exists in action―courageously, nonviolently fighting against the injustice that makes people suffer. It is only in such action that we find peace. When the majority of people lose the will to resist injustice and become indifferent and apathetic, it may be said that society starts to tilt in the direction of war. — Daisaku Ikeda
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