Chapter 9: The History of the Soka Gakkai

In this chapter, we will examine the history of the Soka Gakkai by learning about the accomplishments of its three founding presidents, who dedicated their lives to kosen-rufu, and the spirit of mentor and disciple they shared.

The Lotus Sutra is the scripture that makes clear Shakyamuni Buddha’s intent, the real purpose of his teachings. The intent of the Buddha is that all people bring forth the wisdom of buddhahood that has always been inherent within them and establish unshakable happiness for themselves and for others, creating the basis for peace throughout the world.

The Lotus Sutra describes those who strive to actualize this intent of the Buddha as bodhisattvas of the true Mahayana teaching. They do so by struggling against all kinds of obstacles to achieve a profound transformation in their own lives and the lives of others. Such bodhisattvas, the sutra teaches, appear in the age called the Latter Day of the Law after the passing of Shakyamuni Buddha. They work to spread the Lotus Sutra throughout the entire world and thereby realize the Buddha’s purpose, a process we call kosen-rufu, the widespread propagation of the sutra’s teaching. The bodhisattvas who shoulder this mission are called the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

The leader of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth who appear in the Lotus Sutra is named Bodhisattva Superior Practices. Nichiren Daishonin awakened to his mission to fulfill the role of Superior Practices in the Latter Day, taking as his own the great desire and vow for kosen-rufu described in the sutra―the Buddha’s will and mandate. He stood up to actualize that will and established the fundamental teaching and practice for freeing all people and all of society from suffering throughout the Latter Day. For this reason, the Daishonin is often referred to as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.

Today, it is the Soka Gakkai that has inherited and is carrying on the Daishonin’s spirit, deeply resolved to accomplish its mission of worldwide kosen-rufu and earnestly persevering in its efforts to actualize that goal. The leaders who have firmly established the practice, awareness, and resolve for achieving kosen-rufu in modern times are the Soka Gakkai’s first three presidents: its first president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, its second president, Josei Toda, and its third president, Daisaku Ikeda. Together they are respected as the Soka Gakkai’s three founding presidents.

These three founding presidents are often referred to using the honorific title Sensei, which is sometimes used alone and sometimes follows the family name.

1. The Time of the First President, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi

We can find the origins of the Soka Gakkai in the relationship of mentor and disciple that existed between the first president, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, and the second president, Josei Toda. Both were educators.

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi was born on June 6, 1871, in the village of Arahama in today’s Kashiwazaki City, Niigata Prefecture (on the Japan Sea coast). While in his early teens, he moved to Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands, where he lived under the care of a relative. There he exerted himself in his studies while working and eventually entered the Hokkaido Normal School (present-day Hokkaido University of Education). Upon graduating, he became a schoolteacher, and in 1901 he moved to Tokyo with the manuscripts for his first work, Jinsei chirigaku (The geography of human life), which was published in 1903. He later held the post of principal at several elementary schools in Tokyo.

Josei Toda was born on February 11, 1900, in a village called Shioya in present-day Kaga City, Ishikawa Prefecture (also on the Japan Sea coast). In around 1902, his family moved to the village of Atsuta in today’s Atsuta Ward in Ishikari City, Hokkaido. After graduating from an ordinary and higher elementary school (roughly equivalent to finishing today’s junior high school) in 1914, he studied on his own while working. Eventually, he received his teaching certificate and began his career as a teacher in the Hokkaido town of Yubari.

Mentor and Disciple Meet

From that time on, Toda was seeking a mentor in life, and upon visiting Tokyo, he met Makiguchi, who was by then the principal of an elementary school. The two readily took to each other. The former was 48 years old at the time, and the latter, 19. Before long, Toda began to teach at the school, regarding Makiguchi as his mentor in life and supporting him in every possible way.

[Note: After moving to Tokyo, Toda, while working, studied at the night school of Kaisei Middle School and attended night classes at Chuo University.]

The Establishment of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai

As an educator engaged first-hand in primary school education, Makiguchi’s hope and vow was to enable every child to succeed in creating personal happiness as a self-sufficient member of society. He applied himself to developing an approach to education that would make this possible.

He delved deeply into research and formulated a theory of value that could serve as a foundation for the unique pedagogy he would later systematize. In the process, he encountered the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin, which he realized clarified the principles and fundamental practice for enabling the kind of life transformation that would give rise to value creation in human society. In 1928, he took faith in Nichiren Buddhism as a member of Nichiren Shoshu—a Buddhist school that derived its teachings from the lineage of Nikko Shonin, the Daishonin’s closest disciple and immediate successor. He was 57 years old at the time.

Makiguchi recounts his state of mind after taking faith in Nichiren Buddhism, writing, “With an indescribable joy, I completely changed the way I had lived for almost sixty years.”1 As this statement suggests, he took the Daishonin’s teaching as a principle for living and devoted himself to it. He regarded it as a source of power and energy for creating value and achieving actual positive results in the midst of society and in daily life.

Regarding his motivation for taking faith, Makiguchi recalls, “Encountering the Lotus Sutra, I realized the teachings of the sutra in no way contradict the principles of philosophy and science that form the basis of our daily lives.”2

That same year, Toda followed his mentor in taking faith in Nichiren Buddhism.

On November 18, 1930, Makiguchi published the first volume of his Soka kyoikugaku taikei (The system of value-creating pedagogy). This work systemized his views and ideas on education and was intended as the first of twelve volumes (of which four were eventually published).

His disciple, Toda, personally helped fund the publishing project and collaborated in every aspect of its production, including organizing and editing Makiguchi’s notes into a manuscript and dividing the content into chapters.

The publisher’s imprint listed Tsunesaburo Makiguchi as the author, Josei Toda as the publisher and printer, and the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (Value-Creating Education Society) as the publishing house. This was the first time the name Soka Kyoiku Gakkai had appeared in public, and for this reason the date of the work’s publication, November 18, is celebrated as the date of the Soka Gakkai’s founding.

[Editor’s Note: After the society was virtually destroyed by the militarist government, as will be explained below, Toda restored and renamed it the Soka Gakkai.]

Soka means creation of value. The purpose of education and the purpose of life are the pursuit of happiness, and the name Soka expresses Makiguchi’s thinking that the creation of value is integral to building happiness.

The conception of the word Soka itself came about in the course of a discussion between the two innovative educators. We could say that the birth of the Soka Gakkai, then, was itself a crystallization of the united spirit of mentor and disciple.

Buddhist Practice Directly Connected to Nichiren Daishonin

In this way, the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai was born out of the bond of mentor and disciple. Gradually, its organizational structure became more defined and it began to grow.

While originally an association of educators interested in the principles of value-creating education, noneducators eventually began to join as well, and the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai became a group for the practice of Nichiren Buddhism, the power source for value creation.

Though a society of lay practitioners of the Nichiren Shoshu school of Buddhism, the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai conducted its affairs in a completely different manner than previously established Nichiren Shoshu lay societies. These groups of lay believers each were affiliated with a specific local temple and operated under the guidance of the chief priest of that temple. The Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, however, operated independently, under the leadership of President Makiguchi and General Director Toda. It did not rely on priests for its management or operation or for providing guidance pertaining to faith.

Nor was the form of Buddhist practice it encouraged constrained to visiting temples or participating in ceremonies such as funeral and memorial services, as was the case with most Buddhist schools in Japan, including Nichiren Shoshu. Rather, it taught a practice that was open to everyone, which aimed to enable each person to actualize happiness in the midst of life’s real challenges and to contribute to the peace and prosperity of society.

Through holding discussion meetings and its leaders traveling to various regions to offer guidance and encouragement in faith, the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai grew steadily, reaching a membership of around three thousand.

Challenging Japan’s Militarism

The militarist government, in its reckless rush to expand its war footing with State Shinto3 as its spiritual pillar, endeavored to coerce uniformity of thought among Japan’s populace. It placed Soka Kyoiku Gakkai discussion meetings and other activities under surveillance by the Special Higher Police, which was responsible for investigating so-called thought crimes.

At the time, the government was pressuring citizens to visit and offer prayers at Shinto shrines and to enshrine and worship talismans to the Sun Goddess, the mythical progenitor of the imperial lineage. In June 1943, the priests of Nichiren Shoshu, in fear of government repression, delivered to the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai the following request: “Why don’t you accept the Shinto talisman?” This was made to Makiguchi Sensei in the presence of the high priest.

The posture of Nichiren Shoshu in accepting the government’s demand to enshrine the talisman to the Sun Goddess constituted complicity in slander of the Law (slander of the correct Buddhist teaching). It was a violation of the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin and his successor Nikko Shonin, from whom Nichiren Shoshu claimed lineage. Makiguchi Sensei adamantly refused to accept the Shinto talisman, and the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai thus persisted in upholding the Daishonin’s teaching and example of strictly admonishing slander of the Law.

On July 6, Makiguchi Sensei, while visiting Shimoda in Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture, and Toda, in Tokyo, were taken into custody by detectives of the Special Higher Police. Ultimately, twenty-one leaders of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai were arrested on suspicion of committing lèse-majesté (the crime of violating the dignity of the emperor) and violating the Peace Preservation Law.4

All those arrested were subjected to coercive interrogation, and most of them abandoned their faith. In the end, only Makiguchi Sensei and his trusted disciple Toda resisted, persisting in their faith. Makiguchi Sensei even explained to the prosecutors and judges who questioned him the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism. Both refused to buckle under the pressure of authority and persevered in upholding the right and just principles of Buddhism.

On November 18, 1944, at the age of 73, Makiguchi Sensei passed away at the Tokyo Detention Center due to malnutrition and the weakness of age. Coincidentally, the day of his death was the anniversary of the Soka Gakkai’s founding.

Throughout his life, he had lived and practiced as the Daishonin taught in his writings, never hesitant to risk his life to do so. He lived as a noble pioneer who revived in modern times the Daishonin’s spirit of propagating the Mystic Law to lead the people from suffering to happiness.

Toda Sensei’s Awakening in Prison

While in prison, Toda Sensei, in addition to exerting himself in chanting daimoku, from early 1944 began to read the Lotus Sutra and ponder it deeply. In the process, he experienced an awakening—a realization that the buddha is life itself.

As he continued to chant and engage in profound contemplation, Toda also became aware that he himself was a Bodhisattva of the Earth who had been present at the Ceremony in the Air described in the Lotus Sutra and who was entrusted with the widespread propagation of the sutra’s teaching in the age after Shakyamuni Buddha. Thus, in November 1944, he awakened to the deep conviction that “I, Toda, am a Bodhisattva of the Earth,” whose mission it was to accomplish kosen-rufu.

Through the profound awakening he experienced in prison, he developed an immovable conviction in the Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings and resolved that it was his personal mission to ensure their propagation worldwide. The awakening that Toda Sensei had experienced while in prison became the primary inspiration behind the revival of Buddhism in the modern age and the powerful progress of the Soka Gakkai as a religious group dedicated to the accomplishment of kosen-rufu.

At a memorial service for Makiguchi Sensei after the war, Toda addressed his departed mentor:

“In your vast and boundless compassion, you let me accompany you even to prison. As a result, I could read with my entire being the passage from the Lotus Sutra: “Those persons who had heard the Law dwelled here and there in various buddha lands, constantly reborn in company with their teachers” (LSOC, 178). The benefit of this was coming to know my former existence as a Bodhisattva of the Earth and to absorb with my very life even a small degree of the sutra’s meaning. Could there be any greater happiness than this?” 5

This passage from “The Parable of the Phantom City” (7th) chapter of the Lotus Sutra teaches that the bond between mentor and disciple is such that they will always be born together in a buddha land, in a place where they will strive together to save people from suffering.

While most of those persecuted by the authorities discarded their faith, Toda Sensei’s words express his sincere appreciation and resolve to repay his debt of gratitude to his mentor under any circumstances. In them, we catch a glimpse of the strength of this bond of mentor and disciple.

2. The Time of the Second President, Josei Toda

On July 3, 1945, Josei Toda emerged from prison, having endured two years of life in confinement, and stood up alone to carry on the will of his mentor, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, for the accomplishment of kosen-rufu. As general director of the Soka Gakkai, he began immediately to undertake the reconstruction of the organization, which was in a state of ruin.

The people of Japan at the time were in the pit of despair, reeling from the destruction brought on by the war and the turmoil of its aftermath. State Shinto, which had been forced upon the populace, was now being repudiated, along with other beliefs and values espoused by the militarist government. Yet no new source of hope was to be found.

Toda Sensei was convinced that Nichiren Buddhism alone constituted a spiritual principle powerful enough to lead the people away from suffering and confusion, and he stood up with a great wish and vow to spread its teachings widely. The organization’s goal would be to not only carry out educational reform but also accomplish kosen-rufu, that is, peace throughout the world and happiness for all people. In line with that purpose, he amended its name from Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (Value-Creating Education Society) to Soka Gakkai (Value-Creating Society), and began again to hold discussion meetings and travel to outlying regions to offer guidance in faith.

Encounter between Mentor and Disciple—Toda Sensei and Ikeda Sensei Meet

In 1947, Toda Sensei met the young Daisaku Ikeda, who would later become the third President of the Soka Gakkai.

Ikeda was born in the district of Omori, in Tokyo’s Ota Ward, on January 2, 1928.

He grew up at a time when Japan was plunging into war: He was 9 years old at the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937),6 and 13 at the outbreak of the war with the United States in the Pacific theater of World War II (1941). As the war intensified, his four older brothers, all in the prime of their lives, were drafted into the military and sent into battle. To help support his family, Ikeda worked at a munitions factory. Suffering from tuberculosis, however, he spent his early youth in physical distress, thinking deeply about the questions of life and death.

When his eldest brother, Kiichi, had returned home temporarily from the battlefield, he described how much misery the war was causing the people of Asia. In addition, his family had been forced from their home, which burned in the air raids. Through these accounts and experiences, he had become bitterly aware of war’s injustice and tragic cruelty.

After the war, the family learned that the eldest brother, who had been sent back to the battlefront, had been killed in combat in Burma (present-day Myanmar). Witnessing his mother’s deep sadness on learning of her son’s death, young Ikeda’s sense that war was evil, a crime against humanity, strengthened and deepened. Searching for clear answers to the question of how to live, he delved into works of literature and philosophy.

It was in the midst of this quest that on August 14, 1947, he attended his first Soka Gakkai discussion meeting. There he encountered the man who would become his lifelong mentor, Josei Toda.

At the meeting that evening, Toda Sensei was delivering a lecture on Nichiren Daishonin’s writing “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land.” When Toda had finished lecturing, Ikeda asked him a series of questions, including “What is the correct way to live?”; “What is a true patriot?”; “What is the meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo?”; and “What do you think about the Emperor?”

Toda’s answers were clear and well reasoned and infused with the deep conviction he had gained through his struggles against Japan’s militarist government and during two years of unjust imprisonment. As he listened, the youth was struck with the sense that he could trust everything this man had said.

Ten days later, on August 24, Ikeda began his practice of Nichiren Buddhism. At the time, he was 19 years old, and Toda Sensei, 47.

In April the following year, Ikeda enrolled in night classes at Taisei Gakuin (present-day Tokyo Fuji University). In September, he began to attend Toda’s lecture series on the Lotus Sutra. Taking Toda Sensei as his mentor, he deepened his study and understanding of Buddhism and vowed to live his life for the sake of kosen-rufu.

And in January 1949, he started to work at Toda’s publishing company as the editor of a magazine for boys.

The Shared Struggle of Mentor and Disciple to Rebuild the Soka Gakkai

In July 1949, the Soka Gakkai launched publication of its monthly magazine, The Daibyakurenge. The inaugural issue carried an essay Toda Sensei had written, titled “The Philosophy of Life.” Later, Toda’s businesses, which had been struggling amid the effects of Japan’s chaotic postwar economy, faced dire financial setbacks, and on August 24, 1950, he announced his intention to step down from his position as Soka Gakkai general director.

On that occasion, young Ikeda asked him, “Who will be my mentor from here on?” to which Toda Sensei replied, “Though I’ve caused you nothing but trouble, I am your mentor,” affirming the unbreakable bond of mentor and disciple.

The disciple exerted himself fully to settle Toda’s business affairs, solving the financial crisis. He resolved deeply in his heart to make it possible for Toda Sensei to take full leadership as president of the Soka Gakkai.

Ikeda had decided to stop attending night school so that he could fully support his mentor. But in response Toda Sensei told him that he would personally instruct him and provide him with a broad education surpassing any he could obtain from a university. This private instruction, known as Toda University, continued for nearly a decade, until the year before Toda’s death.

Amid this intensive struggle, Toda Sensei discussed with his most trusted disciple his vision for the future. This included the establishment of the organization’s newspaper Seikyo Shimbun to wage a battle of the written word for the sake of kosen-rufu, and the founding of Soka University. Both of these institutions came into being as a result of such dialogues between mentor and disciple.

Inauguration of the Second President

Having overcome his business troubles, Toda Sensei agreed, in response to requests from many members, to take on the position of Soka Gakkai president. His inauguration as the organization’s second president took place on May 3, 1951, and on that occasion he declared his vow to achieve a membership of 750,000 households.7 There were only about 3,000 members at the time, and no one could believe it was possible to achieve the goal Toda had stated.

Before his inauguration as president, Toda Sensei implemented a restructuring of the Soka Gakkai organization. He instituted a chapter-based system as a foundation for future development and refreshed the organization’s preparedness to take on the challenge of kosen-rufu.

Prior to his becoming president, the Seikyo Shimbun commenced publication on April 20. Its inaugural issue carried the first installment of Toda’s serialized novel Human Revolution, which he authored under the pen name Myo Goku.8

“Human revolution” refers to the process by which, through the practice of Nichiren Buddhism, each individual achieves a transformation of their state of life, eventually leading to a transformation in the destiny of all humankind. Upholding the principle of human revolution based on his philosophy of life, Toda endeavored to spread Nichiren Buddhism as a teaching accessible and applicable to all people today.

Also, immediately after his inauguration, President Toda established in succession the women’s division, the young men’s division, and the young women’s division.

At the same time, in the beginning of 1952 on Toda’s instruction, Ikeda became chapter advisor to the Soka Gakkai’s Kamata Chapter in Tokyo and led an effort that resulted in 201 new households joining during the month of February. This represented a breakthrough, far surpassing the monthly membership increases achieved by any chapter until then, and became known as the historic February Campaign. It marked a turning point after which the Soka Gakkai’s progress toward achieving its membership goal of 750,000 households accelerated rapidly.

Toda Sensei had been planning to publish a collection of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings. He knew this would be indispensable to the correct study and understanding of the Daishonin’s teachings and, therefore, progress toward kosen-rufu, the widespread propagation of Nichiren Buddhism.

Toda Sensei asked the accomplished Nichiren scholar Nichiko Hori to take charge of the compilation and editing. In April 1952, marking the 700th observation of the Daishonin’s establishment of his teaching, Nichiren Daishonin gosho zenshu (Complete works of Nichiren Daishonin) was published. From that time on, every Soka Gakkai member used this book to earnestly study Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings, and the spirit to base one’s actions on the Daishonin’s writings was established throughout the entire Soka Gakkai.

Battle against the Devilish Tendencies of Power

In April 1955, the Soka Gakkai ran its first candidates in local assembly elections. It took this step based on the spirit of establishing the correct teaching for the peace of the land, which the Daishonin espoused in the course of his struggle for the people’s happiness and a peaceful society.

In 1956, Ikeda inspired a remarkable increase in propagation, throughout the Kansai region of western Japan, with Osaka Chapter achieving an unprecedented membership increase of 11,111 households during the single month of May. In the House of Councillors election held in July that year, a candidate running in the Osaka electoral district, whose campaign Ikeda had led, was elected, defying all predictions to the contrary.

It was an outcome so astonishing that a major daily newspaper in Japan reported it under the headline, “What was thought impossible has been achieved!”

Three candidates endorsed by the Soka Gakkai had been elected to the House of Councillors, and from then on the organization became a focus of attention as a group with growing social influence. At the same time, vested powers and interests began to attempt unjustly to impede the organization.

In response to these attacks, Ikeda fought resolutely to protect the Soka Gakkai members. In June 1957, when the Yubari Coal Miners Union in the city of Yubari, Hokkaido, acted unjustly to suppress Soka Gakkai members’ religious freedom, he went there immediately to address the issue. Declaring that the Soka Gakkai would adamantly oppose these abuses, he strove diligently to achieve a solution. This became known as the Yubari Coal Miners Union Incident.

On July 3, immediately after leaving Yubari, Ikeda was unjustly arrested by the Osaka Prefectural Police in what became known as the Osaka Incident. In April that year (1957), the Soka Gakkai had run a candidate in a by-election to fill a vacant House of Councillors seat in the Osaka electoral district, and some members involved in the campaign had been charged with violating election laws. Ikeda, as the person responsible for the election campaign, was baselessly accused of orchestrating the illegal activities.

July 3 is the same date on which, in 1945, Toda Sensei was released from prison. Years later, Ikeda Sensei referred to this in a haiku, writing, “On this day of release and of imprisonment [July 3] are found the bonds of mentor and disciple.”

For fifteen days, Ikeda was subjected to harsh interrogation, during which the prosecutor threatened, “If you don’t confess your guilt, we will arrest President Toda.” Toda’s health had by that time become very frail, and going to jail would have surely led to his death.

To protect his mentor’s life, Ikeda confessed to the charges for the time being, resolved to prove his own innocence later in court. On July 17, he was released from the Osaka Detention Center.

For the next four-and-a-half years, Ikeda waged an ongoing court battle, and finally on January 25, 1962, he was pronounced not guilty on all charges. The prosecutor affirmed the court’s decision, declining the option to appeal.

Entrusting Kosen-rufu to Successors

On September 8, 1957, Toda Sensei delivered his “Declaration Calling for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons,”9 which would become the start and keynote of the Soka Gakkai’s peace movement. In it, based on the Buddhist principle of the sanctity and dignity of life, he identified nuclear weapons as a devilish creation that threatens to usurp humanity’s inviolable right to live, calling use of such weapons an act of absolute evil.

In December 1957, the Soka Gakkai reached its membership goal of 750,000 households, which Toda Sensei had vowed to achieve. And in March the following year, it completed and donated the edifice called the Grand Lecture Hall at the Nichiren Shoshu head temple, Taisekiji. There, on March 16, six thousand youth from around Japan, led by Ikeda, gathered for a ceremony in which Toda Sensei entrusted them with every aspect of kosen-rufu. On that occasion, President Toda declared, “The Soka Gakkai is the king of the religious world!”

This day, March 16, on which these young successors were entrusted with the great wish and vow for kosen-rufu, came to be called Kosen-rufu Day in the Soka Gakkai.

On April 2, 1958, Toda Sensei passed away, having completed all he had set out to accomplish. He was 58. Basing himself on the awakening he achieved while in prison, he had rebuilt the Soka Gakkai and constructed an immovable foundation for the future of kosen-rufu.

3. The Time of the Third President, Daisaku Ikeda

After Josei Toda’s death, Daisaku Ikeda, in the newly established position of general administrator (since June 1958), took full responsibility for the management and leadership of the Soka Gakkai, and on May 3, 1960, was inaugurated as the organization’s third president.

In his speech on that occasion, he said, “Though I am young, from this day I will take leadership as a representative of President Toda’s disciples and advance with you another step toward the substantive realization of kosen-rufu.”10 With this, his first “lion’s roar” as president—made on the same date that Toda Sensei had been inaugurated as president in 1951—a new period of great development for the Soka Gakkai began.

On October 2 that year, President Ikeda left Japan for North and South America, the first step in a journey to spread the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism around the world. In January 1961, he visited Hong Kong, India, and other destinations in Asia, and that October he traveled to Europe, initiating a surge of progress toward worldwide kosen-rufu.

In this way, Ikeda Sensei opened a substantive path toward achieving the westward transmission of Buddhism and the spread of the Mystic Law throughout the entire world, which Nichiren Daishonin had predicted.

In 1965, under the pen name Ho Goku,11 he began writing the novel The Human Revolution, which would be serialized in the Seikyo Shimbun newspaper and would eventually extend to twelve volumes. His purpose in doing so was to correctly transmit the history and spirit of the Soka Gakkai to future generations.

In the preface to the novel, he conveys its main theme, “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.”12 The Human Revolution portrays the efforts and struggles of the three founding presidents of the Soka Gakkai as they strove to build a foundation for the happiness and peace of humankind.

Ikeda Sensei has continued to chronicle the Soka Gakkai’s history in The New Human Revolution, a thirty-volume novel also serialized in the Seikyo Shimbun.

A Movement for Peace, Culture, and Education

The Soka Gakkai is an organization that fosters youth who will contribute positively to society.

Toda Sensei said that when kosen-rufu advances, numerous capable individuals will emerge, playing important roles in various fields of society. He further expected that the Soka Gakkai would one day become an important mainstay for the flourishing of peace and culture for all humankind. To that end, he insisted that it must become an outstanding educational movement, one that can raise people capable of fulfilling their mission.

In order to actualize that vision, the Soka Gakkai under the leadership of Ikeda Sensei has promoted a growing movement for peace, culture, and education grounded in Buddhist principles, thereby making great contributions to society.

In response to his proposals, the Soka Gakkai has created a number of specialized groups or divisions, including those for educators, scientists and academics, artists, writers and authors, and members with international experience and interests, as well as physicians and medical professionals. As the organization has developed a wider range of activities, it has established groups for business professionals, those involved in agriculture and fishing, residents of remote islands, and those involved in community activities and support. It has also founded institutions dedicated to scholarship and the arts such as the Institute of Oriental Philosophy, the Min-On Concert Association, and the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum.

To establish a political movement devoted to serving ordinary people and society in Japan, an independent political party known as Komeito was established in 1964 with the support of Soka Gakkai members.

Ikeda Sensei also established a system of educational institutions to actualize Makiguchi and Toda’s philosophy of value-creating pedagogy, or Soka Education. It includes kindergartens; elementary, junior, and senior high schools; and a junior college, universities, and graduate schools. Among these are Tokyo Soka Junior and Senior High Schools (opened in 1968) in Kodaira, Tokyo; Soka University (1971) in Hachioji, Tokyo; and Kansai Soka Junior and Senior High Schools (1973, as Soka Girls’ Junior and Senior High Schools) in Katano, Osaka. In 2001, Soka University of America opened in Orange County, California.

At the same time, Ikeda Sensei was broadening his efforts to conduct dialogues focused on peace, culture, and education on a global scale.

On September 8, 1968, he announced a proposal for the normalization of relations between Japan and China.13 And beginning in May 1972 he engaged in dialogues with the renowned British historian Arnold J. Toynbee. Their conversations spanned forty hours over a two-year period. This marked the start of a series of dialogues and exchanges with influential leaders and thinkers.

In 1974 and 1975, at the height of the Cold War between the East and West and with China and the Soviet Union also in conflict, President Ikeda initiated successive visits to China, the Soviet Union, and the United States, engaging in talks with their top leaders in order to open paths to peace and friendship.

On January 26, 1975, Soka Gakkai members representing fifty-one countries and territories gathered on the Pacific island of Guam for the establishment of the SGI, appointing Ikeda Sensei as its president.

Starting from around 1977, as the Soka Gakkai was making great strides toward worldwide kosen-rufu, priests at branch temples of Nichiren Shoshu began repeatedly making unfounded accusations against the organization. This came to be known as the first priesthood issue. Behind this was an alliance formed of priests and former leaders who had betrayed the Soka Gakkai. They plotted together to sever the bond of mentor and disciple—that is, between Ikeda Sensei, the leader of the movement for kosen-rufu, and the members—with the goal of controlling the Soka Gakkai for their own aims.

Ikeda Sensei strove to find a solution to the problem in order to protect the members from these attacks and in hopes of restoring harmony between the priesthood and laity. He found the only feasible way to do so was for him to step down as Soka Gakkai president. In April 1979, Ikeda Sensei did so, taking the title honorary president.

A Succession of Awards and Honors

Beginning in 1983, Ikeda Sensei has issued a Peace Proposal every year on January 26 in commemoration of SGI Day, the anniversary of the SGI’s establishment. These proposals are valued highly by many around the world.

He has also delivered more than thirty lectures at universities and academic institutions around the globe, while the number of dialogues he has conducted with leading world thinkers, heads of state, cultural figures, and university deans and presidents exceeds 1,600. More than seventy of these dialogues have been published in book form. Among them, the dialogue with Professor Toynbee has been published in some thirty languages, gaining wide praise as a guidepost for global culture and a textbook for humanity.

These dialogues, which connect different cultures and faiths, have helped deepen exchanges among peoples and build mutual understanding and solid bonds among those dedicated to good.

In 1995, the SGI Charter was adopted, making clear the principles of humanism the SGI stands for; and in 1996, the Toda Peace Institute (formerly Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research) was founded, focusing on the legacy of the teachings and principles of Josei Toda.

In response to the SGI’s efforts for world peace and activities for culture and education, public parks and streets bearing the names of Presidents Makiguchi, Toda, and Ikeda have appeared in localities throughout the world. Ikeda Sensei has continued to have honors and awards conferred upon him by nations, municipalities, and educational institutions. These include national medals, honorary doctorates and professorships, and honorary citizenships from numerous cities and counties.

The New Era of Worldwide Kosen-rufu

In the midst of this global progress, in 1991 the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood took the extreme measure of excommunicating the millions of members of the Soka Gakkai throughout the world. This and related events are known as the second priesthood issue. The Soka Gakkai strictly admonished this act perpetrated by a corrupt priesthood, which amounted to a grave slander of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings and betrayal of his intent.

Having triumphed over the schemes of the priesthood, the Soka Gakkai has ushered in a new era in the history of worldwide kosen-rufu. Its members are practicing Nichiren Buddhism in 192 countries and territories, where they have garnered widespread trust and praise for their steady efforts to contribute to society based on the spirit of Buddhist humanism.

In November 2013, a new edifice, the Hall of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu, was completed in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, as part of the Soka Gakkai Headquarters complex.

In his dedication on the monument displayed in the entrance lobby of the Hall of the Great Vow, Ikeda Sensei wrote: “Kosen-rufu is the path to attaining universal peace and prosperity. It is our great vow from time without beginning for the enlightenment of all people.”

Members from across Japan and around the world gather at the Hall of the Great Vow to do gongyo and chant daimoku. United in their vow to achieve kosen-rufu, they pray to the Soka Gakkai Kosen-rufu Gohonzon, which bears the inscription “For the Fulfillment of the Great Vow for Kosen-rufu through the Compassionate Propagation of the Great Law,” and start anew with fresh determination.

Through the efforts of the Soka Gakkai, Nichiren Buddhism now shines as a great source of hope throughout the world, like a sun illuminating all humankind.

Commemorative Dates of the Soka Gakkai

Jan. 261975. The Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is founded in Guam. Daisaku Ikeda is appointed its president.
Mar. 161958. Josei Toda entrusts the fulfillment of the great vow to achieve kosen-rufu to his successors, the youth, and to Ikeda in particular.
May 31951. Toda is inaugurated as second president.
1960. Ikeda is inaugurated as third president.
Jul. 31945. Toda is released from prison after enduring two years in confinement. He embarks on the reconstruction of the Soka Gakkai.
1957. Ikeda is unjustly arrested by the Osaka Prefectural Police (known as the Osaka Incident).
Oct. 21960. Ikeda departs Japan for North and South America, taking the first step toward worldwide kosen-rufu.
Nov. 181930. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi’s work Soka kyoikugaku taikei (The system of value-creating pedagogy) is published, an event regarded as the Soka Gakkai’s founding.
  • *1Translated from Japanese. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, “Soka kyoikugaku ronshu” [Writings on value-creating education], in Makiguchi Tsunesaburo zenshu [The complete works of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi], vol. 8, (Tokyo: Daisanbunmei-sha, 1984), 406.
  • *2Ibid., 405.
  • *3State Shinto: A national religion, incorporating native Shinto folk traditions, enlisted as the ideological basis for building the Japanese nation following the Meiji Restoration’s reestablishment of imperial rule in 1868. The Meiji Constitution invested the emperor with religious authority and elevated him to the status of an absolute monarch endowed with full sovereign powers. Centering on worship of the Sun Goddess and on the emperor as the absolute authority, the government began totalitarian rule claiming divine authority, mercilessly exercising its power to promote unity of thought toward spurring the entire country to gear up for war.
  • *4Peace Preservation Law: Enacted in 1925 and completely revised in 1941, this law was used to suppress thought in the name of protecting the Japanese “national polity” and preserving peace. The law provided for harsh punishment of persons found to be in violation, including the death penalty.
  • *5Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, “Makiguchi Sensei sankaiki ni” [On President Makiguchi’s third memorial] in Toda Josei zenshu [The complete writings of Josei Toda], vol. 3, (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1983), 386.
  • *6The Second Sino-Japanese War: The war that began in 1937 as a Japanese invasion of China and ended with the World War II defeat of Japan in 1945.
  • *7At the time, the Soka Gakkai’s membership was indicated by the number of households.
  • *8The name Myo Goku derives from Toda’s prison experience, during which he had awakened (go ) to the essence of Buddhism, the mystic truth (myo ) of nonsubstantiality (ku ).
  • *9“Nuclear Weapons” in the title can more literally be translated as “Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs,” for this was the common term for nuclear weapons in Japan at that time.
  • *10Translated from Japanese. Daisaku Ikeda, Ningen kakumei [The human revolution], vol. 12, (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 2013), 490.
  • *11Ikeda reflects on his choice of Ho Goku as pen name as follows: “Mr. Toda used the pen name Myo Goku; I will use Ho Goku. Combining the first part of each name creates myoho, or Mystic Law. Goku means to awaken to the truth of nonsubstantiality. The myo of myoho refers to the world of Buddhahood, and ho refers to the other nine worlds. myo is also awakening or enlightenment, while ho is fundamental darkness or delusion. Based on this principle we can say that myo corresponds to mentor and ho to disciple.” Translated from Japanese. Daisaku Ikeda, Shin ningen kakumei [The new human revolution], vol. 9, (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 2001), 22.
  • *12Translated from Japanese. Daisaku Ikeda, Ningen kakumei [The human revolution], vol. 1, (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 2013), 8.
  • *13At the time, there were no official diplomatic relations between the People’s Republic of China and Japan, so technically the two countries were still in a state of war, and anti-China and anticommunist sentiment was widespread in Japan. Ikeda’s call for normalization of relations was based on his belief that peace with China was fundamental to the stability of the Asian region and that the reintegration of China into the international community was essential to world peace. His proposal helped establish the groundwork for negotiations leading to the normalization of diplomatic relations in 1972 and a Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1978.