Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 28: The Three Founding Presidents and the Path of Mentor and Disciple [28.10]

28.10 My First Encounter with President Toda

The following is a description of the solemn occasion when the 19-year-old Daisaku Ikeda, in search of a compass to guide his life in the desolate times following World War II, first met Josei Toda on August 14, 1947.

It was a quiet evening. Families had most likely finished their evening meals, and a stillness had settled over the area.

A small group of people were making their way quickly through the darkening streets to a certain house in Kojiya, in the Kamata area of Tokyo’s Ota Ward, to attend a discussion meeting.

That was August 14, 1947, the fateful day that changed the course of my life forever. It was the day I gave my promise and pledge to Josei Toda to join the Soka Gakkai, which I did on August 24, 10 days later.

I was 19 when I attended that discussion meeting. Mr. Toda, my mentor, awaited me like a kindly father. Our encounter was a solemn, timeless moment in the eternal flow of past, present, and future. On that day, I vowed to become his disciple and dedicate my life to kosen-rufu.

The discussion meeting on that hot and humid summer night exactly two years after the end of World War II was a vibrant drama of ordinary people finding fresh hope in life. Outside, the unlit streets were pitch dark, and many parts of Kamata were still dotted with ghastly burnt-out tracts from the wartime bombings. The sufferings of ordinary, good-hearted citizens, many of whom had experienced the cruel loss of loved ones, were deep and persistent.

Young as I was, I asked myself rigorously day after day who was responsible for all this pain. I was in my teens and suffering from tuberculosis, which produced a fever that left me weak and aching every evening.

I was seeking some sort of guiding star, a compass that would lead me to a life of hope. Some friends told me that there was going to be a meeting about the philosophy of life, and so I went, unaware of what kind of gathering it actually was.

I think I arrived at the meeting place at about 8:00 p.m., when the streets were already dark. I removed my shoes at the entrance and heard a lively, slightly husky voice coming from the room inside. It was my first time to hear Mr. Toda speak. He was giving a lecture on the treatise “On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land.” In that work, Nichiren Daishonin sets forth his great philosophy for building a peaceful society.

Later, I learned that Mr. Toda had recently started to hold monthly lectures on this treatise, in addition to a separate lecture series on the Lotus Sutra, which he had begun the previous year.

In the lecture at my first meeting, Mr. Toda poured all of his passion and resolve into awakening the world to the dangers it faced. It was a lion’s roar proclaiming the essence of Nichiren Buddhism.

His lecture did not present an antiquated, lifeless Buddhism. It revealed a noble way to a brilliant future, a great path brimming with tremendous conviction and dynamism.


After the lecture, an informal discussion ensued. Chewing on mints, Mr. Toda conversed openly and naturally. There was no trace of the condescending, puffed-up arrogance so common among religious and political figures wrapped up in formalities. Though it was our first meeting, I felt free to ask whatever questions I had in my young heart.

“What is the correct way to live?” I inquired.

My voice may have conveyed an unusual intensity.

I was 13 years old when the war broke out [in 1941], and 17 when it ended. The most impressionable period of my life was spent under the dark and heavy clouds of war. In addition, I was afflicted with tuberculosis. The shadow of death seemed to follow me everywhere—war threatening from without and tuberculosis from within. Then, with Japan’s defeat, all the beliefs about the nation and life I had held until then were completely shattered.

What was the true way to live? To what should I dedicate my life? These were the questions always on my mind.

Mr. Toda replied with conviction and clarity. He didn’t engage in intellectual game playing or deception that shifted the focus from the subject.

Tired of the patronizing attitude so many adults had toward young people, I was moved by his sincerity. I despised the political leaders and intellectuals who had sung the praises of the war and then, after Japan’s defeat, changed their tunes without compunction, suddenly becoming impassioned advocates for peace.

The fact that Mr. Toda had been persecuted by the Japanese militarist authorities and spent two years in prison for his beliefs was pivotal in my decision to embrace him as my mentor.

I wanted to become the kind of person who, if another war broke out, had the courage to resist, even if it meant going to jail. I wanted to live my life as a person of courage who would not bow to any kind of oppression by the authorities. That was why I was seeking a practical philosophy that would help me do that.


I was just an ordinary young man searching for a path in life. I am certain that my wholehearted devotion to the path of mentor and disciple has enabled me to lead an unsurpassed life dedicated to the highest good.

In a lecture at Columbia University’s Teachers College [in June 1996], I expressed the deep gratitude I owe to Mr. Toda, declaring: “Ninety-eight percent of what I am today I learned from him.”

The relationship of mentor and disciple is one unique to human beings. By following the path of mentor and disciple, we can develop and improve ourselves. It holds the key to realizing our fullest human potential.

For as long as I can, I wish to pass on to my youthful successors everything I have to teach them. I wish to entrust the future to them. I hope that you, as my disciples, deeply understand my spirit and intent.

From an essay series “Thoughts on The New Human Revolution,” published in Japanese in the Seikyo Shimbun, August 14, 2002.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works on key themes.