Part 3: Kosen-rufu and World Peace
Chapter 31: The Great Path to World Peace [31.16]

31.16 Reviving the Culture of the Written Word

President Ikeda has consistently underscored the important role that literary culture has played in the development and progress of humankind. He explains that a defining feature of Soka Gakkai activities is a spirit of learning based on the written word.

A tradition of studying and learning together is embedded in the Soka Gakkai’s day-to-day activities. Our members of all ages are eternal learners. They study the writings of Nichiren Daishonin at monthly discussion meetings. They also read, listen, and study intently at various other group meetings.

At the heart of Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings is the understanding that everything in our lives and the world is Buddhism, that “all phenomena are the Buddhist Law” (WND-2, 848).

That’s why we also make efforts to read and learn from novels—for instance, the works of great authors such as Tolstoy, Goethe, and Hugo. We strive to gain an understanding of economics and politics, of art and music. We seek to acquire wisdom and insights on all aspects of life. That is our spirit. This is also where we find the Soka Gakkai’s strength. The term gakkai, after all, means “a study association or society.”

It has always been my hope that our young people, in particular, will read good books and familiarize themselves with good writing.

Reading books is also the way to inherit the intellectual legacy of humankind.

Whereas reading stimulates and develops our minds, helping us acquire critical thinking skills, watching television is a very passive way of receiving information, and its images can be deceptive.

There is a need to revive authentic writing issuing from the profound depths of the human spirit in order to counteract writing that is full of lies and deliberate misrepresentation.


I spent the highly impressionable years of my late teens amid the chaos and confusion of the immediate postwar period. Having been denied learning during the war, we young people hungrily sought new knowledge.

I participated in a reading group with several youth in my neighborhood. Books were scarce, so we borrowed and lent those we had among ourselves. Though I was poor, I treasured books as my most prized possessions. The shelves in my room contained books both classic and modern, from both East and West, mainly works of literature.

My most ardent wish at the time was to establish a deep, solid view of life. So when some old school friends invited me to a meeting, saying there was to be a discussion of “life philosophy,” I agreed to go.

It was at that meeting that I first encountered Josei Toda, who later became the second president of the Soka Gakkai. I was deeply moved by his impressive character and his profound compassion for people who were suffering. It is no exaggeration to say that most of my education from that time on came through personal instruction from Mr. Toda.

He always urged young people to make time in their lives for reading and contemplation. Almost every day, he would ask me what book I was reading, with a strictness that seemed more an interrogation than a casual question. I didn’t dare meet Mr. Toda without having done any reading. All my earnest struggles in reading and studying in those days have now borne fruit as my greatest strength and treasure.

After becoming Soka Gakkai president, Mr. Toda devoted himself wholeheartedly to training the members of the young men’s and young women’s divisions. He started by having us read a number of great works of world literature, including The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, The Water Margin, A Tale of Two Cities, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Ninety-Three.

Encouraging us to share our thoughts and impressions, answering our many questions freely and sometimes even providing individual advice, he fostered each one of us and helped us develop our potential. In the process, he covered the many different kinds of problems we might encounter in the course of life.

There is a limit to what one person can experience in a single lifetime. But by reading, we can incorporate the experiences of others in our own lives. We can learn the profundity of life and the vastness of the world, gain insight into human nature, and cultivate the ability to see and understand society.

With every training session, we young people grew by leaps and bounds.

Reading is a lifelong treasure. It is a precious source of spiritual nourishment. It is the foundation for all forms of learning. Reading develops the ability to think and broadens our horizons.

To create a positive future, we must learn good lessons from the past. The 20th century was a time of remarkable material progress on the one hand, but the lag in spiritual progress has created a situation in which the very survival of humankind is threatened. That is why we must make the 21st century an age of great spiritual progress.

From Haha no mai (Dance of Mothers), published in Japanese in January 2000.

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