Daisaku Ikeda

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Daisaku Ikeda
Daisaku Ikeda 1961.jpg
President of Sōka Gakkai International
Assumed office
26 January 1975
Honorary President of Sōka Gakkai
Assumed office
24 April 1979
President of Sōka Gakkai
In office
3 May 1960 – 23 April 1979
Preceded by Josei Toda
Succeeded by Hiroshi Hōjō (北条浩)
Personal details
Born (1928-01-02) 2 January 1928 (age 86)
Ōta, Tokyo, Japan
Spouse(s) Kaneko Ikeda (池田香峯子)
Children Hiromasa Ikeda (池田博正)
Takahiro Ikeda (池田尊弘)

Official Website

Alma mater Fuji Junior College (present-day Tokyo Fuji University)[1]

Daisaku Ikeda (池田 大作 Ikeda Daisaku?, born January 2, 1928, Japan) is the founder and current president of Sōka Gakkai International (SGI), the international offshoot of Sōka Gakkai, a Nichiren Buddhist lay association which has, by its own account, more than 12 million members.[2] In 1996, he was described in a Los Angeles Times article as a "puzzle of conflicting perceptions", ranging from "Japan's most powerful man" and a "threat to democracy", to an "inspired teacher" and "man of deep learning".[3] Ikeda and Soka Gakkai have been the frequent targets of criticism for fostering a cult of personality centered around Ikeda.[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]


Early life[edit]

Ikeda was born the fifth son of seaweed farmers in Ōta, Tokyo.[12] His four older brothers fought in World War II, during which the eldest, Kiichi, was killed in action[13] and his familyʼs home destroyed.[14] As a child, he suffered from poor health and tuberculosis and doctors predicted that he would not survive beyond the age of 30.[15]

Involvement with the Soka Gakkai[edit]

In August 1947, Ikeda met Jōsei Toda at a Sōka Gakkai discussion meeting and joined the organization that month. In April 1948, Ikeda entered the night school of Taisei Gakuin[14] (later Tokyo Fuji University). He left it in the same year[citation needed] and spent the next few years shifting his employment between various Toda-owned enterprises.[14] Ikeda was a charter member of the Soka Gakkai's Youth Division and it's leader by 1952.[16]:85[17]:77

In 1952, Ikeda was one of the leaders in violently harassing Nichiren Shoshu priest Jimon Ogasawara. Ogasawara had allegedly cooperated with the authorities during the war against Soka Gakkai's founder Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who had died imprisoned, before the end of the war. Ikeda and Toda headed a group of 4,000 men belonging to the Youth Division to the Taiseki-ji, the Nichiren Shoshu head temple. When Ogasawara initially refused to apologize, the men tore off his vestments and tagged him with a placard reading "Racoon dog monk." He was then forcibly carried to Makiguchi's grave, where he was made to sign a written apology.[18][19]:698–711[20]:186 Ikeda later referred to the incident as an "act of kindness" because "the old priest, made to realize his apostasy, was grateful to Toda and Soka Gakkai and died a happy man."[18]

Ikeda regarded Toda as his spiritual mentor and writes that he influenced him through "the profound compassion that characterized each of his interactions".[21]

Presidency after Toda[edit]

After Toda's death in 1958, Ikeda succeeded his mentor to become the third President of Sōka Gakkai in 1960, after which he began to travel abroad to realize Toda's vision of expanding the Sōka Gakkai movement.[citation needed]

While Soka Gakkai saw its most dramatic growth after the World War II under the leadership of Toda, Ikeda led the international growth of the organization and turned it into what has been called the largest, most diverse international lay Buddhist association in the world.[22] He reformed many of the organizations more controversial practices, such as the aggressive and sometimes forced conversions (shakubuku (折伏)) the group was infamous for in Japan and did much to improve the organization's public image, though it was still widely viewed with suspicion in Japan.[23][24][25][26][27]

By the 1970s Ikeda's leadership had expanded the Soka Gakkai into an international lay Buddhist movement increasingly active in peace, cultural and educational activities and shifting away from "a very rigid fundamentalistic and evangelical stance."[28] In 1975, at an international meeting of member representatives held in Guam, Sōka Gakkai formed Sōka Gakkai International (SGI) to support its overseas membership. Ikeda took a leading role in this development and, at the request of the membership, became President of SGI.[17]:128

Resignation from Soka Gakkai[edit]

In 1979, Ikeda resigned as the president of Sōka Gakkai, accepting responsibility for its purported deviation from Nichiren Shōshū doctrines, and the accompanying conflict with the priesthood,.[29] Nichiren Shōshū was the Buddhist denomination to whom which Sōka Gakkai had belonged since its founding, but the relationship between the two was often a strained one. Ikeda was succeeded by Hiroshi Hōjō, but remained president of the SGI and was also made Sōka Gakkai Honorary President.[30] He, along with Sōka Gakkai, was excommunicated by Nichiren Shōshū on August 11, 1992.[31][32] SGI members often describe their group as Buddhism's first Protestant movement, since its excommunication by Nichiren Shōshū in 1991.[33]

Under Ikeda's leadership SGI has developed as a broad-based grassroots peace movement around the world. He has fostered among SGI members a strong ethos of responsibility for the society with global citizenship spirit.[34]

Relationship with Noriega[edit]

From the mid-70's, President Ikeda fostered a close relationship with Manuel Noriega, before and during his period as military dictator of Panama. Noriega repeatedly visited the Taiseki-ji and Noriega hosted Ikeda on several visits to Panama, and after a 1981 visit, Noriega named a scenic observation point on one of the Causeway Islands at the Pacific approach to the Panama Canal "Mirador Ikeda".[35] The Soka Gakkai reciprocated by creating a "Noriega garden" (ノリエガ庭園) at one of its locales in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka.[36]:99–101 Both leaders praised each other's virtues in public statements.[37]:160

Friends of Noriega have alleged that Ikeda provided him with several million dollars' worth of assistance during the worst part of Noriega's crisis in 1987 and 1988, though Soka Gakkai spokesmen deny this.[38] An unnamed French investigation referenced to in Steven Kaplan's two-volume study Farewell, Revolution supposedly revealed that Ikeda visited Noriega shortly before his capture and abandoned a safe containing a million dollars in strange circumstances.[39]


Ikeda is a prolific writer, peace activist and interpreter of Nichiren Buddhism.[citation needed] His interests include photography, art, philosophy, and music. He has signed the Earth Charter. He has traveled to more than 50 countries to hold discussions with political, cultural, and educational figures, as well as to teach, support, and encourage SGI practitioners.

Topics he has addressed include the transformative value of religion, the universal sanctity of life,[40] social responsibility, and sustainable progress and development.

As head of SGI, Ikeda has founded several institutions, such as the Sōka University, Sōka schools, the International Committee of Artists for Peace,[n 1] the Min-On Concert Association,[n 2] the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum (TFAM),[n 3] the Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP),[n 4] and the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research.[n 5]

In addition, he has guided Sōka Gakkai's support of, and involvement in, the New Komeito Party (Kōmeitō), a Japanese political party which, as of 2007, is part of a coalition with the Liberal Democratic Party. Ikeda has also initiated a wide range of grassroots exchange programs,[41][42][43] and delivered speeches at a number of institutions of higher learning around the world, including Harvard University, the Institut de France, Beijing University, and Moscow State University. The Gandhi, King, Ikeda exhibition showcases the peace activism of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Ikeda.[44] Another exhibition is Dialogue with Nature showcasing Ikeda's photographs.[45][46] He has also sponsored a documentary film about the environment, A Quiet Revolution.

Ikeda's many children's books have been animated into anime.[47] [48]

He is an honorary member of the Club of Rome.[49]

Honorary doctorates and professorships[edit]

Ikeda received his 300th degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston on November 21, 2010.[50] He has said that "The academic honors I have accepted have all been on behalf of the members of SGI around the world."[51] His pursuit to promote peace through humanism over the past 60 years has been recognised worldwide, for which he has received over 340 academic honours.[51]

Other awards[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Ikeda lives in Tokyo with his wife, Kaneko (born 1932), whom he married on May 3, 1952. He has three sons, Hiromasa (born 1953; Vice-president of Sōka Gakkai),[73] Shirohisa (1955–1984), and Takahiro (born 1958).


  • Compassionate Light in Asia with Jin Yong
  • The Human Revolution (12 volumes):Human Revolution in SGI
  • The New Human Revolution (30+ Volumes, this is an ongoing series)
  • Choose Life: A Dialogue with Arnold J. Toynbee
  • Dawn After Dark with René Huyghe
  • Before It Is Too Late with Aurelio Peccei
  • Human Values in a changing world with Bryan Wilson
  • A Lifelong Quest for Peace with Linus Pauling
  • Dialogue of World Citizens with Norman Cousins
  • Choose Peace with Johan Galtung
  • Planetary Citizenship with Hazel Henderson
  • Moral Lesson of the Twentieth Century with Mikhail Gorbachev
  • A Quest for Global Peace: Rotblat and Ikeda on War, Ethics, and the Nuclear Threat with Joseph Rotblat
  • Global Civilization: A Buddhist-Islamic Dialogue With Majid Tehranian
  • Toward Creating an Age of Humanism with John Kenneth Galbraith
  • Dialogical Civilization with Tu Weiming
  • My Recollections
  • One By One
  • For the Sake of Peace
  • A Youthful Diary
  • The Living Buddha
  • Buddhism, the First Millennium
  • The Flower of Chinese Buddhism
  • The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra (6 volumes)
  • On Peace, Life and Philosophy with Henry Kissinger
  • Human Rights on the 21st Century with Austregesilo de Athayde
  • Revolutions: to green the environment, to grow the human heart with M.S. Swaminathan
  • Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death: A Buddhist View of Life
  • Life: An Enigma, a Precious Jewel
  • Humanity at the Crossroads with Karan Singh
  • The Snow Country Prince (children's book)
  • The Cherry Tree (children's book)
  • The Princess and the Moon (children's book)
  • Over the Deep Blue Sea (children's book)
  • Kanta and the Deer (children's book)
  • The Way of Youth: Buddhist Common Sense for Handling Life's Questions (with a foreword by Duncan Sheik)
  • Planetary Citizenship with Hazel Henderson
  • Songs of Peace: Rendezvous with Nature (Photographs) (Tokyo: Sōka Gakkai, 2005)
  • "A Dialogue Between East and West: Looking to a Human Revolution" with Ricardo Diez-Hochleitner
  • Ode to the Grand Spirit — A dialogue — with Chingiz Aitmatov
  • 'La fuerza de la Esperanza; Reflexiones sobre la paz y los derechos humanos en el tercer milenio' (dialogue between Argentine Nobel Peace laureate Dr. Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Daisaku Ikeda) (Buenos Aires, Emecé, 2011)

Critical commentary[edit]

Lawrence Carter, an ordained Baptist minister and the dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel at Morehouse College in Atlanta, has worked with the SGI-USA and Daisaku Ikeda for many years. Morehouse gave an honorary doctorate to Ikeda, and Carter also initiated the annual "Gandhi, King, Ikeda: A Legacy of Building Peace" award as a way of extolling those whose actions for peace have cut across human boundaries. When a Shūkan Shinchō article criticized these aspects of the award, Carter wrote a protest to the magazine:

"Controversy" is an inevitable partner of greatness. No one who challenges the established order is free of it. Gandhi had his detractors, as did Dr. King. Dr. Ikeda is no exception. Controversy camouflages the intense resistance of entrenched authority to conceding their special status and privilege. "Insults" are the weapons of the morally weak; "slander" is the tool of the spiritually bereft. Controversy is testament to the noble work of these three individuals in their respective societies.[74]

Ikeda has often been the subject of controversy. British journalist and political commentator Polly Toynbee was invited to meet Ikeda in 1984, as Ikeda "was hoping to tighten the public connection between himself and Polly Toynbee's famous grandfather, Arnold Toynbee, the prophet of the rise of the East."[75] She described him as "a short, round man with slicked down hair, wearing a sharp Western suit"; they talked from "throne-like" chairs in "an enormous room" reached via "corridors of bowing girls dressed in white".[76] Toynbee wrote "I have met many powerful men--prime ministers, leaders of all kinds--but I have never in my life met anyone who exudes such an aura of absolute power as Mr. Ikeda."[77][78] In the article, first published in the The Guardian on May 19, 1984, she also voiced the wish that her grandfather, Arnold J. Toynbee, would not have endorsed their dialogue, Choose Life, remarking that her grandfather at the time had been "so old" and "was a frail man."[78][79]

In contrast, Toynbee himself stated in the book's preface (in the third person), "[On arranging the meetings, translations, and publications] Arnold Toynbee is very grateful to Daisaku Ikeda for having it upon his younger shoulders.".[80][n 6] He also expressed his "agree[ment] with Soka Gakkai on religion as the most important thing in human life, and on opposition to militarism and war." [81] The book has been translated and published in twenty languages.[59]

The houses of representatives in Georgia, [82] Missouri,[83] and Illinois [84][85][86] recognize the service and dedication of Daisaku Ikeda "who has dedicated his entire life to building peace and promoting human rights through education and cultural exchange with deep conviction in the shared humanity of our entire global family" [86] in which he "values education and culture as the prerequisites for the creation of true peace in which the dignity and fundamental rights of all people are respected." [83]

In 1990 Frederick Kempe reported allegations that Ikeda had provided financial assistance to Manuel Noriega in 1987 and 1988. Sōka Gakkai spokesmen denied this and also that Noriega had officially become a member of SGI.[38]

A 1995 San Francisco Chronicle article titled "Japan Fears Another Religious Sect" outlined charges in Japan of "heavy-handed fund raising and proselytizing [by Sōka Gakkai], as well as intimidating its foes and trying to grab political power".[87] It quotes Takashi Shokei, a professor at Meisei University, as describing Ikeda as "a power-hungry individual who intends to take control of the government and make Soka Gakkai the national religion"; the article describes a videotape made in 1993 of Ikeda "yelling and pounding on tables in anger and later railing against President Clinton for having refused to meet with him".[87]

A 1995 Time article criticized Daisaku Ikeda and Sōka Gakkai, claiming that "according to a member who was present" Ikeda, as "honorary president and unquestioned commander" of Sōka Gakkai, had said of Kōmeitō: "This time, not the next time, [the election] is going to be about winning or losing. We cannot hesitate. We must conquer the country with one stroke."[88]

In 1999, The New York Times published an article on the uneasy rise of the New Kōmeitō Party in Japan (funded largely by Ikeda and Sōka Gakkai).[33] In response, a letter to the editor by Alfred Balitzer (later of Soka University of America) offered a more sympathetic portrayal of Sōka Gakkai.[89]


  1. ^ International Committee of Artists for Peace
  2. ^ Min-On Concert Association
  3. ^ Tokyo Fuji Art Museum.
  4. ^ Institute of Oriental Philosophy.
  5. ^ Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research
  6. ^ This preface was written by Toynbee in the third person on behalf of both authors.


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  22. ^ Tricycle Magazine Interview: http://www.daisakuikeda.org/sub/resources/interview/interview2/2008tricycle.html
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  24. ^ Lewis, James R. (2003). Legitimating new religions ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0813533247.  "Soka Gakkai ... was not infrequently stereotyped as a brainwashing cult, particularly by anti-cult authors."
  25. ^ Fujiwara, Hirotatsu (1970). I Denounce Soka Gakkai. Tokyo: Nisshin Hodo. ISBN 9110135502. 
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  30. ^ Shimada, Hiromi: Kōmeitō vs. Sōka Gakkai, p. 116. (Japanese)
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  35. ^ "Reunion with Panamanian Leader". The Sōka Gakkai News. 191-237: 9. International Bureau, Sōka Gakkai., 1985. 
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  40. ^ "Stop the Killing", The World is Yours to Change, [by Daisaku Ikeda, Asahi Press, Tokyo, 2002]. Accessed April 29, 2013.
  41. ^ Ecological paradise, The Times of India
  42. ^ Survey of Youth Attitudes to Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Power
  43. ^ UNHCR Recognises Importance of Faith for the Uprooted
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  50. ^ 創価学会の池田名誉会長、海外からの称号300個に
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  82. ^ E103 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, the House of Representatives, State of Georgia; January 15, 2009
  83. ^ a b House Resolution No. 0620C.01, the state of Missouri grant an exceptional honor, the House of Representatives, State of Missouri, 2004
  84. ^ Bill Status of HR0791, Illinoise General Assembly, State of Illinois, October 24, 2007
  85. ^ Bill Status of HR0797, Illinoise General Assembly, State of Illinois, December 23, 2009
  86. ^ a b CONGRESS 1ST SESSION H. RES. 844, Recognizing the service and dedication of Dr. Daisaku Ikeda and celebrating his 80th birthday, 110TH, the House of Representatives, State of Illinois, December 5, 2007
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  89. ^ Balitzer, Alfred (November 19, 1999). "Japanese sect's appeal". The New York Times. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Seager, Richard: Encountering the Dharma: Daisaku Ikeda, Sōka Gakkai, and the Globalization of Buddhism. University of California Press, 2006.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Josei Toda
President of Sōka Gakkai
Succeeded by
Hiroshi Hōjō