We join members of the Soka Gakkai around the world in paying tribute to the extraordinary life and contributions of our mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, Honorary President of the Soka Gakkai and President of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI).
Daisaku Ikeda was a Buddhist philosopher, peacebuilder, educator, author and poet who dedicated his life to promoting peace through dialogue and spearheaded the development of the Soka Gakkai as a community-based Buddhist organization of over 12 million members worldwide. Mr. Ikeda passed away peacefully on November 15, 2023, at the age of 95.
Daisaku Ikeda, Honorary President of the Soka Gakkai and President of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI)
Born on January 2, 1928, in Tokyo, Japan, Daisaku Ikeda was the fifth son of a large family engaged in seaweed farming. In his youth, he suffered from chronic tuberculosis and was not expected to live beyond 30.
Mr. Ikeda survived a tough childhood that was overshadowed by escalating nationalistic militarism. The education system of the time aimed to produce loyal subjects trained to serve the interests of the state. When he was 13, Japan entered World War II.
Mr. Ikeda’s elder brothers were all conscripted. His eldest brother, who had shared with the young Daisaku what he witnessed of the true horrors of the war in China, was killed in the Imphal Campaign in Myanmar. Witnessing his mother’s grief when news of her son’s death was finally broken to her in 1947, he acutely felt the cruelty, futility and waste of war.
My mother is also the starting point of my activities for peace. She remained brave and undaunted though four of her sons were taken away from her, one after another, to fight in World War II. But when, after the war, she received the news that her eldest son had been killed in the fighting, she was heartbroken. I will never forget the sight of her pain and sorrow at that moment as long as I live.
[“The Spirit of Reverence for Life,” essay on Wangari Maathai]
A few months later, together with fellow members of a small reading group that exchanged books saved from the ruins of war, he attended a meeting about philosophy held at a local house. There, he encountered Josei Toda (1900–58), who was sharing Nichiren Buddhism with its teaching that aimed to liberate people from their sufferings and create a society based on respect for the fundamental dignity and equality of all people. This empowering philosophy based on the Lotus Sutra offered hope to ordinary people suffering economic deprivation and hopelessness amid the devastation of Japan’s defeat.