Who is Daisaku Ikeda?

(Photo above courtesy of Seikyo Press)

Daisaku Ikeda is a Buddhist philosopher, peace activist, educator, author and third president of the Soka Gakkai.

Daisaku Ikeda seated at his desk writing

Photo by Seikyo Press

Daisaku Ikeda was born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1928, to a family of seaweed farmers. As a teenager in World War II, he felt the senseless horror of war when his home was burned to the ground in an air raid and he later learned his eldest brother had been killed in action. This experience fueled his life-long passion to work for peace.

In 1947, at age 19, he attended his first Buddhist meeting where he met Josei Toda, an educator and leader of the grassroots Buddhist movement Soka Gakkai (or Value-Creation Society). When Ikeda learned that Toda had been imprisoned for speaking out against the fascist Japanese government during the war, he felt Toda was someone he could trust.

Ikeda spent his youth supporting Toda’s efforts to spread Buddhism across Japan, particularly to people who were devastated by the war.

Toda and Ikeda both saw Buddhism as a means of empowerment, believing that if people marginalized by society could truly believe in themselves and tap into their inherent courage and wisdom, then they could change the world around them.

In May 1960, two years after Toda passed away, Ikeda, then 32, became the president of Soka Gakkai. He expanded the movement internationally. Today Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is a diverse community of millions of people across the world who are committed to bringing about an age that respects the dignity of life.

Ikeda believes that dialogue is the key to changing hearts and uniting people. He has had dialogues with thousands of ordinary people as well as leading thinkers, such as Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, Arnold Toynbee and Wangari Maathai.

Nelson Mandela and Daisaku Ikeda smiling at each other while patting each other on the back

Photo by Seikyo Press

Seeing education also as a means to create change and empower people, Daisaku Ikeda founded two nonsectarian universities—Soka University in Japan and Soka University of America.

He has also fought for decades to abolish nuclear weapons. SGI is a partner with the International Committee to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

Ikeda’s philosophy can be summed up as,

When we change, the world changes. The key to all change lies in our inner transformation—a change of our hearts and minds.

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