Daisaku Ikeda, the influential leader of Soka Gakkai, Japan’s largest religious organization, has passed away at the age of 95, according to a statement released by the organization on Saturday. Ikeda, who dedicated his life to spreading Buddhist teachings globally, died on Wednesday evening from natural causes.
Soka Gakkai, founded in 1930, boasts a membership of 12 million people in 192 countries and territories. Ikeda played a key role in expanding the organization’s influence, conducting talks with world leaders such as Zhou Enlai and Mikhail Gorbachev during his travels to over 50 countries.
The organization’s association with celebrities has also contributed to its global recognition. Notable adherents include British actor Orlando Bloom, jazz musicians Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, and Italian football player Roberto Baggio.
In addition to his spiritual leadership, Ikeda had a significant impact on politics. He founded the precursor to Japan’s Komeito political party in 1964, which currently serves as the junior coalition partner in the government. In 1975, he established Soka Gakkai International, the umbrella organization for Soka Gakkai, where he served as honorary president until his death.
Ikeda’s contributions extended beyond his role as a religious leader. He was a prolific writer, authoring numerous books on Buddhism, engaging in dialogues with intellectuals like British historian Arnold Toynbee, and even penning a 12-volume novel titled “Human Revolution.” For years, his image was prominently displayed in advertisements for Soka Gakkai publications, but this visibility declined in recent years, leading to speculation about his health and involvement in the organization.
Despite his accomplishments, Ikeda was not immune to criticism. British journalist Polly Toynbee accused him of taking advantage of her grandfather’s vulnerability and trusting nature during a meeting in the mid-1980s.
Born on January 2, 1928, in Tokyo, Ikeda encountered Josei Toda, the leader of Soka Gakkai at the time, in 1947. Toda became his mentor, and Ikeda succeeded him as president of Soka Gakkai in 1960. Under Ikeda’s leadership, the organization experienced significant growth and expansion, actively engaging in cultural and educational endeavors worldwide.
Soka Gakkai’s website emphasizes the conviction that individuals possess the ability to overcome any challenge they encounter in life, promoting the chanting of the “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,” or Lotus Sutra.
The group has been involved in legal battles, suing various publications and individuals over allegations of wrongdoing by the organization or Ikeda himself.
Ikeda’s official website features a quote that reflects his unwavering determination: “When you devote yourself to achieving your goal, you will not be bothered by shallow criticism. Nothing important can be accomplished if you allow yourself to be swayed by some trifling matter, always looking over your shoulder and wondering what others are saying or thinking.”
Soka Gakkai announced that a funeral has already taken place with Ikeda’s family members, and details of commemorative services will be shared soon. He is survived by his wife Kaneko and sons Hiromasa and Takahiro.