Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (right) and Josei Toda (left), 1930
Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (right) and
Josei Toda (left), 1930

Soka Gakkai was founded in Japan in 1930, as an educational reform society with an underpinning of Nichiren Buddhist philosophy. Its founder Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944) challenged the education system and its ultranationalist indoctrination of students at a time of rising militarism.

During World War II, Makiguchi and other leaders of the group were imprisoned for their opposition to the Japanese military government and its abuse of religion and education in support of its war of aggression in Asia. Makiguchi died in prison, but his closest follower Josei Toda (1900-58) emerged to rebuild the Soka Gakkai as a lay Buddhist association after the war.

A committed pacifist, in 1957 Toda issued a declaration calling on youth to take responsibility for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Josei Toda (right) and Daisaku Ikeda (left), March 1958”
Josei Toda (right) and
Daisaku Ikeda (left), March 1958”

The organization experienced a rapid phase of growth, first in Japan then also overseas from the mid-1960s onwards under the leadership of Toda's successor Daisaku Ikeda. Today, Soka Gakkai International (SGI) members in 192 countries and territories actively promote peace, education and culture.

Toda's successor, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has spearheaded and inspired the organization's global peace movement. His annual peace proposals, examine global problems and outline steps forward from a Buddhist humanist perspective.

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