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President Ikeda


picture of Ikeda

Is the Third President of the Sokagakkai, a successor to his Predecessor Josei Toda and the leader of Sokagakkai International. He is noted for a number of things. From his sponsership of efforts to create World Peace and ban Nuclear Weapons and his advocacy of "dialogue" between peoples, to his stewardship of the problematic relationship with the parent Sect of the Gakkai, Nichiren Shoshu.

He is a wealthy man from his stewardship of his predecessors publishing company, and has been responsible for a wide range of novels, study materials, and creative works.

born; January 2, 1928 in Tokyo,

Early Years

President Ikeda was born from a poor family involved in the seaweed business. Early in his youth he caught the attention of the second president of the Sokagakkai, Josei Toda>, and was taken under his wing. He says that Josei Toda, basically, adopted him. As a youth leader, and also a leading disciple of Josei Toda, he was influential in several campaigns for the growth of the Gakkai. One of these was the famous "Kansai Campaign." Another less lovely affair was his participation in the Ogasawara Affair the year before. He also achieved some fame and notoriority for being arrested on charges as a result of Sokagakkai/Komeito election efforts. The charges were about procedural violations of rules against door to door canvasing, with which the Sokagakkai was technically in violation of due to the exhuberance with which some members had campaigned door to door. It was a major issue because the involvement of religious groups in politics is always a fearful thing to people outside of that religion. Ikeda wasn't convicted of anything, and claims to this very day that the charges were trumped up. Ikeda has always been interested in politics, and the Japanese Organization, while officially distances from it's "stepchild" in the Komeito, is known to be heavily (unofficially) involved with it.(example:

True Disciple 1949-1960

From early on he seems to have regarded himself as Toda's truedisciple.html" and depicted himself as such in his diaries, which he has periodically published throughout his career. (For more about this see the page truedisciple.html). Assuming they were written at the time, we can see that even in the 1951, he ambitiously saw himself as being Toda's successor to be.

Wednesday, December 27 1951. Fine and clear.
I am confident I understand Mr. Toda's great mission better than anyone else. I alone truly inderstand what is in his mind. Blazing with righteous anger, I will fight with all my life.

Role in Ogasawara Affair

And Ikeda was indeed a leading disciple. By April of 1952 he was one of the 47 disciples picked out to try to punish the errant priest Jimon Ogasawara for his role in the arrest and death of Toda's mentor Tsunesuburu Makiguchi. (See also History and Conviction of the Gakkai, ogasawara.html or my page titled revenge.html)

Later, when talking about what had happened, Ikeda portrayed his masters efforts as fulfilling the role of the Nirvana Sutra's admonition to punish and oust slanderers of the law. As Daniel Montgomery says in his book:

Only a year after Toda's inauguration, however, the societies zeal almost brought it to an ignominious end. In April 1952 Taiseki-ji and other Nichiren Temples throughout the land were celebrating the 700th anniversary of the founders first proclamation of the Daimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. Believers from around the country came to the head temple for special festivities. At Taiseki-ji, four gala days were planned. The first two were to be managed by the sect's official laymen's organization, called Hokkeko, the last two days were for the Sokagakkai. Toda planned a show of force. The Hokkeko was bringing 2,500 members, and he would muster 4000, from his one year old society. He also saw it as an opportunity to avenge his two years of imprisonment during the war: he had learned that the leader of the compromising party, Jimon Ogasawara, was going to be present. There could be no better time for a showdown.

Before leaving for the head temple, he organized his younger members like shock troops. He instructed them to search discreetly for the offending priest, and then be ready for action once thye found him. They were to challenge him to debate his views right then and there. Forty seven leaders of the Youth Division, one of whom was Daisaku Ikeda, worked out a systematic plan ot locate Ogasawara and bring him to justice...."

I'm told that Josei Toda chose the young Daisaku Ikeda to lead 47 youths,(see revenge.html in an obvious reference to a famous incident called the "Forty Seven Ronin." These youths saw the erroneous priest Ogasawara as evil in a quite literal way and planned to rebuke him publicly and force him to apologize for his deeds. Unfortunately this confrontation however, took place publicly, with unintended side effects, in the eyes of the press, and was exceedingly embarrassing to the Gakkai. Rather than getting a public confession they simply embarrassed everyone involved in the affair. Daniel says:

"According to Ikeda, Toda reasoned calmly with Ogasawara, demanding an apology, while the old man 'drooled at the mouth' and 'howled like a Rabid dog.' But Murata claims that Toda told him in an interview that he struck the priest 'twice.' In any case, Ogasawara would not be intimidated, and would admit to nothing.

"Seeing that he was getting nowhere, Toda finally strode out, leaving the old priest to the mercies of his tormentors. 'If you so stubbornly refuse to apologize, whatever may happen to you is no longer my concern. Whatever the youth division members may do to you, I will not take the responsibility"

...the young men once more hoisted the priest up on their shoulders. By then they'd torn off his priestly robe and stripped him down to his underclothes. They carried him to the Temple grounds, shouting through megaphones, "This is Jimon Ogasawara, a parasite in the Lion's body, Gnawing at Nichiren Shoshu...This is the villanous monk, the actual murderer of Mr. Makiguchi!" They tagged him with a placard reading 'Racoon Monk' and bore him to the grave of Makiguchi. There the thoroughly shaken old man was forced to sign a prepared apology and repudiation of his theological opinions.

The High Priest of the time Nissho Shonin forced Josei Toda to apologize on behalf of everyone involved. In the end public opinion was somewhat mollified as the truths of Ogasawara's prewar behavior came out and on account of Josei Toda's public apology. However, this incident laid bear the underlying conflict and issues between the "temple" and the Gakkai that was to become the later "split" between the two.

for more read
Revenge Page
Excerpts from Ikeda's diary
and related links

Kansai and Youth Division

This event, which horrified Japanese Society and alienated the Priesthood of Nichiren Shoshu was also the impetus for one of the largest propagation efforts of any religious movements. President Toda made a pledge to atone for this affront to the priesthood by Shakubukuing the entire Japanese Nation. Ikeda, with his extraordinary devotion, effort, and intelligence, seems to have next thrown his life into the effort to make this dream a reality. By all acounts his efforts were fruitful.

As he recounts in the Human Revolution, in it's later chapters. Ikeda led a shakubuku campaign coupled to electioneering, in Kansai, the area that encompasses the old capitol of Japan, Kyoto. This area had deep roots in Nichirenism dating from the Muromachi period, and had seen those efforts torpedoed by persecution and betrayal by the infighting of the priests of the time. A lay Nichiren Group could expect to find support here if it taught the dharma of Nichiren with any kind of ferver and orthodoxy. Because of this, and the organization and faith of those who led this effort the campaign was fantastically successful. It became the model for future efforts. And those efforts didn't peak until they had spread all over Japan and attempted to application outside the country as well.

These efforts were "all out." The gakkai created a "Shakubuku Manual" which focused on the "heresies" of the various Buddhist and non-Buddhist schools of Japan. Shakubuku in the 50's and sixties involved a kind of persistant effort which won converts but also scared the be-jeesies out of those not converted. The emphasis was the "Zadankai" or discussion meeting, where discussions usually entailed personal experiences of the horrors of "incorrect religion" coupled with the sometimes exaggerated benefits of practicing Buddhism. Members would also pay people visits, sometimes to the point where those people felt harrassed. To this day many Japanese see the Gakkai the way American's see Born again Christians like Jim Bakker or the Jehovah's witness. Couple that with the fear of the Komeito political party and you have almost guaranteed misunderstandings and distrust. The idea was that "Kosenrufu" could be "built" with enough effort and persistence, within this lifetime. Toda and Ikeda were serious in their intention to shakubuku the entire nation. And Ikeda led this effort while Toda supported it with lectures on the Lotus Sutra and publications.

Osaka Incident (1957)

It also was tied to an election campaign. The Gakkai felt that Buddhism should influence politics by Buddhists literally participating in Politics, and in its single minded way of thinking that meant sponsering candidates and eventually a political party. Unfortunately being neophytes at this they brought on troubles due to the very enthusiasm with which they attempted this. Various campaign irregularities were committed by functionaries. These led to an investigation, and Ikeda as the man in charge ended up under arrest and under interrogation. Ikeda ended up in Jail over-night and suffering embarrassing questioning by the local police who didn't treat him with the kind of respect he'd later become accustomed to. To this day he maintains he was innocent, and he later used this experience as part of his claim to having suffered "persecution" like his mentor had. Ikeda says about this incident that he was incarcerated, "having been arrested on completely false charges of violating the election laws."

(see this page):

Third President 1960-1978

When President Toda died suddenly, Ikeda was already the prime leader of the Youth Division. Ikeda writes of Todas Death in this page: He used his claims to being the "only legitimate successor" to Toda to put himself de-facto in charge of the Gakkai. He then accepted the Presidency. His wife wasn't surprised at all because he'd already set it up for them to ask and for him to accept. He writes in his essay, "Third President" that in 1960, several years after the death of his Mentor, Josei Toda he became President. Before he became Third President he had to beat out a few other candidates for the position. He was helped by the fact that his chief YD rival was sicker than he was. That rival later was pushed out, felt betrayed, and wrote a book with the help of a Professor named Hirotatsu Fujiwara called "I denounce the Ikeda Sokagakkai" which came out in 1969 and whose publication was fought in the courts because it was embarrassing.

He doesn't seem believe in the kind of "democracy" that the west practices. His essays are replete with references to Napoleon, to his friends in China, expecially with the wife of the leader Chao En lai, Madame Deng. For him what counted was carrying on the "spirit of his master" and leading his troops. For him Buddhist Democracy was the leadership of the "capable few" organized around the "Kechimyaku of Faith," with everyone supporting that leadership in a spirit of "wagoso." Leaders should listen to members, but there was no call for them to necesarily obey their concerns or consult with them. The organization was on the model of most Japanese organizations and top down, military style. His disciple Mr. Williams would try to apply that model to his organization in the USA, NSA with mixed results. A few holdovers from the day's of Josei Toda, supported him such as President Hojo, but for the most part all potential rivals were edged out and a strong party centered around him was formed. From 1960 to 1979 he was President of Sokagakkai in Japan. He gradually shifted power to himself. All traces of democratic organization were written out of the bylaws of the central organization by 1963. Those who had been potential rivals to him either supported him completely or they were forced out as well.

The Human Revolution

More importantly, the study department of the youth division was encouraged to adulate him as somebody extraordinary. He was teaching two very powerful and revolutionary doctrines. One the notion of "human revolution" was based on the notion that the potential for Buddhahood is present in all living beings, and that therefore we are fundamentally equal. This notion was strongly allied with kindred "original enlightenment" and the teaching that Nichiren was the "original Buddha" (The Buddha is a common mortal") and "Shakyamuni" a provisional one that suffuse Nichiren Shoshu's version of Fuji School Doctrine. And the second one was his own, almost fanatical notions of master/disciple in which his Mentors, Makiguchi, and Toda were more than simple lay leaders, but almost True Buddha's themselves, and that therefore disciples of Buddhism should follow the "guidance" and "direction" of this True Disciple of Nichiren's as the living embodiement of these principles. This second doctrine directly challenged Nichiren Shoshu doctrines. It would be an irreconcilable conflict.

Toda had taught the notion of "human revolution." The idea was that "The change in a single person could bring about change in entire societies." The idea that radical introspection, the adoption of a new way of life, and following the teachings of Nichiren could actually bring about "Kosenrufu" inspired those who heard Ikeda talk about those ideas every bit as much as those same ideas had inspired Ikeda in the first place. For The Gakkai, the goal of Kosenrufu was to be achieved in an almost militaristic fashion. And Ikeda was the youthful and spirited general of this movement.

Growth and Politics

During his tenure The Sokagakkai grew from an organization of around a million members to nearly 10 million members and became an international organization. His charisma, savvy, and self confidence, energized the membership which became involved in politics and also world-wide propagation (See nsa.html for more on the USA organization he sponsored at that time). He also encouraged the development of chapters of Nichiren Shoshu/Sokagakkai abroad. He deeply encouraged Japanese and other members living abroad who were struggling with their daily issues to apply the principles of Nichiren Buddhism to their lives and to develop indigineous organizations. Some of these disciples created large organizations in their adopted countries. Examples were NSA under the leadership of Mr. Williams and organizations such as Nichiren Shoshu of Britain under the leadership of Richard Causton or Nichiren Shoshu of Ghana under the leadership of Joseph Asomani. There were also people who made similar efforts in Singapore, Mallaysia, Hong Kong, and Indonesia and a host of other places. Some of them would later remain with the Gakkai, some with Nichiren Shoshu.

Publications and writings

President Ikeda is and was a prolific writer. He utilized his large staff to help him in his research endeavers, as well as in editorial and translation works. Some of his work seems scholarly, but other work is starkly and unashamedly polemical. He has written numerous books on a number of topics.

To advance Buddhism, and also his own stature in society he started conducting dialogues with world leaders. Until I read about the Reiyukai and Koseikei, I thought that the notion of "dialogue" was his invention, but it appears that many Asian organizations see their stature in terms of the stature of the man leading them. His dialogues were often wonderful vehicles for learning about Buddhism. Sometimes they were even real dialogues with real differences of opinion which were instructive. His dialogue with Arnold Toynbee was in this class, published as "The Toynbee Ikeda Dialogue" it is still not dated. These dialogues were also the continuation of a practice he had started as an editor for President Toda. Many of them were published as books and translated into English. Indeed his writings often dominated the organizations study materials. These works, extensively translated into English, were invaluable to foreign members who wished to get an understanding of the complex principles of Buddhism. Some of the other Dialogues include "Dialogue on Life", "Choose Life" and most recently "Dialogue on the Lotus Sutra." All of them promote his unique world view either directly or indirectly.

Ikeda also was pursuing more subversive and revolutionary aimes. For instance this essay which purports to be a history of Buddhism:

Historical View and yet it advances his unique worldview

Is also a very subtle effort to "deconstruct" the role of the Buddhist Priests in Nichiren Buddhism. This effort would eventually set the intellectual underpinning for what came to be known as the "temple issue" or the "split" with Nichiren Shoshu.

Human Revolution Series

Among the earliest of his productions was a series called the "Human Revolution" which started ostensably as a homage to his teacher "President Toda who had taught the notion of "Human Revolution" as part of the Buddhist idea of inner transformation. Under his pen-name, the Human Revolution was used to cement the bonds of mentor/disciple by advocating it's centrality to Buddhism and by making the Book a continual paeon to this notion of loyalty and mutual growth. The Book was made into a great movie called "The Human Revolution" with Tetsuru Tamba playing Toda. The first book was entirely about Toda and Makiguchi -- and world war II. My own mental image of Toda is that of the actor from that movie. The movie is a classic and worth seeing by anyone who wants to understand Nichiren's Buddhism and the Sokagakkai.

The first books were somewhat of a hagiography of Toda and Makiguchi, the first and second Presidents of the Sokagakkai. They were published in serial form. As the work developed, the author first introduces himself as a young man, and then matures him under the "tutelage" of Toda. All the stories are idealized, the villains are clearly villains, and the heros are always Makiguchi, Toda, "Shinichi Yamamoto" and his leutenants. Ikeda took the story along until he'd reached a point where he was dealing with events far removed from the original.

In later years, he wrote a new work now called the "New Human Revolution" which was both and an idealized version of himself and events under his efforts as one of the characters; "Shinichi-Yamamoto." and an "apology" or effort to explain his organization and its activities. The book, as it has come out in recent years, seems designed sometimes to mirror current events in Japan and the world. All of the books advance the notions of "human revolution" and mentor/disciple as notions integral to Buddhism. Earlier volumes praised the universal nature of the Buddha within, later volumes have increasingly seemed to emphasize the valor of this principle character.

The story has found great currency among Japanese and American Members seeking a hero to guide them out of confused personal lives. Some claim that it is ghost written, but insider loyalists swear Ikeda writes it himself. I think he writes most of it himself because some of the events he recounts could only have been recounted by witnesses, and reflect the view of someone who was there. Though not always the same eye-witness account as others might give. For instance in referring to his visits to North America he portrays the Japanese women he ran into as weak and fearful. I heard their experiences, they were fearful, and his encouragement did help them to stay and prevail. But they were everybit as responsible for subsequent events as he was.

Ikeda does write most of his efforts with the help of a huge editorial staff. Indeed all of the Gosho we have in the "Major Writings" volumes were translated as a byproduct of translating one of his study lectures. Although conspicuously missing is the Gosho "On Talking with Other Sects" which he lectured on in the 70's and for some reason I've never been able to find a copy of. He used it to discuss the merits of High Priest Nichijun Horigome, and cited its famous passages about "becoming a bat" as the kinds of admonitions that priests should use on themselves.

Sho Hondo

The high point of Sokagakkai, was when Ikeda and Nittatsu Shonin jointly completed the construction of the Sho Hondo to house the Dai-Gohonzon in October 1972, and opened that building in October 1973. For them this was supposed to be an omen that Kosenrufu was nearly at hand.

Beginnings of Trouble with Nichiren Shoshu

In the late 1970's, the rather conservative Priesthood, lead by Nittatsu Shonin, heard the fact that President Ikeda was being called a Buddha and other things that the Gakkai was teaching as Buddhism and went ballistic. Many of the priests wanted to excommunicate the Gakkai or at the very least get them to apologize for all the anti-clerical things they were saying. The Gakkai denied it was against Nichiren Shoshu, but you can see a clear stream of rising independent spirit even in ostensibly innocent study materials like Ikeda's "Historical View" lecture.

Later the Gakkai would claim that the priests were prodded by internal turncoats like "Yamazaki", and this may be partially true, apparantly Yamazaki was one of Ikedas direct disciples and was playing both the Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu for his own reasons. The Gakkai would deny all the charges, but this would only make things worse for them when the priests would get their hands on proof that their allegations were true. Nittatsu Shonin was a kind man with genuine faith in the Buddha-Dharma of Nichirens, but he was no fool. He gave a speech in which he demonstrated that he knew that the Gakkai was lying. He cited one of their own study materials "Hi no kuni" (Land of Fire). There was no choice at this point. Either the Gakkai apologized, and Ikeda resigned, or the Gakkai was going to be excommunicated. This would have caused many members to stay with Nichiren Shoshu, as up until this point the Gakkai had been "more Catholic than the Pope." Ikeda felt he needed time, that he wouldn't be backed in a fight, and the other leaders seemed to have felt that it was time for Ikeda to go. Ikeda recounts in his "Stormy April Speech" that one of them said

"You canít go against the flow of the times."

The priests proded him to resign, first from his position as "Sokoto" of the Hokkeko and then to retire as President of the Sokagakkai and give up his position to Fourth President Hiroshi Hojo who himself was a remarkable person.

Uchi Iri

This appeared to resolve the issues between the Priesthood and the Sokagakkai, but actually it just put off the final showdown. Nittatsu had been both strict and kind to him, he left him titles such as "honorary President" and praised him for his efforts even as he rebuked him. Outside observers thought all the more highly of Ikeda for taking responsibility for what had happened to him and for his contributions to those affairs. However he didn't see it that way:

Ikeda writes about his experience in his "Stormy April Essay".

This far, far too bitter day
I will never forget
The dusk presses in
I walk alone

As his mentor Toda had had him do with the priest Ogasasawara, Ikeda was launched on a path of "vindication", or using Japanese cultural understanding; "Uchi Iri"/Revenge in conscious immitation of classic examples such as Go-Daigo's campaign against the Hojo's or the Forty Seven Ronin. He was helped in this effort by subsequent events.

Resignation and Return

After he resigned resignation and became "Honorary Chairman" of the Sokagakkai. his deputies tell us that for several years he was restricted from travelling and forced to keep a low profile. However, I don't remember him disapearing too long. He resigned at the beginning of 1979. He was succeeded initially by Fourth President Hiroshi Hojo. In June 1979 the Seikyo Times reported Ikeda's resignation and Hojo's acceptance speech (unusually fast for those publications).

However, what had happened was that almost as soon as Ikeda resigned, Nittatsu fell ill with a terminal disease. By the the fall of that year he was dead. Nittatsu had told the priests to cool down and to accept Ikeda's resignation and apology, but many of them knew full well the ideological and institutional threat that Ikeda's ideas represented coupled with the huge and devoted throng that continued to follow him. They wanted stronger measures. But the new High Priest, was in no shape to engage in such measures. Instead of continuing the "battle" Nikken ordered them to accept his accension to the position of high priest. They didn't believe his accension was legitimate. Nikken now needed the Gakkai. Frankly Nikken needed his help and seems to have cut a deal with him to let him off the hook for his earlier "deviations."

Nikken started by making Ikeda, Hojo, and the others apologize again. In June 1980 the Seikyo Times reported to us Nikken's response to Ikeda's apology statement along with various affirmations of the Gakkai's undying loyalty to Nichiren Shoshu and its priests.

Nikken Shonin had many enemies and few friends and his claim to being the next High Priest was based on having visited Nittatsu's deathbed in 1979. (See nittatsu.html or nikken.html for more on this). Nikken had about 200 priests who disputed this claim or at least questioned it. These priests formed the "Shoshinkai" group and by 1980 Nikken was forced to "defrock them" or "excommunicate them. This included the New York Priest, reverend Tono (see tono.html or shoshinkai.html). Thus by 1983 many of the priests who had most adamantly (and principally) opposed the Gakkai had resigned. Some two hundred had walked. More had walked in opposition to the Gakkai staying, than would walk later in 1992 when the Gakkai finally did leave. Nikken lacking unity seems to have been afraid to challenge Ikeda. For the next 11 years everyone not in the know would have assumed they were best buddies. I saw Nikken at a rally early in this time (around 1980). When the lights went on Ikeda the stadium when wild. When they went on Nikken there was polite clapping and he clearly looked unhappy. Ikeda was well on his way to winning his campaign.

When Hojo died in 1981, the current President of the Sokagakkai, President Akiya succeeded him. Hojo was, relatively speaking, an independent character. He was technically Ikeda's senior, but he was wise enough to know the value of a charismatic and intelligent leader. President Akiya is obviously President Ikeda's loyal follower. By 1980 all that had already ended. Richard Yoshimachi wrote an essay with more information on what happened during that time period from his perspective, at this webpage:

But I've been doing some fact checking and there are some inaccuracies there. If Ikeda suffered any, it ended when Nikken needed his support and then Hojo died.

His apology had showed a rare humility, and the members responded with even more love than before his resignation.

Retention of Role at home and Abroad. SGI international.

When Ikeda resigned in 1979 some observers thought that he would join the (Madigiwa Zoku)"window Watching clan" and be put out to pasture. But that was not to be. For one thing he retained his title as "honorary President", for another he retained control over the overseas organization. This organization had been founded in 1975 as the International Buddhist League (I'm still looking for my original sources for this) with the help of Masayasu Sadanaga/George M. Williams and other leaders of the allied groups. By 1980 this group had been renamed the Sokagakkai International. The January 1981 issue of the UK express refers to the first general meeting as having been held in LA on the 17th of October 1980.

When Ikeda resigned in Japan, he was left in charge of this international organization. As leader of the "Sokagakkai International" and "honorary President" he retained direct influence and actually ended up with even more power than before. By the mid eighties the "Soka Gakkai International" was in full flower with him in control and had an actual Charter. Unfortunately disputes between NST and SGI continued behind the scenes. Ikeda and his disciple George M. Williams, talked a lot about authoritarianism and democracy in the intervening years. They were preparing a rebellion, though none of us realized what that meant.

The split with Nichiren Shoshu 1991--

In the 70's, the priests had used a number of "doctrinal deviations to get President Ikeda to resign his position. By 1989, President Ikeda was back in charge completely, and once again touring the world and encouraging members world wide. In 1990 President Ikeda gave a number of encouraging guidances known as the "mirror guidances" for the improvement of the American organization. Apparantly he had thought long and hard before giving them, and what he meant with his words--or at least how his Japanese and indoctrinated American disciples understood them, and what many of us understood proved to be two separate things. We had hope he was talking about genuine "bottom up" and American style democracy. This would prove harder to attain than it appeared. For more see this link:

The 35th Anniversary speech

At the end of 1990, President Ikeda gave a speech (35thannspeech.html) which appeared critical of the Priests. The priests published their complaints and that was the first that most of us heard the language he was alleged to have used. We later found out that he doesn't always use flowery language, and the transcript which appeared in Gakkai publications was nothing like what was actually said. Though the Gakkai, to this day, claims that President Ikeda was criticizing the Shoshinkai Priests and hadn't criticized the High Priest Nikken, it was obvious that he was referring to him, nobody was fooled, and this was the "provocation" that apparantly some of the priests had been expecting. When Ikeda made comments about Nikken's speaches being "like German" (in technical language) and other remarks anyone knowing Japanese Character would know he had no choice but to go ballistic. The priests reacted by excommunicating him from Nichiren Shoshu and then threatening to expulse those who stayed with him. See temple.html for more about this. It got quite personal pretty rapidly, see personal.html for more about that!)

Most of us followed him, and were excommunicated as well. Initially we heard all the correspondences between Nikken's deputy fujimoto.html and the current President Akiya, but it was obvious who the real combattants were. Later as more and more letters and speeches were translated it was obvious just how passionate both parties were, and that both of the top men were behind all the bitter language, charges and countercharges.

This was an extraordinary matter. NST was excommunicating almost 9 out of 10 members. One of the people I know is married to a bilingual former leader who attended that meaning. He says she was "gob-smacked" at what he said at the time about the High Priest. That is the closest I've been able to get to an objective account of what occured. I suspect he really said these things. It was admirably unJapanese, but also brutally frank and rude even by non-Japanese standards, considering this was the guy the Gakkai was constantly publicly praising and telling people to follow.

Rebellion 1991--

This rebellion against the authority of the priests of Nichiren Shoshu is still going on. For Ikeda's own opinion about this matter see his essay "Revolutionary Dawn" essay.

As a result of the split we were reintroduced to the notions that he had apologized for in the 1979's. The importance of his mentors as teachers (and by implication himself), the uniqueness of the Sokagakkai, and other interpretations of the ancient teachings of Nichiren Buddhism that are uniquely those of Sokagakkai. Also the priests went from being a basically decent bunch whom we were supposed to support in their efforts for Kosenrufu to being a corrupt and evil gang of "slanderers of the Dharma. We were told that we should unite together in a spirit of "true Democracy" around our leaders. This pattern has continued to this day. It became a very personal battle.

Interestingly, some of the fear that Ikeda is subject to is based on fact. For instance in 1994 when the crazy Aum Shinryo people were making their attacks one of their first targets with "Sarin" was Daisaku Ikeda. (see

The first attempt to employ sarin was undertaken at the direction of the cult's leader, who wanted Daisaku Ikeda, leader of the Soka Gakkai Buddhists, killed. The attempts were made in March, 1994, but the spray apparatus failed (either spraying backwards or catching fire - published accounts are contradictory; in some accounts, it is stated that Tomomitsu Niimi, Aum's chief of security was exposed to the agent but survived due to rapid administration of atropine).

Ikeda as Mentor

People were impressed with his ideas and apparant wisdom, so much so, that even in the early sixties some were teaching that the President was a "Buddha." There is no doubt that his loyalty towards his mentor has been unflagging. His efforts to build Soka University, to end the use of Nuclear Weapons, even some elements of the so called "Temple Issue", in my opinion (and that of those I asked), this has largely been an attempt to reply to the desires of his mentor Josei Toda, and his mentors master Tsunesuburu Makiguchi, who were heavily involved in education. Toda had given a very famous speech on Nuclear Weapons. Ikeda feels fiercely and personally loyal to them.

For more on "Mentor Issues" see this page: mentor.html.

Komei Party

His promotion of the Komei party and it's obvious identification with the Gakkai, led to people being suspicious of his motives and to political concerns influencing his behavior. In one of his stories in the "New Human Revolution" "Shinichi Yamamoto" turns down a visit with President Ikeda because a Politician had proposed it with a "quid pro quo." That the one thing should have been related to the other shows the influence of political thinking on a Buddhist Teacher. The Komei Party involvement has led to the Gakkai having influence on Japanese Society out of proportion to it's numbers, but has also made it vulnerable to Tabloid attacks and charges of corruption and malfeasance. It has led to the creation of various "evil persons" at least in the press. See yamazaki.html for more on this. Most recently he has said that he regretted three things, and of course the third one was trying to dialogue with a Japanese Politician. Curiously the other two are not learning English, which would seem to be a criticism of his Mentor Toda, since he claims that Toda told him not to study languages as they might "prejudice him", and the other one was in having lousy translators. All kind of ungrateful kinds of complaints.

Tapping the Darkside -- Recent

Unfortunately the "true disciple" rhetoric and the effort to make him the only one that people should respect or follow has gone on, with the result that long time members feel somewhat left out, as ideologically we are close to the Gakkai, and Nichiren Shoshu gives no legitimate alternative for our hearts, and yet we miss Nichiren shoshu as well. He continues to hold dialogues, to cast his opponants as evil people, and we find ourselves holding to Nichiren Shoshu Dogmas without the credibility of the Nichiren Shoshu lineage. Its a slow process of change because the men at the top all think that that is how an organization should be run, with top down hierarchy, a follow the leader mentality, and respect going far beyond adolation of the central figure.

Recently he has reminded me a bit of King Lear. He still talks about dialogue, and world peace, and makes wonderful proposals for achieving it. But then the most remarkable things can come out of his mouth. He is still preoccupied with Nichiren Shoshu as much as Nichiren Shoshu is preoccupied with him (despite all the murmurs to the contrary. (See the Revolution Dawns essay for more). Nichiren Shoshu sometimes pretends to be unconcerned with him, but then they promote their "100 questions and answers regarding the counterfeit Gakkai object of Worship" or devote essays and sermons to how evil the Gakkai or Ikeda is. Sometimes those essays get transmitted and disseminated as further evidence of how "evil" the "Nikken Sect" is. Revenge is still a part of his agenda. Its a shame. And NST seems as obsessed with him. NST destroyed the Sho Hondo and replaced it with the Hoanden. And NST has done its best to erase all memory of the Sokagakkai or President Ikeda. They (NST) feel he has "hijacked Buddhism."

On the other hand, the Gakkai lately sometimes seems to be promoting the mentor/disciple relationship as if it were equally infallible as the "specific heritage" or perhaps a replacement? claimed by Nichiren Shoshu. We also have been spending inordinate amounts of time chanting to end the presence of Nikken is the King Devil of the sixth heaven and a manifestation of the "Sensho Zojoman". Nichiren Shoshu deserves "refutation" but not this level of animosity. The continuing fight has not been waged on a proper level of "refuting incorrect teachings" but instead has been very personal. In Japan the tabloids have taken on the issues with a kind of glee.

Recently he said (On November 23 during a day when he gave a speech to both Mongolian envoys and to a youth group):

Friday, November 22, 2002 SGI Newsletter No. 5355
SGI President Ikeda's Speech
22nd Soka Gakkai Headquarters Leaders Meeting
The Purpose of Faith Is to Win in Life
The Daishonin strictly warns that unless we struggle valiantly against the three powerful enemies, we are not genuine practitioners of the Lotus Sutra, and our faith is a sham.
In modern times, it is first Soka Gakkai president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, second president Josei Toda, and I, the third president and their most direct disciple, who have undergone great persecution at the hands of the authorities. Under that three-generation leadership, the Soka Gakkai has grown into the world's foremost organization dedicated to kosen-rufu.
President Makiguchi, President Toda, and I-all three of us were imprisoned for our efforts to propagate the Daishonin's Buddhism. We were baselessly slandered, attacked, and persecuted. We struggled wholeheartedly against the three powerful enemies and carried out the Daishonin's teachings without the slightest deviation, never for a moment begrudging our lives. This is the Soka Gakkai's eternal starting point and glory.
The first three Soka Gakkai presidents will remain forever the heart of our movement to spread true Nichiren Buddhism, forever the pillars of kosen-rufu. I hope you will never forget this. I have taken the liberty of stating this clearly today for the sake of the future and so that you will never stray from the correct path.

Well, what can one say? A Japanese leader, fresh from Japan, started telling me a tale about how this "eternal presidents" thing is to prevent anyone else from taking the role that President Ikeda has taken, sort of trying to close the barn door after the fire. According to him there are hundreds of Vice Presidents all of whom would like to take the role of a "true Successor" in the way that Ikeda had done. The idea is to prevent a Succession battle after his death. Recently I've been reading that he's been sick (June 2003), that makes these issues all the more relevent. Perhaps all these efforts to push "soka spirit" and undying efforts to resist Nichiren Shoshu are aimed at purifying the organization and preventing it from reconciling with them after his death. I don't know.

In July, 2003, the Gakkai leadership was praying that Nikken wouldn't visit New York City. Nikken did so anyway. After he left they claimed that they chanted that he wouldn't do much damage. The "uchi-iri" campaign continues. Most American members don't understand this campaign. I understand it a little, but since it makes no sense I see no reason to support it.


Even so, he was constantly talks about coming to the USA and leading Kosenrufu here. He has two surviving sons who are active in the organization. there are rumors that one of them will succeed him when he dies. This makes even less sense than the "Temple Issue"

Insularity and Universality

He arouses strong feelings in people. People seem to either love him or hate him with passion. My own feelings towards him are still very much filled with appreciation. It is hard for them to see him as simply a human being with both strengths and weaknesses. I admire him for the work he has done with the Sokagakkai and for the beauty of his ideas. Sometimes I'm sad that he hasn't completely transcended his Japanese roots or been able to avoid the sort of hero worship that infuses our organization. According to his writing in the original "Human Revolution" Toda had told him not to study a foreign language as that might "prejudice him" towards one or more foreign cultures. What Toda didn't understand himself was just how strongly Japanese are already influenced by their insular and somewhat xenophobic culture. Toda recognized that Japan had problems, but he was focused on Nichiren Shoshu as a solution to the worlds ills. He viewed things in terms of the traditional view of Japanese, which is one that balances a need for "wa" with the precepts of confucianism, which value hierarchy, authority, and precepts about relationships. At any rate, in a recent speech Ikeda has said he regrets three things. The first was not learning a foreign language, the second was a poor choice in translators, and the third was talking to one particular politician. I guess he sees my point.

Recently a scholar has been lecturing on "Ocean" People and Village people, but even that scholar doesn't seem to understand that even "educated" Island people are still insular in their perceptions. Some of the disputes that have origined within SGI could have been prevented if it weren't for these cultural issues. See personal.html for some of the ongoing issues.


This part is under construction

  1. The references to Hiromasu Ikeda come from reports in tabloids such as the Japan Weekly Post that mention him as the probable successor. See further readings for more

Sources and links

  1. Ted Penfold's link, also contains President Ikeda's successive peace proposals
  2. President Ikeda's lecture that mentions the "Kansai Spirit"
  3. The Sokagakkai's Study page on the "Three Presidents"
  4. On the other hand this site shows a different perspective: that isn't so flattering.

Further reading

Other "Bios" of him:
Some of his speeches are here:
I have excerpts from a number of them here as well:
There are any number of books by President Ikeda, some are mostly factual, some are partly 'auto'hagiographic and about an idealized "Shinichi Yamamoto" rather than strait biography. There are none yet in English about President Ikeda not authored by him. I imagine there will be one day.
Hiromasu as successor is mentioned here, among others:
Southwell complaint
The issues about a possible succession are discussed at length in these links:
IRG daimoku posts:22016,22019,22022
And a summary of the discussion at:

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