Influential leader of Japan’s Soka Gakkai Buddhist group dies
Daisaku Ikeda, the former leader of Japan’s influential Buddhist group Soka Gakkai, has passed away at the age of 95.
Over several decades, Ikeda expanded the organization’s global following and established connections with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
According to a statement on Soka Gakkai’s website, he died of natural causes at his residence near Tokyo.
The lay Buddhist group, boasting 12 million members worldwide, is renowned for its affiliations with celebrities. Notable followers include Hollywood star Orlando Bloom, US jazz musician Herbie Hancock, and retired Italian footballer Roberto Baggio.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, on X, formerly Twitter, acknowledged Ikeda’s significant role in advancing peace, culture, and education both in Japan and internationally.
Assuming the presidency of Soka Gakkai in 1960, Ikeda furthered the organization’s global reach by establishing Soka Gakkai International in 1975.
In the ensuing years, he extensively traveled and engaged with world leaders, including China’s then-premier Zhou Enlai and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
“Under his leadership, the movement began an era of innovation and expansion, becoming actively engaged in cultural and educational endeavors worldwide,” Soka Gakkai International said on its website.
The group practices Nichiren Buddhism, a tradition that emphasizes individual empowerment and inner transformation.
“The essence of Buddhism is the conviction that we have within us at each moment the ability to overcome any problem or difficulty”, notably through chanting the “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” Sutra, the Soka Gakkai website says.
In 1964 Ikada founded the Komeito political party. It is currently the LDP’s junior partner in the ruling coalition, with 32 seats in the 465-member lower house.