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The background picture is the Himalayas,
photographed by Daisaku Ikeda, 1995

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Daisaku Ikeda was born in Tokyo on January 2, 1928, the fifth of eight children, to a family of seaweed farmers. As a teenager he lived through the Second World War, and its senseless horror left an indelible mark on his life. His four older brothers were drafted into military service ; the eldest was killed in action. These experiences, along with the human anguish and turmoil he witnessed in the years following the war, continue to fuel his lifelong quest to root out the fundamental causes of human conflict and suffering.
In 1947, at the age of nineteen, he met Josei Toda (1900-58), second president of the Soka Gakkai, a lay Buddhist society whose activities are based on the philosophy of the 13th century Buddhist teacher and reformer Nichiren. Ikeda found in Toda a completely open and unaffected man, a person of unshakable conviction with a unique gift for explaining profound Buddhist concepts in logical, accessible terms. Ikeda, who from his youth was an avid reader of poetry, literature and philosophy, displayed an insatiable
thirst for knowledge. Amidst poverty and ill health, he continued his studies under the tutelage of educator and publisher Toda, whom he regards as his lifelong mentor.

Through his relationship with Toda, Ikeda came to understand and respect the Soka Gakkai's philosophy as a concrete means to realize the universal values of human dignity and peace. Toda, together with Soka Gakkai founder and first president Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944), had been jailed in 1943 for refusing to compromise their religious beliefs in support of the Japanese war effort. Makiguchi died in prison at the age of 73. Toda emerged from the ordeal of imprisonment just prior to Japan's surrender and dedicated the remainder of his life to the reconstruction and development of the Soka Gakkai.

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Daisaku Ikeda with his wife
In 1952, Ikeda married Kaneko Shiraki. Comrade and confidante ever since, she has been his constant companion in his journeys for peace for more than forty years. In May 1960, two years after Toda's death, Ikeda succeeded him as president of the Soka Gakkai. Under his leadership, the movement began an era of innovation and expansion, becoming actively engaged in cultural and educational endeavours worldwide. In 1975, Ikeda became the first president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), an association that today includes more than 10 million members in Japan and some 1.3 million members in 127 countries and territories around the world.

Ikeda regards the late Arnold Toynbee as one of his most important intellectual influences. From 1971 to 1974, the two conducted a broad ranging dialogue, later published as "Choose Life" and translated into twenty languages. Toynbee and Ikeda's dialogue was the expression of a shared faith in discourse between people of widely different backgrounds as an effective means of finding solutions to challenges facing humankind. Ikeda recalls that it was Toynbee who urged him to continue this process of dialogue across philosophical and ideological boundaries.

Central to Ikeda's thinking is the idea that a self-directed transformation within the life of each individual, rather than societal or structural reforms alone, holds the key to lasting peace and human happiness. This is based on the Buddhist principle that all individuals possess the ability to create limitless value in harmony with others. It is expressed perhaps most succinctly in the following passage from "The Human Revolution", Ikeda's novelisation of the Soka Gakkai's history and development: "A great revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a society, and further, will enable a change in the destiny of humankind."
All of Ikeda's activities-his writings, lectures and dialogues, as well as the various institutions he has founded-are directed to promoting an understanding that the resources and potential to make a real and lasting difference in our world are to be found within the life of each individual. In a world where powerlessness, cynicism and pessimism about the future abound, this message is perhaps more timely than ever.