SGI: A Snapshot

Discussion MeetingSGI members at a local discussion meeting in the US [Kingmond Young]

The Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is a community-based Buddhist organization that promotes peace, culture and education centered on respect for the dignity of life. SGI members uphold the humanistic philosophy of Mahayana Buddhism in 192 countries and territories.

Understanding that individual happiness and the realization of a peaceful world are inextricably linked, SGI members strive to actualize their inherent potential while contributing to their local communities and responding as global citizens to the shared issues facing humankind. The SGI’s efforts toward the creation of a lasting culture of peace are based on a commitment to dialogue, nonviolence and a sense of mutual respect nurtured through Buddhist practice.

As a nongovernmental organization with formal ties to the United Nations, the SGI also collaborates with other civil society organizations and intergovernmental agencies in the fields of nuclear disarmament, human rights education, sustainable development and humanitarian relief.

Daily Practice

The core daily Buddhist practice of SGI members, carried out in their own homes, is chanting the phrase “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” and reciting excerpts of the Lotus Sutra expounded by Shakyamuni Buddha.

SGI members also gather for regular local discussion meetings where they study Buddhist principles and their application to everyday life. Participants in these meetings share personal experiences of how they have successfully transformed their lives and overcome their own challenges through Buddhist practice, inspiring and empowering others to summon the courage to do the same.

Buddhist Lineage

The teachings upheld by the SGI belong to a long tradition of Buddhist humanism that began with Shakyamuni on the Indian subcontinent in what is now Nepal and were carried on and developed by Buddhist scholars and teachers in India, China and Japan, most notably T’ien-t’ai in China and Nichiren in Japan.

After gaining insight into the nature of life, Shakyamuni traveled widely, sharing his enlightened wisdom with others. The truth to which he was enlightened is expounded in the Lotus Sutra, the key message being that Buddhahood—characterized by compassion, wisdom and courage—is inherent within every person.

In the 13th century, the Japanese priest Nichiren expressed the essence of the Lotus Sutra as “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,” providing a means for all people to overcome suffering and lead happy and fulfilled lives.

SGI: Then and Now

MakiguchiTsunesaburo Makiguchi (front row, center) with members in Japan, 1941

A grassroots movement with 12 million members around the world, the SGI is dedicated to sharing the essential message of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren in today’s world.

The organizational roots of the SGI date back to 1930 Japan when Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda founded the forerunner of the Soka Gakkai, literally, the Society for the Creation of Value.

With Makiguchi as its first president, the organization began as a group of teachers focused on educational reform but later developed into a movement dedicated to the betterment of society through individual inner transformation based on Nichiren Buddhism.

Resisting pressure from Japan’s militarist government to abandon their religious beliefs, Makiguchi and Toda were imprisoned as “thought criminals” in 1943. Makiguchi died in prison, and Toda emerged in 1945 to rebuild the organization, later becoming its second president.

In 1947, amidst the chaos of post-war Japan, Daisaku Ikeda encountered Josei Toda, who he took as his mentor, and joined the Soka Gakkai. In 1960, Ikeda became its third president, at the time of the emergence of a growing membership around the world. The Soka Gakkai International (SGI) was officially formed in 1975 with Ikeda as its president.

Buddhism in Action

MakiguchiSGI members in Argentina collecting signatures for nuclear weapons abolition

Guided by the shared goal of contributing to peace, culture and education based on respect for the dignity of life, local SGI organizations develop activities independently and in line with the cultural contexts of their respective societies.

Key are awareness-raising activities such as exhibitions, symposiums and conferences, and campaigns to promote nonviolence and interfaith dialogue. Other grassroots activities include cultural events, community outreach programs and humanitarian relief in times of crisis.

Every year since 1983, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has authored peace proposals directed toward the international community that address issues facing humanity, suggesting solutions and responses grounded in Buddhist philosophy. Many of the themes raised are taken up and developed by the SGI and other like-minded organizations, providing a focus for activities of SGI members around the world.

For more information on SGI’s purpose and guiding principles, please read the SGI Charter.

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