Soka Gakkai International
Buddhism in Action for Peace
History & Philosophy
Stories and reflections on the Buddhist approach to life
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 Nichiren Buddhism in 192 countries and territories around the world.
Individual SGI members strive to actualize their inherent potential while contributing as empowered global citizens to their local communities and responding to the shared issues facing humankind. The SGI’s efforts to help build a lasting culture of peace are based on a commitment to dialogue and nonviolence, and the understanding that individual happiness and the realization of a peaceful world are inextricably linked.
As a nongovernmental organization with formal ties to the United Nations, the SGI also collaborates with other civil society organizations, intergovernmental agencies and faith groups in the fields of nuclear disarmament, human rights education, sustainable development and humanitarian relief.
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 how they have successfully transformed their lives and overcome challenges through their Buddhist practice—a process known as human revolution—inspiring others to summon the courage to do the same.
The teachings upheld by the SGI belong to the tradition of Buddhist humanism that originated with Shakyamuni on the Indian subcontinent. A core value is respect for the dignity of life and all human beings.
After awakening to the true nature of life, Shakyamuni traveled widely, sharing his wisdom with others. The truth to which he was enlightened is expounded in the Lotus Sutra, a central teaching of Mahayana Buddhism, which holds that Buddhahood—characterized by compassion, wisdom and courage—is inherent within every person.
The teachings of the Lotus Sutra were transmitted and developed by Buddhist scholars and teachers in India, China and Japan, most notably Zhiyi (Great Teacher Tiantai) in China and Nichiren in Japan.
In the 13th century, the Japanese priest Nichiren expressed the essence of the Lotus Sutra as “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.” He taught the practice of chanting this phrase as a means for all people to overcome suffering and lead happy and fulfilled lives.
A grassroots movement with 12 million members worldwide, the SGI is dedicated to sharing the empowering message of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren in today’s world.
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 Soka Gakkai, later becoming the second president.
In 1947, amidst the chaos of postwar Japan, Daisaku Ikeda encountered Josei Toda—who became his mentor—and joined the Soka Gakkai. In 1960, Ikeda became the 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, linking independent SGI organizations around the world that embrace Buddhism while respecting local cultures and traditions.
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 in line with the cultural contexts of their respective societies.
Key are awareness-raising activities such as exhibitions, symposiums and conferences, as well as interfaith dialogue and campaigns to promote nonviolence. 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 in these peace proposals are taken up by the SGI and other NGOs, as well as providing inspiration for the contributions to society of individual SGI members around the world.
For more information on SGI’s purpose and guiding principles, please read the SGI Charter.